Bilbo blinks awake slowly. Some feral part of his brain expects to feel sunlight on his face, the morning sun coming to wake him up gently. He’s warm, though, and ultimately very comfortable.
There is no sun, though.
And as Bilbo’s eyes flutter open, he remembers why.
Next to him lies his husband, gently snoring. Bilbo usually wakes up earlier than Thorin – and even by hobbit standards, he’s a late riser. Bilbo constantly has no idea how his husband manages to juggle being a ruler when he struggles to get up in the morning.
If this were a normal morning, Bilbo would begin trying to rouse Thorin. They would probably be running late, and Bilbo would be panicking.
But today they don’t have to worry about that.
Bilbo snuggles down under the blankets. There’s a chill in their – the effect of living in rock – but under the blankets it’s as warm as anything.
And okay, a whole lot of that is down to Thorin. Bilbo closes his eyes. He doesn’t want to go back to sleep… but having more time in bed to be warm and comfortable? It’s all a hobbit could ask for in the winter months.
In his sleepiness, as he often does, Bilbo finds himself slowly making his way across the bed towards Thorin. He can’t help it. He just… gets drawn over there.
Still sleeping, Thorin grunts, and pulls Bilbo towards him. how Thorin does this while asleep Bilbo doesn’t know, but it happens nearly every time they get close to one another in bed.
Bilbo smiles sleepily, and snuggles in.
He wakes again later to knocking on their chamber doors.
Unlike earlier, where he had woken slowly and sleepily, and been warm and comfortable, he now feels tired and worn, like he hadn’t slept a wink the night before.
Thorin, it seems, does not feel this tiredness.
While Bilbo stays in bed, pulling the blankets over his head in an effort to avoid having to interacting with anyone, Thorin throws the blankets off of him and stomps over to the door. Based on that fact alone, Bilbo can guess that he’s not happy about it.
He desperately wants to go back to sleep now. But whether he likes it or not, he’s now forced to listen to Thorin have a hushed argument with Oin.
An argument which slowly grows in volume. “…what do you mean, they lost it?” Thorin growls.
“I don’t know! All I know is that yesterday the banners were in the storage cupboards, and now they aren’t.”
“And why haven’t you found them yet?”
“Because we don’t know where they are. We can’t just find them, Thorin.”
There’s silence. Bilbo can’t tell what they’re doing. Or how Thorin feels. Bilbo knows how he feels – he feels frustrated. He knows the exact yule banners that Oin’s talking about, and if they’ve gone missing then that means that’s the main decoration for the great hall gone.
Then the door closes. Bilbo hears Thorin walking carefully back over to the bed. Even through Bilbo isn’t sure how Thorin thinks he could have slept through all that, he appreciates how slowly and quietly Thorin gets back into bed.
He can’t keep pretending to be asleep, though.
Turning over, Bilbo slides back up the bed, and looks at his husband.
Thorin is looking directly at him. “Good morning,” Thorin says. “I didn’t know you were awake.”
Bilbo smiles apologetically. “I didn’t mean to hide. I just didn’t want to get in the way.”
Thorin runs his hand down Bilbo’s exposed arm. “You wouldn’t have done.” His words and expression are gentle, but Bilbo knows the words to not be entirely true.
He nods anyway, and goes to sit up. “What did Oin say?”
“You mean you didn’t hear all of it?” Thorin teases.
Bilbo ignores the blush threatening to come over his face. “Not all of it,” he blusters. “I just heard… some of it.”
A small smile plays in the corners of Thorin’s mouth. “Of course,” he allows. “Oin says that some of the banners from the storeroom are gone, as well as a few of the other decorations. We aren’t sure where they’ve gone, and Oin thinks we should do a thorough search for them.”
Bilbo studies his husband’s expression. Thorin begins to look more and more guilty, and Bilbo realised suddenly what was going on here. “You’re going to have to go help them search, aren’t you?”
