Thorin Oakenshield was completely besotted. His thoughts were consumed. Ever since the hobbit had saved his life, since he had tackled an orc and stabbed it so viciously to death, Thorin could think of nothing else. He wanted Bilbo Baggins to himself, as his consort. He wanted the hobbit as his love. Never had Thorin felt so strongly about another, and he knew, that this was his one love, the only love he would ever feel in life and in death. Thorin wanted nothing but to take the hobbit as his own, make sweet love to him and shower him with kisses, but he knew it would be improper. First he had to win the hobbit's heart.
He started slow. The morning after the eagles had saved them, Thorin approached Bilbo. The hobbit looked at him apprehensively and Thorin stared at him intensely. He knew only one way he should greet the Hobbit now, a way befitting of a dwarf, and befitting of someone Thorin respected. He grasped Bilbo tightly by his shoulders, looked at him for a few moments then knocked their foreheads together. Thorin pulled back expecting a happy smile upon the hobbit's face, but as he released his shoulders Bilbo fell hard to the ground beneath him, unconscious.
Thorin rushed to wake him and the other dwarves did what they could to reduce the swelling upon Bilbo's head. Dark bruises had formed by the time Bilbo began to stir. The hobbit opened his eyes carefully and moaned at the pain in his head. Thorin helped him sit up and waited for him to gain his bearings.
"I was unaware such a thing would hurt you so, Halfling. I merely meant to greet you as one of my kin," Thorin spoke, a hand lifting to brush at the hobbit's brow.
"Ah, no, in the future that won't be necessary. Just a hello would suffice," Bilbo muttered and he flinched slightly away from Thorin's touch. The dwarf was discouraged. He'd meant the hobbit no harm, but it seemed he'd underestimated the differences between their races. Hobbits had rather soft skin and the dwarf observed as Bilbo suffered from a headache for the rest of the day. He would have to find other ways of impressing the hobbit.
Thorin thought long and hard on what he had to offer Bilbo Baggins. He wondered about what might cheer him up and steal his interest. He knew only one thing that any dwarf would love; the beautiful sight of gold. So the next day during their travels, he approached Bilbo once more glancing at the bruises that were still quite visible on his brow.
"How are you feeling today, does your head still hurt?" Thorin questioned. Bilbo glanced at him with slight trepidation.
"Much better thank you, though I do hope you won't be head-butting me again?" Bilbo asked with a bit of cheer. Thorin grinned slightly and shook his head then braced himself to try his new tactic. He stood at his full height and spoke as regally as he could manage.
"When we reach Erebor, I look forward to showing you the depths of the mountain," Thorin began. Bilbo seemed a little interested, curious to see the home the company had spoken so fondly of and the dwarf continued happily.
"The jewels and gold within the mountain are impressive, and soon they will be back in my grasp. I will shower you with gems brighter than any you've seen before, and give you all the riches you can imagine," Thorin spoke, however now the Hobbit was frowning slightly. Still Thorin tried to impress him with the power he would control.
"And the Arkenstone holds beauty the like of nothing else in this world. I would have your eyes gaze upon it each day," Thorin finished, though he was shocked to see sadness and hurt upon Bilbo's face. The hobbit seemed rather dismayed by what the dwarf spoke of.
"I appreciate the sentiment Thorin…but I truly have no need for such things as gold and jewels. I see no appeal in riches, and only the dangers they cause within the minds of others," Bilbo said with a frown upon his face. Thorin was scandalized. What creature did not appreciate the wealth that came with gold? Thorin knew he had nothing else to offer the hobbit, and his heart fell slightly at the thought.
"Do you truly think there is nothing more beautiful than a stone?" Bilbo had asked, looking up at his eyes. Thorin was shocked by the question.
"Of course, the Arkenstone is the greatest beauty this world has to offer," Thorin spoke with surety. Bilbo's eyes lowered and he looked absolutely distraught. Thorin did not know what he had done to sadden the hobbit so, but he wished more than anything to see happiness upon his face instead. The dwarf king spent the rest of the day brooding, to the point that he was sure the other dwarves had begun to notice as well. He knew not how to gain the interest of the Halfling and it unsettled him greatly.
