"For the love of Aulë will you stop fidgeting Kili!?" Fili snapped, his tone belied by his small smile. The heir to the throne was currently twisting his brother's hair back into its customary braids. "Anyone would think that you were incapable of remaining seated in one place for an extended period of time"
"Well I did drive the elven guard to distraction when we were imprisoned in Thranduil's dungeons" Kili mused, wincing when Fili gave the braid a warning tug. He chuckled at his own joke and allowed his brother to finish his hair. "I do like that Bombur's throwing a feast to formally welcome Bilbo home"
"I quite agree with you, though I think a part of him will always be in the Shire" Fili said slowly, securing the braided hair with a silver clasp.
"But he has us" Kili said, a hint of a whine slipping into his voice.
"Ki, do you not feel a sense of belonging to the Blue Mountains?" Fili asked. "We grew up there and as such it is natural for us to feel a connection to the place, it is the same for Bilbo"
"I guess" Kili muttered, getting to his feet and stretching out. "At least we don't have to wear formal attire this time around" he added. "I much prefer these tunics, softer on the skin you know what I mean?"
Fili shuffled over to the door of their rooms and opened it, leading the way down the royal wing and, soon enough, down the flight of stairs. Kili never strayed more than a few steps behind him, as it had always been even when they were children. Fili could hardly believe that the mess of that masquerade party had been two months previous. Time truly had a way of getting away if you didn't grasp it tightly. Bilbo was now officially moved into Erebor as Thorin's consort.
There would be a specific celebration for that later. Thorin had already told Fili and Kili that they were not allowed to help organise it.
"I hear Beorn's making an appearance today!" Kili said animatedly as they moved towards the dining halls. "It will be good to see our favourite skin changer again, will it not?"
"He's the only skin changer you know" a female voice chimed in. Fili turned and saw Dis striding towards them, clad in clothes of midnight blue and her dark sideburns braided with silver beads. "Unless you met another dangerous half human on the quest that I know nothing of?"
Well not half-human per se but Bard could pretty dangerous when he wanted to be, Fili decided. Best not to mention that to her. He winked at Dis, who eyed him warily. "What are you two rascals up to this time?" she asked.
"Why do you always assume we are up to something?" Kili pouted from his position under her arm, his own arm slung about her shoulders.
"Because dear, the last time I didn't assume you were up to something I had to deal with Dori breathing down my neck for weeks for what you did to Ori"
"Classic" Kili chuckled, swapping a grin with Fili.
"We are actually just discussing that Beorn is going to make an appearance at today's feast" Fili reassured her, restarting their journey towards the dining hall. "I can't wait to see how he and Thorin interact, I really should remind Bombur to get us some snacks for the entertainment section of today's proceedings" he added thoughtfully.
Dis chuckled at that one. "Why would your uncle and this skin changer be at odds?" she asked curiously.
Kili ducked out of her grasp. "Well you see Mother, Beorn's rather tall" he said, gesticulating with his hands. "Like at least three times our height! And really intimidating too!"
"The only who isn't scared of him is Gandalf, who doesn't really count, and Bilbo – they're good friends" Fili added.
"So when Beorn finds out Thorin is making Bilbo his consort –"
"We might have ourselves the Battle of the Five Armies, round two because Beorn is really protective of Bilbo"
"And thus we deem it applicable to have snacks to munch on for the pre-dinner show" Kili finished, beaming like a cat that got the proverbial cream.
Dis stared at them and then shook her head. "I'm living in a castle of madness" she murmured, shaking her head as she followed her sons off to dinner with a resigned smile.
She couldn't really imagine it any other way to be honest.
Bofur whistled a cheerful tune as he carried a basket of steaming bread rolls to the table, very much aware of Nori's gaze following him. He smiled to himself. He was more than healed now, well aside from the odd ache in his joints every now and then but that was to be expected according to Dori, and he was waiting for the right moment to prove to his lover just how healed he was. He had been given a clean bill of health a week ago but Nori had refused anything more than a quick kiss.
Bofur was frustrated to say the least.
