It all starts with Oin and that blasted horn that he still adamantly refuses to get fixed into a less distorted shape.
Bilbo honestly believed that he would've returned to the Shire by now. The contract he'd signed at the begin was up, he'd fulfilled all the tasks he was under obligation to complete, the dwarves were all alive somehow, and currently Thorin was ruling as the rightful king.
He really had no reason to stick around.
Except maybe the fact the kingdom might fall to boneheaded stubbornness if he left? He still cringes every time he remembers walking into that massive tent on the outskirts of the battlefield after the Battle of Five Armies, and seeing Thorin and his nephews all lying on their deathbeds. All three of them had being waxing poetry about their upcoming deaths and quite frankly Bilbo is still disappointed that none of the dwarves had thought to ask the elves for aid. The race that's sort of excellent at healing.
So, now, all three of the Durin's are under the assumption that they are in Bilbo's debt and their lives belong to him, the entire company believe they are in his debt for Bilbo having saved the king and heirs, and the entire kingdom thinks Bilbo is just marvellous for his courageous acts.
Bilbo doesn't understand dwarves.
However, he does grudgingly admit that he does like it here. There is the craving to go back to the Shire, but it's more of a sentimental thing than anything else. Thorin has ensured there are gardens and open spaces for Bilbo to spend time it, and Bilbo adores the large room at the top of the mountain with no roof that's filled with as many plants as Bilbo can get his hands on. Even Gandalf has attempted to make his stay nicer by disappearing back to Bag End and slowly filling up Bilbo's room with objects he'd taken from his home.
On top of that, Bilbo finds himself loving the time he spends with the company, who all volunteer to spend time with him.
Which brings him back to Oin. Oin and that forsaken horn.
He's out in his garden with the dwarf, roaming around and pointing out herbs and plants that would be helpful for Oin to use with his patients, and it's all going well and good until they reach a long table on one side of the room where Bilbo has a bunch of flowers lying out on the table directly in sunlight.
"What are you doing here, lad?" Oin asks as he reaches forward to touch the flowers, "they are very pretty."
"Aye," Bilbo agrees as he steps up beside him to admire the various colours, "I'm drying them out-"
He's cut off by Oin's stunned gasp, and he glances over with wide eyes to see the dwarf looking back in horror.
"What?" he chokes out, and Bilbo frowns as he takes a slow step back.
"I'm… I'm drying-"
"Heavens above!" Oin suddenly wails as he lunges forward and hugs Bilbo tightly to his chest, "Mahal shall not have you, no, he cannot have our hobbit!" and Bilbo is awfully confused as Oin suddenly pulls away and rushes from the room, leaving him with his drying flowers and a list of questions.
It's been a few days since then, and Bilbo is quite terrified of what has suddenly become of the company. He bumped into Gloin in one of the hallways, outside of the great hall, who'd promptly started wailing much like his brother and clutching Bilbo to his chest whilst reciting just how wonderful the little hobbit is. And then suddenly Dwalin was shadowing his every move and every time Bilbo tried to talk to someone he would loom over them in the most intimidating of ways, scaring them so much that they'd scuttle off and leave Bilbo glaring at Dwalin.
Fili and Kili would appear at random intervals and offer him hugs and food, stunning Bilbo when Kili would often burst into tears for no apparent reason. Even Dori had accosted him at one stage to inform him of just how much of a great role model he is, and how all of them were just so damn proud and Bilbo had promptly legged it out of sight.
Thorin had been the worst though, and Bilbo is suddenly surprised at the dwarf's constant requests for his presence, and when he does appear it's just for Thorin to simply nod at him and order Dwalin and Nori to trail him around the city. Sometimes he'll press a gift of some sort into his hands, and sometimes he'll just gesture for Bilbo to sit with him. Bilbo doesn't mind, his soft spot for Thorin has developed over the past few months into something more romantic, but it still unnerves him how clinging Thorin is becoming, let alone the rest of the dwarves.
He only goes to one sparring practice, and only one. Dwalin is the one teaching him, with half of the company joining in, but Bilbo ends up storming out as each dwarf treats him like a doll to be broken. No longer is he thrown on his back by a laughing Fili, or smacked by a growling Dwalin. All of them just give him sympathetic smiles and back off when he trips and… they just don't fight back!
Fed up with their peculiar behaviours, he takes a backpack and slips away through some of the side doors of the mountain to camp on top of one of the abandoned guard towers. A little bit of relaxation away from crazed dwarves will do him the world of good, he thinks, and he hasn't had a chance to admire the stars since they reclaimed Erebor. Something he very much misses from the Shire.
Of course it just so happens to also be the night the heaven's open and pour down, drenching Bilbo in moments and freezing him to the bone with a chill he can't shake off, no matter how many furs he piles on top of himself once he stumbles into his room.
