Well, after a good long while, here's an update!
I'll admit, I'm not horribly fond of how it turned out, just because of the flow in some places.
Still, hope you enjoy it!
"Oh good! For once the rumors are true!" Primula exclaimed, clapping her hands together. Amazing how she could go from fierce to so cheery that swiftly...
"Dwarves in the garden, imagine that." Drogo said, giving a deep rumbling laugh.
"Where are my manners," Primula said then, pushing past Bilbo to approach the dwarf. She gave a little swish of her dress in a curtsy, accompanied by an inclination of her head. "Primula Baggins, my dear sir."
"Mama...!" Frodo piped up, eyes wide with wonder. His hand still clutched at Thorin's fingers, but with his free hand he grabbed at his mother's skirts. "Mama, I think he's a King...!"
"Dear, I think you might be right!" She told her son, an odd twinkle in her eyes. "I am rather underdressed then. Am I in the presence of the illustrious Thorin Oakbranch, King Under the Mountain?"
Thorin cleared his throat, though the sound appeared to be covering a laugh. He tried to hide his smile in his beard. "I..." he began, his humor disappearing for his imposing presence. "Am Thorin Oakenshield, no longer King Under the Mountain, but a humble resident of Bag End with Mister Baggins, at your service."
"I'm Frodo Baggins!" the child gripping his hand chimed in. "I'm not king of nothing, but da sometimes calls me a royal pain."
"Only when it's bath time," Said parent replied. He trailed a bit closer to the gathering, giving a little bow. "Drogo Baggins. Begging your pardon, but it wouldn't be right not to offer my services to royalty, king or not."
"That is unnecessary, but thank you nonetheless." Thorin replied, smiling easily now. The child before him gave his hand a few hard tugs and he crouched down beside him.
"Are Cousin Bilbo's stories really all true then?" Frodo asked, his voice filled with barely contained excitement. "The trolls and the elves and the dragon and everything?"
"Everything. Right down to the shape changer and my enormous stupidity in the face of all of the gold of Erebor."
Frodo's mouth dropped open a little before he clicked it shut and shook the dwarf's hand roughly. "He hasn't told me that part yet! Don't spoil it!" he whined, his lips turning down in a pout. "Cousin Bilbo won't tell me the end."
Thorin gave the child a little smile, though the look in his eyes spoke of sorrow. "Well perhaps he'll be coaxed into it soon," he said gently. "The tale should come easier now."
"And I suppose we have you to thank for that Mister Oakenbra—Shield." Primula said, crossing her arms over her chest smugly. "He may have socially vanished, but he does seem happier. Right, Bilbo?"
The former King cast a look at the burglar. "Bilbo?"
There was no response. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End was staring across the kitchen and into empty space. If Fili and Kili had perfected the art of the thousand-mile stare, it was this hobbit that seemed to possess the ability of the million-mile stare.
"Bilbo, are you well?" Thorin asked again, brows knitting together in worry. He took a step toward the other, but looked reluctant to actually reach out and touch him, as if he might break on contact.
Perhaps he would. While Bilbo's body looked strung up tight and still as a statue, his mind was far from inactive.
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Just as Thorin reaches out to grasp his arm, Bilbo lurches forward. For a brief moment, his footsteps look like they might throw him to the ground. One, two, three steps and he is at the counter, his body swaying, but standing up. His hands tremble, but he reaches for a teacup, clacking it on the counter softly. He can feel every pair of eyes in the room on his back, but he takes a deep breath (it sounds shallow and gasping, but it's all he can manage). Carefully as he can, he picks up the teapot and pours himself some of the steaming brew.
"Thank the gods for Chamomile." He laughs out, his voice sounding manic, even to his ears. The tea slops on the counter, but he ignores it, reaching for the sugar. He carefully scoops a small teaspoon out and attempts to stir it into his cup. Most of it ends up on the counter, the little grains joining the mess of the spilled tea.
"Bilbo—" This time it's Primula, giving him a look mixed between quiet horror and worry.
"No, no. Let me just—Tea, dear cousin. I need my tea. Nothing more." Bilbo says. He tries to sound confident and commanding, ignoring the way a sob caught in his throat causes his voice to hitch. With unsteady hands, he takes the cup between both hands and turns from the counter.
Frodo is looking at him with big, sad eyes. Even such a small fauntling can see through him. Thorin looks caught between worry and protective rage, something that would be endearing were he able to bring himself to care at this moment.
