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A Shire Yuletide

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Yule, 2896, Third Age

The storm had come up without warning with a startling wind and heavy snow. Fierce as it felt, it wasn’t as severe as the storms of his childhood. He’d travelled through worse, and lived through much worse. The blustering wind and the soft snow drifts were nothing to the dwarf as he marched along the Great East Road on his way to Ered Luin.

He was tired, and didn’t feel like spending another night trying to find shelter from the wind under a rocky crag or canopy of trees. There was no Inn or house nearby for him to seek shelter in, only a path that led south through the forest to the Halfling folk in their hillocks.

The weather eased as he continued down the well worn path, but the cold has set in his feet and he looked about to see if there were any lights ahead to suggest he was near any homes. As if called up by his desire alone, he heard the sound of jingling bells and the soft trot of hooves against snow. A wagon full of hobbits, young and old came into sight and slowed down as he drew near.

“A blustery night to be walking my friend,” the driver asked with a pleasant smile. “Where are you headed on this, the longest of nights?”

“An Inn if there is one nearby, or if not that, a stable where the hay is dry and there is a roof over my head,” he replied. “Do you happen to know of any?”

“We’re heading to the Party Tree, and the Green Dragon Inn is just across from it. Make room in back there lads, that’s good now. Rest your feet, Sir Dwarf.”

He was plied with mulled cider and a warm blanket as soon as he settled. Part of him questioned their easy acceptance, their naïveté; he could be a murderer, or a brigand, yet they offered him food and warmth and an easy finish to his travels.

When they halted the ponies in front of the Inn, Thorin jumped down and grabbed his bags from the back, offering his deepest thanks to the driver, and pulled out his money purse.

“No, there’ll be none of that now. Tis Yuletide Master Dwarf. A kind deed is kindness received in the New Year. I’ll not be takin’ your money.”

Thorin didn’t know what to say and hesitated, the coin still in his hand.

“You’ll not be needing that purse very much this eve, good sir. The Green Lady gives, and so too do we.”

“If you are sure,” Thorin said, still unconvinced. Kindness for kindness’ sake had never been part of his experience; there was always an ulterior motive.

“I am quite sure, Master Dwarf. The Green Dragon Inn is going to be rather barren on a night like this. You go stow your things, but as for food, there is little reason to pay for something when there is a party in the field. There will be hot food aplenty, warm cider, and some special brew that I guarantee will knock you off your feet, or my name isn’t Gorbadoc Brandybuck.”

“I am Thorin Oakenshield, at your service,” he said in kind. “I wouldn’t wish to intrude on your festivities.”

“Festivities are best shared with everyone, Master Oakenshield. You are more than welcome to join us; you are far from your home on the longest night of the year. We offer you the warmth of our hearth, the food in our pantry, and peace at our table.”

It touched the dwarf deeply, and reminded him of similar phrases at home, as it had the air of solemnity; a quiet phrase spoken often and honestly meant. A small gesture of welcome on a cold night. He smiled, and nodded. “Thank you, very much. I would be honoured.”

“Wonderful news, Master Oakenshield. Once you’re all settled, walk straight ahead and over yonder bridge, it’ll take you right to the field,” Gorbadoc said, pointing just behind him. “We’ll meet you there with a mug of mulled wine for ye.” Master Brandybuck clicked the reins and took the wagon further down the lane.

Thorin shouldered his pack and went into the Inn, and, save for a few older hobbits in the corner, the place was empty. Thorin paid for a room, stowed his things, and went back out into the cold. The centre of the village was a riot of light and noise. Everything he looked at, from the buildings to the gas lamp posts, was decorated with bows of evergreen and brightly coloured red ribbons. The market carried the scent of fir trees, cinnamon and citrus that filled the air and reminded him of Yuletides from long ago. But the most remarkable thing to Thorin’s eye was the field across the bridge.  

It was green. Not the faded green to yellow of late fall, nor the silvered green of a frosted grass in early winter - it was the bright and brilliant green of spring, extending from the perimeter of the field right to the trunk of the large tree across the unbroken expanse of green. Snow accumulated all around the edges of the field, and young children raced about, building snow figures and tossing snowballs at unsuspecting adults, ducking behind the large and twisted trunk of the tree that dominated the centre of the field. It wasn’t snowing past the bridge, and more amazing than that, snow still fell on him where he stood on the outskirts, but not a single snowflake was seen in the air above the field.

Thorin craned his neck back and looked up; above the tree the snow seemed to be pushed aside, as if a roof had been constructed overhead. He walked carefully through the crowd of hobbits until he was greeted once more by Master Brandybuck, who led him to a long table groaning with food. The fare was enough to take his mind from the magic of the field, and soon his plate was overflowing with roasted meats, vegetables in a thick cream sauce, hot pasties filled with savory meats, and rolls still warm from the oven with rich butter melting in their centres. A heavy ceramic mug was pushed into his free hand, and then Master Brandybuck accompanied him around the gathering, introducing him to many hobbits. Thorin was unable to do more than offer a smile and nod to those he was introduced to as names flew by as fast as ale, his head whirling with names and faces. He was quite confused when finally he sat down with his supper and a flagon of the fragrant hobbit whiskey to listen to the band on the stage under the tree. They played a light and buoyant song, quickly sung, and the gathered hobbits echoed the chorus back loudly and with good cheer.

He was not given long to feel like an outsider; if it was not Master Brandybuck speaking with him, another hobbit would join them and ask him his opinion on matters of weather or the goings on in the wider world. Children of all ages ran around him, slowing to stare but none brave enough to come near. They would giggle and whisper and then tear off in another direction.

Thorin had eaten his fill and was enjoying the camaraderie and unity of the party around him. As he was marvelling at the grass at his feet a tiny hobbit jumped in front of him, brandishing a wooden sword, and wearing what looked like a blanket tied around his neck like a cape.

