Thorin and Bilbo by feignedsobriquet

Notes: This 'ficlet' was written for the Hobbit Story Big Bang. And yes, I know it lends itself to being continued, so just wait and see :P

This is a songfic based on the beautiful song 'Try' by P!nk ... it just begged to be turned into a Thilbo story :D

Translation of Khuzdul: Uzayang - greatest love. Ughvashâ - greatest treasure. Âzyungel - love of love (greatest love).

The beads were heavy in his hand, and yet he could not let go of them. They were all he had left now; all he had to remind him of the dwarf who had come to mean the world to him. The dwarf who had died before his very eyes. He had cried for what seemed like weeks, and still he was close to tears almost all the time. "Be calm," Gandalf would say when he caught Bilbo lost in thoughts, but how could he be when his heart had been torn from his chest not once, but twice in but a few days? There was a gaping hole now where it had been, and the hobbit knew that nothing would ever fill that emptiness. And his friends had tried.

Fíli had all but begged him to stay behind and be his advisor, and Kíli had given him that sad look while leaning heavily on Tauriel. "You would have stayed here if uncle were still alive, wouldn't you? Banished or not, you wouldn't have simply given up on him." The blond spoke true, yes, but after Thorin's death... "At least allow me to ask Balin to prepare your share, even just a small part of it. I would honour my uncle's contract, and what sort of king would I be if one of my first actions was to deny the Hero of Erebor his fair dues?" But Bilbo had politely declined, reminding the young king of the treasure that lay on his way back. Fíli had nodded, and Kíli had cried, kissing Bilbo's cheek.

Their leavetaking had been tearful and the hobbit had been forced to promise countless times that he would write and maybe even come back eventually to see the Mountain restored to its past glory. But he was alone when he said goodbye to his betrothed, for even in death Thorin would forever remain the hobbit's betrothed. "Take these," Fíli had said, passing Thorin's beads to the halfling. "He no longer needs them. But he will always wear the one you placed into his hair and I hope you will do so as well. Even in the Halls, he will be yours." And when he whispered his final goodbyes, he knew that Fíli had been right. In the end, Thorin had been his once more. But somehow, Bilbo had a strange feeling of being watched and soon scuttled out of the tombs.

Now they were drawing close to the end of their journey, ponies laden down with gold and silver. The sun was warm again, and soon it would be truly turning spring. Bilbo longed for his garden and his chair by the fire. And peace. Peace to mourn all that he had lost. Gandalf had been right indeed, he was no longer the same hobbit that had left the Shire not even a year ago. But when they turned into Bagshot Row, Bilbo nearly forgot his good manners. "Lobelia?! What in Yavanna's name do you think you are doing?!" It did not take too long to retrieve all of his possessions, and then some, but he could tell that the Sackville-Bagginses would forever hate him. Oh well, that was just fine with him.

It was only a few days after they had reached Bag End that Gandalf took his leave, being ever the mysterious wizard. "There are things in the world, Bilbo Baggins, that you do not know. And if I were you, I would not be too sure of those you think you know." He would say no more of course, which was to be expected, but Bilbo still glared at his receding back as the Grey Wanderer rode away from his door.

Half a world away, in Erebor, blue eyes fixed upon the Arkenstone lying within Thorin's tomb. Lips turned into a sneer, and strong hands pushed the heavy lid closed again. "It will stay here, forever, for I do not wish it to ever blind anyone else again," Fíli muttered, his brother nodding his agreement. He still wouldn't look at the third dwarf in the tomb, beyond livid. "I wish we did not have to lie to him, but Gandalf said..."

"Gandalf is a fool," Kíli interjected with a glare. "Did you see him, Fee? Did you hold him as he cried his eyes out? That was the wizard's doing, and ... and his." He pointed at the older dwarf, who closed his eyes and nodded. "Why?! Why was it so important that Bilbo thought..." Tears flooded big brown eyes and Kíli turned away. "It's idiotic, and people call me a fool," he whispered, sniffling pitifully after each word. "It would serve you right if he slammed his door in your face." And with that the brunette stormed off, probably to find his betrothed and ride down into Dale to clear his head.

"He is right, Fíli. But I had to be certain. I wish there had been another way, but the wizard was right. If the Arkenstone could cloud my mind once, the possibility of it doing so again..." He sighed in relief then. "I am glad that all I wish to do with it now is smash it into a million pieces. Don't ever listen to the whispers of the gold, Fíli. Be the king I could never be." Fíli nodded and then found himself in a strong embrace. "Pray that he will not act as your brother believes he will. I would show him Erebor restored, and all the wonders of the world we have seen. Even those that involve elves." The young king chuckled. "I wanted to tell him, Fíli. I heard him cry, and it tore out my heart. I will do everything in my power to win him back. To make him believe that I regret the words I spoke to him. If it takes the rest of my days."

"He loves you. I asked him straight out whether he would have stayed, banishment or not. And he nodded; more tears falling from his eyes. And he still wore your braid, Uncle. I do not think he will ever take it out. I know why Gandalf made the suggestion, I do. But Bilbo will be ill pleased when he finds that all of us knew. I'm not looking forward to the tongue-lashing we will receive." Fíli sighed and stepped away from his uncle. "I only wish he had not insisted on staying for the funeral. It is one thing to pretend you're dead. It's quite another to involve everyone he knows in the scam. He will be more dangerous than Smaug ever was, and I'm glad that I have to stay here and rule Erebor. I'd truly would have loved to join you ... not." Then he glanced down at his beringed fingers. "You are sure you do not wish to take the crown when you return?"

"No. Gandalf was right. I lived my life with only one thing on my mind. To claim back our home. I have done so. I will lend you my help as much as I can, but no, the throne is yours. A fresh start, Fíli. For all of us. I am sorry this burden has been thrust upon you, but you will bear it so much better than I could have." He placed a warm hand on the blonde's shoulder, squeezing. "You make me so proud. You and Kíli both. Even though I still wonder what we did wrong in his upbringing..."