Thorin nods slowly. “It shouldn’t take too long,” he says, gripping Bilbo’s hand.
Bilbo takes comfort from it; the familiar coarseness of Thorin’s hand heavy in Bilbo’s own. “Okay,” he says, “but you have to come back to me soon.”
Thorin promises that he will.
And then he leaves.
Bilbo sighs. “Well, I guess this is another free day,” he grumbles to himself after Thorin has left.
Putting his frustration out of his mind, he gets up and dresses himself, pulling on his regular clothes. If today had begun like they had planned – with a long lie in and lots of relaxation – he would have been in his bedclothes still. They would have stayed in bed for a long time, probably.
A part of him wants to get back into bed anyway, hoping that Thorin will find the banners soon, and he would come back and they wouldn’t have to think about it any longer.
But he’s up now, and he may as well get on with his day.
Leaving their bedchamber, Bilbo walks out into their reception area. Where their bedchamber is a place that Bilbo had a great deal of sway over decorating, Thorin had been insistent on keeping their reception area as traditional as possible. “It’s important that any dwarf seeing this feels like we’re keeping to our traditions,” he had said apologetically when they were redecorating the royal apartments. “We can’t change much about it.”
At first it had frustrated Bilbo to have even his living quarters be so dwarven. They were soulmates, after all. Surely there should be some exception, some ability to bring just a bit of hobbit culture?
But now Bilbo finds himself endeared by it.
Walking through, Bilbo goes to his garden first. There are few things which Bilbo prioritises over food, and his garden is one of them. It’s filled with flowers that he had had shipped over from Hobbiton months ago. Usually he wouldn’t dream of trying to plant in the winter months, but the wonderful thing about growing a garden in the middle of a mountain is that the seeds have no idea what time of year it is, and he can adjust the temperature and climate as much as he likes. It’s a miracle, and he probably spends too much time in here when he should be doing his consort duties.
Besides, it will distract him from his frustrations. He can channel it into digging up weeds.
By the time Bilbo goes down for his breakfast, Thorin still hasn’t shown up. It makes Bilbo antsy, but only a little.
It must be obvious that he’s not feeling his best.
Bombur gives him a concerned look as he passes Bilbo in the kitchen. “You must have heard about the missing stuff,” he says, turning to whatever he’s cooking.
Bilbo nods morosely. “Yeah,” he says, eating a fried egg. “Oin told Thorin earlier, and he’s been gone since.”
“I heard that they found one of the banners,” Bombur tells him, clearly trying to cheer him up with good news.
“Really?” Bilbo perks up at this. Maybe Thorin will be done soon. Maybe he’ll be able to go on with the holiday that he had prepared for.
Bombur hesitates. “Well, sort of,” he says, tapping his fingers on the handle of a saucepan. “They found something like one – they think it’s an old one. But hey, that’s better than nothing, right?”
It wouldn’t be the decorations that Bilbo had spent time planning on. But he nods anyway, tries to look happy. “Sure,” he says, finishing up his meal. Even the addition of toast and jam, beans, and sausage isn’t quite enough to cheer him up. He finishes the meal full, but he doesn’t feel like it’s enough.
Without the plans he had for the day, he feels a little listless. He can’t relax with Thorin and his family, but neither can he help with putting up the yuletide decorations. It’s meant to be a big deal here, putting up the yule decorations on this particular day, in preparation for the holiday, and Bilbo had been looking forward to it.
For lack of anything better to do, Bilbo spends a while roaming the halls, seeing what decorations have been put up. A few shops have decorated their stalls in the marketplace with bright berries, and there are homes with holly and ivy twining around their doors. It makes for a bit of cheer and brightness in his day, and Bilbo feels cheered up somewhat by the end of the day.
In the evening, after a dinner with a few members of the company – Thorin conspicuously absent – Bilbo sits in their parlour, as he often does. Nothing quite relaxes him like his pipe and a good book, and he feels he’s quite earned it today.