“HARK! I am the Guardian of the Shire and I seek sus-susti-suste – I need foods to keep me happy!”

Thorin looked down at the small hobbit, with his mop of honey curls and a wide eyed expression. Like all the other hobbits his feet were bare, a sprig of curly hair atop them, and he didn’t seem to mind the cold in the least.

“Guardian of the Shire are you?” Thorin asked.

The young child squeaked and bounced on his feet. “Are you a dwarf? I thought you were one of Master Brandybuck’s Stoor friends,” the little child inquired. The sword in his hand trembled but he seemed to forget his fear as curiosity won. “I’ve never met a dwarf before, is it true you live in mountains? Under all that rock? How do you grow things? And and and, is it true that you have secret names? I heard all dwarves have secret names. Hobbits don’t, but I think it would be wonderful to have one. I want a secret name!”

Hobbit children were no less curious than dwarflings it seemed, but years of Fili and Kili’s boisterousness had accustomed Thorin to the curiosity of children. Thorin bent down and lifted the child up so that he sat on the table. “Dwarrow have many names, little one. Our secret names are given by our parents at our birth. They are very sacred to us, and only a parent can bestow them.”

The child’s face fell and his sword dipped and pointed toward the ground. “Ma and Da already named me, they won’t name me again. Sides, that’d just be another hobbit name. And I want a dwarf name.”

“And why do you want a dwarf name?”

The child wiped his nose on the back of his hand. “Ma used to go on big adventures before she and Da married, and she used to tell me all about the elves and men and dwarves she met in her travels. She has bunches of stories about the elves and even more from the Rangers, but she didn’t have many from the dwarves.

“When I grow up I’m going to be an adventurer like her, so I’ll need a really powerful name to help me.”

“You wish to become friends with the elves?”

“Yes, and the dwarves and the Rangers, and even the wizards. Ma is already friends with one wizard, Mister Gandalf.”

Thorin looked the small hobbit in the eye, his expression grave. If he thought hobbits were small beings, then their children were unbelievably tiny. If it weren’t for the child’s easy grasp of Westron, he would have guessed him to be no older than three.

“Perhaps,” he whispered, leaning in still further, as if sharing a secret.” I could bend the rules just this once.” Thorin suppressed a smile. “ But you must to promise me that you will never tell anyone this name. This name is for you and you alone. It is to be shared only with your One.”

“My One? Who’s that?”

“Your One is your true love. The one who makes your heart sing, who challenges you, calls to your inner spirit and shows you a newer and brighter world just by being there.”

“It’s who I give my heart to, you mean,” the little one said, fidgeting on the table in barely contained excitement.

“Quite right. When you are old enough you will know. But for now this name will be yours and yours alone. Do we have an agreement?”

The tiny child nodded enthusiastically and bounced on the table. “I promise Mister Dwarf, oh I promise. I will never tell anyone. Ma says I’m the best secret keeper.”

Thorin looked at the child consideringly and nodded once. He placed his hand on the child’s head and spoke quietly. “I name thee, nunga’zaghith.”

“Nuuu…”

Thorin watched as the child tried to wrap his mouth around the new word. He repeated it very slowly, then thrice more until the child had it memorized. Satisfied with the child’s pronunciation, he grinned. “You now have a secret name. Shall we see what food is left to appease the Guardian of the Shire, eh?”

“Huzzah! Onward to food!”

*

Winter of 2964

“Thorin Oakenshield, King under the Mountain, I am not sleeping in an Inn one more night. I am not sleeping on the ground and I’m most certainly not sleeping in the snow,” Bilbo yelled to be heard over the howling wind.

Travel to Ered Luin had been a slow and cumbersome slog through storm after storm, and the wind had whipped up yet again and their entire caravan was being battered by the driving snow. They’d been visiting dwarven strongholds all over eastern Middle earth, travelling since the previous Afteryule. Bilbo had not seen his bed, nor his comfortable rooms in eleven months and don’t even get him started on his garden. But they had one more visit to make, one final diplomatic mission, and then they would be able to go home.

Except not. They were stuck on the Great East Road in yet another storm and if Bilbo had to sleep in the snow one more time he was going to scream.

In fact, he was. Screaming, that is. It was the only way to be heard over the howl of the wind.

“Do you have any suggestions then?” Thorin hollered back.

They stood next to each other, but Bilbo could have been at the end of the procession for all he could hear over the wind. He grabbed hold of Thorin’s hand and stepped into Thorin’s arms to shield himself some from the wind. Strong arms wrapped around Bilbo and he fit himself under the heavy fur lined coat his husband wore.

“If we turn right there’s an old cow path, it’ll take us straight to the West Farthing, we’ll be in the Shire before you know it,” he said at a somewhat more considerate volume.

“What cow path? We’re surrounded by trees.”

“Any decisions?” someone yelled from the back of the caravan; Bilbo could not tell who it was, but he assumed it was Dwalin, since his voice tended to carry. .

Bilbo brushed some of the snow out of his husband’s long beard and kissed his chin. Thorin nodded but he couldn’t make much more out in the storm

“We follow Bilbo!” Thorin said with a nod of his head.

Bilbo took a deep breath, pulled himself from the comfort of Thorin’s cloak, and left the main road, following the cow path south through the thick forest. He was sure there were many grumbles behind him, not that he could hear them over the wind; he never doubted for a second that they’d follow him.

Bilbo let his feet guide him unerringly along the cow path and onto a wider lane, and he could feel the change in the ground when he reached the outer edge of the Shire -- it ran from the tips of his toes right up to his ears.

He let out a bright laugh as the wind died down - he remembered this field, even snow covered and wrapped in a blanket of ice and winter. He took hold of Thorin’s hand as the dwarf came up behind him and he grinned, unable describe the feeling in his chest.

Erebor had been his home for the last two decades and then some. He loved his place there, and would never change anything for all the tea cakes in Arda - but the Shire had missed him, and he had missed her.

