In his defense, Bilbo didn’t think it through. Actually, he didn’t think at all, he recognizes, one and a half day away from Erebor, somewhere in the Grey Mountains, bawling his eyes out in the middle of the road. It’s raining steadily, a silent downpour that mingles with the tears running down his cheeks.
“Foolish,” he mutters, tasting salt and rain on his tongue. “Stupid Took. Why do you keep making trouble?”
Bilbo knows berating his mother’s blood won’t make him feel any better, but it’s cold, and he’s lonely, and his own chatter is a far better alternative, than thinking about what he’s just done. Exactly why he thought running away before Thorin woke up was a good idea, he can’t explain. It was a very in-the-moment-decision on his part. Usually he’s very good at those (see escaping Mirkwood and his showdown with Gollum as examples, please) but not this time he can admit. He’s well aware why he did it, though.
You would steal from me?
“Ugh,” he sobs. “Stupid, stupid Took. Couldn’t you have found something else than a king to fall in love with? Or maybe just one less stubborn and hardheaded?” Bilbo stops walking and turns his head to the pouring sky. He tries to stop crying as well, but it shows to be an impossible task, so instead he takes up talking again. “And just so you’re aware, stealing isn’t usually the best way to win someone’s heart. Normally people find that quite rude. Even if you did do it to save them.”
Balin had told him as much the day before the night Bilbo stole a too-big coat and fled the mountain. The old dwarf almost caught him packing the bags, only missing it, because Bilbo’s gotten quite good at the whole stealth thing. Facing trolls, goblins, a dragon and one mad king hadn’t been without its peril, but at least Bilbo doesn’t feel foolish calling himself a burglar anymore.
“You shouldn’t worry,” Balin had said, kind smile ceaseless on his lips. He’d kept his eyes on Bilbo’s, so he didn’t notice the hobbit nudging a filled sack under his bed with a foot. “Thorin was sick. He will understand why you did it.”
“But what if he’s not done being sick?” Bilbo had muttered. That was his greatest fear. That his king would wake up and still thirst for the cold, soulless gold under them. That he would still hate Bilbo. He couldn’t help but voice this worry, even though it had made the old dwarf wrinkle his nose at him. “And what if, even without the sickness, he will still hate me for betraying him?”
Balin had shaken his head like there was nothing to worry about. Wrong. There was everything to worry about, but Bilbo hadn’t thought his friend would listen to him. “You did not betray anyone, dear Bilbo. On the contrary, you saved our king. Once Thorin overcomes his injuries and wakes, you will see I am right. Besides, from what I have heard, he has already apologized.”
Bilbo doesn’t need Thorin to apologize again, he heard him fine the first time, he just needs him alive. Preferably alive with Bilbo, but the Hobbit didn’t stick around long enough to let that pipe dream get to his head. He had been too afraid of the other alternative; quite sure his heart would have simply ceased to beat if Thorin woke up and looked at him with those eyes again. Bilbo’s heart can’t handle much more damage at this point. It’s fighting tooth and nail every day to keep afloat as it is.
If Bilbo closes his eyes, he can feel all the little cracks in it again, as clearly as when they appeared. They’re like a constant reminder not to get too close. Which is a dreadful thing when you already are.
His heart broke the first time when warm hands he’d come to find the greatest warmth in, held him by the scruff, threatening to throw him to his death. Then a little more when Bilbo had looked into the bluest eyes he’d ever seen, and they had been cold as ice; filled with hatred and betrayal. It had shattered when Thorin was bleeding out on the ice, asking Bilbo if he could be forgiven. When the eagles came to pick up the dwarf’s lifeless body, he thinks the remains scattered on the wind beaten up by the mighty wings.
A thick drop of rain finds it way behind Bilbo’s collar, and travels in an icy trail down his back. He shudders, huddling in on himself. He shouldn’t linger. He has a mountain filled with stubborn dwarves behind him, after all, and he’ll not put it past them to come after him. If to punish him for stealing, or for leaving, he isn’t sure, but Bilbo forces his feet on nevertheless, and continues down the road.
At night Bilbo makes camp under the open sky, but only because he doesn’t have any other options. His choice to travel over the Grey Mountains had been entirely made on the desperate need to never set foot in Mirkwood again, but when he on the second night in a row lays cuddled up against cold rock with the blasted rain still pouring from above, Bilbo wonders if he may have made a mistake.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he, almost immediately, berates himself. “Rain is much better than the spiders. Ten times better than Thranduil, that vain bastard.”
The cursing is new, something he’s picked up from his dwarves, and he doesn’t quite know how to feel about it. One part of him – the little crook in the back of his mind that still longs desperately for his armchair – is deeply embarrassed. Somehow, it’s become easy to ignore that, however, which leaves Bilbo with only deep amusement towards the dwarves’ impressive ability to spit out the vilest combinations of words known in Middle-earth.
Dwalin is the worst, to no one’s surprise. Bilbo thinks he can fill at least three, fat books with the elaborate profanities he’s heard the dwarf utter. Then comes Kili, but that’s more of a technicality, because Thorin only has to level a heavy look at his nephew and the young dwarf immediately finds something else to say. Which is awfully hypocritical of the king, because Thorin himself takes a grand third place on the non-official Swearing-Dwarves list. Not that he knows. About the list or the fact that he curses. Thorin is, in fact, completely oblivious to both. Bilbo thinks this is because he only curses when he is a) angry b) in the middle of battle or c) asleep.
It had been a bit of an experience, when Bilbo was abruptly pulled from his sleep one of their first nights on the road by a loud “fucking tree jumpers”, only to find Bofur snickering on his bedroll beside him, when he jumped in surprise. The dwarf had only laughed harder at the hobbit’s confused look. After a well-placed (and well-deserved) kick to the gut from a mildly pissed-off Bilbo, Bofur finally relented, and explained.
“Our esteemed king talks in his sleep. Mostly he just swears at the elves,” Bofur had rolled his eyes fondly. “Other times it’s his poor nephews who receive the honor.”
What it all leads back to is that Thorin curses a lot, most of the time unknowingly, and it made Bilbo fall head over heels in love with him. Or, no, not only because of that, of course. There’s a dreadfully long list of things Bilbo adores about his dwarf, and one even longer about the things he loves.
