It was not a nephew eager for breakfast who woke Bilbo. Nor was it the rain, or his own grumbling tummy. Of the many things that had drawn him from his dreams just lately, not once had he woken to lovely feeling of drowsy, tender kisses at the nape of his neck. The length of a warm, bare body against his own was simply another blanket of contentment laid over him and Bilbo stretched with a little groan, snuggling back into the arms around him.
"Good morning," Thorin murmured close to his ear, his lips brushing softly.
"Hnnn, yes," Bilbo groaned, tipping his head back. "It does seem to be so far."
Thorin's mouth settled over his own, a tender morning kiss that left Bilbo sighing at the sweetness. A tangle of long hair fell down in a curtain, curls brushing softly against Bilbo's cheek in a caress of their own.
The roiling growl of his stomach was an abrupt interruption and the kiss broke into a low chuckle, Thorin shifting to rest his head on Bilbo's chest, over his heart. "I'm terribly sorry, am I keeping you?"
"Cheeky," Bilbo chided, lifting a hand to tangle into the soft curls that were spilling over his chest. "What time is it…oh, dear." A glance at the window confirmed his worst fears; for all that there were no easterly windows in the bedrooms that the light streaming through was bright and sunny told him that the sun was high in the sky and there was likely a hungry nephew waiting for him to roll out of bed. As task easier contemplated than done, as Thorin's arms immediately tightened around him as he made to rise.
"And where are we going?" Thorin asked politely, as though they were both quite dressed and sipping tea, not bare together in a bed. "Not trying to sneak off, are we?"
"Frodo—" Bilbo protested, squirming a bit against restraining arms.
"Dwalin can feed him."
"I've seen how Dwalin feeds him!"
"I am aware. Stay with me," Thorin wheedled, pressing another kiss against Bilbo's chest, his mouth a lovely, damp touch. Oh, honestly, to hear Thorin of all people pleading like a child to stay up past bedtime.
"I will come straight back," Bilbo tried. To no avail, he was well and truly caught.
"No, you won't," Thorin told him, petulant unhappiness clear in his voice. "You will feed Frodo, and then you will see there are dishes to be done. And after that, you'll have to wash the counters, for there is no reason to leave messy counters after doing dishes."
"Thorin-" Bilbo began, amused and dismayed.
"Then you will see there is a little water on the floor, so you'll need to clean that. Then you'll realize that the last of the biscuits went with breakfast and that simply will not do, so-"
"Oh, honestly," Bilbo sighed.
"Then you'll need to make biscuits, wash THOSE dishes, and then perhaps I shall see you because you'll want to change your shirt, although once you've done that-"
"All right!" Bilbo broke in, "All right, you've convinced me. I'll stay."
Thorin sighed deeply, equal parts smug satisfaction and simple pleasure.
"Enjoy it while you can," Bilbo yawned. "You aren't going to be able to talk me out of leaving when I need the toilet."
"We'll be a month on the road to Erebor," Thorin told him, and his hand shifted from holding Bilbo close to sliding down his bare thigh. "Indulge me."
It wouldn't do to blurt out that he'd be more than happy to indulge Thorin in whatever way he liked. Better to simply lay back on his soft sheets, breathing in their mingled scents from his pillows as Thorin stroked him with remarkable delicacy, his large fingers testing each line of his body, following each soft curve or bony ridge. Last night his touches had been filled with reverent urgency; in the morning light, Bilbo relaxed beneath his lazy strokes like a cat basking in the sun. His cock was slow to rise against his belly, though when Thorin dragged his fingertips along the tender skin on the inside of his thighs, he hardened quickly.
Soon enough Thorin urged to him roll over so that they might face one another. Those hands that had followed a path from the arch of his foot to the nape of his neck were large enough to wrap around both of them and Bilbo quickly learned why discreet Dwarves covered their collarbone, for when he nibbled at Thorin's, he moaned loudly enough for the sound to echo through the room, thrashing gracelessly.
They spent almost as one, sighing into each other's mouths as wet warmth spilled over their hands and bellies. Thorin trembled against him and Bilbo pressed soothing kisses to his lips, his cheeks, petting his hair until he settled. Dark lashes fell against his cheeks, lips parting, and Bilbo couldn't help but steal another kiss, rubbing his bare face against Thorin's and relishing the gentle scratch of beard.
