Interlude - Better than Memories

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..." Bilbo was cut off by a tender kiss.

Bilbo's hand was still resting on Thorin's chest, and the dwarf felt it flutter, much like it had done all these years ago in Esgaroth. Bilbo had been so scared back then, but also so trusting. And if Thorin was honest with himself, that trusting innocence had been one of the most endearing things to him.

Now, as he had then, Bilbo melted into the kiss, and the dwarf only deepened the kiss once he knew that the precious creature next to him was ready. Part of Thorin's mind was laughing at the concept, reminding him how very much ready Bilbo had been earlier in the bath. But somehow the past week had still been tainted by all those resentments and fears that had been bubbling under the surface. That self-loathing that had been part of Thorin ever since...ever since he'd sent Bilbo away. It was gone now, replaced by mere regret at the time they had spent apart instead of together. And in a way that made this night almost like their first one.

With the exchange of the courting beads, this would also be the first time of being one in the eyes of dwarven society, any of their previous encounters nothing more than a means to an end. Not that that had ever been the case. He'd known he had found his the latest that night when they had shared their first kiss. But dwarven convention dictated that the giving and receiving of courting beads should precede any joining of body and soul... And Thorin hadn't expected to ever receive a bead himself, but was still prepared to continue at least his part of the courting rituals, conventions be damned. But once again Bilbo had surprised him...

Feeling the hobbit's lips part under his, he pulled Bilbo closer as he explored the hobbit's mouth before his tongue found its mate and they engaged in a sweet and loving duel of their own. His fingers were running through Bilbo's soft hair until they reached the braid he had placed there six days ago. Yours...he always has been yours. That thought made the dwarf smile into the kiss, and then he gasped as the mouth under his was withdrawn and Bilbo bit him, gently, on the bottom lip, "And what is so funny, Master Dwarf?" Bilbo's eyes were sparkling merrily, and his fingers found their way into Thorin's black locks and to the new braid. "Now we really are betrothed, even by dwarven standards. And as long as we both wear our braids and beads, we are considered as one, right?"

Thorin nodded. Bilbo had indeed learnt as much about his culture as possible, and he promised to himself that he would find a way to reciprocate. Though hopefully Frodo would be able to enlighten him. He really didn't want to have that conversation with Belladonna. It would be interesting enough to ask Bilbo's nephew about hobbit courting rites as it was. Twining his fingers with the hobbits, he rested his forehead against Bilbo's. "In one year's time, we will either exchange another set of beads, or the bond will be broken." Bilbo nodded. "However, I don't think that has ever happened in living memory. Dwarves only court the person whom we call our equal, and I feel that hobbits are not so different from us in that respect."

"No, we aren't. The only time such a bond is broken is when death takes one of a couple. And very rarely the survivor then finds another mate. The same really as it is in dwarven society." Which it was. "And as for that one year...I've been yours since...well...since the day we first met. Must have been your charming personality or something..." he winked. "What's another year? Will give me more time to design the second bead." And for his nephews to drive Thorin crazy with their knowledge of said design which they could obviously hint at, but that, at the end of the day, was super secret so they couldn't possibly tell him about it. But he couldn't really begrudge them their happiness, not after the past eighty years.

"And I will have to hide yours where you won't be able to find it..." He took a deep breath before continuing, "We will exchange the second set of front of the entire court." The hobbit groaned, burying his head in Thorin's shoulder again. "Bilbo, I am king, and I do not see either my grandfather nor my father agreeing to take over the crown...simply to enable us to have a more private ceremony." That earned him a chuckle, and grey eyes met his again. "We will then speak the words that you no doubt already know, and you will have to add the vows of the King's consort and co-ruler. For that is what you will be..."

Bilbo paused for a long moment, but then leaned closer to place a tender kiss on Thorin's lips. "As long as you don't call me that too often, and I can still be your burglar... I would fight Smaug with my own two hands to be with you..." That sweet smile on Bilbo's lips reached his eyes, and Thorin felt as if he could easily lose himself in those grey pools.

"Then this truly is a new beginning, my burglar. The past is behind us, and our future is ahead. And if I recall correctly, there were certain memories you wished to be replaced..." Bilbo shuddered in his arms as Thorin began trailing small kisses down the length of his neck. But then he stopped, suddenly realising an oversight on his part. Something he had been meaning to tell Bilbo on numerous occasions, only for one reason or another, he had always lost the nerve. Now though there was no more turning if there ever Thorin gently touched the hobbit's chin, moving his head until their eyes met. "Bilbo...I..." Come on Thorin, it's not that hard. Bilbo has told you thousands of times. "I love you."

