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Previous Engagements

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Bilbo Baggins had found the cold bitter winter in the Lonely Mountain exhausting and would be glad for spring to arrive. The rebuild was ongoing and slow, its efforts greatly helped by the men from the Lake, and the dwarves from the Iron Hills. There was extensive damage to a great deal of the city and it seemed to be one public works project after another. Despite the winter weather, dwarf caravans had begun to arrive from the Blue Mountains as well. It was a steady stream of the old survivors and their families as well as some who were native to the West but were eager for adventure and the opportunity to be a part of such a historic undertaking.

Thorin had helped with the smith work in the beginning, appointing nearly all of the company to certain postings so that he might better delegate work. Bilbo had somehow been made in charge of the stores and agricultural matters, which weren’t a big deal until he realized the store room was huge and there were a couple thousand acres of farm land that were managed by the royal family.

Bilbo found himself having to recruit and sublet fields to farmers from Dale, negotiate prices, take inventory. Planting was just around corner too. Also he was often seeing delegates from the Mirkwood Elves and the Men of Dale, since Thorin could not be bothered with the elves and the men were still quite sour towards Thorin. Both parties liked Bilbo enough and seemed to prefer the arrangement. Thorin had given him a royal seal to show that he may do official trade business on behalf of the king.

Bilbo found that he was very good at his job as… whatever it was he was doing.

He didn’t see the Company much outside of the rebuilding projects. Bofur was in charge of mining coordination now and they were working on a tunnel leading straight to the Western fields so they were frequently meeting about the progress of it. He and Gloin saw each other a great deal as well since he was Master of Coin. The man was a copper pincher if he ever knew one.  Ori was head librarian and though Bilbo worked with Ori a great deal in his spare time he rarely had conversations with him. The library was grand but in complete disarray, many books were missing and many of the shelves had toppled over. Bilbo was pretty sure the young dwarf slept there.

Despite both he and the king having very busy schedules, they found time for evening meals together. 

Truth be told Bilbo would get hungry in the evening and seek Thorin out so that he could pry the king away from whatever project he was working on to make sure he ate something and Thorin would allow it after minor protest. So time was not so much found, as made by the hobbit. 

“When Dis arrives she can take up some of the duties I’ve given you, if you wish.” Thorin said one evening in mid-winter when the Company could actually eat together. The others were exchanging plans for their progress and even Fili and Kili had managed to make it, despite Oin’s protests. Both were expected to recover fully, even though Fili had been stabbed and dropped from a significant height and Kili stabbed as well. Word circulating around the Mountain was that the two sons of Durin were blessed but Oin called them stupidly lucky. 

Thorin hadn’t really spoken until then. He was often content with quietly observing the other dwarves. 

Bilbo waved Thorin off. “No, no, it’s fine. I’m sure she’ll have her own duties.” 

Thorin frowned, putting down his cutlery and setting his plate aside. Bilbo did the same, curious. The Company was laughing at something Kili had said and not paying them much attention. “She will. As my sister, she has always done the duties of… the duties that I have given you. However, in the absence of any other close kin who have the skills to do such tasks—“ He gestured to indicate Fili and Kili having an ale chugging contest. “—I bestowed most of those duties upon you.”

“Oh.” His voice sounded small in his ears. “Well, of course then she may take them up again.”

“If you wish to keep them you may. It may be unprecedented in normal circumstances for someone outside the royal family to handle such things, but the circumstances are far from normal. Also, Dis has always hated the job. She’ll probably turn around and march back to the Blue Mountains if I tell her to do it. But I did not want to burden you unnecessarily.” Thorin did look quite troubled over it. 

Bilbo laid a hand on Thorin’s. “My friend, I have faced a dragon; elf dignitaries and complaining farmers are a welcome break.”

Instead of easing his friend’s distress, he appeared to have made it worse. “I have lead you through such peril and now I must ask more of you. What of your home?”

Bilbo felt his heart warm at Thorin’s concern. “I sent your pushiest raven with my arrangements for my home. I’ve left it to my favorite cousin for if I do not return within the year. As for your perils, I am glad to have shared in them. Let me share in your lesser perils of diplomacy and bookkeeping?”

Thorin’s whole face softened and he turned over his hand that he might squeeze Bilbo’s back.

Bofur stood and began to sing while the rest of the company joined, standing and dancing with each other.

Thorin laughed, his eyes bright were with warm affection for their friends. He had been doing that more since he’d recovered from the battle with Azog. Each day he was stronger and happier. The laughter in his eyes made him look younger than Bilbo had ever seen him. As the others began to dance, there was a moment of hesitation before the king stood and offered Bilbo a hand. “Dance with me.”

Bilbo frowned. The king’s nephews cheered though. “I don’t know…”

“It is a simple step. You need only follow.”

Kili laughed. "Go on, Mister Boggins! Uncle never dances. Let's see if he even remember how, eh?"

Bilbo frowned at the young dwarf but got up and took Thorin’s hand. “Fine, but if I tread on your feet it is your own fault.” It was much like the hobbit three step, except that their movements were much more exaggerated and leaping. They joined in with the others, though Thorin kept Bilbo considerably closer to him than the other dwarves and their partners. He had to for the Hobbit to keep up. Before Bilbo knew it though, they were laughing loud with the others to Bofur’s tune and he found himself quite distracted. Thorin was smiling, broad and open. It was something Bilbo was sure he’d never seen before and it had him grinning like an idiot. Bofur ended the songs and the others in the company clapped.

He and Thorin weren’t paying much attention to them though. Their eyes had locked and the moment hung in the air as they panted a little from the dancing. Bilbo felt something shift, like a change in the wind. The moment sparked something electric under his skin. It was unlike anything he’d felt before his and his face heated up, suddenly too aware of the hand on his waist and the other clasping his hand firmly. 

He is quite handsome, isn’t he? The thought came completely unbidden to his mind. It was obvious to anyone the king was pleasant to look at. He really just hadn’t thought about it. 

If any of the company noticed the two of them, they pretended they didn’t, arguing loudly about the next song they should sing. “Would you be up for another dance, Master Burglar?” Thorin’s voice was pitched oddly low and Bilbo struggled to find words.

“Yes! I mean I would but I really must—there are some things I need to attend to after dinner. But thank you. For the offer.” Thorin slid his hand off Bilbo’s waist and Bilbo went back to his seat, not looking back at the king for fear he was still a bright red. 

After that evening Thorin started to seek Bilbo out, not just for supper or meetings. Sometimes it was morning and he’d ask for Bilbo to walk with him. Sometimes he’d show up while Bilbo was helping Ori in the library and he’d just sit and watch Bilbo work on book restoration.  Sometimes he’d have something to talk about: dignitaries, negotiations, the tunnel they were making leading out to the farm lands. Most times though it seemed Thorin only wished for Bilbo’s presence. 

Bilbo couldn’t say he was upset by it. Just having the dwarf nearby made him feel lighter. Thorin seemed the better for their time together and it was good to see him no longer burdened with such loss. 

 

It was the beginning of Astron and planting was just around the corner. Bilbo could feel it in his bones. Hobbits could do that. Feel spring begin. The dwarves were not so convinced but crops would soon be planted and his work would slow for a bit. He was looking forward to more time in the library and to explore Erebor for himself. Also, it would give him more time with his friends, who he had scarcely seen, and Thorin could stop inconveniencing Balin by disappearing when it suited him.

Bilbo was cleaning up after a late lunch with Thorin during this blossoming season when he noticed the king had a look of purpose about him that Bilbo knew too well.

“Speak your mind, before you burn a hole through the back of my head with your staring.”

Bilbo’s back was to the king but he knew Thorin was frowning. “I’m not sure where to begin.”

Bilbo shook his head. “Try from the beginning.”

“You once said, on our journey, that you were a lifelong bachelor. What did you mean?”

The hobbit laughed. “Oh that. It is a joke my family use to say when talking about me. See, I had never more than a passing fancy in anyone. It’s like becoming an old maid. Unmarried and passed the age when one usually takes up a spouse. It is odd for a hobbit to go so long without marrying.”

Thorin sat back in his chair with an odd look. “You’ve never been in love?”

Bilbo nearly dropped the plates he was carrying. He turned to set the plates and cutlery down, his back to the king once more. “What an odd question to ask! I never took you for the prying sort.”

Thorin was silent a moment before he realized the hobbit was joking. “That was not an answer.”

“I honestly haven’t the answer. I told you I had passing fancies, but I do not know if I’d call them love. What about you, Master Oakenshield? Have you been in love?” He rounded on the king, hands on his hips. Instead of glaring at Thorin from across the room he found Thorin behind him. He was very close and it caught the hobbit off guard. He froze under Thorin’s gaze. The king opened his mouth to speak and Bilbo found himself holding his breath. 

“Your Majesty!” 

Bilbo’s head snapped around to look as the door flew open and Balin hurried in as if Smaug himself were at his heels. Despite the speed at which he entered, the older dwarf froze upon seeing the hobbit and Thorin. “Oh dear, Master Bilbo, I—that is—I need to have a word with the king. Immediately.”

“Can it wait?” Thorin growled the last of it through clenched teeth. He was still very close to Bilbo. The hobbit turned a bright red.

“I’m afraid not, my king. You see there is a convoy. From the Blue Mountains.”

“There are several convoys arriving daily, Balin—“

“This one carries Lady Bellora.” He paused, expecting some sort of grand reaction to his words. 

Thorin’s irritation morphed to confusion. “Who?”

“Your…umm…” He looked between Bilbo and Thorin, wincing as he gestured to the hobbit. “Perhaps not in front of—“

“Thorin!” A dwarf woman a bit taller than Balin entered. Her hair was a bright red, redder even then Gloin’s. Red like a rose. She didn’t have a full beard like some of the other ladies, only enough to frame her face. Looking at her, Thorin paled, horror dawning in his eyes. Bilbo couldn’t imagine why. She was quite beautiful and couldn’t have been much older than Fili. The hobbit looked to Balin but he was admiring the ceiling with feigned innocence and perhaps a touch of fear. “Balin has been trying to hoard you all day. I demand an audience with you.” The dwarf dame caught sight of the hobbit’s staring and smiled at him fondly. “Oh dear, you must be the hobbit everyone’s been talking about. Been taking care of my Thorin while he tramps through the wilderness and muddles through our rebuild, have you?”

Bilbo bristled at the use of ‘my’. It didn’t sound right to his ears. “I have. Though it’s fair to say he’s been taking care of me as well. I owe him a great deal, my Lady.”

The lady smiled wider still. “So polite.” She looked back at Thorin. “Now on to business. Don’t think I’d forgotten your promise to my family, Thorin.”

Balin huffed. “He has not forgotten, my Lady. We have been—“

She crossed her arms, unimpressed. “To busy to contact his betrothed about his reclaiming of the Mountain? Really?”

The word betrothed bounced around in Bilbo’s head a few times, not quite sticking. 

“What?”

While the lady dwarf coolly stared down the king, Balin came over to Bilbo. “Lady Bellora’s family is the last of the Firebeards, ruling over the dwarves who had remained in the Blue Mountains when Ered Luin was lost. You see when our people were scattered and homeless they took us in. This was many years ago, and to honor their family for their kindness in such a hard time Thorin...” Balin put a hand on Bilbo’s shoulder. “Well, he was promised…”

“To marry her should I ever reclaim the mountain.” Thorin whispered, as if just remembering.

Lady Bellora nodded. “That’s right. So here I am.”

Something hard and cold settled in Bilbo’s chest and he felt his face fall without really understanding why. He gave a strained smile that made every muscle in his face ache with the effort as he moved away from Throin. “I’ve never been to a royal wedding. Should be quite lovely.” He bowed, more to hide his face then out of respect. “If I may beg your leave, I’m late for meeting with Bofur about the plans for the food supply tunnel.”

When he looked up to meet Thorin’s eyes, they were surprisingly pained. “Bilbo.” Balin gave a loud cough and Thorin schooled his features before he looked away. “Yes, please do. I’d like a report on his progress at the next meeting.”

“Thank you, your majesty.” He gave another, smaller bow to Bellora. “My lady.” Then he hurried out the door, closing it behind him with a dull, echoing thump.

Chapter Text

His betrothed.

Bilbo’s feet carried him away down the corridor out of the royal wing.

My Thorin.

He made his way down farther into the mountain, without stopping or really knowing where he was going.

Promised to marry.

The conversation kept playing over and over again. It was like a bad dream. He felt as though he may throw up. He hadn’t had such horrible nerves since he was a child. It was hard to breath and—

“Bilbo?” Dwalin’s voice brought him out of his trance. Bilbo finally stopped, not turning to look at the old warrior. “Are ye alright?” He turned and when Dwalin saw the hobbits face he balked. “Oh no, you’re crying.”

“I’m—?” Bilbo touched his cheek and sure enough it came back wet. He chuckled. “What a silly thing, that. Not sure what I’m crying for.” He wiped the hand on his shirt nervously, still chuckling. “You’ve known Thorin for some time. You must have met her.”

“What you on about, laddie?”

Bilbo tried to smile as more tears came to his eyes. “His bride, of course.”

Dwalin’s face fell as Bilbo looked away, staring at the floor vacantly. “Now Master Bilbo, Thorin—“

“He promised her. He promised her his hand a long time ago. He’s broken so many promises and it’s been crushing him. It’s good to see he can keep one. I’m happy for him. I’m so happy, Dwalin.” The tears kept coming and Bilbo couldn’t stop them. He wiped them away frantically. “I’m sorry. I really don’t know what’s wrong. I hope it’s a spring wedding. I’m sure the mountain is lovely in the spring.”

Dwalin stood rooted to the spot as if unsure what to do, looking around wildly as if trying to spot someone who should be there. It was clear that Bilbo’s distress made him uncomfortable. It was clearer still he had no idea what to do about it.

“Really, I’m fine. Please, don’t let me—“

“He doesn’t love her,” Dwalin blurted out, causing Bilbo to jump. “If that’s what you’re worried about.”

Bilbo let out a tiny sob and looked down at his feet. “I—I don’t see how that… that has anything to do with—”

“Okay, okay, whatever you say.” With that Dwalin awkwardly shuffled forward and tentatively put his arms around Bilbo in a hug.  Bilbo found himself clutching the old warrior as tight as he could sobbing into his chest. Dwalin mumbled something about gutting someone but Bilbo didn’t quite catch who or why. He was very busy with the immense sense of loss building in his chest.

After a few minutes he heard footsteps coming up the hall.

“Dwalin! What are you–? What have you done to our hobbit?” Bofur came up by them and Bilbo pulled away.

“No, no, Dwalin was just—“

“Lady Bellora is here.” Dwalin growled.

Bofur seemed to need a minute but then his eye went wide. “Oh dear. I’d nearly forgotten her.”

Dwalin shrugged, while Bilbo wiped away the last of the tears. “Pretty sure we all did. Including our illustrious leader.” Bilbo hadn’t known Dwalin knew whatillustrious meant especially enough to sound so sarcastic about it.

“It’s… it’s a lovely surprise.” Bilbo sniffed loudly and Bofur looked to Dwalin in confusion but the other dwarf shook his head. “Bofur, we had a meeting? To discuss the tunnels.”

Bofur winced. “We don’t need to do that right now, Mister Bilbo. Perhaps you’d like to head back to your quarters?”

“No, no, I’ve needed to talk to you for four days about this and you have always been busy.”

“Alright but perhaps we’ll do it on the walk to your quarters then? I think you ought to lie down a bit.”

Bilbo nodded vigorously. “Right, yes. Probably just stress. Good thinking, Bofur.”

He and the miner made their way through the mountain back toward where Bilbo had taken up residence. The hobbit had wandered quite far in his haze. It was nice to be able to simply talk about the project and not think about Thorin or anything to do with him. Bofur followed Bilbo into his home and let the door shut behind them. “Bilbo, we’re friends, aren’t we?”

Bilbo frowned. “Of course!”

“Good. Then I hope you won’t mind, I didn’t want to pry in your affairs but your crying’s got me concerned.” He sat in one of Bilbo’s chairs, staring him down. “What was going on between you and Thorin?”

Bilbo opened his mouth, but no words came so he closed it. He tried again, but still nothing. Eventually he settled on a word. “Nothing.”

