A/N: I can't believe it's over. I mean, what was supposed to be a short epilogue managed to transform into a whole chapter complete with coda, but at least it's finally the last chapter! It's been such an incredible pleasure to write and share this story with you all; the original point of 'Mountains' for me was to wrap my head around how Thorin and Bilbo could begin a relationship together in order to effectively write them in other fic, but along the way this story took on a life of its own. Thank you so very much to everyone who read it and supported me along the way, and please do let me know what you think. 3

Also, remember: a coda is a separate piece of writing at the end of a story. You can choose to think the coda here happens or that it doesn't, and it's very likely that I'll be writing what could be considered follow-up fic for both outcomes. Either way, the ending remains open to interpretation. (Also, the formatting for this chapter doesn't work as well on FFN as it does on AO3; my apologies for that.)

The inn at Lake Town was certainly no palace. It was not built to accommodate large groups, enough so that they were only able to fit two or three to a room, and the smell of damp lingered in the wooden walls just like it did in the rest of the town. But it was comfortable, and warm, and far more luxury than anything the company had experienced since Rivendell. The prospect of sleeping in an actual bed for the first time in months had been tantalizing enough, but the revelation that the town's public bathhouse was right next door had been enough to turn them into a gaggle of squabbling children all vying for the first soak.

Dwarves were not vain in the way elves were: they had no desire to bathe in perfumes and rose petals, or to brush their hair until it shone. But going months without washing in something that wasn't a river or a creek was more than enough for any of them, especially now that they had clean clothing to change into afterwards. From Dori to Dwalin, everyone had been eager to finally be clean.

The only thing that everyone had managed to agree on was that, as the leader of their company, Thorin should be the first to bathe. This was why Thorin found himself tucked away in the smallest and most cramped little room, clad only in a pair of trousers and a light tunic, drying his newly-washed and combed hair by the fire as he waited for Bilbo to finally come and join him.

It had been easy enough to get a room to themselves. No matter what Bilbo seemed to think with the way he shied away from Thorin when he knew that others were watching, their companions had been aware of the shift in their relationship from the instant the two of them had walked back into the campsite after that conversation three days ago. All it had taken was an uncompromising glare from Thorin, however, and not a single one of them had mentioned anything about it.

Despite the lack of actual spoken recognition, there was still an unspoken understanding that the two of them would prefer to be alone whenever the opportunity presented itself. And practically as soon as money had exchanged hands, he and Bilbo had been not-so-subtly herded into a bedroom so small it could only possibly fit two with such speed and efficiency that even Bilbo had not had time to question the decision.

In the privacy of his own mind, Thorin could not help but think that it was somewhat ridiculous for Bilbo to maintain this farce of separation; for him to startle half out of his skin if he heard their companions' voices drifting over from their campsite on the few occasions they had been able to slip away to exchange heated kisses in the dark, or the way he shifted uncomfortably when Thorin stood too close to him in public. But old habits died hard, and if this was what Bilbo needed to do in order to grow at ease then Thorin supposed he could not begrudge him that.

There would come a day, though, when none of this mock-secrecy would be necessary anymore. When Bilbo would be proud to stand beside him, clad in the clothes of Thorin's people and dripping with yellow gemstones set in gold, showing all the world exactly who he belonged to.

He felt his mind wander as he stared into the hearth, the flickering of the flames so very similar to the way light reflected off the rolling hills of gold coins hidden away in the treasury under the mountain. The fire radiated light just like the Arkenstone did, brilliant and shining and so very captivating to look upon. The way a thousand colours seemed to shift and swirl inside its corporeal prison, radiant and beautiful and his, all his for the taking, embedded above the throne he was destined to reclaim as a testament to his power, to his authority, to his –


With a grunt, Thorin violently wrenched his eyes away from the fire. He was breathing hard, eyes squeezed shut and a tremor in his hands as he forced his mind to go to the only safe place. To the only calm and quiet thing amidst the glittering roiling senselessness inside his head.