He can’t relax as much as he wants, though. The knowledge that he’s gone at least twelve hours without touching Thorin makes him anxious in itself, even without the strange symptoms which creep in without that touch. If Thorin doesn’t appear soon, he’ll have to go to bed without it, and the thought makes Bilbo feel even worse.
Thankfully, Thorin enters the room not long before they’re due to go to bed. There’s precious little time left to spend together, and Bilbo intends to make the most of it.
“How has your day been?” Bilbo asks, as Thorin lies on the sofa next to him, putting his head in Bilbo’s lap. “Did you find the decorations?”
Thorin groans. “Yes,” he says, “but it was more hassle than it was worth. It turns out some servant assumed these were the old decorations, and had carted them off to be cleaned within an inch of their lives. Thankfully they’re all alright – but it’ll take a day or two before they’re properly dry.”
“Oh dear.” Bilbo cards his fingers through Thorin’s hair thoughtfully, untangling knots as he goes. “How long did it take you to discover that?”
“Literally the entire day. I think Dwalin was about to go mad by the end of it, and then we found them in the laundry, pleased as punch.”
“And what did you do?”
“I’ll have you know I was very restrained with them.” Thorin’s voice didn’t make Bilbo believe him, not really, but he thought that it was likely truer than not.
“Do you know if there are any decorations we can put up in the time being?” Bilbo finds himself coming back to how bad today had been. “I didn’t – I didn’t have anything to do today, and I found myself quite put out.”
Thorin turns his head to look awkwardly up at Bilbo. “Really?” He asks, seeming surprised. “I thought you would have… I don’t know, been here reading your book all day. You don’t need to go without your holiday just because I’m busy.”
Bilbo shakes his head, amused. “You’re a very silly dwarf if you think I’m going to sit here on my arse all day while you run yourself ragged,” he says. “Next time I really wish you’d let me help.”
Thorin makes a displeased sound. “You’re the royal consort, and my soulmate,” he says. “You shouldn’t have to do anything you don’t want to. You know I already think it’s strange that you enjoy doing all that paperwork you insist on doing.”
Bilbo shrugs. “I know,” he says. “But I can’t stand to be idle. If I wanted that, I would have moved back to Hobbiton.”
Thorin’s hand makes its way to Bilbo’s knee, and squeezes. “You’re not escaping me now, hobbit,” he says lowly.
It does interesting things to Bilbo’s insides.
“Shall we go to bed?” He asks lightly.
Thorin nods, and they quickly pack up Bilbo’s things, and blow out the candles.
Bilbo hopes that tomorrow will prove to be better.
Unfortunately, he is wrong.
This time they aren’t woken with an emergency, so much as roped into it without their knowledge.
Finally, Bilbo has the lie in he wanted the previous day. He’s warm, and sated, and happy, and he has skin to skin contact with his soulmate to make up for a whole day without it.
They go to eat breakfast in the hall together, arm in arm. They chat about idle things as they walk – Bilbo regales Thorin with the tale of the time his father accidentally forgot to buy his mother a yule gift, and in return Thorin tells Bilbo about what yuletide was like to celebrate here when he was a boy, which Bilbo finds both fascinating and adorable. Especially when it involves the accidental ingestion of eggnog, and the stealing of a mince pie which turned out to be full of actual mince.
Thorin is practically swamped by his nephew the moment they finish eating. “What is it?” He asks gruffly, while Bilbo looks on in amusement.
“I still haven’t chosen a gift for Tauriel.” Kili looks guiltily at them, with a clear look of help me in his eyes.
Bilbo shares a glance with Thorin. “You should go help him,” he says kindly.
“Are you sure?” Thorin’s eyes search Bilbo’s face. Bilbo does his best to keep as calm-looking as possible.
He nods, and Kili looks relieved. “Thank you, uncles,” he says breathlessly. “I promise we’ll be done quickly, Uncle Bilbo!”