“Well, I know now there is nothing. But before today. Before Bellora.”

Bilbo shook his head. “Nothing.” If he sounded terribly disappointed, it was because he wished he had better words to describe the ever encroaching heartbreak, that was all.

“Bilbo. You’re not crying because you’re happy. I know you’re not.”

The hobbit sat down across from his friend, staring at his hands in his lap. “He was… we are close, Bofur. I don’t even know how I’m feeling. I should be very happy for him. Even if he doesn’t… love her. It is still good for his people. It’ll be good for Erebor. Thorin will keep his promise.”

“Bilbo.” There was a distinct level of pity in the way Bofur said his name. “We, the Company, didn’t want to say anything. We figured you would sort it out on your own. But I didn’t realize you didn’t know.”

Bilbo’s eyes shot up to meet Bofur’s. “Know what?”

“That you love him.”

“Oh…” Bilbo buried his face in his hands. No, that couldn’t be. But it was. It was why his heart was heavy in his chest and his lungs felt gripped by an orc. “I mean… I don’t know what you’re… Oh no.”

Bofur nodded solemnly.

“And there is nothing for it.”

Bofur continued to nod.

“Thorin is to be married. If there had been something—if there had been anything, and I assure you there wasn’t but IF, he can’t act on it any more then I can. He won’t break that promise he made. Not after the Dragon Sickness.”

“No laddie. He wouldn’t. Though many dwarf kings in his… situation would take a mistress but Thorin is not that kind of dwarf.”

Bilbo turned bright red. “They would what?! That is—! That is definitely not the hobbit way! Hobbit are very monogamous, thank you!”

Bofur put up his hands defensively. “Didn’t I just say Thorin isn’t that kind of dwarf?”

“You did. I’m sorry.”

“You’re not alone in this, Bilbo.”

Bilbo smiled. Bofur was a good friend. One of the best he had in the mountain. “I know. Thank you, Bofur.”

“Anytime. Now I’ve got an idea. If you’ll be okay for a few minutes or so I’ll run down to the kitchens, grab some of Bombur’s pies, and bring’em back here.”

Bilbo nodded. “Alright, if you say so.”

“I do.”

Bilbo felt better after his talk with Bofur and they ate their pies, talking of Bilbo’s work in the library and how Bofur’s mother was getting along since she had relocated to the mountain to be closer to her sons.

The next morning the hobbit awoke early, as he usually did, getting ready for the day and sticking to his routine. He ate a hardy breakfast and kept up the mantra that if he didn’t think about it he wouldn’t cry. Simple as that. He did have some time before his first meeting but he wanted to stop by the library for some books.

Keep busy. It’ll go away.

It will go away.

It had to.

When he went to leave, he opened his door to find a small blond dwarrowdam about to knock. She must have been about Kili’s age. “Are you Master Baggins?”

“Yes, may I help you?”

“Lady Bellora requests an audience with you, if you’re free this morning.”

He was technically free but it was very short notice and rather than his usual awkward sputter about work he felt a spike of annoyance. “What would it be regarding exactly?”

The dwarf girl blinked. “Why taking over the duties of the consort of the king. You have been managing them so far, have you not?”

Bilbo opened his mouth to ask her what she meant when he realized that she was talking about his job. What he’d been doing since they’d begun the rebuild of Erebor.

He had been doing the job the Queen should do.

He felt himself turn beet red despite himself, his annoyance forgotten. Did that mean something? Surely it couldn’t mean something. Thorin needed someone to do the job and he did it. He was the only one who knew anything about growing things. It took a moment to realize he’d just been standing there awkwardly making strange facial expressions. “I… I suppose I should meet with her then, yes? Now? Of course now.” He straightened his waist coat and gestured for her to lead on. “Off we go then.”

Bilbo was finding that life under the mountain did not give you time to pause in your own misery. There were a couple hundred years of it yet to still clean out. He had face spiders, a dragon, and an orc hoard. He’d outsmarted the creature golem and the elves of Mirkwood.

He could do this.

The dwarf girl led him down a few halls. He knew the direction they were going was toward the wing given to guests of the royal family, since it was right next to Thorin’s quarters and Bilbo’s were just on the other side. That meant she would be little more than a breath away. They entered the suite and the young woman he’d met the day prior was sitting, waiting. She stood, giving a shallow curtsy to the hobbit.

“I’m glad you could join me, Master Baggins.”

He gave her a shaky bow in return. “Of course, my lady.” He wanted to run but propriety kept his feet planted. It was irrational. It was not as if she could smell his feelings for Thorin on him.

Bellora turned to the dwarf girl. “Thank you, Ves. That will be all.” The girl, Ves, curtsied and left. “I was informed that, in the absence of Lady Dis, you have been preforming her duties. Since I am to take them up once I become Queen, I believe it best that I begin learning them as soon as possible.”

Bilbo tried to smile, but he was sure his face had twisted into something horribly awkward. “I… I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I wasn’t exactly trained to do this either.”

She stared at him a moment. “You have no training in the matters of landholdings or negotiations?”

He shook his head. “No, ma’am.”

Silence fell between them as she thought on this. “Well, regardless, Thorin says you’ve been performing them magnificently so I shall learn what I can.”

Bilbo tried not to seem flustered. “Thorin said that?”

“Yes, he spoke quite highly of your abilities. He even stated I need not take up the duties at all. That is, of course, ridiculous. It is my responsibility, so I called on you anyway.”

Bilbo eyebrows shot up. “Thorin said I should keep them?”

She waved him off. “Yes but he is distracted. He hasn’t even held court functions yet. Can you imagine no celebratory ball? With the amount of dwarf nobility flowing in we must have a ball. I proposed one for when Lady Dis arrives next week and he refused! He maybe king but he is clearly out of practice.”

Bilbo straightened, a bitter taste filling his mouth and his embarrassment all but forgotten. “Perhaps we haven’t had a proper ball because the ball room floor is covered in crystal shards from when the dragon knocked down the chandelier? Or that the king has been busy making sure we all do not starve or die from the winter cold?” He didn’t mention that at least the bodies had been removed from the coat rooms. She blushed a bit and didn’t say anything more, at which point Bilbo felt a little bad. “Look, Miss Bellora, I know you’re use to a certain level of…” He waved his hand as he tried to find a nice way to say it. “Courtly pageantry. But that is not going to be possible until we rebuild infrastructure.” The lady was pouting and it struck Bilbo she was young. Too young yet to be Queen, just as Fili was not ready to be king. “I will… take you on my rounds today, to show you what I do and maybe grant you a bit of insight into what’s been going on here.”

She brightened greatly at that. “You mean it?”

“I do. Now if you’d follow me, my first meeting is with the Mirkwood dignitaries.”

Her face twisted with disgust. “Elves.”

“Well it will be part of your job. Come. You need not speak to them today, just watch.” The day was already going to be long before this mess. The Mirkwood elves continued to nag about their arrangements in the mountain and the food and how cold it was. From Bilbo’s understanding of Elves they did not get cold so he assumed they did it just to be contrary.

“My lords!” Bilbo said as he entered the room. The two elves, both fair in hair and skin like many of the woodland elves, did not look happy. “How are you both on this fine day?”

“We’re a little… unsettled, you see.”

Bilbo did his best not to sigh loudly. “What is the trouble?”

“It is about the elf Tauriel, former guard captain of Mirkwood.”

Bilbo nodded. “Ah yes, Lady Tauriel was around the other day… important business with the prince.” That had become his go to code for ‘they were probably off kissing somewhere.’

“Her presence disturbs our underlings. We wish to have her removed as soon as possible.”

Bilbo actually sighed then. This was the second batch of dignitaries he had to appease about this. “I assure you her presence and contribution to the rebuild are vital. We shall not send her away.”

The dignitaries frowned at each other. “Then perhaps we will take this up with your king?”

“Ha! You realize he will just make sure she is around more simply to get you to leave? I tell you now, dwarves can be a spiteful bunch.” If Lady Bellora had anything to say on the matter—and from her face it looked like she disliked that quite a bit—she kept it to herself.  Bilbo went on. “Now, you can accept that Tauriel is a person you will occasionally glimpse but never have to actually speak to or you may be moved even higher up the mountain then you have already been placed. The choice is yours.”

The dignitaries looked at each other like they were unsure that Bilbo had said what he said. Bilbo had learned early on to get to the point and be as blunt as he could.

“We will… do our best to avoid her in the future.”

Bilbo smiled. “Then good. I do hope you had more to discuss then that.”

It turned out they did. They had received the trade agreement back from Thandruil and were waiting on the final approval from him. Bellora watched it all with a certain air of distaste. He was sure she simply did not enjoy the elves company, but he had the two elf lords laughing and merry before he left, the issue of Tauriel forgotten.

They left the room and Bellora followed him to his next appointment. “You’re very good with them—the elves I mean. I don’t know how you stand it.”

He thought on it and shrugged. “They don’t assume much of me. They assume a great deal about your lot and you about them so it all comes out twisted with distrust.”

“But the way you spoke to them! It was near scandalous to talk about Thorin that way. He’s our king!”

Bilbo frowned deeply. “No one has said anything before.” Did he really step out of bounds somehow? Bellora looked so perplexed and it only confused Bilbo more. “I suppose no one has said anything about any of the Company really. I know many of them were given titles upon completion of our quest simply out of necessity. Most were not noble born.”

Next he had a meeting with Thorin and there was no amount of gold he wouldn’t pay to not have to face the king right then. They made their way to the Council chambers and Bilbo could hear the yelling two halls over. Bellora’s eyes widened the closer they got, probably able to understand what kind of shouting match was going on within. Bilbo had always ignored it because Thorin nearly always stopped yelling the minute he saw the hobbit at the door. Today however it was not Thorin yelling but Councilmen Nar. Thorin was slumped in his chair at the head of the table appearing to simply stare at the grains in the granite and not pay the ancient dwarf any attention. He didn’t look up at first when the door opened but when Nar went silent he did lift his gaze. The king’s eyes met Bilbo’s and he sprung up from his seat. They all stood in silence, the council, the king and the hobbit. Something heavy and quite awkward held in the air for a moment.

Then the king gestured for the council to leave and all but Nar practically sprinted for the door. Bilbo and Bellora entered and Nar finally left in a huff. Thorin frowned at the dwarrowdam. “Bellora?”

Bilbo was doing his best not to shake like a cornered rabbit and control the pounding his chest. This was much harder then he thought. The lady shrugged. “I am accompanying Master Baggins on his rounds today. I have already learned quite a bit.”

Thorin frowned deeper and looked to the hobbit. “What?“

“It’s fine. Really.” It was not really. But Bilbo was a Baggins and Bagginses were the kind to ignore problems until they went away. “They are, after all, the task of the Consort. She’ll have to do them one day. She might as well see what they’re like.” If the word consort came out with a bit of bitterness it was because Bagginses were also the masters of passive aggression.

Thorin ran a hand over his face. “Bellora, I told you to leave it alone—to leave Bilbo alone. I asked for one thing and you ignored it—“

Bilbo was a Baggins. Baggins were generally polite, at least to your face and were well respected members of the hobbit community.

But Bilbo was also a Took.

“She asked to shadow me and I accepted. That’s it. It’s unreasonable to tell her she can’t do the tasks she would normally be assigned. I won’t be around forever and if I’ve learned anything it’s that you can’t negotiate worth a damn, so you will take these signed documents from the elves and the finalized rerouting of the fields tunnel, and me and Bellora will be on our way.”

Thorin paled.

Bellora stood frozen in shock.

Bilbo shoved the documents into the Kings hands and stormed out of the Council chamber.

“Come on, Bellora!”

He heard the lady dwarf follow him but did not turn around to look. That hadn’t been about Bellora taking up his duties at all.

“Master Baggins… Are you alright?” Bellora’s tone was soft, and clearly confused.

“I’m sorry, my lady. I have a bit of a head ache and no patience for kings and their pride.”

Bellora was silent behind him. Then she walked up beside him. “I’ve never heard anyone speak to Thorin like that. Not even Lady Dis. And he just… let you.”

“Yes well, you will need to learn to do the same at some point. It’s the only way of making him listen sometimes.” The hobbit looked to the lady and she was looking back at him with suspicion in her eyes. She didn’t say anything else but Bilbo was pretty sure she was onto his feelings for Thorin. He needed to change the subject. “How do you feel about books?”

 

Chapter Text

It turned out that Bellora was indeed fond of books. She loved the library, even in the state it was in. Her and Ori became fast friends, apparently not having talked much in Ered Luin. Ori had been of a lower class so their paths never crossed.

The lady dwarf did not ask to shadow Bilbo again and he dared not go near the library. Bilbo was both embarrassed and eternally grateful for the excuse to not see her, for fear one wrong word and she would know he pined after her intended. He saw less of Thorin too, not seeking him out, and the king avoided him as well. Though sometimes they would pass in the hall and Thorin may have called to him a time or two, but with how busy the mountain could be it was easy to pretend you didn’t hear.

Luckily, as the farmers were settling down with the beginning of planting, the Guilds began to quarrel. For two weeks he was hounded by the different guilds, fighting over contracts and territory like they were at actual war. You’d never expect for the Weavers to be a fierce bunch but with Dori at the helm they had carved out the space they’d needed ruthlessly. Bilbo suspected Nori might have helped but didn’t want to ask. Honestly no guild was without their teeth and Bilbo was grateful the Shire had no such nonsense. That and Gloin was constantly on about how much the crown was spending. As if it were a luxury to clear rubble for the Healer district. Really sometimes the dwarf was a bit too much of a banker.

So Bilbo really didn’t have time to dwell on his broken heart.

He didn’t have time for anything, really.

There was an urgent knock at his door late one evening, and he approached it, thinking it was Dori with another impassioned speech about the importance of Weavers. “My friend it is late, I am tired and unless you have signed back that chunk of the Jewelers Guild’s district so help me--”

But as he opened the door two young dwarves tumbled in, falling on top of each other in the doorway. Looking in much better shape than the last time he saw them.

“Fili! Kili! For all that is good what are you doing here? And so late?”

“Say it’s not true!” Fili said as he scrambled back to his feet. Kili did the same. Both took one of Bilbo’s shoulders in their hand.

“Say he’s not to marry her!”

Bilbo squinted. “What? Do you mean Bellora?”

Fili scowled. “More like the She-Orc herself.”

Kili nodded. “She’s a menace.”
“A terror.”

“And annoying!”

Fili nodded his grip tightening. “She’s been the bane of our existence since we were small. She’d come by every summer--”

“And we weren’t rich--”

“Oh no, so she’d look down her nose at us and try and get us to call her Aunt.”

“And she’d take all our money in cards--”

“Shut up, Kili.” Fili gave his brother a light shove. “The point is--Master Burglar-- is that she can’t marry Thorin.”

Kili nodded. “He’ll be miserable.” He gestured between himself and the older prince. “We’ll be miserable.”

Fili nodded as well. “But one word from you--”

Bilbo shook off their hands. “I will not.”

“But he doesn’t love her!” Kili cried, looking legitimately distraught by the idea.

Bilbo glared at the two of them. “I don’t know how you two escaped from Oin--”

Fili crossed his arms. “We were released thank you very much. Just in time for our mum’s return tomorrow.”

Bilbo frowned. “That’s right, Lady Dis-- wait no, I will not be disarmed by that rouse. You two will not pry, you will leave Lady Bellora alone, and that is that. I don’t know what you think I could do. Even if I could convince Thorin, which I can’t, he made a promise to her and her family.”

Fili rolled his eyes. “She wasn’t even born yet. Thorin said should old Firebeard have another child and he retook the mountain he would join their houses in marriage. About several decades later - boom, little girl is born. But no mountain. Now Thorin has it and old Bora Firebeard wants to collect?” Suddenly the older prince looked sad. “Thorin finally has the mountain but that’s not what made him happy. Bellora will never make him happy.”

Bilbo knew he probably visibly paled when Fili said that but the hobbit would not relent. “Please… Please let it go, boys. I appreciate what you’re doing. It’s just not that simple.” He gestured towards the door, “Now go rest. If tomorrow is Lady Dis’ return, you’ll both need it.”
They looked at each other, then sadly back at Bilbo as they nodded. “It’s still not right.” Kili murmured as they turned to go. “Everyone should marry for love.”