Bilbo walks past them, steps sound, but his hands far from it. The heat coming off of the porcelain is enough to scald his hands, but as he walks toward his sitting room, the water sloshing from the cup turned the skin on his hands an angry red. He could barely feel it.
He shuffled past Thorin in the hallway, managing to not touch him in the process, and through the next doorway into his sitting room. His father's favorite chair was calling to him and he eagerly settled down in it with his cup. "Oh," he said after a moment. "I seem to have spilled all of my tea."
"I'll get you some more cousin." Drogo said, voice heavy with unspoken concern. He moved into the room and took the cup from Bilbo's hands.
Somewhere over Bilbo's shoulder, he could hear pieces a murmured conversation starting up.
"..Saw him like this once... Give him some tea and let him sit."
"...Looks ready to faint..."
"...Is Cousin Bilbo alright...?"
Bilbo forced himself to take in a shuddering breath and clench his eyes shut. The world had begun to swim around him, and he thought he might actually faint.
Something was seriously wrong here. Thorin was dead, he'd held onto him until the end, talked to him as he passed on. He'd been so pale and cold in those last few minutes; only the shallow breaths had made him aware that the King had still been alive. But then... Thorin's chest had stilled. Bilbo hadn't stayed for the burial, he couldn't take the thought. He still couldn't bring himself to accept the idea of his love's body, icy and rotting in a stone tomb so many miles away.
Then, the departed King had come to him, glorious and brilliant as he had been in life. So disturbed by his anguish, he realized Thorin was only a product of his imagination. He couldn't live without his King, and so his grief-stricken mind had given him this vision.
That was all he was; A vision. He had been so sure. This shadow of a memory, walking with him, talking with him, had given him back some of his former life. He had been able to relax, just a little, and allow himself to smile. But every day, he had to remind himself it wasn't real. The little looks, the soft touches, none of it. Every plate Thorin cleaned, every mantle he dusted, and every weed he pulled was just an allowance of his mind. Thorin had done none of that, because the King Under the Mountain had died months ago. Now he was just a ghost of a memory.
But Frodo could see him.
He wasn't imagining his family, that he knew. There was something more normal about them. When he had opened the door to see them, it had felt real and solid, like their presence had grounded him.
But they can all see Thorin.
But Thorin is dead.
Thorin isn't real.
Nothing Thorin has done is real.
"Bilbo," Drogo said, interrupting his thoughts. "Your tea. Not as hot, so it shouldn't scald your hands this time around." His cousin extended his teacup to him, a gentle whisp of steam curling off of the liquid in it.
"Perhaps I should go get a bit of butter from the larder." Primula suggested from the doorway, arms crossed over her chest with a worried expression. "Looks like you burned your hands pretty bad..."
Click, His mind went.
"Peaches!" Bilbo shouted suddenly. He shot up from his chair so fast that Drogo nearly spilled the tea all over himself in an attempt to dodge his cousin's abrupt movement.
"Peaches?" Everyone echoed in confusion.
"Yes!" Bilbo replied, planting his hands on his hips. For a hobbit who had just looked on the verge of fainting, he looked surprisingly smug. "Peaches will solve this whole mess once and for all! Don't you see?"
"I'm afraid I don't follow." Primula replied, eyebrows raised high.
"Peaches?" Thorin repeated again.
"Peaches are good." Frodo chimed in. "Eating them makes me happy, will it make you feel better too Cousin Bilbo?"
"Very possibly, my boy." The former burglar replied. "No, no, keep the bloody tea. I don't need it anymore." He made soft shooing motions as Drogo almost sheepishly tried to pass him the cup again before he sidestepped the other hobbit all together and took off down the hallway. "I'll just be a moment!"
Bilbo turned the corner into his well-stocked larder. Briefly, happy memories of the same place decimated and emptied by dwarves flashed through his mind. His lips turned up in a soft smile as he grabbed for a basket on the middle shelf. Prize in hand, he fled the room and padded quickly back into the kitchen.
"A peach, in season, pink, and perfectly ripe!" Bilbo declared, hand extended with said fruit displayed in his palm.
"I picked them up at the market a few days ago." Thorin said automatically, eyebrows knit together in thought. "You were almost out of food."
