Bilbo did his best to help Fíli in any way he could. Poor lad was self-destructive. He just couldn't bear to live without Kíli. While Sam was so devastated that he just damned it all to hell and drove away, Fíli and Bilbo did everything to find out where Dick Roman took Kíli, Dean and Cas to when he exploded.
It didn't take Sherlock Holmes to deduce one simple thing: either all of them were dead, either they were in Purgatory.
"They have to be there," Bilbo murmured one evening, placing a cup of hot tea in front of the blond. "Kíli is alive, and we'll save him. You'll see."
And so they were spending all their free time with books, trying to find a way to open Purgatory again.
"Damn it!" Fíli shouted, throwing a book into a wall. "There's no other way to open that blasted thing without unleashing Leviathans again, and even that way requires - what? - ingredients we just physically can't get!"
"Fíli, stop the tantrum this instant," Bilbo interrupted him harshly. "I won't stand and watch you lose your hope. We are getting Kíli out of there. I didn't do the damn ritual to lose one of you to Purgatory."
And with that all the anger in Fíli deflated. He slumped to the floor.
"I'm sorry," he whispered to Bilbo. "I forgot. I forgot that you had seen us dying, that you were at Thorin's deathbed even after how he discarded you. I forgot that you made that ritual knowing full well you might never remember us, sacrificing yourself i our place…"
"My remembrances were a small prize for your lives," Bilbo said softly kneeling in front of the former dwarf. "And I'd do it again in a heartbeat. You know that."
Another four months has passed. It's been more than half a year since Kíli went missing, and still no lead. But Bilbo kept Fíli's spirits high, not letting him lose hope. They had criss-crossed the whole USA hunting the old books with the scripts that might help. When they exhausted all the resources it was decided to fly over the Atlantic Ocean to Great Britain. The Oxford University had one of the biggest libraries in the world, and its occult section was impressive. It was worth a shot.
However the flight was dreadful. Nor Fíli nor Bilbo never flew before (off course Eagles of Manve didn't count for they were birds) so all of nine hours they spend fidgeting on their sits.
Finally they found themselves in the library they were seeking. They started with the lore they haven't read before, with any theological mentions at all. Purgatory wasn't a topic vastly mentioned or talked about, and in Orthodox's, they discovered, it didn't even exist. They couldn't find any other ritual to open the door in there.
"Maybe we should start looking into the folklore?" Fíli suggested after a particularly long and tiring day. "Back in Middle Earth all the races have different places to go after death, and different creators. Maybe there's something in, say, Japanese lore that we wouldn't even think to be Purgatory?"
They bothered the librarians to no end. In the end, the librarian called something like Mrs. Peers had snapped at them.
"I have no idea how to help you anymore! But if you really are desperate for that Scandinavian old textbook, you should go and bother Mr. Durinson!"
The statement made both of them freeze.
"Who?" Fíli whispered.
"Mr. Durinson! He's the local pro at the folklore of the Eastern and North Europe! He literally knows everything!"
Bilbo and Fíli were silent for a minute and then Bilbo carefully asked.
"Mrs. Peers, could you, please, tell us more about this Mr Durinson. Philip and I may know the man, but we would like to make sure that it's indeed him."
The librarian looked at them oddly, and then snorted.
"The mate appeared ten or so year ago in the town and promptly started going through basically the same books that you are now. No one knows from where he is, and the only thing we really know about him that he once had a family and then lost them. To be honest, I think it had touched him in a head a bit, so that is why he devours all these books so desperately, - Bilbo put a calming hand on Fíli's forearm before he could say something. The woman didn't seem to notice and went on. - Anyway, he started talking with other professors and they told him that he would have better chances of he gets a grade. So Mr. Durinson is actually Doctor Thomas Durinson of Folklore."
"Where... Where can we find him?" Bilbo asked her in a shaky voice.
They were nearing a secluded house on the outskirts. It was behind a fence woven with the wild vine. The house was of traditional British appearance, so different from American.
Fíli put his hand on the fence and stopped.
"Do you think it's truly him? You think we really found Uncle?" he asked in a small voice. Bilbo thought that he sounded rather like a small boy. Then again, Fíli wasn't that far into the adulthood yet. The former hobbit shooed the thoughts again and said.