“Oh blast,” Bilbo mutters, pulling himself upright. His makeshift shelter – which is really only a very thick blanket he stole along with the coat – is doing a very bad job at keeping him dry, and with Thorin on his mind on top of it, sleep will be impossible to achieve. Accepting the inevitable, however, may just gift him a semblance of peace in the end, so Bilbo resigns himself to - another - long night of brooding over unrequited love and moist clothes.
Sighing he lets his head fall back against the mountain behind him, the rain drumming against the blanket, and suddenly he finds himself wondering if he regrets it. If he could go back, would he turn away the dwarves at the door, long before their exiled king would arrive and steal his heart?
The answer comes to him in a suffocating rush of memories;
Fili bursting through the bushes, just as Bilbo had been about to be cooked by trolls, demanding they drop him.
The rest of the dwarves following soon after, storming in, attacking like a well-oiled machine, as if they could read each other’s minds.
Thorin throwing himself off the cliff after the Stone Giant’s fight to yank him up.
Bofur’s kind words right before the goblins, so at odds with his king’s cruel dismissal.
Their brave fight against Azog, Gandalf and his burning pine cones and Thorin’s arms around him, finally welcoming him after the eagles had dropped them off.
The trust his dwarves placed in him when he disappeared in Mirkwood, knowing he would never leave them behind, and again when they jumped into the barrels. Although that last part had mostly been thanks to Thorin, Bilbo can admit. Stubborn, suspicious dwarves.
Then they had faced Smaug and Thorin had gotten sick, and the armies had arrived, and everything had been so wrong, but at the same time good.
Thorin had gifted him Mithril and looked at him with blue eyes Bilbo had found almost tender.
Balin had trusted him with the Arkenstone.
Bilbo sniffs under the blanket. His heart is aching terribly, and his feet are itching to turn around and go home. He misses Erebor. Not because the place holds many happy memories, not at all, but because his family is there. Because his heart is there.
After the battle, and after the eagles had dropped them off at the mountain, and Gloin had rushed Thorin and the princes away, followed by Gandalf and a few elves, Bilbo had suddenly found himself surrounded by hard bodies, heavy beards tickling his face.
“I’m so sorry lad,” Dwalin had muttered, and the unexpected wavering in his voice made Bilbo cry too. “I’m so sorry. And thank you. You did what was right, what none of us could do. Our brave little burglar.”
Then Ori had told him that he didn’t need to worry about the exile cast upon him by Thorin, that he could come home if he wanted to, and Bilbo had deflated into a sobbing mess that would make all the nice, gentle folk of the Shire scrunch their noses at him. He hadn’t cared, he just hugged the fools back.
And then he ran away.
“They’re gonna be so angry when they find out,” Bilbo whispers through his tears. “I didn’t even say goodbye.” The rain pours harder, beating mercilessly down on the blanket. It’s deafening. “Please let them have found the letter.”
Bilbo may no longer fit into the Shire – a realization he’s still coming to terms with, because where will he fit in then – but he’s still his parents’ son, and they would be appalled if he left without at least attempting a goodbye. So, Bilbo had left two letters before he bolted. One for all of them… and one for Thorin. He decides not to think too much about the last one. He’d been in his feelings then, written all kinds of things.
Bilbo hides his burning face in his hands. The only reason why he did that, was because he thought his dwarf should at least know what he means to him. And how much it hurt Bilbo to hurt him.
“I want to go home,” he mumbles to no one, but perhaps the rain and the stars behind their clouds, and they offer no consolation. Maybe he should have thought it through a bit more before running.
The next morning, and the third day away from Erebor, Bilbo stumbles upon a village. It comes as quite a pleasant shock to him, since he has no memory of any such thing in the Grey Mountains. At first, he wonders if his excessive moping has finally gone too far and caused him to hallucinate. But then he blinks, and the village is still there. “Oh. Nice.”
Nice indeed, although the word “village” may be a bit too big for what he finds himself in. It’s more a gathering of houses, really, but it has an inn and a tailor and all the other necessities needed for the place to survive. The people there are nice as well, most of them Men, but Bilbo spots the occasional dwarf as well. He makes sure to steer clear of those.
In the end his curiosity gets the better of him, and Bilbo stops a man on his way out of the inn to ask him about the village. “We’re not that far from civility,” the stranger explains. “It’s only a day’s ride from Lake Town. Although, of course, there’s not much left right now.”
Bilbo frowns. He hasn’t looked back once since he left Erebor, afraid of what he might do, but the man’s words poke at him, and when Bilbo turns around to look at how much road he’s left behind, his heart sinks.
Erebor is so close. So blasted close. Only a sliver of its foot has disappeared beneath the horizon. He can almost hear it call for him, feeling a magnetic pull tickling his feet, beckoning him back.
“No!” He tells himself sternly. If Thorin is angry with him – is he? Is he really Bilbo – his little hobbit heart will disappear entirely. “Besides, I left without a word. Dwalin will probably throw something if I show back up now, and then Ori will cry, and we just can’t have that.”
Despite much debating where the odds weigh heavily in favor of leaving the mountain village behind and hurry onwards, before he hurries backwards, Bilbo decides to stay. He has no reason for this, other than that he is exhausted. Walking for three consecutive days and spending the nights under a wet blanket has done nothing for Bilbo’s peace of mind. He reasons it’s better to cry about your lost and unrequited love somewhere dry and warm. Additionally, he does think he’s entitled to swear off outdoor sleeping for a while, having done his fair share by now, thank you very much.
The innkeeper is a nice, elderly woman almost as round as Bombur but with blonde hair and no beard, which upsets Bilbo more than it probably should. She doesn’t ask any unnecessary questions, not even about what he is. During the journey Bilbo got more than used to confused looks, and the obligatory “what are you?” so he almost tells her himself. He doesn’t, in the end, bites his tongue and asks for a hot meal along with the room instead. He’s got the money to spend after all, a small part of his share of the treasure safely tucked away in a hidden pocket.
Bilbo had to force himself to bring even such a small amount, since all he can think about when met with the dull shine of the gold, is Thorin slipping away from him. If the blasted metal could disappear altogether, and never show up again, that would be much preferrable.
