Disclaimer: I do not own The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, or any associated characters or concepts. Quotes in this chapter taken directly from The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.

Summary: On the way to the Undying Lands, Billa Baggins is eaten by a time-traveling sea monster. She wakes up in her 33-year-old body and realizes she has a chance to change everything. Unfortunately, Thorin has a tendency to run around shirtless, and Dis thinks she has improper designs on Fili and Kili, but if she can convince the Shire that Dwalin is a dance teacher, things might be okay.

Chapter 50

It was late at night after Mister Longlocks had been thrown out and the Bounders had been dealt with. The Bounders, having been led by Billa and Balin in battle, were rather disinclined to believe his complaints, but Billa knew that Longlocks' complaints and poison could spread through the Shire, and for Thorin's sake, the hobbit must be carefully dealt with.

Thorin and Billa were shut up in her study, with cups of steaming hot cocoa and a plate of muffins to share between them. They were sitting around Thorin's desk, for it was the largest, and if their hands happened to brush against each other often, well, it was chalked up to mere accident.

They hadn't kissed since Billa had asked him to compete, and there was a slight air of tension between them. After Longlocks had been led away, Thorin had been reunited with Balin, Bifur, and Lithir, and after a hearty (but awkward) meal where Balin had carried the bulk of the conversation, the party at Bag End had gone down to the Old Smials, and Thorin had heard the reports of his dwarrow.

In the Blue Mountains, where past years' winters had reaped between 30 and 40 dwarrow from bitter cold or biting hunger, this year, only two had died. Not from the winter; they had died in a mining accident, and due to the blankets and food sent from the Shire, their families had been well taken care of. It had been a much warmer and easier winter in Ered Luin than ever the dwarves had faced.

For those dwarves in the Shire, the elderly and the young, they had first had plenty of blankets from the house-warming parties that the hobbit ladies had held in their honor. Then, due to the work they'd been able to find as dance teachers, mentors, craftsmen, and storytellers, they'd been able to afford plenty of food and fuel during the winter. One gaffer had passed away, but he had died in his sleep in a warm smial after kissing his grandchildren goodnight. It was a much more peaceful end than he would have gotten if Billa and Thorin had never crossed paths in Bree, and Thorin knew it.

It was this knowledge- that Billa's interference had saved between 30 and 40 lives this year- that tempered Thorin's discontent with her request. Billa did mad things and had mad schemes, but she loved him. She'd waited for him (whatever Shortbutt might say), and despite his fears, he trusted her.

So, when night fell and the other occupants of Bag End found other ways to amuse themselves, Thorin followed Billa into her study and asked how her winter had been.

Billa sighed. "Lonely," she admitted. "I've grown so used to having you here, and all your dwarves. It was very quiet and empty this winter. I missed your family and Dwalin very much, but, it was you I missed the most."

Thorin smiled to hear it. His winter had been cold and hard, but not so cold or hard as it might have been, though it had seemed all the bleaker in her absence.

"For all I had my family near and my people at hand to watch over, I must admit that you held sway over my thoughts," he said softly. Billa touched his hand gently in reassurance.

Thorin's eyes locked on her hand- such a small, dainty hand it had been when they first met. Now, her fingers and palms were roughened with calluses, and her knuckles were littered with scars. His eyes trailed from her strong little hands up her forearms, still sleek and feminine, but now sporting muscles she hadn't had before, and then down to her waist.

The knife he'd forged for her was belted proudly on her trim little waist, the hilt still wrapped with silk.

It was time that changed, wasn't it? He'd had months to think on her story, months to think of her, and months to think of the trials ahead. Thorin knew what he had to do. He slid down to his knees in front of her, and Billa's warm brown eyes watched him intently.

"Billa Baggins," he intoned solemnly, "Return to me the knife I forged for you."

Billa swallowed nervously, but did as he said, holding the knife out to him in both hands. They trembled a little, and the knife trembled with them. Thorin gently took it from her palms.

"I have made my judgment, Billa Baggins," he told her gravely. "You put your life in my hands, willingly, when you knelt before me last fall. Will you do so again?"

She looked deeply into his eyes and considered. Last fall, she hadn't been afraid to die. She had taken care of her dwarves, and improved their lives as much as she could. She'd felt an old woman, and she'd already died once already, after all! Death had been nothing to fear, and perhaps, something to welcome. But now, after spending a winter longing and hoping for Thorin, Billa didn't want to die, anymore. She wanted to live. Not just to protect her dwarves or provide for them, but to find her own happiness. To find the happiness that blossomed when Thorin was near to her, touching her, smiling at her. She wanted her chance at happiness! She wasn't ready to die. Was she really willing to put her life in Thorin's hands? He'd thrown her sacrifice away so cruelly on the Front Gate of Erebor. Could she trust him to make the right decision now?