There were worse obsessions, Bilbo supposed ruefully, than one with Dwarvish beards and hair.
Another glance at the window told Bilbo it was well past midmorning, and with a last soft kiss, he managed to wriggle free despite Thorin's grumbles. He drew on his dressing gown with a wrinkled nose, casting a mournful glance at the empty basin on his bed stand.
"If someone hadn't broken my water pitcher, I could wash here," Bilbo said chidingly, belting his robe.
"Your water pitcher deserved its fate," Thorin informed him sleepily.
"My apologies, I had no idea my crockery had offended you so," Bilbo said dryly, and resigned himself to walking to the bathroom in his mussed state. The door to his bedroom did not yield to his turn of the knob and Bilbo looked at it with a frown.
"Did you bolt the door? Bilbo asked, astonished.
There was a rustle of blankets. "I was taking no chances."
Probably wise, Bilbo decided and he unlocked it, hoping only that Frodo hadn't tried to venture in during the night and found it locked. No matter; surely the lad would have knocked and Dwalin was nearby. Now was his chance to wash up and then check the state of his kitchen. To be fair, there was not much in the pantry at the moment and there was only so much mess Dwalin and Frodo could make with the little it held.
Though he trusted if a mess could be made, the two of them would manage.
Bilbo hesitated just inside the door, casting a last glance back at his bed. The blankets were in turmoil, tugged loose from the mattress and rucked up around Thorin, whose hair was the only visible sign of him. Beneath the blankets Thorin would still be sleep-warmed and tousled; lips kissed a stung-red and a scattering of bruises fresh on his skin, a telltale sign of Bilbo's demands.
Almost, Bilbo weakened and crawled back into those sheets that would still be fragrant with their lovemaking and he did not have to imagine he'd be welcomed with open arms. He wavered on the edge, one foot on either side of the threshold. A sound from the kitchen decided matters for him and with that, Bilbo took his regrets along with him to the bathroom and left Thorin alone in his bedroom.
There would be other nights soon enough, plenty of them, and mornings with them. More of each than he'd ever considered possible and the thought was as equally cheering as it was darkly tempting. Thorin had spoken of his rooms in Erebor and while Bilbo didn't think he was too much of the extravagant sort, the bedroom of a King was a luxury of the kind he'd be happy to indulge.
The kitchen did not yield any more than the same clean table and tidy floors that he'd left the night before, along with one small Hobbit. Frodo was kneeling on one of the chairs, his box of pastels set out next to him, and working happily on a piece of paper. At his elbow was a small plate with the crumbs of what Bilbo assumed was the last of the scones and he sent up a small prayer of gratitude that no one had attempted cooking this morning.
"Good morning, my lad," Bilbo told him and dropped a kiss on his messy thatch of curls. "And what are we up to?"
"Mister Dwalin said I have to pack up the very last of my things," Frodo told him, scribbling determinedly. "I had to draw one more picture, though."
"I see," Bilbo peered over his shoulder, taking in his drawing. Frodo was a fair artist for his age and Bilbo did not have to squint to see whose portrait he was creating; four little Hobbits standing together, each of them holding weapons aloft, from spoon to frying pan. One of them had an overturned bucket on his head and the smallest on the end looked as if his thumb were in his mouth. A jar with 'Cookies' traced painstakingly on the side was at their feet.
"That's a fine picture," Bilbo praised. "Very well done."
Frodo nodded. With his tongue poking out of the corner of his mouth, his little brow furrowed, he was the very picture of concentration. "I needed to finish this so I can put it in my room. That way Sam can see it all the time and he won't forget me."
Oh. Bilbo's heart clenched, his breath catching. Once again in the course of his short life, Frodo was leaving behind friends and home. Frodo had lost so much and now Bilbo was planning on taking him away from everything he'd ever known. Hamfast had assured him all would be well, but Bilbo couldn't help the hard knot of worry that tied in his chest.
"I'm sorry, my boy," Bilbo murmured. "Here I am, taking you away from your friends and home, and I've nary asked you what you think of it, have I. I never asked precisely what you want."
"I said what I wanted, Uncle Bilbo," Frodo said stoutly. Blue eyes rose and met Bilbo's with odd solemnness for so small a child. "I want to go with you and Uncle Thorin and Mister Dwalin. We'll have an adventure, all of us."