Well he could last through this feast at least; Bombur's cooking would sate him – for now. Nori brushed by his side, setting a bowl of roasted potatoes and Bofur caught a hint of his scent, so very enticing and so Nori that he had to suck in his breath and banish any and all thoughts of Nori to the non-thinking part of his brain. Imagining what he could be doing to his lover was not going to help matters.
"Are you alright?" Nori asked suddenly, his voice urgent and worried. "Do you need to rest for a moment? You've gone pink in the face! Oh you have a fever . . ."
"Relax" Bofur interrupted, placing a finger over Nori's lips. He quirked his lips. "Just thinking, so stop your worrying my sweet"
Nori flushed. "Fine" he said. "Now – we've still got two more baskets of rolls to hand out so let's get to it" he instructed, moving away. "Don't stare at me like that!" he added loudly. Even with his back turned he could still sense Bofur's looks.
Bofur chuckled and went back to undressing his lover with his eyes. As he moved off to follow Nori towards the kitchens the large doors to the dining hall flew open and Bofur found his face splitting with the biggest grin he'd worn in days.
"Dwarves!" Beorn growled loudly. "Cursed, confounded dwarves and their cursed, confounded stubbornness!" he paused and caught sight of Bofur who was striding towards him. "Bofur my good fellow!" he greeted cheerfully, kneeling down to dwarf height. "You are looking well despite Bilbo's descriptions"
Bofur shrugged, making his hat flap. "Aye just a small scratch, I knew not that Bilbo wrote you" he said.
"Well of course he did!" Beorn said cheerfully. "The poor raven was half dead from carrying a parchment three times its weight! Bilbo was in a right state of panic over your arm, even more so since it's the second time you have been injured"
"That hobbit . . ." Bofur said, he sighed. Well he wouldn't have Bilbo any other way. "Bless his heart" he finished. "There's a reason why he can keep Thorin in line"
Beorn nodded sagely. "I quite agree master dwarf" he said. He froze, noticing the odd smile on Bofur's face and his eyes narrowed. "Something has happened that you are not telling me" he said. "I will find out" he mused. "Best to tell me straight away"
"He's got a point you know" Nori joined in, returning with another basket of piping hot rolls. He shook his head at Bofur. "Best tell him now before he witnesses the show later on"
"Speak" Beorn instructed.
"Alright" Bofur sighed. "But if anybody asks, you didn't hear it from me"
Dwalin was having a bit of a problem.
The tension at the table was thick, you'd need a blade to cut through it and even then. Of course some people at the table were very much oblivious to the current situation. Dwalin smirked. Bilbo was currently chatting animatedly to Beorn, who was staring fiercely at Thorin, who was steadfastly ignoring the skin changer and turning a very interesting shade of pink.
Dwalin wanted to fix this scene in his memory forever.
Beside him, Ori was quietly digging into a heart chicken soup whilst listening to Dori fuss over him. Ever since the elder dwarf had allowed Dwalin to publicly court his younger brother it appeared that Dori's attempts at being a mother hen towards Ori had increased tenfold, as though he was making up for all the time he lost whenever the partly bonded couple slipped away for some private time. Ori accepted it with a grace Dwalin had not thought possible, he was so used to Ori complaining about the lack of trust he was given by his brothers. Until Ori had said, quite calmly;
"He allowed our courtship Dwalin, I can put up with his protectiveness for that"
Dwalin smiled to himself and Ori nudged him. "What's got you smiling so widely?" he asked quietly, his large brown eyes sparkling in the sun that filtered through the windows.
"You" he whispered back, just as softly, so that only Ori would hear.
The scribe flushed a delicate pink but otherwise said nothing, returning to his soup. Dwalin turned back to his stew, chewing meditatively and staring at the show being displayed by Beorn, Thorin and Bilbo, the latter of which who was completely unaware of what was going on around him. The King Under the Mountain looked very uncomfortable. Well it was common knowledge that Beorn was very protective of a certain hobbit, Dwalin had watched from afar as the skin changer had transformed and carried an injured Bilbo away.