“Thank you.” He offers the innkeeper a polite smile, accepting the key to his room, and sets off in search for it. The inn is old, battered by the kind of cruel weather reserved for mountain ranges, but it also holds a homely vibe that reminds Bilbo a little of Bag End. Although he understands that his childhood home no longer holds much of its former sentimental value, he still finds solace in the vague familiarity of the inn. It smells a little of earth and grass too, so if Bilbo inhales deeply, while closing his eyes, he can almost imagine himself in the foyer of his Hobbit hole.
Then Thorin springs into his mind, all posing, majestic and brooding, telling him he doesn’t look like much of a burglar, and Bilbo suddenly finds himself a strange mix between annoyed and heartbroken.
“Guess you got that wrong, huh, Your Majesty?” He grumbles, stomping his way up the stairs, and pointedly ignores the innkeeper’s worried look. Bilbo may as well just accept that he’s become peculiar, at this point. “Not much of a burglar? Who got your stupid stone back? Me. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End, a little hobbit who likes armchairs better than a brawl.”
Locating his room, he throws the door open, probably with a little more force than strictly necessary, and continues grumbling his way to the single bed it houses, where he plops down with a mighty groan. “And another thing, Master Oakenshield,” he snarls to the roof, suddenly unable to stop the rush of emotions overtaking him. “Next time you screw something up so bad, you of all people feel the need to apologize for it, do not wait to do it on your possible deathbed you miserable buffoon! Preferably, do not feel the need for a deathbed at all, while we’re on the topic – You’re a King for crying out loud, the dramatic sacrificing is getting old.”
Bilbo is quiet for a bit then, before letting out another vicious snarl of frustration. He wants to keep blaming his Took-blood the foolish decision it was to fall in love with the dwarf king, but as his anger ebbs out, realization comes running at its heels, ready with a mighty slap of truth;
It has never been a choice. Loving Thorin has always been inevitable, and Bilbo loves him with his entire being – Took and Baggins and burglar and hobbit. Tears gather in the corners of his eyes, the ceiling blurring away, and he wonders how long he will have to wait before they come get him.
Bilbo wakes the next morning warm and dry and in a slightly better mood, so he decides to stay another day at the inn. It has absolutely nothing to do, he tells himself, with the mountain looming in the distance, or the way his hearts skips a hopeful beat every time someone comes riding into the village.
Maybe he should be a little more embarrassed about the fact that he’s quite obviously waiting for his dwarves – even though he’s the one who left them, thoroughly determined to never see them again. He had been, really, but the further he got away, the more his heart ached, and he’s starting to wonder where it’ll feel less painful to be –
At home or somewhere far away?
“You –“ the local cryptic begins that evening, as they sit side by side, sharing a glass of warm ale and watch the sun go down. The rain stopped a few hours after Bilbo arrived in the village, and he’s trying very hard not to be bitter about it. He doesn’t succeed. “ – look like a fugitive.”
Bilbo chokes on his ale.
“So you are.”
“How did you know?” Bilbo rasps when there is no more ale left in his lungs.
“I did not. I thought you looked like one. Now I know.”
Why does old cryptics always have to be so infuriating? Bilbo thinks of Gandalf, wondering what he’s doing, before shuddering, and promptly pushes the wizard from his mind. If the dwarves are angry at his sudden, and he can admit, very rude, departure, then Gandalf will be as well. Maybe he’ll have to leave the next morning, if only to avoid being at the wrong end of the wizard’s staff.
Bilbo looks at the cryptic out the corner of his eye. He’s an old man, bald except for a compact beard and a pair of eyebrows that’ll make Thranduil’s look like twigs. Maybe he’s a wizard too? Bilbo doesn’t think so. Then again, he can’t quite remember how he managed to find himself seated beside the old man, nor when they met. Maybe he should go.
“Why are you interested?” He asks tentatively instead, unsure if he wants to know the answer.
“I live in the Grey Mountains,” the cryptic says with an eyeroll that clearly conveys how dumb that question is. “I’m bored. And you look like you have quite a story to tell.”
Aha. Well. He does have a story to tell, a good one, although the ending is a little bittersweet. The local cryptic doesn’t mind this, he informs Bilbo when the Hobbit explains. He says the bittersweet stories are the best. Bilbo can’t find it in himself to agree, but he doesn’t object, and instead thinks back to the beginning.
“It all started with some very bad manners,” he says, voice slightly strained by the memory of Fili and Kili’s dirty boots on his carpet. “And ends with a broken heart.”
When he’s done, his breath is coming in hard, small huffs of air, and the cryptic is staring at him, with a thoughtful expression. “I thought you said it would be bittersweet.”
Bilbo frowns. “It is. The burglar’s love is unrequited, and he has left home behind.”
“No.” The cryptic looks back to the sunset. “It is not.”
Bilbo isn’t sure if he means the story or the love, but he decides he doesn’t want to know the answer after all.
On his seventh day away from home, Bilbo gets an irresistible urge to move. He can’t, quite literally, sit still. And since it’s raining again, and his room is too small to not be slightly oppressing at this point, he’s migrated to the inn’s dining room, which makes his endless fidgeting everybody else’s problem as well.
“For Eru’s sake Bilbo,” Elenna, the innkeeper, hisses after he hits the table with his knee for the fourth time, since he came scrambling down the stairs. “Your tapping’s making me mad!”
Bilbo frowns, unsure of what she’s talking about, but then Elenna points and he follows the line of her finger, and oh. He is tapping an – admittedly – obnoxious rhythm with his fingers. Bilbo fists his hand. “Sorry.”
“Do you need something to do?”
“Huh,” Bilbo blinks, surprised by the question. Elenna’s a nice woman, a little peculiar herself it’s shown, and has somehow managed to already become his friend. He doesn’t remember how it happened, but it did, and it took no more than a day top, and Bilbo’s seriously starting to wonder if the entire village is made up by wizards. Or if it’s merely his mind’s melancholy hallucination of a home.
Elenna rolls her eyes, but it’s fond. “You look like you’re crawling out of your skin. Do you need something to do?”