“You’re right, Kili.” Fili murmured back. “But the world isn’t so kind.” With that the door closed.

Fili would make a good king someday. Bilbo was sure.

Dis’ arrival was a grand event-- the first that had happened since the initial celebration of Smaug’s demise and the end to the Battle of the Five Armies. Many were allowed to leave work for a time and come watch her arrival. Bilbo was expected to be with the company on the grand terrace where the small parade would end. Dis was beloved by all the people and most wanted to come see her arrive. Bilbo did not know much about her, but she was known to be kind but fiery. The boys loved and feared her in equal measure. The hobbit was looking forward to meeting her. Bellora stood at his left as Fili then Kili stood at his right. The Company surrounded them on a lower level but Bilbo found himself near Bellora. Thorin had, upon arrival, seen him standing there and looked for a minute finally happy to see him, then his gaze turned to his betrothed and it disappeared. His garb was not the full regalia Bilbo remembered from when he was under the Dragon Sickness, it was much more blue with the crown being the only gold.

He looked handsome.

He looked like a king.

Once the dwarf king sat on his throne, he barely moved or looked away from the doors.

When Dis and her entourage finally emerged, she looked every bit the royal Bilbo had expected from a woman of the Line of Durin. She looked much like her brother; short beard, long dark hair, broad shouldered, but eyes dark like Kili’s. Her outfit was an evergreen, not blue as her brother favored and she actually smiled sweetly as she entered, pausing when she saw her children and looking like she wished to rush forward and embrace them properly. Instead she quickened her pace and gave a short curtsy to her brother.

He smiled-- finally, softly-- as his sister rose and he stood. He gave a wide gesture to indicate the hall. “Welcome home, my dear Lady Dis.”

“It is very good to be home.” she said wistfully.

“People of Erebor! Welcome back your Princess!” He shouted through the halls. She didn’t seem to know that was going to happen, and as she turned back to the people the cries were deafening. Even Bilbo managed to clap, forgetting for a moment his own awkwardness in favor of glee as her eyes watered a bit. She held back the tears but only just. “Now that the formalities are over.” Thorin held his arms out wide and she came forward to hug him. “At last. We are home again.” Bilbo heard Thorin mutter.

As the roars died down he heard her whisper back. “You, my brother, and my sons, were all the home I ever needed. And it is good to be back.”

Bilbo blushed at the private exchange as they pressed their foreheads together.

Thorin looked back to the crowd. “Today will be a day of celebration, and tonight a feast! Depart and rejoice, for the Princess is beneath the mountain once more!”

They all cheered again. Then the Company began to file out towards the private hall they would be greeting Dis less formally. The royal family hung back to wave to the last of the crowd. Bilbo was the last of the company to leave the dais, but before he did he caught Dis and Bellora looking at each other. Bellora looked guilty as Dis stared her down.

That did not bode well.

Chapter Text

When the royal family finally joined them in the hall where lunch had been laid out for them, Dis immediately pulled her two children to her in a hug. They stayed that way for a few moments before pulling back. "Look at you two. Mahal have mercy, you've actually grown! Kili, you’re even getting a beard!" Kili frowned but his mother hugged him tight again. "When the raven came with news of your injuries I wanted to come right away. But there were things to get in place and caravans to organize! Oh lord, the bureaucracy was a nightmare."

Thorin hugged her. "But you're here now."

"I am. It’s just as I remember it from when I was a girl." She looked around the Company. "And to see you all again! You all made it here safe. I couldn't be more grateful." Her eyes found Bilbo. "And this is the hobbit then?"
Thorin nodded. "He is."

Bilbo stepped forward, swallowing back his nerves and giving her a bow. "Bilbo Baggins, at your service."

She grinned, coming forward and startling the hobbit with a hug. "Forgive me, but from what I've heard you've done for my family I think such formalities can be forgotten a bit. Thank you for keeping them safe."

"I--no I didn't do much,” he stuttered.

She pulled back, a twinkle in her eyes. "Regardless of that, I'm in your debt. And don't go saying it was your honor or something like that. You will not convince me otherwise." She turned then to the rest. "It is good to be among my dearest friends again." Her eyes landed on Bellora and annoyance flared in them. "Perhaps now we should discuss the young lady's unscheduled departure from the Blue Mountains."

Everyone turned to Bellora.

"Oh yes. She didn't mention she was not given leave to come? Her father won't be far behind me."

Bellora looked as if she wished to disappear entirely. "Father is coming?"

Dis nodded gravelly. "Yes. He’ll probably be here next week. Perhaps the week after, but with the thawing road, who knows?”

Bellora wrung her hands. “My lady, I--”

“It was irresponsible of you to leave without so much as a word. Can you imagine? A dwarrow woman running off in the middle of the night! If I hadn't left immediately after there would be no covering up for it with the noble houses. There are protocols! Propriety! You have a great deal to learn about what it means to be queen, that is for sure. The worry you put your father through! After all he has done for you?" Bellora bowed her head. Fili and Kili looked as if Yuletide had come early for them. Dis relented a bit, sighing loudly. "But we will discuss all that later. At length." She looked to Thorin. "Now it's time I hear the tale of this endeavor from your own mouth, brother. Let's sit."

They sat round the table as Thorin began. "You know the beginning. I left for the meeting with the Dwarf houses. Then went to Hobbiton. That is where we met to begin our journey. I was late--"

Fili frowned. "Cause you got lost."

Thorin straightened a bit. "I was not lost. I--"

"You said you got lost three times, actually." Bilbo interjected.

Thorin cast him his usual incredulous look that he gave when Bilbo called him out on his own pride. "Alright I got lost. I was late but they had saved some food for me. We met, offered Bilbo the contract and he initially refused."

"You were leaving to face a dragon! I think it is totally fair to turn down such a quest."

Dis looked to Bilbo. "What changed your mind?"

Bilbo froze, blushing lightly. "It was probably when they all sang that song. The one about Erebor and the Misty Mountains..."

Thorin was watching him and Bilbo didn't go on. Bilbo remembered that night well. The song had awoken something strange, and almost certainly Tookish inside him. He wanted to see the mountain, hear the pine forests. Thorin hummed the tone to himself well into the night while sleeping in the guest bedroom next to his.

It had lulled him to sleep and he'd dreamed strange dreams.

Bilbo looked to Thorin and immediately had to look away. He looked nearly as pained as Bilbo felt. Dis smiled, but her eyes were filled with suspicion. Her next words though, were amused at best. "It is a lovely song."

Bilbo felt embarrassed he'd said anything.

Thorin granted him the mercy of continuing with the story, with various members of the party aiding him from time to time as they ate. The telling made for a much slower meal then usual, since usually the entire Company wolfed down whatever was placed in front of them. The king went on to describe the trolls and Rivendell, the giants and the goblins in Moria. The story felt like it took forever, and Bilbo kept silent through most of it. Only explaining the bits where he was alone with the dragon. Dis loved it. Then they got to the battle and Thorin riding off to meet Azog with only three fighters.

"It was a trap, of course." Thorin ran a hand through his hair, having taken off the crown some time ago. "If it weren't for Bilbo, we would've had no warning."

Kili scoffed. "Well, I had no warning. Neither did Fili. We both nearly died!"

Dis looked legitimately distressed about that and Fili elbowed his brother. "Only nearly."

Bilbo sighed. "You ALL nearly died. Well except Dwalin." Dwalin raised his cup in acknowledgment. “Gave me such a fright, the lot of you; Fili lay in bits, Kili in no better condition, Thorin had a hole through his gut, he stopped breathing and--" He took a breath. "I thought we'd lost them."

"But then the Eagles came!" Kili interjected, trying to sound positive but Bilbo was no longer hungry. And that was saying something for a hobbit. "The day was won. Azog slain, the armies scattered. The Arkenstone returned and the whole company made it out alive!"

Thorin watched Bilbo still. Damn the king. Bilbo didn't need to look to know it was true. He felt the king’s eyes on him. Bellora and Dis’ too. Blast it, why couldn't he keep his emotions down for one meal?

It was time to change tactics. "Kili, I'm sure you're itching to tell your mother about Tauriel."

Kili beamed at the mention of his beloved elf. "Right! She saved my life, she did! Mum, you'll love her."

Dis grinned. "Right. You're in love with a she-elf these days."

"She a marvel. She's better with a bow then anyone! Even the woodland prince! He fancied her too, you know, but she turned him down. Now she fancies me! She hunts and tracks, fiercer than any elf I've ever known."

Fili rolled his eyes. "The amount of elves you've truly known can be counted on your one hand."

"Hey! You know it's true. You're just mad she bested you at knife throwing and how-many-weapons-can-I-hide-on-my-person."

Fili slumped. "It's not fair; she's taller."

Dis beamed. "When do I get to meet her?"

They bantered on like that around him, the Company adding whatever other bits of the tale they could remember. All but Thorin, Bellora, and Bilbo joined in on the conversation. Bellora was no longer staring at him but contemplating the last bits of her meal on her plate. Thorin still threw him the occasional lingering glance, but Bilbo was avoiding it at all costs.

"Would you mind, Bilbo?"

Bilbo jumped at Dis' voice. "Pardon?"

The princess smiled. "Showing me this book you're working on?"

"Oh." Bilbo had not been paying attention. "Well certainly. It's still a long way from being complete. First with the farmers and now the guilds. Doesn't leave a lot of time for recreation."

Dis schooled her features. "Well... I certainly wouldn't want to... pull you away from such important tasks." She eyed Thorin knowingly. "Brother, we'll have to speak privately later." Bilbo felt all the blood drained from his face. But she went on. "For now though I'd like a tour of the city, I want to see how far along repairs are myself and I will see if my services are needed."

"Your services?" Bilbo asked.

Dis shrugged. "Well I am a trained architect. All dwarves have a trade."

"Oh, I know a few places where you would be quite useful."

Dis grinned at him. "Well perhaps you'd like to be my chauffeur?"

"I... if you wish, my lady?"

She nodded, looking between Thorin and Bilbo. "I do wish. I believe there is time before the feast."
The rest of lunch went by quite quickly. The Company went their separate ways for the time being. Bellora rejoined her ladies in waiting, looking thoughtful.

Dis took Bilbo's arm a bit forcefully. "Lead the way, Bilbo."

Bilbo had a horrible feeling about this.

He led the lady around the city to the various rebuild projects still going on. They even met a lead on the team putting new rails on the pathways. As they gazed out over the main marketplace, Dis smiled. "Even in shambles this place it still the most beautiful city I've ever seen."

"It is impressive indeed," Bilbo said wistfully.

"I know we've only been introduced this afternoon, but I feel I must ask." She turned to him then. "My brother... he is unhappy? He has his kingdom, his family, his friends?"

"I... why would I know?" Bilbo sputtered.

"Thorin is easy to see through, even in his writings. His letters were always warm and light, and yet I arrive and he's as broody as ever." Looking back out over her city, she said, "Something happened during my travels. I need to know what happened."

"He... he is just growing accustom to the idea of marriage, I imagine. You know Thorin."

She smiled wide, watching the people go by. "He never cared before his quest. Never really paid Bellora any mind. She always had a bit of a crush on him though."
Bilbo frowned. "A crush?"

"Oh it's a dwarf colloquialism, she fancied him something fierce I mean. But she was a child. Still is in a lot of ways. She's brash and prone to pouting when she doesn't get her way. She isn't ready but I fear she must be. Her father coming will seal it. He'll demand she marry before the week is out once he arrives."

"Oh..." Bilbo felt a bit like a cornered animal.

"Thorin forgot about her," Dis said plainly. It wasn't a question.

"Yes. The journey was long, and we faced quite a few perils. I'm surprised I haven't forgotten my own birthday along the way."

The dwarf woman side eyed him. "You and my brother; transparent as glass. He gave you the duties of Consort. He gave you a room in the royal wing. It is obvious to any dwarf who knows him well his intentions." She turned back to Bilbo, staring him down. "What are yours?"

Bilbo sputtered. "I- that is- I intend to serve the crown however I can."

"And how have you been doing that?" The accusation in her voice implied scandal and Bilbo, well, he didn't care what she was princess of, or sister to whom.
Something Tookish arose in his chest and he stood straighter. A respectable hobbit like himself need not stand for such things. "I have been making sure he eats, for one thing! I stood between the king and Azog; I've starred a dragon in the eyes; I have-- I have been dangled from the ramparts by the very king I now serve when he went mad for gold. He nearly died in my arms. And to finally see him, home and happy and whole, it is all a hobbit could ask for." He took another breath, as his voice shook. "So forgive me, my lady, if I feel I deserve more credit than... than the implications you’ve put before me."

Dis did not look like she was angry with him. In fact she looked impressed. "By Mahal, he didn't exaggerate when he called you fierce." Bilbo blushed. Once he'd have given up bed and breakfast for Thorin to think him fierce. “You’re right, of course. But I don’t know you, Master Baggins. You’ll have to forgive me. Where my family is concerned I can never be too careful.”

Bilbo shrugged. “I feel the same.”

She looked around them carefully. Once she knew they were alone on the balcony and out of earshot of anyone she turned back to him, looking sheepish. “I was not entirely honest with you. Perhaps you should know now that back home we didn’t have Nori and his friends to look for shadows that stalked us in the night. I had to do it myself.” Bilbo thought of Nori’s Jackdaws, a spy force he’d been mobilizing out of people who were once thieves and beggars. They were a shifty bunch but all loyal to the crown. “But you… you are either a better liar than me, or you speak the truth. So, will you stand aside and do what you must for Erebor? Even if it means letting my brother go?”

Bilbo swallowed. “Yes. I already have, for the most part.”

Her eyes sparkled with mischief and Bilbo did not like it. It reminded him too much of Kili right before he lit Dwalin’s bum on fire. “Good. Then I need you to trust me when I say it will all be alright.”

“I… suppose I will have to?”

The smile she gave him did nothing for his nerves.

Chapter Text

The feast was held in a grand dining room within the palace. The whole of the Company and their families who’d returned to Erebor were there, as well as many nobles and other wealthy citizens. Bard was there with his family, dressed finely despite how Bilbo knew the man hated it. But leadership was in his blood and he’d have to get use to it. There was a dance floor in the middle with a band. A few had gotten up from their seats and were dancing already. Bilbo had been sat at the same table as the Company and the royal family. Right across from Thorin actually.

Bilbo wanted to hang whoever made the seating arrangements.

About halfway through the meal, Bilbo thought of making an excuse to leave when Bellora stood at Thorin’s side. She was dressed in a bright gold gown in the dwarvish style“Would you dance with me, my king?”

Thorin grumbled into his wine. “I do not dance.” Bilbo frowned, knowing that was not quite true. Lady Dis frowned as well from Thorin’s other side. She scowled at him and Bilbo thought she may have pinched his side a bit because Thorin winced and leaned away, mumbling, “Fine. Once but no more.”

It was a strange dance that Bilbo hadn’t seen. The couples seemed to switch partners once or twice during it only to switch them back and it was incredibly long. There was also a lot of unnecessary bowing. Bilbo watched as he felt his stomach turn. She was a beauty and he was regal as ever. He felt quite plain for the first time in a while. It hadn’t mattered to him before if he were handsome or not.

Fili stood and came around the table. “Dance with me, Bilbo.” Before he could say no to the young prince he was dragged out and into the fray. He did his best to mirror what he’d been watching but as the dance went on people switched partners less and less. To his relief it looked like Bellora and Thorin wouldnt switch with them.

That was until Fili, without much grace or subtlety cut the next couple Thorin and Bellora were going to switch with off and Fili whisked Bellora away, leaving Bilbo in Thorin’s arms. They said nothing for a moment, only looked at each other as they danced. It felt as if it’d been an age since that first dance, among their friends laughing and happy without a care in the world.

Bilbo found he couldn’t look away.

“Dis is impressed with you,” Thorin said suddenly.

Bilbo blinked. “Oh?”

“Yes. It doesn’t happen often that she warms up to someone as quickly as she has to you. It’s suspicious.”

“She grilled me to make sure I wasn’t a threat to the crown during our tour.”

