Translation of Khuzdul: Âzyungel - love of love (greatest love - I'm using it more to say 'my love' though), Ukrâd - greatest heart.

Translation of Elvish: Mellonen - my friend.

Chapter 15 - Erebor Awaits

Now (3021 T.A.)

When Thorin returned to the healing tent, Bilbo was busy devouring about the same amount of food Bombur would call a nice dinner. His hobbit truly was a bottomless pit when it came to matters of the stomach. Fíli sat by Bilbo's side, seemingly lost in thought. "He is still asleep," Thorin said. Fíli's brow furrowed as he sighed. "I can't believe it never occurred to me he would feel this way. That he could think he failed me when he gave his life defending me. Both of you. That was the ultimate sacrifice and it is I who should feel undeserving, not him. Never him." Bilbo nodded around a mouthful of ham. "And aside from the fact that your mother will have my hide over getting you two killed, I do... I wasn't worthy of such a great sacrifice. I had brought it on myself by not agreeing to part with a portion of the treasure; by my unwillingness to do what I knew would be right. What the two of you told me in no uncertain terms was right."

"You are our uncle and our king. We love you even when we don't agree with your actions." Fíli looked at Bilbo and then Thorin, "I don't think there is anyone we would have rather given our lives for than either of the two of you. Well, mother of course, but I think we all would have locked her up if she'd even thought of joining a battle like that." He smirked and then turned serious again. "I'm going to stay with him. I'm sure he'll be better already when he wakes, considering you're back amongst the living, Bilbo. But we will have to..." The hobbit nodded. "I'm glad as well, more than glad." Halfway out of the tent, he turned. "I left Balin in charge of the construction work, but I think it's time our kin saw their king again..."

Thorin sighed, "Once I know that Bilbo is truly alright. Arrange a meeting for tomorrow if you will." He caught his hobbit's eyes then and smirked, "And don't forget, Fíli, the future consort should be privy to any such meetings..." Seeing Bilbo almost choke made him regret his words. Almost. It was true, as Thorin's betrothed, Bilbo had the right to attend any meeting he wished. But Thorin also wanted to keep the hobbit near, to not let Bilbo out of his sight. Fíli smiled and turned once more to leave. "And make sure your brother knows he is loved..." His nephew froze for a second, but then gave a curt nod over his shoulder and was gone.

"He was shaking so badly when I held him, Thorin, so badly. And I couldn't console him. He was clinging to me as if I was the rock that kept him from drowning." The food was suddenly forgotten as Bilbo pulled Thorin down to sit beside him. "I will not rest until he lets go of that silly notion of being responsible for what happened to me. But I will need your help with the rest..."

Once again Thorin felt his heart overflow with love and he marvelled at his own stupidity. How in Durin's name had he ever been able to look at Bilbo without seeing the loving and caring hobbit he was? How could he have missed the strength that was such an integral part of the halfling? How could he have ever thought that he'd be able to ignore his feelings for Bilbo when they were growing stronger and stronger every day of their journey? Thorin Oakenshield, you were a fool. More than a fool... "I will make him understand that dying in vain to protect me wasn't his fault. That it wasn't in vain. I got to see you, one last time." His hand was reaching inside Bilbo's shirt, closing around his ring, "I got to give you this. Something you could hold onto when..."

"When the walls were closing in on me...when the pain got too much to bear... Thorin, just seeing you on the battlefield was more than I dared to hope for. While I knew your love for me was still alive, I also... You saved me. I only wish I had been there to save you as well..." His breath came ragged, as if he was fighting his tears. "But you stayed with me long enough for me to know that you That you forgave me..." Thorin made to speak, but Bilbo's gaze brooked no argument and he remained silent. "Nothing of that, âzyungel. Never again. Accept that I never held what passed between us that day against you. And that I know now that you realised what I was doing, even though you still couldn't do the right thing." Thorin smiled ruefully. That had been his greatest folly. To put pride before everything else. "You have to forgive yourself, or else how can we ask Kíli to do so?"

"How is it that you will always come out on top of an argument if you set your mind to it?" Bilbo simply shrugged and kissed the side of the dwarf's face. "My nephews' gave us those few precious moments, and it is time Kíli knew how grateful I am for that. When Balin told me that you'd been wearing my ring..." his hands lifted almost on their own to Bilbo's face, cupping it, "it made me hope. I only regret that I couldn't let you know..."

"I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of our Company knew... Gandalf spoke often of you, and not as if you were dead and gone, mind you. I just wish..."

"It would seem we have to speak to him and...thank him. For trying." Bilbo nodded, leaning into Thorin's touch. "But not right now, my hobbit. Right now you have to eat so you can attend that terribly important meeting tomorrow. And so I can show you our kingdom if Óin and Elrond will allow it..."