"By the Valar I can't do this anymore" Beorn murmured suddenly, cutting off whatever Bilbo had been saying. The hobbit frowned in confusion as the skin changer faced Thorin with a glare so ferocious that Dwalin was sure that Dis would be rather impressed. "You!" he snapped, jabbing a large finger in Thorin's direction. "Took your time didn't you!? It's about bloody time you woke up and realised what a good thing you have in our hobbit"
Dwalin swore he heard Thorin murmur, who's hobbit? He dismissed the idea however when he caught sight of Bilbo's jaw dropping, Kili and Fili snorting into their plates and Bofur suddenly finding himself very occupied with his food. Dwalin shot the younger dwarfs a warning look; those two were always up to something, best to nip it in the bud before it got out of hand.
To his credit Thorin drew himself up to his full height and fixed Beorn with a hard gaze. "I am aware of that" he said softly. "Rest assured I will not make the same mistake twice"
Beorn considered this for the moment before smiling widely. "Well that's good to hear. I'd hate to have to take Bilbo away from here again" he said, winking at the hobbit. "He's a right stubborn one when it comes to his own health you know"
The gaze that Thorin pierced Bilbo with was a sure sign of what was to come Dwalin knew. The hobbit was in for a stern talking to after the feast was over.
"I warn you though, if you hurt Bilbo the consequences will be far greater than you imagine – King Under the Mountain or not" Beorn warned.
"I rather think you'd have to get in line" Dwalin mused gruffly. "Between you, Gandalf and Lord Elrond – not to mention the rest of the Company you'd be in for a rather long wait were that to happen"
"I can protect myself thank you!" Bilbo snapped, crossing his arms indignantly.
Dwalin smiled to himself. It appeared that both he and Thorin had to deal with stubborn partners, Ori had been downright adamant about watching Nori's every movement for at least a week after the attack. The thief would always have the smallest of scars on his throat in testament to that faithful night but it didn't stop his little brother from checking up on him every few hours. Dwalin was left wondering who it bugged most, Nori or him – considering he had to follow Ori whenever he went 'Nori-hunting'.
Usually he was quite easy to find, one had only to look in the medical bay to find the ginger haired dwarf.
Erebor was brimming with joy. Dwalin was fairly certain that the dwarven stronghold was once more at its former glory, shuddering with happiness and dancing with trade. Between the two courtships acknowledged publicly – his and Ori's as well as Thorin and Bilbo's – and the speculation that Bofur would announce his courting of Nori any day now there was an atmosphere that hung in the air that could not be described with words.
"What are you thinking about?" Ori asked him, finishing his soup and leaning into Dwalin's side casually.
Dwalin lifted a hand and placed it on Ori's thigh, smiling down at him. "Peace" he responded. "Peace amongst our halls is something I am truly grateful for"
"I thought that was me" Ori pouted.
Dwalin chuckled, brushing his finger down Ori's nose. "Yes, you too little one"
Thorin was shrugging out of his overclothes when he heard the scratching of quill on parchment and he looked up in surprise. Clad in nothing but nothing but his soft sleeping pants he ambled into the main part of his bedroom – the one he now shared with a certain hobbit – to see Bilbo hunched over a parchment and writing away furiously. His lips were pressed together and his eyebrows knitted in concentration, he looked very attractive to say the least. Thorin slipped over, wrapping an arm around Bilbo's waist and pressing his lips to the juncture between his jaw and throat.
The hobbit hummed in satisfaction, laying down his quill and leaning back into Thorin's touch. "I was wondering how long it would take you to do that" he murmured quietly. "You are far too predictable"
Thorin chuckled. "You ensnare me simply by being yourself" he countered. "And I prefer to think of myself as reliable rather than predictable"
Bilbo got to his feet, turning in Thorin's arms so he could press a chaste kiss to the king's lips. With that done he slipped out of his partner's hold, ambling over to change into some nightclothes. Thorin watched him go for a moment before turning back to face the table, reaching out a hand to pick up the abandoned letter that Bilbo had been writing before his interruption.
My fellow hobbits;
Please be advised that my adventure went on longer than expected and though it is now over I shall not be returning to the Shire in the foreseeable future. Gandalf is under instructions to gather all my prized belongings and will be bringing them to my new home – no I will not be telling you where it is so keep your sticky nose out of it you Tooks!
