Notes: Here you are, their quarters. If you have trouble imagining the layout, do let me know (as Domi couldn't quite imagine things until I drew her a rough sketch). It's interlude time once more in the next installment, so stay tuned :)

Translation of Khuzdul: zyungel - love of love (greatest love).


Chapter 17 - To Make You See

Now (3021 T.A.)

"My entire hobbit hole could easily fit in here. Into this, the living quarters..." His eyes were alight with joy as he saw the rows of bookshelves and he walked over to one of them to run his fingers over the spines. "My, my, Master Oakenshield...Sindarin? And I guess you're going to tell me that it's just a matter of 'know your enemies', yes?" Bilbo smirked and winked and Thorin simply shrugged. "This is wonderful..."

"And you haven't seen the the Great Library yet, Bilbo. Ori is so proud. Though, I think he might rope your nephew into working there. So please, don't let Ori see just how happy the books make you, alright? I would like my future husband and consort by my side and not in a dusty library." Thorin chuckled quietly, but Bilbo gazed at him in startlement. "What is it?"

"Frodo! He doesn't know yet, does he? That I woke?" The hobbit made to cross the room for the doors, but Thorin stopped him by placing his arm around Bilbo's waist. "He has to know..."

"He does. I ran into him this morning when you sat with Kli. He...he had the audacity to mutter something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like 'I told you so'." Bilbo released a relieved sigh and turned in Thorin's arms to look up at the dwarf, questioningly. "Frodo was convinced you would be fine eventually. Said something about you butting heads with some relatives of yours on a regular basis. The Sackville-Baggins?" Oh dear, Frodo had to bring Lobelia into this, did he? "And between him and Glorfindel, they tried to get through to both myself and Kli, but..."

"But the both of you wouldn't hear of it because you are, well, stubborn dwarves..." It was Thorin's turn to look rather sheepish then. "I only wish you had believed him, had trusted that I wouldn't leave you. I told you before that I would be willing to fight the Valar themselves to be with you, so even if I had passed...I would have returned to you. Never again will I spend another eighty years without you." Those blue eyes seemed haunted now, and Bilbo quickly made light of the matter, lest the remainder of the day would be spent brooding over things that couldn't be changed. "So if there should be another time when I'm...sleeping for longer than I should, just think of it as hibernating. And know that I'll always, always come back to you. If I have to fight Eru himself."

"There won't be a next time, Bilbo! I won't allow it." Thorin's tone of voice left no room for arguments. "And if that means I'll have to keep you close, then that is what will happen..." Excuse me?! You might be weaker than his mightiness, but how dare he?! Bilbo was about to let Thorin know exactly what he thought of that brilliant plan when, surprisingly, the king himself muttered, "No... I can't do that, can I?" Hands cupped Bilbo's face, and blue eyes held his, "You are my betrothed, and I trust you. Watching your every step would be no proof of that, but of the opposite. I won't repeat my mistakes, my hobbit. Only know that I can't be without you. Not now, not ever. Not after I had this glimpse at what life could be."

Blinking away the tears that threatened to spill, Bilbo placed his right hand over Thorin's heart. "And you won't have to. I promise." Then he recalled something from a time that seemed ages past now. "Remember how you would tell me of Erebor, of how you wanted me to stay with you?" The dwarf nodded. "Until I stepped onto Valinor soil, until I saw you standing there with the ponies, I thought those plans had been nothing but a lovely dream. But now... You simply forgot to mention that you would die in between and that we would have to be parted for all those long years..." Thorin smiled ruefully. "However, even if you had told me all that, and more, I would still have chosen to follow you. Because ultimately, it brought us here... To this moment. And that is all that matters."

"Wiser than Balin..." Bilbo frowned, but Thorin kissed his forehead as if to dispel the furrows on the hobbit's brow. "Hobbits always see things in a more...positive manner than us dwarves. When you lay...sleeping and Frodo simply refused to believe anything than that you would wake up once you were ready for it, part of me thought him cruel and callous. Now I see that I was wrong. And it grieves me to know what you both had to endure, and yet...somehow you retained some of that inherent positive thinking. Kli and I on the other hand... We were, as you put it, stubborn dwarves."

"Not as stubborn as you once were, Thorin Oakenshield. Or else there would be no books in Sindarin on the shelves. And you wouldn't try to harness your protectiveness but would let it run wild and drive me crazy. I thank you for that especially. I promise to be careful in the mountain, and not go where you tell me I shouldn't. As you're trusting me, I'm trusting you not to use that power to keep me confined to these rooms. Lovely as they are I'm sure. Even though I haven't seen much beyond the books..." Thorin's hands fell away from his face then, and he was suddenly pulled into a tight embrace. Which ended, just as suddenly.

