Thank you so much for all the awesome feedback, guys! Wow, 40 chapters is quite a big milestone, and I have over 140,000 views, that is amazing! I'm so grateful for every single review, follow and favourite I get, you guys are awesome!
Sorry this took so long, it has been rewritten so many times. Writer's block has been killing me and I have so much coursework it's not even funny… Each time I wrote this chapter it just dragged and was boring and urgh! I'm still not 100% happy with it and it's a bit of a filler again but I think it's alright.
Thanks to my guest reviewers, I'm glad you're enjoying it.
DorkiestOfDemAll – I have heard of the fanfic where Dain almost killed Bilbo but I much prefer the idea of a nice Dain, so I hope it doesn't clash too badly in your head for this story!
101olive4u – Thank you! There will be quite a few more chapters, and it is quite important for me to focus on everyone, not just Fíli and Kíli. Thank you so much, I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
Loves to read books – thank you so much!
So yeah, I hope there aren't too many mistakes.
Read. Enjoy. Review.
Chapter Forty # Pack Up Your Troubles* #
Kíli Baggins prided himself on being a perceptive dwarf.
When his friends or family were upset or worried, Kíli was usually the first to know. When there was something interesting going on, Kíli was usually the first to get involved. And when there was a change coming, Kíli was usually the first to discover all the details and welcome the future with bountiful enthusiasm, even if there was sometimes a little trepidation.
For over a month, however, Kíli had tried his very hardest to be selectively perceptive. His watchful eyes had continuously surveyed his healing company to make sure that no one took a turn for the worse or pushed themselves too hard, as dwarves were wont to do. He deliberately kept a close eye on Thorin when they returned into the mountain, observing from a distance and making sure that the sickening glint of gold sickness did not return to his uncle's eyes. He carefully watched the way that Bilbo interacted with the dwarves, especially those from the Iron Hills, ready to intervene at the first sign of Bilbo's discomfort.
However, whenever anyone mentioned leaving, Kíli would immediately drop out of the conversation and excuse himself, usually with Fíli, and leave the area entirely. It was not that he was not looking forward to going home, because he could not wait to get back to the Shire, but leaving the mountain meant leaving Fíli.
Every dream Kíli had for his future involved Fíli coming back with him and Bilbo, and whatever happened next – whether they returned to Erebor or remained in the Shire – ended in happiness and laughter and peace. Sometimes Kíli would imagine the life he would lead with Fíli and Thorin and the entire company housed in Bagshot Row, and at other times he would imagine his life should his friends and family from the Shire join them in Erebor.
But Kíli knew that they all were dreams, and nothing more. Fíli could not leave Erebor – he was the crown prince and for years had been Thorin's only heir. Kíli did not know much about politics, but he was sure that it was not generally acceptable for two direct heirs to the throne to go traipsing about the world on the whim of a young prince, especially not one who had been 'dead' for twenty one years. That Fíli had grown quiet at the very mention of Kíli's return to the Shire before the battle showed Kíli that his brother could not come, and Kíli would not ask him to. The torture of choosing was his own, and Kíli would not impose it on his big brother.
Fíli was not the only one that Kíli would miss fiercely, and he knew it. The entire company had become family, but Kíli dreaded to think of how it would be to travel the wilds without the assurance of Thorin and Dwalin being so close by. Gandalf would be accompanying them, that much Kíli knew, but it would not be the same. Despite the anger that still rose in his heart sometimes when he thought of Thorin's callous treatment of Bilbo, Kíli was not looking forward to life without his uncle.
It was for all these reasons that Kíli avoided any conversation regarding the return journey. Details were unnecessary in his mind – Bilbo and Gandalf would know the route and all he had to do was put one foot in front of the other, so it was not really that important that he knew exactly what was going to happen. Avoiding the conversations meant avoiding the stabbing pain in his heart when he thought of leaving behind his newfound family, so he avoided them like the plague.