And so he thought about Bilbo – about the way his eyes crinkled when he laughed and how all of his muscles bunched up when he was angry and how soft he felt when Thorin had his whole body pressed up against him. He thought about having Bilbo pushed all up against a tree on that unbelievable day, about how much he would sacrifice to have Bilbo by his side once Erebor was reclaimed, about how utterly terrified Thorin was at the prospect of his tiny halfling all alone against the monster that had brought his whole world crashing down around him.

It took a few minutes of running his mind over Bilbo – the way he would huff and hesitate before saying anything important, the way his skin tasted at the crook of his neck – before Thorin believed himself to be on solid ground again. He let out a shaky breath, flexing his fingers and silently willing Bilbo to hurry up and return to him soon.

Over the past few days, these flights of fancy had grown in both number and intensity. It had always been something Thorin had struggled with; the tempting glimmer of gems, the comfort of mithril beads held tight in his palm. Nowadays it seemed as though what had once been nothing but a fleeting desire was threatening to fill his whole mind, his whole self right up to the brim; to push everything else out until there was nothing remaining but the cold heft of gold in his heart.

Thinking of Bilbo helped to keep the thoughts at bay, but only seeing him, touching him – holding him close, feeling the softness of him clutched tight against Thorin's chest – was enough to make them go away entirely. In the meantime, Thorin was left feeling itchy and unsettled beneath his skin, clenching and unclenching his hands into fists with his eyes squeezed firmly shut.

It had occurred to him once or twice – in the midst of an episode, mentally digging his heels into the ground against how easy it was to slip into fantasies of his palms overflowing with rubies, of the way the Arkenstone seemed to swirl with some unknowable light – to mention it to Bilbo. To open his mouth and just tell him, to let him see the struggle in Thorin's heart.

But he was not weak, and he was not his grandfather. Thorin knew very well what the sickness in his mind was doing: he could see it clear as day, could feel the way it tugged at his heart and promised things that were so much colder and full of greed than what he truly wanted. Most importantly, though, Thorin had the tools to overcome it. He knew well enough to cast his mind out to Bilbo whenever he felt the insidious pull of it leaching at his mind, to run his hands over Bilbo like a talisman whenever it became too much.

He had no doubt that he would be able to conquer it; that he was conquering it, even now. And all of that seemed to be confirmed when he heard the door to the room creak open, looked up – and saw Bilbo standing shyly in the doorway.

The sight of him alone was enough to make some of the pressure in Thorin's chest lessen. It was clear that Bilbo had only just left the bathhouse: his hair was dark and heavy with water against his cheeks, his skin pink and freshly-scrubbed. He was wrapped in a too-long woolen robe that he had pulled tight around himself, and he was clutching what was obviously a fresh set of clothes to his chest. And when Thorin glanced down and noticed that the hair on his feet was still damp, he thought that might just be the most endearing thing he had ever seen in all his days.

"Good evening," said Bilbo haltingly, his voice filled with the practiced vigour that usually meant he was uncertain about something. "It's, ah. It's been so long since I was clean, I hardly remembered what it felt like."

He said the last with a smile on his face, closing the door behind him. For a moment, the look on Bilbo's face was almost playful – before he glanced around the room, appearing to notice all over again just how alone they were. He swallowed, eyes lingering almost imperceptibly to the bed before darting back to Thorin again, and the way he looked just a little overcome made something warm and hungry flare in Thorin's belly.

He stood up, and Bilbo barely had enough time to place his bundle of clothes on a chair before Thorin was pulling him into his arms, and the second Thorin covered Bilbo's mouth with his own he could feel the persistent itch beneath his skin begin to lessen, could almost see the shadow of the mountain's treasure fading into the recesses of his mind.

Kissing Bilbo was always like this, Thorin was discovering. It made everything else diminish in importance; it made the world fade into the background until there was only this, only now. It brought him out of his mind, cleared the haze from his eyes, and that was something so special that Thorin did not have the words to describe it.

There was no need to trouble Bilbo with shadows of the past. Not when nothing would ever come of it; not when he had all of it under control. So instead Thorin let out a low noise of pleasure against Bilbo's mouth, satisfaction flooding his chest when he felt Bilbo shiver against him.