"Tauriel will be good for him; you know it." Thorin huffed. "Balin has prepared everything as you instructed, and the forges are at your disposal. Bard has provided us with dragon scales for your new armour, so it is similar, but not alike to that Bilbo knows. We wouldn't want him to think you're a ghost. Please, Uncle, make him understand why we did this. And tell him that every time he cried, I desperately wanted to tell him the truth. We all did. Including Gandalf. But once the plan had been set in motion..."

"There was nothing we could have done. I should not have taken the draught, but I was so afraid that I would do the same thing again. That I would let the gold become more important than Bilbo. That I would hurt him..." Only, he had. They all had. And now it was up to Thorin himself to right this wrong. Fíli hoped and prayed that he would be able to. They all missed Bilbo already, and it had only been a few months. "I will set out in the morning. But for now I have to go to the forges. He will have beads that truly tell him what he means to me." And if his uncle was worried, Fíli could not tell. But the young king was. Oh yes. He was.


Winter was fast approaching and with the first snows came certain anniversaries Bilbo could have done without. He had re-established himself as Master of Bag End, much to Lobelia's displeasure, but was also making a name of himself as queer Mister Bilbo or even Mad Baggins, and he was sure that his dearest relatives had not just a little hand in that. But Bilbo didn't mind. On the contrary. If folk left him alone for thinking him strange now that he'd returned from his ... adventures then that was just fine with him. He did not feel like telling people of his travels, not when he already spent every waking moment remembering and wondering how he could have prevented certain things from happening.

Every evening found him sitting in front of his fireplace, dwarven beads warm in his hands. Warm, just like Thorin had been. Even during those last moments they had shared. He knew that Gandalf had worried for him, but the hobbit had never been afraid of his dwarf, only afraid for him. There had been a shadow in Thorin's eyes ever since they had reached the Mountain, growing stronger and stronger every passing day. Bilbo had tried to fight it, but he had failed and had seen not only his betrothed but also almost all of his friends fall to the gold sickness. But even at his worst, when Thorin had threatened to kill the hobbit, Bilbo had seen that under that shadow, the dwarf's love for him still shone brightly. Gandalf had believed the dwarven king would have killed him without his timely intervention, but the halfling knew that to be untrue.

There was something though about that horrific day that he had only recently remembered. When he had let go of Bilbo, his hands had been shaking and he had lifted them again as if to ... not strike the hobbit but to maybe stroke his cheek. And for a second there, that shadow upon his eyes had lifted and if Gandalf had not had a hand on the hobbit's shoulder, he would have thrown himself into Thorin's arms. He did not know why he had forgotten about it, but in light of what happened afterwards it was probably not very surprising. Now, sitting in his drawing room, Bilbo took solace in the fact that even on his deathbed, his dwarf had still worn his braid. Their world was burning and they with it, but they had been one even in the end.

Of course he still wore his braid as well. He would never take it out and was always careful with it. Thorin had placed it there, and Bilbo still remembered that night in Laketown. The men of the lake had not understood why the dwarves were suddenly cheering so much, but that had been of little consequence. And to think that Fíli had wanted him to stay in honour of Bilbo's bond with the king's late uncle... It had been hard to take his leave, but it would have been harder to stay. He would have spent his days in the tombs, he knew, and that would have been beyond unhealthy. So he had returned to a life that was hardly worth living. However, every time a hobbit neighbour stared at the unfamiliar braid in his hair, Bilbo's heart skipped a beat. Somehow, even though Thorin was gone, he was still with the hobbit.


The first anniversary of his king's death had been grueling. Bilbo had been unwilling to leave his bed in the morning and had to force himself to do anything. His heart was heavy in his chest, and the whole day he had been haunted by visions of his betrothed. Those last whispered words, and the hobbit was still unable to shake the feeling that Thorin had wanted to say something else with his last breath... 'I am sorry, Bilbo, I...' That strong and gentle hand had dropped from where it had been lying against Bilbo's cheek then, and the hobbit had cried, praying to the Valar for a miracle he knew would not happen. "I love you," he muttered to the beads in his palm and he did so numerous times throughout the day.

Night was slowly falling now, and Bilbo knew that he should slowly think about supper. But how could he eat when his heart was burning inside his chest and if he was not crying it was simply because he had no more tears left to shed. It was then, at the most inopportune moment, that a knock fell upon his door and the hobbit cursed inwardly. And outwardly. "Go away, Lobelia. I am not in the mood. And I am very sure that I do not wish to give you any of my riches. Very sure." Another knock, and Bilbo sighed, steeling himself so he could give whoever it was that came to pay a visit at this hour a piece of his mind. But when he opened the door, he nearly stumbled.

Thorin. Thorin Oakenshield stood on his doorstep and Bilbo did a rather perfect impression of a stranded fish. "I assure you you're not seeing things. Nor am I a ghost." That voice. Oh, but it still turned his knees to jelly, forcing him to hold on to the door handle for fear of dropping to the floor. "Careful, Bilbo. Please be careful, my hobbit." What? His hobbit?! What was going on?

"Thorin?" The dwarf nodded, slowly stepping into the smial. "You..." And then something broke free within him and he slapped the dwarf's cheek. "You were dead! I saw you die!" Thorin seemed startled, but the hobbit had only just begun. "How can you be alive?! I grieved for you. I cried. Every night, I cried myself to sleep," he was punching that strong dwarven chest now, only managing to hurt his hands. Thorin eventually captured his wrists, but Bilbo glared. "You ... you live. Why didn't you tell me? Why did no one bother telling me that you..." But then he allowed himself to feel, feel those strong hands around his wrists and he was lost.

Pulling his right hand free, he touched the dwarf's cheek and all but fell forward and into a heated kiss. Alive. Thorin was alive. 'Yes, he is alive. And you saw and felt his armour, didn't you. Dragon scales I'd wager. Smaug's scales. That means this is not a miracle...' And Bilbo pulled back, leaving Thorin confused, his mouth still open and lips glistening from the kiss. But the hobbit didn't see that. Couldn't see it. Anger raced through his veins as he asked one question he already knew the answer to. "You didn't die, did you?"

Ever wonder about what he's doing?
How it all turned to lies?