Twice now, Bilbo had approached him with the sole, explicit aim of telling him what the plan was to be, but both times Kíli had refused to listen and had instead showed the hobbit the beautiful new pipe that Bifur had carved him or the ancient but perfectly strong fiddle that Balin had given to him.
"Balin found this in his old family home, he thinks it belongs to his grandfather but he doesn't really remember," Kíli had told Bilbo, allowing his eyes to shine with enthusiasm, and Bilbo had smiled sadly and nodded, saying how special it was before walking away.
Now, almost seven weeks after the Battle of Five Armies, Kíli was standing in Fíli's bedroom, packing his bag slowly and both anticipating and dreading the next day.
Kíli looked over his shoulder and smiled at Bilbo wryly. "Morning…"
Bilbo smiled sadly at Kíli, lingering by the doorway. "You know…we can always come back, if that's what you want."
Kíli snorted softly, turning back to his packing. "And politically? How would that work?"
"What do you think we've all been discussing this whole time, how best to deal with the Sackville-Bagginses?" Bilbo shook his head in mild amusement. "It's taken us a long time to work out the details of this, Kíli. There is nothing, nothing to stop either of us returning here, at any time."
"That's…reassuring…" Kíli exhaled, a little surprised.
All of a sudden Fíli bounded past Bilbo, a smile on his face and a spring in his step that were rather atypical of the prince's usual morning behaviour. "Good morning, brother!"
"Good morning," Kíli frowned, utterly baffled by Fíli's behaviour. When he spoke, his voice was so soft it was a wonder Fíli heard it over his own humming. "Fee, I…we're leaving tomorrow…"
"I know," Fíli looked over his shoulder at Kíli with an amused frown as he removed certain items from his limited wardrobe. "Why do you think I'm packing?"
Kíli blinked in surprise as his heart stopped. "You're – you're coming with us?"
"Of course," Fíli scoffed, raising his eyebrows at Kíli. "I do not care if you want me there or not, I'm coming."
Pure delight filled Kíli's heart and he let out a breathless laugh, looking at an amused Bilbo. "But… how are you allowed…?"
"Have you honestly spent all this time thinking that your brother was staying here?" the hobbit raised his eyebrows and Fíli looked up, shocked.
"Oh…he did! Kíli, you are a fool, my dear brother." The blond prince slowly shook his head, a smile spreading across his lips. "You should really have listened to the plans, you know."
"I didn't want to; I didn't think you were coming!" Kíli felt his cheeks flood with colour as he blushed in embarrassment, and Bilbo clucked his tongue like an old woman.
"Kíli, Kíli, Kíli what are we going to do with you?"
"You honestly believed that I was staying here?" Fíli repeated.
Kíli looked him dead in the eye. "How can you leave? I thought you'd have to stay here and be a prince… You're next in line to the throne and-"
"I'm your brother." Fíli said firmly. "I lost you once and I refuse to lose you again, do you understand me?"
Kíli nodded meekly.
"Good," Fíli grinned, turning back to his wardrobe. "Officially we are travelling back to the Blue Mountains to meet our mother and complete a coming of age ritual that can only be performed at the place of your birth - which is why I am allowed to come to. Obviously all of that is just excuses and justification. In reality we're going back to the Shire and we will only go to the Blue Mountains if you so choose, and if all goes to plan Amad will meet us in the Shire anyway, a few weeks after we get there."
"Really?" Kíli asked, a mixture of excitement and a strange bashfulness swirling in his gut.
Fíli seemed not to notice. "Yes, if we're lucky."
Bilbo stepped in from the corner. "As you failed to pick up the fact that your own brother is accompanying us, Kíli, I assume it failed your notice that Bofur, Bifur and Nori are coming, too."
"Really?" Kíli asked again, his already lifting heart feeling even lighter.
Fíli and Bilbo exchanged glances.
"My dear Bilbo, I think it would be most amusing to blindfold Kíli on the way back and see how little difference it makes."