"It's just a cold," Gandalf says the following morning when Bilbo wakes up feeling completely under the weather, "a few days rest in bed will do you good, dear fellow."
Bilbo tries to explain that he doesn't want to just rest, but as he opens his mouth he finds his words only come out in a wheeze. Odd, compared to his louder voice when he'd woken and demanded to see Gandalf.
Instantly Gandalf is laughing and patting Bilbo's head as he stands to go inform the king of Bilbo's condition. "A side effect of the cold," he explains gently, "your sore throat from coughing has slowly made you lose your voice. Do not worry, it'll be back once you're fully recovered."
Do not worry, Bilbo snorts to himself sarcastically, he'd had every intention on not worrying.
Until the distraught nephews of the king came bursting into the door, bawling their eyes out like small hobbitlings, screeching for Bilbo to just "not yet, Bilbo, please don't die!"
Bilbo tries to explain it's just a cold many times, but he can't say a word and Gandalf has mysteriously disappeared, so Bilbo is just left with cradling the two boys against his body in an attempt at comfort and glaring daggers at whoever interrupts them.
Do not worry his ass.
It gets explained later when Thorin turns up. He knocks politely on the door before he enters, and Bilbo looks up only to wince at what he sees.
Thorin looks a mess, completely different from how he normally looks, and Bilbo's eyes linger on the tangled hair and bags under his eyes, the drawn look of his face and just how tired he looks, and he's painfully reminded of their entire journey here.
"Hello, Master Baggins," Thorin quietly says, and Bilbo watches as he hovers awkwardly at the end of the bed. He can't say anything in reply, but he does gesture at the chairs beside his bed and Thorin takes a seat.
They fall into a silence, well Thorin does, Bilbo has no choice, and it's not until Bilbo reaches out to touch the back of Thorin's hand does the dwarf finally speak up.
"We have all been informed by Master Oin of… of your condition," he mumbles, and Bilbo frowns at that. It's just a cold. "And… well, I'm sorry."
Sorry? Bilbo wants to question what on earth is to be sorry about, but when Thorin looks up from Bilbo's hand resting on his all possible words he could've spoken leave him, for there are tears in Thorin's eyes as he gives Bilbo a weak smile.
"We should've looked after you better," he chokes out, "I had every intention on fulfilling my debt to you every day for the rest of our lives, but I never thought that… that would be so soon."
"After Master Oin informed us of what you had told him in your garden, that you are dying, we all thought to just spend time with you subtly, make sure you were protected and safe. We believed you would tell us all in your own good time, and it makes sense for you to tell Oin first. After all, he is our trusted healer. And then you disappeared for a night and now you're bedridden, as Gandalf tells us, and…" he pauses, a breath coming out strangled and ragged, "We owe you so much, Master Baggins, and the thought that we will never be able to repay this debt haunts us. The thought of you missing from our lives haunts us, and when we couldn't find you-"
Bilbo cuts him off by pulling Thorin's face into his shoulder. Instantly the dwarf is hugging him, arms tight around his waist as he heaves great breaths into Bilbo's neck, and Bilbo can't tell if he's more surprised that Thorin is clinging to him, or the fact that Oin is telling everyone he's dying.
Gandalf is back the following day, holding a bag of medicine as a weak offering in an attempt to avoid Bilbo's wrath. Thankfully he's also brought a pad of parchment with some charcoal to write with, something the dwarves had not thought about when they'd found out Bilbo can't speak, and instantly Bilbo is scribbling on it furiously.
Why do they all think I'm dying, Gandalf! he writes, slamming the charcoal down particularly hard on the dot for the exclamation mark, before he shoves it at Gandalf with a glare.
"Ah," Gandalf hums as he reads the question a couple of times before smiling at Bilbo, "yes, well, Master Oin is under the impression that when you were showing him your garden the other evening you informed him of your… health condition."
I'm not dying!
"Well I know that, dear fellow," Gandalf snorts, "but they don't. The whole kingdom is in an upheaval though. None want you to pass. A few dwarves have even been sent, by Thorin, to the elves to ask for their aid in saving you."
I have a cold.
"But they don't know that, in fact I firmly believe they think you have some terminal illness of some kind, possibly of hobbit nature. I'm not quite sure what though," the wizard sighs and rummages through his bag before handing Bilbo a few roots and some water to take, "and no matter what I tell them, they do not believe me when I tell them you are fine."
Fools, Bilbo thinks to himself, all of them. The whole lot. Dwarves are honestly ridiculous. He stares at the parchment for a long time, wondering what to say, before Gandalf speaks up.
"I believe you will be the one who has to tell them," he informs Bilbo, and Bilbo knew he would say that, "as they most certainly won't listen to another soul. Although, it may be hard to do considering your lack of voice, but if you write it down then I am sure they will listen, or read it and agree."