"So instead of letting me decide what to do with my own life, you and Gandalf decided that breaking my heart would be the best course of action? Am I getting this right?" They were sitting across from each other at the kitchen table, a pot of tea between them. The tea had been the extent Bilbo's hobbit upbringing could influence his actions now. The rest was anger. Unbridled and raging anger. Thorin's story, oh but it had been ludicrous.

Gandalf had decreed that Thorin had to be tested before being allowed near Bilbo again, apparently afraid of another incident like the one on the battlements. With a more grievous outcome. "I ... I am sorry, Bilbo. I was afraid of what I might do to you, and the wizard agreed. He gave me a potion and..."

"And you drank it before I was allowed to see you. I get it. Who knows? Who else has been lying to me since the day I thought I lost you? Your nephews I would assume. And Dain. Yes? Am I right? After all, you're not really dead, but are pretending to be." Never before in his life had Bilbo Baggins, Master of Bag End, been this outraged. Never! "Did it never occur to you or Gandalf that this would very likely kill me anyway? To lose you, it felt as if my heart had been torn from my chest. All this year I have been bleeding inwardly. Grieving. And for what? A lie!" Thorin's face had turned to ash at the hobbit's words, but Bilbo kept going. "To die at your hands would have been so much kinder than this. I don't expect Gandalf to understand, but you ... you were my betrothed. Or still are, seeing that you didn't die. You should have known! You should know me!"

"I wanted to tell you. I knew what we were attempting was wrong. But the drought began to work before I could... Bilbo please." The dwarf reached out, but Bilbo pulled his hand away. "I knew it would hurt you, but the prospect of falling under the spell of the gold and that accursed jewel again ... I couldn't risk that. Had it happened, Bilbo, had I lost myself again, Gandalf would have given me another drought. When we spoke, I realised that life was not worth living without you in it, and..."

Bilbo laughed harshly. "So instead of allowing me to help you, you would have simply taken the easy way out, would you? The great Thorin Oakenshield taking his own life because he can't face the sickness that ails him. Oh yes, that sounds just like the dwarf I was willing to give my life for. When did you turn into such a coward? Don't you think that we could have weathered even this?" Hurt constricted his throat for a moment and he had to swallow down some of his tea before he could go on. "You wouldn't have hurt me, Thorin. Even without Gandalf's interference. I could see it in your eyes, in the way you gazed at me. You were so hurt, and I now understand why you couldn't agree to the trade. I had betrayed you, your betrothed had broken your trust. I am sorry, Thorin. For that I am so very sorry. But you still should have given me a choice and not simply decided for me. You and Gandalf both."

"I am sorry, Bilbo. We did what we thought was best, only I realised that it wasn't. To find that you still loved me despite what I'd done to you ... I knew we would be able to ... endure. But it was too late. And when I woke, when they brought the Arkenstone to me, I nearly took one of Dwalin's hammers to it. I so wanted to let you know the truth, but Gandalf insisted on further tests. They locked me into the depth of the Mountain, Bilbo, with all the gold. But all I could think of was you, crying for me in a different part of Erebor. The gold was dull and unimportant." He sighed.

"Then why did you not seek me out? Why, Thorin? I was in Erebor for almost two months after your death. Did Gandalf have you under lock and key that whole time? And even if that had been the case, I know that the Thorin I knew would have broken free. He would not have allowed anyone to hold him prisoner. Not even an elven king." He caught the dwarf's gaze, "Why didn't you? Don't you know how much I longed to be with you? Don't you know that I was contemplating throwing myself off the battlements just to be reunited with you? I missed you so. We had regained Erebor and yet, without you, our achievement was worth nothing. And what would you have done had I decided to stay in the Mountain? What..."

"After we were certain that no jewel and no precious metal would ever be able to corrupt me again, I sat in council with Dain, Balin and Fíli. Kíli would not come near me. He refuses to speak to me, ever since the day Gandalf and I explained our plan to him and his brother. He thinks, and rightfully so, that we were insane and he believes that I don't deserve your forgiveness. Not after what I put you through. And, like you, he doesn't mean what happened before the battle." Thorin took a deep breath. "Anyway, we sat in council and I decided that no matter what, Thorin Oakenshield, King under the Mountain, was indeed dead. Dwarves don't abdicate, Bilbo. I had to die. I am just Thorin now, the king's crazy uncle. It was difficult to make our kin understand, but ... I believe I was never..."

"They knew?! When I was coming to them for guidance that always ended up with me crying in their arms ... they knew?!" The anger had returned, and twined with it even more hurt.

Sometimes I think that it's better to never ask why.

"Eat!" the hobbit snapped, his own stew still very much untouched. "No one will ever be able to say that the Master of Bag End doesn't see to the needs of his guests." Even unwelcome ones he wanted to add, but thought better of it. Thorin had been trying to make the hobbit understand the Company's reasoning for keeping the truth from him, but Bilbo would have none of it. He had been Thorin's betrothed! He of all people should have known. He didn't need to be mollycoddled like a baby. Gritting his teeth, he tried to eat a spoonful of his food, but once again it only tasted of ash.

Everyone but him had known that Thorin was still alive. Everyone. Was there no truth in this world anymore? Why? He simply couldn't understand. Thorin had said he'd wanted to be sure he wouldn't hurt Bilbo again, but couldn't he see that in doing as he, as they had, he had been hurt all the same and even more. To believe for a year that the love of his life, for he was sure that was what Thorin was, had died... It had left scars far worse than anything physical could have. These were scars on his soul. He looked at the dwarf, and was torn. Part of him wanted to simply throw himself into those strong arms and kiss him again and be kissed and simply forget all that had happened. But there was another part to Bilbo, and that reminded him of his bleeding heart and the fact that for some reason, Thorin hadn't trusted him enough to make the right decision.

"Bilbo..." the former king began once more, but the hobbit shook his head, pointing at the stew. "Please. Believe me at least when I say that it was killing them. All of them. But they, too, feared for you. They had been taken by the gold as well and did not try to protect you when I ... when I..."

"It still should have been my decision. Do you truly think I would have stayed had I been truly afraid of you? Do you think my sense of self-preservation is so easily overpowered by feelings of ... of love and desire?" Bilbo shook his head once more, his eyes no longer stern but sad. "You died. Right in front of me. My life stopped at that moment. This past year has been empty. Do you want to know what gave me the strength to go on? The only thing that managed to make me endure?" He reached into his pocket to take out the beads and hold them out in front of Thorin. "These. They reminded me of you. Of your love. And now ... now I don't even know if that was real. You are here, and yet somehow I feel as if you are even further removed from me than you were before. I..."

