Chapter 32 - Of Tea and Apologies
Now (1 F.A.)
It didn't take long to return Thorin to their chambers and the bedroom. He could walk, though it clearly caused him pain, and more often than not he had to rely on Bilbo's help to remain upright. Elrond had offered to carry the dwarven king, but any such offer had been declined, politely. And not by Thorin. The hobbit had simply raised his eyebrow at the peredhel, shaking his head. "I think I can take care of my betrothed just fine, thank you very much indeed." The dwarf had chuckled, his hand coming to rest on Bilbo's shoulder. But then the hobbit had turned to him, glowering, "I didn't say just how I'm going to take care of you, so wipe that smile off your face. King you may be, but you are also my future husband. Who has some making up to do." He gave an emphatic nod then, and they set off.
By the time they reached their rooms, Thorin was exhausted and all but tumbled into bed. "Thank you," he whispered, and not for the first time. He allowed Elrond to fuss over his ankle once more and didn't raise any objections when the elven poultice was applied. And when Óin finally entered the chamber, the dwarven king even allowed the healer to dress him down for being foolish. "What were you thinking, my King? It is a miracle that you didn't set yourself back even further!" The mix of indignation and subservience nearly made Thorin chuckle, but he thought it best not to upset Óin any further. "You will have to remain in bed for another couple of days. Though you may walk around your chambers, if you get someone to help you." Glancing at Bilbo only confirmed the king's suspicion. The hobbit looked smug; like a cat after eating a bowl of cream.
Thorin nodded in agreement, for there was very little else he could have done without upsetting his betrothed even more. He knew that not all was well between them, and hoped that, once they were alone, Bilbo would allow him to explain himself once more. And he would apologise for his abysmal behaviour. Until even the smallest shred of pain was gone from his beloved's heart and his eyes were once again gazing at Thorin with light and joy, not anger and misery. The hobbit's words had helped, though. To know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Bilbo would never ever leave him now ... it had laid to rest fears he hadn't known he was still harbouring. Had they not put the past behind them? It seemed that times of stress still awakened the old ghosts, and it was hard to shake them. Waking without Bilbo near ... it had reminded him too much of those long and lonely years they had spent apart; years that now he would not be able to survive. He would tell the hobbit, would bare his soul to him. But first things first.
When the door finally shut behind the two healers, Thorin turned to his nephews. Speaking to them would be easier and would give him time to think about exactly what to say to Bilbo. "I owe you both apologies," he began, and they both blinked in surprise. That in and of itself showed him just how ill he had treated them. "You both stood by me through everything fate threw at me. Even death. You have seen me grieve and have heard me cry out Bilbo's name in the dead of the night. You have witnessed my joy when my beloved was returned to me, and worried with me when he fell. And I have repaid you by shouting at you, and by making you fear that your family was falling apart yet again. I am sorry." He turned to Kíli, shocked to see wetness on his cheeks. "I did not know I still feared to lose him, but Kíli, waking without him near; I couldn't think. I am sorry I hurt you."
The two young dwarves exchanged glances and then threw themselves on the bed, on either side of Thorin, hugging him. "It's alright, Uncle," Fíli murmured. "We wouldn't want to be without our hobbit either." Kíli simply nodded against Thorin's neck, sighing and sniffling. And Bilbo stood by the balcony doors, smiling. He nodded and then opened the doors and stepped outside. To give them room. And maybe to clear his own head as well.
Kíli raised his head, staring at Bilbo's back through the glass. "Will you be alright? I have never seen Bilbo this angry." Thorin chuckled. He had. It hadn't lasted long, but he'd had one of those Tookish dressing downs before. "Is this funny to you? The prospect of losing Bilbo should terrify you, and not be a source of amusement." Sticking out his lower lip, he began to pout. Like a dwarfling.
The king simply shook his head. "It isn't. And you know that, Kíli. But Bilbo...the day the ship docked, I made the mistake to suggest that he may have moved on. Eighty years are a long time after all, and... It did not go over well. He yelled at me and held out my ring, telling me how he had been mourning me, how he had considered himself married to me all this time. He was furious, maybe even more so than today." Gently, he touched Kíli's cheek. "And you heard him. He won't leave. I have to trust in that, have to believe that to be true. And if I search my own heart, I know it is. One day, one day soon I hope, you will understand. Both of you deserve happiness in your lives. I only hope that you will share your joy with Bilbo and I, for we both wish for nothing more than for you to find those you are destined to be with."
