Translation of Khuzdul: Ughvash - greatest treasure.

Chapter 3 - Just a Stone

Bilbo gasped, both with fear and pain. Thorin's fingers were digging into his shoulders, and he was unable to lift his arms, or even move them. His heart pounded wildly in his chest, and he shook his head. "No. Not steal. I would never steal from you." His voice was laced with panic, and his normally so rational mind could not provide him with anything to say. "Please, Thorin. I wouldn't. I just... I was going to give it to you, I swear it, but then you, you weren't yourself. I was afraid you might try to... And I told you Smaug was coming, but all you cared about was the stone..." He was stumbling over every other word, desperately willing Thorin to remember what had just transpired between them.

But the dwarf showed no signs of recollection. Not of the kisses they had shared, nor that night of fire when the dragon had destroyed Esgaroth. There was only greed in his gaze; lust for the Arkenstone. "You would withhold from me what is my own," he growled dangerously, tightening his hold on the hobbit, if that were possible. "You lied to me, Burglar. You want to keep the stone to yourself!" Bilbo shook his head, his eyes wide. "Don't deny it!" the king roared then, his face contorted in fury.

"No!" the hobbit exclaimed then, and it wasn't tears of fear that fell on his cheeks, but tears of anger. "I cannot wait to be rid of it, if you believe it or not. It is giving me nightmares just to have it. It makes me see things I never want to think about again. It may be the Heart of the Mountain to you, but Thorin, it is ... it is more, I think. It is something malicious, even though it is beautiful." That gave him pause for a moment, and he thought of something else that was beautiful but had made him do things that were rather unhobbitish. But those thoughts were for later. If there was to be a 'later' for him. He gasped once more, and began to tremble. With what could only be described as Tookish rage. "It is you who lied to me. Just now, outside in the rain, you lied to me! You kissed me and held me as if I was the most precious thing in your life. And just moments ago you told me that ... that I could trust you! And I was willing, very much willing to give myself to you. To let you sate your hunger, to let you use ... use my body..." His voice broke now, and he would have slumped over had it not been for Thorin's hands still holding him up.

"I know it was just a dream. I know I'm not worthy of a king's affections." He was mumbling now, the rage gone, leaving heartbreak in its wake. "I know I'd wake up and find everything still as dire as can be and you only focused on the stone, on the gold. I'm such a fool to give my heart away to someone who doesn't want it..."

His eyes were downcast, unable to look at that face he had touched reverently just moments before and so he couldn't see the warring emotions crossing Thorin's face. But he felt himself being pushed back further, up against the cold wall, and felt his teeth chattering from the impact. "You lie," the dwarf rumbled, and all Bilbo could do was to shrug his shoulders, or try to at least. There was no more fight left in him and he was readying himself for the worst. "You cannot possibly... I called you a burden, hobbit! Told you that you had no place amongst us! You try to trick me. What sorcery is this?! Gandalf, isn't it? He set you up to ensnare me!"

"I wish ... I wish it was that way," Bilbo breathed, finally lifting his eyes to the dwarf's again. "I wish the thought of you giving in to the goldlust didn't make me want to lie down and die. I wish I had never run out of my door, or opened it that evening to allow Dwalin inside. I wish I had never met you because then my heart wouldn't be breaking. I was a fool. Smaug ... Smaug was right. He said you sent me into his den to do your dirty work." His eyes were clouding over once more, and he could barely make out the dwarf before him. "He said that you only used me, that I was a means ... a means to an end." Thorin's hands fell away, probably to reach for his sword, or maybe they would come up around his neck to strangle him. Bilbo didn't care. He had been given a taste of what happiness could be, and then it had been snatched from his fingers by the golden demon that held Thorin in its clutches. "He said that you had weighed the value of my life and found it worth nothing. I've always known it, you made it quite clear, and yet ... and yet I shouted at him that he was lying. But he wasn't, was he? You only care for the stone. Nothing else... Not me..."

Chapped lips descended upon his so suddenly that he nearly knocked himself out, but then his head was cradled by big dwarven hands, and he was being held so gently that he was certain Thorin had struck him down and he was dreaming again. But it was the dwarf's voice that eventually growled "No!" and it was Thorin who gazed at him with so much warmth again, though it was clear that he was still struggling himself. "No," he whispered again, kissing Bilbo's cheeks and forehead. "No, he was wrong. You are worth everything to me. More than ... more than... Oh Mahal!" He released Bilbo suddenly, stumbling backwards and would have gone over the edge if it hadn't been for the column he'd been leaning against before. "What have I done?!" He was staring at his hands uncomprehendingly, a look of pure horror on his face.