Can you not convince them?
"I could try," Gandalf admits before suddenly he's grinning, "but I do not think I improved the situation when I merely told them you were sick. Both Kili and Ori started wailing after I mentioned it, and Gloin said something about how it's true, or some rubbish. I never had a chance to explain-"
Bilbo throws the charcoal at the old wizards head, cutting him off, and glares at him until he leaves the room with a sheepish grin, before he throws the blankets over his head and tries to pretend no one exists.
He's coughing up lumpy green mucus when Balin comes in, and instantly the dwarf is yelping and rushing to his side.
"Bilbo!" he cries as he stumbles to a halt at Bilbo's beside before he just stands there uselessly, hands raised and mouth open and Bilbo promptly throws his mucus covered handkerchief at him.
Balin takes it graciously, by dropping it to the side and calling one of the guards to come take care of it before he hands another to Bilbo, watching as he wipes his mouth and settles back against the pillows.
He wants to talk to Balin, he hasn't in a long time since the dwarf became main advisor to the king, and Bilbo misses the conversations they use to have. But thanks to his damn missing voice he can't do anything more than make a little whine as he reaches for the goblet of water on the beside table.
Balin hands it to him after a moment, and offers Bilbo a smile as he settles in one of the chairs in the room.
"How are you feeling?" is the first thing he asks, and Bilbo just gives him a weak smile. The cold has taken it's toll on him, making him tired and droopy, and even Gandalf has mentioned that it seems to be more of a flu than cold, and that it will only get worse before it gets better.
Of course, he hasn't told the dwarves this and they're still under the assumption he's dying.
Balin just nods his head slowly before he settles into his chair a little better. "I have asked for the afternoon off," he says with a smile, "in request I may spend it with you. I'm afraid we have been much to distance since the retaking of our home."
That we have, Bilbo thinks, and he wants to write it down but the pad of parchment is too far away from him and he feels much too tired to reach out for it. Balin must understand his thoughts though, as he reaches out to tug the covers up Bilbo's body and tuck him in.
"I thought you may like to hear some stories I have of our dwarven culture?" he continues, and pauses when Bilbo sinks into the bed and catches his hand. He squeezes Bilbo's gently with a sad smile on his face, "it may help you sleep?"
Bilbo just nods his head, his eyes drooping a bit, and Balin's voice begins to fill the room as he starts the story of Durin the Deathless, a slow gentle hum that Bilbo missed.
He wakes to Fili and Kili curled up on either side of him, Fili with his arm around Bilbo's waist and Kili with his hand twisted in Bilbo's shirt. He doesn't move as the two of them whisper quietly to each other, and he makes sure to keep his breathing shallow.
"I don't want him to go," Kili is mumbling, and his voice sounds wet to Bilbo's ears. There's no doubt that it is tears in his voice that Bilbo hears, and he feels his heart clench at the thought that it's him who's making Kili cry.
"We can't stop it, Kili," Fili sighs, his hand tightening on Bilbo's waist, "even the elves cannot help us. If Bilbo is to die, then he is to die. It's the way of the world."
"It does not mean we have to accept it. Imagine what this will do to the kingdom? To Uncle?"
Fili stiffens beside Bilbo, and Bilbo has half a mind to open his eyes and see if he's okay, before Fili mumbles, "Uncle has lived through worse."
"No," Kili argues, his head moving the pillow Bilbo's is on as he shakes it, "no, Uncle has lived through his grandfather's, his father's, his brothers' and our father's deaths. He hasn't lived through Bilbo's death."
"It will destroy him, Fili, it already is beginning to," and Kili sounds like he's crying again, "and I don't want to see that happen. Not to him. Not to Uncle Thorin."
Bilbo lays silent, his mind racing as the mumbling of the two slowly fades away until silence is in the room as they sleep beside him and he is left to his thoughts.
He needs to tell them, he thinks, he needs to tell them now.
It takes a while, but eventually Fili and Kili manage to round up the company after Bilbo shakes them awake and thrusts his pad of parchment under their noses with the order of get the others. They all hustle into the room, some looking guilty and others worried, but Bilbo pays them no mind until all of them are crowded around his bed.
Instantly he holds out his parchment to the nearest dwarf, Dori, who takes it with a frown. "You would like me to read this out?" he asks, and Bilbo nods furiously.
He looks confused for a bit longer, and Bilbo waits, impatiently tapping his fingers against his knees, until Dori finally clears his throat.
"Ah, it says, 'I do not know what Oin has informed you of, but I wish you all to know that I am, in fact, not dying. I am fine, maybe a little sick as you can see from my lack of voice and runny nose, but I will be fine in a few days'," and Dori finishes with a little hitch of his voice on the end before he's looking at Bilbo with glittering eyes.