Thorin chuckled and smiled a bit for the first time that evening. “That’s her. She’s always seeing enemies in the shadows. It’s kept us alive for a long time. I’m sure she’s relieved you’re doing her usual duties so she can run her spy network in peace.”

Bilbo smiled back. “Do you think she can wrestle them away from Nori?”

“Nori will hand them over first chance he gets. Always hated leading, that one. He’ll loved to get back out in the field.”

He nodded. “That much I do know.”

Thorin lowered his voice. “Has Bellora continued to pester you about her duties?”

“No. No, she’s kept mostly to the library from what I can tell.”

Thorin nodded. “Good. That’s good.”

“She’ll have to learn eventually, Thorin.”

His smile turned sad. “I know… but for a while I can pretend you’ll remain in Erebor forever and she’ll never need to.” It was then Bilbo remembered what he’d yelled at Thorin the last time they spoke. I won’t be around forever. “It is a selfish illusion, but I am a stranger to such bouts. I have never wanted anything for myself before.” Bilbo wondered if he could duel Bellora for Thorin. It sounded like a thing dwarves would do. “I thought the quest would take my life and it didn’t. Sometimes I wish it had.”

Bilbo felt ice form in his chest. “Don’t you dare say that.”

Thorin sighed, but his eyes held that deep affection Bilbo had been pretending didn’t exist and he was at a loss. “As you wish, my burglar.” The music ended and Bilbo realized he hadn’t been danced back to Fili. The hobbit looked around and found the pair watching them… more then them but the whole hall seemed to be watching. Bilbo felt his cheeks heat up and pulled away. Thorin let him go without resistance and the hobbit went over to Fili just as Bellora passed him to go back to the king. Bilbo dared not look at her.

Fili took Bilbo’s hand and led him out of the feast as if he knew Bilbo couldn’t go back there. “I told you not to meddle.” Bilbo whispered.

“You did. I’m sorry, Bilbo. I thought maybe… but I was wrong. I only made it worse, didn’t I?”

Bilbo squeezed his hand. “No, my dear, not worse.”

 


 


Lady Dis’ arrival changed the feel of Erebor in less than a day. It was like having her there made the idea of the kingdom of Erebor tangible to the dwarves of the mountain--a real thing that they were a part of. The unrest in the guilds became more civil with her at Bilbo’s side and territory was mark off fairly and with minimal bloodshed. Three days after she came, it was nearly all settled and the guilds could move on to more substantial business--setting up trade with the Men of Dale.

Which they asked for Bilbo’s help with, of course. On the second day, Lady Dis bowed out of such negotiations after a messenger delivered a note that made her go pale. Bilbo asked but she refused to speak on it, asking him to continue without her. “You know I am making this up as I go? What if I mess up? Say the wrong thing and start a war? Then what?”

Lady Dis waved him off as she gathered her things to head to her office. “You’ll be amazing. If they give you a hard time remind them you work under the full support of the crown.” With that she disappeared down the corridor.

Bilbo sighed and headed off towards the meeting hall where he’d oversee the negotiations between the merchants of men and the dwarven weavers guild in a few hours. Rounding a corner without looking he bummed rather unceremoniously into a taller figure.

“I beg your pardon I wasn’t--” The words died in his throat as Thorin stared back down at him. Bilbo reflexively stepped back but Thorin caught his forearm.

“It’s alright. I wasn’t watching where I was going either.” The words came out in a hurry, as if he feared that Bilbo would flee.

He wanted too. But that would not be proper at all. “Your Majesty need not apologize. It happens to the the best of us.”

“Have you been well?” Thorin asked, his voice straining but eager.

“I--yes, I have been busy but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”

Thorin searched his face and Bilbo could tell he saw through him. The growing bags under his eyes from not sleeping properly probably gave him away. His stomach growled loudly. “You’re hungry.”

Bilbo laughed a bit maniacally. “Yes, well I haven’t had the chance to pop by the kitchen. I had a rather busy morning.”

Thorin’s face brightened. “Come then, I have also yet to have lunch--”

“No.”

Thorin visibly flinched, removing his hand from Bilbo’s forearm. “I see.” It was only after Thorin’s face fell that Bilbo realized he’d looked hopeful.

“I’m sorry.” His voice was barely a whisper. “I just… It’s been…”

“Hard.”

Bilbo sighed. “Yes.”

Thorin’s hand reached out as if to touch him, but paused. It hovered there in the air between them. Bilbo held his breath, torn between running and stepping in to meet that hand. Someone behind Bilbo cleared their throat loudly and the moment vanished.Turning around, he saw Dwalin stood down the hall a ways with Balin both glaring at Thorin. When Bilbo looked back, the king was still looking at him. “Good day, Master Burglar.” Thorin gave a small bow and walked past him to where the other two dwarves were waiting. Bilbo ducked around the corner and pressed himself to the wall there, out of sight. He took several deep breath to calm his heart.

“--can’t keep doing that to him--” Dwalin’s voice carried from around the corner.

“What would you have me do?” That was Thorin, growling the question low and venomous.

“What if it’d been someone other than us?” Balin spoke up, his tone the same as when he lectured Fili and Kili on being studious. “Bilbo’s honor would be in question and you know it--”

Thorin groaned. “Do dwarves have nothing better to do then gossip?”

Balin sighed. “The talk won’t go away if you keep acting like this. You’re a king. You can’t keep acting like this marriage is a death sentence. Especially since--”

“Get to the point, old man.”

“Bora Firebeard has arrived ahead of schedule.”

Bilbo desperately wanted to look around the corner and read the king’s expression, but he heard their footsteps begin to die away.

Lady Dis had said that once Bellora’s father arrived, he’d want them married soon.

Bilbo’s stomach growled again. With a sigh he continued on, this time to the kitchen. He really did need to eat more. Food always had a way of making him feel better.

Chapter Text

Bora Firebeard did not get the grand reception that Lady Dis did but they did have a formal dinner with the Company. Dis and Nori were noticeably absent but when Bilbo asked Dwalin he shook his head. The mood in the room was stiff at best. Everyone ranged from nervous to downright irritated, and all of them were clearly doing what they could to distance Bilbo from Bora, like the dwarf might smell Bilbo’s love for Thorin on him.

Bora didn’t seem to notice. “The mountain is even more grand then I remember from my youth.”

Thorin shook his head. “We aren’t even a third of the way done with rebuilding, though not everything is in ruin, the dragon was too large to fit some places. Some are just in disrepair. It will be a long processes nonetheless.”

Bora nodded. “And after long last our houses will be joined. I’m glad that Bellora’s untimely arrival hasn’t changed your mind.”

Bellora sat stiffly staring down at her soup. Bilbo was getting the sense she hadn’t just ran to Thorin’s side, she might have been fleeing her home life too.

“Have you decided on a date for the wedding?” Bora asked. Everyone but Throin busied themselves with dinner.

“Hasn’t come up.”

“Well it should be soon. Where were you thinking of holding the ceremony.”

Thorin shook his head. “We have yet to decide.”

“Well now that I’m here you’ll have someone who can get on that. How has the Gallery of Kings faired? It should be large enough.”

Kili snickered. “Floor’s cover in gold. It’s gonna need some renovation.”

Bora scoffed. “Aye, that won’t take more than a week with enough men on the job. I brought plenty of extra hands.”


Bilbo stabbed pointedly at his food wishing he could flee. He tuned out the conversation, and focused on the Company. Gloin and Dori were muttering at the other end of the table but from the looks of it they did not approve. Dwalin and Balin were listening to Firebeard with completely neutral expressions. It was a amazing since usually Dwalin was the easiest dwarf to read. He must have been practicing. Fili was scribbling a note on a piece of parchment that he dropped silently to the floor. Bilbo watched as he must have nudged Bellora across from him. She looked confused before reaching down to pick up the parchment. When she finished reading she shook her head sadly, and tucked the note away.

Bora wanted all the details of a wedding they hadn’t even started to plan but they all ended up with a laundry list of things they needed to do.

Bilbo skipped dessert without looking back.

By the end of the day, all kingdom could think about was the plans for the royal wedding. Bilbo had tried to keep himself as far away as he could without leaving the mountain but to no avail. With Lady Dis busy with something she deemed of the highest priority to the security of the royal family--whatever that meant-- Bilbo was left with the not so pleasant task of finding a way to acquire food for the reception, negotiate the finishing renovations to the Gallery of Kings and a bunch of other mundane wedding related tasks. Each tore at his heart. He tried to ignore that he was essentially planning the celebration of the king’s union to someone else.

The problem was that half the kingdom had heard about him and Thorin dancing. Most only spoke in hushed whispers but Bilbo still caught wind of a lot of the talk. Bombur was kind enough to forbid such talk from the kitchen, so he spent time there, focusing on his plans and not the ever encroaching dread.

He got more looks of pity then he would have liked. Though every once in awhile he got a look of disdain he couldn’t imagine he earned. The people who gave him this look were all wore a similar crest and Bilbo got the chance to ask Dis two days later when he was speaking to her about the guild’s trade agreements on their way back to the royal wing.

She frowned at the description he gave of the unfriendly dwarves. “Oh. Those are Councilman Nar’s men. They’re… They don’t like people who aren’t dwarves. Elves, men, halflings. A bit of a radical group… they haven’t given you any trouble have they?” She seemed extremely concerned and it gave Bilbo pause.

Eventually, Bilbo shook his head. “No. No they’ve just been… Looking at me oddly is all. Like they don’t approve of my presence.”

Dis took his hand and squeezed. “If any of them says a word to you, you let me know alright.” Something in her voice had Bilbo squeezing back.

“Is everything alright, Lady Dis.”

“It’s fine… I just don’t like them. I know they’ll be trouble. It’s just a matter of how much and when.”

Bilbo nodded. “Alright, but please try and share the load with Nori. I don’t want you working yourself too hard.”

That had Dis smiling. “You’re too sweet. But I’m serious. One so much as whispers to you, they will not have tongues.”

“Thank you?”

Lady Dis could be quite terrifying. Suddenly she looked guilty. “I’ve just realized...I’ve been shrinking from my responsibilities to the wedding, haven’t I?”

“Maybe a little.”

She ran a hand down her face. “And you’ve had to pick up the slack, haven’t you?”

“Maybe a lot.”

“Some plans of mine have been on the backburner because of this… Nar business. But you still trust me when I say it’ll be alright?”

Bilbo swallowed. “I do.” He didn’t.

Judging by the look on Lady Dis’ face she was losing confidence in that promise as well. “This wedding has the worst timing. If I had another week--”

“You don’t.” A year ago Bilbo would have probably started crying then. But not today. He’d faced a dragon. They were all alive to deal with the rebuild. He should be happy.

But the adventure had made him greedy. He wanted more than that.


 

Bilbo was coordinating flower arrangements in a side room to the Gallery of Kings with the help of Kili and a couple of servants when Bellora next approached him. It was only a few days before the wedding and he didn’t really have much time, but the princess had the air of a woman on a mission.

“May I speak to you, Master Baggins?”

Bilbo looked desperately to Kili who merely shrugged. “Of course you may, Lady--”

“Alone.” Her tone was serious and it had Kili sitting up straighter. The servants practically evaporated where they stood they were gone so quickly.

Bilbo nodded for the prince to leave but Kili stood at his shoulder. “Whatever you have to say can be said in front of me.”

Bellora glared at him but the prince did not back down. Bilbo patted him on the shoulder. “Kili, it’s alright--”

“No, I don’t think it is.” Kili stared her down, but Bellora didn’t flinch.

“Fine. You may remain. I don’t see why you can’t be here.” She straightened her dress. “I wish for you to no longer be working on the wedding arrangements.”

Bilbo frowned. “Alright?”

Kili crossed his arms. “And why is that then?”

“I’m sure that, given the circumstances, Bilbo does not wish to have anything to do with the wedding, let alone planning it. I was merely trying to alleviate some of the discomfort it was bringing the both of us.”

Kili laughed. “Oh, it makes you uncomfortable does it?”

“Yes, actually! It does. It has, but I’ve reached the end of my patience with this matter.”

Bilbo stood dumbfounded. This was probably the first time he’d seen Bellora actually look angry.

The prince smiled cruelly. “Oh, like you’ve got it so hard. Took you a whole week to get down here, and most of the planning is all done. Should’ve spoken up sooner, if that’s how you felt.”

Bellora turned a bright red. “I am tired of being told I have it easy.”

“Can’t change what’s true.”

Then Bellora folded her arms. “If anyone has it easy here it is you, Kili. Free to go off and love your precious elf girl while the rest of us have responsibilities. I however with be Consort and expected to help rule. So forgive me if I happen to hate the idea that the man my groom is in love with is essentially planning my wedding for me.”

“Kili!” Bilbo grabbed for the prince who was pushing to get at the dwarf woman. She didn’t even flinch.

“You know nothing of Tauriel! You know less of Thorin! You walk around like you have a right to his heart! Like one day he’ll turn around and realize you’ve been pining for him like a--”

“Enough, Kili!”

At Bilbo’s yell the prince stopped struggling but looked no less venomous. “She has no right to make demands of you, Bilbo. Consort or not.”

Bilbo sighed. “Leave us, Kili. It’ll be fine.”

Kili didn’t move.

“I said LEAVE.” Kili stood straighter and left the room in a huff.

Bilbo turned back to Bellora. “My lady, I’m sorry--” He stopped.

Bellora was on the point of tears. “Even Kili listens to you.”

“Lady Bellora?” Bilbo reached out for her hand but she pushed it away.

“Just call me Bell. I’m tired of being a lady for now.” She sat in the seat Kili vacated and Bilbo pulled a stool up next to her. “I shouldn’t have said anything about Tauriel. She’s been kind the few times I’ve met her. It’s more than most elves would do.”

Bilbo patted her knee. “This whole affair has been stressful on all of us. It brings out the worst in us.”

There was a brief pause before she took a shakey breath. “I know what they say about me, you know.”

“What are they saying?” He didn’t actually know what was being said. Just that rumors were making the rounds.

She laughed bitterly. “That I’m a fool. Or I must be blind. Or a combination of the two. That I’m so young and he’s so old. That I’m marrying for his wealth. That he’ll have an affair the second he gets a chance. But I know he won’t. Not once we’re married.” She sat straighter, wiping away the tears. “I’ve been thinking on this for a while. I think it’s best you leave Erebor.”

Bilbo felt like he’d just been dunked in a frozen lake. Everything went numb and cold. “What?”

“I see no better solution. While you’re here, Thorin will only be hurt. Perhaps, if you left, he could eventually learn to be content with our marriage.”

“I--”

“You hold a great influence over him. It’s dangerous at the worst. He has many enemies. They’ll use you to dishonor him if they can. Even if you’re not already--”

“We aren’t!”

She didn’t look to believe it. “If you cared for him at all you would leave. Leave and put you both out of your misery.”

Bilbo sputtered. “I have every right to stay in Erebor.”

She nodded. “You’re right. But one word from you and this wedding is done. I’m not an idiot. You say to call it off and it’s done. Honor be damned. Yet you’ve said nothing..”

The hobbit stood so he didn’t have to face her. “I think you overestimate my sway over the king.”

“Or perhaps you underestimate his regard for you. Either way, the kind of sway you have over Thorin… it’s not just my jealousy talking, it's my sense. That kind of power over a king is dangerous. They’ll use you to hurt him. Maybe not today or tomorrow but eventually, his enemies will find a way to exploit that.”

Bilbo let silence fall between them as he thought. She was right, but something very Tookish and stubborn deep in his gut refused to listen. She made a lot of sense, but his heart…

It recoiled at the idea of leaving. Erebor had become more home to him then Bag End. The Company more a family to him then his own kin. Fili and Kili were practically his sons. Thorin…

No…

“No. I can’t. I can’t leave them. I wouldn’t just be leaving Thorin. I’d be leaving all my friends.... My family. There’s nothing for me back in the Shire.”

Bellora nodded. “Alright. I won’t say any more… Except that you have been kind, despite everything. You’ve been nothing but patient and supportive. I don’t know if I could’ve been so gracious if I were in your shoes.”

Bilbo turned back to her and smiled gently. “It’s not your fault things are the way they are. It was decided before you were born.”

She smiled back at him, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “I do love him. I have for a long time. He’s noble and kind and... It has taken me a long time to stop hoping he’d ever see me as more than a child. I don’t know if he ever will. What kind of marriage is that?” Her voice wavered like she was going to cry.