"I can't believe you managed to get us a room together," said Bilbo weakly once they broke apart, and Thorin let out a little hum of amusement. He reached out a hand, playing idly with Bilbo's damp curls.

"Indeed," Thorin murmured, voice unusually rough, and there was nothing else besides the two of them now. No mountains of gold and no seas of gems, no unknowable brilliant stone glimmering in the background of his mind. He let his hand drift lower, fingers grazing along the place where Bilbo's robe hung open to expose pale chest. "I have much desired to be alone with you these past few days," he said, low and dark, and Bilbo made a choked little noise.

"I… yes," said Bilbo, looking a little light-headed – before his gaze flitted to something behind Thorin's back. He glanced back at Thorin after a moment, lips pressed tightly together and a half-amused glimmer in his eyes. "Thorin, ah. Precisely how much fun would you make of me if I told you that I've never been… intimate… in a bed before?"

Thorin blinked. A few moments passed while he tried to process this, unable to quite comprehend what Bilbo meant.

He had made his peace with the fact that there had been others before him: the confidence and practice with which Bilbo had slipped a nimble hand into his trousers and taken him in hand two nights ago, when they had been fortunate enough to steal a few minutes away from the campsite, had been confirmation enough of that. It took Thorin a little too long to realize that in a bed was the important part of the sentence, and when he did he still gaped down at his halfing in open incredulity.

"Truly?" Thorin asked, and his disbelief was very much apparent in his voice. Bilbo smacked him on the arm.

"It was secret!" Bilbo stressed, putting special emphasis on the last word. His voice sounded playfully irritated, but there was something subtly serious in his eyes that made Thorin stand up straight and listen. "I could hardly go round inviting my dalliances over for tea and scones with my parents, now could I? And after they died…" Bilbo trailed off, a melancholy curve to his mouth. His eyebrows twisted into an expression that Thorin could not identify. "Well. Brief interludes with farmhands behind barns didn't seem quite so appealing anymore."

Thorin frowned, his hands tightening on Bilbo's waist. At the reminder that others had touched Bilbo before him, yes, but that was only a dull jolt: those people were a hundred lifetimes away, on the other side of the world. They had no place in Bilbo's life anymore, not the way he did. No; he frowned because the expression on Bilbo's face was so tentative, so sad, as though he was reliving a life of loneliness before Thorin's very eyes.

"Have you ever…" Thorin trailed off, tilting his head to one side. Bilbo looked up in surprise.

"Oh my, yes," said Bilbo easily, as plain and straightforward as though Thorin had asked whether or not he had gone to the market today. "I do believe I've done everything one can do, unless I'm much mistaken." He paused, glancing away briefly before catching Thorin's gaze again. His eyes were calm, and blue, and there was an intensity about him that made Thorin's heart quicken. "Just… not with anyone who really mattered."

There was a pause while the words settled down upon them, and Thorin felt something both loving and melancholy swell in his chest for the Bilbo of years past. The knowledge that he mattered in a way Bilbo's other lovers had not was certainly a heady thing – but being confronted by just how lonely his halfling must have been in those days made the feeling bittersweet. It made him ache for the Bilbo who had locked himself away from the world, tucked out of sight with only his brass buttons and patchwork quilts for company.

After a moment, however, Bilbo chuckled and poked Thorin in the chest. "What about you, then? Any dark confessions to get out of the way before we make good use of that bed you somehow scrounged up for us?"

Thorin let out an amused snort. "Hardly," he said, then gave a little shrug. "A few over the years. Companions at arms, mostly, but nothing special. It never lasted long."

"Men?" Bilbo asked, his voice all calm curiosity.

"And women," Thorin replied simply, and Bilbo's eyebrows shot up.

"Oh," Bilbo exclaimed, quiet and slightly taken aback, and Thorin very nearly laughed at the way Bilbo was visibly attempting to school his expression into something neutral. In the privacy of his own mind, Thorin could not help but think that the identity of his previous lovers hardly mattered now. Whether or not one or both or neither of them survived the upcoming fight with the dragon, whether or not they emerged out of this intact. One way or another, he could not imagine himself ever doing this with anyone else ever again.