Oh. Yes, that would actually be quite nice, Bilbo realizes, and asks her if she’s got some clothes that needs mending. She does, thankfully, and soon he’s neck deep in tablecloths, coats, trousers and at least fifty other things. When he was younger and one of these restless moods came over him, Belladonna tended to load him up on clothes to be mended and sat down to chat about everything between earth and sky with him. It quickly became a mediative method that brought Bilbo back into himself – even the few times it happened after his mother’s death. As he got older the restless moods almost disappeared, so he can’t help the nostalgic feeling that washes over him when the needle pierces the first coat.
Saffron and Carraway almost seems to float in the air around him, like it did when his mother baked her best seed cake to help chase the restlessness away – they seep into his nostrils, and settle comfortably, like old friends making themselves at home.
Bilbo blinks away tears, surprised at himself. It’s been a very long time since he last remembered his parents this clearly, his chest throbbing in pain. What would Belladonna Took have said to him if she was here?
“Who are they?” An old croaky voice, suddenly asks, ripping Bilbo from his memories. His eyes whip up, vision slightly blurred, to find an ancient woman across him.
“What?” He asks, unsure. The woman smiles, wrinkles deepening – pulling, moving like branches on the wind.
“Who is it, that made your eyes so sad?”
Another old woman plops down before Bilbo can manage an answer, then a middle-aged man, and soon enough Elenna. In a minute the table is filled with people, all collecting wrinkles and damages from long lives lived, and all picking up a needle and a threat to work with him. His eyes fall back to the ancient woman, realizing he hasn’t answered her question yet. Frowning, Bilbo gazes down at the coat in his hands.
“No one in particular,” he begins, hesitant, grabbing the needle to resume mending the battered clothe. “Life perhaps.”
“Ah yes,” Elenna sighs wistfully. “Life. So easy to love, so easy to despise.”
Her statement draws a few mumbled agreements, but the ancient woman clucks heartily. “Life is a trial, but it is also a gift. What you give you get, what you believe you manifest –“ she pauses for a beat, before shrugging her frail shoulders. “Or perhaps not. That is the thing. We don’t know.”
A man pipes up from the other end. “We’re not supposed to know.”
“No, or else it would be too boring,” another agrees, and Bilbo almost gets a headache from moving his eyes so fast, attempting to track the conversation.
“But,” he says, feeling his face fall, stutter and fall again. “It hurts. Not knowing. If I knew my parents were gonna die that day I –“
“You would have stopped them?” Elenna asks, briefly pinching a needle between her lips to survey the tablecloth she’s working on. “Tell me, Bilbo, did your mother ever surprise you?”
“Of course,” he says, and she nods, commencing on another hole.
He frowns. What's her point? “She – She used to bake me seedcakes. Sometimes out of the blue.”
Elenna’s eyes are a startling green, he realizes as they cut to his, and she raises an eyebrow. “What was the best part of the cake?”
He pauses, ponders and tries to remember. “That it was –“
Oh. Bilbo tilts his head in a moment of gut-punching epiphany. Oh, yes, of course. Elenna, and the ancient woman and all the rest smiles and laughs, and then Elenna says mildly; “Nothing is only bad, and nothing is only good, Bilbo. Yes, life’s unpredictability will hurt you, more than once, sometimes worse than death even – But it’s also seedcakes when you least expect it.”
Or thirteen dwarves and a wizard, pulling you out of a hole you didn’t know was killing you slowly.
He pulls a face, diving back into his mending.
Or… Well, maybe a king fighting for his life in a mountain that feels like home, who maybe is waiting for him… Maybe.
When Bilbo referred to the dwarves as a well-oiled-thirteen-person-death-machine (not quite, he knows, but that’s really not the point here) he didn’t realize how right he was. Or how much trouble he would find himself in his tenth morning in the mountain village.
He wakes up to find Dwalin’s face hovering above him.
Bilbo blinks again, brain processing incredibly slow, and then, finally, but before he can even note the feeling of pure, unaltered elation that washes through him with the knowledge that they are finally here, they have come to take him home, he notices the look on his friend’s face; The dwarf glares like he wants to murder Bilbo – much preferably by slow, agonizing strangulation.
“Ah,” Dwalin hisses, eyes narrowing dangerously. “He’s awake now. Lovely. Let me just get the others then.”
“Dwalin,” Bilbo gasps, fully awake but still having quite a hard time comprehending why his friend is floating above him in bed. Then he looks down and realizes the dwarf has elevated himself above Bilbo by bracing his entire weight on his thick forearms. And then – Eru save him – Dwalin’s words finally register in his mind. Before Bilbo can do anything to prevent what he’s convinced will be an oncoming disaster of epic proportions, however, Dwalin turns his head to the open door (how he got in Bilbo has no idea, because he locked the door the night before) and bellows out a short here.
For a while all is quiet, eerily so, like the air before a thunderstorm, and Bilbo swears he can practically hear Dwalin turn his head to glare down at him again. Then, as if to live up to the metaphor, the sound of several boots stomping up the stairs commence, accompanied by a chorus of familiar voices cursing him out in greatly creative ways, that leaves Bilbo unsure as to his chances of survival.
Dwalin’s smile is vicious.
“Eep,” Bilbo squeaks and slips out from under the dwarf quicker than Bombur can cook up a pot of stew. He tumbles to the ground, wasting only a second to examine possible escape routes before deciding the element of surprise will be his best chance.
Dwalin curses behind him, heavy feet already on the floor. “Oi! Where do ya think yer going?”
“Somewhere I won’t get killed,” Bilbo yells over his shoulder, bolting out the door –
And almost crashes into a cluster of furious, but also quite shocked, dwarves. The only thing that saves him from running headfirst into Bofur and thereby send them all tumbling down the stairs they’ve clumped together on, is that he expects them to be there. He only has a few seconds to act on before they realize what’s happening and resume their yelled threats and promises of murder, but by the time they pull themselves out of their stupor, Bilbo is already on the railing, sliding past them.
He turns, trying his best to convey how regretful he is, but he thinks it mingles with the fear and that he might just look constipated. “I’m sorry!”
“I’m sorry, he says,” Bofur screams somewhere from the back. Bilbo has never heard the dwarf sound so cross before. “Let me get my hands on you, you slippery little bastard, and then you’ll be sorry!”
