Another night in Mirkwood, another night awake. Bilbo dozes fitfully between his patches of terror. To sleep on his belly is to lie with his neck exposed. To sleep on his back bares his entire body. To lie on either side blinds him to an assault from behind.
He makes the mistake of lying on his side, his face toward the forest, and opening his eyes. Eyes stare back, blinking out of the dark. Holding his breath, Bilbo shifts backward until his bum makes contact with his pack. He presses up against it, presses and presses until he hears a grunt from behind him.
“Sorry,” he whispers.
“What is it now?” Thorin groans softly.
Bilbo says nothing, because it is nothing. He lies still and frozen in the night.
Behind him, Thorin shifts closer, pressing Bilbo’s pack between them. “There is grass upon our mountain.”
Bilbo blinks slowly, pointlessly, into the blackness. “What?”
“Grass. Outside. On the foothills for the most part, but higher as well. There once was, certainly. The dragon burned much years ago, but it may have had chance to return by now.”
Frowning, Bilbo rolls over. “Are you talking in your sleep?” he whispers.
“It has occurred to me,” Thorin whispers, “that thirteen dwarves is a small start for a kingdom.”
“Oh, you are.”
“I am not. I am… explaining.”
“All right,” Bilbo says slowly.
“Our halls are stone, our materials metal. We trade for the majority of our food and always have. We’ll have coin enough to buy whatever we like, of course, but our skill sets are not diverse enough to found a culture anew.”
“I’m not sure where you’re going with this.”
“There is grass up high as well as in the foothills. Up high, the wind is pleasant, though it would tear wood down or send a small body flying. But the foothills, they are… rolling. We are not gardeners, none of us, but we should require one if we are to undo what damage Smaug has inflicted upon our lands. Hobbits strike me as such a people.”
Bilbo nearly giggles. “Good luck getting anyone else out of the Shire.”
“That being the case,” Thorin says.
Bilbo doesn’t giggle at all. He stares instead, trying to sort out the outline of a bearded face.
“My company is comprised of the only dwarves still loyal to me,” Thorin states without grief or anger, only resignation. “Such loyalty ought to be rewarded. With, with a fair home.”
“Oh,” Bilbo says, understanding at last. He closes his eyes and lays his head down. “I wouldn’t worry about it, really. I think this lot will care so much about the inside that the outside will have grown back before they notice it.”
A puff of tobacco-tinged breath brushes against his closed eyes. A laugh? A sigh? Bilbo nearly asks, but, his exhaustion having at long last caught up with him, he falls instead into a quiet sleep. His dreams are soft, filled by his armchair and his fireplace, but outside his round window is nothing but sky.