Bilbo appreciates the sentiment, but as he watches his husband be dragged across the floor by his nephew, he begins to think that maybe this won’t be a simple process. If he knows anything about dwarrow, it’s that they take their gift giving very seriously.
His suspicions are proved right later, when he peeks into Fili’s chambers. “Hello?” He calls, hoping that somebody will be in here, at least.
When there’s no reply, Bilbo is forced to conclude that they must be elsewhere. And he has a sneaking feeling where that might be.
He wanders down from the royal apartments to the forges. It’s a long journey, made longer by how many people there are to avoid on the way. For all that Bilbo isn’t that much shorter than the average dwarrow, they all seem incapable of looking past their beards at who’s walking past them. Three times at least, Bilbo narrowly avoids his toes being trodden on, and it takes a great deal of skill to skip around them.
At last, after about half an hour of almost-constant stairs, Bilbo arrives at the forges.
One advantage of being apparently invisible to the average dwarf, at least, is that none of the dwarrow at work at the forges take any notice of him as he walks. Not one looks up as he walks in, or past them. The only time one catches sight of him is as he accidentally knocks over a pile of swords, sending them clanging onto the floor. What a dreadful racket! He thinks.
It’s not hard to know where Thorin will be, in all this din. This might not be Bilbo’s favourite place to be, but he’s been down here often enough to bring Thorin his supper when he’s in the middle of his work to know where his private rooms are.
Right at the back of the hall, through a wooden door which looks like it leads to a back staircase, or an old storage cupboard everybody has forgotten about, lies Thorin’s own forge. It’s a lot smaller than the big ones, and would be no good if Thorin intended on making larger pieces, like armour, in here.
But for the intricate work he prefers, with all its small details and placement of tiny jewels? It’s perfect.
And inside, just like Bilbo predicted, are his husband and his nephew.
Thorin and Kili stand shoulder to shoulder, wearing the minimum protection from the flames before them. Already Bilbo can feel the heat on his face, making him flush, but these two are completely unaffected, despite being in here for hours.
(Bilbo often takes his time at this part, just admiring his husband in his element. He sees Thorin in his kingly element all the time, of course, but it isn’t the same as watching him create. Thorin might enjoy being the king, sure, but Bilbo knows it barely compares to his love of being creative.)
There is no time for simply watching this time. For one thing, Kili is here, and it makes him feel awkward.
So he walks further into the room, allowing the door to bang closed behind him.
Thorin turns around. “Bilbo!” He exclaims. “I wasn’t expecting to see you here.” Now that he’s facing Bilbo, Bilbo can see just how much of the protective gear Thorin’s wearing, including the leather gloves which are his nemesis when all he wants is touch. Even through Kili is clearly the one making the gift, as is appropriate between soulmates, Thorin is dressed up, despite the low likelihood of him also having to pick up any of the hot metal.
“I came to see how you were getting on,” Bilbo says truthfully. He doesn’t mention that he had been hoping to steal Thorin away for some time for themselves. It’s clear that they’re very much still in the middle of things, and Bilbo really doesn’t want to get in the way of that.
Unfortunately, Thorin knows him too well for that. walking over to him, Thorin says in a low voice, “sorry this took so long. Kili was… indecisive about what he wanted to make, and he needed a lot of guidance. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be.”
Bilbo sighs. “I thought you might say something like that. it’s okay though – we can spend time together another time.” He smiles up at Thorin, although he isn’t sure how convincing it is. “And hey – yule is about spending time with your whole family. I can’t begrudge you spending time with your nephew.”
Thorin doesn’t seem to appreciate Bilbo’s jokes. “I know, but I would rather be with you. We’ll spend time together later.”
It occurs to Bilbo after he’s left that Thorin didn’t touch him at all, with all his protective gear on.
And when he finally comes back from the forge, sweaty and dirty, he’s barely awake enough to drag himself into their private bath, scrub himself raw, and collapse into bed. Bilbo doesn’t have the heart to do anything more than tuck him in and go to sleep himself, never mind ask for touch.