He turned to face the caravan of dwarves and took a deep breath of chill winter air. “On the other side of the field is my old smial. I know we were planning on heading to Ered Luin, but it looks as if this might be our stop for a few days.” He looked up at the sky. “A few weeks,” he amended.

Dis stepped out from the rest of the group and removed the hood of her bright blue cloak. “Bilbo, the weather has shifted, I’m quite sure we’d be able to make it now.”

“I’m afraid, Dis, the weather hasn’t shifted at all. It’s still as dreadful beyond the borders of the Shire.. Welcome to a Shire winter, everyone. You’re in for a treat.”

He turned and guided them across the field until they reached the road that connected with the top of Bag Shot Row. The ponies and wagons were left in the field at the top of the hill and Bilbo went up the steps to his familiar green door.

The door opened before he could even raise his hand to knock, and he was nearly taken off his feet as a mass of blonde ringlets caught him in a hug.

“Bilbo! Bless the fur on my feet!” Primula Baggins leaned back but didn’t let him go. She had a round face with pink cheeks and bright smile. She looked past him to the others. “Oh goodness, look at you all, you’re just all snow dwarves aren’t you. Come in, come in.

“Drogo, darling add more wood to the fire, we have a lot of people to warm up.”

“Prim, thank you so much, I’m dreadfully sorry to barge in on you like this. Me without an invitation. But the storm rather caught us by surprise. We’ll just be here the night and then head to the Green Dragon.”

“Bilbo Baggins, I will hear of no such thing,” Prim said, hands on her hips. “Had you been listening to your feet you’d have known about the storms. They’ve been coming this way for weeks. You’re not leaving this smial to stay at an Inn, especially around Yule. I’ll not hear a thing against it, cousin.” She laid into him with the same ease her mother used to, all the while collecting cloaks and hoods from all the dwarves that piled into the house.

“Best to just let her do her thing there, Bilbo,” Drogo said with a clap on his shoulder before taking the clothes off down the hall to dry in the laundry room.

After a lot of shuffling they managed to get into the front room and in front of the fire with mugs of mulled wine and bowls of hot stew. Once Bilbo was sure that his dwarves were taken care of he ducked into the kitchen, where Prim was cutting a cake to serve.

“Cousin, you know as well as I do the smial can’t hold us all. It’ll be quite cramped, especially if this storm lasts for any length of time.”

“What do your feet tell you, dear cousin? I know you’ve been away for a while but tell me you still listen to them.”

Bilbo let out a groan and leaned heavily against the counter. “They’re going to last until at least the middle of AfterYule. Dear Eru, that throws off our plans entirely.”

He went about making tea and getting dishes down from the cupboards. Prim had changed very little about the smial in his absence, yet he could still see her influence. The tea towels were bright green with daintily embroidered roses along the band, and her mother’s spoons, while not the special silver of his mother’s shone in the light of the kitchen; Gramma Brandybucks ceramic tea service was proudly displayed and filled with piping hot tea for everyone.

The whole smial felt alive. More alive than it had in all the years he’d lived there alone.

“She missed you.”

“She likes you more.”

“Had you decided to come back with your dwarf husband, I’m quite sure she’d have been ecstatic,” Prim said softly. “She wanted a family in her again, that’s all. You two would have been enough.”

Bilbo shrugged. “I love the Shire, and I love Bag End, Prim. But my home and my heart are with Thorin. Quite literally, you know,” Bilbo replied. “I put my heart and my magic into Erebor, I’ve never regretted that, not even for an instant.”

“But it’s nice to feel it again isn’t it?”

“I feel it in the mountain you know.”

“I’m sure you do. But now you have an excuse to relax, and perhaps recuperate some of that lost magic. Bag End isn’t the only place happy to have you back,” Prim patted his cheek, and she reminded him so much of his mother in that instant he felt a sting behind his eyes.

“Yes well, we’re going to need a lot more space in here if you’re going to house all twenty of us. After tea we’ll do a run through? Do you think we’ll need others?”

“The four of us should be enough, we’ll have the smial in tip top shape in no time.”

“Four? Isn’t Frodo a little babe? He’s much too young to help.”

“I’ll have you know that little boy is turning seven in the spring. He’s perfectly old enough to help and would very much like to run a smial song with his uncle Bilbo.”

*

Food was consumed at an alarming rate as twenty dwarves and four hobbits ate their fill and then some. Bilbo sat in the large armchair next to Thorin and surveyed the gathering with a soft smile.

Dwalin was seated by the window, his husband Ori curled up against his leg, dozing. Dis was deep in conversation with Gloin’s wife, Ylna. The boys and young Gimli were on seated on the floor with Frodo and his toy soldiers. It had taken no time for the young hobbit to race from his room arms laden with toys to show them all. Primula and Drogo sat across from Bilbo and Thorin and they listened attentively as Thorin spoke of their travels and news from outside the Shire. It was cozy, and Bilbo felt something ease within him, the stress from the road ebbing as the Green Lady welcomed him back.

It was cramped but cozy in the front room, and while Bag End hadn’t shrunk by any means they were going to need several more bedrooms, and at least one more bathroom. He and Thorin could use an office; Balin was ostensibly in charge back in Erebor, but the King and Consort were still required to make many decisions. If the storms lasted any as long as he felt -- and please Green Lady not longer - Bilbo wasn’t sure what would happen - best to think about that later.

After the fourth yawn from young Frodo, Prim set her teacup aside. “All right little one, it’s time for bed.”

“No!” Frodo cried and scrambled to his feet. “I want to do the Smial Song, you promised Mum. Please?” He bounced on the balls of his feet and looked between Prim and Bilbo, beseechingly.

“Do you think you have it in you? You’re already tired now, my darling, you’ll be quite cranky tomorrow if you don’t get your sleep.”

“I’ve got it! Please! I want to show them!”

