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


Chapter 23 - The Heart of a Hobbit

Now (1 F.A.)

He had been right about one thing. Thorin hadn't reacted the way the two Balrog Slayers had clearly believed he would. But even Bilbo had been wrong with his own anticipations. "At least that would save us the long journey to Tirion. And you won't have a chance to search for herbs in the mountains again." And he had smirked at that last bit. Smirked! Gone was the look of fear whenever Bilbo's little accident was mentioned; and while that was good, the hobbit was still somewhat irked. He wasn't a tween anymore who had to be kept on a leash or something like that. But he had to admit, he was glad that Thorin saw reason...where the elves were concerned of all things.

Erestor didn't fare much better than the hobbit. He seemed...almost shellshocked. "So you are approving the new plans?" Thorin nodded. "Well then, I shall send word to King Turgon. If you will excuse me?" He bowed to the dwarven king and then to Bilbo and left.

Once the elf was gone, Bilbo turned to his betrothed. "Alright then, who are you and what have you done to Thorin?" His words from so long ago came back to mind. 'Confusticate these dwarves,' he had said. Only this time it was he who was utterly confused. Again. "You...you don't like the elves. You've made that abundantly clear. And I know you are now trading with them, and I guess you feel some semblance of friendship for Ecthelion and maybe even Glorfindel and Elrond, but this?! This won't just be some terraces and a few houses, Thorin. It will be..."

"A city, maybe even grander than Tirion. I was listening, Bilbo." Thorin winked at him in a very disconcerting manner. "I thought you of all people would be pleased." Well, he was. But still. "My hobbit, you are forgetting that I'm not the same dwarf you knew in Arda. I lived amongst those pointy ears for eighty years and, well, they aren't all like Thranduil. Even though some are worse." He was clearly referring to Thingol. "We have all been given a second chance. I will not repeat the mistakes I made and reject elven assistance. Even if that means living with them on our doorstep." He cupped Bilbo's face and stroked the hobbit's cheeks. "I will not deny that it will take time to get used to having elven neighbours, but they are far better than orcs." Bilbo blinked. "Well, somewhat better," Thorin added with a smirk.

"At least Turgon doesn't want to take your head every time he sees you." The dwarf nodded and Bilbo turned his head to place a kiss in the palm of Thorin's hand. "And here I was worried you would hate the idea. But you truly will never cease to amaze me, my betrothed." He was proud and relieved, and maybe even somewhat gloating. Glorfindel and Ecthelion had been wary, and worried how Thorin would react. And the dwarf had surprised them all.

They stood like that for a few minutes before Bilbo remembered the rest of his day and he stepped away from the king with a grin. "Kli was right by the way. At least where Frodo is concerned." Thorin raised an eyebrow at that and Bilbo wondered just how much time the dwarf had spent around Lord Elrond. This was truly a gesture that reminded him very much of the elf. "Well, I finally found a reason, and the time, to remain in the Library for more than a few moments, and...Frodo mentioned Ori's name more often than I think I ever mentioned yours."

Thorin shot him a glare before he smiled rather smugly. "You didn't have to mention my name, ukrd, as I was right there by your side. Always within reach." Thorin's voice was dropping to a rather sultry level, and Bilbo threw up his hands in defeat. "What is it, my hobbit? Are you feeling unwell?" There was a predatory quality to the way the dwarf was looking at him now, and the hobbit was wondering if his betrothed truly intended for them to be...together...in the small council chamber. "You seem flushed, Burglar. Maybe you should take off some of those layers of clothing you are wearing."

Oh Valar, he did intend to... There was only one thing Bilbo could say now to stop the dwarf in his tracks. "So you no longer fear that someone could see that which is only yours, my King? To see me, in the throes of passion, crying out your name? Do you maybe wish for your advisors to know your future consort in such a manner?" Thorin looked horrified as Bilbo had known he would. It was the hobbit's turn now to take a step towards the king, and another and another, until he was only a few inches away. "Tonight, zyungel, tonight." And he closed the gap between them and placed his lips over the dwarf's, and into that kiss he poured all his love and passion in lieu of a spoken promise of what tonight would bring.

Once they were forced apart by sheer need of air, Bilbo smiled up at his dwarf, stroking Thorin's bearded cheek. "I have to leave you now, I'm afraid. in has requested my assistance with something, and Elrond as well. I wonder...do you think they wish to quiz me on hobbit healing techniques or something like that?" The king made a noncommittal sound, but the slight smirk playing on his lips was answer enough. "Oh how could you do that to me? I am not a healer, I never was. in should seek out my mother's help, she knows so much more about herbs and tinctures and ointments and... Why me?"