"You may be an expert at leading our people, Master Oakenshield, but you are not a healer." Had the mentioning of Óin's name somehow summoned the dwarf himself or was this all just a coincidence? "I see you are on your way to recovery, Master Burglar. I'm pleased to see it." Óin was smiling down at Bilbo, as did Elrond who was standing behind the dwarf. And Bilbo... "Oh stop gawping, Master Baggins. I know I look different, what with the lack of that blasted ear trumpet, but I'm still me." The hobbit swallowed. "I can still read the portents and use my poultices, so don't you worry. Being ripped to shreds by a giant squid is not going to stop a son of Gróin." Which wasn't entirely true given the fact that he had spent far longer in the Halls of Aulë than Ori and Balin, recovering from his injuries.

Bilbo bounced to his feet then, much more vigorous than he had been a few hours ago. He threw his arms around the startled dwarven healer. "It's so good to see another member of the Company. I have missed you all so much. And when I heard..." Óin patted Bilbo's back awkwardly, worried eyes meeting Thorin's. But where such a display of affection might have previously set the dwarf king off in a jealous rage, now he simply smiled and nodded. He knew within his heart that Bilbo was his, that no matter who he embraced, it was merely an expression of friendship. Thorin would still have to ask the hobbit to refrain from such behaviour in front of...well...non-members of their old Company. Most dwarves would not understand that hobbits were more comfortable with openly displaying their feelings.

"It is good to see you on your own two feet again, Bilbo Baggins." Elrond bowed his head ever so slightly as he gazed at the hobbit who still clung to Óin before turning towards Thorin. "You see, Master Oakenshield, in the end it was not a question of healing skills at all. All he needed was to be near you." Bilbo gasped and stepped away from Óin, his head going back and forth between Thorin and the elf lord before his gaze settled on Elrond. "Oh, do not look at me like this, mellonen. Did you truly think your betrothed and I would argue over old slights? We were both at fault. Besides, there were more important matters to discuss, would you not agree, King Thorin?" Bilbo's head went back to the dwarf and Elrond chuckled. "Matters such as your wellbeing, Bilbo. But now that you are awake, I am wondering if we could address some other issues as well."

"As long as said issues have nothing to do with...elvish eating habits...I'd be more than happy to. My nephew is arranging a meeting for tomorrow to discuss the ongoing construction works. If you want to, you could join us." Bilbo stared at him, his mouth opening and closing without any sound leaving the hobbit's lips. "I understand you wished to lead on the elvish settlement anyway, so we might as well get you started with that." Elrond nodded with a slight smile, but it was Bilbo's expression that nearly stopped Thorin's heart from beating. The hobbit was practically glowing with pride and joy and happiness, and Thorin vowed to do everything in his power to make his betrothed look upon him like that more often. Even if it meant being civil, no, almost friendly to the pointy-ears.

"I shall seek out your nephew then," the elf's eyes held Thorin's gaze, questioningly. "And if there is anything I can do to assist... You have but to ask." Turning to Óin, he added, "I have no objections to Bilbo attending meetings or seeing Erebor. If he takes care not to tax himself too much." The last words were spoken with a stern expression, eyes on Bilbo himself. Who had the grace to blush. "You have refused my aid in Imladris, and I understand why you did so. But this time you will do as Óin and I say, or we will recommend bed rest, and I suspect Master Oakenshield will see it done." He nodded towards Thorin and then Óin, and, with another frown in Bilbo's direction, he left the tent.

"Now why aren't you eating, Master Baggins? You have been out cold for two long weeks, you need the sustenance. So sit down that I may look at your ankle." Bilbo's brow furrowed in question. "It was broken, in case you were wondering. But it is almost healed fully now. I still recommend resting it whenever possible, but other than that, you should be good as new in a few more days. If you continue to eat!" The way Bilbo suddenly shovelled food into his mouth made Thorin fear the hobbit would make himself sick before long. But no. Even once everything was gone, he nodded when Óin asked if he wanted anything else. "Well, it is lunchtime, so maybe I arrange for something to be brought to you. Both of you. Because I know you haven't been taking care of yourself very well ever since our hobbit had his king." The pause before he added the honorific was almost long enough to constitute an insult. Not that Óin was wrong.

"That would be lovely, Óin, thank you. Maybe we can move it outside, though? I feel like I could do with fresh air. And before... I wouldn't mind some privacy to refresh myself and maybe a change of clothes..." Thorin smiled down at the hobbit. "Well, I don't know about you, but I think I could do with a wash." He winked and added, "As could you."