One moment they had been gazing at each other, the next Bilbo had launched himself at Thorin, holding him in a tight embrace. "And I love you, Thorin." And with those whispered words, he leaned in for another kiss, deepening it almost immediately, those soft hands roaming over Thorin's chest and shoulders to finally comb through his hair. What else could Thorin do but respond in kind. Gently he pressed the hobbit into the mattress, eliciting the most delicious sounds from Bilbo. Twining their fingers together, Thorin pinned the hobbit's hands on either side of his head while kissing a trail down his neck, the dwarf's tongue coming out ever so often for a moist caress.

Bilbo was writhing underneath him, his head moving back and forth on the pillow, even as Thorin reached the hobbit's collarbone. Thorin chuckled, but the chuckle turned to a moan when Bilbo ground his hips into the dwarf's, making it abundantly clear just how much he was enjoying Thorin's ministrations. That was something he most definitely hadn't done that night in Lake-town. The hobbit's body had responded to Thorin's every touch as it did now, but Bilbo himself had been so very shy, almost unable to believe that the dwarven king could find him even remotely appealing. But Thorin had successfully replaced that silly notion with the truth; that to him there could be no one but the hobbit.

And now that they were only took you eighty years, well done...but then again, you were parted...he would make sure that Bilbo never felt unworthy. If anything, it was Thorin who had to prove his worth. And he had all eternity to do just that.

Grinding down his own hips made Bilbo arch off the bed, and when he slumped back down, pleading eyes met Thorin's. "Please...I need..." Oh, Thorin knew exactly what the hobbit needed, but Bilbo would have to wait a while longer for his release. Nibbling on the hobbit's collarbone he slowly moved down Bilbo's chest until his mouth was poised mere centimetres above the hobbit's nipple. Once his eyes found Bilbo's he blew on the little nub and the hobbit's eyes widened as he drew in a deep breath. "Thorin..." The dwarf grinned. Who would have thought that Bilbo Baggins, gentlehobbit of the Shire would ever make noises like this? So needy, so very passionate that even the great Thorin Oakenshield had to pause and catch himself before he came undone.

"What is it that you want, my hobbit? Tell me..." He sucked the little nub into his mouth and knew that his tongue was driving Bilbo mad with need. But the hobbit had asked for those memories to be replaced, so Thorin was going to follow that request to the letter...even if it killed him. Bilbo's hands were pushing up against his own but the hobbit knew full well that such actions were futile. Thorin was stronger by far, not that he would ever use that strength again to hold the hobbit against his will. Let it go. He told you to stop dwelling on it, didn't he? Easier said than done. At least he now knew that for all the threat, he never ever would have harmed the hobbit.

"Thorin?" Bilbo raised his eyebrows, "Less brooding and more," he raised his hips, pressing his arousal into Thorin's stomach, "more doing something about this..." Beneath the lust, Thorin could see concern in Bilbo's eyes. The hobbit's hands pushed against Thorin's once more and he released them. Bilbo gently stroked the dwarf's face and whispered, "I love you." And again, "I love you." Those tenderly spoken words dispelled the remnants of regret and guilt, and Thorin leaned into the hobbit's gentle touch before taking hold of Bilbo's wrists and pressing a kiss to both of his palms. "You're mine," Bilbo stated simply, "and I'll forever be yours." And then the corners of the hobbit's mouth twitched and the sweet smile turned into a smirk. "Make me yours, my betrothed. Claim more holding back."

The hobbit's words set Thorin's blood on fire and he growled, "You will regret ever saying that, Master Burglar." Bilbo shuddered at the sultry tone, hips bucking up involuntary. "You are indeed mine, and I will mark you as you have marked me. Your name is branded into my very soul and you have set aflame that which I thought was lying in ruins." Placing a final kiss onto Bilbo's nipple, he moved to its twin, submitting it to the same treatment. Bilbo's hands were fisted into the sheets and he made those sweet keening noises that meant he was dangerously close to the brink. "Oh no, you will not leave me behind, my hobbit..." Fingers surrounded the base of Bilbo's arousal in a tight grip and the hobbit whined in need. "You wished to be claimed...and you will due course." And with that he slid down to capture his prize in the wet cavern of his mouth and swallowed Bilbo whole.

"Thorin!" Bilbo's hands were suddenly buried in Thorin's hair, "Please, oh Valar..." They wouldn't help Bilbo now. He was at Thorin's mercy, just as much as Thorin was at the hobbit's. Thorin stilled completely, a finger pointing at the bedside table and it took a good minute for Bilbo's lust-fogged mind to realise what the dwarf was asking for. The small vial was placed into Thorin's hand and Thorin set out to bringing the hobbit painfully close to the close as the dwarf himself was by now...while nimble fingers prepared Bilbo for their joining. Releasing Bilbo from his lips, Thorin knelt back between the hobbit's spread legs and thrust the vial back into the half-crazed halfling's hands. Bilbo groaned, but quickly coated Thorin before winding his legs around the dwarf's hips.