They had reached Beorn's home late in the day, and Thorin stood outside to watch the stars and smoke in silence. Dwalin exited the warm cabin, joining him to lean against its walls.
"What ails you my friend?" Dwalin asked, lighting up his own pipe. Thorin frowned slightly.
"What do you think of the hobbit?" He asked. Dwalin glanced at him sidelong then chuckled.
"You are quite transparent, Thorin," The large dwarf spoke. Thorin turned to look at him, breathing smoke from between his lips.
"It is obvious, that you wish to court him. An unusual choice for a dwarf king, but perhaps a fitting one for you," Dwalin continued, and then they both smoked silently for a while. After some time Thorin stirred and sighed deeply with frustration.
"He is the one," Thorin spoke and Dwalin nodded. The dwarf king crossed his arms and lifted a foot to rest upon the wall behind them.
"I am at a loss, Dwalin. I know not how to gain his affection. He seems…uninterested in the riches of Erebor, or the beauty of the Arkenstone, and I have not much else to offer. Hobbits are so very different from us. I'm not sure what to do. Perhaps I am not destined to have my love returned," The dwarf king spoke solemnly. Dwalin hummed and crossed his arms, thinking hard. Finally he smirked.
"I know one thing the lasses like that has always worked for me," Dwalin spoke and Thorin looked at him curiously, asking silently for his solution.
"Brawn," Dwalin finished, and he grinned and clenched a fist, raising one of his impressive arms to flex it tightly. Thorin raised his eyebrows then slowly returned the grin. Yes, brawn was something he had in large quantities.
The next morning the two dwarves set up an area to spar inside one of the barns. The rest of the company sat by to watch, looking forward to enjoying a good match. Bilbo entered cautiously and sat in a corner next to Bofur. He observed as Thorin removed his shirt and stretched his strong arms. The dwarf was quite attractive, and covered in dense dark hairs. His muscles were thick and well-toned, and he even had tattoos on his shoulders and chest Bilbo had been unaware of. The hobbit flushed a bit at the sight of a half-naked Thorin, though looked away quickly when he caught the dwarf glancing in his direction.
"Bofur, what are they doing?" Bilbo asked as he made himself comfortable atop straw. He noticed Dwalin and Thorin were now standing across from each other, and Fili had started counting.
"Why, wrestling of course!" Bofur joyfully spoke and then suddenly the two dwarves were on one another, fighting and throwing punches. Bilbo flinched as Dwalin hit Thorin hard in the gut.
"Oh my goodness! He'll get hurt!" The hobbit yelled. The dwarves were cheering as Dwalin and Thorin threw punch after punch at each other. They would stop and growl, or yell, then tackle one another.
"Oh I wouldn't worry about that laddie; I daresay Dwalin will go easy on him," Bofur whispered, and Bilbo barely recognized it too shocked by the sight of blood surfacing and falling to the straw beneath. Thorin looked menacing, his face snarling at the other dwarf, and his teeth bared in fury. The sight terribly frightened Bilbo, unaccustomed to violence as he was. He flinched with each hit and trembled with each drop of blood. Soon he could handle it no more.
"I-it's absolutely barbaric!" Bilbo gasped out, and then he stood and ran from the barn shaking. Bofur watched him leave in surprise, and Thorin paused in his fighting at the hobbit's cry. He was so absorbed and confused by Bilbo's absence that Dwalin managed to knock him clean out with a well-placed fist to the side of his head.
Thorin woke with a groan. Dwalin sure packed a punch, he should have known better than to stop focusing on the fight. His eyes opened slowly and he noticed the others had left the barn, and only Dwalin sat by his side. The burly dwarf looked down at him and chuckled.
"Sorry about that, it should have been easy to dodge, guess your thoughts were elsewhere," Dwalin spoke as he helped the other dwarf sit up.
"He…he left?" Thorin groaned out.
