Submitted for the Tumblr Collection Bagginshield Fluffy February. From the prompt "Thorin reads aloud to Bilbo". This is very quickly done, when I really should be sleeping. Not my best work, but hopefully it's not too bad.
Summary: Bilbo loves books, but he's not allowed to learn how to read dwarven runes. Thankfully, Thorin has a solution.
One the many things that frustrated and perplexed Bilbo about dwarves was their obsessively secretive nature. None of the other races he'd met were nearly so guarded. Oh, the elves were certainly reserved and men were suspicious, but they were more than willing to share their knowledge and culture once their trust was earned.
Dwarves, on the other hand, were so obstinate in their silence that they had full volumes of rules and regulations regarding the circumstances in which their secrets might be revealed to outsiders.
This had caused quite a great deal of conflict between Thorin and the clan elders when he announced his intention to marry Bilbo. They weren't strictly opposed to the union itself; apparently there was something of a precedent (though no one would reveal precisely what it was), and his own great deeds on behalf of Erebor had silenced most dissenters. Nevertheless, they were unwilling to allow Bilbo to have free reign of their history or even of the kingdom itself.
They had insisted that an official contract be drawn to fully outline the extent of Bilbo's powers as consort, as well as a list of stipulations on the amount and type of information he was allowed to learn or access.
Thorin was understandably enraged by the assertion.
"Bilbo saved my life – the life of your king AND his heirs! He faced the wrath of Thranduil, the fire of Smaug and the blade of Azog the defiler, and emerged victorious! All of it was done on our behalf! And yet you would refuse to accept him into our confidence?"
One of the eldest dwarves, Bilthrasir of the Iron Hills, argued kindly, "No one is disputing his valor or his benevolence, my king. Our people will be eternally grateful for all that he has done, and his name shall be recorded in the annals of our history, remembered forever in song. And we've no doubt that he will be a just and wise consort. But you must remember that he is also an elf-friend, so named by the traitor Thranduil." There was a general murmur of cursing and discontent at the mention of the Elvenking. "AND he is close in friendship with King Bard. Very few will accept any oaths he may make to keep our secrets."
"Aye," agreed Vestri, a recent immigrant from Ered Luin. "I, for one, do not trust anyone so chummy with Thranduil." More cursing followed; some of them even spit on the floor in disgust.
Thorin jumped to his feet. The force of his movements sent his chair flying and scattered the scrolls on the table. He let out a string of furious Khuzdul that Bilbo did not understand, but could guess the meaning of well enough.
He stood and laid a hand on Thorin's forearm. "Thorin, please calm down. Let's just hear them out."
Bilbo directed his next words to Bilthrasir, who – though quite old even by dwarven standards, and very traditional – was remarkably reasonable. "I understand your concerns, my lord. We hobbits have our own secrets as well, although that mostly extends to family recipes. And I while I can promise that I will not betray anything that I might learn, I know that I still have much to prove. But surely you can agree that I won't make for a very effective consort if I am not allowed to learn at least the basics of your culture. Can we not reach some sort of compromise?"
Bilthrasir stroked his long, silver beard thoughtfully, but there was a definite note of approval in his eyes. He nodded, and since he was generally the spokesperson for the other dwarf lords, the others had to agree.
Thus, Bilbo endured many days and long evenings as the council debated on what he should be allowed to learn. It took nearly a month, but at the end of it, he and Thorin had signed an official decree along with their marriage certificate.
It really wasn't so bad. Very few areas were off-limits to him, with the exception of certain guilds and clan meeting rooms. He would be taught most of the kingdom's laws and given an overview of the mountain's history.
To his great delight, he was also allowed to learn how to speak Khuzdul. He was quite reverent of this boon, for very few outside the race of dwarves were given such an honor.