Fíli smiled, "I am sure we will. It's not like Kíli doesn't have enough suitors as it is." His brother growled and slapped the blond across the back of his head. "Ouch. Uncalled for. I'm only telling the truth, brother-dear, and don't say it isn't so for you would be lying. You've seen the elves..." Oh no, not elves! Kíli simply stuck out his tongue, scrambling to his knees. "We should leave you now. Both Óin and Elrond said you need to rest. And you still have to speak to Bilbo." There was compassion in Fíli's voice, but also a little bit of gloating. Which he deserved. "Shall we tell him that we are off and that you are asking for him?" Thorin closed his eyes and nodded. His nephew didn't have to see that he was scared. "Good. And we shall arrange for some food to be brought up as well. At least for our hobbit as he didn't take any lunch so he must be starving by now." He winked and crawled off the bed, Kíli following suit.
"Behave, Uncle. We love Bilbo and we will be very cross with you if you make him angry yet again. He's scary when he's angry. I...I even picked up a book so I could avoid looking at him." Fíli snorted, muttering that he had known Kíli wasn't actually reading, and the brunette gave him a sour look. "It's all uncle's fault anyway. And I can read just fine. I simply choose not to!" He grumbled some more under his breath, but then beamed at Thorin. "Thank you, Uncle. I was afraid you would behave like...like you did that terrible day on the battlements, but you turned it all around. Now," he turned to his brother, "Let's get out of here so our uncles can make up properly. Even though I think there will be no tea this time around." Fíli started giggling, and tried to cover it up by coughing which only made him chuckle more.
Thorin's eyes narrowed," Tea? What do you mean there won't be any tea? I assure you, that will be one of the first things Bilbo will make sure I have. He thinks tea can solve the world's problems. I'm sure he would have tried to reason with Smaug over a nice cup of tea if he had been able to... Now why are you two in hysterics?" They were. Fíli was holding on to his brother, tears streaming down his face while Kíli looked torn between laughing and being ill.
"To suggest that Bilbo would take tea with Smaug..." Fíli forced the words out before another fit of giggles took hold of him.
"It's wrong, that's what it is. Uncle Bilbo only takes tea with you, Uncle Thorin." Kíli grumbled at the same time, confusing the king completely. Until it dawned on him. They both had emphasised the word tea in a certain conspiratorial way, and finally something clicked in his mind. And he felt slightly sickened as well by the implication of Bilbo and Smaug... But why on earth were they talking about them having tea in the first place. He asked as much and Kíli growled. "Because we don't need additional mental scarring. It's enough to watch the two of you when you forget we're in the same room and we most definitely do not want to know what you get up to when we are not! So we have decided to refer to...that...as you having tea."
Fíli's laughing fit slowly came to an end and he turned to nod at Thorin in agreement. "Don't get us wrong, we love the both of you and are really thrilled that you are so happy. But you both are like parents to us, so there are a few things that we don't want to know. And others," his voice turned small and faint, and so very much not like himself, "that we don't even what to think about. You two fighting is one of them. You're our family and we want you both in our lives. Even if that means that we will have to live through you...almost having tea."
Thorin sat up properly then, realising once more that, despite their years, both Fíli and Kíli were still young and that they needed stability. They had never really known it growing up and somehow, strangely enough, dying had presented them with a chance to finally build something permanent. Something that would last. "Come here," he whispered, holding out his hands to both of them. It only took them a few seconds to sit back on the bed and bury their heads in his hair. "I promise you, I will do everything I can to ensure that Bilbo remains right where he is. It is not only the two of you that need him around. I am not myself without him. He makes me the dwarf I always wanted to be. I will face down Ilúvatar himself if I have to. For Bilbo, I would do anything." He meant it. From the bottom of his heart.
Bilbo gasped. He had heard every word that had been said in the bedchamber, having moved towards the doors when Fíli and Kíli had gotten up to leave. The mention of tea had intrigued him, just as it had Thorin, and the revelation of what it truly meant had left him...dumbstruck. No. He would not have taken tea with Smaug, thank you very much. But then Fíli had stopped laughing, and the hobbit had had to strain his ears to catch what he was saying; and it had nearly broken his heart. He had been about to move into the room to hug his nephew when Thorin had beaten him to it. And his betrothed's words...even if he had still been upset, how could he be after that? His beloved needed him as much as he needed Thorin by his side. Sinking to a bench by the side of the doors, he closed his eyes and leaned his head against the stone behind him.
The sounds coming from the room were more cheerful now and a few minutes later, Kíli stuck his head through the doors, "Uncle? Oh, there you are." He smiled and sank down next to the halfling. "He's all mellowed up for you, so you can go easy on him." The brunette grinned, nudging Bilbo in the side. Then, after studying the hobbit's face for a moment, he frowned. "You heard, didn't you?" Bilbo remained silent, but for Kíli that was answer enough. He sighed and hugged the halfling. "Fíli acts like everything is fine. As if he doesn't fear anything and yet...he does. He has feelings like the rest of us, he's only had to learn to hide them being the older brother and all that. He loves you just as much as I do, and I know that it was me who went to pieces when you...when you fell, but I know he worried as well. To think you and uncle might..."