"He might be. There's only one way to know."
And he started marching only to be stopped by Fíli.
"And what would we tell him about Kíli?"
"What if he tells me it's my fault?"
The former hobbit's eyes dangerously flashed.
"Then he'll face consequences. Come on."
When they reached the door, it was Bilbo who confidently pushed the ring bell, though his hand was badly shaking.
There was silence and Bilbo rang again. When Baggins was ready to push the button for the third time, the door swung inwards.
"If you are about to rub some religious nonsense in me again, then you may..." The man's voice died when he saw who were standing on his porch.
For it was truly Thorin Oakenshield, despite his impressive height (not dwarvish at all) and modern clothes, who was greeting them.
For a few moments they were standing on the porch silently staring at each other, shock etched on Thorin's face. Then Bilbo took a step back.
"Bilbo Baggins, at your service," and bowed.
Thorin made a strangled noise and stepped forward to the new-comers. He grabbed them and pulled them into fierce embrace.
"Fíli, Bilbo..." he breathed out their names with disbelief.
His hold was crushing, but Fíli was already shaking, clinging to his Uncle as if he were a little dwarfling seeking the safety of loving arms again. Bilbo hugged Thorin for dear life as well, not daring to believe that his King was there, so alive and so real.
"Come in," Thorin dragged them inside, kicking the door shut behind himself.
They ended up in a heap on the floor of the living room, Thorin having a protecting arm around a sobbing Fíli, and trembling Bilbo.
"Mahal, I though I would never see you again," the former King said lowly. "I thought I lost you forever. Thought that this is some sort of a punishment—"
His voice broke at those words, and Bilbo pulled back.
"This wasn't a punishment. This life, it is of my doing, Thorin," Bilbo looked away from him, suddenly unable to face him. "I just couldn't bear the thought of you being dead... So I completed this ritual, which would create new lives for you three, taking my memories as a payment."
"And yet you are here, knowing who I am," Thorin whispered, cradling Fíli close. The said dwarf answered instead of Bilbo, voice muffled by Thorin's shirt.
"He didn't. He didn't remember anything. But then we sung... the song of Erebor, and he..."
"I remembered," the hobbit finished quietly. "Amazing piece of poetry, this song. It always makes me do impossible things."
Thorin nodded, eyes bright with happiness and unshed tears. He grasped Bilbo's hand.
"Thank you, for everything. For what you ever done for us. For saving my nephews."
Bilbo squeezed his hand and answered.
"You are my family. I couldn't do anything else."
Thorin let go of his hand, and instead he gently pried Fíli from himself. He took his face in his palms, gently wiping Fíli's tears with thumbs. He was looking tentatively at him, taking in every feature of his nephew's face, noting every change, every new line. Fíli was grasping his arms, afraid to let go.
" We just have to find Kíli now, right? And then we will be whole, and happy and... Fíli?"
Fíli made a strangled noise, and buried his face on Thorin's chest again.
"Thorin," Bilbo reached out and put hand on Thorin's shoulder. "Fíli and Kíli have always been together in this world."
"Then where is my youngest nephew?!"
"We don't know," Fíli whispered. "It's either he's dead or in Purgatory."
"Khazâd ai-mênu!" A shout pierced the twilight, and the next thing the werewolf knew, was a sword creaking its scull, spluttering thick black blood everywhere.
"Good one, shorty," Dean noted, nudging the monster with his foot. Kíli glared at him.
"When will you stop making fun of my height? It's my natural state, you know. This is how I've been seeing the world for 77 years."
Dean made a face.
"I know, but really, a dwarf? You barely reach my mid-shoulder."
"You know, Bilbo is a hobbit, and hobbits are even shorter than we, dwarves."
Two months have passed since Castiel, Dean and Kíli ended up in Purgatory. Castiel disappeared promptly, leaving Dean and Kíli in the middle of literally nowhere.
The other surprise was that Kíli regained his dwarvish height. While the younger Thorinson was tall among his own kind, and could sometimes pass for a short man, Dean was very tall in comparison.
"There is a reason why we call you Tall Folk," Kíli snapped at his friend. "But while you are the taller one, both hobbits and dwarves live far longer than you. So this is how it is: you've got longer spine, and we - lifespan," but before Dean could answer, Kíli already turned away from him. "Let's go. We should try and find some sort of a clearing, or a refuge. I desperately need rest."