"There's but one place I forbid you to go. Just as I have discouraged my nephews." Curiosity peaked, Bilbo raised an eyebrow in a manner that hailed of Lord Elrond. "The mines, my burglar, the mines. We are only now starting to build and secure them, and they are a dangerous place, even for our dwarven engineers. And obviously I would rather see you steer clear of the library, but I know such a wish is futile." Thorin added the last with a wry smile as if he truly didn't want the hobbit to go near the place. "But if Balin is to begin teaching you our sacred language, there is really only one place to do so. Just...don't allow Ori to bribe you with his knitting, or you will forever be enslaved to him and his books."

Bilbo chuckled, "That can't possibly happen when I'm already enslaved to the King of Erebor. Books or no books." The dwarf gazed down at him tenderly. "And you are sure? That you want me to learn your language? I know how dwarves tend to keep their secrets close to their hearts, and..."

"You are my betrothed, Bilbo Baggins. That makes you one of my kin, despite your pointy ears, hairy feet and general lack of facial hair." The smirk was soon replaced by a pained 'Ouch' as Bilbo pinched the dwarf's side. Hard. "Spousal abuse, huh? Is that what I can look forward to then? And people are probably of the opinion that it is I who..." This time, the hobbit's hand was caught before it could make impact. Blue eyes, sparkling with mirth met with grey. "I can see though where you are getting it from. Your mother is a formidable lady indeed." Thorin turned sober then. "But Bilbo, I would share all our secrets with you if that would please you. You are one of us. Both you and your nephew. Though I'm sure between Ori and my nephews, yours now as well, Frodo's education has already begun. And I hope that one day he will return the favour and tell us more about the...taming and care of a hobbit."

"Oh you insufferable dwarf, you!" Bilbo chuckled as he tried to free his hands from Thorin's grasp. "Taming and care indeed. I hope I'll find a book detailing the taming and care of dwarven kings who think far too highly of themselves. I'll learn Khuzdul just for that." The dwarf had finally released his hands and Bilbo reached up to tangle his fingers in the dark tresses of Thorin's hair. The king's gaze had softened, his arms once more encircling the smaller frame of the hobbit. "Ever since I left Erebor, I never felt at home...no matter where I went. My hobbit hole, the place I'd thought of so often with longing while we were on the road, it was too small. And it was lacking that which I needed most. Even Rivendell was only a place I chose to stay, never a home. After eighty long years, I've finally come home..." Bilbo beamed at his betrothed, and then added with a wink, "And I'd love to see some more of it if it's all the same to you..."

"As I recall, you were the one who interrupted your own exploration. Let us remedy that, shall we?" Thorin gestured this way and that, explaining as he went. There were two doors on either side of the living area; to the right were two studies, one for the king, and one for Bilbo. A door linked them, but when Thorin saw Bilbo's mournful gaze, he suggested that it was possible to move his own desk into Bilbo's study. Not as an indulgence toward the hobbit, but simply because of the large doors leading onto the balcony and into Bilbo's garden that would let the light of day into the study. "We'll be needing less candles and crystals that way," the king had added matter-of-factly. Thorin's current study could be transformed into a small library. Once again, not to please the hobbit but out of necessity. "You will bring so many books into these rooms, we will be running out of shelving space in no time..."

The balcony was spanning the entire length of the king's apartments and could be reached through large doors in the study, living chambers and the bed chamber. The garden proper had been built into the mountainside itself, but planters had been placed all over the actual balcony. Right now, there were only winter shrubs and some runners growing, the grass in the garden slowly giving in to the dropping temperatures. The most amazing thing though was the view. Bilbo stood and stared, arms on the railings and his head resting on his arms. With the open air above his head, he could feel the last vestiges of worry fade away; worry that life within the mountain might prove to be too oppressive, but everything was so very airy and their chambers so light and... "I can't believe you added hobbit furniture."

Thorin had stepped up to him and was now holding Bilbo tightly, lips buried in the hobbit's auburn curls. "It was hard to have the constant reminder of what was missing in these rooms, but as Kli one day put it, it also served to remind me that there was hope. That one day you would share my life again." There was no other response to that than to untangle himself from the king's hold somewhat, to cup his face and to place a tender kiss on the dwarf's lips.

When they stepped back into the living area, the next room Thorin showed Bilbo was the small...by dwarven standards...but well-stocked kitchen. "So...was this Kli's idea as well? To get me to bake him more scones?" Thorin shook his head.

"I remembered how much you were bemoaning your seven meals a day, and while the royal kitchens are busy from dawn to dusk, if not longer, I thought you might enjoy having your own domain...once you joined me here..." Each and every time Thorin spoke of the past, of planning the apartments they were now to share, his eyes filled with grief and such loneliness that it was nearly enough to break Bilbo's heart yet again.

"I am with you, zyungel. And I'll never leave..."