It's not him that cries though, it's Dwalin, big strong 'could tear a bear in two if he tried' Dwalin who suddenly starts sobbing hysterically.
"He's… he's such a brave little hobbit," he howls, and everyone slowly backs away from him, except for Ori who hugs him tightly and kisses his forehead, "and just I'm so proud of him."
Bilbo is officially stunned as he sits there staring at the massive dwarf with a bewildered look on his face. The other dwarves are murmuring amongst themselves as they gesture at Bilbo, and Bilbo hears "denying the inevitable", "he's grieving, leave him alone", and honestly, dwarves.
Dwalin is still sobbing on Ori's shoulder at the end of the bed, his strong hand squeezing Bilbo's ankle through the blankets, and after an alarmed look from Thorin Ori is quickly hustling him out of the room followed by the others, who all smile softly at Bilbo as they file out, leaving the three Durin's waiting at his bedside.
"Bilbo," Fili suddenly says and Bilbo thinks the look on his face is more of a grimace than a smile, "you don't have to be brave for us. We already know how brave you are-"
"-and it's okay to be scared," Kili finishes as he leans forward to grasp Bilbo's hand, "we are here for you."
Thorin doesn't say anything but offers Bilbo a watery smile as he reaches for Bilbo's other hand.
Bilbo sighs. Dwarves.
Bofur joins him next, and he's carrying presents as he plonks down at Bilbo's bedside.
"So sorry about not coming earlier," he says with a frown, "I had intentions on it, but, the life of a toymaker can be quite busy. Not that you're not important! Of course not! You're very important, Bilbo. I just... I mean…"
Bilbo gives a silent laugh as he reaches over to squeeze Bofur's forearm with a smile. Instantly Bofur deflates as he smiles back before his attention returns to the presents he holds.
"Aye, well, this one's from Thorin," he suddenly blurts, giving Bilbo a grin as he thrusts one of the packages into Bilbo's hands, "he asked me to drop it off to you on my way past. Now he can't get time off to come see you, no matter how hard he tries. A King can never not be a King."
Bilbo agrees with the statement by nodding his head as he rolls the package between his hands. He has half a mind to open it but decides to do so later when he has Thorin's own company, and instead turns back to Bofur with a raised eyebrow.
"Right, yes, well, this one is from Bombur," and he hands over a small box filled with cookies that Bilbo thinks look divine, "since he couldn't come today. The King is having visitors, Dain from the Ironhills, so Bombur is cooking up a storm in the kitchen. He made these on the side for you though, thought you'd appreciate them." Bofur pauses before he gives Bilbo a small smile, a genuine one, "he really does appreciate you, Bilbo, Bombur does. Not many people will love cooking as much as him. It's not really a dwarven thing to do, so your interest in it has… well, I should really let him tell you all this. Before you… well, go."
They drop into a silence that's quite weighing, and Bilbo sighs to himself. He'd tried to convince the others that he wasn't dying, but the sudden worsening of his cold had left them all convinced that he was just trying to be strong for them, and/or in denial. Of course, Gandalf had helped none, just agreed that Bilbo did look like death warmed up before handing him more roots he'd acquired and swanning out of Erebor on a trip to Rivendell.
Honestly, Bilbo was so done with Gandalf.
"How did this happen?" Bofur is quietly asking, and Bilbo looks at his forlorn face, "everything was going so well. And… and now you're dying, Bilbo. You can't speak, you cough more times than I can count, you're constantly running a temperature, you sleep more than Dori who is the king of nana-naps. What happened?"
I went outside, Bilbo is suddenly scribbling down on the pad he's pulled off the bedside table, and I got caught in a downpour and I'm not dying.
Bofur doesn't read it though, just looks at the last present in his lap with a look that makes Bilbo's heart ache.
"You've changed a lot of things around here, Bilbo," he mumbles, "you've made Thorin happy for one thing. I've never seen him how he is now. He's suffered so much, and you've fixed that. I mean, I know you're not even in a relationship, but your companionship was enough for him. And the boys, the two of them finally have someone else to add to their small family. They've suffered so much at such a young age too, but you've helped to heal them. The rest of the company? None of us could've been where we are now without you and… and you're my best friend, Bilbo," and Bofur looks up with tears in his eyes, "my best friend. I would never have been who I am now without you."
Bilbo tries to say something, but nothing comes out except a small wheeze of air and Bofur just smiles at him. He reaches forward with his little gift, and Bilbo accepts it slowly as Bofur squeezes his fingers.
It's a little figurine of the two of them, Bilbo holding Bofur's hat behind his back and Bofur lunging forward in an attempt to grab it, and Bilbo loves it. He runs his fingers over the wood, and Bofur watches with a small smile.
"I will miss you, Bilbo."