They haven't slept in a fortnight. The Purgatory was a strange place where they didn't need food and didn't need sleep, unless they were injured. Dean had never been in such an open battlefield before, and Kíli already started to forget how it is like - to go through strange forests and always keep an eye for an orc in the shadows. So they both had sustained a few injuries which knitted together within an hour, but still left them tired, wired and weary.
They went silently for some time, and then Dean broke the silence.
"So this is how you used to live? Walking on your two feet and never knowing if you'd have a roof overhead?"
Kíli nodded, some of his hair pulled into a tight braid.
"Yes. I told you – we were a wandering folk before settling down in Ered Luin. So stop your whining about how hard it's to be here. You haven't been born in a forest akin to this one."
Bilbo put down the teapot on a small coffee table and set steaming mugs in front of Fíli and Thorin. He poured some tea himself and set in the armchair. Only now he got a chance to properly look at Thorin.
Thorin was as tall as Dean Winchester, and that was pretty impressive. His beard was just as short as Bilbo remembered it, but his hair was pulled into a loose ponytail (just like Kíli likes, Bilbo's insides throbbed painfully), revealing his neck and pierced ears. Thorin wore simple clothes, denims and a blue shirt. The absence of armour, leather and furs depleted the majestic look a bit, but it was impossible to miss that somebody akin to royalty set there.
Now said royalty had his face in his palms, with shoulders barely shaking. Bilbo looked away, unable to see him so vulnerable. Fíli put a tentative hand on Thorin's back.
He just shook his head. A couple of minutes have passed before Thorin's blotched face with red-rimmed eyes reappeared.
"I always saw that there's something suspicious is going on in USA, but I never thought that you would be so involved in it," he said coarsely.
"We had to," Fíli murmured. "We are warriors, and this is how we could carry on. This was the only way we could honour your legacy."
The former King shook his head.
"If I only knew that my nephews are so close to me..."
"But you didn't," Bilbo interjected. "And even if by some miracle you knew that they are in USA, you would never be able to catch with them. I've lived for a year with Fíli and Kíli, and we've been changing homes almost every week. All these monsters are dangerous. Wouldn't I know, would I? I've spent months being held hostage by Leviathans, not knowing when I'd be eaten."
"What?" Thorin whipped his head up to look at him. "What do you mean? Explain!"
"He was a captive. The Leviathans had a barn where were dozens of poor souls," Fíli started retelling that particular hunt. "Winchesters and we went to free them, and found Bilbo there."
"I didn't remember you back then," the hobbit softly said, studying his cup. "All I knew I'm in danger and those two boys, no older than twenty, had saved me. Of course, there were Winchesters, two tall giants, but I've seen them only briefly. But then I remembered, and we were forced to move all around the America. Thorin, trust me, you wouldn't be able to find us."
The man nodded and asked the next question.
"So you believe Kíli is in Purgatory?"
"Yes, with Dean Winchester and Castiel," Fíli nodded, glancing wearily at his Uncle. "And we really have no idea how to get them out."
Thorin nodded, and turned to Fíli and engulfed him in embrace.
"Then we'll have to find a way. And then we will all be together."
Later that night when Fíli was asleep in Thorin's spare room, Thorin and Bilbo settled for a glass of brandy. They still had a lot to settle between themselves, even if they made peace there in the aftermath of the Battle before Thorin died, even if a decade has passed since they seen each other for the last time. Some wounds just ran too deep, and the Arkenstone matter was one of them.
So they talked and talked. Bilbo wasn't shy in his opinions about Thorin, the blasted rock and gold whatsoever. Thorin struggled with words, but understood that this matter couldn't be put away anymore.
In the end they were both drunk, sitting slumped in the kitchen chairs.
"So, the Doctor of Folklore," Bilbo declared, downing another mouthful of alcohol. "You, of all people, getting a PhD in something involving books."
"I was searching for a way to go back, do you understand?" Thorin argued. "The legends and lore are the only reliable sources."
"Clearly, Doctor Durinson."
"Stop sounding so smart. Who are you in this time, anyway?"
Bilbo smiled wryly at him.
"Why, I'm a perfectly respectable grocer."