"Oh by Durin's beard, Bilbo! You can't call Uncle Thorin that! How are we ever to look at him again and not think of him as...well...that!" Fli and Kli must have stepped into the chambers while Thorin and Bilbo were in the kitchen, and Kli was now standing there, eyes wide in mock-shock. Kli...who was smiling. Who seemed to be back to his cheerful self. Kli, who beamed too brightly for it to be sincere after the morning he'd had.

---

When Kli woke, he didn't make any attempts to deny what had happened that morning...or the weeks before. He had given his brother a sad smile and shrugged, "I guess there's no way you are going to forget, is there?" Fli had shaken his head and pulled Kli into a hug. "I'm sorry I worried you all," the younger dwarf had whispered, before begging Fli to at least let him pretend that things were back to normal that day. And Fli hadn't had the courage to tell his brother that there was no way Bilbo would allow such a thing, no matter what.

They had stopped by the kitchens on their way to the Royal Apartments; both Kli and Bilbo still needed sustenance and it would be easier to get the brunette to eat something under the pretense that it was for the hobbit's benefit. Laden down with food they had entered the King's chambers, and Fli knew his brother's glorious plan was not going to work out the moment he saw the expression on Bilbo's face. Of course Kli had a point in regards to hearing their uncle and king being addressed as...that. And under normal circumstances, his brother's reaction would have been expected as well. However, these weren't normal circumstances.

And when Bilbo motioned for Thorin to relieve Kli of the food he was carrying and the hobbit then embraced the younger dwarf...Kli broke down again. The sight made Fli's heart bleed, feeling so very helpless and unable to do anything to ease his brother's pain. "It's alright, dear one," Bilbo murmured into Kli's shoulder, over and over again. "Come sit with me?" Kli nodded meekly and allowed the hobbit to drag him over to one of the hobbit-made sofas. Fli caught his uncle's gaze, worried and yet so proud whenever he glanced at Bilbo... To see them here, in these very chambers, together...it felt like all the years of pushing for adjustments to the blueprints had finally paid off. And suddenly he remembered that Kli had been the driving force behind it all. Which gave him an idea.

"So how are you liking your new chambers, Bilbo? I guess Uncle Thorin already told you how Kli and I made sure that things would be as hobbit-friendly as possible? Well, especially my brother..." Kli's head shot up, tear-stained face turning to his brother, a frown marring his features. "I'm right, aren't I, brother dear? You were the one who insisted on certain alterations, from the battlements to the bookshelves here." Kli lowered his gaze in embarrassment and made to get up from the sofa.

But Bilbo caught his arm, "You have done all this? And still you think you have to atone? Oh Kli..."

"I just...I wanted to make sure that you would be happy here. That you wouldn't be reminded of...how things were when Smaug was gone and Thorin..." His shoulders were shaking again, but he was fighting valiantly to keep the sobs down. "I didn't want you...to leave us again after finding Erebor too..."

It was then that Thorin moved to the sofa, and...Fli could hardly believe his eyes, but Thorin bowed before Kli before whispering, "I owe you more thanks that you will ever know. If I had but known how you struggled, how you struggled all your life. I was meant to be a father to you, and I failed in that. I pushed you to be something you are not and failed to see the depth of your devotion to both myself and later also Bilbo." Kli looked beyond startled and he grasped Bilbo's hand tightly to anchor himself in a world that, at least in his eyes, had just been tipped over on its head. "If not for you and your brother, Kli, I wouldn't have survived the first years here. I would have begged Aul to let me return to stone. But you gave me hope that maybe one day I would be able to properly make amends..."

Thorin's gaze fell on Bilbo then, a small smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, "And it was your conviction that made me hope..." His eyes went back to Kli, "You made the spark of hope light up within my heart, Kli. You! And I will never be able to thank you enough for that."

"And your sacrifice, yours and Fli's...it allowed me to have this." Bilbo had drawn the chain from underneath his shirt and presented Kli with the ring resting in his palm. "I don't think I could have held on without it. You never failed me, or Thorin. What can we do to make you see that?" And with that, Kli was pulled into a tight embrace again. Thorin sat down as well, his arms around both the hobbit and Kli...what else was Fli to do but to walk over to them, to his family, and to kneel down in front of his brother, head resting in Kli's lap. Please Aul, make him see that he is loved. Make him understand that he could never fail us, that we would gladly lay down our lives for him.

Hours later when night was falling and lamps had been lit, Kli's smile felt more real. There was a healthy flush gracing his face, and his eyes had some of their sparkle back. Between him and Bilbo, the food had disappeared at an almost alarming speed, and when he hugged the hobbit before they left for their own chambers, the embrace was no longer almost painfully tight. Fli pulled his brother along to his chambers and Kli's complaints at being manhandled were light-hearted. There still was a battle ahead, Fli knew, but with the help of Thorin and Bilbo, they would endure...for Kli.