It's well and truly late at night when the door creaks open and Bilbo sees Thorin slip inside. He doesn't move though as he watches Thorin close the door and slink over to sit by Bilbo, just leaves his eyes open and follows his movements. It takes Thorin a while, but it's not until he settles the candle on the table that he notices Bilbo's open eyes.
"You're awake," he states, and Bilbo smiles as Thorin automatically hands him the pad of parchment, and he shuffles up the bed to lean against the pillows so as to write.
Couldn't sleep. Shouldn't you be in bed?
Thorin smiles at the words before he looks up at Bilbo. "I should," he says, "but there are a lot of things on my mind."
Care to elaborate?
"I wouldn't want to disturb you," and Bilbo snorts because Thorin definitely means he doesn't want to disturb a 'dying man'.
Is it about Dain? I heard he was visiting.
Thorin looks at him with a calculating look before he sighs and glances down at his hand. "He demands to meet you," he explains, "as he wants to have a private evening with the hobbit who took back the kingdom. He believes it's his right to see you on your… to see you like this, as you are just a hobbit and by all purposes shouldn't I be the one accommodating him to his every wish? He holds no respect for you, and I believe he just wants to view you like an animal," Thorin snorts as he clenches his fists, "the company did not settle well with his demands. I have never seen them all so enraged, and all on your behalf. I will be spending all of tomorrow ensuring our alliance is not broken, especially after the words Gloin had to say about his mother."
Bilbo sits in stunned silence for a moment, wondering just what on earth had possessed the company to be so protective of him, but after seeing Thorin's crumpled expression he puts the thoughts to the side.
Instead of replying he reaches up to put the pad back on the table, nudging a few of the screwed up pieces of parchment that'd been written on to the ground, before he grasps Thorin's hand and pulls him towards the bed.
Thorin tugs back though, a frown marring his features as he asks, "what are you doing?"
Bilbo doesn't answer him, can't really seen as his voice is only just coming back and now just sounds like rapid exhales of air, but just pulls extra hard until Thorin topples onto the bed.
He then proceeds to not give Thorin a choice as he drapes the dwarf's arm over his waist and snuggles back into the warmth of his chest and belly. Thorin stays quiet and unresponsive for a long minute before he sighs and curls into Bilbo, drawing an extra blanket from the end of the bed up and over them.
"Goodnight, Bilbo," he mumbles into Bilbo's neck, and Bilbo makes a humming noise in return.
The Ri brother's burst in the next day, all three looking alarmed as they stare at Bilbo before relief adorns their faces and they all trapeze over, Dori and Nori taking the seats while Ori perches on the edge of his bed.
"Thank Mahal," Dori is the first one to speak, "Oin was telling us you were well dead!"
"I said well fed," Bilbo croaks out, his voice barely above a whisper but there nonetheless, "honestly, that dwarf needs to get a new horn."
Ori and Nori let out loud trills of laughter, right before a solemn mood takes over the room and Bilbo is faces with all three staring at him with pained looks.
"We're sorry we haven't come earlier," Dori finally says, "we just… we couldn't face the thought that you're leaving us."
"I'm not leaving you, Dori," Bilbo denies but Ori smiles as he reaches forward to pat Bilbo's hand.
"Of course you're not," he sympathises, "you will always be with us, Bilbo. And we count our lucky stars that we ever met you."
Yeah, Bilbo's just sick of dwarves now. He'd sent many a letter in Gandalf's direction generally bitching about just how stupid dwarves were. Not one of them believed him when he said he was just staving off a cold, and now it'd come down to them just humouring him whenever he said he wasn't bloody dying.
He chooses to just stay silent, something that he doesn't mind doing as talking still makes his throat rasp and hurt, but it seems to be the action the Ri brothers need before they begin their heartfelt speeches.
"I… I made you this," Ori suddenly pipes up, and Bilbo watches as he pulls out a soft blue blanket, "it took a while but it's really good condition and…" he trails off as he just offers it to Bilbo and tucks it around his legs before leaning forward to kiss Bilbo's cheek, "and thank you. Thank you, Bilbo."
Even though he's not actually dying, Bilbo knows exactly what Ori means, and he just gives a silent smile back and squeezes Ori's hand. Dori interrupts next though, beginning to babble on about how Bilbo is the ideal role model that all young dwarves should look up to and Bilbo would think he was joking if he didn't see Dori's eyes glistening with unshed tears and the utter pride on his face, and he smiles gently at the dwarf every time he glances at him.
Nori ushers them out quickly after that, but he pauses by the door to glance back at Bilbo with hard eyes.
"Thank you," he rasps out, and Bilbo inclines his head graciously as the dwarf suddenly tosses a little parcel of something at him before disappearing out the door.
It makes Bilbo laugh to see it's a book, a very rare book he has no doubts that Nori stole.
Bombur ventures into his room, offering Bilbo a smile as he passes him some delicious brownies and a new load of medicine from Gandalf.