The hobbit was confused, his head and heart were aching, and yet he could feel hope blossoming once more. Thorin was fighting, was not giving up, and who was he to lie down and do so when the dwarf wasn't? "Thorin?" he whispered, slowly crossing over to where the dwarf was now sliding down the column to the floor, face in his hands. Bilbo knelt in front of him, for the second time that day, and gently pried the king's hands away. Cupping his face, he faced Thorin to look at him. "It's alright. It's alright. You didn't ... you didn't hurt me." That was a lie and then some. But bruises would heal, faster than a broken heart. And his wasn't broken after all. No. It was soaring when those blue eyes looked at him in question. "I ... it's my fault. I should have said something. I should have told you. But I... He was contemplating letting me take it. But only because he wanted to see you suffer. He said it would destroy you, corrupt your heart and ... and drive you mad. I couldn't... Thorin, I couldn't bear the thought of that happening."

"And I almost proved him right, didn't I?" Thorin whispered, self-hatred in his voice. "I didn't even see it, and already it was bewitching me. Because it was right there, wasn't it? Wasn't it, Bilbo?" The hobbit nodded. "How can you stand the sight of me? How can you bear my touch? How could you possibly want to be near me when I cannot control myself? I nearly ... I could have killed you, and all because of that stone! And the worst part is that even though I know all this, I still long to hold it. I am as wretched a creature as that orc. As Azog. You should have let him take my head. Why save me when you knew it would end like this?"

"Because you are worth it, and more, Thorin. I don't care about anything else. As long as there is even an ounce of hope left, I will try. I ... I have to try. Because it wasn't you who held me at sword point, or just now. It wasn't you. It was not the dwarf I was willing to give my life for that night. It wasn't ... It wasn't the dwarf who holds my heart." The last was lower than even a whisper, the words barely there, but Thorin heard them nonetheless. "Because I want you to prove Smaug wrong. I want to see you hold the stone and still look at me with clear eyes, filled with warmth and..." And love. Because that was what it was. Love. Underneath it all, Thorin loved him. Not as a friend but... The realisation nearly floored the hobbit. Those kisses had been filled with passion and desire. Because of him. Because of Bilbo.

"I don't know if I can, Bilbo. I don't know if I will be able to fight this. Even with your help. It drove my grandfather mad, and my father as well. He ran off into the wild, to reclaim Erebor. Disappeared in the night and was never seen again. Balin was there with him, and Dwalin. They searched for him, but could not find him. If they failed, bearing the last of the Seven..." Bilbo gasped. Was Thorin speaking of the Rings of Power? "What chance do I have?" Rings or not, it didn't matter. Not right now.

"You have strength in you they did not have. If Balin is to be believed, it wasn't your father who build your home in the Blue Mountains, but you. You are the leader of your people, and have been for a long time. They believe in you, so maybe it is time you do so as well? Trust in yourself, and the moment you do, maybe the gold will stop whispering. Maybe the stone will be just that. A beautiful stone."

Thorin's eyes were searching, clearly willing the hobbit's words to be true. "A stone I very nearly killed you for. Twice now. Hold ... hold on to it for now, Bilbo. I cannot trust any of us with it. Maybe my nephews would be able to handle it, but it's too dangerous. Keep it. Hide it as far away from me as possible. Hide it... I will not risk harming you again because of it, and yet you are at that risk simply by being near me. Maybe you should stay with Bard once we have spoken to him. Yes. That would be..."

"No! Thorin, no. You stopped yourself. The first time, it was the dragon, but now, it was you. You can do it. I trust you." He was stroking that soft beard, smiling despite the tears that still ran down his cheeks. "Do you really think that I could simply step aside and let you face this on your own? I know what I said about helping you get your home back, and that I belong in the Shire, that I miss my armchair and garden. But all that has changed. I no longer feel like my place is there. I know I have no right to even think it, but I think I should like to stay here, no matter what happens. With ... with you." He blushed and tried to move his head, suddenly very much self-conscious. But he couldn't.

Thorin had freed his hands from the hobbit's hold and was now cupping Bilbo's face again. "You don't know what you're saying. You cannot possibly imagine what staying by my side might entail. I don't know if I can fight it, nor whether I will be able to stop myself the next time it takes me. What if I come to one day and find you in my arms, lifeless? I could not live with myself, Bilbo. What if sending you away is the only way to ensure you will survive this? Take my nephews with you as well, keep them safe, for me?"

"I think I can decide for myself just fine, thank you very much. The only reason I ever thought of returning to Bag End was because I thought there was no way, no chance, no hope. But now... No, Thorin. I haven't survived Goblintown, a fight with giant spiders, elven dungeons and the lair of a dragon just to give up now. My mother would be sorely disappointed. This is the grandest adventure any hobbit ever went on, and I will see it through to the end if it's all the same to you." He crossed his arms over his chest, his bravery returning. But then his gaze softened as he added, "You will have to order me from your side if you truly wish me gone."

