He didn’t even know how it had gotten in. All he knew was that it was there, on his writing desk, his royal writing desk. And he wanted it gone.
“Dwalin,” Thorin barked, and not a moment later, his friend was there, bursting through the doors. Once he saw that Thorin wasn’t in immediate danger, he let his steps lengthen until he was beside him. Thorin glared at the offender and pointed at it. “What is that doing in my chambers?”
If this was Fili or Kili’s doing, he was going to murder his nephews.
Dwalin stared at the desk. Then he stared at Thorin. To the desk, then to Thorin again. “Well?” Thorin demanded.
“You’ve got to be kiddin’ me,” Dwalin said incredulously.
“Yes, thank you. Now how did it-“
“No, I mean, I can’t believe you bellowed like your life depended on it and then I come up here for that.” Dwalin gestured towards the desk. “What’ve you got against cats, anyway?”
When they weren’t curled up on his desk as if they owned the place, he was perfectly fine with them. This feline was beautiful and sleek and black, and it was watching him with half-lidded blue eyes. Not even afraid of him, just watching and waiting. Thorin scowled at it, baring his teeth.
The cat gave him a very unimpressed look and began to bathe its hand.
Dwalin snorted. “Your problem,” he said, and he clapped his hand on Thorin’s back. “Unless it’s an orc, I’m not comin’ back in here to your defense.”
“Of course not, you’re only my bodyguard,” Thorin muttered, but Dwalin was already gone, leaving Thorin alone with the cat. The cat was still bathing itself.
Fine, if Dwalin wasn’t going to help, Thorin would remove it himself. “You brought this on yourself,” Thorin said, marching over to the desk. “This is not a place for a cat, this is a place for a dwa-OW!”
The cat retracted its claws, but it continued glaring at Thorin. Thorin examined the back of his hand, watching as blood welled up. The little miscreant. “Out,” he ordered, pointing at the door. The cat’s tail lashed back in forth in a dangerous warning, and Thorin found himself taking two steps backwards. Then he realized what he’d done and cursed himself out with every phrase he knew. “Out,” he said again.
The cat gave him a scathing look, then stretched itself out over the length of the desk, knocking a few things off in the process. It looked like the papers that Thorin had been intending on reviewing.
He couldn’t believe he was standing and debating with a cat. He was a dwarf warrior, a king, and he would remove the creature himself. “I warned you. Twice now.” And he reached for the cat.
Fifteen minutes later, the cat was lounging across the desk, content as could be.
Thorin was still bleeding on his cheek, and he was certain part of his hair was permanently gone, missing somewhere on the floor where he was sitting with his legs crossed. He felt like pouting like a dwarfling.
There was a knock on the door, an almost timid knock, and Thorin had barely perked up before Bilbo poked his head in. “I heard…loud noises,” Bilbo said lamely, obviously intending on using a phrase that sounded more like “high pitched shrieks of pain”. Thorin owed him gratitude for having picked a less humiliating choice of words.
“Oh Eru, what happened to you?” Bilbo stepped inside, completely forgetting his hesitance upon seeing Thorin’s war wounds. He did stop before he reached Thorin, however, fingers flexing uselessly by his side. “Thorin, what happened?”
“That happened,” Thorin said, jerking his head towards his desk. “And it won’t leave.”
Bilbo turned, completely bewildered, until his gaze landed on the cat. “What a beautiful cat,” Bilbo said admiringly, and Thorin desperately began reaching for him when Bilbo went to the desk, hand outstretched to pet.
“No, Bilbo, wait-!”
Bilbo’s fingers landed on the cat’s fur, and the cat arched up into the touch, purring contentedly. “Beautiful indeed,” Bilbo praised. “Oh but what a sweetheart.”
“Sweetheart?” Thorin stammered. “That is not anything close to sweet. I’ve been left mangled and torn to shreds because of that thing.”
The cat hissed at him, yet continued to let Bilbo pet it. Bilbo frowned at him. “If you’re kind to her, she’ll be kind to you.”
“The underside, Thorin. You have to look at the underside. I understand it’s not the most gracious of ways, but it’s not as if you can actually ask a cat about gender.” Bilbo rubbed behind the cat’s ears, earning another purr. “Though I would ask you if I could, you do understand that,” Bilbo said, addressing the cat. She meowed and nudged her head against Bilbo’s hand, as if to ask to be petted some more. Bilbo smiled and acquiesced.
He was not feeling that way. He wasn’t. It was a cat – she was a cat – and one that wouldn’t be staying in Erebor. Thorin was absolutely not-
Oh Mahal he was jealous of the cat. And given how the cat was lapping up every single ounce of affection that Bilbo was pouring onto it, she had to know. She had to.