The years had made him comfortable with the idea of his own death, but Thorin was quickly discovering that the idea of Bilbo being killed was another thing altogether. Even in the comfort and relative safety of this little town, the thought made sickened terror churn in Thorin's stomach. He tried to push it aside.

"Well then," Bilbo said at last, straightening himself with a half-smile on his face, and Thorin blinked himself back to awareness. "All the more reason to make this memorable, I suppose."

Then he wrapped his arms around Thorin's neck, stood up on his tiptoes, and tugged Thorin down into a kiss.

They had done this a few times since that first day in the woods; stolen moments on their journey along the river to the mouth of the lake, one particularly maddening night when Bilbo had taken him by the hand and they had slipped away into the trees once he had been certain that all of their companions were occupied listening to one of Bofur's grand stories. That night had been all hands and hot breath on skin, a rush to completion fuelled by Bilbo's long-ingrained fear of discovery. But even then there had been a limit to how far they could take each other, the constraints of time and place and lack of privacy guiding everything they did.

Here, however, there was no ever-present danger of being found. There was no need for hurried kisses in the dark; instead it was long and languid, a gentle but persistent exploration. Bilbo seemed content to let him set the pace. His mouth opened beneath Thorin's and he let out a breathy little noise at the heated slide of Thorin's tongue against his. Thorin felt Bilbo's fingers clench and tighten against the back of his neck and it only urged him onward, nipping at his lower lip and dragging rough fingers along Bilbo's jawline until he felt him shudder.

The hearth cast a warm glow over them both, and the way Bilbo's drying curls caught the firelight made it look soft and coppery. The shadows around them were deep, and the dim light only emphasized the sweet curves of Bilbo's face. There was a hunger stirring in Thorin's belly, and he was suddenly profoundly aware of just how little Bilbo was wearing. A thin strip of fabric knotted around Bilbo's waist was the only thing keeping him from being naked, from having the soft lines of his body on display.

A low noise of want resonated from the back of Thorin's throat at the idea, and he tightened his grip on Bilbo's waist and walked them backwards towards the oversized bed, not wanting to stop touching him even for a moment. Bilbo broke away from their kisses just long enough to let out a pleased little burst of laughter before Thorin was dragging him back onto the bed.

They landed with Thorin on his back and Bilbo sprawled on top of him, a ridiculous smile on his face. His robe was gaping at the front now, a long swath of skin from his collarbone to his naval exposed to the night air. Bilbo was a warm and willing bundle in his arms, kissing him with a sweetness that made Thorin want to hold him tight against his chest and never let him go, to keep him where he was safe and loved and taken care of. He worried Bilbo's bottom lip ever-so-gently between his teeth, reaching up a hand and stroke gently along Bilbo's neck, toying with the loose fabric of the robe and smiling with satisfaction when he felt Bilbo shiver and tense beneath his hand.

It was overwhelming, being allowed to touch and linger and worship every part of Bilbo he had dwelled on, had ached to touch for so long. With one last reverent kiss against Bilbo's lips, Thorin turned his full attention to one of the curved, delicately-pointed ears that had intrigued him for so many months – that had left him squirming with heated discomfort before he ever suspected the reason why.

The skin there was pale and smooth, and he gently pushed aside Bilbo's messy curls to gain access. When Thorin wrapped his fingers around the flat of the ear and stroked, dragging his thumb along the curved edge until it reached the pointed tip, Bilbo surprised him by squirming and letting out a desperate-sounding whine.

"Thorin," Bilbo gasped, swallowing hard and sagging on top of him. His eyes were glazed over, unfocused, his kiss-swollen mouth slightly open. Thorin stared up at him unabashedly, drinking him in, and at the moment Thorin could think of nothing more riveting, more entrancing, than he was. "Oh, Thorin, that's… doing more than you might think, it's – oh."

There was a beat of silence as the words ran circles in Thorin's mind, realization coming slowly in the haze of desire, before realization dawned. Thorin felt a jolt go up his spine, his stomach immediately twisting in frantic want.