“It’s ready!” Thorin announces the next day, walking into Bilbo’s office. “They’ve finally dried out all the banners, cloths, and various ornaments for yule. We can decorate now!”
Bilbo lets out a sigh of relief. “Thank yavannah,” he says, putting down his pen. “I thought I was going to go mad waiting for it. I tried to relax this morning, like you suggested, but all I could think about was all this.” He gestures as the papers and books on his desk. “I had to come down here.”
“Me too,” Thorin admits. “And I noticed you were gone from our rooms, and this was the only place I could think you might be. Other than the kitchens. Are you sure you still want to take part in all this? Because nobody will think badly of you if you don’t any longer.”
Bilbo shakes his head. “For the thousandth time, I’m still going to be part of this, Thorin,” he says. He picks up all the diagrams and pictures he had made in preparation of this. “I didn’t spend a solid month researching how dwarrows celebrate yule, as well as figuring out how the great hall used to get decorated, just to give up now.”
“I thought you might say as much.” Thorin kisses Bilbo’s cheek tenderly. “And I appreciate it, I really do.”
“Good.” Bilbo nods decisively. “And are you going to come help?”
He’s already come round the desk and headed for the door by the time Bilbo realises that Thorin hasn’t answered yet. He turns around. Thorin’s leaning against his own desk now, a decisively sheepish look on his face. “What is it now?” Bilbo’s sense for when Thorin has done something very silly grows.
“I sort of agreed that I would help the blacksmiths with their final day of work,” he admits in a small voice. “I thought they could use the help, what with being the last guild to stop working before yule, and after helping Kili the other day I got so engrossed in what I was doing that I agreed to help before I realised what I was doing.”
“And you can’t go back on your promise or you’ll look bad.” Bilbo finishes the story for him. “I get it.”
“Are you mad?” Thorin looks genuinely worried. “Don’t be mad – I’ll make time this evening, even if I have to cut this short –“
“No, it’s okay,” Bilbo sighs, shaking his head. “You’re right, you really can’t break a promise like that. You should stay as long as you need to.” he thumbs through his paperwork. “I’ll probably be busy doing this all day anyway.”
“True.” Thorin taps his foot on the floor.
“You have to go now, don’t you?” Bilbo says, realisation dawning on him. “You’re probably running late already, aren’t you?”
Thorin nods sheepishly. “Yes – I just really wanted to let you know the news myself. Ori offered to come do it for me, but I thought it would feel the best coming from me.”
Bilbo smiles. “Well I can’t say you’re wrong on that count.” When Thorin doesn’t do anything but smile dopily at him, Bilbo frowns. “Shouldn’t you be going already?”
Thorin’s eyes widen. “You’re right. I love you!” the last sentence is shouted back at him as Thorin hurries out of the door faster than Bilbo can ask for him to touch him in any way.
Thankfully, Bilbo doesn’t have time to worry about anything relating to soulmate touches for the rest of the day. To make up for lost time, every dwarf who has been roped into helping with the yuletide decorations seems to want to put everything up at once, despite there being clear and obvious things that need to go up first – like anything that needs to go up high, for example. Bilbo isn’t sure how any of them expect to decorate the great hall without ladders, but he finds some dwarrow holding one of the cloth banners and looking pensively at the ceiling, as though they’re contemplating jumping up there themselves.
He’s rushed off his feet the whole time. A few of his friends come to keep him company a few times – Ori spends a while helping him figure out which of his papers involve decorating other rooms that can wait until tomorrow, and even Dwalin makes an appearance at one point to keep him gruff company (Bilbo suspects Thorin put him up to it) - but it’s not the same as the replacing holiday he had been promised.
By the end of the day, Bilbo hasn’t seen his husband since the morning, and his feet actually hurt. He doesn’t think they’ve hurt this much since the journey, and that’s saying something. Apparently spending a while without being on his feet all day have made them soft.