“A political one.” Bilbo offered. She laughed and didn’t stop, not even when her laughter faded to sobs. Bilbo held her hand, hoping to provide some comfort. “Let's head to the library. I imagine Ori has some work we could help with.”

She nodded and followed him out.

Chapter Text

A couple of days before the wedding is when King Thandruil arrived. Bilbo's life seemed to be nothing but arrivals these days but the King of the Greenwood was the most important since Lord Bora's and that meant it had to go well.

Which should have meant that the King Under the Mountain was there to greet him. The dwarf however was nowhere in sight at the gates as Bilbo greeted them. The elf king gave him a nod and a polite smile accompanied by many noble elves and his guards. "Hello, Master Baggins."

"You Majesty honors us this day with your presence. I know you parted from here on... less than ideal terms."

The king looked amused. "Yes, well I return for a much less solemn reason this time. While I know the invitation was perhaps a formality on King Thorin's part, I appreciate the chance to see you and Tauriel under less grim circumstances." 

"Oh that reminds me."  Bilbo came forward with a bow and presented a small pouch. "As we've been... doing inventory of the horde more of the jewels were recovered among the coins. I thank you again for your patience. I do believe that is all of them this time."

The elf king's eyes went soft a moment. "You are a marvel, aren't you?" The smallest trace of disdain came to the elf's features. "Here I had thought the King would have conveniently lost them." 

Bilbo straightened, leveling the king with a glare that set the party on edge. "It is on his orders that they were found in the first place, your Majesty, and I would appreciate that you not slight the king as he's making good on his promise to you." 

The comment hung in the air for a moment, tight as a bow string.

The king sighed. "You are a waste in this mountain, Master Hobbit. An utter waste. Have you given thought to my invitation to court?"

It was at that moment the dwarf king chose to arrive. Thorin glared daggers at Thandruil. "What is that now?"

Bilbo didn't look at him, keeping his eyes forward and on the guests. "It's nothing. Shall we escort them into the mountain proper or leave them out in the cold?" With that he turned on his heels and rushed forward. "Do try and keep up there is still much work to do without you important types lollygagging in the halls."

The elves were stunned a moment but the elf king merely followed with a light chuckle. "Are all hobbits this extraodinary or is it just yours, Thorin?"

Thorin didn't answer.

Thandruil went quiet for a moment and Bilbo risked a glance back to see what was happening. The elf king was looking between them strangely, eyes minutely darting back and forth. After a moment, he continued in a measured tone, "When shall I be meeting your Consort, King Thorin?" Thorin bristled and Bilbo snapped his head back around fast enough to crack his neck a little.

 Thorin didn't answer that one either. Bilbo decided someone should though. "This evening at dinner, your Majesty. Lady Bellora is anxious to meet you."

"I've met her father. He's not the most clever dwarf. Perhaps she'll not continue the tradition." Bilbo slowed so that he could glare at the elf king.

"Will you be needlessly unkind the whole trip? You could just as easily eat in your rooms."

Thandruil only smiled at the hobbit. "And here I'd thought you'd send me to bed without supper. 

Thorin cleared his throat. "Bilbo has developed a habit of being direct, no matter one's birth."

Bilbo glared at Thorin. "When you talk riddles to a dragon's face you tend to develop a good bit of nerve. Unless either of you can secretly breathe fire, I will speak as I please."

Thandruil's eyebrows shot up but he said nothing. A slow knowing smirk spread across his features and Bilbo could only turn on his heels and march forward into the mountain. Thandruil asked after a few of the rebuilding ventures Bilbo had mentioned to his ambassador's on previous visits to which Thorin gave short and measured responses. It was rather civil compared to their meeting at the gates.

The guest halls Thandruil would be staying in were a bit of a ways up the mountain but they had a balcony with a view of Dale. Before they parted Thandruil lightly set a hand on Bilbo's shoulder. "When shall Gandalf be arriving?"

Bilbo furrowed his brow. "No one has seen Gandalf in months here."

The elf king sighed again. "As is his way, I suppose. News of this wedding has more than likely gotten to him. Expect him to arrive with little notice."

The hobbit grumbled, "I always do. Perhaps I'll tell you the tale of how I learned that at dinner."

With that the elves retreated to their rooms, leaving Bilbo and Thorin alone in the hall. "They're nothing but trouble." The dwarf grumbled as they walked away.

"They're your allies."

Thorin scoffed. "Yes, while it benefits them. They'll turn their backs again when it gets hard. They always do."

Bilbo's hand reached out and grabbed Thorin's arm on it's own, stopping the king in his tracks. "They have made sure this mountain has been fed and supplied for a highly discounted price.  The jewels that Thandruil wanted back where those of his dead wife. Tauriel has even learned to love a dwarf. What more do they need to do?"

Thorin stared the hand on his arm and sighed. "This is the way it has always been."

"It need not always be, though. I know Thandruil likes to poke fun but he's sincere about this alliance. He's sincere about helping the mountain. Maybe his people aren't quite there yet but in order for your people to get over this, you will have to first."

Thorin turned fully to Bilbo, eyes blue as the spring sky. "I will try."

Bilbo let go of him. "I didn't think it'd be that easy to convince you."

Thorin shrugged, giving him a small smile. "If I can overcome gold sickness for you, a mere prejudice towards elves should be easy."

"You did that on your own." Despite his words, Bilbo felt his ears heat up.

Thorin let out a short unamused laugh. "I most certainly did not. Did no one tell you?"

Bilbo shook his head.

After a breath, Thorin looked down at his hands. He'd never spoken to Bilbo about this. The hobbit was pretty sure no one knew what brought him out of the sickness. "I stood on the gold floor muttering nonsense but in my head it was devouring me. I couldn't believe what I'd nearly done. What I was becoming." Thorin looked up, eyes bright. "You standing up to me, making me act as I never would... that brought me back. If you hadn't stood up to me, I don't think I'd have shaken it in time to fight."

Bilbo didn't know what to say to that. Too many emotions were bubbling up inside him for him to find any solid reply.

"If it is for you, my burglar, I believe I could accomplish anything."

The hobbit stepped back. "It should be for your kingdom. For your people."

Thorin finally looked away, eyes on the passage ahead. "You keep me on the right course. I don't think my kingdom will suffer for it."

"Why did you tell me all this now?"

Thorin shrugged. "I thought you knew and it felt a pity that you did not. For many is appears to be obvious... some would say too obvious." Bilbo remembered the conversation he overheard with Thorin, Balin and Dwalin. Thorin looked back at him, smiling. "Thank you, once again."

Bilbo flinched. "What for?"

That gave the king pause and he just shrugged. "Everything.”

So much weight hung in the air. So much and not enough. Bilbo almost wished he’d never left his hobbit hole.

Almost.

"Well... I suppose you're welcome."

Thorin gave him a small nod, a light smile.

I love you.

The words burned as Bilbo held them back, persistent and dangerous as they were. Bilbo retreated from Thorin as quickly as he could without appearing to be running away. He doubted he was successful but honestly he didn’t care.

Chapter Text

The night of Thranduil’s arrival, the Company once again was a part of dinner. Thranduil and his son sat side by side opposite Thorin. For the first time, Tauriel was also allowed. She looked tense but every once in a while Bilbo saw her nervously glance at Kili. The young prince would smile at her and the tension would melt from her shoulders once more.

Gloin arrived late with a dwarf woman and child in tow. Bilbo recognized them from the pictures Gloin had showed him. They must be his wife, Vreni, and their son, Gimli. He had heard they’d arrived but had yet to see them in person. The boy was sat next to him, and he was a bit taller than Bilbo’s height. He had hair like his father and apparently his mother’s eyes. His hair was about the length of Kili’s but he had the beard of Fili. He was almost as strikingly handsome as both.

He looked at Bilbo and squinted. “You’re smaller than I thought ye’d be.”

“Ah and you’re taller than I thought you’d be. Gloin always calls you his wee lad.”

Gimli glared.

Bilbo raised an eyebrow.

“Son!” Gloin growled from the seat next to the boy.

Gimli bowed his head. “Gimli, son of Gloin, at your service.”

“Bilbo Baggins at yours and your family’s.”

Gimli looked away sheepishly and then stuck out a hand. “Thank you for helping my family make it here safe.”

Bilbo was taken aback but shook the offered hand. “Was an honor.”

Gimli eyed the elves down the table from them. They didn’t seem to notice as Thranduil was asking about Belora’s gown. It was sapphire today, with silver embroidery, and probably cost a pretty penny. For once she didn’t sit stiffly when talking to an elf and was actually quite animated in showing the detail of her sleeve. It was supposed to look like silver veins. Bilbo sighed turning back to the boy next to him. But the lad was eyeing the elven Prince who was engaging Tauriel in conversation about the borders to the north.

The look was somewhere between curiosity and repulsion. Bilbo wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. “That’s Legolas, the Greenwood prince.”

Gimli glared again. “I have heard of him.” He looked away, turning red and saying nothing more on the matter. It was then that Legolas looked their way. He gave Bilbo a smile, then he looked to Gimli and tilted his head curiously before continuing with Tauriel. Gimli leaned over to Bilbo. “No one ever said he was so… sturdy.”

Bilbo saw Legolas flinch. And Bilbo laughed. “Elves hear very well, lad. Best remember that.”
Gimli turned red as tomatoes before turning back to his meal and not looking back up.

Bilbo looked back to Legolas but the prince only spared them one more glance before focusing once again on his conversation completely.

Dwarves and elves were so bizarre. Thranduil turned to Bilbo. “Master Baggins, I have not ventured West in some time. I am sure much has changed. Did you know halflings once lived between my woods and the Misty Mountains?”

Bilbo’s ears perked. “Really?”

He nodded. “Yes, they populated the Anduin Valley when I first came to rule my lands… that was nearly an age ago now. There used to be a few different kinds of halflings mind you. You are more Fallohide then Harfoot or Stoor from what I can tell. Makes a great deal of sense that you wandered so far from home.”

Bilbo frowned. “I’m a what?” He hadn’t known their had been different races of hobbit. Just… different families.

“Fallohide. They were a less common brand of halfling a few thousand years ago. A great deal bolder too. It was under their leadership your people headed over the mountains in the first place.”

Bolder.

Leaders.

Oh...

“Ah yes, I suppose that would be the Tooks.”

Thranduil contemplated that. “Is that what you call them now?”

Bilbo laughed. “No it’s a family name. But I imagine I’d be descended from the Fallohide’s through my mother’s side. Over the years we’ve become mostly one race. Though the Took family has always been known for being odd.”

Thranduil laughed. “Well, you are odd to me. I wonder if you were related to Theodelinda. She was also fiercely clever. I admit I have missed halflings. I nearly didn’t recognize you as one when you came to me.”

They chatted a bit more about social dynamics between the hobbit families. After emphasizing that he was a hobbit a few more times than Bilbo would have cared to, Thranduil finally seemed to catch on and stopped calling them halflings. Bilbo could almost forget his heartache for a night. But every once in a while he would turn to find Thorin looking away from him and he’d remember. Or Bellora would simply speak and it was like someone pricking him with a needle.

So really he couldn’t forget at all. But he was trying.

As dinner wrapped up Thranduil asked. “Hobbits use to be master storytellers and composers. You wouldn’t happen to have a poem or song to share?”

“I…” Bilbo grimaced. “I fear the only thing I’ve composed would be a travel tune? and a song that is… quite somber. I have… I have a poem though, I started on our walk here... About the reclaiming of the mountain. I feel it yet unfinished.”

But it was clear he had the elf king’s full attention.

Bilbo sat straighter. “Very well.” He cleared his throat and began.

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Rebuilt the home that was taken,
The crownless again shall be king.

The elf king clapped. “That is very good! Very good indeed. You wrote that on the journey here?”

Bilbo smiled. “I did.” He did not mention it was in the weeks he spent skulking around the King’s palace.

“Magnificent.”

Bilbo jumped, turning to Thorin. The king looked as if he didn’t know he’d said that aloud. Bilbo blushed furiously. “Thank you. Let’s hope that my book of our quest is as good, hm?”

Thranduil perked up. “A book?”

“Yes. I hope to chronicle the whole journey. It is proving no small task.” Especially with his work with the rebuild, but he didn’t mention that bit either.

“You know, Master Baggins--”

“Please, your Majesty. Just Bilbo.”

Thrnaduil paused, surprised, but then smiled. “Bilbo. You are a remarkable diplomat. You know just how much to say and when to say it.”

Bilbo blinked a few times, not knowing what to say. “Thank you.”

He leaned forward on his elbow. “I wonder how you’ll portray me. I hope you won’t let my imprisonment of your friends color your depiction of me.”

Bilbo nearly laughed. “I will try to be kind, your Majesty. As kind as I am to everyone.”

Thranduil gave Thorin a pointed look that Bilbo didn’t understand. As dinner came to a close, the dwarves stayed and were talking in groups of three or more save for Nori and Dwalin who left together. Gimli was with his young cousins, Kili and Fili, who were clearly conspiring. The elven king pulled Tauriel to the side, where they spoke in hushed whispers, leaving Legolas standing awkwardly by the door, looking ready to run. Bilbo approached the young elf out of mercy. “Your Highness.”

“Please… just Legolas.”

“Legolas then… how are you enjoying the mountain?”

Legolas looked around the room, measuring his words. “It is… not what I expected.”

Bilbo laughed. “Many elves say that.”

The prince smiled down at him. “I didn’t come to Erebor much before Smaug. That probably won’t change.” Legolas kept looking at a spot behind Bilbo. “Why does the young dwarf keep looking this way?”

Bilbo’s eyebrows shot up as he looked behind him. Gimli was just looking away from them as he turned. “I can’t even begin to guess the inner workings of young dwarves. I believe he’s just about an adult in their culture though. A teen is what we call them but just barely.”

“Ah…”

Bilbo looked up at Legolas with a grin. “You seem distracted by him.”

Legolas frowned deeply. “Am not.”

“Are so. He’s Thorin’s cousin, if I’m to understand it. A branch of Durin’s line.”

That had the prince smirking. “He should learn a bit of diplomacy.” Then he was frowning as the young dwarf came over to them. He stopped by them chest puffed out and back straight.

“I’m Gimli, son of Gloin. I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced.”

Legolas smiled. “Legolas Greenleaf.”

“I have arrived in Erebor not long ago and was not born before Smaug took the mountain. I aim to tour the mountain with my cousin Kili and Tauriel once we conclude here. Should you wish to join us, you are welcome.”

Legolas looked taken aback. “Oh… yes, I suppose.”

Gimli nodded. “Right then, I’ll... let them know.” The young dwarf turned and walked back to his cousin.

Legolas’ eyes followed him back across the room.

“I believe you spoke too soon.”

The prince finally looked back down at Bilbo. “I can’t begin to explain why I said yes. I’m beginning to wonder if this time in these stone halls is getting to me as it has Tauriel.”

Bilbo laughed. “All I can advise is that you put aside what you think you know about dwarves as a whole and give them a chance. They will undoubtedly surprise you.”

Legolas scowled. “I highly doubt--” but he stopped, ears perking. He stared at a point above Bilbo’s head, turning a slight shade of pink. “Mithril hair?”

Bilbo shook his head and left the poor elf to his embarrassment. He said his goodnights to the others, even Thorin, who he rushed through the formal goodbye with. As Bilbo walked the trek back to his room, he wondered at how far they had come from his hobbit hole. He thought on his books and his chair and how much pain he could have saved himself had he stayed.

Sometimes the thought of Thorin marrying Bellora threatened to swallow him whole. But had anyone told him this is the price he’d pay, he’d have done it all again. Bilbo reached the Mountain’s heart and looked up at the towering city above, alive and lit and thriving. And the memory of Thorin’s face as he looked upon it for the first time.

With all the hurt and the mess inside his heart came a stab of recognition.

It had all been worth it.

Chapter Text

Despite Bilbo’s heartwarming revelations about the worth of his torment, he didn’t sleep at all. His brain kept going over the things that needed to be done and he ended up working until suddenly the sun was up. He had a room with an actual window, so he should’ve noticed the transition from night to day, but it escaped him. So, anxious and weary, he gathered up the parchments of orders and missives and headed out for his morning appointments.