Bilbo rubbed his now full stomach and sighed happily. He finally felt like a proper hobbit again. Dressed in clean clothes and no longer starving, the world seemed brighter. "I am quite ready for another adventure now, my king." Smiling warmly at the dwarf sitting across from him, Bilbo got to his feet. "So where is this mountain you have been telling me about?" It wasn't as if he didn't know already. Fíli had told him that their little town of tents had been set up in a hollow two miles away from the main gates. Without climbing up and out of the hollow, Erebor wasn't visible.

"Are you sure you won't die of starvation if you go without food for an hour or two?" Thorin's eyes twinkled merrily as he, too, rose to his feet and walked around the table to pull the hobbit flush against his chest. And while Bilbo had been of a mind to give the dwarf a tongue-lashing for that comment, he was now rather happy with where he was. Feeling indignant could wait until later. Burying his face in the furs of Thorin's coat, he could feel the dwarf's lips in his curls, pressing soft kisses this and that way. "Thank you, thank you for not leaving me..." Bilbo tilted his head upwards and gasped. For the briefest moment, the pain was back in Thorin's eyes, the same agony Bilbo had seen in those blue pools that very morning.

"How could I possibly leave you when you hold my heart in the palm of your hand?" Tangling his hands in Thorin's curls, he pulled the dwarf down for a kiss. "If you think that a simple knock to the head is going to rid you of me, I'm afraid you're setting yourself up for disappointment." Bilbo smirked and was thrilled to see mirth creep into Thorin's eyes. "So you might want to get used to the idea of having me around for a long, long time. I know I'm a terrible bother and have really no place amongst..." He was cut off by nimble fingers finding the most ticklish part of his neck before soft lips swallowed his helpless laughter.

When Thorin finally drew back, he was beaming down at Bilbo, whispering, "Oh, you do have a place amongst us, even if I was too stubborn to see it for a long while. And it's right by my side. There's no way I'd ever want to be rid of you. Never did, not really." Bilbo sighed happily. Big dwarven hands found their smaller hobbit counterparts, and, lacing their fingers, Thorin added, "So what do you say, ukrâd? Are you ready to see our kingdom?" The hobbit nodded, smiling. "Well then...let me get the ponies and we will be off." And after placing another lingering kiss on Bilbo's lips, Thorin walked off and disappeared from sight.

Bilbo, still smiling to himself, sat back down in his chair, contemplating the turn of events. Kíli's feelings of guilt, though they had come as a shock, were not really surprising to the hobbit. He had always known that there was more to Thorin's younger nephew than what met the eye at first glance. Only Bilbo hadn't known the depth of the dwarf's feelings. It would take time and effort on all their parts to rid Kíli of his fears, doubts, and the guilt. But they would do it, they had to. And in his heart of hearts, Bilbo knew that they would. With Thorin and Fíli's help, Kíli's heart would be mended. Even if it took another eighty years. Though the hobbit hoped it wouldn't take quite as long.

Meeting Óin again had been...different from what he had expected. There was no more ear trumpet, and Óin's hair and beard were jet black now and no longer the white and grey the hobbit had become accustomed to on their journey to Erebor. But no matter how Valinor had changed him, he was still the kind healer he had always been. The way he had spoken of the Watcher though, it made chills run up and down Bilbo's spine. Frodo's tales of the beast had painted a very vivid picture in the older hobbit's mind, and to think that poor Óin... No one deserved such a fate, least of all the dwarf who had always taken care of everyone else.

And then there was Thorin... The pain in the dwarf's eyes had made Bilbo's blood run cold but to see that pain bleed had been miraculous to behold. To know that he held such power over the proud dwarf king was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Bilbo had always felt that Thorin loved him just as fiercely as he loved the dwarf, but to have it confirmed... It took Bilbo's breath away. Little more than two months ago, he had embarked a ship at the Grey Havens, fully intending to be spending the last days and weeks of his life at peace, Frodo by his side. And with every passing day on the sea, his heart had felt...lighter somehow. As if the pain in his heart was slowly seeping away and the clouds were lifting. But he never dared to hope that there might be something beyond the harbours of Valinor that would turn his life, his whole existence upside down.

"A gold coin for your thoughts, Master Baggins..." Thorin gazed down at Bilbo questioningly, and the hobbit jumped. Some burglar he was, allowing Thorin to sneak up on him in such a way.

"I was just... I was thinking of the Grey Havens. Of embarking on the journey west, of being convinced it would be my last ever journey... Nothing turned out the way I imagined then, and I am beyond happy about it. Being a hobbit, I should hate changes, but being by your makes me see things in a different way. It makes me believe that change can be good, and maybe it is time for us hobbits to understand that. And what greater change could there be for this hobbit than to move from a small and cosy hobbit hole, or a cottage, into a dwarven mountain?" Thorin smirked at that, and Bilbo wondered if a jab to the king's ribs was in order. The twinkle in the dwarf's eyes made him decide against it. Let him keep his secrets. You will surely find out soon enough.