"You will be the death of me," Thorin growled, low and needy and only hanging on by a thread. Then he pushed himself up into a sitting position, hauled Bilbo more firmly onto his lap, and pressed a kiss to the hollow of Bilbo's ear.

The sound that Bilbo made in response was dizzying. His halfing was simultaneously arching into the touch and straining away, squirming helplessly in Thorin's lap, obviously overwhelmed by the sensation. Thorin ran his tongue along the edge of his ear, felt a forbidden thrill as he took the pointed tip into his mouth and ever-so-slightly bit down, sucking gently and nearly smiling when Bilbo keened in response.

He let the tip of Bilbo's ear slip from his mouth, making Bilbo's hands tighten on his shoulders in an attempt to keep him from pulling away. He was breathing heavily, shaking with want.

"Shhh," Thorin whispered, and this was power beyond what he had felt as a leader, or a prince, or even as a warrior. The need to make Bilbo feel good was more urgent than his own pleasure, an immediate need that made his spine tingle and left his throat dry.

"I'll shhh you," said Bilbo breathlessly, his face slack with need, and Thorin let out a laugh that was so shockingly happy it was almost unrecognizable to his own ears. He slid his hands around Bilbo's waist, resting them on the small of his back, and Thorin felt a shiver run through his whole body at the contrast between his own thick fingers against the soft, pale skin of Bilbo's waist.

"You are so delicate," said Thorin wonderingly, thinking of the broad shoulders and heavyset bodies he was used to. Strong arms and thick muscle beneath his hands seemed unappealing compared to this; to the feeling of his hobbit shaking and pliant in his arms, caught and held and so very willing.

Above him, Bilbo snorted audibly.

"I'm really not, you know," said Bilbo wryly, shifting on top of him and shaking his head as though Thorin was being ridiculous. Thorin shook his head, leaning up to kiss Bilbo once firmly on the mouth.

"You are," Thorin insisted with a smile –

— and then the image of how very small Bilbo would be next to Smaug slammed in front of his eyes with shocking speed, violently purging every other thought from his mind as he lingered on the horror of it. The thought of Bilbo – tiny Bilbo, delicate Bilbo, smaller than all of the dwarves the monster had killed that day – standing all alone on hills of rolling gold, barely a pinprick next to the sheer enormity of a dragon. Smaug was an inferno, a hurricane, an earthquake of destruction that annihilated everything in his path. And they were planning to send Bilbo in alone and defenseless, barely bigger than a single one of the beast's teeth, his life being gambled on a wish and a prayer, and –

"Hey," Bilbo called out, and he sounded very far away. His voice was firm and worried, but with a wince to his voice that made Thorin blink out of his reverie. With a jolt, he realized that the delicate brush of his fingers against Bilbo's waist had turned into his hands squeezing far too hard, hard enough to bruise, and he yanked them away with a blurted apology and a sharp pang of shame.

Bilbo did not look upset, though; instead he simply climbed off of Thorin's lap, moving so that he was lying next to Thorin on the bed, propped up on one elbow and staring at him with a look of concern.

"Hey," he said again, reaching up one hand to thread his fingers through Thorin's long hair. "What are you thinking about?" The question was calm, expectant, and Thorin let out a shaky breath.

"… of the task ahead of us," Thorin replied, the words coming slowly but without any real struggle. They had already lost too much time to his secrecy and silence, and who knew how many days they might have left.

Thorin paused, taking a few deep breaths and perhaps spending just a little too much time putting his thoughts into order. Bilbo did not press him, though. He just lay there, waiting, until Thorin was ready to speak again.

"We are… so close," he said at last, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment. Bilbo's fingers felt wonderful as they threaded through his hair. After a moment, he opened his eyes again. "So close to everything I have ever wanted, but. Now that we are here, I find I have… doubts."

"Doubts?" Bilbo asked, tilting his head to one side. Thorin turned his head so that they could look at each other properly, and he could feel the grimace on his own face as he steeled himself.