He kept telling himself that this was all for the best. And it was. Really. There was no way he and Thorin would’ve ever worked out. A hobbit, Consort to the King Under the Mountain?

It was unheard of.

A beautiful dwarrowdam though? That was the stability a kingdom like Erebor needed. She of a line nearly as old as Thorin’s. In a little more than a day they would be married and all would be as it should.

What had he been thinking, loving a king? Damn Took blood in his veins giving him ridiculous notions.

But it was the Baggins side that lamented even more. The mountain had become home and to have this looming emptiness in his heart made him feel ancient.

Nothing fueled productivity more than avoiding what was in one’s heart though. By midday he was done with the bulk of the preparations and was frantically inventing new tasks to occupy his thoughts. That was, of course, when he turned a corner in the market and ran straight into a tall grey clad wizard.

“Gandalf?”

The wizard smiled down at the hobbit. “Bilbo Baggins, it is good to see you. I wish it were under better circumstances.”

Bilbo frowned. “Better? What is better than a wedding?”

Gandalf didn’t say but the long stretch of silence spoke volumes. After the moment, he shook his head. “Anyway, I’ve come to officiate the ceremony, of course. Despite my personal objections to it. I have come to see how you are doing.”

Bilbo started to say a lie but it died in his throat. He tried again but nothing came out. The third time was the charm. “I have been better.”

“You’re fools. The lot of you. Thorin’s answer was better.” Gandalf huffed.

Bilbo perked at that. “Thorin?”

 “Oh yes, he was just as miserable. The air is thick with it around here.”

Shaking his head Bilbo continued walking towards the metal worker. “Have you any useful advice, wizard? Or have you only come rub my nose in my misfortune?” 

“I bring tidings from your home. I was passing through the Shire not long ago. You’re cousin is doing well, and somehow managed to get back all your silver from your other cousin.” 

Bilbo smacked his forehead. “That no good Lobelia.” 

“It’s fine. I’ve brought a few lighter things for you.” Gandalf pulled a small parcel from his robe. “A couple handkerchiefs, a few odds and ends your cousin wished you to have. He’s a good hobbit.” 

Bilbo looked down at the plain parcel and sighed. “Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome… I’m sorry I have been amiss since the reclaiming of the mountain, but there are things that I needed to see too. I only heard of the wedding a few days ago, and I happened to be headed in the right direction to make it on time.”  He squeezed Bilbo’s shoulder and Bilbo covered the hand there with his own. “My friend, I had hoped the worst of the danger was behind you but this was… not something I’d thought to safeguard you against.” He grinned. “Not that I didn’t see it from the start. But I didn’t think Thorin could pull his head out from his nethers for a minute to see sense.”

Bilbo frowned. “From the start?”

Gandalf laughed. “I’ve known more dwarves than you. They are prone to love at first sight. Thorin was no exception.”

Bilbo turned beet red. He had tried not to think about that night, seeing Thorin outside his door for the first time. How Bilbo’s heart sped at the sight of him. 

Had he really been lost from the start? That feeling that night. With the song. Hearing Thorin sing it alone in the room beside his. The way it made him feel too much like a Took.

This had been inevitable and it was sadder with that knowledge now.

“Well there is nothing for it. Bloody waste.” Bilbo began to walk toward the metal worker he needed to speak too. “Don’t forget to say hello to Thranduil. He’ll be cross if you show up and snub him until the wedding.”

“And I would hate to disappoint the Woodland King. If you are up for it, I hear the Company is getting together tonight for a stag party. You should go.” Gandalf smiled, a glint in his eye.

Bilbo scoffed. There was no way he’d be attending that. “I have too much work to do.”

Gandalf frown. “Are you chief planner of this event as well? What is Lady Dis even doing in this mountain?”

“I’m sure it’s vital to the well being of the royal family. You know how she hates the logistical work.”

The wizard sighed. “Good luck, my boy.” 

“Thank you. I will probably need it.” But the wizard had once again disappeared into the crowd.



Bilbo wasn’t sure the hour, but it was late--very late. Sleep eluded him once more, and he used the time to work on his manuscript. It was awful but it was something on paper, and that alone was more than he’d had. His thoughts kept straying to the next afternoon, when Thorin would be standing in the Hall of Kings awaiting Bellora to come down the aisle.

He rubbed his eyes and tried to will them to stop aching.

Perhaps it was time for a break.

As he stood from his desk, he paused. A distant yell had him going silent and listening.

“... you just leave me be!”

Bilbo frowned. Was that Thorin?

A loud pounding on his door made him jump. “Bilbo! Bilbooooo! Are you there?”  That was definitely Thorin. What could he possibly want? Bilbo went to the door but stopped short as a second dwarf’s voice joined in. 

“Leave’em beeeee, Thorin.” Bilbo was pretty sure that was Dwalin. A very drunk Dwalin. “Have you two not been through enough? Do you need to shout his name aaaaaaaall over the city?”

“He needs to hear this Dwalin. If I could just talk to him, face to face. Bilbo! He’ll see. He is-- just... “

There was a loud thump on the floor outside.

After a moment Thorin continued. “Bilbo? Please, open up. I need to-” There was an audible burp. “-tell you something. It’s important. So important.” It seemed Thorin was also drunk. 

“Calm yerself, ya majestic jambag.” 

Bilbo stood frozen on the other side of the door, torn between fleeing and throwing it open.

Itkit , Dwalin. Bilbo! I ache to see you. They said- They said the drink would ease it, but it’s only made me-- made me want to see. Bilbooo. Please. I can’t…” 

Tears welled up in Bilbo’s eyes without his consent..

“I need you to hear it. Perhaps then you will end my torment." 

Bilbo held his breath, backing away and hoping the king would leave of his own accord.

He didn’t. 

“I love you.”

The hobbit would have slumped to his knees if he weren’t frozen in place. If he moved it would break the spell. He’d awaken at his desk with the weddings seating chart stuck to his face and Thorin would be gone.

“I love you more than anything. Anything. Above gold and- and air to breathe and... this whole bloody mountain!”

There was a loud snort but Thorin kept going. The door groaned a bit as if someone leaned against it.

“I have never loved something… as fiercely or -- or completely as you. You’re stubborn and honest and kind… and beautiful. A word from you and I will tell them all to sod off. Honor be damned!.. From the moment I first laid eyes on you, you’ve made my heart race and it’s only gotten worse. All I could think of was how to keep you safe. But I need not do that, huh? For you were always too clever- so clever, and too quick for your foes. You defended me and saved me, and all I’ve brought you is pain.” In that moment, Thorin was the one who sounded in pain. “I would change that if I could.”

Bilbo wasn’t sure he could breathe.

“And right now the only thing stopping me is this bloody door, so please… put me out of my misery. Bilbo!...” There was a long pause and the door groaned again. “Nothing.”

“Have you even tried the knob, ya idiot?”

Bilbo felt a sudden spike of panic. It wasn’t locked. Fumbling frantically, Bilbo slipped his hand in his pocket, slipped his ring onto his finger, and disappeared just before the door swung slowly open. He backed up into a corner, clinging to the wall just as Thorin stumbled in, looking around. “He’s not here,” Thorin whispered.

He looked weary. Bilbo’s hands itched to reach out to him.

Dwalin stumbled in behind him. “At this hour? Where has he buggered off to?”

Bilbo covered his mouth as Thorin looked around desperately, grabbing Bilbo’s sheets and his furniture, anything anyone could hide behind. “No… No no no no… Bilbo! Please! Bilbo!” Dwalin grabbed Thorin and began to pull him away, and Bilbo watched, helplessly rooted to the spot as he was.

“He’s gone, Dwalin… Gone. It’s all my fault.”

“I’m sure he’s just… out for some air.”

“No, I know he’s left. I’d have left me too. No…” Bilbo watched as the fight fled from Thorin’s movement and he allowed himself to be pulled away. “We will not be seeing my hobbit again.” 

As Bilbo went to pull off the ring and comfort Thorin, a voice neither Took or Baggins slithered forth from the back of his mind and whispered temptingly, If you appear now, he’ll give you the mountain... wealth... power… you’ll have him with a word. He is yours to take.

 No. Bilbo stopped with his hand on the ring as Thorin and Dwalin backed out of the room. No, he is not. Once the door was shut again, he set about packing. Thorin would be right by the morning.  Bilbo had to leave. He had to run as far away from this place as fast as he could. He didn’t have much to pack. The parcel with his things from Bag End, a chest he kept his share of the treasure in and a few other odds and ends he’d acquired along the way.

 

Yes, it was time to leave before he ruined everything.

Chapter Text

Bilbo reached Dale by dawn. He tried to mentally plan what he’d need to do for the journey back to the Shire, but Thorin plagued his thoughts. Not much had prepared Bilbo for such a… long and thorough confession of Thorin’s affections. There was no denying it anymore. Leaving the ring on he crept out of the sleeping mountain unnoticed.

He wasn’t sure what had happened in his room, what dark and jealous thing lived deep in his heart. But he had bested it.

Now he made his way through the once ruined city with practiced ease. If anyone knew of caravans leaving the city, it would be the Lord of Dale. Bard’s house sat atop the hill. It was adjacent to the old Lord’s manor. This one was less extravagant and more practical, much like the man himself. Bilbo took off the ring and knocked politely. Bard opened the door and looked out for a moment, confused, before looking down. He was dressed more finely than Bilbo had ever seen, in a bright red tunic with fine embroidery “Master Baggins? Shouldn’t you be in the Mountain? The wedding is only a few hours away.”

“I won’t be going. Urgent business. I suppose you wouldn’t know of any caravan’s scheduled to leave west soon?”

“Ah…” Bard studied him for a moment and Bilbo attempted to look neutral. “I hate to say that all the caravans headed out of town won’t be going for a few days, the wedding has been declared a holiday for the common folk. Anyone headed that way has stopped to partake in the festivities.”

“Ah, well good. Yes that’s… I suppose you wouldn’t know where I might stay til they leave?”

Bard crossed his arms and squinted at him. “Well, my house, of course. You are a respected member of our growing community after all.” The man raised an eyebrow and Bilbo gulped. “But I would know why you’re on the run like you’ve stolen the Arkenstone a second time.”

Bilbo looked around anxiously and Bard moved so that Bilbo could come in. Once the door was shut, Bilbo turned to him. “I must head home. There is… I can’t stay here. It’s all very complicated and maddening and I would ask not to have to repeat it all to you for fear I might lose my mind.”

Bard’s face fell and he came forward, kneeling in front of him. “Bilbo?”

Bilbo put his hand to his face and it came back wet. “Oh, Mahal’s ass. Not again.”

Bard smiled a little at that but gripped his shoulders. “Is this a common thing among hobbits? Bursting into tears without realizing it?”

“I’m… Bard, I’m in love with Thorin Oakenshield.” There it was. He’d said it. It was out in the world and now he couldn’t take it back.

Bard frowned deeply. “I ...kind of knew that...”

Bilbo glared. “And what is that suppose to mean?”

“Well… You did make a grand speech about Thorin and his... redeeming attributes. I’ve seen the look in your eyes from that night enough times to know what it meant.”

Bilbo let his pack fall to the ground with a thump. “Does EVERYONE know?! Am I the only one who's been sitting in the dark?”

“I imagine Bain doesn’t know. Perhaps Tilda.”

Bilbo scrubbed at his tears and stood straight. “Well there is nothing for it. I must return to the Shire, for his sake as much as mine.”

“So you wait until the day of the wedding? You’ve known this was happening for weeks, Bilbo.”

“I was ignoring it. It was easy to ignore when Thorin was preoccupied and so was I. Before this we had to seek out each other’s company. Make time. And last night he sought me out… not at his best. And he said a lot of things and its… it’s too much Bard. He offered to call it all off if I asked! He was out of his mind.”

Bard nodded. “And what did you say to all that then?”

Bilbo lowered his head. “Nothing. I pretended I had already left. He doesn’t expect me to return.” He ran his fingers through his hair, taking in a shaky breath. “I’m just trying to do the right thing, Bard.”

“I know, lad.” Bard shrugged. “My home is yours til you find passage west. But know that the Mountain will be lesser for your absence and I would ask you to reconsider.”

“I doubt that. All I do here is distract the King from his duties.”

“What about one's duty to their heart?”

Bilbo didn’t know how to answer that. All he knew was his heart was still breaking. Shards of it stabbed at his lungs and made it hard to breathe. Long ago in his hobbit hole, he had dreamed of love like in his books. Just as adventure out in the world was not always grand and bright, so was love. That simple dream of love seemed so far away. So different from the reality that haunted him. Bard picked up Bilbo’s pack and walked him back to his guest quarters.

“I must depart for the Mountain… I hope you find some quiet here at least. I’ll let the guard know you are free to come and go. Maybe walk the city. I find it clears my head.” Bard gave his shoulder one last squeeze before he left Bilbo to his thoughts.


Bilbo did end up slipping out and into the city proper. The rebuild here was going as well, if not better, as Erebor. No ceilings to work with, and they could just demolish what they needed without fear of collapsing half a mountain on top of them. The streets were full of folks of all sorts; men, dwarves, and elves. Traffic flowed through the city at a leisurely pace. These people would not be attending the wedding. It was mostly nobility and the wealthy who were invited. Though many men of Dale had made names for themselves by filling voids in the infrastructure of the city. It was mostly Bard’s doing, but Bilbo might have praised the move more than once.

He wondered aimless, wishing not to think. He’d hoped to run but now it seemed as if he’d be stuck here a while. The market held little in the way of distraction, What had he need for if he’d be on the road? The less he had the better. He ended up going down side streets and exploring the section that had yet to be rebuilt. The ruins appeared ancient to him, but he knew many of his dwarven comrades had seen them when they were whole.

Bilbo couldn’t stop himself from wondering if Thorin had visited these places in his youth. If he had a preferred place in like the Green Dragon or a favorite spot to sit and smoke as the sunset.

He was inspecting what appeared to have been a weaver’s shop when he heard a ruckus a few streets over. This side of town was quieter and emptier than anywhere, so the distinct sounds of combat were clear. Bilbo slipped on his ring and moved towards it, unsure what he’d do once he got there.

He rounded the corner of an alley to find a group of four dwarves surrounding one dwarf dressed all in black leathers with a feather hood.

A Jackdaw.

And he was in trouble. Bilbo grabbed a rock and chucked it at one of their heads, which seemed to be the distraction the spy had been hoping for. With a flurry, three of them where one the ground. The other two, however, were quicker, slashing at the Jackdaw with knives of their own. Bilbo caught a glimpse of purple lining in the Jackdaw’s hood. Only one spy had that particular detail.

Nori.

Without thinking, Bilbo rushed one of the attacking dwarves, but not quickly enough that he didn’t land a lucky blow to Nori’s shoulder. Bilbo slipped off the ring and grabbed one of the fallen dwarf’s knives. He wildly stabbed it at the last dwarf’s abdomen and winced when he made contact. He knew from his previous experience in stabbing things that he’d hit something vital. The ones Nori had stabbed didn’t seem to be breathing and after a second or so, neither was Bilbo’s.

Nori left the knife in his shoulder, stepping over the fallen dwarves as he came over to Bilbo. “What in blazes are you doing out here? You’re supposed to be at the Mountain.”

“I could say the same for you!”

Nori winced as he looked over his wound. “I just got the last bit of intel on what the blasted rebel rousers are planning. It’s worse than me or Dis thought possible.”

Bilbo didn’t like the sound of that. “What?”

“No time to explain. I have to get back to the Mountain and warn Thorin!” Nori turned and winced as the knife in his shoulder jostled something.

“You’re going straight to a healer! You’ve been stabbed!”

“It didn’t hit anything important.”

“It hit YOU.”

Nori blinked absently at him before he laughed. “Aye, you sound just like Dwalin.”

“Tell me what’s going on.”

Nori cringed, continuing towards the road. “You’ll not like it. And I don’t need you doing anything rash.”

He gapped at the dwarf. “Me? What about you?” he grabbed the arm of the shoulder Nori’d been stabbed in, making the dwarf wince once more.

After a moment Nori sighed and leaned against the closest building. “Nar’s men aren’t just talking anymore. They plan to act.” He looked off toward the mountain. “Today.”