I hereby leave Bag-End under the care of the Gamgee family, my loyal gardeners. They may care for it until further notice, in which case it is theirs entirely. To my nephew, Frodo, I leave my substantial collection of books and maps – I have no need for them where I am, I have experienced the outside world enough to have no want for them. To my Sackville-Baggins relatives I leave absolutely nothing!
Seriously Lobelia! Stay away from Bag-End and don't even think about marrying your daughter off to my Frodo! And keep your sticky fingers off my silver-ware!
I expect I shall miss some of you, though I wouldn't be holding my breath if I were you.
Thorin stared incredulously at the letter, cast a glance over his shoulder to where Bilbo had reappeared in the room and then turned back to the letter.
"You read it?" Bilbo asked. There was a hint of humour behind his voice and Thorin laid down the parchment, moving to wrap his hobbit in his arms once more.
"You are a strange halfling that much is certain Bilbo Baggins" Thorin laughed. "I'm not sure I want to know who this Lobelia person is by the way of your penmanship!"
Bilbo pouted angrily. "A right shrew that awful woman! Speaks in such tones that not even the bloody dogs can hear her and she seems to take pleasure in trying to nick off with my spoons and knives!"
Thorin shook his head. "I hope to Aulë that I never have to meet this woman" he said, leading Bilbo towards their bed. "Or if I do that you are not in the same room, I can imagine the scene quite clearly"
"Well since I plan on staying here for the rest of my days I don't think you should be too worried" Bilbo said haughtily, poking Thorin in the ribs.
The King growled, flipping Bilbo over so that he was lying flat on his back against the bed with Thorin hovering over him. "You are adorable when you are frustrated you know that?" Thorin mused lightly, leaning down and pressing his forehead against Bilbo's. The hobbit made a strange noise in the back of his throat but Thorin ignored it. "You will be sending the letter with Gandalf when he comes by next?"
"Yes, I think I know where my home truly is" Bilbo replied with a small smile. "So stop your worrying, I'm not going anywhere"
Thorin smiled. "I wasn't worried" he informed loftily. He nuzzled Bilbo again to punctuate this. "Merely assuring that my facts were correct before assuming. When is the old wizard supposed to be here anyway?"
"He said he would be here by the end of the week"
"Excellent" Thorin said, drawing Bilbo close. "Now hush, no more talking is allowed. I have important matters to attend to"
"Pleasing my lover of course"
Six Months Later . . .
Gandalf tipped his face to the cool breeze that was playing through the trees of Mirkwood. A long journey it had been, that was certainly true. His elvish escort rode slightly ahead, scouting for danger as orcs still travelled this area hoping to pick up victims just before they crossed the border into the dwarven territory. Gandalf's travel companion fidgeted from his seat in front of him, small fingers hooked tightly into the reigns.
"Is there something on your mind my young friend?" Gandalf asked kindly, running his fingers through the boy's hair.
"Do you think . . . do you reckon Uncle will want me to stay with him?" Frodo Baggins asked softly, his dark curly head bowed and his bright blue eyes sparkling with despair.
Gandalf started. "Of course he will!" he exclaimed. "He will be shocked to see you at first nonetheless but he will always welcome family into his heart, especially you for I know he has a soft spot for you"
"I hope so" Frodo murmured. He swung his feet back and forth, a nervous habit that he had displayed throughout the entire journey. Gandalf rather hoped that Bilbo could get him out of it and quickly. "So Erebor is a dwarf city?"
"It sure is" Gandalf replied, pleased to be back on a topic he could easily discuss with the young hobbit. "One of the greatest dwarven strongholds in Middle Earth, ruled by Thorin Oakenshield – King Under the Mountain"
"He's uncle's friend isn't he?"
Gandalf paused. It would be rather difficult to explain to Frodo exactly what Thorin was to Bilbo Baggins. Best leave that till Frodo was older, much older in his opinion and he was sure Bilbo would quite agree.
"Yes they are very good friends"
Gandalf smiled to himself. When Bilbo requested he go to the Shire to collect his belongings and tie up his loose ends he was certain that the hobbit had not expected him to take so long. He would be very surprised to see Gandalf return with a young hobbit. Very surprised indeed.