Thankfully Bilbo took the cat with him when he left, ensuring that Thorin’s desk was clear of any cat hair before he did so.
What Thorin wasn’t thankful for was that Bilbo left.
It had begun as a small thing, a little feeling. Just a little, as they’d traveled.
And then Bilbo had saved his life, and then he’d rescued them from the Mirkwood prison, and then he’d sent Smaug flying out of Erebor. And then he’d saved Thorin’s life, even after Thorin had banished him.
So here Thorin was, his heart so wrapped around Bilbo that he could barely breathe sometimes, and he’d barely spoken a few words to Bilbo since he’d begged Bilbo to stay in Erebor. “Just for the winter,” he’d said. “You cannot pass the mountains in this weather, not safely. Stay the winter. Please.”
And despite how he’d treated Bilbo, despite their awkward reconciling, despite every reason Bilbo had to leave, he’d stayed. Thorin had had a chance to actually speak to him, to tell him how much he meant to Bilbo.
And had he?
Instead he was stuck stewing it over as the winter snows began to thaw and spring began to peek its head around the corner.
And now there was a cat. A cat hogging up all the precious time he could be having with his hobbit.
Thorin officially hated his life.
When he went down to the kitchens to find Bilbo – Bofur had said he was down here, and he wasn’t following Bilbo, he was just, just coming down to examine the kitchens and all right, he was following Bilbo – he opened the doors and began to speak, then stopped. And stared.
The cat stared back.
“Thorin!” Bilbo greeted cheerfully. “What are you doing down here?”
“What is that doing in here?” he said instead of the greeting he’d worked up in his head.
“She was hungry,” Bilbo explained patiently, as if talking to a child. “So I found some cream and fish for her.” He paused, hesitation once more crossing his face. “That is, you don’t mind if I-?”
“No, not at all,” Thorin replied immediately. Then immediately after wanted to hit himself for encouraging Bilbo to feed the creature. Creature didn’t sound right. He needed something more loathsome than that.
Bilbo didn’t seem to pick up on any of Thorin’s inner turmoil. “Good,” he said, smile back on his face. “I was going to make myself some tea; did you want some?”
“Will she let me have some?” he countered, nodding towards the cat. She appeared to be sitting calmly at the moment, but give her half a second and she could spring up and claw his face to shreds. His scratches still hadn’t fully healed from the last time he’d tried to move her.
“Oak, get down,” Bilbo requested, and the cat jumped off and away from the door. Thorin sighed with a small amount of relief before the cat’s name registered.
“Oak? You named her Oak?” Of all the things to have named the cat, that hadn’t been anywhere close to a first choice. It didn’t deserve such a gracious title for being such a…a beast. Yes, beast fit her well.
To his surprise, Bilbo’s cheeks went a little red. “It seemed to suit her,” he said, sounding almost a little defensive. “That’s all.”
“I meant no offense,” Thorin said, putting his hands up. He’d come down to find Bilbo, and was he honestly quarreling with him? “I apologize.”
“No, it’s, it’s fine, you don’t need to apologize,” Bilbo insisted, but there was that awkward air hanging about them again, and Thorin felt like shuffling in place. Like a dwarfling.
Mahal, he was a grown dwarf, and one of these days he was going to act like it.
Then there was just pain and Thorin yelped as he danced on one foot. Oak was there, hissing at him, claws bared from where she’d struck him across the calf. He didn’t see any blood, thankfully, but that had hurt.
“Oak!” Bilbo scolded, wagging his finger in that infernally cute manner. “Behave!”
The cat gave him a look. Bilbo gave her one right back. With an aggravated swish of her tail she stalked off. “Don’t be that way,” Bilbo called after her. “You know you shouldn’t have smacked at Thorin.”
Smacked at? Slashed at. He’d had less blood pulled from him by orcs before. “Why does she hate me?” Thorin said – and no, he wasn’t whining. He was just stating a fact through an observational question, and yes, all right, he was whining. But he thought he deserved to do so, at this point.
“She doesn’t hate you,” Bilbo assured him. “Perhaps trying to wrench her off your desk may have left a sour taste in her mouth, but she’ll forgive and forget, I’m certain.”
Thorin gave him a disbelieving look. Cats could hold grudges like no one else. “If you say so,” he said, but his incredulity was heavy in his voice.
“She’ll come around,” Bilbo said. “I’m certain of it.” Then he headed towards the fire, where a kettle was hanging, before Thorin could say anything else. And there were a hundred words hanging on his tongue, all of them begging Bilbo to stay, all of them telling Bilbo how he really felt.
Not a single one tripped past his lips. Instead, he sat and watched Bilbo smile at everyone else in the kitchen and pour himself a cup of tea.