"Oh, be quiet, Fíli!" Kíli threw a bundled up pair of old socks at his brother. "Stick those in your mouth and leave me alone!"
Fíli snickered and turned away and Bilbo rolled his eyes.
"I'm going to go and speak to Ori."
"Alright," Kíli smiled, waving slightly at Bilbo.
Turning to the belongings laid out on his bed, Kíli took a deep breath. Of everything that he had brought with him from the Shire, very little remained. His pack had been lost in Goblin Town, as had most of his clothes, except his short trousers – which were now beyond mending – and his comfortable travelling boots.
Kíli picked up one of his old boots and turned it over in his hand. The soft leather was peeling apart and there were several holes in the bottom – Shire clothes may be sensible and sturdy but they were not designed for travelling the world and taking part in battles. Placing the boot back down on the bed, Kíli sighed softly again.
The only possessions he had brought from the Shire that he still had today were his bow and the medallion that Merry had carved for him – everything else had been lost or broken on at some point in the journey. Even the leather thong that he usually used to tie back his hair was gone, and he had taken to wearing clasps in his hair that Fíli and Thorin had given him.
Thorin had also given Kíli travelling clothes taken from the wardrobe of Thráin himself. The king had explained that though they were old, they were sturdy and nondescript, and so they would hopefully serve him well in keeping him warm and safe on the road.
He had picked up various knick-knacks along the journey since, but his bag was still fairly light even after he had packed all of his belongings into the pack Nori had given him.
"Are you finished?" Fíli asked quietly, and Kíli nodded.
They left Fíli's room and went down the hall of the royal quarters to a room that Thorin referred to as the 'living room' of the royal quarters. In reality, the large, open space was about half of the size of Bag End and in Kíli's eyes it was more of a hall than it was a room. Nevertheless, it had become a place for all the company to go – a place where they could all group at the end of a long day and drink and talk. They shared stories and songs every day in that room, the same way they had throughout the best days of the journey, and Kíli had truly enjoyed his time in the mountain.
While normally they would spend the day clearing rubble or starting to repair the city, the whole company spent that whole day in the living room, sharing happy stories and songs. Dwalin had clapped his hand on Kíli's shoulder and apologised for not throwing a feast in his honour, explaining that they were purposefully keeping the princes' departure under a low profile.
"As much as we'd like to have a song and a dance about it, lad, we'd just draw attention to your leaving at that could put you in danger." The warrior had then grinned and passed Kíli a mug of ale. "That doesn't mean that we can't celebrate amongst ourselves now, of course."
At around noon, one of Dain's soldiers knocked on the door to deliver a scroll to Thorin, entering at the same time as Gandalf. The king sighed at the interruption but took the letter with a nod of thanks all the same and read it carefully. With a soft sigh, Thorin leant back in his chair and looked to Kíli.
"Thranduil has agreed to grant you an escort through Mirkwood – it will keep you away from his halls and out of harm's way." The dwarf king rubbed his jaw broodingly.
"I'm not surprised he did," Balin interjected as he sat down in the chair opposite Thorin. "Relations between Mirkwood and Erebor are strong at the moment, thanks to you, Kíli, and an escort is a good way to keep them so."
"I don't think I did that much," Kíli shuffled uncomfortably, though a small smile spread across his face at the memories.
"I am willing to put this whole dispute behind us and live as allies, for such a small prince. The White Gems are all I truly desire." The Elvenking drawled, pacing easily around the tent of the men of Lake-town that was now being used as neutral ground where the both Thorin and Thranduil could talk in a more private situation. Kíli, Fíli, Balin, Dwalin and Gandalf were all there, as were an equal number of elves, but other than that they were completely alone.
Thorin clenched his teeth. "What makes you think we have even found them?"
"Have you?" Thorin did not reply and Thranduil went on. "With the gems, I would be utterly content to extend every courtesy to your kingdom."