Thorin looked at him dumbstruck for a moment and then toppled over from his chair howling with laughter. Bilbo joined in soon enough. When they finally stopped hiccupping, Bilbo said seriously.
"Do you want to know Fíli and Kíli's names? I mean the ones they go by now," when he received a nod, Bilbo said. "Philip and Kyle Thorinsons."
Thorin didn't gasp, but that was a close thing. He did flinch and his eyes drifted in the direction of Fíli's bedroom.
"Truly," Bilbo smiled. Thorin returned the sentiment, a small smile spreading on his face. But then he frowned again.
"I don't believe that I deserve such a title. I failed them."
"You failed yourself, first of all," Bilbo readily agreed. "But it doesn't matter anymore, right? We are as close to being together as it could be, we just need to find a way to bring Kíli back. And we will. What with you being a blasted mythology professor."
Thorin's house no longer housed only him. Fíli and Bilbo lived there now as well, of course. Fíli took the spare guestroom, and Bilbo - Thorin's. Baggins was against such an arrangement, but Thorin was adamant.
"You will sleep in the bed. This is the least I can repay you, - Thorin said, making himself a bed on the sofa in the living room."
"You don't need to repay me," the former hobbit answered with exasperation, but in the end caved in. Neither of them was ready to sleep together yet.
They were happy to finally find each other and not be separated, but the absence of Kíli was a consuming hole. Fíli terribly missed his brother, often having some sort of nightmares that woke up all three of them. He also refused to talk about them.
Bilbo's nights weren't happy as well but at least now he could sleep five nights out of seven without waking up to Leviathans eating him alive. The mares of Thorin look-alike stopped, thankfully.
It seemed that among them only Thorin had an uninterrupted sleep.
A month after their reuniting, Fíli got a call from Ellen. The dwarf made an amused face and turned on the loudspeaker.
"Fíli, boy, where the hell are you? Sam is off radar, and Kevin is trying his best to crawl under the rock and hide himself. Crowley's goons are everywhere. The world is basically in chaos."
Thorin's eyebrows rose to his hairline, while both Fíli and Bilbo cringed.
"But you are alright, Ellen? What about Jo?" Baggins inquired.
"Of course we are well! We are helping Kevin to stay away from the demons. Now where are you? We need you guys here."
"Sorry, Ellen, we can't," Fíli answered to the loudspeaker. "We are trying to find a way to bring Kíli, Dean and Castiel back."
Ellen was silent for a moment and then slowly said.
"You do realise that there might be no way to bring them back, don't you?"
"Lady, leave your opinions to yourself," Thorin growled. "There is a way, and we are determined to find it."
"And who are you?" Ellen snapped at him.
"He's our uncle, Ellen. We found our Uncle."
"You did?! "Ellen's voice was laced with surprise and relief. "Really?"
"Yeah," Fíli smiled broadly, even though the woman couldn't see him.
"So what's with Kevin?" Bilbo interjected. Tran was a very good lad, if only unlucky.
"Oh, he's hiding. Can't tell you where, sorry, not on phone. But Crowley's goons hadn't had a chance to catch him yet. We really need to hide him better, though."
Bilbo and Fíli exchanged sad glances.
"Sorry, Ellen," Fíli told her. "This whole Leviathan business has already cost us disappearance of my and Sam's brothers. We are going to find a way to get them out."
In the end, Oxford library proved to be just as useless like every other one Bilbo and Fíli had visited. Thorin, as professor of mythology (and it was still hard to believe that the dwarf king, a warrior, would become so invested with books), talked to every other professor, reread every rare textbook, scanned everything he could think of. Nothing. Well. Almost nothing.
"There are those old Slavic myths, pre-Christian, of the place in between, from where all the spirits come," one evening Thorin tiredly said over the supper. "Their old rite songs were spells for bringing the rain-spirits, house-spirits and such. I never took those particular legends seriously, but given the circumstances..."
"Are there rite songs for getting a living person out of it?" Fíli perked up. His uncle shrugged.
"I've no idea. There are not many translations anyway, and I do not know any of the slavic languages."
"We could find one of those spirits," Fíli was already thinking ten steps ahead. "We once fought a leshyi. It was um... in 2009? Just when the Apocalypse started..."