Prim looked over to Bilbo. “I know it’s been a while, but do you remember the song?”

Bilbo snorted and stood up from the arm of the chair. He fixed his tunic about his waist and smiled. “As if I could forget it,” he said softly. He reached out to Frodo. “Come on lad, bedrooms don’t make themselves you know.”

The small hobbit giggled and space was made in the centre of the room for the four hobbits to stand in a circle. The dwarves in the room looked questioningly at the proceedings and Bilbo caught Thorin’s curious look.

Bilbo winked.

There had never been an opportunity to show Thorin this side of himself; during the quest, it made little sense to use hearth magic. And until they had reclaimed Erebor it would have been more of a drain on the hobbit anyway. By the time he’d decided to able use any magic it had been while Thorin nearly bled out on the ice shelf waiting for the eagles to arrive.

Bilbo had stopped Thorin’s bleeding by giving the dwarf is heart, and Thorin had recovered. But Bilbo had found that his hearth and his home had changed; they rested with a dwarf, and Erebor stirred under his feet the way Bag End once had. Erebor wasn’t the Shire, and most of the magic Bilbo had released into did not come back to him in return. It wasn’t ready yet, and Bilbo had been living the last number of years with very only limited access; unable to do much of the magical things he’d done even as a faunt when he’d been part of his parents hearth.

Now, safe behind the magic of the Shire, Bilbo could feel his feet tingle from the joy of it all. It would be good to spend Yule here. It would be good for them all. Bilbo finally had a chance to show Thorin what he’d wanted to show him years ago.

He took a deep breath and focused on his feet and the floorboards underneath. He could feel the life that hummed through the wood and the earth all around them and he wriggled his toes with it as Drogo set the beat of the song.

Curved walls and round doors,

Shelter us from nature’s Roars.

Family near to hearth and heart,

Keep them close when they’re apart.

Green Lady in your bower,

Sing with us your child of flowers.

Your children are tired and need to rest,

Keep them safe, warm, and close to breast.

Heart of Hearth and Heart of Home,

Rest now traveller your weary bones.

With our pantries full, your hunger pain ease,

May your heart always have peace.

 

Bilbo felt the floor grow warm under his feet. With each verse he felt a little more light headed, heady with the draw of magic. He was lost to the beat of the of verse, the pulse of the Green Lady beneath his feet, the power of the song coming from his cousins and himself.

It wasn’t until he heard the drawing of weapons that it occurred to him the smial might change more than add additional rooms. He snapped his eyes open and watched as windows resized and the front room doubled around them. The fireplace took up one wall and was four feet deeper than before.

Logs jumped from the rack and into the fireplace, adding a cheery glow to the room. His dwarven family all stood with hands on their weapons as they watched in terrified amazement as the smial shifted and changed around them.

The song faded and Frodo squealed as he opened his eyes. “I wanna see my what my room looks like now!” he squealed flying out of the front room and down the hall. “We have another pantry, Da!”

“Thorin, it’s alright.” Bilbo said, voice still thrumming with a bit of leftover magic. Thorin looked at him with wide eyes but his hand slowly left the hilt of his sword.

“What is this?” he asked softly.

Bilbo scrunched his nose. “Hobbit hearth magic.”

“Your people are magic.”

“When we’ve found our home, yes. Until then we have to work with other families. Frodo’s magic will stay strong until he has to make his own home,” Bilbo said softly.

“Oh,” Thorin said quietly. “I see.”

Thorin’s expression closed off suddenly and Bilbo blinked in confusion.

“What in Durin’s name just happened?” Dwalin asked, he had Ori firmly at his side with his axes out. Both dwarves were looking at the windows as if they might attack them.

“When a hobbit finds their home, Master Dwalin, they can adjust the physical space to suit their needs,” Prim said carefully. “I know it’s a rather shocking thing to see, but we rarely get a chance to welcome family in like this. Most often we end up travelling to Brandy Hall. So Drogo and I took the opportunity to really show you how beautiful our home is.

“There are plenty of rooms now, and as Frodo said there’s another pantry. We’ll be finding rooms for another day or two no doubt. The Green Lady hasn’t felt Bilbo in quite some time so she was particularly generous tonight.”

*

Some time later, after everyone had bedded down for the night, Ori walked around the bedroom he shared with Dwalin. “It’s faintly dwarvish, isn’t it?” He asked as he ran his hand across the mantle. The room was quite large with a four poster bed against one wall; the other wall was taken up with a large fireplace. The décor was geometric and not what he remembered from his albeit brief visit to the shire twenty-three years ago. Even the fireplace looked angular as if carved from stone, when in fact it was very much made of wood. There were two armchairs in front of the fire, but as soon as Dwalin and he entered the room they moved them aside and put their belongings on them.

Dwalin shrugged. “Aye, I suppose it is. Reminds me a bit of our rooms at home.”

“Maybe that’s Bilbo’s influence. He’s been living with dwarves for long enough that even his magic has a hint of it,” Ori smiled and climbed under the covers of the bed, joined quickly by his husband. Ice cold feet wrapped around his legs and Ori let out a squeal.

“You! Oh you and your cold feet,” he cried. “They’re not even feet, they’re just ice blocks attached to your ankles.”

“Aye, but you wouldn’t begrudge me warming them up against ye, would ye now?” Dwalin asked with an exaggerated eyebrow wiggle.

Ori reached down to grab a blanket from the end of the bed and wrapped Dwalin’s feet in it, trapping them while Dwalin laughed. He was then pulled unceremoniously, and with much flailing, into Dwalin’s lap and trapped by his husband’s large arms and knees.

“I know what I’m getting from you for Yule,” Ori said, settling against Dwalin’s chest.

“Ye do?”

“Yes, a nice lovely pair of handknit socks.”