"I know that you signed the contract," he began, slow and tentative and already bracing himself for an offended outburst. "And I know that it is possible the beast could be asleep, or long-dead. But now that we are here…" he trailed off quietly, reaching up to stroke his hand down Bilbo's arm. His robe was still gaping at the front, but the look of puzzled concern on his face was enough to hold Thorin's attention. He took a deep breath. "Now that we are here, I find myself loathed to let you take on the dragon alone."

There was a long, long pause – before Bilbo screwed up his face in a look of intense sympathy.

"I know," said Bilbo quietly, a humourless laugh escaping his lips. He did not seem offended by Thorin questioning his bravery, which was good. Instead he just seemed sad. "I'm… not exactly looking forward to it either."

There was an unspoken fear beneath the words, yes – but there was also a determination so palpable it shone right through to the surface. Through the uncertainty, through the fear, and the strength of it was so frightening in made Thorin's breath hitch.

"The idea of losing you–" Thorin began with a quiet intensity, avoiding Bilbo's eyes as his throat caught on the words, but Bilbo cut him off.

"Thorin," he said firmly, stroking his thumb down Thorin's cheek.

He did not speak any reassurances, for there were no words of comfort to be had here. Just his name, as though it was a token that Bilbo had held close to his chest for a very long time and had finally decided to share with him.

"Thorin," Bilbo said again, quieter this time, and there was a solemnness to the lines of his face that made something stubborn and hard solidify in Thorin's chest, like hot metal being plunged into water.

"I will think of something," Thorin insisted with growing resolve, and if Bilbo did not believe that what he said was true at least he did not say anything to contradict him.

There was still over a week until Durin's Day. There was still time to find another way to retrieve the Arkenstone, to discover how to lay waste to the dragon without putting Bilbo's life in so much danger. Thorin nodded, just the tiniest inclination of his head, and the movement made him freshly aware that Bilbo's hand was still cradling his face. He refocused his attention on Bilbo lying next to him, and he was so very close that Thorin could feel the warmth of his breath.

"Whatever may come," Bilbo told him reassuringly, as though it was the truest thing in the world. "Whatever we may have to go through, there is still tonight."

It was true.

And there was.

With a quiet noise of desperation, Thorin took Bilbo by the shoulders and gently pushed him onto his back. He moved so that he was completely covering him, broader and stronger and pressing Bilbo down into the bed with firm hands and heated kisses that left them both breathless and broken and straining for more. And it did not take long before Thorin was undoing the tie of his robe, reverently pushing the fabric aside before smoothing his hands over skin he had never touched before.

They did not speak much, after that. Not to talk about what the future might bring, or to reach out to one another in comfort. Instead they moved in a world of quiet desperation, charged with the possibilities and uncertainties of tomorrow.

In the coming days, Thorin would remember it only in the details: the warm light from the hearth, the drag of his calloused fingers against the soft pale skin of Bilbo's hipbones. What it felt like to have Bilbo's body yielding under his hands, scrubbed clean and welcoming his touch, with so much trust in his eyes that it made Thorin ache to think about it.

It was very slow, and very careful, and Thorin felt more powerful like this than he ever had before. Watching Bilbo fall apart beneath him – making him fall apart – was the most intoxicating thing he had ever experienced.

Later, Thorin would remember small hands digging their nails into his muscled shoulders. The slickness of oil on skin, the contrast of how their fingers looked twined together. Capturing the sounds of Bilbo's release with his own mouth, feeling Bilbo tense and shudder against him, beneath him. The way he tucked his head into the crook of Thorin's neck afterward, limp and gasping and still being rocked by every movement.

Thorin's own release took him by surprise, an afterthought that overwhelmed him completely, left him ruined and empty and pulled apart at the seams. Left his mind blank and his heart heavy and his skin sweat-slick as he collapsed down onto the bed, remembering to keep some of his weight resting on his elbows so as not to crush his halfling beneath him. He felt gentle hands stroke through his hair as he shuddered again, heard the breathless murmur of gentle words in his ear.

After a minute or so of silence, Thorin disentangled them with care. As soon as he had collapsed back onto the bed, he reached out and drew a flushed and loose-limbed Bilbo into his arms.