Fear began to creep up Bilbo’s back as it dawned on him what Nori meant. “The wedding.”

“Yes, with all the relations we’ve been having with non-dwarves, they grow more radical by the day. We kept it from Thorin to not cause too much of a stir. We’ve been trying to stamp them out in the shadows, but it’s been making things worse and now they plan to--” Nori stopped, for a moment unable to speak the horrible truth.

Bilbo lost his patience. “Spit it out, Nori!”

“Bilbo, they-- they plan to kill Thorin.”

Bilbo’s blood ran cold as Nori continued. “The wedding is the best way to do it. Relatively public, easy line of sight from all sides. He won’t be wearing armor. Only the guards will be armed. Its--” Bilbo was already grabbing one of the dwarves daggers and running toward the Mountain. “Bilbo!”

Bilbo raced as quickly as his feet would carry him, making his initial journey to the town look like a leisurely stroll. His feet raced the earth beneath him. 

Valar, grant me speed that I’m not too late. 

Chapter Text

Bells rang as Bilbo approached the Mountain, announcing the beginning of the ceremony. The only thing on Bilbo’s side was that he had hitched a ride with a wagon running late for delivering flowers for the reception. He could only hope he’d arrive on time to warn someone, as it was unlikely that he’d be able to stop this on his own. Heading in the direction of the Gallery of Kings, he went as fast as little hobbit legs could go. The halls were surprisingly empty - that is until Bilbo remembered it was decreed a holiday for the common folk. Most people he did pass were no one he recognized as a guard or soldier.

He had made it to the doors of the Gallery when finally there was someone who could help--Dwalin, stationed outside and looking sour. “Thank the Valar I’ve found you.”

Dwalin sputtered a bit. “B-Bilbo? What in blazes are you doing here?”

Bilbo waved that off. “Message from Nori. Thorin’s in danger. Nar and his lot aim to… aim to kill Thorin.”

Dwalin looked around. “Why ain’t Nori here?’

“He’s fine, just injured.”

“Nar.” Dwalin growled and spit on the ground nearby. A dark look crossed the dwarf’s face. “I’ve wanted to put an axe in that old sod of a dwarf a long time. This will have to be stealthy. Thorin’s up there, an’ without much armor that isn’t completely ceremonial.” Dwalin ducked into the hall, taking a look around. Bilbo hung back, scared to lose his nerve if he so much as glanced in.

It didn’t take Dwalin long to come back out. “Two of the dwarves Nar came in with are here in the back, I remember their attire; one is making his way closer to the altar along the right wall. I count another one a bit closer, on the left, sitting two rows behind Dis. I’m not sure she knows he’s there. I can deal with the one here in the back if you wanna go for the one on the right. Then make for Lady Dis, if you’ve got time. Stick to the shadows. We don’t want to cause a panic.”

Bilbo nodded, as if that wasn’t a tall and terrifying order. He’d do it, seeing as Thorin’s life was on the line. “After you.” He waited until Dwalin was out of sight to slip on the ring and stealth in unseen.

The hall was as large as he remembered, more cavern than room, but now instead of the golden floor, it only had glimmers of gold in the cracks, smoothing out the surface. It had been determined that gold be left in the seams, as a reminder of what transpired and because there was something poetic about these beautiful imperfections… or at least that’s what Bilbo had told the contractors when they asked if they should remove it.

It was easy enough to move unnoticed since seven giant pillars lined each of the walls, so no one was sat anywhere near where he was--that and Bilbo was invisible. There must have been two hundred dwarves, men, and elves amassed within, all facing where that giant gold dwarf statue once stood. Now there was only a small raised platform, big enough for only Gandalf, Bellora, and Thorin to stand upon and only a step or so above the floor.

Bilbo did his best not to look that way, knowing that the sight of Thorin would shake his nerve.

Once behind the first pillar, he came upon an unconscious guard. He’d have to remember to send Óin to him. The dwarf looked to be still breathing, and Bilbo felt bad he didn’t have time to check more thoroughly.

It was nearly impossible to see the ceremony from his angle, but Bilbo heard Gandalf talking in Dwarvish, it echoing eerily through the hall. Bilbo could see the rows and rows of the guests as he made his way from pillar to pillar. Their faces were largely unfamiliar, but there was the occasional member of the council or someone he’d had a meeting with.

Nar’s henchman was making much slower progress than Bilbo since he had to worry about being seen and there was a decent gap between the pillars. He had a small crossbow that looked as if it folded outward, and Bilbo imagined he’d hidden it easily enough from the guards. Bilbo risked a dash forward when the assassin made it to the last pillar so he could catch up to him.

He got right up behind the would-be attacker as he peered around the pillar at the altar and used the hilt of his knife to smash right to the back of the dwarf’s head.

The dwarf crumpled to the ground like a sack of bricks. Dwalin’s three sessions of training Bilbo (before he gave up) had actually paid off. Bilbo pulled the downed dwarf out of sight behind the pillar as best he could. Now he’d have to move across the room to get to Dis. Glancing back toward the entrance, Bilbo watched Dwalin pulling his designated attacker to thwart through the door. Good. With a deep breath, Bilbo made his way across the hall, trying to look anywhere but at Thorin.

But of course, he did and was paused by the sight. Thorin wore his signature blue, and an outfit similar to the one he’d worn when he’d first stepped into Bilbo’s hobbit hole; it was trimmed with black fur then, all blue with silver accents. Bilbo remembered Thorin pulling a similar outfit out of the closet in his old chambers. It had been half eaten by moths and Thorin had lamented its passing. I wore a very similar outfit the day the dragon came.

Bilbo shook his head, remembering his task as he made to creep past the altar. But that’s when Bilbo saw Nar’s last dwarf pull up a crossbow and aim for the king.

Bilbo didn’t think twice. He pulled the ring off and made a dash.

There was a soft twang under Gandalf’s booming voice and then a thunk sound as Bilbo took a crossbow bolt to his torso. Bilbo gasped. “Oh bother,” he tried to say, but it came out more of a wheeze as he collapsed to the ground. He could see Dis had pulled out a dagger and stabbed the shooter, but then she was hidden by the crowd as it began to look around widely, searching for the source of the arrow.

Time seemed to slow for a moment as air refused to come into his lungs. It sure felt like dying. Thorin scrambled into his line of sight, blocking his view of the crowd and whispering his name desperately. Thorin looked down at where the bolt had struck Bilbo and pulled back the fabric of Bilbo’s tunic.

Relief flashed across the dwarf king’s face before being taken over by untempered rage.

Bilbo, a bit of air making it successfully into his aching lungs, finally managed speech. “Councilmen Nar.” If Thorin weren’t so close he wouldn’t have been able to hear it.

Thorin screamed something in Dwarvish, and it echoed around the cavernous space like thunder. The king stood and turned to where Nar sat.

Everyone froze mid finger pointing, it seemed, at least from the way Gimli was between his father and Legolas. Gloin had a chunk of the prince’s hair in his fist, and Legolas looked keen on murder. Kili was between another member of the council and Tauriel, and she looked at her prince with fondness, unbothered. Thranduil actually looked amused at the whole spectacle as several dwarves had clearly surrounded him but had not the courage to attack. He imagined the rest of the hall looked about the same but couldn’t see much beyond them. In the silence, Nar made a break for the door and everyone turned his way.

Dwalin was ready for him though and tackled the old man to the ground as the guardsmen burst in through the main doors. “It’s over, you worm,” Dwalin growled.

Nar tried to break free but there was no shaking Dwalin. When that didn’t work, he cried out. “He goes against all our traditions! He shares our secrets with interlopers! He--” Dwalin punched him. Nar spit out blood. “You’ll never be the king your grandfather was.”

Thorin stood up straight in front of the crowd. “What he says… isn’t all untrue.” The hall looked back his way, listening. “It’s tradition to be untrusting, and to hoard that which is ours. It is tradition to covet gold and breed mistrust with our neighbors. It was those things that lost us this mountain, not the great drake.”

Bilbo could see Gloin slowly disengage his hand from Legolas’ hair and try and smooth it. The prince only continued to glare.

“What Thranduil wanted from the mountain was his, and he has asked for no more since. What Bard asked of the mountain was only the means to rebuild, and we all know much of the hoard had been looted from Dale. It was blood-gold, and I’m happy to be rid of it.” Thorin sighed. “Perhaps, to many of you, this is wrong, and that is fair. I am not my grandfather. I will not have my people live in needless fear of those we should call friends. That is not the legacy I want to leave. We are stronger together.”

The dwarves cheered and a few of the elves clapped.

Thorin turned back to Bilbo, ignoring the hum of his guests, and knelt down beside him as Dwalin began to restrain the traitor and apologies were made. “I see my gift served us both well today.”

Bilbo pulled up his shirt to look down at the mithril chain link beneath. The bolt, once caught in the shirt, fell lose. “Had the wind knocked out of me and I’ll probably have a nasty bruise, but yes. I’d say that went quite well for thinking on my feet.”

Thorin picked the bolt up and examined it. “Poison… Clever.”

Bilbo watched the king’s calm exterior melt into unbridled relief. With a sigh, Thorin pressed his forehead to Bilbo’s and breathed in, like no one else existed and his world was narrowed down to just the two of them. Bilbo closed his eyes too, hoping to drown out the stares.

“You came back,” Thorin whispered.

“I didn’t make it far.”

“Why did you come back?” The king sounded fragile, like he might break at a word, a touch.

Bilbo let out a short laugh, pulling back. “You want to hear it here? In front of the whole of Erebor?”

Thorin smiled softly. “I may never get the chance to ask again. I would hear it now. Besides…” He hitched his thumb at the crowd. “This isn’t even a third of Erebor.”

Bilbo gestured at where the Company stood, most of whom were pretending not to watch them. “Yes but the whole mountain will have heard by sundown if Bofur has anything to say about it.” When it was clear Thorin wouldn’t give in, the hobbit drew in a shaky breath. Thorin seemed to brace himself for what Bilbo was to say, when someone from the dais cleared their throat, causing everyone to look toward the altar.

Thorin sighed heavily, before finally reluctantly turning back to the front of the hall. Gandalf and Bellora were watching them. It was clear Gandalf had been the one to draw their attention by the awkward head nod he made to the bride, who was looking between the king and the hobbit desperately. She looked young and tired. After a moment, she turned away and low murmurs started up in the crowd.

“Bellora--”

“Enough.”

The murmurs grew quieter, as the awkward tension filled the air.

Bellora stood straighter, her voice ringing out for all to hear as she turned back to the king. This time, she was calm and ready. “Thorin Oakenshield, son of Thrain, son of Thror, King Under the Mountain, I release you from our engagement. You are free—” She faltered on the words, but after a deep breath, the rest came out steady and determined. “- free to marry whomever you wish.”

She turned to leave when her father came out of the crowd. “Bellora! You--”

The dwarrowdam’s head snapped in his direction, her eyes hard as mithril. “Our alliance should be strong enough not to need such a silly thing as marriage to keep it together. I will not play second fiddle in my own marriage.” With that, she held her head high and left. Her father rushed after her.

Where Bilbo thought he’d see anger, there was only concern and confusion. Bilbo had the feeling that neither dwarf would be returning anytime soon. He looked for a reaction from the Company, and they all looked a little too pleased with themselves, save for Fili whose face Bilbo could not read.

Gandalf still stood at the altar, feigning being perplexed. “It seems to me that the wedding is ...cancelled.”

Thorin’s words were nearly a sigh as he said, “It would seem so.” He looked relieved. In fact, he looked the happiest he had in a long time.

Dis stepped forward, over the would-be assassin, smiling and wiping her dagger on her dress. “It has been an eventful day, and there is a great party already laid out and waiting. It would be a shame for it to go to waste.”

Dwalin cheered from where he had Councilman Nar gagged and pinned to the ground. “Aye!”

Dis cleared her throat. “Then I declare we celebrate the foiled coup with what was to be the wedding reception!”

The crowd cheered around Bilbo, and they began to make their way from the hall. Bard made his way up to Gandalf, by the altar, to mutter to him quietly. Even as the crowd moved away and out of the hall, they gave the hobbit and king a wide berth. Thorin was looking up at the altar. Bilbo was looking at him.

The Company began to leave, but Bilbo stalled them with a quick motion.. He gestured over towards the pillar where he’d found the downed guard. “Excuse me, fellas?” They stopped and all made to look at the hobbit. “There’s a guard over there that could use Oin’s attention and a…” he pointed at the closest pillar. “And another of Nar’s men behind there… who should probably be handed off to Dwalin as well.” Bilbo had almost forgotten to mention it. A lot had happened in the last few minutes.

Bofur gave him a thumbs up. “Leave it to us!” Him and his brother made their way towards where he’d pointed out the assassin and Gloin yelled in Oin’s ear about the guard.

Bard and Gandalf passed by on either side of Bilbo, patting his shoulders. The Company shuffled their way out with, or without, their charges. Eventually, the hall was clear of everyone but Bilbo and the king.

Chapter Text

When Thorin turned to Bilbo, he looked exhausted, but he still offered a hand and helped the hobbit to his feet.

Bilbo laughed a little. “It’s been quite a night, hasn’t it?”

“Yes, quite a night indeed.” Thorin looked around at the empty hall, a soft smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “A botched wedding and assassination, all in one day. If I’d known it would cause this much trouble, I might have just left this mountain to the dragon.” The dwarf’s gaze finally landed on Bilbo, and it turned serious. “You’ve saved me again, my burglar.” Oh, did that ‘my’ do silly things to Bilbo’s insides. ”I do not have anything to give you for your courage. With the Arkenstone deep beneath the mountain and you already possessing the mithril armor, I fear I am all out of grand treasures. But if there is a thing which you desire…?”

Bilbo laughed, folding his arms. “That is the worst line I have ever heard. Do you hear yourself, King Under the Mountain?”

Thorin grinned, undeterred. “Chests full of gold? Jewels? A title? Do you like King’s Champion? I might as well make it official.”

Bilbo shrugged. “You know hobbits don’t require those things.”

A serious look passed over the king’s features and he stepped forward, crowding Bilbo’s space. “Books? The whole library could be yours with a word. Or a garden? There are some balconies within the mountain.”

“Ori would die, and at this altitude so would a garden.” Bilbo challenged. The hobbit stood straighter, feeling Tookish. “You forgot there is another thing hobbit’s covet, above even books and gardens.”

“And what is that? I would offer my heart but you stole that long ago.” Bilbo’s ears went red, and he thumped Thorin’s shoulder.

Bilbo took Thorin’s hand, looking anywhere but the dwarf’s face. The hobbit’s whole face heated up, and he knew he was bright red. “Home. It’s not just armchairs and books and my fine silver. It’s my past, and present, and hopefully future. It’s why I remained when all seemed so dreadful. It’s why I came back. This is my home, and I’d very much like to make a home with you here.”

Thorin didn’t say anything, simply squeezing Bilbo’s hand that was in his.

Bilbo faltered. “I--I mean, I know you just got out of an engagement and all, so it is probably the least proper thing to start another, but perhaps a courtship? A nice long courtship would do fine, and if you wish to then--” Thorin closed the distance between them and kissed the hobbit silent. It was a soft, quick kiss and Bilbo might have missed it if it hadn’t stopped the world from spinning.

“Consider it done. Your home is mine, and one day you will sit beside me as Consort… and, more importantly, my husband.” Thorin brushed Bilbo’s cheek lightly with his knuckles. The king looked so desperately happy, Bilbo thought he could face ten dragons if Thorin would just keep looking at him like that. “Tell me, how did you like a spring royal wedding?”

Bilbo wrinkled his nose. “Bloody awful.”

“Duly noted.” He took Bilbo’s face in his hands and kissed him soundly.

Bilbo could get used to that. They took a moment or two to simply bask in their relief, but eventually they broke apart. Thorin led him out of the Gallery of King’s towards the festivities.

“Should we… I don’t know, tell everyone?”

Thorin laughed. “Believe me, after what happened here, they already know.”

Bilbo huffed. “There are still protocols to this sort of thing are there not?”

“Dwarf gestures of intent are simple in nature… Courtship for a king begins with the giving of a gift of considerable value --which you have.”