"I haven't got much time," Bombur explains as he picks one up and joins Bilbo in stuffing his face, "but I just wanted to see how you are faring?"
"I'm fine," Bilbo replies, and he's finally able to speak at audible levels, even though he feels like just curling under his blankets and not facing the world, "maybe a tad too hot and I have a awful headache, but those will go away."
Bombur looks uncertain, but he nods along like all the other dwarves before him. He stays for a while longer, talking about anything and everything, and Bilbo feels sufficiently tired when Bombur stands to leave. He pauses once by Bilbo side, tugs up Ori's blanket and strokes Bilbo's hair.
"Goodbye, Bilbo," is all he says, and this isn't the first time Bilbo's been given a farewell. The door slides shut behind Bombur as he leaves, the gentle click a sign for Bilbo to squeeze his eyes shut and try not to cry.
Blast these dwarves.
"We've received a letter," Fili announces as he and Kili enter the room, and Bilbo doesn't even move from where he's snuggled into a mountain of blankets and pillows, "from the Shire."
"The Shire?" Balin asks from his position at Bilbo's side, and Kili nods as he takes a seat on the edge of Bilbo's bed, his hand automatically reaching out to settle on Bilbo's knee.
"Aye," Fili continues to say, loud enough to be addressing everyone in the room. Bilbo may be half asleep and with his eyes firmly shut, but he is aware of Bifur and Dwalin sitting on either side of the bed as his guards, and Ori leaning against Dwalin as he knits. Oin had been in earlier to check on him, and somehow the dwarf still hasn't picked up on the fact that Bilbo is just sick not dying.
"We've been informed of what possibly ails Bilbo," Kili declares, "apparently it's an old hobbit sickness called influenza, and it's quite common with hobbit's who've been in environments they're not use too… such as mountains."
Bilbo frowns. Influenza? He's heard of such a thing and, while fatal, it is most certainly treatable. Who could they have possibly gotten this ridiculous information from?
"The symptoms are almost identical to a cold," Fili interrupts when Kili starts sniffing, and Bilbo hopes he's not crying. He can't handle anymore crying from anyone because honestly, he's not dying. Just really really tired.
Balin is the one who hums in thought before asking, "it sounds an awful lot like the flu. Are you sure?"
"Yes. Influenza is fatal, the flu isn't."
Dwalin asks the question that Bilbo is wondering, thankfully, and his gruff voice shatters the somber air. "Who did you receive this information from? Are you sure it's a liable source?"
"Yes, yes," Kili reassures, "we asked his cousin, Lobelia Sackville-Baggins."
Bilbo's eyes flash open, scaring Balin and Bifur who jump at his sudden glare.
Of course it was Lobelia.
The room is quiet besides the gentle snores of Fili and Kili, both of them curled up together on the opposite side of the bed to Bilbo, and Bilbo watches them from where he's sitting up reading one of Nori's books with a small smile on his face.
He humours the thought, only for a moment, of what it would be like if he was actually dying. He thinks he'd be happy with how the dwarves are treating him, sweetly and nicely if not slightly overbearing, but Bilbo understands that they're all under the assumption they'll never see him again.
His thoughts are interrupted though but Thorin coming in, always late at night and always trying to be quiet, and Bilbo sees the way Thorin's eyes linger on his nephews with a sad smile before he spots Bilbo looking at him.
"Should I be worrying about dwarven kings coming in to watch me sleep at night?" Bilbo asks, and Thorin actually flushes a sweet red as he automatically squeezes onto the bed beside Bilbo.
"I don't think you should be worrying, but enjoying the attention," Thorin teases back as he takes Bilbo's book from him and slips a feather, that Gloin had given Bilbo as a bookmark, between the open pages and places it on the bedside table.
"I would if I were awake when you do so," Bilbo quips back before grinning at him and leaning against the dwarf. In truth he was tired, absolutely exhausted and he would've long been asleep by now if he hadn't known Thorin would no doubt turn up tonight.
Thorin laughs gently as he pulls them down and covers them in Ori's blanket after moulding his body along Bilbo's back. It's one good thing about this whole mess, Bilbo thinks, that Thorin is more open with his touches and embraces in regards to him.
"How long have they been here?" he mumbles in Bilbo's ear, and Bilbo tries not to shiver at the action.
"All night. They came straight after seeing off Dain and haven't left since. Not even for dinner. Oin requested more from Bombur to feed them."
"They adore you, you know," Thorin murmurs, and Bilbo can't help but smile, "they asked me the other day if it would be rude to call you Uncle Bilbo."
Bilbo just lies with his mouth open for a long moment, his eyes wandering over the two sweet boys in front of him before he squeezes Thorin's arm wrapped around his waist, "Of course not," he chokes out, his throat tightening, "I… I would be honoured."
