The dagger had been meant for him, because of course it had. Every moment from leaving the Shire until now had been one attempt on his life following another.
All for a ring.
A tawdry, tempting, trinket, that was far more trouble than it was worth.
A trinket that Bilbo had sworn to destroy. A trinket that would likely lead to his destruction and, demonstratively, quite possibly the destruction of his friends as well.
For Thorin had been injured.
Bilbo still remembered that long ago teasing Fíli and Kíli had subjected him to regarding night raids by orcs. Thorin, it transpired, had been right to chastise them over their lighthearted manner regarding such a fate befalling travellers.
The real thing had been quite terrifying.
It had been dark. Almost too dark to see save for the light from the moon and stars. And all Bilbo could recall were the shrieks and battle cries, the chaos of desperate fighting, and then a solid body pushing between him and his far bigger and stronger assailant. A grunt of surprise, a stifled shout of pain, and then a feral cry, a dying gurgle, and the thud of a body as an orc apparently met its demise.
Thorin had been injured.
The light from Gandalf’s staff following the raid had revealed a stab wound, thankfully shallow but bleeding freely, in Thorin’s stomach.
Thorin had thrown himself between Bilbo and the orc when he had seen that the hobbit was outmatched both in size and strength and thus bore the brunt himself.
The dwarf had been field patched and offered pain relief and then sternly ordered to rest as the sun rose and the rag-tag group decided a day free of travel was sorely needed.
Bilbo was furious!
He sat before their campfire, ignoring the smell of a late breakfast cooking, and instead focusing his attention on the fool of a dwarf who had needlessly gotten himself hurt. A frown twisted Bilbo’s lips and furrowed his brow as he watched over the dwarf king, trying to ignore the way worry gnawed at his stomach more than anger and resentment ever could.
Thorin was awake now, roused by the warmth of the sun as it reached its zenith, and was seated as comfortably as possible on the grass, propped up by a pile of their packs and blankets at his back as he chatted amicably with his nephews.
Thorin knew. Bilbo thought and ground his teeth, attempting to turn that concern into righteous indignation. He knew Bilbo was stronger now, capable, perfectly able to hold his own in a fight. So why had he meddled? Why had he put himself at risk and caused their task to be delayed by getting himself stabbed for nothing?
Questioning Thorin’s motives was fruitless, Bilbo should know this by now. For it had become clear almost as soon as Thorin and his companions had found Bilbo that the idiot harboured not only guilt for his actions in Erebor, but a lingering hope that he and Bilbo might become something more than comrades, more than friends. And this was probably reason enough to risk himself in Thorin’s mind.
Bilbo was doing his best to put such frivolous notions out of his head. They were on a dangerous quest, arguably even more dangerous than their last, and forming attachments now could only end… messily.
There could only be heartbreak on a dangerous mission such as this, and didn’t this just prove it?
Thorin had been injured and Bilbo could not deny that the sight of those bandages, the mere thought of how much worse it could have been, turned his stomach something dreadful and he waved away the offer of a plate of toasted bread and mushrooms when Bofur interrupted his musings to try and cajole him into eating.
“No thank you, Bofur. I’m not feeling particularly hungry.”
Bilbo’s words earned him a concerned look from the miner, and drew Thorin’s attention away from his nephews for a moment. The dwarf king opened is mouth to say something; possibly to chastise Bilbo for not eating when he was already far thinner than he had a right to be, but he was interrupted by Legolas crouching beside him and pressing a centeen into his hand.
“Drink this. I’ve added some herbs to help with the pain and to prevent any infection taking hold. It wouldn’t do to have you come down with a fever on top of everything else-”
Bilbo felt his stomach twist again and pushed himself to his feet, excusing himself from their company as he went to try and find some small manner of peace.
Thorin found him beside the river a good hour or two later. The sound of the dwarf's voice startling the hobbit out of his daydream as he watched the play of sunlight over the water.
“You should not be out here by yourself, Bilbo. It is unwise.”
Bilbo got to his feet immediately, glowering, and marching up to the dwarf as he let the worried anger bubble to his lips.
“Oh yes? And you would be the paragon on what is wise would you? Taking a dagger for me when I had everything under control was a very intelligent thing to do was it? Or better yet, dragging yourself here whilst still injured in order to tell me how unwise I am being, that was ever so smart I’m sure.”
“I am hardly dragging myself anywhere-”
Bilbo was not sure what was more infuriating; the calm way in which Thorin spoke when faced with Bilbo’s waspish attitude, or how he tried to pretend the stab wound was not causing him to press a hand to his stomach and curl in on himself.
“Of course you aren’t. I’m imagining you trying to hold your insides in then, am I?”
“My insides are perfectly intact. Gandalf assured me of it.”
“And does Gandalf know you’ve come here to retrieve me like some wayward faunt?”
The sheepish expression on Thorin’s face spoke volumes and Bilbo stepped into Thorin’s personal space to jab a finger at him pointedly and growl out the same old litany he had repeated time and again since Thorin and his stubborn band of followers had insisted on joining him.