"Aye, seems the little lad doesn't much like wrestling, I'm afraid I don't know what else to suggest," Dwalin responded, knowing exactly whom the other spoke of. The two friends sat in silence while Thorin grew increasingly more depressed. His attempts at wooing Bilbo were completely ineffective. The dwarf king was beginning to feel like he should give up. He bent forward, his elbows resting on his knees as he ran fingers through his hair in exasperation. He did not notice his nephews peek in at him from the door to the barn nor did he hear them whisper amongst themselves. Kili and Fili felt terribly for their uncle. It was plain as day what he was trying to do. Thorin was head over heels for the company's burglar and the two brothers desperately wanted to help. They looked at each other and concocted a plan for later in the day.
Mid-afternoon Bilbo sat alone on a bench in Beorn's large yard. The other dwarves were huddled together not too far away, sharpening blades and sharing stories. The hobbit did not feel terribly inclined to participate. He'd had enough of dwarf culture the past couple of days. He was pleasantly smoking from his pipe when a loud noise drew his attention. He watched raptly as an animal burst through one of Beorn's fences and charged. Bilbo froze when the beast rush towards him.
"Uncle look! A wild boar! It's headed right for Bilbo!" Fili shouted loudly across the yard. Thorin's eyes widened and within moments he was at Bilbo's side thrusting his sword down into the boar's skull before it reached the hobbit. Bilbo recoiled as blood splattered on his face, his eyes wide in shock.
"What beast is this? I'll skin it where it lies!" Thorin boomed, and Bilbo observed as he began to do just that, no more than a foot away from him. The hobbit felt bile rise in his throat, and he was up and running to a corner where he vomited on the ground.
"Disgusting," Bilbo whispered, and he looked back at Thorin in horror. The dwarf had stopped his skinning and was looking at Bilbo with concern now. Thorin's face fell. Once again he'd managed to frighten Bilbo. Once again he'd pushed him away. He briefly glanced back at the boar and noticed an arrow protruding from its hip.
"What's this?" Thorin asked as he plucked the arrow from the boar's side. He had little time to think on it when a large bear rushed into the yard. Thorin turned quickly, the arrow tight in his hand.
"You dare to attack a boar of my lands! I will crush you for what you have done!" Beorn bellowed as he stood on his hind legs. Thorin paled. His sword was soaked in the creature's blood, the evidence of his slaughter glaring. The dwarves cowered and spent the rest of the afternoon running away from the enraged bear-man. Finally Gandalf appeared and managed to appease Beorn. The arrow had of course been linked to Kili, who claimed he did not know the boar was under Beorn's protection. And Thorin had been reprieved for trying to protect their burglar, though he was furious with his nephews.
"So you see, an honest mistake dear Beorn! The dwarves were unaware that your animal protection extended to those residing in your forests. I assure you it will not happen again!" Gandalf spoke kindly to his forest friend then passed a deliberate gaze in Fili and Kili's direction. And if the menacing scrutiny of Gandalf hadn't been enough, the presence of Beorn and the sheer anger upon their uncle's face certainly was.
"No, never again!" Fili spoke.
"Definitely not mister Beorn!" Kili agreed.
By the time dinner arrived Thorin was absolutely morose. The entire company knew something was wrong. And it was clear just what when the dwarf would sigh longingly each time his eyes fell upon the hobbit. Bilbo seemed unaware, though he definitely noticed the tension around him. Slowly the dwarves began trying to cheer up their king. The conversation turned quickly to past battles. The dwarves spoke of Azog, the battle of Azanulbizar, and the great deeds Thorin had performed in combat. Dwalin listed the names of those slain at the hand of their king. And Fili and Kili boasted of Thorin's prowess on the battlefield. Soon each dwarf was inputting a story about the great Thorin Oakenshield. Bilbo grew more and more uneasy. He felt there was nothing to celebrate from a battle. So many lives lost, so much violence, the very thought disturbed him to his core. Balin noticed the hobbit's silence and mid supper he spoke to try and ease his tension.
"Bilbo, I'm not sure if any of us have properly thanked you. Your actions against the orcs were quite brave," Balin quietly spoke. The other dwarves of the company agreed and Bilbo looked down bashfully. He had acted on instinct, not wanting to see any harm come to Thorin. He would do it again in a heartbeat if it meant saving a life, especially saving his life. Bilbo looked up at the dwarf king. Thorin's eyes connected with his and he saw the respect and appreciation within them. There was something else there as well though Bilbo could not name it. Dwalin offered a toast to their burglar in thanks and the others raised their pints while Thorin stood to speak.