Tears welled from his eyes and the dwarf was clearly torn between reaching across the table to wipe them away and sitting still. "What ... what would you have me do, Bilbo? I will leave and never return if that is what you wish... I was a fool to come here. I will go. I should go."

"No! You are not running away again, Thorin Oakenshield. You are welcome to stay here until ... I need to think. Please give me time to think." The hobbit glanced into sapphire pools, pleading now. And slowly Thorin nodded.

Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame.
Where there is a flame
Someone's bound to get burned.

That night, Bilbo could find no rest. Beads clutched to his chest, he remembered ... every time Thorin had smiled at him, every time the dwarf had whispered to him in that strange tongue. Each gentle touch, burning on the hobbit's skin, and he wanted, oh how he wanted to walk the few steps and lie in Thorin's arms again. Lie with Thorin again. His body craved it, and yet his mind was firmly set against it. His heart was bleeding again, and where that empty hole had been was now a burning inferno.

But just because it burns
Doesn't mean you're gonna die
You've gotta get up and try, try, try.
Gotta get up and try, try, try.
You gotta get up and try, try, try.

And yet, the hobbit also knew that the pain he now felt was so intense because the love he shared with Thorin was as well. In the end, would he be able to forgive? He didn't know. But he hoped. The dwarf had hurt him, yes, but only to prevent himself from hurting Bilbo even more. It made no sense, and yet, it did. And as he at last cried himself to sleep once more, he made a solemn promise to himself. He would try.

On the other side of his door, Thorin stood. Every sob was like a dagger stabbing into the dwarf's heart and he knew that this was his fault. No matter what Gandalf had said, no matter what everyone else had advised. He should have told Bilbo the moment he had woken up. He sank to the floor next to the door, burying his face against his knees. He had been fooling himself thinking that his hobbit, his betrothed would simply take him back. He had caused so much suffering that maybe it would be best if he simply ... simply vanished forever from Bilbo's life. But he couldn't. For the briefest of moments he had seen hope in the hobbit's eyes, and the memory of that kiss... No. He would not leave. Not again.

Funny how the heart can be deceiving
More than just a couple times.

Days had turned into weeks, and Bilbo and Thorin had found a way to live with each other but next to each other at the same time. They would not speak of what had happened, only of the young King under the Mountain and his brother who was to the hobbit's great joy now betrothed to be married to his elven love. Many a time did Thorin grumble because of this, and Bilbo pointed out that without Tauriel, Kíli would no longer be amongst the living. Besides, he could surely not begrudge his nephew that which he, Thorin, himself had done. To fall for someone that was most definitely not a dwarf.

But whenever Bilbo mentioned that, the conversation died and they both found other things to do. Thorin readied Bag End for a harsher winter than even the Fell Winter had been, and Bilbo did what every good hobbit would have. He was cooking and baking for his guest.

Something had begun nagging at him, an insistent little voice that whispered of how Thorin had lied to him time and again, that maybe the whole betrothal had been nothing but a way to get Bilbo to satisfy the dwarf's needs. And while the hobbit knew that wasn't true, believed it with every fibre of his being, doubts crept into his heart. And with them, the fear of being deceived again. By those he had called his friends and family, but also by his own feelings.

Why do we fall in love so easy?
Even when it's not right.

Maybe, just maybe, he hadn't been meant to run out of his door that day. Maybe he hadn't been meant to fall for the dwarven king. But it had been so natural, just like catching breath. He'd never felt so alive before, and lying in Thorin's arms had been true and good and ... could it have been a lie? That feeling of safety, of being cherished and loved? Had the sparkle in his betrothed's eyes been a trick of the light and not a display of deep affections?

Every time he doubted, that little voice at the back of his mind grew stronger and louder, until, one evening, it nearly drove Bilbo crazy with is insistent chattering. No! Maybe he had been mistaken and Thorin had not loved him from the beginning. But he surely loved the hobbit now, or he would not have given up his throne for him, would not have travelled half a world to return to him. 'And what if he didn't abdicate as he put it? What if Fíli took the throne by force? What if your precious dwarf holds you responsible for it and is only waiting for you to fall back into his web of lies so he can exact his revenge on you?'

"No," he all but growled at that horrible voice and took another swing or ten from the mead he had been warming at the kitchen stove. And when he returned to the drawing room and saw Thorin sitting in his chair...

Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame.
Where there is a flame
Someone's bound to get burned.

His mind was a buzz, and he felt warm and comfortable, and Thorin ... oh, but he looked as beautiful as ever. Setting down the jug of steaming mead, he crept up to the dwarf and then all but fell into his lap, the hobbit's fingers already seeking purchase in long strands as he almost smashed their faces together in a searing kiss.

And the dwarf responded, how could he not? He had been longing for this since that first night, and dreamed of holding his beloved in his arms once more. Greedily he nipped at Bilbo's lips, a silent request to be allowed entrance and when the hobbit complied, Thorin's tongue delved into that warm and moist cavern and he drank his fill. Mapping each and every crevice and then finally sliding against the hobbit's own tongue; reacquainting, relearning.

But something felt wrong. Somehow this fire that suddenly seemed to have taken possession of his beloved was not cleansing or even fuelled by passion and love. It was ... wrong. And so, using every last ounce of willpower, he gently pushed Bilbo away. "Uzayang, no. This is not what you want. Look into your heart, my hobbit, please I beseech you. We cannot do this, no matter how much we want it. Not while you still cannot forgive, or even understand why I did what I did. And do not think I say this because I no longer desire you when there is nothing I would want more than to take you into my arms and never let go. You are my heart and soul, Bilbo Baggins, and I understand now how much I have wronged you. Please... Please don't do this to yourself. To us. There is still hope, but I fear if we were to ... do as you clearly long to do right now, all hope would be lost."