Bilbo grumbles about it as he tumbles into bed. Thorin is already in it, still awake but only barely.
Thorin mutters something that might have been an ‘I love you’.
Bilbo grunts in response, hoping that Thorin will know what he means. It seems the moment his head hit the pillow his body decided it was time to sleep.
He’s sure there was something he was meant to talk to Thorin about. Something important. but the sudden combination of pounding in his head, and sleepiness like he hasn’t had in a while stops him from thinking about it, and he’s asleep before he can work out what it is.
Thorin stomps into their office.
Bilbo looks up – but it’s clear that Thorin hasn’t seen him yet. He starts rummaging around his own desk, looking for something gin one of the drawers and muttering to himself, too low for Bilbo to hear.
“What’s wrong?” He asks, worried, standing up from his desk.
Thorin jumps. “Bilbo,” he breathes, looking up from the desk. “Um – it’s nothing.”
Bilbo doesn’t believe him for a moment. “What are you looking for?” He moves around his desk and towards Thorin’s. “I probably know –“
“I need some paperwork for Oin,” Thorin says, cutting him off. Then he seems to realise what he’s doing. “sorry,” he says, looking up. “Oin says I might still have to hold court, and I need some papers from an ongoing case.”
Bilbo blinks. “They’re making you hold court? In the build up to yule?” He’s almost disgusted just saying the words.
Thorin looks guilty. “I know,” he says. “But Dwalin thinks he’s found some more evidence for the case, and if I don’t go deal with it right now we’ll have to wait a few weeks until the end of yule.”
Bilbo thinks about complaining. He really does. He had hoped that after quickly doing this one bit of paperwork they’d be able to go back to their plans for the day. “I’m guessing you won’t be able to go out on our walk, then,” he says, trying to sound jovial instead of disappointed.
Thorin steps closer to him, and takes his hand. Immediately, Bilbo feels better. A weight he hadn’t realised had been on him is gone. “I promise we’ll do it soon,” Thorin says, completely sincerely.
Bilbo pulls him into a hug, half exasperatedly. “It’s okay,” he says, voice muffled by Thorin’s chest. “Do whatever you need to.”
When they pull apart, Thorin looks relieved. “So long as you’re sure. You know I’d much rather be with you.”
“I know.” Bilbo knows that neither of them needs to say it, but it feels good to hear it.
Once Thorin’s left for court, with promises from Bilbo that he’ll join when he can, Bilbo realises that he feels better than he has in a few days. Thorin had touched him – through their clothes, sure, but it’s better than nothing. It’s not like them getting time to really make things better – an hour of actual skin-to-skin contact would help the best – but he’ll take it.
When Bilbo does get to court, he realises that he’ll not be getting any contact here. No – there can only be the king and his consort here. Nothing to suggest to the people that they’re real people, who might have wanted to have yule to themselves for once.
To be fair, Bilbo isn’t sure that any of the others want to be here, either. He hasn’t really followed the case very carefully - usually he would, but with all the planning and preparation for the yule celebrations he hasn’t had the time to care about these. And besides, he hadn’t been planning on there being any cases to see for a few weeks.
It drags on. And on.
They eat their dinner still talking about the case with the jury. Thorin still in king mode, eating salad because Bilbo insisted that he incorporate some vegetables in his diet before something bad happens. It’s an amusing sight, and Bilbo tries to enjoy it.
Once again, they go to bed too late to really do anything. There’s no time for it, especially when Thorin admits that he has to be up early again for the same reason. He isn’t surprised when Bilbo tells him that he won’t be joining court again, although Bilbo thinks he has a pretty airtight reason for it, being that he needs to oversee the menu for the yule feast, which is only in a week and is therefore too soon.
There’s time for them to hold hands for a minute while they talk about it.
But they fall asleep too soon for it to do much good. Bilbo hopes that maybe their small touches are a sign that things will go back to normal soon.