“I don’t know why you’re having such a hard time with Oak,” Kili said a few days later. “She’s a darling.”
All of the company had stated as much. Apparently they’d all met the cat and apparently they all adored her, and she adored them. The only one she couldn’t stand was Thorin. And he’d have been fine with that, he’d been the recipient of worse grudges, except that she was hogging all of Bilbo’s time. The stupid cat went everywhere with Bilbo. She even sat wrapped around Bilbo’s shoulders the way that Thorin wanted to be.
Fili sighed. “This isn’t about the cat, Uncle.”
“When it’s my skin getting shredded, yes, I think this is about the cat,” Thorin said. He scowled across the room where the cat was currently in Dwalin’s lap. The traitor was stroking Oak down her back, a daffy smile on his face. Thorin scowled at them all the more for it.
“No, it’s not,” Fili said. “This is about Bilbo.”
Thorin froze. “I thought we weren’t talking about this, we agreed,” Kili hissed, and that pulled Thorin back to the land of the living.
“You agreed to not talk? Who did?”
“All of us,” Kili said, nodding towards the company. “You weren’t ready.”
“Uncle, you got your winter,” Fili said, almost kindly, and Thorin glared at him, because he knew where this was going. “Bilbo stayed. But we’re almost out of snow, and the weather’s getting warmer by the day.”
“It’s a long journey-“
“He’s going home in a week,” Kili blurted out, and Thorin stilled.
Bilbo was leaving? Going home?
Then…fine. He could go home. “He’d better take the cat with him,” Thorin growled, and he stood abruptly from his seat and left the room. He made it all the way back to his royal chambers before he collapsed in on himself, staring at the ground morosely.
How had it managed to be an entire winter and he hadn’t spoken to Bilbo about what he wanted to? He’d been busy with Dale, certainly, and busy looking through the mines, and busy welcoming back those who were coming home to the mountain, but had he truly wasted a winter and not spoken a word to Bilbo?
It seemed that he had. And now Bilbo was heading home. Knowing him, he wouldn’t even take the cat, and Fili was right, this wasn’t about the cat. This was about the hobbit whom he’d fallen in love with and who was leaving to go back to the Shire because Thorin couldn’t talk when it mattered.
Sometimes, being a dwarf was a difficulty. Sometimes being a male dwarf had its disadvantages. And sometimes being a male dwarf of the Line of Durin made one’s life impossible, especially when it came to speaking through one’s heart.
He sat on the floor, legs crossed, and stared into the fire. One week. One week to talk to Bilbo and convince him to stay, and the thought that he’d told Fili and Kili and probably the others he was leaving, but not Thorin, just made his mood all the more sour.
A small tapping sound caught his attention, and he’d barely turned before he found himself gazing at the very enemy of his thoughts. “Go away,” he muttered to the cat. The last thing he needed was to be scratched.
To his surprise, she didn’t claw him. In fact, she came up closer, and she nuzzled against his arm for the first time since he’d met her. Surprised but still wary, he carefully raised his hand and brought it down on her head to pet her. She let out a rumbling purr and arched her back for more.
“What did I do to garner your favor?” he said. He’d not paid her any favors, he’d not spoken kindly to her. Yet here she was, letting him close, even offering him comfort.
It reminded him of Bilbo, but what didn’t these days? Still, the resemblance was uncanny. He’d mistreated Bilbo, tried to strong-arm him as he had Oak, and then Bilbo had bounded back and insisted on standing beside him. Sitting beside him, gently leaning against his chest just as Oak was doing…
Taking his father’s key from around his neck and darting off into the hallway with it like a perfect burglar. “Beast!” he yelled, jumping to his feet and racing off after the feline. He caught a glimpse of a dancing tail and took off, hurrying down the hallway, down a flight of stairs, into another hallway, and through the door that Oak was trying to get into. Thorin turned through the door and into the next room, then almost collided with someone.
“Apologies,” he began, “I didn’t mean to-“ And then he stopped.
Bilbo stared at him. He stared at Bilbo. A triumphant mewl came from between them, and then Oak trotted off to a corner to lazily lick her paws. The key was dropped without a care onto the ground.
More staring occurred. Bilbo finally cleared his throat. “I assume there’s a reason you were chasing Oak…?”
“She took my father’s key,” he said. “I. Um. I wanted it back. Obviously.”
“Right,” Bilbo said, and then was silent. Thorin tried to find the words, then stopped, because they weren’t there, they weren’t even on the tip of his tongue. It was just him and Bilbo and that horrible silence and the stupid cat that was glaring at him.
Thorin cleared his throat this time, and honestly, it sounded as if they were both ill of some terrible sickness. Inability to speak, that’s what we’re both ill of. He wanted to say a million things.