Thorin's gentle touch to his cheek brought Bilbo back to his senses, and he gasped, realising where he was. "I ... I am sorry. I didn't mean to ... I am sorry." And with that he all but fled to his room, his heart thumping so loud that he was sure the entire Shire could hear it.

But just because it burns
Doesn't mean you're gonna die.
You've gotta get up and try, try, try.
Gotta get up and try, try, try.
You gotta get up and try, try, try.

Back in the safety of his own chambers, he took a deep breath and then blinked. And smiled. He had been right. All this time, he had been right and not that nasty nagging voice. What had happened that evening though; it scared him. He hadn't been himself, and only now did he realise that he hadn't been himself at times for a while now. Ever since... Oh. The ring. His magic ring. With mounting terror did he remember his deeds in Mirkwood. Yes, he'd felt braver with the ring, but he had also ... oh Yavanna.

Feeling suddenly quite ill, he sat down on the edge of his bed, fishing the ring out of his pocket. Somehow, the beads ended up in his hand as well, and when he opened it, and stared down at his palm, he thought he could see a difference between the gold of the ring and Thorin's silver beads. The silver was blinking in the light of the fire, twinkling warmly and lively. He loved them, he knew, because he loved the dwarf who had worn them. But the gold ... it was almost sickly the way it seemed to draw him in and he realised that what he had thought was love, was now quickly turning to loathing for the piece of jewelry. "It was you, wasn't it? You told me all those things about my beloved. Yes, he did wrong. They all did. But to protect me! Not to hurt me. Thorin ... I know now that he would sooner kill himself than hurt me ever again. He could have had what you said he wanted just now, but he pushed me away. And rightly so."

Tenderly he ran his fingers over the beads before placing them back into his pocket. The ring, on the other hand, he put into an envelope, sealing it with wax before setting it on the mantle. He would explain what he thought had happened to Thorin tomorrow, and together they would figure out what to do with it.

Ever worry that it might be ruined
And does it make you wanna cry?

Thorin. With a pained sob he dropped to his knees. Thorin was alive. It seemed that his mind could only now truly grasp that fact. He longed to run back into the drawing room and... But he couldn't. The dwarf would think Bilbo had lost his mind completely and... Was it possible that it was too late now? No. No, no, no. Thorin had spoken of hope. There had to be hope. The dwarf still wore Bilbo's braid and the hobbit had not removed his either. There had to be hope, more than hope. Everything else was unthinkable.

He would speak to the dwarf in the morning, yes, that would be best. He would ask Thorin to repeat his reasons for doing what he had done once more, and Bilbo knew this time he would understand. He already did. He still thought that Gandalf had been overprotective and Thorin an idiot for following the wizard's suggestion, but ... all that had happened had happened because the others cared for him. Loved him. There was no malice, no matter how much he had grieved and hurt. He felt no anger anymore, only acceptance. Staring at the fireplace, he muttered, "You put the anger in my heart, didn't you." But that voice had fallen silent and would no longer whisper to him.

When he fell asleep, he didn't shed any tears, though the beads were as always pressed to his heart. He would replace them in the morning, would braid Thorin's wonderful hair and make him whole again. And in doing so, the hobbit himself would be whole once more.

When you're out there doing what you're doing
Are you just getting by?
Tell me are you just getting by, by, by?

Morning came with the sound of hooves on stone, and Bilbo sat up with a start. What was going on? Crawling out of bed, he peered out of his little window and nearly dropped to the floor as his knees were about to give out. Thorin was out there, readying his pony and various travel bags. No. Surely not. He'd said there was hope! The dwarf now leaned his head against the pony's neck, and Bilbo could see tears in those deep blue eyes, and his heart stopped. He was leaving. Thorin Oakenshield was leaving him again, but this time Bilbo was not going to sit by and simply let it happen!

Throwing on ... something somewhat decent, he raced out of his room and down the hall. Thorin had left by now, but Bilbo knew the dwarf would follow the road while he could cut across the green by the Party Tree and hopefully catch up with him. So he once again ran out of his door and down the path he had taken nearly two years ago, only breathing when at last he saw the dwarf and his pony ahead of him. And then he shouted, "Thorin! Wait! Don't go!" and did not stop until he had finally caught up with his wayward betrothed. Winded, he held onto the pony's reins as the dwarf dismounted with a frown.

"One ... second ... if you please," Bilbo panted, taking deep breaths. "Don't ... don't leave. Not again. Please, Thorin." He did not dare to lift his eyes to the dwarf's, afraid of what he might find in them. "I ... I am sorry about last night. I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I just ... please don't leave. I think I understand now. What you and Gandalf did. And the others. I think if I was worried I might hurt you again, I probably would have done the same thing. I just ... I missed you so much. It hurt and I ... I'm sorry..."

Gentle hands cupped his face, and then surprised eyes were gazing down at him. "Bilbo. I wasn't leaving. Did you not find my note?" Note? What note? "I was on my way to the market in Bywater. I am eating you out of your stores and I thought it was time I replenished them. I ... I was considering leaving, for about one second. But I cannot. Just being near you is worth all the..."

"Pain? I cannot even begin to describe to you how happy I was to see you. And I don't know why it all turned to anger so quickly." He did, or at least believed he did, but how could he blame his magic ring when it had been his words and his actions that had hurt Thorin? He would speak of it, had to, but not yet. "All I can say is that I see things as they truly are now. And I know that despite everything that happened, I still love you. I still long to be by your side and if you want that as well, then..."

His words were cut off, silenced forever, by Thorin's lips as they captured his own. And Bilbo signed into the kiss, tears of relief and joy falling from his eyes. His arms came up around the dwarf's neck just as he was pulled against that strong chest. This time, the kiss felt ... right. There was no desperation in it, and there was no nagging voice at the back of his head speaking of the dwarf's lust and that he was only a means to an end. No. This time all he could hear was his heart singing. His heart, and Thorin's. And it was the need to breathe that broke them apart, and Bilbo noticed only now that his dwarf had tears running down his face as well.

"I ... I saw you saddle your pony. I saw..." Bilbo swallowed as the dwarf nodded.

"I was afraid, uzayang. I was afraid that I would not be able to heal your hurts and that ... leaving would eventually be the only option. And I knew that I wouldn't be able to go. Bilbo, I can't. Don't ask it of me. I will do whatever you say, except for that. I can't..."