Thorin hums gently, his nose pressing into the back of Bilbo's neck as he sweetly presses a kiss to Bilbo's shoulder, and Bilbo can't help but melt as he's surrounded by his boys.
A letter from Gandalf turns up, making Bilbo frown, stating that while he'd administered the right cure to Bilbo and he had been given medicine that cured his cold… well the new batch Bombur had delivered might be a bit infected. With the flu virus. Considering Gandalf had, in fact, bought it from a dodgy dwarf who'd quite possibly sneezed on the roots?
Basically, Gandalf is a useless wizard who has made Bilbo's cold go away, but only to replace it with the bloody flu from some other dwarf!
Underneath his words were a list of symptoms Bilbo might experience, and his rising temperature suddenly makes sense when he sees fever listed at the top.
His temperature finally peeks, causing the fever to begin to rack his body. It makes him quite delirious, and Bilbo finds himself passing in and out of consciousness and lucidity for the whole day. Every time he came to he'd see one of the company sitting beside of him, all of them determined to be the ones by his side.
He'd even watched Oin lay into another dwarven healer who'd thought he could be the one to change the cold compresses on Bilbo's skin, and every member of the company in the room had to be stopped by Bilbo's feeble call that he was awake so they wouldn't take a piece of the dwarf themselves.
Balin was there a lot, telling him more stories and waiting for him to drop to sleep. Fili and Kili would alternate between who slept beside him, desperate to keep him company no matter what. Bofur popped in and out, and Bilbo remembers one time watching him and Ori both leave in tears at the sight of Bilbo wrapped in Ori's blanket and clutching Bofur's toy to his chest. Bifur surprisingly turns up and hums songs in Khuzdul, and Bilbo remembers him tucking a toy made from cotton and silk that looks an awful lot like Thorin into the crook of his arm.
Bombur visits him, breaks the chair he sits on and Bilbo laughs through his headache.
Dwalin hovers over him on the second day, when Bilbo's fever is still settled in but he's conscious for the majority of the day. The two sit in stone silence for a long time before Dwalin suddenly sniffs.
And Bilbo is horrified to see the tears starting up again, the tears that he'd much had enough of back when Dwalin thought he was just trying to be strong, and instantly he reaches out to drawn the dwarf into a tight embrace.
"Don't go, Master Hobbit," Dwalin sobs into his ear, "you cannot go. Not when everything has just been made right."
"You can call me Bilbo, Dwalin," is all Bilbo can think to say, and obviously it's the wrong thing as Dwalin starts howling and it takes Nori and Gloin to pull him off Bilbo.
It takes the rest of the day, but the fever breaks and Bilbo wakes with aches everywhere around his body, a headache that threatens to split his head in two, and a bunch of distraught dwarves staring down at him.
Thorin slips into his room a while later, once the others have disappeared and Bilbo can hear again. He's still weak, desperately weak, and he feels like a child as he clings to Ori's blanket and Bifur's toy.
"It looks like me," Thorin comments dryly as he walks over, and Bilbo lets out a very tired giggle.
He settles in the chair in silence, his eyes glancing over the collection of objects on Bilbo's table, including Bofur's toy, Bombur's latest batch of cooking, Fili and Kili's pile of handkerchiefs they'd hazardously made, the small pile of growing books Nori continues to provide, the present from Thorin Bilbo has yet to open and the dagger Dwalin had dropped off.
Bilbo didn't quite understand the last one, but he didn't argue lest Dwalin start crying again.
"Quite a collection," Thorin points out, and Bilbo's weak nod makes Thorin's facial's soften. "I'm sorry," he continues to say, his hand resting on Bilbo's arm, "for not being here nearly enough. Especially now when you were going through the worse. Lobelia… she says you'll just slip away now," he pauses and looks so tortured as he stares at Bilbo, "I promised that I would fulfil my debt and I haven't and-"
"Thorin," Bilbo whispers, his voice so hoarse and barely existent now from his sore throat, coughing fits and the screams he'd let out in one of his delirious episodes, "Thorin, I'm not dying."
He has to try, just once more, but the way the light dulls in Thorin's eyes makes him realise that Thorin just doesn't believe him.
"You're so brave," he says gently, "and I…" he lingers over the words for so long that Bilbo feels his eyes slowly drifting shut before a hand strokes his cheek softly. "You never opened my gift," Thorin mumbles, and Bilbo leans into the hand as he smiles gently.
"I kept forgetting to ask you to open it with me," and he accepts the gift as it's handed to him before he slowly tears the paper to reveal a beautifully crafted box.
"Open it," Thorin encourages, and when Bilbo does he gasps to see two beautifully made braiding clasps, made in silver and with green stones ingrained in them.
"Thorin," he mumbles but he can't actually find words.