“Well, that’s going to be kind of hard, considering I still can’t knit even a simple square. ‘Sides, your feet are wonderfully warm, which is why they’re perfect for warming mine up.” To drive the point home Dwalin wriggled his feet out of the blanket trap and wrapped his legs around Ori’s and rubbed his still cold feet against Ori’s.

“They’re not for me, you lukhalukh. I’m going to knit them for your giant feet,” Ori said. “I’m quite sure the Shire has some nice fleece. I’ll speak with Mrs. Baggins tomorrow.”

“Hmm,” Dwalin murmured quietly.

“What?”

“Well, it’s just that, a thoughtful gift like that should receive one in kind, do ye figure?”

Ori turned to kiss Dwalin’s cheek and was waylaid by warm lips and soft fuzzy beard. Several moments later, Ori leaned back and licked his lips. “And…” He tried his voice thick. “What did you have in mind?”

Dwalin’s smile turned rakish and Ori licked his lips.

“I think I’d like that gift very much.”

*

The next few days were a buzz of activity. Snow continued to fall in fat clumps, but the wind never raised above a gentle breeze. During the first few days he and the other dwarves had suggested trying to make their way to Ered Luin, only to be told by the Bilbo, and then shown that the roads on the borders of the shire were nigh impassable.

The Baggins family entertained with alarming regularity, and when Dwalin thought the house couldn’t get any bigger the smial rearranged itself to allow for more hobbits to fit into every nook and cranny.

By the third day he felt that itch between his shoulder blades and went to Bilbo to see if there was a forge nearby that they wouldn’t mind him borrowing. He dragged Thorin with him, and the two of them opened up the dusty building and spent most of the morning cleaning it out and getting a good fire going.

It didn’t take them long to find another anvil, and by lunchtime both of them had their tools out and the work flowed. Dwalin set up his moulds and the pieces he’d made in Rivendell before they’d left the elven homestead and once the gold reached the temperature he needed he carefully poured it into his moulds to create long thin wire. While those set, he took out Ori’s gift and set it on the workbench. Thorin and he settled into a soft forging song, Thorin’s hammer ringing throughout the workspace to keep the beat.

Thorin had been acting weird since the night of the hobbit magic song. Dwalin hadn’t pushed, nor did he feel he needed to; Thorin would tell him in his own time, and no amount of cajoling would speed the process up.

The warmth from the fire spread throughout the day until the two of them were bare chested and covered in a sheen of well earned sweat. He focused on his work while Thorin focused on his own, and the two of them worked away the day until night fell. It wasn’t until there was a tentative knock on the post outside that Dwalin looked up from his work and noticed that the sky had gotten darkened.

“Uncle Thorin, Mister Dwalin?” a young voice called out. “Is it safe to come in and see what you’re doing? Mum said I had to stay at the doorway, but I want to see.”

Dwalin cast a glance at Thorin, and even in the low light from the forge fire he could see his friend blush bright at the moniker the young hobbit had given him.

Thorin put on his tunic and went to the doorway. “Your mum is a very smart hobbit to tell you such things, Frodo. You never enter a forge unless you have the blacksmiths’ permission.” Thorin knelt and picked the child up and put him on his shoulders, this which was accompanied by squeal of delight. “And since you have our permission, how about a tour?”

“Yay!”

Dwalin turned back to his work while Thorin guided the young hobbit around and showed him the inner workings of a forge. At home in Erebor, a dwarfling would be around the forge from birth. Children in the Shire were different, with dirt under their feet and soil between their fingers. Just another kind of craft he supposed.

Dwalin was adding the last amethyst to the setting when a small curly haired head leaned against his arm.

“What are you making, Mister Dwalin?”

“I’m making a gift for my husband.”

“What is it?”

“That my dear one is a surprise,” Dwalin said with a smile. “But you will get a chance to see it in just two day’s time, I promise.”

“Aww, Uncle Thorin said the same thing. Why can’t I see them? I’m a good secret keeper.”

Dwalin put away the last of his tools and hoisted the child up into his arms. “I’ve no doubt you are lad. But this isn’t just a secret from Ori. These gifts are a secret from everyone until they’re finished. Tis’ bad luck to reveal a gift before it’s properly finished. Ye understand?”

Frodo nodded and his hair bounced. “Can you and Uncle Thorin and Uncle Bilbo make snow hobbits with me? The snow’s perfect right now and we won’t be able to by tomorrow.”

“If your amad says it’s okay we’ll make them after supper.”

Frodo let out a peal of what Dwalin could only assume to be joy as he raced out of the forge ahead of them. “You have to hurry; I was supposed to tell you supper was on the table. They’re gonna be hungry!”

Dwalin chuckled and the two dwarves followed the young hobbit out and up the road to Bag End. “What do you think he means that we won’t be able to make snow dwarves tomorrow?” he asked Thorin curiously.

“Your guess is as good as mine, bâha,” he said quietly.

“I suppose we’ll find out.”

*

Shortly after supper the families occupying Bag End headed to the field under the Party Tree and assisted Frodo, his cousins, and his young friend Sam with building snow hobbits. Pippin and Merry were still quite small, but they trundled after Frodo and the very shy Samwise and rolled snow in fat hands with the help of many adults. Prim and Bilbo set up a trestle table and filled cups with hot cocoa while watching the proceedings from afar.

“I think your husband wishes to kidnap Frodo,” Prim said, sipping a doctored mug of hot cocoa, a sly grin on her lips.

Bilbo snorted. “I think Frodo is planning to secret himself inside our luggage before we leave,” he confided,  looking over to the faunt and dwarf in question and watched as Thorin carefully showed him how to make the base and how to pack the snow in.

“He’s very patient.”

“Not only has he had practice, he’s a king. Patience is rather necessary; wouldn’t you say?” Bilbo glanced over to his cousin and raised an eyebrow. “What are you driving at Prim?”

“You’re not too old, you two could still, you know .”