“I will say this again, Thorin. I do not need your help. I was far better off alone handling this by myself and- and I did not need you stepping in last night either! I could have slain that orc by my own hand-”
“Oh yes, and all the others too? A single hobbit against a small legion of orcs-”
“It was hardly a legion! Ten at most!” Bilbo would have laughed at the dramatics had his chest not held a tempest of anger and worry.
“The fact remains, experience or no, ten would have been far too many for you alone! Had we not been here you would have been captured or worse!” It seemed Bilbo had succeeded in riling Thorin up at last, the dwarf was scowling just as fiercely as Bilbo now, fingers curled into the swath of bandages as he sought to keep pressure on his wound.
“You were hurt for no reason!”
“I was hurt defending you, that is a perfectly acceptable reason and I would do so again-!”
“I am not worth-”
“Don’t you dare! Don’t you dare try to claim you are not worth this, Bilbo!”
“I do not want to be! I don’t want to be the reason you- any of you are hurt or killed. I wanted to do this alone. To endanger myself if I must, but it would only be my own life at risk this way.”
“And if you did fail because you were alone? What then? The world would fall to darkness because that blasted ring would find its’ way back to him! I know that’s not what you want, Bilbo. I know you would do anything to see it gone and the surest way to accomplish that is with help. So why do you keep rebuffing us when it is clear you will need us from here on out?”
Bilbo fairly trembled now. With fear or rage he could not tell. He lurched forward, hands grasping at Thorin’s shoulders and eyes blurred with unshed tears he would deny until his dying day. Hoping, imploring, begging the dwarf to understand. “Because I can’t lose you again!”
It was only as the words fell from his lips that Bilbo recalled Thorin had said much the same following another argument some time ago, shortly after Bilbo had signed their contract.
Bilbo’s breaths were ragged and he nearly choked on a sob as the weight of those words, the realisation, hit him all at once.
He had forgiven Thorin for Erebor some time ago, and really, falling for Thorin all over again had been inevitable and far far too easy.
He had tried to deny it, tried to keep the words choked back and the reality of all this buried under the yoke of responsibility the ring had burdened him with, but there was no way he could run from the truth forever.
Bilbo was hopelessly in love with Thorin, and the chilling, disarming, horrifying fear of Thorin being killed on this journey… of any of their companions being killed, was enough to make Bilbo want to scream.
He would not be able to bear it.
Bilbo’s gaze had fallen to the grass, the sun dappled foliage beneath his toes a far more welcome prospect than meeting Thorin’s gaze at this moment.
If he looked at him, he would be lost.
Thorin’s voice was soft, hesitant even, but the hobbit could not bring himself to look up just yet as he tried to regain control of his stuttering breaths and blink away the tears that had threatened to fall not moments before.
Gentle, calloused fingers on his chin was what finally drew Bilbo’s attention and caused him to open his eyes again.
Bilbo’s hand fluttered before settling on Thorin’s forearm, and if the dwarf was expecting Bilbo to offer rebuke or push him away, then he was entirely wrong.
What was the point in trying to keep this distance between them really? Whether they acknowledged their feelings openly or not, if one of them was killed it would still hurt the other…
Bilbo lifted his eyes a little and nearly groaned aloud. He had been so worked up and angry before that he hadn’t really paid heed to Thorin’s state of dress, but honestly… Could the bloody idiot not at least think to don a shirt before he came looking for him? It really wasn’t very fair… Smallclothes and bandages were all the dwarf wore at the moment, and Bilbo nearly glowered again when Thorin obviously noted the reddening of his ears and huffed a small sound of repressed amusement.
“Oh, shut up. If you think you will entice me with- with all that skin and hair then you are sorely mis-”
Thorin did laugh this time and Bilbo grumbled, his cheeks warming to match his ears.
“It wasn’t really my intention to come out here to entice you, as you so eloquently put it. I was just more comfortable this way.”
Bilbo sniffed, a disbelieving little sound, and found that the ridiculous turn their conversation had taken was working wonders for banishing the fear that had clamped his heart like a vice and constricted his throat.
He had probably planned that as well, blast him.
A thumb traced Bilbo’s lower lip and the hobbit’s breath hitched a little before he found the dwarf’s hand moving slowly to cup his jaw and lift his chin to look at him properly.
Thorin really should not be allowed to smile that way, Bilbo thought, just a bit giddy. It was entirely too endearing-
He couldn’t be sure which of them had leaned in first, but soft lips ghosting over his at long last were a more than welcome outcome.
A warm hand at his waist and a tilt of Thorin’s head were all it took for Bilbo to give in entirely.
A thumb was stroking his cheek, the sweep of it so gentle and loving that Bilbo felt no compunction is letting his arms encircle Thorin’s neck and carefully pull him closer, their kiss becoming something more sure and certain, more full of love and promise than words could convey for now.
Bilbo tried anyway, pulling back with a small frown.
“If you get yourself killed. If you do anything so foolish again, I swear I will find a way to hunt you down in the afterlife, Thorin.”
Not his most poetic speech, but really with all that naked skin and those tempting lips, he couldn’t really be blamed for being struck-dumb now could he?
Thorin’s answer was a winsome grin and a kiss so passionate any fear left in Bilbo’s heart was chased away to make way for something infinitely more pleasant.
There was danger still, and many miles to go before they came to journey’s end. But for now at least, that seemed of little consequence.