"Yes, we will, but-" Bilbo hesitated, "Sometimes adventures aren't quite what you think they will be."
Frodo nodded, stubbornly. "Sometimes things happen…" Frodo trailed away, blinking hard, and Bilbo squeezed his shoulder comfortingly, did not have to ask what sort of things the boy was imagining. His little chin wobbled and then rose firmly. "But we'll go all the same, won't we?"
"Yes, we're going all the same," Bilbo patted his head. "You'll miss your friends, though, won't you?"
"You have to say goodbye to go on adventures," Frodo said, seriously. "And hello as well. So we will say goodbye to Hobbiton and hello to Erebor."
"Yes, my boy, we will, the both of us," Bilbo gave him a one-armed hug, poking him in the side until he giggled and squirmed away.
"I'm going to hang this up!" Frodo announced happily, and darted away, picture in hand, leaving Bilbo alone in his kitchen.
Idly, Bilbo ran a finger down the smooth wood of his table, looking around at the dishes still neatly in the sideboard, pots hung in friendly welcome by the fire. All of this would be staying, even his teapot, for Bilbo well knew that Dwarves would be able to supply him with any kitchen utensil he might require and likely many he wouldn't. Chances were if what he wanted didn't exist, they'd invent a new gadget just for him and delight in doing so, for Bilbo hadn't yet met a Dwarf who didn't enjoying showing off his craft.
His feet carried him out of the kitchen and into the emptiness of his study. Dwalin had carried the last crate out to the wagon the night before. Aside from a few assorted sundries, Bilbo had everything packed away that he needed. It was done, he realize, all of it crated and boxed and strapped down. Ready to be carried off to Erebor and while someday Bilbo would return to Bag End, it would not be soon. And even if he did, it would not be the same. That was a lesson Gandalf had instructed him on and he'd learned in well.
Bilbo took a deep breath and turned to leave, only to hesitate when something caught his eye. The edge of a frame was leaning against one of the bookshelves and Bilbo drew it out and lifted it up. It was the map, Bilbo realized, Thorin's map, the inked dragon still hung in flight over Erebor as it always would, the tip of one wing smudged.
With a delicate finger, Bilbo touched the yellowed parchment. It had been his only link to Thorin for some years, holding all his memories of his travels, the best and the worst of them. Every glance at it had brought his loneliness to the forefront, this stolen relic, a reminder of what he'd nearly lost.
In the hallway, he heard childish laughter and the low rumble of talking. Without thinking, Bilbo carefully pulled the map from the frame, folding it with haste and quick as a flash he had it behind his back as Thorin and Frodo stepped into view. Frodo had both arms wrapped around Thorin's leg, giggling as Thorin struggled to walk, his chuckles as warming as Frodo squeals.
"I seem to have acquired a growth of some sort," Thorin said dryly, flashing Bilbo a grin. His sleeves were still rolled up, hands and hair still damp. Bilbo only matched his smile, taking in the pair of them fondly. Thorin's expression turned curious, "Are you looking for something?"
"No," Bilbo told him simply. "I do believe I'm ready."
Thorin stilled, reaching down to gather Frodo up. "You're sure?" Thorin asked, carefully, "There's no need to rush, Bilbo, truly, I do not want—"
It was not a Tookish nature that made Bilbo stride up, halting Thorin's pretty speech and reassurances with a loud, smacking kiss that sent Frodo into another wave of giggles. "I'm sure," Bilbo said firmly and tweaked Frodo's nose lightly. "Aren't we, my lad?"
"Yes!" Frodo cheered and Thorin took in a slow breath, let it out.
"Then we shall leave today," Thorin said, softly. He ducked his head and stole a kiss of his own before he added, "After breakfast."
"You'll hear no argument from us," Bilbo laughed and he hung back, allowing Thorin and Frodo to precede him. In that one moment when their backs were turned he tucked the map into his inside pocket, hiding it away.
Then he followed them to the kitchen to make what he could of the pantry's meager offerings. Once last chance to cook in his own kitchen, for those ones he loved the most…and for Dwalin, whenever he arose.
Breakfast was eaten, the dishes washed and put away. The ponies were saddled and hitched, the last crate tucked into the wagon. All too soon the lot of them were ready, the Dwarves already dressed in armor and weaponry as they readied the wagon.
