Notes: Elrond to the rescue...or something like that ;)

Translation of Khuzdul: uzayang - greatest love, ughvash - greatest treasure.


Chapter 13 - Don't Leave Me

Now (3021 T.A.)

They had reached the mountain two weeks after Bilbo had fallen. in and the rest of the healers had done all they could, but now there was nothing but to wait. Bilbo would wake once he was ready, in had assured Thorin, but the King of Erebor was slowly losing what remained of his hope. While they had been encamped and later on the road once more, Thorin had been able to somehow deny the gravity of the situation to himself. Bilbo was simply resting. But now they had reached Erebor and the fact that the hobbit wasn't there to share the joy of coming home with Thorin was painfully obvious. Yes, Bilbo was alive, but he still was far away beyond reach. And Thorin missed his betrothed more than he thought possible; missed his gentle touch, the sparkle in his beautiful grey eyes, the sound of his voice... And the hope to have that again was fading fast.

Until, three days after they themselves had arrived, the sound of approaching horses roused Thorin from Bilbo's bedside. "This may not be the best of times for us to meet again, King Thorin, but I am glad to see you nonetheless." Lord Elrond smiled as he handed his reins over to Ecthelion. "Lead me to our patient." With a glance at Thorin, he added, "Do not worry, Master Oakenshield. I have known Bilbo for a long time now, and I know he will be well. You have my word." The last sparked something within Thorin. Elrond had given his word, and Thorin desperately wanted to trust in that, wanted to believe that Bilbo would indeed be well.

Slowly he followed the elven lord into the large tent that had been set up in a hollow a few miles away from the main gates of Erebor. in had decreed that Bilbo would need fresh air so he hadn't been taken into the infirmary but an infirmary had been brought to the hobbit. There, on a field bed, lay the most precious thing in E, his betrothed. His chest was rising and falling and his cheeks were their usual rosy red. He looked to be asleep only, as if he would wake any moment. But Thorin knew that it was no normal sleep, that those eyes wouldn't open...

"The ankle is healing nicely, Glorfindel did well. And there are no obvious injuries beyond that." The elf's fingers gently touched Bilbo's temple, and he sighed...though if it was a sigh of relief or worry, Thorin did not know. "There is no fracture. However, he does have a concussion...which is probably the reason he has remained unconscious. The swelling had to recede..." He turned to face Kli who, as always, was sitting on the floor near the end of Bilbo's bed. "Master Kli, I understand Master in has been taking care of Bilbo?" Kli nodded. "Would you be so kind to get him to come here? I would speak with him..." And for the first time in weeks, Thorin's young nephew jumped to his feet and left Bilbo's side. "I sense much grief and pain in him, Master Oakenshield. And in you..."

Thorin had moved around the bed and was now gently stroking the back of Bilbo's hand. "I cannot lose him... Whatever it is you need, it will be yours." Elrond simply bestowed a rueful smile on the dwarf. "And I...I do regret how I behaved at our last meeting. And not only because my behaviour seems to have cost us all a nice banquet." The smile slipped into a grin, not a mocking one though. "I have since then learned that not all elves are the same, that some are trustworthy and will not betray alliances once they are forged. And even the gravest insults may lead to the greatest gift..."

"You speak of Thranduil and his son, do you not?" Thorin nodded. "Bilbo told me...of both your, and I quote your betrothed, 'disgraceful behaviour towards the elven king' and the battle...and how it was the Greenwood prince who..." Elrond was interrupted by the arrival of in and Kli. "Ah, Master in. I require your help with a few things." Then the elf rounded on both Kli and Thorin. "As for you two, I would ask you to leave us for a while. Have something to eat and stretch your legs. We will send for you when we are done." in nodded in agreement and all but shoved the two dwarves in question out of the tent. Kli sighed and whispered something to his uncle, but Thorin's thoughts were elsewhere...on a battlefield far to the east.



Then (2941 T.A.)

The orc toppled over, his head rolling away. The Goblin Cleaver had once again done its name justice. There was carnage all around Thorin, but at least the dwarves were now fighting alongside the men of Esgaroth and the accursed woodelves, not against them. He had seen Dwalin break the neck of a goblin who was about to gut one of Bard's followers, and had seen an elf fall to a cruel orc axe that had been about to split Ori's skull. An elf giving his live for a dwarf? Unthinkable. And yet he had seen it.

Then he heard it...the growl of a white warg that haunted him in his nightmares. He turned, brandishing Orcrist. There he was. Azog. The defiler smiled cruelly and Thorin realised that he was surrounded. "Thorin, son of Thrin...this battlefield shall be your grave..." The common tongue sounded foreign coming from the pale orc, it sounded almost savage and more like the Orcish tongue than Westron. "And this time, there will be no halfling to save you, this time you're mine!" Bilbo! How did he know about Bilbo? "And when I'm done with you, Dwarf King, I will find your little guardian...and I might keep him." No! Not that. And some of Thorin's feelings seemed to be apparent because Azog suddenly sneered, "Or maybe I should make you watch..."

