"Are you cold, my King?"
Bilbo felt a warm fur cloak being wrapped around his shoulders. A long time ago he had been what some would have called an easily frightened Hobbit and the sudden sound of Thorin Oakenshield's voice so close to his ear would have startled him but, as it was, life beneath the Lonely Mountain had nurtured the hidden strength and courage within him until even the thought of gigantic spiders inspired nothing but a vague dislike.
"What? Oh," he said, quickly closing the book in his lap. He felt Thorin sit down behind him and laughed heartily when the king nestled his bearded chin in the bare crook between his shoulder and his neck. "Really, I'm not that cold."
"Really?" Thorin asked skeptically, his voice dipping into a low baritone that vibrated deep in his chest. Bilbo knew that he was looking at him, trying to convey his disbelief with his eyes, but he playfully avoided his gaze. There weren't many who could brag of being able to tease the king in the way that Bilbo knew how and this was something that Bilbo was quite proud of. "I have fought in battles upon this very land in which the air was cold enough to freeze even a fearless Dwarve's heart and the snow that melted in my boots left me with an unfortunate limp. Yet I assure you that the air was not as cold as it is now."
"Then perhaps you should take your cloak back," Bilbo said. He began to shrug off the warm material with quite a bit of regret but Thorin stopped him and slipped it back onto his shoulders.
"Nay," he said sleepily, slipping Bilbo's ringed fingers in his own, "You are warm enough. What is this?"
Bilbo blushed as Thorin slipped the fingers of his free hand beneath the cover of the book and began to flip through its pages. Bilbo had never intended to let anyone but himself see the pages of what he considered to be his illustrative diary and so he had filled the pages with reminiscent drawings of all that he had encountered on his travels. Some of the drawings bordered on cartoonish (Thorin smiled when he turned to a page of Bombur eating a sausage) and others bordered on obsessional and maybe even a little dreamlike. He noticed Thorin's fingers hesitate over a picture of Smaug that he had drawn on his third night with the company after listening to yet another one of Balin's accounts of the beast. He quickly turned to a different page.
"These are sketches I made during our quest to take back the Lonely Mountains – do you remember? Yes, of course you remember. Sometimes during the quest I wouldn't be able to sleep. Either the moon was too bright or Bombur was snoring or my mind was just so full of trivial things so I would stay up and draw all that I had seen," He flipped to a sketch of the brothers Fili and Kili, handsome and proud as ever, gazing off into a distance beyond Bilbo's shoulder. "or all that I wished to see again. There's the shire, the foul creature Gollum, Minty, Gandalf, Gloin, Nori…" he paused over a particularly well-drawn picture.
"Who is that?" Thorin asked gently. Bilbo sighed and gazed with affection at the proud face staring up at him.
"That is my king…" he said softly. Thorin kissed his temple.
"Nay, that is your servant, Master Baggins."
"I'm afraid I'd have to disagree. That is both my king and my servant."
"Mmm. Wise words," Thorin said. He closed the book in Bilbo's lap and pulled him in closer so that his head was resting on Bilbo's shoulder. It truly was cold but his love for the curly-haired Hobbit was strong enough to make him forget the chill that swept through the land. In the beginning, Thorin had been hesitant about taking Bilbo as his King. Not to say that he was hesitant about having him as a lover – ever since Bilbo had sworn an oath to help the Company reclaim the Mountain Thorin knew that he was someone with whom he would be honored to live alongside– but rather, he wasn't sure if the Hobbit was truly capable of fulfilling the role as a leader of the land. Although he had his moments of bravery he still was more of a grocer than anything, or so Thorin thought. But, much to Thorin's surprise and immense delight, Bilbo had bloomed into a beautiful king: loyal, compassionate, understanding – even majestic. Never once did he seem out of place amongst the wisest dwarves with their beards a-waggling and glittering but rather he, with fine jewels strung through his curly hair and ornate cloths upon his chest, always looked as if he were merely a younger, slighter, handsomer dwarf whose only contrast was his shining appearance (intensified by the bright colors that he insisted on wearing) and patient, understanding countenance. "Bilbo," he said, for he could not conceal his concerns any longer, "you have sacrificed so much for me and my people. You are a great king – gentle yet firm, wise yet humble, and so beautiful," here Bilbo blushed and waved Thorin's words away but the king quickly caught his hand and gazed at the large oval sapphire gem mounted on a bridge of silver whose thick curves lapped about the edges of the stone like waves. The ring had been Thorin's gift to Bilbo the morning after the night of their wedding. "yet I understand that in taking you as my king I have deprived your fellow kinsmen of a wonderful little Hobbit. Do not think that I am forcing you to sacrifice your friends and family for –" suddenly Bilbo broke out into a peal of laughter that left Thorin feeling rather stunned. Had he said something funny?
"I was of no great value to them, I can assure you," he said, wiping tears of mirth from his eyes. He arranged his face into an apologetic smile and gazed up at the stars before him, "really, they knew me as the Trouble Maker, The Wayward Explorer, The Adventure Starter. Oh no, right now the Shire is peaceful and still in my absence." What sort of silly little people would not appreciate a man of his merits, Thorin thought angrily to himself. Bilbo pulled his favorite pipe from his pocket and set it between his teeth.
"But I suppose they were friends – yes, and family and I do miss them, even the 'ole Sackville Bagginses. There was a certain charm in seeing them all gathered around the table: some with wide grins on their faces, others with pots of ales in their hands," Bilbo laughed, "some trying to make away with the furniture. I'd grown up with them, you see, and ours were the bonds, spiteful or not, that could never be broken."
"Not even in your absence?" Thorin kissed his ear.
"No, not even in my absence,"
"I cannot lie: there's nothing more that I desire than to have such a bond with you."
"But you do, my King! And, really, there must be something more-" The Hobbit exclaimed. Thorin put a hand lovingly over his mouth.
"Of sorts," he whispered. Bilbo blushed. "I would like to see it strengthened in the future."
Before Bilbo could respond there was a sudden commotion behind them and Kili appeared, breathless and handsome as ever. He glanced once over the scene before him before respectfully lowering his eyes. He had matured in the few years that it had taken for the Lonely Mountain to be restored to its former glory yet, as Thorin was very fond of reminding him, he hadn't matured nearly enough as a Dwarf of his age should have.
"I was looking all over for you two forever! Dinner has been served. We await your presence," he said in his grandest voice before resuming his previous occupation of trying to regain his breath. Bilbo put out his pipe and made a move to stand but Thorin pulled him back down.
"You may go on without us. We'll take our supper later,"
"Later?" Bilbo said indignantly. Why, he wasn't one for this 'late supper' business. While many things about him had changed his appreciation for a good meal served precisely on time had not. He turned and tried to give Thorin his best Now Let's Be Sensible About This Look but one glance into Thorin's brown eyes and Bilbo felt his heart give a funny little flutter. He made a small noise of protest in his throat but before he could open his mouth to let it out Thorin leaned down and kissed his pouting lips.
"We have to work on our bonding, remember?" With that he leaned down and kissed Bilbo again. Kili stared at them in surprise for much longer than was necessary before rousing himself with an embarrassed shiver. He turned on his boot clad heels and began to walk swiftly away, the image of his uncle gently removed his cloak from Bilbo's shoulders as he kissed his jaw still hot in his mind.