He could not remember another time when Bilbo had been left entirely without words, but he was certainly speechless now. Thorin held him tight against his chest, resting his chin on Bilbo's head and dragging his thumb back and forth along Bilbo's upper arm. He held him until Bilbo's hands stopped shaking and he finally began to relax properly, until they were breathing together, until the rise and fall of their chests fell into a gentle cadence. Until the rest of the world began to blur and fade around the edges.

As he was drifting off to sleep, safe and warm and more whole than he could ever remember being, Thorin had a sudden moment of clarity. The kind that comes in the grey area between asleep and awake; the kind that is almost always forgotten by the time morning comes.

There was a chance that they could die before the week was out. They could be consumed by dragon fire until they were nothing but ash and bone, or slashed open by wicked claws to leave their bodies broken and bleeding into a sea of gold and gems. Their story could be ended just as it was beginning.

But there was also a chance that they could live. That they could live out their lives together beneath the mountain, relighting the great forges and purging out the darkness that had lingered there for so long. There was a chance that he could live to see Erebor rebuilt with Bilbo by his side; for them to cleanse out the death and destruction and build something new, something better, something that his people could look upon and cherish as raw pride swelled in his heart.

There was a chance that they could fill the halls with music once again.

They stayed like that, wrapped up in each other's arms, until the dragging pull of sleep could not be resisted any longer. And Thorin cradled Bilbo against his chest as they both drifted off, dreams of a distant victory echoing behind his eyelids.



"Are those truly the only clothes the market had to offer you?" Thorin asked in amusement the next morning, giving Bilbo a dubious look as he sat on the bed and fastened the buckles on his boots. Sunlight poured in through the open windows, and Thorin was surprised to find the sound of water and boats and birds outside to be almost pleasant. Bilbo glared at him from across the room, abandoning his struggle to tie up the laces on his second-hand tunic in favour of shaking his finger at Thorin in a chastising gesture.

At least, Thorin assumed he was shaking his finger, because the sleeves on Bilbo's new tunic were so astonishingly long that it was quite impossible to tell. They were at least a hand and a half too long, draped over his hand and dangling free, the excess fabric flopping around ridiculously when he moved.

"Don't you start, this is bad enough as it is," said Bilbo warningly, and the look he shot Thorin was so fed up that Thorin could not stop himself from letting out a low chuckle. Bilbo finally gave up with a sharp exhale of exasperation, throwing his hands up in the air. "This is just – who is this made for, exactly? What creature of my height has arms the length of beanpoles, I swear." He made a tsking sound, walking over to rummage around in the pile of their old clothing.

To be fair to him, Bilbo's clothes were indeed a particularly poor fit. Perhaps it was the closeness of the Iron Hills or perhaps it was a legacy from Erebor-that-was, but there was a surprisingly adequate amount of dwarf-sized clothing to be found around the Lake Town market. Enough, at least, for most of the company to be clothed in the necessities with only a few odds and ends needing to be cobbled together from whatever else was available.

What Bilbo was wearing, however, must have belonged to a child of Man at some point – and a particularly strangely-shaped child, at that. (Or perhaps a child whose mother was particularly unskilled at sewing, it was difficult to tell.) They were too tight in some places and too loose in others, with sleeves so long they practically reached to his knees. He had wrapped a cord around his middle to pull the tunic in as best he could, but Thorin suspected he might have to take a knife to the sleeves in order to make them wearable. It was endearing, at least, watching him become progressively more irritated with how badly it all fit him.

Thorin resolved that, assuming they did manage to reclaim Erebor, he would make a special point to have dozens of sets of clothing tailored to Bilbo's exact specifications. In the bright colours of the Shire and with the most well-crafted buttons anyone had ever laid eyes on.

It was a nice thought, at least. He felt his whiskers twitch a little in a smile.

After a little while Bilbo moved away from the pile of their old and truly disgusting clothes, turning sharply and giving him a sardonic look. Thorin absently noticed that one of his hands was clenched in a fist, as though he was holding something.