“No thank you,” Bilbo screams back, barely avoiding Gloin’s grabby hands when reaching the bottom of the stairs. Jumping off the railing he speeds past a shocked Elenna in the middle of cleaning glasses, and out the door.
“Bilbo Baggins! Never have I, in all my years, met a more troublesome Hob –“
“Gandalf,” he pants, neatly jumping around the bellowing wizard, hovering right outside the inn’s door. His escape has clearly been anticipated. “No time to chat I’m afraid.”
Behind him the door is bust open again (he spares a short, worried thought to the size of the fee they’ll have to pay if it’s ruined, but then he remembers the dwarves have a mountain full of gold and are trying to kill him, and so he decides they can deal) and the ceaseless chorus of profanities picks back up. “Aye we know ya don’t have time to chat!”
“Left a darned letter and nothing else!”
“And your treasure you ridiculous Hobbit, your treasure!”
Bilbo is rushing down the narrow streets of the village, trying to shake off his pursuers with neck break jumps, and impulsive decisions – Unfortunately, it turns out dwarves really are natural sprinters, so his methods proves to be more or less in vain.
“I took some of it,” he gasps, jumping over a crate. Behind him one of them crashes into it. From the sound of it, Nori’s the unfortunate victim. Bilbo, however, doesn’t have the time to dwell on it, since it’s immediately revealed that taking only some of one’s treasure isn’t a good thing at all.
“Are ya dumb!?”
“Aye, dumb as a blunt axe he is!”
“Hey!” Bilbo sputters indignantly, throwing a dirty look over his shoulder. “Just because I don’t appreciate the nasty stuff, it does not mean I’m dumb!”
“It’s not the lack of interest in gold that makes you dumb,” someone suddenly says in front of him, and he skitters to a halt.
“No, it’s your insane decision to run away from us. Stupidest thing you’ve ever done. Which is saying a lot, ‘cause you’re the Hobbit that tried being polite with a dragon.”
Bilbo’s jaw drops, and he feels his lower lip trembling dangerously. Oh Eru. “Fili?” He whispers, almost unbothered by how his voice cracks. “Kili? You’re… Oh dear me.”
Indeed both princes stand before him, one golden and one dark, wearing matching fatigued – but happy, thank everything – grins. They’re a little pale, and both of them wrapped in bandages, but they’re alive and well, and Bilbo nearly throws himself at them, before he remembers they’re injured. He doesn’t want to disturb their wounds. Kili tilts his head, glancing at the flock of dwarves Bilbo can hear thundering closer behind him. “You’re in trouble Bilbo,” the younger brother tells him solemnly, making Fili cackle.
“Why don’t you stop running, and come back with us? We’ll protect you, and uncle –“
“Eep,” Bilbo squeaks again, and dashes around the brothers. Under no circumstances is he going to stay with them if Thorin’s around.
“There he goes again! Get ‘im boys!”
“Stop running Bilbo we only wanna talk!”
Although Ori sounds genuine, and Bilbo can’t imagine the young dwarf actually hurting him, he doesn’t stop, thoroughly convinced the sentiment is not shared by the rest of the company.
On and on the hunt for the escaped Hobbit goes, the dwarves tireless in their pursuit of what they call the foolish-burglar-retrieval. Bilbo turns beat red when the village slowly starts waking up and realizes what is going on. Some of them brings chairs and blankets out from their homes to fight the early morning chill, clearly intent on watching the spectacle. After a while he realizes they are splitting into two teams, the largest in favor of him which in the end, results in a rhythmic cheer of his name – he entirely faults his glee in gaining the most supporters on the dwarves, since they’re the ones who brought out the competitive in him during the journey.
At some point he even spots Gandalf, leaning against a house, thankfully not looking angry anymore. Although, Bilbo can’t decide if he likes the smug grin he’s sporting any more. Probably not. When Bilbo left Erebor this is not what he had in mind. Why does his foolish, hard-headed dwarves always have to go above and beyond insanity? Could someone please come save him now?
Not sooner has the plea left him, before a familiar baritone voice raises above the crowd, treasured and heartbreaking.
The Hobbit stops so abruptly he’s surprised he doesn’t burn through the thick skin of his feet. Everybody else stops what they’re doing as well, it seems, even the clueless villagers as if it’s evident something monumental and dangerous is happening.
Bilbo turns around slowly, heart stuck in his throat. He called him like he did the time they met on the ice. One word, his name, filled with a thousand meanings Bilbo has no clue how to sort out. Then their eyes meet, and the world stops for a while.
Thorin looks good. Which isn’t to say he looks well (he doesn’t, not at all, he’s paler than Fili and Kili together, and he’s sitting on a pony, slumping a little) but he isn’t bleeding out anymore, nor is he skewered on the pointy end of Azog’s blade, so Bilbo decides he looks good.
He also looks angry. Very, very angry. Bilbo’s breath hitch when burning blue drills into him, wordlessly demanding an explanation, and he can feel all the cracks in his heart opening again. Of course. Of course, the betrayal still stings the king deep, of course he will still hate Bilbo for what he did. He’s been a fool to hope for anything else, an even bigger one for staying, for waiting on the dwarves to come get him. Bilbo should have continued, should have kept running.
“Do you have any idea,” Thorin begins, voice lowered to a deep growl. “How worried we have been? How worried I have been?”
“Thorin,” his voice breaks. “I’m so –“ Bilbo stops. Worried? He stares at the king, utterly confused. Why would Thorin be worried if he hates him?
“Oh, of fucking course,” Dwalin hisses, somewhere to his right. “The fool doesn’t know!”
Bilbo’s just about to ask what it is he doesn’t see, thoroughly annoyed by the dwarf’s sudden evasiveness, that isn’t like Dwalin – when he finally notices. The desperate glint in Thorin’s eyes, the worry that overrules the anger and… No. No, it cannot be. Bilbo takes a slow step back, one which the king merely answers by pushing his pony forward a little.
“Why?” Bilbo means to speak up, but it comes out as a no more than a whisper. He doesn’t think he’s been heard, but then Thorin’s speaking again.
“You left me a letter,” he rumbles.
Oh my. Oh no. Nononononono.
“Did you –“ This time it’s Thorin’s voice which breaks, and all anger dissipates from his eyes like ash on the wind, leaving something frail behind instead. Almost like he’s afraid. Bilbo takes another step back, and Thorin follows again. “Do you mean it? What you wrote.”