"What started?" Thorin yelped. Fíli was unwilling to tell Bilbo and Thorin of everything he and Kíli've been through, especially if it was something really dangerous. It's enough for you to know that we've seen just as much as during our lives in Middle Earth, if not more, Fíli told them.
"Yeah, the end of the world. Winchesters started it, Winchester ended it, and we helped along the way," the boy waved him off. "The point is that the leshyi is a Slavic creature! It complained about something like not enough forests nowadays and such. If we could find one of her kind again, we could ask!"
"And would they be inclined to answer you, hunter?" The hobbit inquired with a smile. "From what I know, they don't like the representatives of your profession."
"They won't have a choice," Thorin said murderously. "If they know something, they will tell us. I still remember how to get information out of orcs."
Shortly they arrived back to USA and, after contacting with Ellen, decided to settle in the Bobby's old cabin, which Winchester used during the Leviathan sage.
"It reminds me of our house in Ered Luin," Thorin proclaimed his verdict as soon as he entered the hut.
"It does. Only with electricity and less taken care of," his nephew agreed, taking in the thick layer of dust everywhere. The house hasn't been used for a year now.
"Well then," Bilbo was already looking around, undoubtedly thinking of what should be done with the place to make it habitable again. "Stop standing there, you lot!"
They started the search anew, first the local newspapers, then spreading the radius.
But then, on one September night, Fíli's phone rang.
Consumed into reading, he flipped it open and pressed to his ear.
The next thing Thorin and Bilbo knew, was Fíli standing up so fast that his chair fell down.
"What?" Both Thorin and Bilbo stood as well, with aggravation on their faces.
"W-wait a minute, I'll put you on the loudspeaker," Fíli fumbled with the phone and a moment later the familiar voice filled the room.
"Hello there!" Kíli shouted in a tired, but obviously happy voice. "We got out! We're back!"
"You were in Purgatory?" Fíli asked his brother. His hand was shaking, and Thorin took it in his own, steadying it.
"Yes! When Roman exploded, he dragged all three of us with him."
"You brother and our burglar expected it to be the case," Thorin said, and Kíli fell silent for a moment.
"Uncle?" He finally asked in a small voice. Somewhere from behind him a door slammed and a 'did they answer?' was heard. "Shut up! Uncle, that is you?"
"Yes, Kíli, that is me," The boy's uncle answer. "I missed you so much."
"We all missed you," Bilbo added softly. "Where are you?"
"Dean!" Kíli bellowed, though Dean was in the same room. "Where on Earth are we?"
"In Maine, you stupid dwarf!"
"We are in Maine," Kíli repeated him. "Where are you? I want to see you so bad! All of you! I... Fíli! Uncle!"
He stopped, clearly too excited to be able to say anything more.
"We are in the old Bobby's cabin, the one that Winchesters used," Fíli answered quickly.
"Stay there!" Kíli ordered them. "Stay, and don't move! Me and Dean will be there in two days! Just... Just stay there, okay?"
Kíli set pressed between his brother and Uncle. During the year in Purgatory his hair grew untidy and knotted, and it would be quiet a challenge to untangle it again. The former hobbit set on the chair next to them, while Dean was in an armchair in front of them.
"So you say my brother high-tailed on me?" he asked in a deadly-calm voice, though his face was a controlled mask of anger. "That he didn't even look for me?"
Three of four Middle Earthians exchange a look. None of them blamed Sam that he didn't look for Dean, because they knew the Winchester history. Finally Bilbo answered Dean.
"You died how many times? And every single time Sam tried to save you. We didn't know whether you were alive, we were grabbing for a thread. But what if... What if you were dead? Do you think your brother would be able to stomach such a harsh disappointment after looking into every library in the world? Do you think it wouldn't kill him?"
Dean was silent for a very long moment, anger slowly sipping from him.
"But you did look after us, didn't you?"
"Because I knew that Kee is alive," Fíli said, gripping his hand with a crushing force. Kíli returned the gesture.
"Better tell us about that place," Thorin changed the topic, trying not to think of his own sister who believed her sons and brother to be dead. "What is Purgatory like?"
"It's rather like Mirkwood," Kíli started describing it. "Just as dark, just as devoid of colour, with plenty of dangers. The only thing that was different was that we didn't need rest and food, and that I became of dwarven built as well."