"We shall need to get them serviceable if we are to begin our walk to the mountain today," said Thorin mildly, tightening the final strap on his boot before standing up. He could feel the smile still lingering on his face, but did not attempt to school it away.

"I don't know that there's anything in all the kingdoms of Middle Earth that can make these serviceable," Bilbo clucked, tucking his hand into one of the pockets on his second-hand trousers, and then –

There must have been a hole in the bottom of the pocket, because something small and shiny seemed to have slipped out the bottom and fallen onto the floor. He heard Bilbo suck in a breath as whatever it was hit the ground with a surprisingly loud thud, and curiosity made Thorin's eyes flicker down to the object on instinct. But what he saw…

What he saw made him freeze in place, something inside of him coming to life as he stared down at the object on the floor.

It was a ring. Just a single, plain band of gold. There were no gems embedded in it, no designs along its edges. There was nothing special about it at all. But for some reason, Thorin found his attention so abruptly and thoroughly diverted it was as though someone had called his name.

He narrowed his eyes at it, taking a small step closer. It was nothing more impressive than any trinket or bauble that could be found by the millions in the treasure room at Erebor, and yet he could not seem to look away. For a strange moment, Thorin could have sworn he heard the murmuring of strange voices nudging at the back of his mind as he leaned in closer, reaching out a hand to pick it up and take a closer look –

"—sorry, so sorry about that," Bilbo babbled as he snatched the ring out from under Thorin's fingers, shoving it roughly into his other pocket as he spoke. "It does slip away at the most inconvenient times, sorry." He turned to look at Thorin with an almost manic look in his eyes, his smile too-wide and unnatural. He took a small step backward towards the door.

"What is that?" Thorin asked, but Bilbo shook his head violently.

"Nothing," said Bilbo, his voice sounding clipped and harried. His curls looked messier now than they had a moment before, and his eyes were shining with intensity.

"But –"

"Weren't you saying something about the road to Erebor?"

There was a long pause. Neither of them spoke or moved, and for a moment the tension in the room was so strong that Thorin could barely breathe. Then, all of a sudden, the sudden stiffness crested and broke – as though someone had slowly sucked in a deep breath of air and then expelled it all at once.

"I…" said Thorin, and although it took a real effort to drag his eyes away from where Bilbo's hand was tucked in his pocket, he managed to do it. "I… yes. I was." Flashes of gold were dancing at the corners of Thorin's vision, but he blinked them away. He gave his head a little shake and then glanced out the window, taking note of the sun's position in the sky and wondering what on earth had come over him. "We should go downstairs for breakfast if we wish to purchase supplies soon, do you not think?

"Excellent idea, wonderful idea," said Bilbo in a rush, looking far too enthusiastic. His eyes were full of relief.

There was a beat – and the Bilbo gave Thorin a sheepish smile before closing the space between them, going up on his tiptoes, and giving Thorin a quick kiss on the mouth. Thorin made a pleased sound and leaned down to meet him, kissing back chastely and sweetly until Bilbo pulled away.

"Come along, then," said Bilbo busily, shooting him a little smile before he turned and headed to the door. He opened it, heading out into the hall, and a few seconds later Thorin could hear the feather-light steps of his feet on the stairs as he headed down to join the others for breakfast.

Thorin moved to join him, but he paused when he reached the open doorway. He lingered there for a moment, turning to survey the room one last time. The bed was messy and unmade, a sight that made a satisfied little thrill of pleasure shoot up Thorin's spine. The embers were cooling in the hearth, their old clothes discarded in the corner, and discarded bits of rope that Bilbo had attempted to use to finagle his ill-fitting clothes littered the wooden floorboards.

The morning light pouring in through the window made it look like an entirely different place in the daytime, but the knowledge that they had shared such happiness here, such closeness, made Thorin feel profoundly content and wistful all at once.

They were up against the world, but he had to have faith that they could conquer everything ahead of them. He had to believe they would have such moments of peace in the future.

And once they did, Thorin thought idly as he headed downstairs to join his companions for breakfast, he would have to ask Bilbo if he could have another look at that ring.