"I thought the silver and green would work better with your colourings," Thorin explains quietly as he reaches out and scoops the two up in his hand, "I would be honoured, Bilbo, if I may braid your hair?" he asks, and Bilbo can't exactly say no as he nods his head, still completely stunned, until Thorin moves to sit on the large bed beside him, his fingers reaching out to lace into Bilbo's hair.
They sit silently for a little longer, Thorin's calloused fingers scratching Bilbo's skull gently as he plaits two braids on either side of Bilbo's head, both starting from just above his ears and curling around them.
It's not until Bilbo spots Thorin's reflection in one of the objects across the room that he sees Thorin's eyes are blurry, and as soon as he hears the second snap of the second clasp he turns around to cup Thorin's cheeks.
"Thorin," he whispers as Thorin leans into Bilbo's touch, "Thorin, please, I'm not dying. Don't cry."
Thorin just lets out a watery laugh as he draws Bilbo close to his chest.
Gandalf returns on the day that Bilbo finally feels better. He enters the room with his sweeping cloak and Bilbo gives him an unimpressed look.
"Good," the wizard says, "you're finally up. It's about time. You need to knock some sense into these dwarves. Half the kingdom is causing a commotion over their beloved hobbit's supposed death, while the other half is already in mourning."
"Dwarves," Bilbo groans, and while his throat is still tender he finds he can now speak without sounding completely weak, and even though he still get's the occasional chills he finds Ori's blanket sends them away and returns a lovely healthy pink colour to his cheeks. "All because of that blasted Lobelia, giving them a bunch of incorrect information. Vindictive little rat!"
Gandalf just laughs at his words before offering his arm for Bilbo to take, guiding Bilbo to the door as he stumbles about. Having been bedridden for a couple of weeks has taken its toll and it takes a moment for him to adjust.
The sight of gobsmacked dwarves seeing the kingdom's hobbit walking the halls is enough to have Bilbo smiling, and when he enters the great hall and bellows "Thorin!" at the top of his lungs it very quickly morphs into a massive grin.
"B-Bilbo?" Thorin stutters out from where he stands, his eyes wide, and Bilbo goes to reply only for twin screams of excitement from Kili and Dwalin shakes the room and Bilbo finds himself being swept up into their arms, followed by an excited Fili and Bofur crashing into them.
"I told you I wasn't dying," Bilbo scolds as soon as the rest of the company, minus the still stunned Thorin, crowd around him, looking him over in awe. He even spots Kili pulling that blasted letter from that blasted woman and glancing down at it with his brother with wide eyes.
"But… but you were bedridden," Fili points out.
"And you could hardly speak," Ori adds.
"And you were leaking all these weird fluids," Kili mutters.
"Have none of you had the flu before?" Bilbo snaps, and all of them look a little ashamed as they drop their gazes, "I was merely given some odd medicine by Gandalf so my cold changed into a rather awful case of the flu, not influenza no matter what that ridiculous cousin of mine says. I am fine now, and most certainly feeling one hundred percent."
"Oin needs to get that forsaken horn fixed!" Bilbo snaps and glares at the dwarf in question who blushes and pulls the mangled horn down from his ear, "I said I was drying plants, not bloody dying."
Almost instantly the company turns to chaos, half of them screaming about Oin making them all worry and the other half defending Oin by stating that it's an easy mistake to make. Either way, Bilbo doesn't care as he watches them bicker in satisfaction and catches the eye of the still astonished king on the dais.
"You weren't dying," is how Thorin announces his presence in the garden, his voice close behind Bilbo and he wonders how the dwarf was quiet enough to walk the distance of room without him hearing him once.
"I told you," Bilbo replies as he moves the last of the dried flowers to the side before turning to smile at Thorin.
Thorin just stares at him though, and Bilbo is just reminded of how broken Thorin looked when he thought Bilbo was dying, and he slowly takes a step forward to cup Thorin's cheeks.
"I have no intentions on dying any time soon," Bilbo says gently, "because if I recall, you have a lifetime of debt to be repaying back to me."
He doesn't give Thorin a chance to reply as he leans forward to kiss him, crashing their lips together as his hands slide over to tangle in Thorin's twin braids and tug him down. Thorin flounders for a moment, making Bilbo grin against his lips, before he seems to steady himself and gently pushes Bilbo back.
"What… Bilbo?" he squeaks, and Bilbo finds him so endearing it almost hurts.
"I've been told I make you happy," Bilbo informs him, "and, well, you make me happy too. Even though you're a fool of a dwarf who doesn't know how to listen, nor how to recognise a flu."
Thorin stares at him, completely speechless, for a long long moment, until suddenly he's grinning and surging forward and drawing Bilbo into the sweetest of kisses.
Yeah, Bilbo thinks, he has no intention of dying for a very long time.
No matter what Lobelia or Oin and his blasted horn say.