"Because you are here, my betrothed. And despite what you may think, you are helping our people." He cleared his throat then and took both of Bilbo's hands in his. "When spring comes, I would ask you to assist not only with the negotiations with the elves, for there will be negotiations, but also with something my kin has never done before. We never had the luxury to pay much heed to it, but now, in these peaceful times..." Thorin was stumbling over his own words, which was more than unusual. "I think it is time we looked into doing some farmwork ourselves." Oh. "I'm thinking trees mainly, and grapes and other fruit. Our grain will still come from the elves and hobbits, but...I know that my sister always loved her little garden in the Blue Mountains and she enjoyed being able to make her own jams and compotes. If she found such joy in it, maybe other dwarves would do so as well. And I know," he said with a beaming smile, "I know you would love it."

Bilbo nodded, "I would be delighted, Thorin. Truly. It would be an honour to pass on my knowledge." He was still marvelling at the fact that, after eighty years of construction, life was only now beginning in Erebor. But he knew that to dwarves, construction that only lasted eighty years was unusually quick, especially if it was of a kingdom as grand as theirs. "And as for the elves, I already guessed as much. And I wouldn't have it any other way." Then he placed a soft kiss on Thorin's lips and drew his hands from the dwarf's grasp. "Don't forget though...tonight." And with a laugh and a wink, he left Thorin. Breathing heavily for some reason the hobbit could not for the life of him make out.

---

He watched Bilbo's retreating back, trying to catch his breath. His hobbit truly knew how to make his heart beat faster and his blood turn to liquid fire. But that was nothing compared to the love he felt for his betrothed. Especially now that he had seen Bilbo's beautiful soul laid bare to his eyes on the pages of that book, the book that had become his most treasured possession. He carried it with him at all times now, unbeknownst to Bilbo, and would read certain passages over and over again. And not only the ones that spoke of the hobbit's delight and joy at having been reunited with his dwarf, no. Those he cherished the most, but they were not the ones he found himself coming back to again and again...

The first time he had opened the book had been a few days after Bilbo had given it to him. He was sitting in their study, the hobbit outside enjoying the snow with Fli and Kli, and Thorin knew that it was time. Time to face Bilbo's pain and agony the way the halfling had faced his own. He was afraid though, afraid of what lay within those pages. Afraid to see the full extend of what his words on the walls and then his passing had done to his beloved. But he was a king of dwarves and he wouldn't allow his fears to control him and so, after catching his breath one last time, he opened it.

And smiled at the words on the very first page. Bilbo had been torn between his joy at Thorin's survival and his utter confusion at having been hugged by the dwarf. And Thorin could see now that Bilbo, too, had loved him even then. He never wrote it, but it was still obvious every time he mentioned the dwarf's name. Then came the entry about the time they spent at Beorn's, and Thorin felt his heart beat faster when he read of the turmoil Bilbo's emotions had been in, and how calm the halfling felt after they had finally admitted their attraction, their love. Mirkwood followed, and the king was startled at his hobbit's braveness. And his humbleness. He made his fight with the spiders sound like child's play. Then came Thranduil...

Here, for the first time, did he realise the extent of Bilbo's confusion and grief at Thorin's distrust and near hatred for the elves. And it had the king pause. Again and again did Bilbo bring it up, wondered how Thorin could despise the very people who brought him solace when he lived amongst them. And the dwarf vowed then to do better. To not let Thranduil's betrayal overshadow all of his dealings with the elves. Not that he wasn't doing so already. Ecthelion was something akin to a friend, Glorfindel was getting close to it as well and Elrond... After what the half-elf had done for both him and Bilbo after the hobbit's fall, there was more than just respect he had to admit grudgingly, if only to himself.

Thorin barely could read about Lake-town. Bilbo's feelings, right there on the page, were painful to behold knowing as he did what was to follow after. His beloved hobbit had harboured such doubts, and the dwarf had wiped them away during that night, that one night they had been allowed to share. And the king could remember still, recalled every soft sigh and every shy moan of his halfling, could hear the whispered "I love you" and it tore his heart apart. For on the next pages came the mountain, Smaug, and the Arkenstone. Now more than ever did Thorin understand why Bilbo had acted the way he had. He had been so afraid for them all, had so wished to prevent the bloodshed that was to come. And then... The day on the walls. Tears fell on the page, leaving marks similar to those already there. Bilbo had been crying while writing this.