"And no one is asking you to. I understand. Thorin. I understand. As long as you also understand that what you did was folly. You tried to protect me, but do you truly think I would have wanted to be near someone I had reason to fear? I wasn't afraid of you, not even when you held me by my throat. I always loved you and even in that bleak hour I knew that you loved me." And then he kissed Thorin until the world faded away, until...

"Oh Aulë. I am sorry Bilbo. I fear your miller saw us. You will be the talk of the town by nightfall." Thorin looked contrite and yet pleased as well, and the hobbit chuckled.

"I already am. They call me Mad Baggins behind my back, but why should I care? Especially now? All I was doing was to kiss my betrothed. If that is what we are ... still." Thorin's fingers closed around Bilbo's braid with a smile and in lieu of an answer. "I doesn't matter what they think. Besides, I won't be staying here for much longer, will I? This ... this is not home, not anymore. I had lost my home a year ago, Thorin, and now I have it back." When the dwarf gave him a quizzical look, Bilbo chuckled. "You! You are my home. Now ... as much as I appreciate the thought of getting more food, I am quite cold. Would you mind returning to Bag End and seeing to food later?"

Where there is desire
There is gonna be a flame.
Where there is a flame
Someone's bound to get burned.

Later, when they were sitting in front of the warm fire, much like the previous night and yet so very different, when Bilbo lovingly brushed his dwarf's hair and Thorin held the hobbit close as if he was still afraid he would slip away, only then did Bilbo breach the subject of the ring. "I knew it wasn't ... entirely good to begin with. It made me lose control over myself and while it gave me the strength to face the spiders in Mirkwood, it also turned me rather ... unhobbitish. I do not know how, but it started whispering to me, made me doubt myself, and you. It put such anger into my heart, Thorin, as if it didn't want me to have you back in my life. I don't think I want to keep it anymore."

"Your ring ... and the Arkenstone." Thorin kissed the hobbit's hair, sighing. "I believe we are both better off without them. But just like that accursed stone holds no sway over me anymore, it would appear neither does the ring over you. How did you..."

"It was you. You pushed me away, but still were so gentle. And I knew then that the voice in my head had fed me nothing but lies. It made me believe that all you ever wanted from me was ... well ... a pliant body to keep you entertained at night. But last night, I could see your feelings written all over your face, and I knew. I suddenly understood. I was holding your beads in my hand, and the ring ... and I could almost see how evil it was. Its gleam was ... off. Not warm like that of your beads. It's sitting in an envelope on my mantlepiece now, and the sooner I'm rid of it, the better. It may have saved my life, and yours, on numerous occasions, but Thorin, I don't think I'll be needing it anymore. It made me stronger, yes, but that strength is now part of me. I don't need it anymore. All I need is a dead king, who luckily for me is still very much alive."

"He is dead. I can no longer offer you the rank of consort, only that of my ... husband. If that is still your wish. And it is not because I want a warm body next to mine at night, it is because I wish to spend my life with you. I need you with me. Your wit, your laughter, your ability to point out how foolish I am behaving on occasion." Bilbo raised an eyebrow as if to question that last statement. "Oh, alright then. More often than not. To know you were crying for me and to ... not trust myself to go near you ... it was torture. But I needed to make sure. I spent my days holding the Arkenstone, surrounded by the gold I had so coveted. It meant nothing. And when I heard that you were leaving ... I should have come to you. But I was afraid, still afraid. I stayed away for too long, I know. I should have followed..."

Gentle hobbit fingers covered the dwarf's lips. "No. You had to be there for Fíli. You had to make sure he was taken care of. And you came. You did not send anyone else, nor did you send a letter. You came yourself. You couldn't have known how I would react, or what you would find. Thorin, I know you and Gandalf meant well, though I still think you should have let me decide, thank you very much indeed." Continuing to brush Thorin's hair, he smiled. "I will still make them all grovel. Well, not Kíli. But Gandalf especially ... he's a wizard and supposedly a wise one at that. Doesn't speak of much wisdom if you ask me. Did he really think that I wouldn't ask you to see if the gold would once again take hold of you? I would have, you can be sure of that. But ... maybe it was all for the best. As now I know not to trust ... the ring. Who knows what would have happened had I stayed in Erebor?"

Thorin nodded. "It might ... it might have taken hold of another as well as yourself." There was no need to say who the dwarf was speaking of. It was there, plain to see, on his face. "Still, I am sorry, Bilbo. I never meant to hurt you. And yet, I always seem to do just that. But I swear, what Thorin Oakenshield, King under the Mountain could not achieve, maybe I will. To make you happy. If ... if you will allow me to try."

There was only one way to respond to that. Bilbo pressed himself closer and brought his lips to the dwarf's in what started out as a slow and tender kiss, but soon turned into a passionate exchange that left them both breathless. "You are my betrothed," the hobbit whispered eventually. "Our hearts are as one and our fates are entwined. I will always love you. And yes, you have hurt me, but it hurts even more to be without you." He sat back then, smiling. "You're not getting rid of me this time." And then he continued braiding Thorin's hair until, eventually, he looked very much the way he had that night when he had stepped into Bilbo's life. With one addition that made the hobbit's heart swell. The braid Bilbo had placed into Thorin's hair in Esgaroth.

But just because it burns
Doesn't mean you're gonna die.
You've gotta get up and try, try, try
Gotta get up and try, try, try.

The light of the moon was shining into the bedroom's window, finding the two lovers entangled, sweat cooling on their skin. And suddenly, Bilbo slapped the dwarf's arm, "Over a year, Master Oakenshield. You denied us both for over a year! I don't know about you, but I think that's sinful. And to think that we will have to forego comfortable beds for a long while again on our journey back to Erebor, I truly do not know what to do with you. To make you pay that is."

Thorin chuckled, "I am sure whatever it is it will be both well deserved and very enjoyable, for the both of us. And I wouldn't mind if it involved not leaving this room for longer than absolutely necessary for the next couple of weeks." Bilbo gasped, and the dwarf's smile turned positively feral. "I remember telling you about the fabled stamina of us dwarves, and yet I don't recall ever proving it to you. That can be changed, ughvashâ." The hobbit beamed now; the way he always did when Thorin used that particular endearment. Who needed an Arkenstone when one had a beautiful halfling?