Bilbo really needs a better coping mechanism than running, but in his defense (yes he’s saying that a lot lately, he’s aware) he isn’t prepared for what Thorin is doing at all. He expected anger, maybe even fury, a little more shouting and a possible death threat or two, but not this. Not the hope that’s suddenly painted on Thorin’s handsome face in response to the possibility that Bilbo might love him. Because that’s what he wrote in that stupid letter, a declaration of love, of adoration, of how the king holds his little heart in his hands and always will.
And Bilbo can’t deal with that, so he runs.
“No!” Thorin snarls from behind. Bilbo doesn’t look back, too focused on getting away, but then he hears the dwarves shouting, and at first he thinks they’re back to threatening him – which is okay – except then he hears Thorin’s name in the same sentence as injury and still healing, and before Bilbo can think too much on it, he halts his escape and turns around to berate the ridiculous king for upsetting his wounds.
Thorin crashes into him with enough force to send them both tumbling to the ground. They roll a few rounds but since the dwarf’s a lot heavier than Bilbo he ends out on top, and then Bilbo’s mind goes blank, because Thorin is everywhere at once. The scent of pines and stone and sweat and home wraps around him like a blanket, threatening to break him again. Maybe it does, because out of the blue Bilbo feels tears running down his cheeks in a steady stream.
I cry too much, he thinks, but can’t find it in him to care. Thorin is a heavy weight on top of him, strong thighs pressing his own down, belly brushing against Bilbo’s every time the dwarf breathes in – because he’s bending over Bilbo, oh – long hair gently caressing his wet cheeks. Thorin’s gaze is heavy on him too, and the king raises both hands to pin Bilbo’s wrist to the ground. It’s unnecessary, really, all strength has left Bilbo.
“Why do you keep running away from me?” Thorin whispers, voice thin.
Bilbo sobs, and tries to look away, but one of the hands on his wrists lets go and grabs his chin instead. Forced to maintain eye contact, the flow of tears turns heavier, momentarily washing Thorin’s features away. Bilbo blinks, and when he forces his eyes back on the dwarf something deflates inside of him. Thorin looks so sad - blue eyes wet, the closest Bilbo has ever come to see him cry. His skin really is too pale, breath coming a tad too hard, and beard a little messed up like it hasn’t been kept, and that just isn’t right. “You hate me,” Bilbo cries quietly. “You must. I stole the Arkenstone and gave it to that vain bastard Thranduil. You must hate me.”
The sadness in Thorin’s eyes momentarily flees to welcome something looking closer to pain instead, and the dwarf opens his mouth as if to say something, only to close it again. For a while he persists in staring down at Bilbo, a million thoughts flashing in his gaze, on his face.
Then, out of the blue – like a lightning bolt from a clear sky, and Bilbo has always hated that metaphor, but it’s the only thing that makes sense in that moment – he croaks; “I love you.”
The world stops. Air stills. Heartbeat stutters.
“Wha –“ Bilbo squeaks afraid his ears are failing him, but Thorin isn’t done.
“I love you,” he hisses, voice stronger, and he leans closer, so much that Bilbo can feel their breaths mingling. “I have since you saved us from the trolls, it just so happens that I, on a good day, am a hardheaded fool and very bad at feelings, so I didn’t know. It’s so stupid, but I swear to you, on my kingdom and all its riches, I didn’t know Bilbo, at all.” Thorin pauses, his eyes back to shining suspiciously, stripping him down to his very soul. Bilbo really didn’t know the king had any tears left in him. “I love you. I adore you. I would give up everything – Erebor, the gold, my dignity, Mahal even my beard – if it means I get to keep you and call you mine. For what I have done to you, for how much I must have hurt you in my sickness, there exists no excuse, and I can only hope you will one day be able to forgive me. Because if I am to live without you Amrâlimê, I think I would rather die.”
The crowd around them – whom Bilbo has quite honestly forgotten everything about – loses an awed uuuh, that makes Thorin bristle and shoot them a vicious glare. Bilbo isn’t entirely sure this is real. Maybe he really is hallucinating now. But then he does the blinking thing again, and even rubs his eyes a little, and Thorin is still there, and holy shit.
“You’re so stupid,” Bilbo sobs and the dwarf above him looks so shocked it would have made the Hobbit laugh any other time. At the moment, taking the time and space into account, Bilbo settles on giving Thorin a piece of his mind. It’s long overdue, too long, and it bubbles out of him like Gandalf’s fireworks.
“First of all, Thorin you utter buffoon – you don’t need to apologize, you already did, and I already accepted, so stop looking at me like that! I’m not about to hit you for heaven’s sake. No! Shut up, I’m not done yet!” Thorin clamps his mouth shut, looking a little shocked. Bilbo doesn’t care. “Secondly, I would like to make it very clear that if you ever decide to run around and act like a headless fool while you’re still injured, I’m going to kill you. Are we clear?”
Bilbo doesn’t think Thorin’s listening to him, the dwarf’s face drawn into a look of awe, so he pinches him in the side and repeats the threat.
“Very clear,” Thorin breathes, although Bilbo think he detects the faintest trail of laughter in his voice. Before he can comment on it however, and possibly pinch the bastard again, Thorin’s eyes turns solemn, and he rests their foreheads together. “Does this mean… What you said in the letter? Is it true?”
Oh Mahal save him from thickheaded dwarves. Bilbo rolls his eyes, blinking away a few remaining tears, so he can push Thorin slightly away and knock the truth into him if he must. He’s slightly breathless, still not entirely sure this isn’t the pipe dream manifesting but manages to pull some seriousness into his expression.
“I love you, Thorin,” Bilbo whispers. It feels weird to say out loud, but at the same time, so very right. Like the words have always been meant to be heard. “I didn’t lie once in that letter.”
Blue eyes light up and suddenly Thorin’s lips are pressed to Bilbo’s, and the crowd and the company (and Gandalf that old, meddling bastard) roars their delight, hugging each other, shouting about the power of love and other kinds of nonsense, which Bilbo can’t be bothered to notice, because Thorin’s lips are on his and he is home.