"Yeah, you guys are short," Dean smirked. "It was hard to believe that such a little guy is able to defend himself so well."
"Hey!" Brothers protested in chorus, and smiled each other for their new-found sync.
"I must inform you that dwarves are one of finest warriors in our land," Thorin said darkly.
"Trust me, I've heard enough of that from Kíli there. I think I know the whole history of your Mountain by now," he made a face.
"Well, I had to tell him something. Besides, there weren't much to do," Kíli told his family.
Later when Dean went out to 'breath the fresh air', Kíli whispered to his family.
"Purgatory changed him a lot. Granted, it made Cas alright..."
"Where is he, by the way?" Bilbo asked just as quietly.
"Dean says that he didn't make it," Kíli turned sad. "Shame. He was a great angel. Back to the topic. There was this man, Benny, who helped us to get out. Vampire, actually. He and Dean became fast friends. Me and Cas never liked him, cause he seems so sly, or something. As if he has the alteriour motives. But he got us out, so I can't complain," his eyes grew distant for a moment, but then he shook his head. "Anyway, they all talked about something like 'Purgatory cleanses you' and 'Purgatory makes you dirty', which is total rubbish. It was just a battlefield with nothing but enemies around. I grew up in such an atmosphere, so I'm fine, it didn't influence me, but Dean got changed. He became very angry and bitter."
After Kíli returned from Purgatory they took their belongings and went back to Great Britain. It was their chance to forego hunting for good because if there was something they all learnt in their lives, it was that wars took lives. They all firsthand learnt that during the Battle of the Five Armies a decade ago and just now, when they almost lost Kíli. Neither Thorin, nor Bilbo were willing to take chance again, and such chances would present themselves quite often, should the brothers continue with their lifestyle.
"You are running away?" Dean asked them coldly when Fíli announced their decision. "But what about the demons, the demon tablet? Kevin? Crowley?"
"They have the right to lead a normal life," Sam said quietly beside him, and Dean whirled around to him.
"Like you led this year?" Sam made a face, but Dean took no notice. "They are hunters! They are protecting people! It's their job! "
Thorin growled and stepped towards Dean grabbing his collar. He was of the same height as Winchester, which was pretty impressive to begin with, but he looked more intimidating and he used it as an advantage.
"You are talking about my sister-sons, lad. You spent a year with Kíli, so you must know that by dwarvish standards both of them are hardly into their adulthood, almost children themselves," Thorin ignored his nephews' splutters of indignation. "Now I recall lady Ellen talking that you are very against children becoming hunters. Pray tell me why your priorities have shifted, master Dean?"
"Get off, Durinson. Weren't it you who dragged these 'children' into the camping-party against the fire-breathing dragon?"
"And I was a fool!" Thorin bellowed, pushing Dean to the floor.
"Stop it! "Bilbo grabbed Thorin's arm when he tried to advance on Dean. "He's angry and bitter, there's no point to try and make him see reason!"
Sam, who rose to his feet when Dean was pushed down and was now helping his brother to get up, tried to repress a snort, but didn't quite succeed. To smooth this gesture, he addressed his brother.
"Dean, he's right. Thorinsons are damn good hunter, but you know how damn good hunters usually end up."
"Yeah, dead with throats slit or hearts ripped out," Kíli muttered from his position on the coach. Thorin flinched at his words.
"Exactly," Sam continued. "If they have the chance to get out, then they must do it. God knows that they deserve it."
Dean shook his head.
"God doesn't freaking cares. But you're right. This job only gets you killed," then he looked at Fíli and Kil. "It also never lets you go. It's like cancer. Sometimes it takes a limb to check you out. Then, if it likes you, it takes the rest."
Thorin flipped the book onto the table and dragged hands over his face tiredly.
"Nothing about how to get back," he said hollowly. The Khuzdul book that Fíli and Kíli took from Campbell hub three years ago had no information in regarding of the return home.
Of course, Fíli and Kíli knew it by heart already, at least those parts they understood. Their Khuzdul was far from perfect, and there were parts which meaning flew right over their heads. And no matter how they tried to translate them, they were just lacking knowledge.