Instead what came out was, “Fili and Kili said you were leaving,” and he sounded accusatory, even to his own ears. He winced.
Bilbo crossed his arms. “I was going to tell you. In fact, I was coming to tell you, and then Oak disappeared, and while I was trying to find her you showed up.”
Thorin stole a suspicious glance at the cat, but she was busy sprawling herself on her side and no, that was more of her underside than he needed to see, especially if she was keen on licking it. Which she was. “So…” And then he was unable to speak, again.
“Yes, I’m leaving. Snow’s all but melted, at this point, and it’s warm enough to travel, even when the sun drops.”
“Good,” Thorin said, his throat closing around the word. “That’s…good. You’ve wanted to get home for some time.”
Bilbo nodded stiltedly. “It’ll be nice to see the Shire again.”
Silence. Thorin shifted on one foot uncomfortably. Bilbo crinkled his nose in such a way that made Thorin want to kiss it.
Bilbo suddenly jolted forward, pain flashing across his face. “Ow!”
“Are you all right?” Thorin said immediately, stepping forward, hands reaching towards Bilbo.
“Well, I was, until someone decided my leg was a scratching post.” Bilbo gave a glare to Oak who was stretching oh so casually behind him. There were indeed long red scratch marks down Bilbo’s bare leg, and Thorin growled at the cat.
“I’ll be all right, honestly,” Bilbo assured him. “Just scratches. I got worse on the way here, so there’s-OW!” and he tripped forward when Oak decided to nip at his leg. Thorin caught him on instinct, and then he froze. Bilbo froze, in his arms. They both looked at each other, and when Bilbo swallowed hard, Thorin tracked the movement, unable to help himself.
Bilbo was warm under his hands, and now that there was no fear of him falling, Thorin found his grasp loosening to cradle him. Bilbo didn’t move, leaning into Thorin, and he wasn’t going to get a better chance than this, right here. He was never going to get a better moment.
“Bilbo,” he began, then stilled when Bilbo whipped his head up. There was some look in his wide eyes that Thorin didn’t quite understand. But if he’d been forced to guess, he would’ve almost said it was hope.
“I…” Words, he needed words, words.
And of course, his mouth betrayed him one last time. “Why did you name her Oak?” he asked.
Bilbo turned scarlet. “I, well. She…” He swallowed again, and Thorin realized he was close enough that their noses were almost brushing. He found himself moving forward, just enough, and the tips of their noses touched.
It seemed to bolster Bilbo into answering. “Dark hair, blue eyes, fiery personality that I admire,” he said. “She reminded me of you.”
Oak for Oakenshield. Admire.
“Stay,” Thorin whispered. “Please stay.”
“Until?” Bilbo asked, but there was that look in his eyes again, and it was most certainly hope.
Thorin took a deep breath and demanded of himself the next words he would say. “Until you would get tired of the mountain. Of…of me. I want you to stay.”
It was like watching the sun rise, the way Bilbo’s smile slowly broadened until it was all Thorin could see. “I was hoping you would ask,” Bilbo admitted. “I thought you would, over the winter, but you never did.”
“Dwarves aren’t exactly known for being able to speak well when it matters,” Thorin said. Especially male dwarves of the Line of Durin.
“I’ve noticed,” Bilbo said dryly. Thorin pinched him in the side in retaliation, and Bilbo’s laugh was the best sound he’d ever heard.
Until he heard the soft mewl from the corner. Oak was stretched on top of a nearby chair, content as content could be. “I was going to take her back to the Shire with me, but since I’m no longer going…” Bilbo bit his lip, and Thorin let out a sigh.
“She can stay. But if she gets on my desk again she’ll be a very small rug.”
Oak gave him a very unimpressed look. Thorin found himself dreading the day she was back on his desk because honestly, it would be him as the shredded rug, not her.
“She did push me into your arms, that has to be worth something,” Bilbo said, though he turned to give Oak a look. “Though she needn’t have done it in such a bloody manner.”
Oak did seem a bit apologetic about that. Not that Thorin would know what an apologetic cat looked like, he’d never met one in his entire life, and of course Bilbo could make a cat seem apologetic. She probably was sorry for hurting him.
“Then she can stay,” Thorin said, and with Bilbo’s lips that close, it was more temptation than he could bear. Bilbo tasted like spring and honey and a sweetness that was all his own. And now it was his, his to win, his to court, his to keep. It made everything he’d languished over completely worth it.
And when Oak seemed to find his desk her favorite place, Thorin refused to go near it until Bilbo came to take her away. Except this time, Bilbo never left, simply retreated to the chair by the hearth, cat in his lap, eyes only for Thorin.