Kíli could hear the anger growing in Thorin's voice and he growled under his breath, looking up at Gandalf who was sighing in utter discontent. "They're going to tear each other apart. Or start a war. Again."
"I'm afraid that seems to be an increasingly likely probability, my dear Kíli." The wizard agreed as he copied Kíli in surveying the elves behind Thranduil and dwarves behind Thorin. No one looked ready for another conflict, not so soon after the battle. They had fought together, protected each other and healed each other and now they were standing apart, reluctantly preparing to fight each other over a tiny chest of shiny rocks.
The thought of it made Kíli furious. "Do something, Gandalf!"
"What would you have me do?" The wizard raised his eyebrows. "I have already tried speaking to both Thorin and Thranduil – their enmity is far too stubborn."
"This is getting ridiculous." Kíli moaned as Thorin and Thranduil began to argue.
Neither king shouted, though they hissed with voices were full of venom, for they both wanted to appear regal and grand before the people standing witness, but they still looked like bickering children in Kíli's eyes.
"You wish to rob us, just as your ancestors did!" Thorin hissed furiously.
"My ancestors?" Thranduil looked at Thorin in disgust. "You dare insult my ancestors when your beloved King Thror-"
"Oh, for goodness sake!" Kíli exclaimed loudly, drawing everyone's attention.
Thranduil cleared his throat, his anger slipping from his face as he skilfully morphed his features into causal disinterest once more. "Do you have something to say, Master Baggins? Perhaps you have a solution?"
Kíli felt himself blush, but he set his jaw resolutely. "Actually, yes, I do. Either you split the gems in half and share them, or you give them to Gandalf and nobody has them."
Thorin looked at Kíli almost sympathetically. "Kíli, this is not a childhood dispute that you can solve in such a way."
Kíli utilised some of the boiling anger he still felt at Thorin to shoot his uncle a glare so fierce that Thorin's eyes widened and his mouth closed.
"Your uncle is right," If the patronising tone in Thranduil's voice was any stronger he would have choked on it. "You should not speak of matters you cannot understand; you will embarrass yourself, Master Dwarf."
Several members of the company bristled at that, but Kíli answered calmly enough. "You do not truly believe that rock is more precious than blood? I understand the value of the gems, they are precious beyond measure...but surely life is more precious than even those jewels?"
"That is not the point," Thranduil continued to speak as if he was talking to a child, and out of the corner of his eye Kíli could see Tauriel, Elladan and Elrohir standing at the back of the tent. They all looked just as frustrated with the situation as Kíli was – as did Legolas, Kíli noted with surprise. "The jewels belong to me – they are rightfully mine and the dwarves have no right to them."
"That is a lie-" Thorin began, but Kíli interrupted him.
"Oh, stop it!" Kíli held up his hands, turning and walking to the back of the tent. "Fine…It was just a suggestion! I wash my hands of the whole situation."
Silence lingered for a long moment and the two kings exchanged glances.
"Well, this is an interesting development." Gandalf's face split into a grin and he nodded at Kíli. "We might make a politician of you, yet."
Kíli pulled a face and shook his head, causing Bilbo, Bofur and Fíli to laugh. "If you please, Gandalf, I'd really rather you didn't."
"Perhaps a compromise could be reached," Legolas suggested to his father evenly in Sindarin. "We could pay for the gems, my Lord."
"We could," Thranduil nodded. "But that would defeat the entire purpose of this negotiation."
"Perhaps I might suggest something?" Gandalf spoke up, a slight twinkle in his eye, "Why don't you exchange the gems for the gold you would otherwise take from Bilbo Baggins?"
"What?" Thranduil and Thorin's eyes widened in hilarious harmony.
"Think about it," Gandalf ordered calmly. "Thranduil – if you give Bilbo Baggins back his gold then you have technically not paid the dwarves anything and you obtain the jewels you have wanted for so long. Thorin – if Bilbo receives his share of the treasure then none of your gold is in the hands of the elves and Thranduil pays more than the gems are worth for them. What's more, you get to pay your burglar."