Bilbo stared, wide eyed at his cousin and he didn’t blink until his eyes blurred. “Dear me. What books are you reading?” he leaned over to her. “You know that’s all made up yes? I’m quite sure the elves did it because they were tired of the dwarves and all their secrets.”

Prim let out a snorting laugh that shook her whole frame and it took her several minutes before the mirth died down. Even then she looked at Bilbo and started giggling again. Finally, after she had managed to find some decorum she cleared her throat.

“No, cousin,” she said, stifling another giggle. “That’s not what I meant. I meant you two could, well adopt perhaps? Are there options for surrogacy in Erebor?”

Bilbo shrugged. “Not as many as in the Shire, my dear,” he admitted, watching fondly as his husband while he played with Frodo. “I’ll admit I’m not one for children. I’m… happy to be an uncle, I’m not really the fatherly type. Thorin though, he’d make an excellent one. I told him once if he ever wished to have one, he need only say the word. He said he was happy.”

He felt a hand on his shoulder, and he looked over at Primula. “Bilbo, did you have that conversation the same way you had the conversation about hearts and homes a few nights ago?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Prim.”

“He doesn’t know, Bilbo.”

“What in Eru’s name do you mean he doesn’t know. Of course he knows. I’ve been married to him for twenty-two years. He’s had my heart for twenty-four.. How could he not know?”

“You never told him of your magic,” she reminded him.

“I haven’t been able to do a whit with magic in two decades. She’s syphoning it all. There was no point in mentioning it before.” Bilbo swallowed hard. “Oh dear.”

 

*

Ori shivered as he pushed large balls of snow together, two tiny hobbits ordered him around with stunning alacrity.

“That’s not the way you do it, they’re supposed to have big feet,” the older of the two said with his hands on his hips. “Don’t snow dwarves have feets too?”

“We’ll carve them after we get the body set up,” Ori said. “You need a good base before you add the details.”

The young hobbit regarded his companion. “What do you think Pip? Think they know what they’re doing?”

“I dun know, Merry. Do you think cousin Prima has the treats out yet?” the child pouted and poked his belly. “It’s empty again.”

There was crunch of snow, and Ori looked up as Dwalin walked over to them loaded a tray of hot cocoa and other goodies. His husband already had two ginger cookies in his mouth, and he finished them off as he knelt in front of the two faunts.

“Cookies!” Pippin cried. He toddled over to Dwalin and grabbed three.

“That’s rude Pip. Thank you Mister Dwarf. He’s a baby but he’ll learn,” Merry rolled his eyes and took two cookies of his own. Meanwhile Pip was making his escape, running as fast has he could wrapped up in layers as he was. Merry called out and ran after him, the two of them heading toward Frodo and  Samwise.

Ori added another mound of snow to the growing snow dwarf before going over to Dwalin and picking up a cup of hot cocoa.

“I think they decided we’re not competent in snow hobbit making,” he said as he warmed his hands against the mug.

Dwalin leaned down and kissed his head. “I think Frodo’s been telling all his friends about how wonderful his Uncle Thorin is. I don’t think you and I can compete with that. Look, not even Fili and Kili can compete.”

Sure enough, across the field, Fili, Kili, and Gimli were making some huge snow creature that towered over all the others -- Ori thought he could see steps and some kind of scaffolding in the back.

“Is that Durin IV?” Ori asked idly. The older hobbits were interested, but the younger ones were gathered around Thorin as he helped them create little snow hobbits and showed them tricks to carve them. One of the snow hobbits looked remarkably like little Frodo.

Ori took the tray from Dwalin, gave him three of the ginger cookies he loved and handed the tray to a passing hobbit. Once Dwalin’s hand were free he settled in against him.

“Much better.”

He felt more than heard Dwalin’s chuckle as he wrapped his arms around him. “Yule starts at midnight,” Dwalin said against his cheek.

“Old Yule you mean. They changed the calendars more than two centuries ago,” Ori teased and then sipped his cocoa. “You are incorrigible. You just want to give your gift.”

“Of course I do. I’ve been keeping it a secret for a year. It’s finally finished, and you know I’m not good with secrets, love,” Dwalin whispered and Ori felt his heart swell.

“You’re such a sap,” he said fondly. “All right, after everyone goes to bed tonight. I know Thorin is planning on waiting till the hobbit Yule festival. Sure you wouldn’t want to wait till then?”

Dwalin shook his head fast enough that his beard tickled Ori’s ears.

“I mean, unless you’re still putting the finishing touches on things, and if you’d rather wait.”

Ori turned around in Dwalin’s arms. Snow was falling faster and his husband was covered in fluffy fat puffs of white. He leaned up on his tip toes and kissed him softly. “I’m quite ready, and you’re not the only one excited to give their gift.”

“Then do we really need to wait?”

The hopeful, mischievously shit eating grin on Dwalin’s face was a sight to behold. “Durin’s beard I love you.” “W-we don’t  need to wait.” The cup of cocoa forgotten in his hand, he pulled Dwalin down for a deeper kiss. His toes curled in his boots before he broke the kiss with a stuttered breath. Ori grabbed Dwalin’s hand in his and dragged his stunned husband along, keeping an eye out to see if anyone was paying attention to their departure. Satisfied that they were being ignored, he jumped the small fence and the two of them made their way back up to Bag End. It took them several minutes to navigate the short road because Dwalin kept stopping them to continue kissing him - one turned into another, turned into another until they finally reached the smial and headed to their room.

Ori stopped in the hallway. “Perhaps we should… do this in the front room. I just don’t want Frodo or any of the others to… uhm, hear us.”

Dwalin nodded slowly. “Aye, you might have the right of it,” he pressed his lips to Ori’s ear. “Yer a whee screamer when I get going. No need for any of them to hear that.”

Ori blushed and swatted at Dwalin. “Behave.”