It was unlike any of the other languages of Arda, and though Bilbo was normally a quick study, he found the guttural sounds difficult to form and rather hard on the throat. His attempts to learn even the most basic words and phrases became an endless source of amusement for the Company. Meals taken together more often than not ended with him stomping from the room, red with embarrassment while the others laughed hysterically, and Thorin chased after him.
All in all, he was very pleased with his new life. His duties as consort kept him busy enough, he was constantly learning new and interesting things, and Thorin -
Well... Bilbo was delighted to find that beneath that majestic poise, battle-hardened instincts, and gruff demeanor beat the heart of a endlessly devoted and loving husband, who seemed hell-bent on spoiling his hobbit mate with every ounce of affection he possessed.
He was always showering Bilbo in some way, be it with a hand-crafted gifts, foot rubs after a long day, cuddles, or other intimate activities.
Bilbo adored every moment of their time together, which could sometimes be sparse, depending on their duties. But his favorite by far were the bedtime stories.
It all started when Ori led Bilbo to Erebor's vast library. Thankfully, Smaug had left it relatively untouched during his occupation of the mountain. There was one section that had collapsed, but most of the books and scrolls in that area were salvageable.
Ori and a few other scribes from the Iron Hills had been hard at work restoring damaged texts, while architects and other craftsmen worked on repairing the structure of the room. As soon as Thorin had been convinced that it was safe for his beloved to enter, Ori took him on a tour and pointed out all the different sections and genres of literature. They had a shared love of books, and had talked eagerly throughout the journey of exploring it together.
"Over there is everything we have from the First Age. There's the Battle History section; next to that are the tactical manuals. And then that whole line of shelves are instructional texts," said Ori, pointing as they walked.
Bilbo gaped unashamedly. "The descriptions don't do it justice. This is incredible! Even if I had the lifespan of a dwarf, I wouldn't be able to get through a fraction of them."
Ori shuffled on his feet. "I wish I had more to offer. Unfortunately, nearly all of the books are written in Khuzdul." He led Bilbo to a smaller case and gestured to the top shelf, which was about three feet long. "Those are the only ones that we could find that are written in Westron, and there aren't any at all in the elvish tongues. I'm afraid there's not much of a selection for you." He looked truly apologetic.
Bilbo was sorely disappointed. One of the agreements made between himself and the council of elders was that although he would be allowed to speak Khuzdul, he would not be taught the rune system which would allow him to read it. Erebor's library had far too many texts that would prove extremely valuable if they fell into the wrong hands.
He hadn't had an issue with it at the time, because he had assumed that there would still be a great variety of Westron books for him to choose from, given the size of the library. Apparently, that was not the case.
"I'm so sorry, Bilbo," Ori said. He knew how much Bilbo adored reading.
Bilbo shrugged and tried to appear unaffected. "It's okay, Ori. These will keep me busy enough for a time. And if I do happen to get through them all, I could always talk to Bard or Thranduil about borrowing some books from Mirkwood or Dale. I might have to do some sweet talking, but I think I can manage."
Ori didn't seem convinced by his nonchalance, but he didn't press the matter. He let Bilbo take as many volumes as he could carry back to his rooms, and promised to keep looking to see if there might be more, hidden in other areas.
Bilbo was content with what he had, for a time. One of the books was a complete history of Dale and Esgaroth, and their dealings with the dwarves of Erebor. That one alone took him almost two months to read. There was another with fairy tales, one that documented the layout of the region before the War of Wrath, and one that listed the genealogies of the seven fathers of the dwarves.
In all, Ori was able to find only twenty-two books written in Westron. And while Bilbo did not have nearly as much time to read as he would have liked, he still managed to make it through all of them within a year.
After he'd reread them at least three times, he did indeed ask Bard and Thranduil if they might loan him some from their libraries. To his dismay, Bard informed him that Dale's did not survive the fury of Smaug. Thranduil was willing to let Bilbo read anything he wished from the Greenwood whenever he visited, but he would not allow them to be removed from his realm.