"That will never happen, Kíli. I swear it. When I lost him, I lost part of myself. And I am never going back to that. Kíli, there were times when I longed for death myself, so the emptiness would go away. I held his ring and cried myself to sleep more often than I care to remember. Even when Frodo moved into Bag End...it wasn't enough. I love him dearly, but it was too late. It was...it was as if my heart had turned to ice, and a thorn hedge had grown around it. He couldn't tear it down, no matter how hard he tried. I was broken. And then, when I saw him standing there, at the harbour, I thought I had finally lost my mind. But it didn't scare me. I was glad." Kíli hugged him tighter then, and Fíli, who had just walked out onto the balcony himself, closing the door behind him, sat down on the hobbit's other side, mirroring his brother. "I think my heart only started beating again when I knew that he still loved me, even after all that time."
It was the blond who now spoke up, but only after kissing Bilbo's brow. "He hated himself for the longest time; for what he did to you on the battlements. But more importantly for leaving you. I don't think there is anything he would have rather done than share those eighty years with you. Grow old with you. He thought he didn't deserve another chance, but I know he was hoping for it all the same. We all were. When Balin, Óin and Ori joined us, Thorin would all but beg our mentor to tell him about you. He missed you so. He...we are not supposed to even know, and he most definitely would have our hides for telling you, but..."
"He has a drawing of you," Kíli blurted out. "He drew it the day he woke in the cottage. And I'm sure there are more, but we only ever saw one. We have seen him gaze at it oftentimes when he pretended to read a book. His expression said it all, really. We were worried, to be honest. That he would not last until you finally joined us. It's bad, I know, but part of me was hoping you would...you know." Bilbo knew. And how he had longed for it at times. Now, his heart nearly broke at the extend of Thorin's pain, pain the dwarf had hardly ever acknowledged. "I know that it was the same for you, and that you probably do not wish to dwell on it anymore, but...we missed you so."
"And I missed you. How could I not? But you are wrong, Kíli. I do not mind thinking of it now that it's over. Especially at times when your uncle is...well...his charming self I remember how life was without him and believe me, I am not going back to that. He can throw me off the battlements for all I care; I will just come back to haunt him. And I know that he would never do so. Wouldn't have done so even without Gandalf's interference. I could see it in his eyes. He called me a traitor, but I knew what he meant. Had you not...gone ahead, I would have stayed with him, would have fought for him. That hasn't changed. On the contrary. I know he loves me; I've known that since...since our stay at Beorn's. In my heart I knew. And that is all that matters." It was, it really was. There was no doubt. Thorin loved him just as fiercely as Bilbo loved the dwarf.
"You will forgive him then?" Fíli asked hopefully, earning himself a smack to the back of his head and a disapproving glance from his brother. "What? I'm just asking. I know it's pretty obvious, but it's polite to ask. Balin would be so disappointed in you, Kíli, if you haven't even learned that much." The brunette stuck his tongue out at his brother and then turned his head to show that he was going to ignored him now. "And I suppose we really should be going. Or else Thorin will be asleep by the time Bilbo returns to his side."
"I doubt that," Bilbo smiled. "Thank you, for telling me about your uncle. And for always staying by his side no matter how bad things were. He can be proud to call you his nephews. As I am. But Fíli, there truly is no question. How could I not forgive him? Believe me, there are things that he isn't too happy about that I'm doing. Like set the elves upon him." The two young dwarves giggled. "He doesn't complain, or not too much. So how could I begrudge him being...being afraid? Maybe it was a good thing in the long run. Now I know that he still held on to that fear that I might leave him. And I can work on beating the truth into that thick skull of his. The truth that I will never go, and that I will always, always love him." He received hugs from both dwarves, and happy smiles. Well, that simply would not do, now would it? "And I shall also tell him that I cannot wait to take tea with him again." The way both Fíli and Kíli jumped away from him was almost comical, as was the manner in which they bid him goodbye, scuttling back inside as fast as their legs would carry them.
He sat there for a moment longer, smiling. He would have fun with this, for a while at least. Until they had found a new way to talk about him and Thorin. Tea indeed. And wouldn't you like to enjoy some of that again. Remember his promise? To make you scream? Bilbo did, and pleasurable shivers coursed through him at the thought. Evening was closing in on the mountain, lanterns had been lit a while ago on the construction site of the elven city and the hobbit was certain the dwarves by the gates had followed suit as well by now. It was time to speak with his betrothed, and to kiss him until his fears were but a thing of the past.