Thorin was silent for the longest time, and already Bilbo was fearing that he was slipping away once more when the dwarf touched his forehead to the hobbit's. "That I cannot do. If you learned anything about us dwarves, surely it's that we are greedy and stubborn. I was stubborn enough to not allow myself to hope, but now I am far too greedy to do what is right and send you from me. I can't, Bilbo. Which is why I'm asking this of you. If and when you can no longer get through to me, when the gold has won the fight, you will leave. Don't stay to watch me succumb to the same madness my grandfather did fall prey to. Return home, to the rolling hills of the Shire and remember me the way I was."

So Thorin was convinced that he would not come out of this a victor? Well, he would find out just how stubborn a Took could be. But for now, Bilbo nodded, knowing that arguing this point would lead nowhere. "I will leave when all hope is gone, this I promise." It wasn't even a lie, he was merely agreeing to something he knew would never happen. What the dwarf didn't know though was that hobbits were optimistic creatures, to a fault, and to admit defeat and agree that there was no more hope at all ... it simply wasn't in them. And right that moment, Bilbo Baggins was as far away from giving up as he had ever been. How could he not be? With warm hands holding him so gently, and remarkably nimble fingers stroking his skin so very reverently. Then Thorin pulled him into another kiss, and the hobbit melted.

This time though, Thorin was timid, as if he was afraid to hurt Bilbo, and somehow it made the hobbit want more. He touched the dwarf's long hair, shyly at first and then with more and more confidence. An hour ago, this would have been the wildest fantasy, but now... His toes were curling and he was making rather embarrassing sounds when the kiss finally broke, eyes unfocused, lips swollen. "I will fight for this, Bilbo," the king whispered, "I will try to hold on to it, to the memory of holding you in my arms like this. I will try. Ughvash..." That had been one of the words Thorin had used before, and this time Bilbo would not forget. It was an endearment, that much was clear. But the hobbit was dying to know what it meant. Asking Thorin was an option, yes, but the hobbit had the feeling he hadn't even realised what he was saying. That left the rest of the Company, most of which were too busy searching the treasure chamber to do anything else. Only Thorin's nephews and Ori kept apart, but Fli and Kli were out of the question. That left Ori...

"Whatever it is you are contemplating, Master Burglar, it will have to wait. We should go to Bard as you suggested. Before I lose myself once more." There was such sadness in those sapphire orbs that Bilbo couldn't help himself and leaned in for another gentle kiss. Which made Thorin blink. "If I were a better dwarf, I would not allow this. I would fight you off, no matter how much I desire to pull you close. But I cannot. I cannot give you up. It is why I came after you this day. I could not bear the thought that you were wandering around Erebor on your own. What if something were to happen to you? I ... I guess I should have said as much."

That self-deprecating smile broke Bilbo's heart. "I wouldn't have believed you, Thorin. Now though, I do believe. And I believe you are right. We should go to Bard before he starts planning this war you wished to bring upon him. And maybe you are right as well and I need to get out of these wet clothes..." His own smile was sheepish, his movements clumsy when he scrambled back to his feet.

He was about to start down the stairs when an arm was wrapped around his waist and he was pulled against Thorin's side. "Keeping you close helps ward off the call of the stone I think, of the gold. Knowing that you wish this makes me hope that maybe it can be as you said. Just an heirloom. A beautiful stone. Nothing more. I will need your help, Bilbo. I do not think this is a fight I can face on my own." Thorin's eyes were clear and sincere, and the hobbit found himself smiling broadly. The dwarf had never before asked for his help in such a manner, and he would forever treasure it even if it was to be the first and only time.

The closer they drew to the treasure chamber, the tighter Thorin held him, until at last when they passed the doorway to the vault, Bilbo nearly had to drag the dwarf along. "It will get easier, trust me. Just think of it as my share of the gold, and no longer yours. And the stone is not there. It isn't there." Somehow hearing that eased some of the tension in the dwarf, and he relaxed his hold slightly. "When we get back, I will move it somewhere no one will ever find it. And I will only give it to you if you are certain you will be able to..."

"When it is just a stone to me, Bilbo. Not earlier than that. I do not wish to end like my grandfather. I do not wish to forget those I care about and only see the gold. I've seen it destroy his mind and there was nothing we could do to stop it. Maybe there is no chance for myself either."

"There is. You are fighting it, aren't you. You don't want to succumb to it. Just breathe and hold me as close as you need. I'm here, I'll be your strength." Thorin nodded and kissed into the hobbit's hair, making Bilbo's heart soar. And it was like this that they walked out the gates and down to the ruins of Dale.