Bilbo grew rather despondent after that. He supposed it was silly to be upset over something like that, but the love of books was so deeply ingrained in him. His earliest memories often consisted of listening to his parents read aloud, and then teaching him to read to them in turn. Books were a source of life to him, in spite of Gandalf's insistence that the world was not in them. That wasn't really the point. There were other worlds in them, ones born from the imaginations of great scholars and romantics. They were a source of adventure without the danger, a treasure trove of information spanning thousands of lifetimes, and a comfort after a long, hard day.
And Bilbo missed them so.
Thorin, of course, doting husband that he was, couldn't help but notice Bilbo's increasing melancholy. And so one night, he sat down beside Bilbo on the couch in front of the fire.
"Ghivashel," he started slowly, in that measured tone he used when he was afraid, "Are you unhappy here?"
Bilbo looked up from his agricultural report, written in Westron of course, and frowned. "What? No! Whatever gave you that idea?"
Relief passed over Thorin's features. "You just seem... morose. You may not be aware of it, but you've taking to sighing a lot when you're resting."
Bilbo flushed a little. "Oh, really? I don't mean anything by it, Thorin. Pay it no mind."
Thorin took his hand and kissed his palm. "Are you homesick, perhaps?"
Bilbo shook his head. He smiled and scooted closer so that he could hug him. "Why on earth should I be homesick, when I am home?" he countered. "I have everything I could possibly want and more, here in Erebor. I have you, right?"
Thorin wrapped his own arms around Bilbo. "And is that enough, Amrâlimê?"
"Of course," Bilbo assured him. He pulled himself up a little and kissed his husband tenderly. When they broke apart, Bilbo grinned cheekily. "Although, I'll never say no to a hot meal, a full pipe, and good book either."
Thorin raised a brow. "You would include books on your list of comforts?"
Bilbo shrugged. "Well, yes. I do adore reading, as you well know. Sadly, my selection is limited. Erebor has few books in Westron, and I've read them all. And since I am not allowed learn your runes, there is nothing else available to me."
Thorin chuckled. "You should have said something sooner." Without warning, he got up and went to the small bookcase in the corner of the room, which mostly held Bilbo's journals and a few of the books Gandalf brought him from the Shire. After some deliberation, he chose a heavy tome with an elaborately embroidered cover and returned to Bilbo's side.
"Thorin," Bilbo said, scowling, "that's written in Khuzdul."
"I know," Thorin answered. "You may not be allowed to read this yourself, but there is no rule stating that I can't read it to you."
Bilbo brightened instantly. "You'd do that for me?"
Thorin leaned forward to kiss him on the nose. "I will if my consort wishes it."
"I do." Bilbo scooted over and tucked himself under Thorin's arm, pillowing his head in the crook of his shoulder. "Okay, I'm ready."
Thorin laughed again. He shifted them both so that he was reclining against the cushions while Bilbo cuddled at his side, their legs entangled. He rested the book on his lap, holding it open with both hands and one arm crooked around his hobbit.
"Durin the Deathless and the Founding of Khazad-dûm," Thorin read. "Durin the Deathless was the first of the Seven Fathers to awake..."
And so it was that Bilbo was able to enjoy his books once more. Nearly every night before they slept, Bilbo would hand Thorin a book of his choosing, and he would read aloud for his consort. They became the most frequent visitors of the Erebor Library, always coming and going with their arms laden with tomes of every genre imaginable.
Bilbo sometimes worried that Thorin was bored of their bedtime story routine, but he never complained. He assured Bilbo that he enjoyed the quiet moments with just the two of them, that it pleased him that Bilbo had grown to love dwarven literature as much as elven, and that he himself had rediscovered a passion for them.
However, if Bilbo ever felt so inclined to find ways to thank him for the stories, he certainly wouldn't object.
Bilbo would smile, urge him to finish the next chapter, and then pull his husband in for a kiss.
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