Ori ducked into their room and took the large wooden box out from under the bed and brought it into the front room. “Your turn,” he said with an impish grin, holding the box just out of reach of Dwalin’s questing hands.

He set it on the table and took off his outer clothing, setting them to dry in front of the fireplace, while Dwalin ducked from the room to retrieve his gift. His braids were damp from the snow so he undid them, letting his hair out as Dwalin came back into the room. Dwalin made a soft, strangled noise ,and even from the opposite side of the room Ori could see the heat in him.

“Later, when everyone goes to sleep,” he promised as Dwalin closed the distance between them. They took a seat on the floor, the chairs near the fireplace were hobbit-sized and just a bit too small even for Ori.

Ori handed Dwalin his gift and chewed on his bottom lip as his nerves got the better of him. He’d been so confident in his gift, but now that they were there, in that moment, he was no longer sure.

Dwalin handed him a thick leather case with a strap.

“Open mine first,” Dwalin said and Ori shook his head, unable to keep the smile off his face.

Carefully he undid the strap. The leather was high quality; well tanned, and the stitch work must have taken ages. Dwalin hated fine needle work - even if he was a fair hand at it - complaining that his fingers were too thick for it. Ori ran the tips of his fingers along the stitchwork.

“It’s beautiful,” he whispered, running his hand over the soft red leather of the front flap.

“Ye haven’t even opened it yet.”

“Hush.”

Ori opened the flap and his breath caught in his chest. Mithril shone and reflected the firelight. Ori put the pouch down. It was shaped as many knitting needle cases with three sections and two flaps that closed one over the other to keep the needles tucked safely inside. He took a deep breath and opened the other side. Ordered from smallest to largest, starting from the left, were knitting needles. He’d never seen a set so complete in all his life. The tips were all made of mithril, and the bodies made of gold, silver, jade and even quartz.

Another flap opened up to reveal fine wire with threaded ends and Ori picked up one of the mid-sized needles and let out a gasp as he screwed the needle in one end.

“They’re, how did – Dwalin these are—“ he couldn’t find the words as he picked up each needle and turned it in the light, which caught glints of inlay work and fine detail. There was still more in the pouch: several sets of wickedly sharp double points, connectors made of durable steel, and stoppers to fit over the threads made of amber .

Carefully he set the needles back into the leather carrying case and dragged Dwalin close for a hug. “Thank you,” he whispered. “Oh thank you so much. They’re more than I could ever have dreamed of.”

“I had some help from yer brothers. Dori lent me an old set of his to make sure I had the right sizing,” he said. Ori could hear the pride in his voice and he kissed him. “Nori mentioned that the double points can double as weapons in a pinch so they’re solid mithril and sharp enough to do real damage.”

“They’re beautiful, and I can’t wait to try them all out. You big sap, you’ve been holding onto these all year. While I bitched about my old needles and whinged about not getting that set before we left Erebor?” Ori kissed the answer from Dwalin and then tapped his gift to his husband. “Open yours now.”

The box was one he’d spent weeks working on; it was the last part of his gift but the first one Dwalin would see, so he wanted it to be perfect. It was made of rosewood with walnut inlay of their names in khuzdul intertwined.

Dwalin opened the box carefully and set the top aside, revealing  what looked like a piece of dark green cloth inside the box. Dwalin lifted it out let out a whistle as he turned the thick cloak around in his hands.

“Ori this is stunning,” he whispered.

“It’s two pieces and they button around the collar, so you can wear it all year. But that’s not all.”

Dwalin looked up sharply from inspecting the sapphire buttons and peered back into the box, letting out a laugh.

“My feet are not that cold!” he denied.

Ori reached over and grabbed a hold of Dwalin’s nearest foot and yelped. “Yes they are, and look, holes in the socks. I figured as much. There’s twenty-four pairs in there. A couple of them are for dressier occasion, state things. But most are work socks and they’re nice and thick. They’ll keep even your ice blocks warm.”

Dwalin blushed from his neck to the top of his bald head and ducked down to looked back inside the box, and pulled out a small leather bound book. “What’s this?” he asked, flipping through.

“Our journey, our relationship. Took us a while to see what was in front of us you know. I’ve been drawing us for over a decade. I’ve been hiding for the longest time. I thought I’d show you, how I see you. How I see us.”

There had only been two times in Ori’s life where he’d seen Dwalin close to tears: when Thorin had been sick with dragon-sickness all those years ago, and when Ori had asked to marry him. Tonight he added a third, and he felt Dwalin’s tears more than saw their evidence.

Ori set aside the gifts and settled into Dwalin’s lap, holding his dwarf close against him. “Happy Yule, husband.”

“Happy Yule, Ori.”

 

*

Two nights later everyone was getting ready for the Yule party held under the Party Tree. Hobbits had been in and outside all day, carrying food, supplies, and gifts down to the field. They set up trestle tables all the while tromping the snow down until it was a slick sheet of near ice under their feet.

None of the hobbits seemed bothered by the slippery field in the least as Thorin watched, marvelling once again at their kindness and camaraderie. His gaze kept flicking back to Bilbo, worriedly, as his husband wended his way between hobbits, laughing and carrying on with ease. That set his heart beating erratically. Of course Bilbo belonged here, it was his home after all, his magic was here.

Why Bilbo had never mentioned his magic made him feel anxious and jittery - did he stay with Thorin in Erebor out of some kind of loyalty? Bilbo had never been one for overstating his affection, but he had said he loved Thorin, many times during their marriage.  He believed Bilbo, he truly did; but was he forcing his husband to stay away from his home?

Thorin needed to know, and needed to know before they left the Shire again - he wasn’t going to force his husband to move one more step if he didn’t want to.

But first there was a party and he had a gift to give him still.  The sun was now setting in the west and Thorin hadn’t had the opportunity to speak with Bilbo for more than a moment during the preparations for the party. Now, the hobbits were gathering around the edge of the field while the dwarves mingled on the outside with curious eyes.