In the hallway, Bilbo drew Sting from his mother's glory box, strapping it to his waist. The weight was familiar, comforting in its way and set a longing flaring in his heart, for mountains, yes, he would see mountains again, he and Frodo both. His Mithril shirt was already hidden beneath his clothes, so light that he would hardly have noticed it.
Next to him, Frodo looked at him with wonder, his eyes shining with excitement. "Are we going now? Are we?"
"Yes, my lad," Bilbo agreed. He took Frodo's hand and together they stepped out the front door. "We are."
Hamfast and his wife stood in front of the gates, their brood of children surrounding them and when Bilbo held out a hand to be shaken, Hamfast grabbed it and pulled him into a hard embrace. "You take care of yourself, now, Mister Bilbo," Hamfast told him hoarsely. When he finally let Bilbo go, he drew out a large red handkerchief, blowing his nose loudly.
Bell took him by the shoulders and kissed him on both cheeks, tears streaming. "Take care of the both of you," she told him, casting a watery glare to the Dwarves. "And you as well! I expect I'll see all of you back here, sometime or another. Do not make me chase the lot of you down!"
"Wouldn't dare," Dwalin said dryly, "They'd hear you shouting in the mines." He stood before the both of them, a head taller and twice as broad, and did not flinch when Bell took hold of the front of his shirt and gave him a matching set of kisses on both cheeks. Hamfast gave him a hug of his own, no less firm than Bilbo's, and a slap on the back, and whatever it was the two of them whispered in his ears sent a hot wave of crimson over Dwalin's ears and head alike.
"Aye, aye, I'll return with them, too," Dwalin coughed. He swung a hard look to the small Hobbits lining the fence post, heads held high and shoulders back despite the occasional sob. Dwalin strode in front of them, hands on his hips and scowled at them. "I'll expect to see the lot of you when I return as well, understand? We've other raids to plan, haven't we?"
"Yes, sir," they chorused, though Merry's chin wobbled and Pippin wiped his nose on his shirtsleeve. Samwise only looked up at Dwalin with large, wet eyes and the Dwalin's glare softened as he reached out tousle hair and pat little heads.
"That's right, lads. Not a cookie jar in the Shire will be safe from us. Du Bekâr!"
"Du Bekâr!" they echoed, and when Dwalin crouched, the three of them flung themselves into his outstretched arms.
"There we are," Dwalin crooned, "You're all good lads. All of you."
Bilbo had to dab at his own eyes with his handkerchief and look away until Dwalin finally set them on their feet. Only to be replaced by Frodo, who hugged each of his friends in turn, whispering fierce promises to return and linking pinkies in childish oaths.
"We will come back," Bilbo assured them. "We'll visit, I promise."
Thorin's hand settled warm on his shoulder, squeezing lightly, "We will," Thorin said, adding his own vow.
"You'd better," Came from the pathway and Bilbo turned to see Eglantine and Esmeralda striding up the path, with Gorbadoc trailing behind, his cane tapping determinedly along. Eglantine offered him a smile from around her pipe and Esmeralda matched it with a gentle one of her own.
"We thought we'd see you off," Esmeralda stepped up and handed Bilbo the basket that was hanging from her arm. "I did say I'd owe you pudding if you gave Lobelia's nose a tweak, didn't I?"
Bilbo took the basket and noted with no small delight the amount of wrapped packages within it, each surely brimming with treats. "Thank you, Essy," Bilbo told her, and drew her into a fond hug.
"I made no such promise, but I rather thought I owed you something," Eglantine said dryly, giving Thorin a nod, "I do believe my daughter would sooner cut off her own head than remove that pendant you gave her, Mister Thorin."
"It was no trouble—" Thorin protested, giving Bilbo an uncertain look.
Ah, well, that he'd earned, hadn't he. "We're delighted she loves it so," Bilbo told her firmly.
"Yes, indeed," Eglantine puffed out a ring of smoke and then added a leather pouch to the basket. "I'll keep my own thoughts on whatever troubles were involved in it," she said with a shrewd smirk. "Either way, I thought you might like some Longbottom leaf to take along."
"That is very kind," Bilbo said, gratefully. His own tobacco pouch was full, but he'd hardly turn away a bit more. Thorin echoed the sentiment and Bilbo smiled up at him. "I knew I'd convert you."
Only to cross his eyes when Thorin dropped a kiss on his nose. "Not a difficult prospect."