"I didn't realize I was almost out of food." Bilbo replied, rolling the peach in his hands. The fuzz on the skin of the fruit was soft and the flesh underneath yielded to his fingers, making clear just how juicy it was underneath.
"I apologize," Thorin said, casting his eyes toward the floor. "I don't mean to be a burden, but I do eat quite a lot. I insist you allow me to restock your pantry for you as payment."
Bilbo snorted and waved a hand at him. "I have plenty of money, your appetite is hardly a problem. However, YOU are a bit of a problem!"
"Cousin, that's rather rude, to say it so bluntly..." Primula interjected.
"It's true though. Ever since he got here, I've been sure he's been just a figment of my imagination you know. "
Thorin, face turning downtrodden at Bilbo's previous words, suddenly opened up in surprise. "Imagination—Bilbo, what are you talking about?"
"Hush, Thorin, let me speak, I'm still trying to come to terms with all this myself," Bilbo said, effectively brushing the King off. He turned to look at his smallest cousin now, whom had begun to look very puzzled by the conversation going on above him. "Frodo, did you know, last week, the peach crop wasn't ripe?"
Frodo gave a vigorous nod and smiled, "Mama only got some yesterday! But they're really good!"
"Last week, when I went shopping myself, before Thorin showed up at my door, there were no peaches for sale. But now, I have a cupboard filled with the ripe, juicy fruit! If Thorin is a product of my imagination, basically my boy, if I was truly the 'Mad Baggins' that so many say I am, how would I have these peaches? Thorin bought them two days ago and here they are."
"So if the peach is real, Thorin is real?"
"Exactly. You are sharp for one so young." Bilbo crouched down before the boy now, ruffling his dark hair. "So, is it real?" he asked, glancing around at the other occupants of the room, all looking equally stunned. A smirk flickering across his lips, Bilbo bit into the peach. He was greeted with the heavenly taste of thick, syrupy juice pooling in his mouth and dribbling down his chin. He chewed and swallowed, swiping his tongue over his lips to capture what he could of the sticky juice before giving his young cousin a grin. "It seems real to me. But I might be crazy. Frodo, would you do the honors for me?"
Bouncing on his toes, Frodo nodded, his dark curls bouncing on his head. When the peach was offered to him, he eagerly took it from his cousin's hand and bit into it excitedly. He made a humming sound in satisfaction before grabbing another mouthful. Face sticky and eyes bright, he nodded again. "It's really real! Good too. Can I finish it?"
"Yes of course lad, it's all yours. Mind the pit," Bilbo replied as his eyes drifted to the figure a ways behind the fauntling.
Thorin was staring up him with unconcealed concern, but there was another emotion there... It might have been sympathy, but there was also understanding beginning to dawn. "You... Thought I was dead." He said after a moment.
"I thought you were dead," Bilbo repeated, standing. "But you aren't. I'm not sure how, but you're alive and here. In my kitchen."
Primula made a strangled "Oh" sound as the pieces clicked into place for her now. It took only a moment then, as she swung her son up into her arms and grabbed for her husband's elbow. "A bit of privacy might be in order." She hissed out, before flashing a brilliant grin at cousin. "Lovely visit, we'll have to do it again soon. Maybe I'll swing by tomorrow?" she said as a way of farewell even as she dragged her family, protesting weakly, out the door. The two remaining in the kitchen didn't even seem to notice their sudden disappearance.
"Aye, I'm alive." Thorin murmured, taking a hesitant step forward once the room was clear. "And you—Bilbo I had no idea that you were..."
"It doesn't matter what I was, you're alive!" Bilbo exclaimed, his eyes damp now, but a smile bright on his face. In the next moment, he flung himself at his fiancé, arms thrown around his neck to find purchase on that thick mane of hair behind. He had to tug only once before Thorin allowed himself to be pulled down.
Their lips connected, smacking together with a force that made Bilbo's teeth rattle, but he hardly cared. All that mattered was pulling him closer and never letting him go. While Bilbo seemed to want to consume Thorin in that moment, to hold onto him and never let him go again, the former king was gentle, slow, like he had been waiting for this moment and wanted to savor every piece of it and commit it to memory.
Thorin was alive and Bilbo was never going to let him go again.
Well, I think i'll have like one more plot based chapter after this, then I should be able to get on with the fluff!
Also, the next update may be a bit slow as well, just because of some school craziness, but it won't be as long of a gap this time.
Thank you for reading!