Notes: I was asked for Angst, and I was asked when there would be a serious conversation between Thorin and Bilbo...you get both
in one in this chapter :) There's an interlude after this chapter again btw, so stay tuned.
There's a scene in this chapter that's been massively inspired by this lovely drawing of Kaciart.
Chapter 8 - Nothing to Forgive
Now (3021 T.A.)
It had been an eventful day, and Thorin and Bilbo had desperately needed a warm bath to wind down. And this time it had really just been a bath. Bilbo was so tired, he'd nearly have drowned on several occasions if it hadn't been for Thorin's strong arms around his waist. Now the hobbit was already fast asleep while Thorin was still musing over what the past day had brought them.
First and foremost there was the bead. Thorin had been fighting the urge to pinch himself when Bilbo presented him with it. For the hobbit to do that, to embrace Thorin's culture in such a way... Thorin's heart had been overflowing with love and the need to make Bilbo as happy as possible for the rest of...eternity. He now ran his fingers over his new braid and the bead, smiling to himself. The two beads shared the image of Erebor, but Bilbo had chosen Gandalf's rune as well. And when he had explained his reasoning to Thorin while they were sitting at the table outside, surrounded by friends and family, Thorin hadn't been able to keep himself from leaning closer to place a gentle kiss on the hobbit's lips. "It was that mark that brought you into my life, and without it, we may never have found each other."
The thought of life without Bilbo...it was simply unimaginable. There was no life without the gentle hobbit who had, as Thráin had aptly put it, saved him from himself. From those first timid kisses and soft touches beneath a moonlit sky, to that night in Esgaroth when both their bodies and souls became one after weeks of longing... Thorin could still see Bilbo's eyes that night, scared but yet so very trusting, could still feel each hesitant touch, and he could still hear each whispered "Thorin" that touched his very core far beyond what desire and ecstasy ever could reach. These memories were blending into those of the past week, creating a collage of everything that was Bilbo in his mind that made warmth spread throughout Thorin's body.
And Bilbo was forever his now. When Thorin had spoken the words, those long overdue words, he had meant every one of them. They weren't simply the proper words to be spoken; they burnt themselves into his soul, especially the ones that he added himself. And Bilbo had accepted, had said that, yes, he would be the King's burglar once more. His burglar...and he had thought Bilbo looked more like a grocer... His burglar would never have to steal anything again, but he knew it would be easier for Bilbo to think of himself as a burglar than what he truly would be. He would rule their new kingdom by Thorin's side and thus he would finally receive the recognition Thorin had failed to bestow upon him...before.
This was something Thráin mentioned at the end of the gathering. After Belladonna and Frodo had carried a very happy Bungo off home, Balin, Ori and his nephews had left after raiding the food supplies one last time...Thorin guessed that it had been mostly his nephews doing the raiding...and the two annoying elves had bid them farewell as well. Thrór had dragged Bilbo away for a game of stones...after the whole fainting incident, his grandfather had taken more than a liking to the hobbit, and Thorin had to mentally kick himself for the pangs of jealousy he felt occasionally. Thráin was sitting next to his son and... "He is a remarkable creature, Thorin. You can call yourself lucky he is so forgiving..." And then it had come to the very harsh light of day that those two nephews of his...who would need some lessons in shutting up...had told Thráin exactly what had happened that day on the walls.
Those where the unbidden memories. Memories that Thorin had suppressed successfully since Bilbo had come into his life again. But now they came crushing down on him with the force of an avalanche. The words he had spoken, the way Bilbo had struggled in his grasp, and the sadness in his eyes when he turned towards Thorin one last time. But that was not the worst of it. His mind conjured up those nightmarish images again, of Bilbo's crushed body, of those beautiful grey eyes glazed over in death... And it didn't matter that the body he pulled into his arms was warm and full of life, it was those eyes that haunted him into his dreams...
Once more he was on the walls of Erebor, shouting at Bilbo, at the hobbit who had betrayed him and the Company to the accursed elves and humans. But it wasn't quite like always. "You might as well have torn out my heart, you traitor," he roared at Bilbo, "for that is what you gave them when you handed over the Arkenstone!" The halfling's eyes were brimming with tears, but Thorin went on, "That was your plan all along, wasn't it? Ever since we were taken prisoner by the elves! You and Thranduil have been in league ever since!" Bilbo shook his head, feebly trying to reach for Thorin. "You lay with me to gain my trust...you..." Why was no one stopping him? He was tearing Bilbo to shreds and even Fíli and Kíli simply stood there and let him carry on.
"Thorin...I only did what I thought best..." A hesitant touch, a warm hand barely brushing Thorin's clenched fist. But Thorin felt it as if it was a red-hot poker and caught Bilbo's wrist in a viselike grip. "Thorin...I love..."
"No!" he snapped, and he could see Bilbo crumble before him. "Don't you dare speak those words! You took my heart and trampled on it to gain riches, you deceitful little worm!" Stop it! Why would no one interfere? Where was Gandalf?! "I trusted you! But I was right all along. You should never have come! I was a fool to follow the wizard's advice!" He could feel the madness settle over his mind like a shroud, and for a moment, Bilbo morphed into Azog...it was but a mere moment, but it was enough...