Unfortunately, this brief lull in contact doesn’t last very long.
For days, Bilbo goes to bed alone and wakes up alone. A few times he wakes up in the night with Thorin beside him, so at least Bilbo knows that he’s sleeping at all. But Thorin is always gone in the morning before Bilbo wakes.
Bilbo wishes he had the time to even just talk to his husband. Anything like that would feel better than this nothing.
A week after they go on their break, Bilbo realises that it has been four days since he actually had a conversation with his husband. A low-level headache has been building this whole time; his body reacting to the lack of touch with his husband.
It gets to the point, a few days after this, when he notices himself becoming jealous of any soulmate couple he sees. Fili and Ori come to help him with some of the decorations, and it’s a struggle.
“You want me to take this one, Uncle Bilbo?” Fili asks. “Won’t it be too heavy for you?”
Bilbo bristles instinctively. “I could take it if I wanted to,” he says stiffly. “But you can take it if you want.”
Fili grins knowingly, and picks up one end of the cloth. “I’ve got it.”
They all watch as Fili climbs the ladder. Part of Bilbo’s mind is screaming at him that if Fili breaks his neck falling off a ladder, Thorin may never forgive him for letting Fili go up it. (The fact that all the dwarrow around him insisted that there was no danger at all and that all dwarrows have impeccable balance is of no comfort to Bilbo. He’s seen Thorin trip on his own socks more time than he can count.)
In an attempt to feel in control of the satiation, Bilbo directs Fili to hang the banner in the exact place he wants, the one which is the most symmetrical. It looks good, he has to admit.
But the moment Fili returns to the ground, Ori takes his hand. It’s a subtle, practiced motion. It should have held little significance to Bilbo, other than a reminder that his nephew has been fortunate enough to find his own soulmate.
And yet Bilbo can’t help but stare. It must feel good, to have the skin to skin contact that made soulmate bonds so special. So good to not have to worry about not having touched your soulmate in days, not to have the anxiety about what might happen because of it.
Fili catches him staring a few times, but Bilbo thinks he looks away fast enough to get away with it not being weird.
And when Fili and Ori leave, claiming that they need to go spend time with just each other, Bilbo has to turn away before he begins to feel nauseous.
When Bilbo spends hours, days, in the great hall directing the putting up of the yule decorations, he has no time to seek out his husband. Being put in charge of this was an hour, of course. Bilbo can’t deny that. but it leaves no time for anything else.
He even has to forgo a few meals. He thought after the journey he would never have to go without a meal again. But when there were dwarrows to direct, and papers to sign, and questions to answer, Bilbo makes concessions and only eats four meals per day. He does eat more at each meal – he’s not lost his sanity completely – but he takes his meals as quickly as he can, in order to fit in as much work as he can.
It’s ironic, that some of the time he skips meals for is time he spends talking about the yule feast. It makes him hungry just to talk about it, but he pushes that to the side for the purpose of his important tasks.
After all, the more he works, the more he can forget about how little he’s seen Thorin this holiday.
It begins to feel like he may never see Thorin ever again.
“Bilbo? Bilbo, are you okay?”
“I think he’s okay…?” Kili’s worried voice pipes up, and Bilbo frowns. Or he tries to, anyway. His face doesn’t seem to want to move.
He blinks his eyes open. His vision is fuzzy, and he isn’t quite sure what he’s looking at. He doesn’t know where he is, either – it doesn’t feel like his bed, but he doesn’t know why he would have fallen asleep anywhere else.
“Is uncle Thorin alright?” Fili’s the one speaking now, and Bilbo tries to turn his head, tries to look at him.
“I don’t know.” Ori sounds anxious, and Bilbo can’t figure out why that would be. “They said they found him in the forge, but we can’t figure out why he would be there. He seems to be in the same state as Bilbo, though.”
Bilbo’s hearing goes a little funny after that. He can hear that they’re all still talking, but making out what they’re saying is too much for his brain, too confusing and complicated.