So, of course, as soon as the Kíli matter was solved, Thorin started on studying the book. He was, after all, born at the heyday of Kingdom under the Mountain, and got the best education, just as the young Prince should. Naturally, his Khuzdul was much better than boys' who were tutored by Balin and him. Balin was a good tutor but wasn't as good as Thorin at their language. But Thorin just didn't have patience with the books and little dwarflings together in one room. Trainings, swords and bows with arrows, that he could do for hours and with the utmost patience.
Anyway, now Thorin was sitting in his throne-like armchair in their house nearby Oxford, and reading the book.
It struck Bilbo how much all the former dwarves had assimilated. It was easier for him, because he had lost his memories and had nothing to compare with the new world he was thrust into. The Durins, on the other hand, had their Middle Earth minds, had the memories, had traditions and ways of living, and this world, it was so different, so much more advanced. Boys said how hard it was to get used to... literally everything, how even the simplest things were the hardest tasks for them.
Bilbo wondered if it was just as hard for Thorin. It had to be because he was the most stubborn and close-minded person he ever met. Thorin must have struggled a great deal before he managed to find his footing, before he buried himself in his book-search for a way back, and eventually getting a degree along the way. And yet, here he was, hair pulled back in a braid, clad in a dark-blue jumper, dark denims and, of all things, glasses. The glasses, probably, were the biggest shock of all.
"I had spent years in the dim library, of course my eyes are getting worse," he grumbled at his nephews' asking.
And now he threw the book on the table next to his armchair and was rubbing his face. Fíli and Kíli were looking tentatively at him from their own research. Bilbo leaned in his own armchair.
"What is it?"
"Nothing!" Thorin got up and started pacing. "There is the ritual you used, obviously, and the extensive history of when and why it was created. But not by whom and how. It talks about some creatures slipping into this world from Arda–"
"Like Durin's Bane," Fíli mumbled, and at the quizzical look of his Uncle and the hobbit explained. "Winchester and us met something like Durin's Bane in mines of Coast Mountains. We... blew up the mine and redirected the river so it would drown it. It seemed to work."
"And Khazad-dûm is still banned for us," Thorin shook his head. "But this book... It never mentions how it is possible to travel between two worlds. And it never even suggests a hint that during all the history any person or creature or anything came from Earth!"
He paused and the silence was nearly palpable. The former King sighed and quietly said.
"I think it's only a one way passage."
So it was it, Bilbo thought. The finality of the situation. They had already lived a decade here with no means of going back, or even contacting their friends. And now they had each other, when they never even dared to even dream of seeing each other again. But they all were nurturing the tiniest of hopes that one day they might get back. Bilbo knew that Kíli keenly felt the loss of their mother and all he wanted was her to know that her sons weren't dead. The former hobbit didn't even dare to think what Dís must have felt when she learnt of how the Quest for Erebor had ended. He felt sorry for her, and he too wanted that she knew the truth.
And now they knew for sure that they would live their whole lives here. It was alright. They had lives, means for existing, had this dysfunctional family.
It still hurt.
Thorin was a professor which meant, by extension, that he had to teach. Four days a week he had to get up early and be the first one to leave the house. He usually returned grumpy, and with a hip or two of assignments.
"Those students, they've no respect for elders, and no desire to study," he often complained. "And they love to annoy me with their stupid questions. It gives me a great satisfaction to make them write those essays."
"And do you enjoy grading them?" Bilbo asked skeptically kissing away his frown, to which his friend snorted.
"I enjoy laughing at their works."
"You do realise how wrong it is to hear you, Thorin Oakenshield son of Thrain son of Thror King under the Mountain, complain about grading student works, don't you?"
"At least it isn't as funny as the fact that you set up a grocery," the former dwarf shot back.
Indeed, Bilbo Baggins managed to establish a small grocery, which gave him a small, but steady income.
Fíli found job in some research center and was now working on computer security programs. His brother, on the other hand, decided to use his young look, and enrolled in Oxford. Kíli studied Mythology as well because, as he said, they were working with it for eleven years, and he could find how to use that knowledge.
They established lives, and were living quite happy.
Of course, in fifteen or so years they'd have to move because people would start noticing that neither of them ages the proper way. But they still had time.
Funny, before, in the Middle Earth, they didn't have the luxury of time.