Written for my friend soldieramerica over on tumblr, who asked for a happy ending to the third Hobbit movie. The title comes from Eavan Boland's poem "Object Lessons."
Bilbo woke, eyes stinging, his chest like a vice. He reached out blindly. Thorin lay beside him, breathing deep and even. He felt reassuringly solid to the touch; when Bilbo edged closer, Thorin shifted to accommodate him, but he didn't wake.
Sometime during the night the blankets had slipped down, bunching near the bottom of the mattress. Bilbo, exposed and empty and miserable, shivered and tucked himself underneath Thorin's arm. Thorin stirred. His broad fingers stroked over the curve of Bilbo's back.
No. No, everything was too close. Bilbo struggled to his feet, trying to keep quiet. He grabbed his dressing gown from the spot on the floor where Thorin, careless and eager, had tossed it aside early in the evening.
No hobbit would willingly endure a winter buried under stone; the dwarves had cut terraces high into the mountainside, inaccessible from the ground, and Thorin had chosen quarters near the gardens on the eastern slopes. Bilbo slipped outside, belting the dressing gown more firmly around his middle. The frosted grass crackled and bent when he stepped on it. Ice turned puddles into mirrors and the stone pathways, curving around empty garden beds, into polished glass.
Thorin found him there, sitting on a carven stone bench, digging his feet into the cold dirt. He sat down, too, and caught Bilbo's hand in his own.
They kept silent for a time. Eventually Thorin said, "I'm here, you know. Both of us. We're here."
Bilbo just leaned more heavily against him and looked out at the gardens: the gardens, and then the sheer drop to the empty land spread out beneath them, no longer desolate but full of promise. Spring would come, and the Celduin would melt, would crack and swell and roar downstream. The north would brush the snow off itself, breath deep, let sunlight sink into its grateful bones.
"When I was sick," Thorin said, "I asked you to tell me how it would be."
Bilbo remembered. Sitting with his knees to his chest, holding himself close, looking for words that might comfort this stranger in Thorin's skin. This won't last forever, he said. Thorin. I swear it.
Thorin had looked at him, bleak: the lord of a hollow kingdom. Tell me, then. Tell me how it will be.
Bilbo paused for a moment. The he said, One day, when they tell our story, they'll tell it like this.
The gardens. The gardens, the frost, the light spilling over the eastern horizon. Thorin pulled him close and Bilbo came willingly. He settled himself against Thorin's body, tucking his cold hands against Thorin's chest. His heart beat like a hammer, steady and strong.
"You die," Bilbo said. "When I close my eyes at night, I see it. I find you alone. Hold you. I followed you all the way to the north, to war, but then you were gone, and I—"
Thorin leaned down, pressing his forehead against Bilbo's curly hair. "Let me tell you how it would have been," he said, "to have died in your arms. You, who owed me nothing, who saw my soul and loved me regardless."
It wasn't a question, but Bilbo answered. "I did. I do."
Thorin kissed him on the forehead, and on the bridge of his nose, red from the cold, and at last on his lips. "The ground was frozen, but you held me," he said. "Your hands were warm. We spoke until I had no breath. Then you spoke for both of us, and I listened until I heard no more. After two hundred years of life, it was the sight of you that I took to death: it was the touch of your skin against mine. I could have known no greater honor in the world."
"But if you had died, I would be alone." The air soured in Bilbo's lungs at the ugliness of it, and for the second time that morning, he reached out to Thorin.
This time, though, Thorin reached back.
"I am very glad to be alive," he said. "And to be here with you."
In the garden beside them, the leaves of a small oak sapling rustled in the wind, and the first dawn of springtime lit up the mountain.