Thorin reached for the dagger he carried, a big fat ruby crowning the hilt. "Here, take this too!" And he thrust the cold steel into Bilbo's chest. And even as Bilbo was dying, he kept whispering "I love you...I love you..." His gentle voice was piercing through whatever haze Thorin had been in, despite those terrible gurgling noises, and as Bilbo dropped to the cold stone, so did the dwarven king. And gentle hands reached up for one last caress, and those haunting eyes...they were filled not with fear, but with understanding and love... And then he was gone, and he was suddenly alone in the cold and biting wind. "Bilbo, no... Please, dear Aulë, no!"
Bilbo had woken to sounds of distress and had quickly realised that Thorin was gripped in the vicious grasp of a nightmare. He tried to shake the dwarf awake, but to no avail. And then he heard it, a most heart wrenching sound, "Bilbo, no... Please, dear Aulë, no!" and there were tears streaming down Thorin's cheeks. "Please no, please come back... Bilbo...forgive me..." Such a broken sound it was, and Bilbo felt as if his heart was being torn apart.
"Thorin please, wake up..." Bilbo was crying himself by now, shaking the dwarf's larger frame with all his might. "It's alright, Thorin. I'm here. Please..." And finally Thorin opened his eyes. Bilbo released a sigh of relief, smiling through the sheen of tears. "You had a nightmare...a bad one by the looks of it..."
He leaned down then to kiss Thorin's tears away, to mend whatever wounds the nightmare had opened, but...Thorin pushed him away. Gently, but still... "I...I killed you..." he rasped. "I killed you... I...I killed that part of you that was gentle and loving and warm that day on the walls. Not like I do in my dreams, in my nightmares." He sat up then, those beautiful strong hands resting in his lap. "I killed you, Bilbo... How can you stand being near me, how can you bear my touch?" This wasn't good. Though if Bilbo was honest, he had feared as much. He had heard Thráin mention... It must have brought all the guilt back to the surface, all the self-loathing, all the doubts.
"Thorin please," placing a gentle hand upon Thorin's arm, he waited. For Thorin to turn to him, or for rejection, he did not know. But the dwarf didn't move, so Bilbo ventured on. "I am here, I have chosen to be here. Right here, by your side. There is but one thing unbearable about your touch...the thought of living without it." His eyes were stinging with unshed tears, and he had to swallow several times before he was able to continue. "And you didn't kill me, nor any part of me. I knew..."
"I was mad with gold-lust and jealousy... But I still had no right..."
"No, Thorin. I knew something like that would happen. But I was so scared for you and Kíli and Fíli, and all the rest of the Company...I had to do something. I felt dreadful the whole time, and it was almost a relief to be confronted with your reaction to my...betrayal." Thorin made to speak, but Bilbo stopped him. "No! It was a betrayal. I knew I was taking that which you desired most, more than me at that time. And maybe part of it was because...because I almost felt jealous of that beautiful stone. I was just a plain hobbit, how could you ever..."
Then a warm hand covered his, "It is but a stone, Bilbo. You are worth so much more than that, if only you could see it. You were never just a plain hobbit, not to me." And for a short moment, Thorin gazed into Bilbo's eyes, into Bilbo's soul. "But I took that away as well. I...I failed you in this as well... No matter how often I told you..."
"You mean like I've told you several times that there is nothing you need to be forgiven for really?" Bilbo smirked slightly, but Thorin just shrugged. "Thorin, I knew what I was doing and what the consequences would, in all likelihood, be. I still did it. I would rather have earned your scorn than see you dead. And..." he gently stroked Thorin's arm, "you wouldn't have done it. I knew that the whole time, even when your hands wrapped around my throat. I could see it in your eyes. You were so hurt, so full of rage, but I could see your love for me shining through it all. I knew you would never have done what you threatened. And yes, you hurt me, but I had hurt you as well. We were both at fault. I should have...I don't know...tried harder to get through to you. Please Thorin, there is nothing to forgive..."
Thorin made a sound that was half a sob and half a moan, and then he turned and gathered Bilbo to him, holding him tightly against his chest. "If you had died, if I..." Bilbo placed a hand over Thorin's lips, eyes catching the dwarf's gaze. Only when Thorin nodded did he remove his fingers. "I wouldn't have survived you long. I...wouldn't have had the strength to live for all those decades without you by my side, Bilbo... Even here in Valinor, there were times when I wished for the everlasting sleep."
"When you closed your eyes that last time, I thought I would die with you. I...I cried for what seemed like weeks, and as soon as I was able, I left. I couldn't stay for the funerals, Thorin. I...I thought I might just lie down next to you and let them entomb us together. I ran, but wherever I went, there were memories of you. And I lived for those precious few memories... As painful as they were, as painful as it was to go on, I knew that if I died, there would be no one to remember anymore. And I had your ring, and with it, I had a part of you. And I could dream..." Bilbo buried his face in Thorin's shoulder, tears falling freely now. "I hardly dreamt of that day on the walls, Thorin...and when I did, it was never a true nightmare. My nightmares were quite different..."