"Oh, I don't know. You are aware that we will have to stop at Rivendell, right? And I am sure Lord Elrond will wish to give you a piece of his mind for what you did..." Thorin shook his head, which gave the hobbit pause.

"Do you truly think he's not done so already. He told me, in detail, just how ... devastated you were when you passed through on your way back to the Shire. You tried to hide it, but he could still see it. And he knew. He knew why." Considering that they had first come together in Rivendell that had not really been a surprise, but still. "He also warned me that I might not find the welcome I may be expecting. Not that I did. Bilbo, I expected far worse to be honest. I thought you would simply slam the door in my face and I would have to beg you to listen to me. But ... there was something I feared even more than that. I ... there was a chance that you settled down, with another. That I would find you with a wife and maybe a babe on the way..."

"Did Gandalf's draught make you lose whatever sanity you had just regained?" Bilbo asked with a chuckle. "I think I made it quite clear, only a few minutes ago again, that I do not like female company in quite that way. Not like your nephew does for example." He giggled at Thorin's huff. "What will you do, former King under the Mountain and always king of my heart, if Fíli does not have any children? The Line of Durin might be continued by a ... a dwelf. Oh, I like that. A dwelf."

Thorin growled. "I will be dead and gone a long time before such a thing will ever happen. And if we learn of it later, in the Halls or wherever we shall be, I will hold you responsible. Simply because you spoke of it." Bilbo giggled, and then had to laugh out loud when nimble dwarven fingers went to his sides and tickled him. "And that's for thinking the whole thing isn't a tragedy. Which it is. My own flesh and blood. And an elf! Whatever did we do wrong bringing him up?"

"You can talk," the hobbit finally managed after swatting at Thorin's hands. "You not only chose a male to be your mate, but a hobbit on top of it. Maybe ... maybe it's just as well that you are dead. There would have been those opposing you over your decision to make me your consort, and I never wanted to bring you grief." He gazed into those deep blue eyes then, stroking Thorin's bearded cheek. "I have you all to myself now, and together we can explore Arda. And when our time comes, we will find each other again; across the sea. Of that I have no doubt."

You gotta get up and try, try, try.
Gotta get up and try, try, try.
Gotta get up and try, try, try.

There was much gossipping indeed in the next few weeks, and not only about a rather public kiss. Mad Baggins had taken a dwarven lover, a male one at that! And while that would have been cause for only a few raised eyebrows and usually been accepted without fuss, things were a bit different. Or became different once it came out that this Thorin Oakenshield had been the King under the Mountain and had left his crown, and masses of gold and jewels, behind to be with his hobbit. His betrothed. Lobelia Sackville-Baggins nearly fainted when she heard the news that her good-for-nothing cousin very nearly had become the consort of a king. Be it a king of dwarves.

Seeing them together one day at the market, Lobelia had cornered Bilbo, but it was Thorin who took the wind from under her wings. "Mistress Sackville-Baggins, so pleased to finally meet you. My betrothed has told me all about you and your kindness. To look after his possessions in such a commendable way ... I do not know how to thank you enough." Bilbo and Lobelia exchanged looks, she flushed a bright red, stammered something about how sorry she was and all but ran. And the Master of Bag End started laughing so hard, his dwarven companion had to hold him to keep him from falling.

That, too, resulted in much gossip. Suddenly, Thorin was held in much higher regard than before, and folk came calling at Bag End, despite the snows that still fell day and night. Even the Thain himself made the journey from Tookborough to congratulate Bilbo on his nuptials, and then assisted him in certain arrangements regarding the future of his smial. Arrangements that made darn well sure that Lobelia would never get her greedy hands on Bag End. Which would only serve to infuriate her further, and that was just as well.

You gotta get up and try, try, try.
Gotta get up and try, try, try.

Eventually, and after much convincing done by both the Thain and Thorin, Bilbo agreed to a spring wedding. Soon after they would be leaving for Erebor, but the former dwarven king insisted they make the journey as husbands. And it was that word, that one simply word, that made Bilbo change his mind. Not that he informed his betrothed of that straight away, oh no. He took full advantage of Thorin's attempts to persuade him, which, when the bedroom was involved, always left them both quite boneless.

It was one evening when they were safely cooped up in the warmth of Bag End, snow falling outside once more as if the wintry weather had no inclination of giving way to spring, that he finally took pity on his beloved. "So, I was thinking about this idea of yours and the Thain. You would truly marry me in a hobbit ceremony?" He could tell that Thorin was suddenly rather awake again, having been close to dozing off not so long ago. "I'm still not sure. I would like our friends to be there; well, those that survived me yelling at them for this little charade you've all been playing."

"You know they only did what we asked of them. I had to beg Balin, Bilbo, and I am sure he was very close to telling you the truth on numerous occasions. To see you weep, and to know that it was for me..." He fell silent, his eyes averted. There were still times aplenty when Thorin did not quite believe he could be forgiven for what he had done.

Bilbo stood and did the one thing he knew worked in such instances. He walked over to the dwarf's chair and made room for himself in Thorin's lap. Soon, he was wrapped up in strong arms, his own around his beloved's shoulders. "You meant well, Thorin. You did not mean to hurt me, but ensure that I didn't get hurt again. And so did they. You know I am not truly angry, don't you? I am just going to make them sweat a bit; and that is something they do deserve. As did you. But I hurt you even more by listening to the ring, by letting it lie to me. I very nearly lost you, lost myself. But you forgave me for it. Now please trust me and believe me when I say that I have forgiven you as well. For everything you may think you need forgiveness for. I love you." He touched his lips to the dwarf's. "I love you. And to prove it to you I will marry you on the day spring begins. And you will marry me when we reach Erebor." Thorin blinked. "One wedding in accordance with hobbit customs, another according to the customs of your people."

Thorin blinked, first in confusion and then in ... denial. "You ... you truly wish to bind yourself... Bilbo, you do not know what you are agreeing to."