He turned to a few of the orcs and rasped an order at them. They smirked before slipping away. However, in doing so, Azog had weakened his own position significantly. With a battle-cry of "Khazd ai-mnu!" Thorin swirled around, Orcrist slashing at orcs and wargs. By the time Azog had noticed what was happening, the rest of the orcs were dead or dying. And he slunk back into the mayhem of the battle, hatred in his watery eyes and the promise that he would be back to see the death of Thorin Oakenshield. "Not if I kill you first, you filth," Thorin growled to himself before joining Dwalin as he was hacking his way through some Misty Mountain goblins.

It was hours later, and the Great Eagles had joined the battle, when Thorin saw the pale orc again. Only, he didn't. He was just turning after having decapitated another Gundabad orc when he saw...Bilbo. No! What is he doing here? He should be back in Esgaroth, safe and sound and as far away from you as possible. He tried to prevent this bloodshed and you... He was standing over the dead body of a goblin, dark blood staining the blade of his small elven sword and to Thorin, he was the epitome of a warrior. His hobbit... No, he no longer deserved to call Bilbo that. Not after what he had done. Then Bilbo's eyes caught his and... Oh Aul! The pain in their grey depths, but also... After all you've done to him, he still loves you. He still hopes...

Thorin took a few steps towards the hobbit, eyes never leaving Bilbo's. His heart was racing in his chest, and not because he was exhausted by the long hours of fighting. Did he dare hope? A small smile light up Bilbo's face and Thorin's eyes were suddenly stinging with unshed tears. In all the devastation that surrounded them, they had found each other again. And Bilbo seemed to be willing to forgive...

He was only a few steps away from the hobbit when he saw Azog... The pale orc was closer to Bilbo than Thorin himself, too close. His mace was raised in preparation of the strike that would surely shatter the halfling's skull and take Bilbo away from the king forever. "Your little pet first, and then you." Bilbo spun around just as Azog brought down his arm to land the killing blow. One second, Thorin was sure he would lose the greatest treasure he had ever known, the next... Bilbo was gone, and Azog had dropped the mace, an arrow piercing his wrist. An elven arrow. And more arrows had felled the foul beast Azog had been riding. Out of the corner of his eye, Thorin saw the son of King Thranduil...Legolas?...drawing nearer. He had replaced his bow and was now wielding a sword.

"He is mine," Thorin muttered as he drew closer to the defiler. Was that fear in the orc's eyes? Thorin didn't care. He had threatened Bilbo's life, and Thorin knew that given half a chance, Azog would have proven exactly why he was called Defiler. The thought of that creature touching Bilbo... Now it would never come to pass. "You killed my grandfather, you filth. You swore to eradicate my entire line. You failed!" Azog snarled something, but Thorin didn't care. He raised Orcrist and brought the blade down, severing the pale orc's head from his body. Azog the Defiler was no more. At long last his lust for revenge had been quenched.

But where was Bilbo? Hopefully he had used that magic ring of his and simply run for his life. The elf...Legolas...had reached his side and was staring down at Azog's corpse. "He was a vile creature and I am glad that he has at last met his end." Blue eyes, so much like his father's, met Thorin's. But there was no mockery in them, no disdain, no hatred. Only...concern. "Where did the halfling go? One moment he was there, the next he was gone..."

"I have to find him, I..." Thorin had to make sure that Bilbo was safe. And that you may one day be forgiven. You would lay down your life for him, wouldn't you? His life, and more.

Legolas nodded. "I will help you, King Thorin, if you will allow it. To undo some of the harm my father has caused you." And thus they set out to find a small hobbit in the madness of battle. Little did Thorin know that Azog's son, Bolg, would find his father's corpse only shortly after and that he would vow to avenge him. That before long, Bolg would track Thorin down, that Fli and Kli would try to defend their uncle, that they would fall. And that, as he was giving Bolg the wound that killed him, the orc would repay Thorin by shattering his ribcage... That when the battle was done, Thorin would see Bilbo again, though only for a few, fleeting moments before he joined his nephews in death.



Now (3021 T.A.)

Daylight was fading away by the time Thorin was called back to Bilbo's tent. Kli had followed, as expected, but was now sitting outside, seeking comfort in his brother's embrace. He was still unwilling to venture further from Bilbo's side than absolutely necessary and thus, it was Fli who would find him in the hours of darkness. Thorin had tried to reason with his younger nephew, but he failed just like Frodo, Glorfindel and Balin had. And slowly he started to believe that only one person would be able to ease Kli's heartbreak, and that was Bilbo himself.

The dwarf king was seated by the hobbit's bedside now, his fingers tracing the line of Bilbo's jaw, his soft cheeks, his forehead. He looked so peaceful; the rising and falling of his chest, the even sound of his breathing... As if he truly was only asleep. As if Thorin could wake him with a kiss and a whispered, "Bilbo..." the way he would rouse the hobbit each and every morning since he had arrived in Valinor. Pressing his lips to Bilbo's forehead, Thorin could feel something fracture within him and he let go of that tight hold he had on his fears. The sound that was escaping him was heartrending, and he finally allowed the unshed tears that had been an ever-present companion since he had found Bilbo all those long days ago to fall.