Bilbo felt a rush of heat rise in his own cheeks and when he looked back at his relatives, Eglantine and Esmeralda were politely looking up at the sky, twin smiles curving their mouths.
Gorbadoc only leaned on his cane and snorted aloud. "Off on another adventure then? Always knew you'd be a bad influence on that boy." His toothless grin belied the harshness of the words and he gave Frodo a nod, "You look after your uncle, won't you, Frodo?"
"I will!" Frodo nodded happily and he squealed when Dwalin scooped him up and set him in the wagon. They'd left a cleared space in the middle, piled it with blankets to soften the ride for a boy who'd only just been on a pony for the first time days before. "Let's go, let's go!"
"Yes, let's be off," Bilbo agreed, softly, and he climbed atop his own pony easily enough, settling into the saddle. Tonight his backside would be aching, his legs stiff and sleep would be elusive whether or not he was nestled into Thorin's arms. But at the end of it, they'd already be a day close to Erebor and Bilbo looked forward to every twinge.
Teary goodbyes were called, shouted, Merry and Samwise waving frantically as Pippin tugged at his wet nappy. Eglantine and Esmeralda called goodbyes of their own, while Hamfast and Bell wiped away tears as quickly as they fell, calling for them to take care and to visit soon, and there would be a fine mug of moonshine for them all. They'd not made it to the bottom of the hill before a cry rang out, breathless and frantic.
"Wait! Wait!" Shouted and Bilbo pulled his pony to a stop, looking back in astonishment to see Ferdinand dashing down the path, a load of parcels in his arms. There was a knapsack on his back, one sleeve fluttering loose from the top and they all watched in as Ferdinand stumbled to a stop, leaning heavily on the wagon as he panted.
"My uncle…Uncle Mungo told me—" Ferdinand panted, gulping hard before he stood up straight. "I finished Frodo's clothing and…and…well, you'll need someone who can properly hem trousers! My Uncle said you'd agreed to have me along."
"And so I did," Thorin sighed. "Sit next to Dwalin in the wagon. We may see about getting you a pony in the next town."
"Yes, sir, your Highness, sir," Ferdinand said earnestly, scrambling up next to Dwalin.
"You're sure we can feed three Hobbits, Thorin?" Dwalin grumbled, flicking the reins.
"We'll make do," Thorin said, shaking his head, and Bilbo sniffed. Honestly, as if Dwarves could talk about appetites.
Bilbo only looked back once. At the last turn of the road out of town, he hesitated, turning in the saddle to look back at Hobbiton. The oak above Bag End was still visible, its leafy branches wafting softly in the breeze and the door was hardly to be seen, the green blending into the hill. His little fence was nothing more than a memory, protecting his garden, his tomatoes, ending in the gate that wound its way up to the front door.
He looked ahead, at Frodo in the wagon, and Ferdinand next to him, their eyes wide while they looked about, as if they were traveling through the deepest wilds instead of the outskirts of the Shire. Dwalin was hunched over the reins, his axes at his shoulders and further ahead was Thorin.
It was like peering back into his memories to see Thorin regally astride the pony, his hair falling over his shoulders. They'd been traveling to Erebor then as well and there had been less silver in his hair, less lines on his face. The pony halted and Thorin turned in the saddle, met Bilbo's gaze with a smile that Bilbo was helpless not to return. More silver to his hair, true, but the warmth in his eyes, the love Bilbo knew was within them, that was newer and so very much returned.
Bilbo clucked to his pony and twitched the reins, falling in behind Thorin again, following him back to Erebor, to the mountains, wherever he led. These Dwarves and Frodo, well, Bilbo suspected he might follow them anywhere at all.
If home were people and not a place, then all roads led home.
So, I originally wrote this story based on a conversation with GreenKey, that went something like, 'Wouldn't it be hilarious if Dwalin and Thorin went shopping in the Shire!'
Some 118,000 words later, I have this, which I had so much fun writing. It was funnier, angstier, and all out better than I ever could have hoped and I'll always love it.
Thank you so much to everyone who read along as I wrote it, patiently waiting for updates and suffering through cliffhangers.
And to GreenKey, thank you so, so much for all your comments, all your encouragement, all your everything. This story would not exist without you and I owe you so much. And yes, the file name was 'shopping' through the very last chapter. *G*