The two kings paused, each looking at each other.
"So what you are suggesting, Mithrandir," Thranduil raised his eyebrows. "Is that we slight each other?"
"Exactly," Gandalf smiled happily.
"A compromise," Thorin sighed heavily. "Fine."
Thranduil inclined his head, looking very much as if there was a bitter taste in his mouth. "Very well… If you give us the White Gems, the halfling can keep his gold."
"Didn't do much?" Gandalf chuckled. "You showed Thorin and Thranduil just how childish they were behaving. Oh, don't look at me like that, Thorin, you were behaving like a stubborn brat and you know it!"
Thorin shook his head but chose not to comment, throwing the letter down on the table and rubbing his jaw in silence. Kíli hid his smirk behind a serious of coughs. Thorin had become very tight-lipped when it came to the elves ever since the battle. It was partly due to gratitude to the healing provided by Tauriel, Elladan and Elrohir, but Kíli knew that it was more to do with the fact that Thorin did not want to further alienate his angry nephew. The young dwarf had little doubt that Thorin was still loathing the elves behind his back, but as long as the dwarf king did not begin any more wars or feuds, Kíli was happy.
As it was, there may not have been an elaborate party, but Kíli would still class the spread of food laid out on the table that evening as a feast. The numerous joints of succulent roast pork, beef, ham and lamb were just the beginning. There were mountains of potatoes – boiled, mashed, stewed, and roasted, and there were countless pots of stew. Cheeses and bread rolls were strewn between the heavier dishes, and pots of thick sauces and gravies were interspersed amongst them. Kíli had been happily surprised at the relatively large variety of roasted, boiled and steamed vegetable dishes on display. There was more food than Kíli had ever seen before on one table, and he had been raised among hobbits.
The young dwarf had half dreaded a sombre last meal in the mountain but this dinner was far from it. While Kíli ate with his usual manners, his companions stuffed their faces jovially and threw food across the table with all the merriment of a party. At one point, Bofur threw a piece of cheese all the way from one end of the table into Bombur's mouth at the other, and Kíli's own mouth dropped open.
Bilbo nudged his shoulder. "Stop looking so impressed. Think about what Daisy would do if she saw you doing that."
"She'd skin me alive," Kíli nodded, his wide eyes open and solemn.
"Exactly," Bilbo waved his fork around to punctuate his words. "So stop gaping like a five year old at Gandalf's fireworks."
The feast was followed by an impressive selection of dessert, all of which had been created from new ingredients from Lake-town in the last few days, and as the ale began to flow freely into everyone's tankards, it became clear that the dwarves were trying to convince Kíli and Bilbo that their cooking beat hobbits' cooking.
After dinner the dwarves broke out their instruments to share more songs and more tales, until finally Thorin solemnly declared that the travellers should take their leave to get a full night's sleep.
The feelings that swirled in Kíli's heart that night as he lay his slightly drunk head down on the pillow were as disorientating and confusing as the alcohol he had consumed, but a sense of peace was with him that night. He did not want to leave the mountain but he was ready to go home. Fíli was coming with him, though Thorin was not.
Sleep took him rather quickly that night, but before it did, Kíli made peace with his decision. He was going home, for better for worse.
He just prayed that he would not be losing a future.
There we go. Sorry for another filler-ish chapter, the next chapter will hold goodbyes and hopefully some proper action again. I hope you didn't mind me 'fast-forwarding' again, like I said I've rewritten this several times already and everything I did just felt so dull!
NOTE: We will get a flashback to the scene with Bard and the boys in the men's tents, it just didn't fit here…
I'd really appreciate any feedback you've got for this :) Thanks.
*PS – this chapter is named after the song "Pack Up" by Eliza Doolittle. I don't know, it just seemed to fit :P