"Bilbo, I am forever in your debt. Name any price and I will do my best to pay it. I would slay one hundred orcs and lay them before you in thanks Bilbo Baggins," Thorin spoke, his eyes upon the hobbit. Bilbo however gasped in anguish.
"That's terrible!" Bilbo whispered out, and the others looked at him puzzled.
"How can you talk of such things with ease? Feeling another's bones break and muscles tear, causing another to bleed...it's disgusting, it weighs heavily on the mind," Bilbo intoned, his eyebrows furrowed. The hobbit's fingers grasped tightly at the table before him.
"I do not understand why the death of an orc would upset you so," Gloin spoke up. Bilbo whipped his head around aghast.
"Killing is terrible, no matter whom it is!" he insisted, then his eyes closed and his head lowered.
"I should know," Bilbo finished with despair, and his hand went to hover over his blade.
"Laddie…," Balin began, gently resting a hand on Bilbo's shoulder, but the hobbit rose quickly and bowed.
"I think I'll retire early tonight, good evening," Bilbo uttered, and then he turned with haste and left to his room. The dwarves sat in silence as they watched their burglar leave. Then when his back was out of sight Thorin slammed his fist hard into the wooden table startling many around him. He'd done it again. Warded the hobbit off, frightened him, and disgusted him. Thorin was so angry with himself, especially now that he knew just how much the hobbit had sacrificed to save him. It seemed there was nothing he could do for Bilbo. Absolutely nothing the hobbit could ever like about him.
Hours later, when many of the dwarves had retired as well, Balin sat next to Thorin. The king had not moved for hours, staring longingly into a flame upon the table.
"Perhaps something simpler would win his heart?" Balin suggested, though Thorin seemed not to hear him and only continued to brood.
"Do not give up, my friend," Balin whispered as he too left for bed. But what else could Thorin do than give up. Clearly the hobbit would not take interest in a dwarf such as himself. Somehow Thorin's feet took him down the hall and he found his body standing just outside Bilbo's door. The dwarf could not resist turning the handle and glancing in at their burglar. His heart clenched at the sight. Bilbo was snuggled under his sheets, and he looked so incredibly peaceful in his rest, unburdened by his thoughts and feelings. Thorin entered the room silently. Bilbo had been given one of the homelier rooms in Beorn's cabin. Flowers decorated the walls, and on one side a large open window looked out upon the gardens. The hobbit must have been very happy here.
As Thorin approached Bilbo he noticed the different buds nearby. There were petunias, and tulips, roses, daisies. Thorin's fingers touched at their petals and his eyes landed on beautiful pale pink arbutus flowers hanging from the wall. The bulbs bounced in a light breeze, and Thorin could not help but think they were taunting him. How accurate they were of his feelings for the hobbit. Thorin plucked a strand from the wall and approached Bilbo's bedside.
He knew this would forever be a one-sided love, but he also knew he would never love another. So Thorin sat gently next to Bilbo's body. Careful not to wake the sleeping hobbit, he pulled a few strands of hair from Bilbo's face and began braiding them while intricately weaving the arbutus flowers within his locks. Bilbo stirred briefly, but continued sleeping as Thorin finished off the braid. The dwarf unlatched a clasp from his own hair, and sealed the end of the braid with it. He gazed upon it for a long while, hoping that clasp would stay there forever, but knowing it was impossible. The hobbit would surely wake in the morning and remove it. Thorin smiled sadly and with one last glance he exited Bilbo's room.
In the midst of the night Bilbo woke to a soft sound flowing through his open window. It was melodic and beautiful, but also incredibly sad. He almost fell back asleep listening to the sweet sounds, but something compelled him to rise. Bilbo slipped his jacket on and walked to the edge of the room. He paused at his reflection in a great mirror. There was something in his hair. Bilbo turned his head slightly and gasped. His hand reached up to stroke at the braid.