"Uzayang...please don't...don't leave me." Burying his face in Bilbo's curls, he breathed in the scent that was home, the scent that promised gentle grey eyes and softly whispered words of affection and love. The scent that he had first noticed on the Carrock and that he craved since the second night they had spent at Beorn's. "Ughvash, please come back to me." His voice was ragged, and every time he drew a breath, a sound of utter agony escaped his lips...but he was beyond caring. "The world is darker without you and I don't know how much longer I can hold on. To have lost you once was more painful than I can ever express...to lose you again..." Better to return to stone. To never feel again.

"You will not lose him, Thorin Oakenshield." Of course, of all people to walk into the tent, it had to be Elrond. But it didn't matter. Nothing mattered but Bilbo. He was weak, he knew that. A stronger dwarf would be able to see past his own heartache and rule his kingdom; if not for himself, then for his people. Thorin couldn't. It was Fli who made the decisions now, aided by Din, and his nephew proved to be a better leader than Thorin had ever been.

Suddenly a warm hand was on his shoulder, and Thorin glanced up at the elf. Elrond seemed...concerned. "It is not weakness that makes you wish for him to come back. Love is never weakness. Thorin..." Gentle hands pulled Thorin from his seat and supported him. "I do not think I have ever seen a love as strong as that which you share with Master Baggins. You are meant to be together, and always were. It is not weakness that you place him above and beyond any duty you have toward your own people." Could the elf read minds? "But understand this...while your fears are more than understandable, they are for naught. We are in Valinor now where even wounds that would have been fatal in Arda will eventually heal. And even if someone were to die, eventually they would be able to return...like the poor souls who were slaughtered at Alqualond."

Blinking, Thorin tried to process what he had just heard. Bilbo would...he wasn't going to... And then he saw Elrond smile down at him and part of his soul righted itself, and a darkness lifted off of him.

"You need to sleep, Master Oakenshield, for he will need your strength as much as you need his." Sleep? How could he find sleep without Bilbo by his side? But once again, Elrond seemed to be reading his very thoughts. "I have arranged for another cot to be brought here. Hold him close, let him feel that you are here with him. And who knows, that alone may be enough to rouse him from his sleep." The elf caught Thorin's gaze, staring at him intently, "Do not forget that love is the greatest treasure of all, and it is stronger than death itself. It was your love for Bilbo that made you hold on after the battle, was it not?" Thorin nodded his agreement. "And it is Bilbo's love for you that will see him through this."

And later, when he returned from his evening meal...Ecthelion had dragged him off not even asking if he was hungry...there was a second cot in the tent, flush against Bilbo's. The hobbit's blanket had been replaced by...the large quilt from the royal apartments. The quilt he had longed to share with Bilbo. Shrugging out of his fur coat, Thorin sat on the edge of his cot to undo the lacings of his boots before removing them along with his socks. The belt was next, followed by his blue tunic and armour. Just like those first nights at Esgaroth, when Bilbo was so sick. You would hold him in your arms as if he was the most precious thing in the world. And he was, he still was.

Slipping under the quilt at last, he gathered the hobbit to him and somehow Bilbo's head came to rest on Thorin's chest as it had then and Thorin could feel every breath his betrothed would take through his thin linen shirt. The dwarf's arms encircled his hobbit's waist, pulling him even closer and it was strange. The last time he had held Bilbo had been when he had carried him back to their camp and the hobbit had felt so very fragile, so small and weak as if he was made of the finest glass. But now...this was his Bilbo. There was the strong heartbeat against his side, the weight of Bilbo's head on his chest, the feel of those hairy feet brushing his ankles... And for the first time since the accident, Thorin did not think of what could be, he simply dreamed of sparkling grey eyes gazing at him lovingly.

---

Grey light filtered into the tent, waking Thorin from his slumber. For the first time in weeks, he felt rested. Maybe...maybe the wine Ecthelion had coaxed him into drinking had helped with that. But Thorin knew that it was mostly the closeness to Bilbo that had done the trick. His still sleep-muddled brain registered the familiar warmth of the hobbit next to him, felt the halfling's hand caress his cheek. Wait a moment...

His mind was suddenly very clear, all vestiges of sleep dissipating. Tipping his head downward, he gasped. Grey eyes caught his and held his gaze, grey eyes that were open and filled with such joy and love and happiness. Thorin's fingers brushed the hobbit's temple and it was warm and whole and there was no more blood staining his fingertips. And Bilbo's hands tangled in the dwarf's hair, pulling his head further down until they were just a breath away from each other. Thorin closed the gap and sighed into the kiss. And if his cheeks were suddenly stained with tears, he didn't mind. All that mattered was the precious creature in his arms.