But Bilbo shook his head. "And who says that I do not know? What do you think Balin and I were always discussing when we were cheating as you would say? When we sat next to each other by the fire before you claimed my hand and pulled me to my feet and into your arms? Amidst many a cheer from the Company? He told me a lot of things, sure that you, my love, would not do so yourself. Dwarves marry for life, your entire life. You find your One, and that is it. You will always find them, no matter how many lifetimes you are given, or where you will go after your time here is done. I long for that, Thorin. It is what I want. I want to know that when I finally close my eyes here in Arda, I will see you again when I wake. I want you to always be with me, never to be parted again. I know what I'm agreeing to."

Thorin's eyes were brimming with tears, and the hobbit felt his heart constrict at the sight. But unlike the last time he had seen his dwarf cry, he was now smiling. "I did not want to assume that this would be something you might want. I would have spoken to you, once Erebor was rebuilt. Would have explained and, if necessary, found a compromise. Once again you surprise me, Bilbo Baggins. You are correct though. Dwarves marry but once. Though it is not only that. We only find love once. We may take lovers, but they are meaningless in comparison to our One. You, Master Hobbit, are the other half of myself. Of my soul. When Aulë shaped me, his wife also made you. It must have been their wish and desire to see a union of our races. Though why the Maker agreed to ... it is unnatural."

"Wouldn't others say the same about you and I? And I have pointy ears as well, it's not just elves. Besides, if she is Kíli's One, then surely you know that there's nothing you can do about it. No matter how much you'd like to." He gently kissed Thorin's forehead, stroking his bearded cheeks.

"You are right, of course. And she saved his life. On more than one occasion. Not that it matters. Not right now." He smiled, and it warmed Bilbo through and through. "You are my One. And to know that you thought me gone; you have no idea how it tore at my heart. I only ever wanted to see you happy, and the knowledge that it was me who nearly... There is no greater crime, Bilbo, amongst dwarves, than to hurt our second half. You taking the Arkenstone was nothing in comparison..."

"So it was not only Gandalf, was it? You simply didn't want to say because you thought I wouldn't understand about... Oh Thorin." He touched his forehead to the dwarf's, sighing. "It wasn't you. It was never you. You wouldn't have hurt me. You didn't hurt me. I knew you wouldn't ... even when you held me by my throat. I knew. It was the gold, just like it wasn't really me..." They had agreed to take the ring to Imladris, to leave it with Lord Elrond, for surely he would know what to do and Bilbo couldn't wait to be finally rid of it. "You have to forgive yourself, Thorin. You have to. I know you would never hurt me. And do you want me to tell you why I am so certain? Because I have seen your heart, Thorin Oakenshield. And I have found myself in it."

"I had to be sure. I didn't trust myself. Bilbo when I woke, and realised what I had done, I wanted to be dead. For surely there was no way you could ever stand to be around me again. To think that I had driven you away... And then you came to me, and you were so forgiving ... I was such a coward. I wanted to tell you, and yet, I knew I could not. I needed to make sure, and I knew that you wouldn't have left my side if I had lived." Thorin reached up to touch Bilbo's braid then, breathing through his tears. "I saw you, at times. From afar. And to find that you still wore this... oh my hobbit, never will you understand what hope I felt and what agony I was plunged into at the same time."

"I know. Oh, I know. Agony and anger, and hope. All entwined and making it rather hard to think. I felt the same. But now, my beloved, now there is no more room for pain in my heart. Not when it is overflowing with joy and happiness, and love. Above all else, love." Bilbo was half-afraid of the dwarf's reply to his words, but then Thorin nodded and smiled once more, and the hobbit was pulled into a salty kiss.

"I will never forget what we lived through, âzyungel, what I put you through. But I will try to not dwell on it anymore. I will try to accept your forgiveness and to prove myself worthy of you." His eyes were sparkling happily, and his hands cupped the hobbit's face gently as they touched Bilbo's soft skin. "And on the day we truly become one, I will pledge myself to you forever, until time itself unravels and the world is remade. But even then, I will find you again, my hobbit. I will always find you."

It was now Bilbo's turn to cry, and he buried his face against Thorin's shoulder. "And I will always find you, my One. Always."

You gotta get up and try, try, try.
Gotta get up and try, try, try.

And so it was that Bilbo Baggins of Bag End married the former king of Durin's Folk on the very first warm day of the year. Under the Party Tree they stood, the Thain speaking the usual words for a hobbit wedding. No eye was dry after the two grooms had exchanged their vows, and quite a few young couples glanced at each other, nodding. There would be a lot of weddings that spring some of the older matrons could tell as they dabbed at their own eyes.

Soon after, Bag End passed on to a new owner, Drogo Baggins and his own young bride, Primula. And the day Bilbo and Thorin finally turned to the east once more, many a hobbit lined the road to Stock and eventually waved goodbye on the far side of the Brandywine Bridge. Months later, when the two travellers finally reached their journey's end, one of them no longer laden down with a magic ring that had nearly cost him that which he held dearest in life, a number of dwarves, ten to be exact, were suddenly nowhere to be found.

They were greeted by King Fíli, his brother by his side. "Bilbo! It is so good to see you again. Erebor is glad to have its hero back." The hobbit blushed, but when he turned to his husband for support, Thorin simply smiled and nodded. "We, Kíli and I, are very sorry for our part in uncle's little charade, but also so happy to see that you worked out your issues." Kíli was openly crying as he hugged the hobbit close, apologising over and over again, and had to be consoled by his betrothed.

More apologies followed in the days and weeks leading up to Thorin and Bilbo's dwarven wedding, and when at last the door to their chambers closed on their wedding night, they were at long last truly as one. "Fíli has once again offered me a seat on his council, but I think I shall reject the offer once more. I would rather see the world with you, oh husband mine." Bilbo's fingers were tangled in Thorin's hair as he slowly walked backwards toward their bedchamber.

And that was what the two lovers did. Erebor remained their home, but they never remained there long. Often they visited the rebuilt Dale and Esgaroth, but their travels also lead them to the Golden Wood, much to Thorin's horror. But wherever they laid down their heads to rest at night, they did so in each others' arms. As they both knew they would at the end of their days, only to reawaken in the same manner. Twined together. Forever.