"Arbutus…," Bilbo whispered as his fingers caressed the flowers that rest there. He flushed at the sight of it. Finally his eyes travelled to the clasp at the end of the braid, and he knew in an instant which dwarf had put the beautiful flower in his hair. Thorin Oakenshield. Bilbo bit his lip. Had the dwarf known what the flower meant? And Bilbo thought he must, for it was braided in with such care. The musical sounds beckoned to him again, and Bilbo was moving swiftly through Beorn's halls until he reached an entrance to the garden.
He could see Thorin's outline sitting upon a bench in the patch. He was playing his harp and humming deeply to the tune. Bilbo approached slowly, his feet scuffling softly on the ground. He waited until Thorin had finished, his hands resting on the delicate instrument.
"You play beautifully Thorin," Bilbo spoke, and the dwarf turned to look at him in surprise. Thorin's eyes connected with his, and then moved to the side where the braid and clasp still rest. He seemed unable to voice his thoughts so Bilbo approached and pulled the harp gently from Thorin's hands to rest it on the ground. Bilbo braced himself before speaking to the dwarf.
"I care not for riches and gold. Nor do I care about strength or deeds done in battle. You possess all of this I know, but I care not," Bilbo spoke, and Thorin's eyes narrowed a bit as he looked away from the hobbit's prying eyes. Bilbo moved impossibly close to the dwarf and Thorin looked back up at his face.
"It is not your stature, or power that impresses me, though it does not go unwanted," Bilbo continued, and he flushed a bit and looked away in embarrassment. Thorin's eyes widened a bit and he opened his mouth to speak, but Bilbo quickly continued.
"It is your heart, Thorin, and your soul, that calls out to me," the hobbit finished and he moved forward to sit upon Thorin's lap, his knees resting astride Thorin's strong legs. Bilbo swallowed nervously and leant forward to place a gentle kiss upon Thorin's lips. The dwarf gasped at the touch and moved a hand to Bilbo's back. When the hobbit pulled away he met Thorin's confused and slightly moist eyes.
"If each day you treat me with simple kindness and good nature, I will be yours forever my king," Bilbo whispered gently, and Thorin closed his eyes in disbelief. When he opened them a single tear dripped down his face. Bilbo brushed it away with his thumb. And the dwarf knew in that moment how wrong he had been, for here before him, kneeling astride him, eyes sparkling in the light of the moon, was the most beautiful thing Thorin had ever seen. Bilbo was more beautiful than any jewel in Erebor, more beautiful than mountains of gold, and more beautiful than even the Arkenstone.
"I-I had given up hope, I had thought, you would never return my affection," Thorin finally spoke.
"I've always returned it Thorin," Bilbo said as his fingers tangled in Thorin's thick hair.
"And the flowers didn't hurt either," he finished, blushing and looking down. Thorin lifted his chin and kissed his nose.
"You know their meaning," the dwarf commented.
"Of course I do. Hobbits learn the message all flowers bring at an early age. They are…very important to us," Bilbo explained. Thorin smiled and caressed the Arbutus in Bilbo's hair. The pink bulbs poked from the braid and he flicked at one with a thick finger. Such a simple thing had won this hobbit over. Thorin gazed into Bilbo's eyes. Hobbits were such very interesting creatures, and Bilbo Baggins was such a very interesting hobbit. He trailed his fingers down the braid to lift the clasp in his hand.
"Do you know the meaning of this?" Thorin asked, gently rolling the clasp in Bilbo's hair between his thumb and forefinger. The hobbit looked to his left slightly, glancing at the silver clasp in his hair, then shook his head.
"You are my one, Bilbo Baggins," Thorin said, his eyes never leaving the hobbit's.
"One?" Bilbo questioned, unsure if it meant what he thought it might.
"Dwarves love only once, and you are my one, this…represents that love," Thorin murmured while he tugged at the clasp. Bilbo smiled at him in return.
"Will you wear it?" Thorin asked and Bilbo chuckled lightly at the question.
"That…depends," the hobbit said coyly, his forehead pressing lightly against the dwarf's.
"On what?" Thorin probed, his hands resting on Bilbo's hips now.
"You must promise to only greet me like this," Bilbo whispered and leant in to kiss Thorin gently on his lips. Thorin kissed back with vigour, breathing his response into Bilbo's mouth.
"I think…I can live with that, my dear hobbit."