He could feel Thorin's lips pressing a tender kiss to his unruly curls, could feel the dwarf's calloused fingers stroke his back in an attempt to soothe the hobbit. "I longed for that which you think I cannot bear...your touch. I longed to feel your arms around me, holding me." Bilbo lifted his head, gazing intently into Thorin's eyes. "Even after you banished me, knowing that there was still hope, that you still loved me...if it hadn't been for the battle, I would have fought for you...for us. There never was anything to be forgiven."
"But I tried to..."
"Did you? Think, Thorin...remember. Did you really for just one moment intend to go through with that unspoken threat?" Bilbo knew the answer, had known it with every fiber of his being even as his feet were dangling high above the ground.
"I..." and then Thorin shook his head, and there was relief in those dark blue pools, as if he could finally see something he had been blinded to by his self-loathing for all these long years. "Part of me wanted to, the part that was so gold-crazed... But while that part was strong, it was my heart that was ruling my actions that day. I thought you had betrayed us...not the Company, but us. I could not understand why you would choose the elves and humans over me. Over us. I...I wanted to shake you, to make you see reason, but you stuck by what you believed was right...by what was right. And I wanted to make you pay for that betrayal, wanted to hurt you just like you had hurt me. But I could never have let you go. Despite your treason, I could never have brought you harm like that..."
Bilbo smiled up at the dwarf, "Now you see? You banished me from your sight not because I had betrayed the King...though everyone believed that was the reason. I knew better. You thought I had betrayed what we had, when all I did was try to protect..." Soft lips pressing against his cut him off.
"We were both somewhat foolish I think," Thorin whispered after he pulled away. "But I feel that without the shock of your betrayal I would not have snapped out of this gold-lust and the desire to possess the Arkenstone. But after...what use would I have for all the riches in Erebor if I could not share them with you? I only wish I could have swallowed my pride and made the exchange..."
"It is all behind us now... And when I now look back on the time in Esgaroth and Erebor, all I think of is that night..." Which wasn't true, at least not entirely. There was another memory he seemingly couldn't shake. Not of that day on the walls that seemed to be haunting Thorin, no. It was the memories of Thorin's lifeless body, of the kiss Bilbo had pressed to the dwarf's forehead in a final farewell. Now more than ever did he remember that day for the hobbit knew that he wouldn't be able to endure heartbreak like that again, not after all he had now shared with Thorin. But he also knew that he could never tell Thorin...or he would simply replace the self-loathing over that attempt to kill Bilbo with self-loathing over dying...
So he swallowed and then pulled back, his palm coming to rest over Thorin's heart. "I had never known what it could be like to connect with another being like that, but then you showed me and... I could see that fire in your eyes, but you held it back for me. You were so loving and gentle... And I longed for that with all my heart...to have it again, if only for one more time. It was those memories that were my most treasured...nightmare. To see you, touch you, and feel you in my sleep, but never when waking...it was the most wonderful torture. It made me want to sleep forever, never to wake, as you would be with me then. But..." his hand closed around the ring that was still hanging around his neck, "I had this, I had this one token... And I knew I couldn't let go. Had to find out what it meant..." He smiled shyly, "You gave me everything that you are with this ring, Thorin...and I knew that we had parted not with grudges but love in our hearts..."
Thorin's hands cupped Bilbo's face then, and the dwarf's eyes were mirror images of what they had been that night in Lake-town. "I feared you only accepted my apologies and the ring because I was dying. I was...even more of an idiot than my nephews believed. They...back in Erebor, they tried to get me to seek you out after I turned my back on you, but I... I thought I had lost you, that my gold-lust had driven you away and forced you to side with my enemies. I was so blind..." He swallowed before continuing, "I vow that, if we are ever again at odds with each other, I will listen to you. I won't just plow ahead. I let gold and a stupid stone tear us apart once, but I promise that will never happen again. I have misjudged you time and again, my hobbit, have allowed pride and jealousy to drive a wedge between us, but no more. If you decide that all the wealth of our new kingdom should go to our dearest tree-huggers, then I will see it done."
Bilbo chuckled at that. "Truth be told, Thranduil's claims upon your gold were...somewhat over the top. Esgaroth had been destroyed, but Thranduil's Halls hadn't seen battle in any form or fashion... But he had struck up a deal with Bard, so there really was nothing for it." Thorin nodded. "You should know this though...Thranduil regretted his actions. After the battle, and later when I visited his Halls again... He said that something was tearing at his very soul... He...when he makes his journey, you two should try and put the past behind you..."
Thorin's eyes darkened, but he still nodded. "If that is your wish..."
"It is...we have all the ages ahead of us now, what use is there to dwell on the past?" And that was true. Bilbo hoped that Thorin would finally be able to let go of all the guilt that seemed to have been his ever-present companion for all these eighty years. And maybe they could take some of the old memories to reforge them into something beautiful and new. "You remember that night?" Thorin cocked an eyebrow before realisation made his entire face light up. "Well, since we are both awake anyway..." The dwarven king smirked, all the strain seeping away into nothingness. "Maybe you could turn my nightmares into the most pleasant drea..." He was cut off by a tender kiss...