He just about notices when he’s hoisted in the air by… something. The bouncing sensation makes him feel like he’s being carried somewhere, but he doesn’t know where.
For some reason, he can’t seem to summon enough concern to worry about that. Which in itself should be concerning, but that isn’t worrying either. It’s probably bad, and Bilbo’s brain runs around in circles trying to make sense of it.
He doesn’t begin to feel awake at all for a while later.
His eyes open to see familiar red sheets on top of him, and feels a familiar weight almost crushing him.
“Get off me,” he grunts, wriggling out from under Thorin’s weight. How the dwarf manages to nearly crush him in their own bed Bilbo doesn’t know, but he doesn’t appreciate it any time it happens.
It’s then, as he moves, that he registers that he doesn’t feel any pains. No aches in his joints, no strange stabbing pains in his abdomen, no itchy crawling feeling on his skin.
He looks behind him at Thorin. Thorin, who’s asleep and only wearing his underpants. It’s this that makes Bilbo realise he’s also only in his underwear. He doesn’t remember stripping, though.
Nor does he remember getting into bed, at that. He frowns.
Leaving Thorin to sleep, Bilbo slips out of bed, pulls on a gown, and opens the bedchamber door.
In his sitting area, all wearing various shades of worried and guilty expressions, sits almost all his family and friends.
“Uncle Bilbo!” Fili and Kili are the first to reach him, but everybody else stands up and comes to see him.
Bewildered, Bilbo allows them all to hug him with little protest but asking, “what’s going on?”
Fili finally lets go of him, and looks at him with sad eyes. “You don’t remember?”
Bilbo shakes his head.
“You fainted while you were trying to remember where a particular banner was meant to go,” Kili says, concern written all over his face. “We didn’t know what was wrong with you until we heard that the same thing had happened to uncle Thorin.”
When Bilbo hears that, everything snaps into sharp focus. “Right,” he says, shaking his head slowly. “It’s because we didn’t –“
“You allowed yourselves to go a full week with no touching.” Dis walks to the forefront of the crowd, parting everyone like knife. “How did this happen?” She doesn’t seem angry with him. Instead she sounds disappointed, which feels worse. Bilbo promised he would never hurt her brother when they revealed to her that they were soulmates, and he can’t help but feel like he failed.
But the only answer he can give is a shrug. “We both were busy,” he says, trying to make it sound as obvious as it had done at the time. “We kept spending our days apart, and then we were too tired, or there was no time, and I didn’t realise…”
“It’s okay, Uncle Bilbo.”
Bilbo doesn’t register he’s been handed one of his own handkerchiefs until a tear drops from his chin. He wipes it away absently.
Fili raises his head, seeing something that Bilbo hasn’t.
Bilbo turns around. Thorin stands in the doorway, undressed still, eyes focussed only on Bilbo.
“We’ll leave you to it.” Dis’ words aren’t a question, and she successfully rounds up everyone in the room with them, making them all leave in less than a minute.
Then Thorin and Bilbo are left alone for the first time in a week. With no responsibilities.
They do nothing but hug that day.
Bilbo feels better than he has in days when he raises his goblet for Dwalin’s toast. They all like to make fun of him by making him be the one to make the speeches, just to see what he’ll say, and yet they’re all always pleasantly surprised by them.
When Dwalin finishes his speech, they all cheer, and drink. Bilbo isn’t very fond of dwarven drinks, but he allows them this one, on such a special holiday.
For all the worry he’d put in over the past two weeks, he knows that it was all worth it. The halls looks superb, sparkling and festive in every way. The residents of Erebor sit in the hall, all gathered for the winter celebration for the first time in a very long time, and Bilbo feels honoured to be a part of it.
By his side, Thorin laughs at a joke Fili told him.
Then Thorin turns to him, mirth in his eyes, and pulls Bilbo close.
It feels good. It feels like home.