Thorin and the others stood hesitantly on the bridge, unwilling to intrude upon whatever ceremony was about to take place. An older hobbit with greying beard and bright green eyes laughed and grabbed up Thorin’s hand.

“Well bless the fur on my feet, Thorin Oakenshield. I haven’t seen you in close to fifty years.”

“Master Brandybuck?” Thorin asked, a smile tugging at the corners of his lip. “Aye it has been a while. But I never forgot the kindness you showed me. Thank you.”

“It’s good to see you back around these parts. And married to my nephew as well. Never did see that coming. But you’re here now, and what are you and your family doing on the other side of the circle? Join in now.”

The hobbit wouldn’t take no for an answer, and within a few minutes all of Thorin’s family was inside the circle, hand in hand with the hobbits. Thorin looked over to Bilbo as they held hands and his husband grinned at him unabashedly, mischief and merriment in his eyes.

he didn’t have a chance to ask what was happening as a hum that started on the other side of the circle and carried over to them before the hobbits started to sing. Soon the hobbits started singing. It was a simple enough song, and though he and his kin didn’t know the words they still could follow the beat and add their voices to it.

Thorin felt a shift in the air and watched as the snow that had been falling all day stopped; he looked up and saw it hovering high above their heads, blocked from falling as if by some unseen force.

Gasps arose from his family, and he looked down at his feet to see the snow there melt and bright green grass of spring shoot through and cover the field. Once they finished singing the crowd dispersed, hobbits heading to the food and drink tables while the dwarves stood back to look around in wonder.

Thorin tightened his hold on Bilbo’s hand and smiled. “So this is your hobbit magic. I had never known.”

Bilbo cleared his throat. “Yes well, it’s not like I made any mention of it either,.” Bilbo said softly. “About that, that was rather dreadful of me. I should have explained better.”

“This is your home, Bilbo,” Thorin whispered. “I should never have expected you to leave it. Not so completely. I’m so very sorry.”

Bilbo let out a groan. “Oh, you ridiculous dwarf. The Shire is not my home, Thorin. It was at one time. But after my parents died I lost my magic. A hobbits magic is tied to their heart, their hearth, and their home. Mine was without tether for quite some time.”

He placed a hand over Thorin’s heart. “Until I found you. When you were…. Dying on that ice. I… I gave my heart to you. I settled my hearth in yours and I found my home.”

Thorin couldn’t believe what he was hearing, and he covered Bilbo’s hand with his own.

But his hobbit wouldn’t let him speak yet, “Erebor is a very big home though. And She has taken a quite a lot of my magic in rebuilding herself. It’s why my magic has been very low.”

“But, Yavanna. Your cousin said she missed you.”

“Yavanna? Oh dear. That is a conversation for another time, husband. The Green Lady missed me, yes. Not Yavanna. The Green Lady is the Shire. And her daughter is slumbering in Erebor right now. And when we go back I’m going to be giving her a rather big dose of magic. It’s why I’ve been giddy lately, dear. She’s filled me up to my buttons.” He laughed and kissed Thorin on his bearded chin. “A few more years yet, and you’ll feel her too. I know dwarven children are precious and rare. I know I said I didn’t wish to have children. But this is my gift to you Thorin. Your city will grow and become her own and love your people the same way the Green Lady loves and cares for hobbits.”

Thorin pressed his forehead to Bilbo, overcome with emotion. He could feel the sting of tears in his eyes and warmth spread through his heart. He mumbled in Khuzdul, Westron failing him in that failing moment, and he pulled Bilbo against him.

After several minutes he pulled back and reached into his coat pocket, handing Bilbo a carved box. “It is not near the gift you have given me, yasun.”

Bilbo shook his head. “Adorable dwarf. You’ve made this with your own hands it is more than enough.” He opened the box carefully and Thorin watched the play of emotions across his husband’s face as he stared at the delicate crown. It was made of mithril and there were rows of lapis lazuli and diamond twirling around a fire opal in the centre. Thorin had spent months poring over the flowers - Forget-me-nots around the band, white roses ringing the fire opal - until he had them perfect.

“Thorin, this is… oh dear this is stunning. I love it.”

Thorin smiled and kissed him softly. “A dwarven crown with flowers. Just for you my husband.”

Bilbo turned the crown in his hands and laughed as he looked from it to Thorin and then around at the gathering and merry making.

“Dwarves and flowers. Such an odd thing,” he said and kissed Thorin softly. “You know, when I was a child a dwarf came to the Shire.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I had forgotten about it, but it was Yule night and we were all out under the Party Tree. He looked rather lonely, not many of the hobbits were going near him. I think the adults were waiting to be invited and the faunts were too scared. Except for me.”

“And you went… up to this dwarf,” Thorin said softly, staring at Bilbo, in wonder.

“Oh yes. I was going to be a warrior. My mother was friends with a wizard. I wasn’t going to let some silliness get between me and a warrior name,” Bilbo said with a laugh. “Oh how I pestered him. He was good though, very kind. I know it is supposed to be a secret, and I know your people never tell their secret names to anyone. But he gave me one that night. He was quite likely just being kind and calling me something cute, but I kept my promise. Told no one.”

Thorin stared at Bilbo and looked around at the gathered hobbits and then back again. “And what was the name he gave you? You are allowed to share your secret name with your One. He did mention that.”

“Yes, he did, actually. Let’s see if I remember it right, nunga’zaghith. Not even really sure what it means.”

Thorin swallowed several times and bit his lip and pulled Bilbo close, “It means, Little Flower Warrior.” Thorin whispered against Bilbo’s temple. “I’d never thought I had a gift for prophecy, but I named you right that night.”

Bilbo stiffened in his arms and looked up at him. He mussed Thorin’s hair some and let out a bright laugh. “You!”

Thorin pulled him close again and kissed him once, then again,. “Aye, me.”