The kiss is soft at first, only the brush of lips, a dance of acquaintance where they get to know this new part of each other. It pulls a sigh from Bilbo that makes his lips part, and suddenly the kiss is deep and dirty and passionate and Thorin’s tongue is in his mouth, sliding against his own. Bilbo moans, arching upwards and grips two handfuls of Thorin’s thick hair to pull him closer. The lower half of the dwarf’s body is resting against Bilbo’s, effectively shutting off all ability of rational thought in the Hobbit’s mind.
“Amrâlimê, let me take you away,” Thorin gasps against his mouth, deep voice wrecked. “Let me make love to you.”
Bilbo, who thinks that sound like a tremendous idea, possibly the best Thorin’s ever had, groans and shakes his head. “I want to Thorin, I really want to, but you’re still injured, and it won’t be safe, so we should wait –“
Clearly this isn’t what Thorin wants to hear because he growls again, and suddenly Bilbo’s world tilts on its axis as he’s hoisted over the dwarf’s shoulder like a bag of potatoes. The move wrestles an indignant squeak from him, and then another when Thorin places a large, warm hand on his buttocks to keep him in place.
“Thorin! What are you doing!?”
“I am ignoring you,” Thorin answers easily, pushing his way through the crowd. “Because I am fine.”
That’s a big fat lie, and to show him that Bilbo is, in fact, well aware of this, and does not appreciate being lied to, the Hobbit raises his palm and lets it fall flat against Thorin’s back. He doesn’t even hit him that hard but Thorin wheezes and stumbles, grabbing Bilbo’s ass-cheek in the process.
“Eep,” Bilbo squeaks for the third time that day, momentarily losing his sense of left, right, above and below as Thorin regains his bearings. When he finally does, he quickly locates Dwalin gesturing for him. The burly dwarf immediately breaks away from a group of Men he’s been chatting with – a fact that makes Bilbo’s insides go all chummy, because that’s new – effectively drawing every other member from Thorin Oakenshield’s company with him.
“What do you think you’re doing your Majesty?” Oin growls, stomping the closest, to glare at Thorin. “When you decided you were well enough to storm out and retrieve our Hobbit, I told you riding was fine – Not carrying people!”
“It’s noth –“
“Thorin Oakenshield mere days ago you had a hole in your stomach,” Gandalf cuts in. “From the looks of it – and by it, I mean you ghastly complexion, should you be unaware – we will need to stay here for at least a night, before you’re fit to go anywhere,” the wizard pauses, something sharp twinkling in his eyes. “Do not make me make it two.”
Thorin grunts, staggering a little, and Bilbo who’s heard enough, pinches him until the dwarf slowly lets him down. When he finally comes to a halt, Thorin wastes no time in winding his thick arms around him, cradling him close.
“Fine,” he grumbles. “You’re all obnoxious.”
“Ha,” Bofur barks. “I do wonder where we got it from.”
Bilbo snickers, a warm, fuzzy feeling of belonging taking root in his gut, and he wriggles a little in Thorin’s hold. The king’s heavy arms fall to his waste, as blue eyes are leveled at him. Bilbo smiles sweetly, reaching up to tug at Thorin’s beard.
“If you ask nicely, we can share my bed.”
They do end up sharing Bilbo’s bed, and absolutely nothing untoward happens, much to Thorin’s clear, and Bilbo’s more subdued, disappointment. In his defense, Thorin doesn’t venture out into another quest of charming the pants of Bilbo – it’s a good thing the king doesn’t know how little charming is needed – and immediately, albeit featuring a lot of growling, steers directly towards the bed, per Oin’s request.
“Thankfully nothing’s ruptured,” the doctor sighs. Bilbo can only imagine the strain he’s been put under during his care for Thorin. Judging by the impressive scowl leveled at him, Bilbo gather’s it’s a lot. “How you managed that I have no fucking clue, what with you leaping off a pony and tackling Bilbo.”
“He was running again,” Thorin sulks.
Bilbo narrows his eyes at him, and the king quickly looks away. Ha. Take that your brooding bastard.
Oin finishes tightening the new bandages, checking the closure a last time, before standing up. “A night’s rest should allow us to ride home tomorrow.” He points a finger at Thorin. “But only if you rest. No activity of any kind. You hear me?”
Bilbo can practically see the way Thorin’s jaw grinds from his place at the window, but the king only grumbles an annoyed, “Fine!”
Oin merely rolls his eyes at the snappy tone, gathers his things, and leave them with a last wave of his hand and a chuckle. The door is silent when it shuts, enclosing Bilbo and Thorin with each other for the first time since… Bilbo starts when realization hits; This is the first time the two have been alone since the Hobbit knelt over his dying body. Or since Thorin gifted him Mithril, still swallowed up by dragonsickness. Bilbo still remembers the dazed craze over his king’s eyes, the tremble in normally steady hands and even still the warmth, the heavy lidded gaze, the something he couldn’t quite put his finger on back then, but is now back – cleaner, more right, more Thorin – as blue eyes land on him, and a big hand gently lifts to beckon him closer.
“Will you come to me, Amrâlimê?” Thorin’s voice breaks on the last word, and even though Bilbo hasn’t got the foggiest clue what it means, something in him knows it’s important – that he has waited a very long time to hear it – so he pushes from the wall behind him, and leaps into bed. At the last second before collision, he remembers to be mindful of Thorin’s wound, stopping the mad dash by a screeching halt. Instead, he lowers himself carefully to his knees by Thorin’s side, unsure of what he’s supposed to do next. For so long Bilbo has lived by a strict set of rules not to touch too much, laugh too loudly, or do anything else close to affection when handling Thorin, so it’s a little disconcerting suddenly throwing it all away.
Is he really allowed it all now?
Thorin huffs a little at whatever expression is on Bilbo’s face, but it isn’t haughty like usual – Instead it sounds a little sad. When Thorin lifts his arm and beckons him closer, Bilbo shuffles in and under it, pulling the blanket back over the two of them. It’s still heavy, the weight of the arm, doubled by the blanket. Heavy, warm, right. And it smells like home, that heady cocktail of pine, stone, the faintest trace of sweat, and something reserved for Thorin alone.