Bilbo gave him a hard glare but Thorin kept his eyes ahead.

“They also involve being relocated to the family halls after a time. I believe that’s where your room resides.”

“You’re making that up.”

Thorin went on as if he had not been interrupted. “Acclimating the intended to the duties which they will be expected to perform, spending time with them outside of those duties such as meals and walks and dancing. If, after all that, the match seems like a good fit, the intended takes the seat of the Consort, then there’s the wedding.” Thorin grinned impossibly wider.

“You’re saying… this whole time? You have been courting me in the dwarvish way?”

Thorin laughed. “It was obvious. At least to the dwarves. You do realize I gave you the most valuable thing I could find when under the dragon sickness, and in front of the whole company?”

Bilbo glared at him. “Well when you say it like that, it does sound suspect. Why did no one say anything?”

“It would have been considered terribly rude.”

Bilbo rolled his eyes. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Thorin stopped, not looking him in the eye. “I was afraid.”

“Why?”

“Why do you think? I’ve never been in love before. I thought I’d ruin it.”

They reached the corner that would lead to the banquet hall and Thorin turned back to Bilbo. The king fidgeted a bit. “You’re sure, Bilbo?”

Bilbo wanted to roll his eyes again but didn’t. Instead of answering aloud, he came forward and pulled Thorin down into a kiss. It was quicker than Bilbo would have liked, but he was hungry and the feast smelled delicious. “I love you, Thorin Oakenshield.”

“And I you, Bilbo Baggins of Bag End… and Erebor.” And with that, Thorin led them around the corner, still holding Bilbo’s hand. People were coming and going from the reception hall as they pleased, the large doors open wide. This hall was also enormous. At the very front of the hall sat a long table for the royal family. Thorin led the hobbit straight through, and Bilbo dared not look anywhere but Thorin as the banquet slowly went quiet. Once they were at the table, Bilbo saw there were two seats empty; the king’s and the one to the king’s left. A large portion of the Company sat around and watched them approach. Thorin pulled out the second empty seat and motioned for Bilbo to sit. He did and finally looked out at the crowd. Thorin sat next to him with a grin. The whole Company erupted with a cheer before going back to the party.

Bilbo felt a mixture of relief, embarrassment and more than a little joy.

Dwalin returned from escorting Nar to the dungeons, and Bilbo watched as Nori approach him, arm bandaged but not much worse for wear. Dwalin still gave the injured dwarf a thorough once over and looked sour. Then Nori laughed as Dwalin put his hand on the rouge’s cheek and pressed their foreheads together. Soon enough, Nori was tugging Dwalin out on the dance floor.

Thorin chuckled low. “And I thought we were obvious.”

Bilbo glared. “Leave them be.”

“I suppose I’m not much better than him at this. I went last night to persuade you to be mine, but you were gone.”

Bilbo blushed and looked away. “Yes, most definitely.”

Thorin sat straighter and looked at him. “You weren’t were you?”

“...No. I’d merely gone out for some air.”

Thorin looked rightly embarrassed. “I shouldn’t have put that weight on you.”

“I did run, like I said. I only made it to Dale and when Nori told me you were in danger, I--” Bilbo was cut off by the thought of what could’ve happened to this dwarf he loved.

Thorin broke him out of his melancholy by grabbing the tankard in front of him and downing it. “If I start now, I might be able to give you a repeat performance.”

Bilbo laughed and grabbed his own drink from the table. “Cheers to that! I could listen to you wax poetic about me all night.”

It was then that Lord Bora showed up and Bilbo braced himself. “Thorin, a word.”

Thorin nodded, giving Bilbo's shoulder a squeeze of reassurance as he stood. The dwarves moved back to an alcove behind where Thorin and Bilbo had sat. Bilbo tried not to be obvious as he turned to watch. The two dwarves talked low, but there was a bit that Bilbo did catch, Bora raising his voice a bit towards the end. “You didn’t say anything, Thorin!”

Bilbo turned back around at that, feeling a bit better that Bora seemed to have been in the dark about things. Thorin returned, looking a bit rattled. “You alright?” Bilbo asked.

“Pride will be the death of me, my hobbit. He…. understood and genuinely didn’t know. He says if I’d said something to him, he’d have called the wedding off… Even wants to talk about Bellora staying as an ambassador.”

Bilbo’s eyebrows shot up. “How does Bellora feel about that?”

Thorin looked out over the dance floor with a sigh. “It was her idea.”

Bilbo smiled and took Thorin’s hand. “She’s a strong lass with a good head on her shoulders. She’ll be a great ambassador… with a little help from Balin perhaps… and a bit of growing up.”

There was a long pause, in which a server brought Thorin another tankard, which he downed once again before standing. “Dance with me.”

Bilbo laughed but let himself be led to the dance floor. “Isn’t this how we got in trouble the first time?”

“I wondered a lot less if you reciprocated my affections after that, if that’s what you mean.” Thorin was in a rare mood and Bilbo wanted to take full advantage of it, swaying back and forth with his king. “How do hobbits court? If it’s not through easily misinterpreted gestures of affection and dancing.”

“Flowers, bakes goods, and long walks through the shire… Honestly the gestures are a bit the same, really. Though you don’t move in until you’re married, typically.”

“So we’re both just fools then? I’m glad.” Thorin spun Bilbo out and then back in. As he did, the hobbit caught sight of the young dwarf princes with Tauriel, Legolas, and Gimli. They were huddled close, so as to not be overheard.

Bilbo’s noise twitched. “The young ones are plotting. I can sense it.”

Thorin laughed as he kept their orbit around the other dancers in sync. “You will be seeing conspiracies in tea leaves soon, no doubt. Hobbit’s intuition?”

“Clearly you didn’t grow up with mischievous Took cousins. I know trouble when I see it.”

Thorin shook his head. “One of these days, you are going to have to explain these clans to me, because really I—“

The moment Bilbo’s back was to the young group. he was suddenly scooped into the air and onto Legolas’ shoulders, while Kili stood on a nearby table.

“Oi! Listen here! A toast to Bilbo Baggins! He has saved our mountain, our king, and our futures too many times to count! He’s shown unfailing loyalty and honor! He planned this party and made the arrangements for you ungrateful lot to be fed and has somehow made Thorin the Sourpuss into a dancing fool!”

Legolas chimed in. “A toast to the Hobbit Under the Mountain!”

There were many answering shouts, and then Bilbo tugged on Legolas’ ear. “Put me down this instant.”

Thorin laughed and motioned for Legolas to hand him over. “I am not to be tossed around like a hand me down doll. I was once a well respected member of my community and now what am I? A walking short joke.”

“Never, my burglar.” The song ended and another began as Thorin offered him his hand. “Another dance?”

Bilbo looked around the room once more as many people left the dance floor to eat and rest. It was then he caught sight of a tall grey figure in the back, watching them.

Gandalf nodded and slipped out the doors. Bilbo looked back at Thorin with an apologetic wince. “In a moment. I mean it this time. I’m just… I’ll be back.”

Bilbo hurried for the door and found Gandalf moving out and away from the hall. “Gandalf!”

The old wizard turned back. “Ah, Bilbo! Come to join me for a smoke?” He pulled a pipe from his robes, and Bilbo laughed.

“I thought you might be running off again before I got to say goodbye.”

Gandalf sighed and moved to a nearby bench. Bilbo followed and sat beside him. “Not just yet. I will remain in the mountain for some time.” He lit his pipe and took a long puff before blowing a smoke ring. “Bilbo, my boy. I don’t think you realize your impact on the future of this mountain.”

Bilbo laughed. “Matching wits with a dragon is no easy task.”

“Not just the dragon. The people. Their king. I was right when I said the quest would change you. I am glad it’s been for the better.”

Bilbo thought on that and sighed as Gandalf passed him the pipe. It smelled of Old Toby and a far off hobbit hole. He sighed again before he took a puff and blew a smaller ring through Gandalf’s. “I suppose that hobbit is gone now. You did warn me I’d never be the same.”

“You’re a part of history now. I imagine that part will only get bigger. Dark days are coming…” Gandalf looked down at Bilbo’s breast pocket and the hobbit did his best not to flinch. “The mountain will need to be strong.”

Bilbo frowned. “You make it sound so sinister.”

Gandalf shrugged. “It is. I know you’ve felt it. The creeping darkness.” Bilbo put a hand over his pocket instinctively. “But you… you’re light is strong. You hobbits are a remarkable people. And Erebor is brighter to have you. You’ve dispelled doubts and distrust I’ve been trying to uproot for years.”

The hobbit sighed. “This is nothing compared to the Hobbiton annual ball. I will not miss that, but I suppose everyone misses their roots from time to time.” He gave Gandalf a curious look. “Do you… have a home?”

Gandalf got a far off look in his eyes and stared into the fading smoke. “It is a far off place. I cannot return. So, I make my home wherever I am. I’ve grown quite fond of this land. And it’s people.”

Bilbo squinted at him in suspicion. “So you are a serial freeloader then.”

The wizard laughed. “No, no, no. I merely… take the hospitality I am offered.”

Bilbo shook his head. “Well, I am glad you are here. And there is always a squat ready for you here in Erebor.”

Gandalf took a puff of his pipe. “Shall we rejoin the party? I’ve got a bit of a surprise in store.” He pulled a small parcel out of his robes.

“Fireworks!” Bilbo grabbed the wizards sleeve. “Come on! Come on!” He hurriedly dragged the wizard back into the party. Yes, for now, all was well.

Chapter Text

Summer was fading to Autumn and Bilbo Baggins found himself caught up in the full swing of harvest. Dwarves didn’t really have a holiday for the season to do with crops, but the Men of Dale did, so to share in the bounty a new holiday was born. It was to honor the first successful harvest season of the growing fields of the mountain. Mostly it was going to be a lot of ale, as they’d had a particularly bountiful hops harvest. Lonely Mountain Ale was becoming more widely known, especially in the Iron Hills and Dale.

Much had changed over the summer. Councilmen Nar was imprisoned for his crimes and his remaining people were quietly snuffed out by Dis and her Jackdaws. In light of Bilbo’s efforts for the people of Erebor, not much fuss was made over him and Thorin openly courting each other, despite Bilbo not being a dwarf. Most dwarves he met seemed to agree that hobbits were at least more likeable than elves or men and that he would suit the King just fine. There was also a large portion of the populace who found the whole thing utterly romantic, and a few ballads had already been written about the affair.

Bilbo hated all of them.

Bellora thrived greatly in her ambassadorship. There was no more talk of ball’s or parties, unless the occasion called for it of course, and she regularly attended council meetings. She had some grand ideas about trade routes and outposts between Erebor and her homeland. Having such a keen and fresh young mind at the table renewed Bilbo’s attendance to the council meetings as well. While she was still not eager to stand up to Thorin’s stubbornness she had learned to stand up to the council’s

One night near midsummer, Bilbo was out at the library quite late, shelving a book he’d borrowed in order to take the next one in the series, when Bellora rounded the shelves. “Master Bilbo, you are out late.”

He laughed. “I am. Couldn’t sleep.” To be honest Thorin had been kept late in Dale and would not be returning til the morning. Something about possible orc raids on the city. It made Bilbo nervous enough for sleep to elude him.

“Would you walk with me? The terrace on this level of the mountain is breathtaking.”

Bilbo nodded and followed her. They hadn’t spoken a great deal privately but they’d remained as friendly as ever. Approaching the terrace in question, Bilbo felt a cool night breeze coming in off the plains. He held his nose high and breathed in. “It’s a lovely night.”

“It is.”

They both stood by the railing overlooking the plains and the city of Dale beyond. Bilbo let out a sigh. “How have you been, my dear? I fear our duties keep us from truly spending time together.”

Bellora smiled up at the moon, nearly full and obscured by clouds. “I honestly haven’t been so happy in a long while. I feel… free. For perhaps the first time in my life my destiny is my own. There was a time that idea terrified me. Now it’s just exciting. My father and I write all the time, more than we ever conversed back home.” She looked to Bilbo with eyes full of joy. “I am glad Thorin met you, Bilbo. I am glad you helped him take his home, and I am glad you found love in each other. As fond as I am of Thorin, we’d have been a poor match.”

Bilbo hugged her. “And I am glad to have met you, my lady. You make the council shiver in their boots when they see you. We are all very proud of you.”

She hugged him back. “You are so good for the people around you, you know that? You make everyone want to be better. How can one so small and of so few years be such a force to be reckoned with?”

Bilbo laughed. “By enduring all these jokes on my height, that’s how.”

There were two surprises over autumn, the first was the increased frequency of Legolas in the halls of the mountain. He, Tauriel, and the young ones of the line of Durin were often seen together, especially now that Mirkwood was less infested with spiders. On rare occasion Bilbo just saw Legolas and Gimli out on walks together, both seeming unsure of what they were doing but unwilling to stop and Bilbo knew that feeling better than anyone.

And it was for that reason that’s he stayed silent. They’d figure it out sooner or later.

The next surprise was Dwalin and Nori’s wedding, which he’d just finished attending the reception of. It only included the company and the Ri brothers’ mother. Not exactly the opulent affair Thorin and Bellora’s botched ceremony had been but Thorin was kind enough to translate it to Bilbo. While the hobbit was learning Khuzdul, he was nowhere near understanding all of it.

Bilbo cried quite a bit as they said their vows. There were a lot of serious ones, like protecting and loving each other, but Nori’s included one about staying on the right side of the law. That got a laugh or two. Balin declared them married and they kissed and it was the most genuinely loving smile Bilbo had ever seen on Dwalin’s face. The party afterwards was grand despite it’s size. The first real gathering of the Company for a party in a long time. About halfway through, Gandalf showed up, looking weary but eager to join.

They partied on into the wee hours of the morn and Bilbo had to help Thorin back to his rooms.

“He’s my best mate, my--my darling. Best mate. Stuck with me through it all. I’m so glad he’s found a spouse. So glad. Love is great. It might be the greatest thing in the world.”

Bilbo stumbled a little, as he too was quite drunk. “Would you concentrate on walking, please?”

“Don’t be mean! It’s a wedding! How can you not love weddings?”

Bilbo hiccupped. Shaking his head a bit, he tried to focus on what Thorin was talking about. “You do realize the last wedding we had was yours? And you nearly died.”

“I--I didn’t though. ‘Cause you stopped it. My clever hobbit. My charming, wonderful hobbit. So soft and beautiful.” Thorin stopped trying to walk and pulled the hobbit over to the wall. As Thorin leaned on it he pulled Bilbo close. “I am the luckiest dwarf in all of Middle Earth and I would very much like to kiss you.”

Bilbo batted at his shoulder. “I am the plainest hobbit alive and I don’t know where you get these notions of my beauty from, I mean honestly.”

Thorin frowned. “Who told you plain can’t be beautiful? I will throw them from the ramparts.”

Bilbo laughed. “Every cousin I have back in the Shire. I was known for being a simple hobbit with a strange nose even for my kind.”

“They have poor taste and I am luckier for it. Now may I kiss you or not?”

Bilbo stood on his toes. “If it’ll get you moving then yes.”

Thorin claimed Bilbo’s mouth with his in a long searing kiss that made Bilbo thrum with want.

But he was a sensible hobbit, even when drunk. He pulled away and Thorin’s lips tried to follow but he couldn’t steady himself enough, ending up slumped against the wall. “Time for bed, my King.”

“I like when you call me your king.”

Bilbo laughed as he helped Thorin begin moving once again. “Would you like to continue singing my praises?”

“I would. You're so patient. I have no idea how you do it... “ As they made their way to Thorin’s room he continued to list all the virtues he believed Bilbo had. Bilbo just hoped with time he’d start to believe he was those things, and it wasn’t just Thorin being his ridiculously dramatic self.

Eventually Bilbo deposited Thorin in his chambers and went to leave. Before shutting the door he looked back at his sleeping king with a wistful sigh. “Goodnight, my love.”

With that he made his way back to his chambers.

On his desk sat the half finished manuscript for his journey. It still needed a title and now that it looked as if he’d never be going the Shire, his original one didn’t feel appropriate.

He walked up and scratched out “There and Back Again” and wrote under it. “The Hobbit and the King; An Unexpected Journey”.

Cringing, he crossed that line out too. He’d have to work on that.