Even as these worries spilled over in her mind, Billa knew what she had to do. She had begun this trial, and she would see it through. She had given herself over to him for judgment last fall... and she was an honorable hobbit.

"Yes, Thorin," she said resolutely.

"Kneel," he commanded her. She pushed her chair back to kneel in front of him, her breathing suddenly quick with nerves. "Close your eyes," he whispered hoarsely, and she swallowed deeply as she clenched her eyes shut. She did not think he would kill her, but she knew he could. The gold-mad Thorin of Erebor had tried, after all.

Her heart was pounding in her chest, and her head was whirling as she remembered last fall. "I have not yet passed judgement, Billa Baggins," he had whispered as he loomed over her, his voice thrilling her even as his words threatened her. "You will keep this knife, hilt covered from the world just as you covered your true story from me. You will keep this knife on you, always. No matter where you go, you will wear this knife proudly and prominently. You will never, ever use it. When I have made my decision, you will kneel, just like this, and offer the knife to me and then, I will return this knife to you, either to your hand or to your heart."

There was a susurration of silk, and her heart beat faster.

Then his large, sword-roughed hand was gently cradling her own, and the cold, smooth hilt of his hard-forged knives was pressed into it.

"Billa Baggins," he whispered as his other hand came up to cradle her face and gently smooth her cheek. "These months apart have haunted me. I love you most ardently, and I know I always will." Billa sniffled, her heart swelling with his declaration.

"Look at me, my sweet, sweet Billa," he said, his voice tender and soft. How could she do anything but obey such a request? Her eyes fluttered open to meet his, and her she felt like melting at the love she saw shining in his gaze.

"Billa Baggins," he said again, "There is nothing to forgive. Your past has been washed away, and our future is not set in stone. Of one thing I am sure: so long as you are by my side, that dreadful and terrible future will never come to pass."

"Thorin!" Billa whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks. She was too overcome with emotion to say anything else.

"Billa," he replied gently. "I do not know what scheme you have for my rival in your affections, but I trust that you will not trifle with my affections. A dwarf's love, once roused, endures forever, and to marry you would make me the happiest Dwarf alive. You have become my lodestone, for my heart is always pointing me towards you. So long as you want me, Billa, and even long after you don't, I will be yours," he vowed to her.

His hand tightened around her own, which curled her fingers around the hilt, the hilt that bore the proof of his admiration, his devotion, his respect. His thumb stroked the back of her hand gently, and Billa felt her heart overflow with joy.

Was it possible to die from too much happiness? From too much love?

Billa's free hand reached out to clutch the front of his tunic, and pull herself closer to him, the knife tucked safely to the side. She pressed her face into his beard, into his cheek, into his neck. She kissed his cheek, and then pulled away til there was only a breath between them. His bright blue eyes were soft with adoration, reflecting back to her the love that was burning in her heart.

If it's possible to die from joy, Billa thought, the end will come any minute now.

"Thorin Oakenshield," she said, laughing through her happy tears, "When I first met you I thought you were the most disagreeable and proud being in the whole of Middle Earth, and I was determined to dislike you."

Thorin snorted.

"Our road together has not been smooth, or easy, but I have learned your character and I know your heart. You are a fierce warrior, a jealous king, and I think the best male I have ever known. I have come to admire your courage and your determination, to lean on your expertise and your strength, and to long for your smiles and your peace. I love you more deeply than a hobbit has ever loved anything, and I have loved you for over 80 years of my life. Thorin, I can say with utmost certainty, that I will love you until the day I die... and beyond," she promised.

Thorin would never admit it and Billa would never ask him to, but there were tears shining in his eyes and Billa would treasure the sight of them forever.

"As for Mister Longlocks," she said, and Thorin shifted uncomfortably, "He will be sorely disappointed to find that no matter what he does, he will never have Miss Billa Baggins for a wife."

At her pleased announcement, Thorin couldn't keep back a chuckle.

"Billa," he said, "May I put a courting braid in your hair?" he asked. "Mister Whatsisface may not know what they mean, but you and I do, and it would please me to see you wear my braids."

Billa grinned and nodded. For the next half hour, their fingers were pleasantly engaged in a labor of love.

Nori, who was hiding outside the study window much like Samwise Baggins might have many decades in the future-past (although it must be said, Nori was by far the sneakier of the two), had to bite his fingers to keep from giggling. For all his sneaking and thieving and plotting, Nori dearly loved a happy ending.