The battle and its aftermath were a blur, as was the journey back to the Shire. Bilbo was heartbroken and it was as if something within him had died. There had been no mentioning of their last meeting, though his ring featured in almost every entry from now on. Only years later, after the visit of Balin and Gandalf, did Bilbo finally speak of the tent...of Thorin's death. Bilbo's words were horrific to read; his agony, the wounds on his soul...they were still so very raw, and the hobbit wrote that he knew they would never heal. And that he didn't want them to. That the ring, his drawing and this pain in his chest were now the only reminders he had left of his beloved dwarf. Things didn't change much, not even after Frodo came to live with the halfling. The grief was part of Bilbo, just as it had been of Thorin. Oh yes, he remembered. The longing that lived forever in his bleeding heart, but at least he had known the hobbit was still alive. He could hope that one day, somehow, they would be together again. Bilbo never had that.

The visit to Erebor and Esgaroth...oh, how Thorin wished he could have been there with his betrothed. To turn his suffering into joy... There were pages upon pages about the tombs, about meeting Ds and the remaining dwarves of the Company. The king was shaking like a leaf as he perused them. Oh Aul, how had he been able to stand such torments? Bilbo truly was stronger than all of them put together. And somehow, that strength came from Thorin's ring, from the memory of the love they had shared. So at least in that Thorin had done right by his beloved. His last actions in that life had enabled Bilbo to hold on until they could be reunited.

The years in Rivendell seemed to have been a time of quiet contemplation, and of making friends with the resident elves, especially Master Erestor. Bilbo wrote of how close he had come to telling the elf of his heartbreak the winter after Sauron's fall. But he hadn't. He had felt that his pain was his and his alone, and he all but cherished it. Even his nightmares were almost a welcome reminder of what had been, of how much they had loved one another. That it had been real and not simply a figment of the old hobbit's imagination. But he still longed for the end, longed for the endless sleep for in his dreams he would once again be with Thorin. It was the waking world that seemed to be more torturous than even the worst nightmare. And for some reason it wasn't dreams of the battle or even of that day on the walls that were nightmares to the halfling at the end. It was the dreams of their first kiss, of their night in Esgaroth...

Eventually, Thorin felt as if he couldn't stand any more, as if his heart was being torn to shreds simply by witnessing how wounded his beloved had been. But then came the journey to the Havens, and the ship. And then Valinor. He laughed at Bilbo's outrage at Thorin's initial reaction, shook his head at how stupid he had been to think the hobbit could have moved on, and sighed at his body's reaction to the description of their first night together. Bilbo had been quite possessive indeed. Each entry now ended with another sentence, the previous 'I miss you, Thorin' having been replaced by 'I love you, my dwarf' or a variation of it. Bilbo's anger at himself for being unconscious for so long was utterly endearing to Thorin, though the king would never admit as much.

And the very last entry...it spoke of Bilbo's hopes and dreams for their future together, including his desperate wish that Thorin could truly come to like the elves and especially those the hobbit called his friends. There also was the plea to the Valar that his dwarf could finally let go of the past, would no longer blame himself for things that had come to pass all those years ago. One part especially touched Thorin's heart.

I can no longer remember the look on your face that day, can no longer hear your voice as you banished me. All that has been replaced with the warmth in your eyes as you presented me with your bead, with the love in your voice as you first showed me around our mountain. The past no longer holds any power over me, and I pray it is the same for you. We have all the ages of the world now to be with each other, to find new ways to bring laughter, joy and pleasure to one another. You are beloved to me, and always have been. And I cannot wait to begin this new journey, as long as I have you by my side.

After reading this, and re-reading it more often than he could count, Thorin felt that last shred of doubt and self-loathing lift off of him. Bilbo had forgiven him and only wished that the king could do so as well. And while part of him would always remember and regret his actions under the influence of the gold, it would no longer affect him in the here and now. The past was truly behind them now, and Thorin would make sure that their future would be just like Bilbo wished it would be.

Now, watching the door close behind the halfling, he nodded to himself. He had done the right thing. The elves were their allies once again, and Thorin would no longer let his past grudges influence his decisions. Well, unless Thranduil of Mirkwood was involved. Or Thingol. He would not, could not forget how the King of Greenwood as he called himself, had treated them. Nor how Thingol behaved on an almost daily basis. The things his father and grandfather had to put up with because of the Sinda. And Erestor's description of what had made Turgon change his mind only strengthened his belief that, while most elves in Aman were somewhat decent, there were those that should be avoided at all cost.

So if he could help Turgon avoid Thingol by allowing the capital city of Valinor to move to Erebor's doorstep, well, he would be only too happy to see it done. And if it made Bilbo smile and marvel at how he had changed, then that was an added bonus. He was still Thorin Oakenshield, after all, still a dwarf who would seek to advance himself if he could. Even if that only meant that he would not be sleeping very much...tonight.