And then, for a moment, Bilbo seemed to regain control over his body and threatened, "Unless you stop being such a tease, Master Oakenshield, I may have to tell my mother that you are cruel and unkind... She won't stop to ask why before bringing out the frying pan..." How could he possibly be so in control of his faculties? And to mention his mother?! "Please, Thorin..." How could he refuse that pleading voice? Especially since Bilbo's wishes matched his own.

He sank into the pliant body beneath him, setting a quick pace as neither of them would be able to hold out for much longer. And indeed, within minutes Bilbo cried out Thorin's name, and the hobbit's release pulled Thorin's from him as well. Bracing himself on shaking arms so he wouldn't crush his betrothed, Thorin slowly pulled away and slumped down next to that exquisite creature who had stolen his heart and soul. And apparently his breath as well it would seem.

It was Bilbo who got to unsteady feet to clean away the mess he had made of himself and Thorin, tenderly wiping the dwarf's stomach clean. Upon his return from the bath chamber, Bilbo knelt down on the bed and took Thorin's right hand in his. Fingers were idly tracing patterns on the dwarf's palm, following the lifeline before a kiss was pressed to it. "You held back so much that night, and any other since I arrived in Valinor. Thorin...I'm not afraid of that fire that courses through your veins, for it is within me too. It is..." Was that reluctance in the hobbit's eyes? "It is very un-hobbitish. But maybe...maybe some of that dwarven fierceness is now also part of me. Maybe our souls truly are one...and maybe that was the real reason I could hold on for those eighty years. Because somehow you were still with me..."

And if Thorin was honest with himself, he too had felt that warm presence at the back of his mind, especially when the nightmares became too terrible or the simple fact that he was alive and not dead and gone became unbearable. There was that warmth that reminded him of his gentle hobbit and somehow he could suddenly go on. "Maybe you're right. Maybe Aulė and Yavanna have bound us together beyond what we thought so far. Maybe there is a deeper meaning to all of this, and there are things at work that we cannot comprehend. Or why else would Aulė have allowed my nephews to make certain decisions for me?"

Bilbo grinned, "Because you would have been too stubborn to make the right decisions and would be sitting next to Lord Durin wondering where it all went wrong? And I would be all alone here, fending off your nephews all on my own, missing you. And soon I wouldn't be able to stop myself from trying to beat down the doors of Aulė's Halls to get you out so I could tell you what a fool you were..." Thorin laughed as he captured the hobbit's lips in a tender kiss.

"Whatever their plan is, and however many elves it involves, I am glad they have chosen me for it. You truly are a burglar, Bilbo Baggins, for you stole my soul that night we first met. It has been yours ever since, as has my heart."

Bilbo smiled softly and leaned forward to rest his head against Thorin's shoulder. "I thought I would be alone for the rest of my life and then one day Gandalf showed up and turned my life upside down. And I think I should really thank him for that. He gave me a family and introduced me to the rudest, most maddening, but also most wonderful dwarf in the whole of Middle-earth. Eighty years are a small price to pay for an eternity of that." And then he added with a chuckle, "Oh yes, eighty years are nothing compared to the pleasure of seeing my mother twitching your nose..."

Thorin had been stroking Bilbo's back but had stopped at that last bit. "Your mother is a formidable hobbit and I'll be damned if I ever upset her. I only fear the day my sister will join us for she will become fast friends with Belladonna and then we can all start digging our graves..." Bilbo chuckled again but the chuckle quickly turned into a yawn. "We should rest, my hobbit. For within a week we will be on our way to our mountain..." New Erebor where another member of the Company was eagerly awaiting their arrival.

Bilbo nodded sleepily. "No more nightmares, agreed? I need my rest before you're dragging me off on the road again and I will miss at least three meals again each and every day..." Lifting his head off its resting place, Bilbo locked gazes with Thorin. "But I would follow you wherever you go, even if there was another dragon at the end of the journey."

"No more dragons, I promise. more nightmares. Only pleasant dreams of you by my side, ruling over our people. One year, Bilbo, and then we will truly be one..." And as he gathered the hobbit to him under the blankets, Bilbo's head resting on the dwarf's broad chest, Thorin couldn't wait for that one year to pass so he could finally make the hobbit his for all the world to see. It had taken eighty years and many sleepless nights filled with nightmares to get to this point, but as Bilbo had stated before, what was all that time compared to an eternity together? And this time it was these thoughts that were on Thorin's mind when he closed his eyes. And there were no nightmares waiting for him but a dream of his hobbit in dwarven garments, two braids framing his gentle face, a mithril circlet resting on his brow...his consort and husband...