“Wait –“ Thorin whispers, and gently nudges Bilbo a little, so he can maneuver them down. There’s only one pillow, but the dwarf’s thick bicep’s a better alternative anyway, so Bilbo pushes the pillow completely under Thorin’s face, and cuddles closer instead.
“Hm,” Bilbo hums, eyelids turning heavy. Not abysmally so. It’s a lazy kind of heaviness, one privy to lazy evenings, and early mornings. “Careful your majesty. I could get used to this.”
Thorin chuckles, voice rough. “Please do. I already am.”
A smile tugs at Bilbo’s lips, so he buries his face in Thorin’s neck and inhales. This is… Peaceful. It’s raining again outside, the onslaught of water beating a much quicker rhythm, than the heart pressed against Bilbo’s chest.
“Why did you run?”
Bilbo stills, smile freezing before melting away. It’s a question he’s been expecting, kicking off a conversation he would rather have waited to have, but perhaps it’s for the best. In the little world he’s finding himself in, surrounded by rain, arms, and heart, he doesn’t think it’ll be too bad.
“I was afraid you would hate me,” Bilbo whispers. He already said so, but Thorin tenses for the barest second, before a warm hand lands in Bilbo’s curls, weaving thick fingers in to hold and to ground.
“I know you told me not to apologize –“
“And I mean it!” Bilbo snaps, interrupting, but Thorin hushes him, and continues the soothing caress of his hair.
“Yes, Amrâlimê, I’m well aware, but there is something else I would like to apologize for as well,” he whispers. Bilbo frowns, unsure of what Thorin’s on about. It takes the dwarf a couple minutes to gather his words it seems, but Bilbo waits patiently. Thorin and words don’t always agree with each other.
“I should have told you sooner,” he finally says, low almost too quiet to understand. Bilbo strains his ears. “That I love you. I realized in Mirkwood when you told us to get into the barrels. It was –“ Thorin interrupts himself with a laugh. “It was like a series of punches in the gut, first seeing you show up out of the blue, then with your hands on your hips, once again saving our stubborn asses, and asking for my help… I never stood a chance. And I wanted to tell you, so many times, sweetheart, I almost said the words but – But they failed me. Flew away on the wind. And then the closer we came to the gold…” he shudders, and the arm around his waist pulls Bilbo closer. They’re closer than ever, now, Thorin’s entire length covering Bilbo’s. “If I had only told you, had only had the courage – Then you wouldn’t have run away from me. I’m sorry.”
Bilbo is quiet for a long time after that. He’s never heard so many words leave Thorin’s mouth before if it wasn’t to chew someone out at least. What he said… Each word cut through Bilbo’s chest, drilling their way into his heart, and take root ruthlessly. Now they live there, quite sure to never leave him again. He sighs, snaking a hand around Thorin’s waist as well to rub soothing patterns up and down his back.
“Hobbits don’t have a word,” he whispers. “Like you do. Amrâlimê, I mean. But I can call you my love, holder of my heart, partner of my soul. Either way, Thorin, it means that I love you. And I knew long ago as well and didn’t say anything.”
A broken noise escapes Thorin, but Bilbo presses on, afraid he’ll lose his nerve if he doesn’t. “I think I liked you when you caught onto my plan with the Goblins, and I’m pretty sure it subsided when you yelled at me after. But then you pulled me up from the mountain cliff, and when you yelled at me again, it didn’t subside. So many times, I’ve thought about telling you too, only for fear to stop me.” Bilbo tilts his head, finding blue already on him, shining in their intensity. He easily counters the look. “The other day I almost went back to you,” Thorin rumbles, and Bilbo presses a finger to his lips. “But I wasn’t ready, so I mended some clothes instead. No don’t you dare laugh at that – Ugh. Anyway. A few friends helped me, and one of them reminded me of something very important; life’s unpredictability can be hurtful, but it can also be wonderful. I left you because I was afraid of your reaction Thorin, and it made you come for me. If I had stayed, who knows how this will have gone down? Maybe we both needed time away to realize a few things, to mend out wounds. Nothing is entirely good, and nothing is entirely bad. We would do well to remember, unpredictability isn’t always pain, I think.”
Lips dip down to ghost against Bilbo’s. The kiss is chaste, fleeting, a little dry. But it conveys more than words ever could, and not just because Thorin isn’t the most eloquent dwarf to be found in Middle-earth, but because it symbolizes where they now stand; A beginning. Something completely new, innocent, and hopeful. Something soft and kind, and wondrous. Bilbo sighs, pressing closer for another one, deeper this time. He parts his lips easily when Thorin lets his tongue swipe against his bottom lip.
A pleased hum vibrates through the dwarf, settling into Bilbo, and soon the kiss is a hot mess of tongues and teeth. Thorin raises himself onto two arms, hovering over Bilbo. His weight is warm and welcome, the strands of his hair brushing against Bilbo’s collarbone.
“Thorin,” Bilbo warns, when their groins brush together. He expects a fight, or at least some resistance, but Thorin only groans and gently eases off. Instead of letting completely go, however, he rolls onto his side pulling Bilbo with him until they’re pressed flush against each other again.
“I know,” he breathes, a big hand settling on Bilbo’s ass. He can’t find it in himself to complain, not when it’s warm and only a tad possessive. He feels held, wanted, protected and chosen. “Let’s sleep before I do something Gloin will kill me for tomorrow.”
Bilbo laughs, raising two hands to bury them in Thorin’s beard. “If that’s the case I’m tempted to let you do it. I have this inkling our company isn’t quite done being angry with me. And I would like to not die alone.”
“Ah, but I won’t let them put a finger on you Amrâlimê.”
Bilbo huffs, “Sure. My big bad dwarf with a hole in his belly. I feel so safe.”
“Now, now,” Thorin snarls, and it sends a shiver down Bilbo’s spine. “Careful there, or –“
“Or what?” Bilbo pulls him in by the beard, silencing him with a soft kiss. “I love you,” he whispers, nuzzling their noses together.
Thorin sighs, breath ghosting over Bilbo as he lets his eyes fall shut.
“Forever,” the dwarf whispers back.
Finally, together. Finally done. A sentence floats into Bilbo’s mind just before sleep grabs him, one he hopes he’ll remember to write down in the morning.
For you, love, for you I am. For you I always will be. You my heart’s greatest adventure.