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After Breakfast

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"You do not dance with me." Thorin's expression was blank, but Bilbo saw hints of aggravation about his mouth, and his eyes were positively stormy.

Bilbo stopped in his tracks, waylaid from his steady course to the Took Hall kitchens for an early breakfast—no others but habitually early risers would be up with the sun after last evening's drinking. And yet, here was Thorin leaning against the mantel in the set of rooms the dwarves had been given.

"Have you been waiting for me all night?" Bilbo asked.

Thorin's neutral expression shifted down into a scowl. "You're quite fond of your friend Lacey Winter."

Bilbo blinked. "Well… yes. She's my friend, as you pointed out yourself. Of course I'm fond. You have been here all night. Thorin—" Bilbo didn't know how to finish with 'you're utterly ridiculous' without offending his dwarf's sensibilities. And Green Lady blight it, now Lacey had Bilbo thinking of Thorin as 'his.' Thorin was most certainly not his, and hadn't been for some time. "Oh, bother," he grumbled to himself.

He noticed Thorin shifting uncomfortably, no doubt from being caught out. "Never mind that, though we will have words about your staying up all night to stare at my door. You do know how to knock, surely. Dwarves have perfectly knockable doors, and I should know. Come, let's go to the kitchen and see if there isn't anything lying about for breakfast."

"I have not been waiting all night." Despite Thorin's argumentative tone, he nonetheless fell in step at Bilbo's side, hands locked behind his back and stride outstripping Bilbo's own three to one. The dwarf slowed when he noticed; Bilbo certainly wouldn't be rushing to catch up, not when the sun had barely bothered rising and Bilbo was himself only five minutes out of bed.

"No?" Bilbo could not keep the wry amusement out of his voice.

Thorin slanted a look down at him. "No."

It was telling that Thorin would not elaborate. Or perhaps it wasn't; Thorin had never been fond of using his words.

"I gather you and Miss Winter dance often, at every function," Thorin said, voice moving back to neutral. "One of your Tooks said she is an instructor. Did she teach you to dance?"

"Goodness, no, we're of an age and practically learned together. My parents taught me to dance, of course." Bilbo smiled at Thorin in a manner that asked 'who else?' "My mother for the most part. She always picked up any hobby that let her move around plenty, never one for holding still. Though I'll grant you when we were little fauntlings Lacey and I were matched at festivals so often it stuck on as habit. Don't dwarves learn dancing from their parents?"

"Most do," Thorin hummed. "My siblings and I learned from Balin and Fenli, an older etiquette instructor of ours. We studied dancing as lessons like any other subject. As royalty we were required to know our people's dances flawlessly."

Bilbo pushed the doors to one of the smaller kitchens open (every corner of Took Hall had at least one kitchen and two pantries), valiantly resisting sneaking a peek at Thorin. He had a feeling his—the dwarf king was trying to say something.

"That's a shame," Bilbo said, and focused his attention on spying out the state of the kitchen. "Dancing with my mother is one of my fondest memories. I can't imagine another teaching me. Oh, good, last night's party hasn't ravaged the pantry here. I doubt the main kitchens have fared so well. Even the fire's still banked!" He pulled out a tin of breakfast tea leaves and a loaf of honey bread. "Could you stoke the fire, if you please?"

Thorin did so, but he'd gone belligerently silent again. Bilbo simply waited.

After he'd gotten the loaf half sliced and an assortment of jams recovered from the miraculously untouched cold-box, Thorin's voice rumbled discontentedly.

"As you see I can dance, halfling."

"Oh, let's not start the halfling business again, Thorin." Bilbo sighed. Thorin only glared.

It finally occurred to Bilbo. "Are you offended? That I didn't dance with you last night?" He laughed, and then bit his lip hard when Thorin's expression slipped into something that looked like a flash of hurt before it was buried behind a scowl. "Sorry!" Another giggle escaped. "Gracious—Thorin, no, really, I'm sorry. It's a little funny, isn't it?" At the king's silence Bilbo's chuckles waned completely. He stared at Thorin who merely stared back, distinctly unhappy.

Bilbo fiddled with the plate of sliced bread, arranging and rearranging the slices without paying much attention to what he was doing. "I didn't ask you because I assumed you and the others would not know hobbit dances," he said finally. "Was I wrong?"

Thorin's mouth turned down into a frown. "No, you're not wrong." He sounded grudging. "A number of lasses seemed intent on teaching Bofur."

Bilbo's lips twitched. "Bofur wasn't half drunk, I daresay." And quite a joyful sight, full-heartedly throwing himself into fast-paced hobbit jigs. He hadn't kept up in the slightest, but then half of the Shire never did anyway, and that wasn't the point of it.

Thorin was not lured into even the smallest smile. "You danced with only four others, Miss Winter featuring prominently."

"Yes, I quite like dancing," Bilbo allowed. "Lacey and I are well suited as we've been partners for almost fifty years."

Thorin stood and went to collect the kettle from the fireplace, shoulders tense. "I see."

Bilbo wondered what that was supposed to translate to; it clearly meant more than a simple acknowledgement, as the king was rigid over it. Though honestly what thorn was under Thorin's paw this time was a mystery.

"It's not as though I danced the whole night, I spent half of it ensconced among you dwarves and Fort's dreadful recounting of every Took mischief known to the Shire," he said, getting a shade waspish. He'd not even had First Breakfast and it was far too early in the day for talks that made no sense. Bilbo was in fact a very firm believer that no conversation made sense before one's first cup of tea.

The kettle landed on the table with an overloud clang. "You should not be fraternizing with others, leading them on in such a blatant fashion." Thorin growled.

Bilbo gaped. "P-pardon? Fraternizing?"

"You're m—" Thorin's jaw clicked shut. After a moment he ground out, "You lead them on."

"Lead them on. I—oh—you—I don't—Dwarves." Bilbo scowled, smacking his own much more fragile teapot down on the table too. "I do no such thing. It's—it's dancing, Thorin. For Eru's sake, it's not as though we're about to leap over the coals together. And—and even if I should flirt, it is not as though anyone has a claim on me. Certainly not you!"

"I most certainly do!" Thorin leaned over the table. His voice was a low growl but he looked a hop away from shouting. He looked a hop away from leaping over the table, really. Bilbo did not back down, holding his ground over the bread. "Our courtship was never ended," Thorin snapped. "You should only be dancing with me. That you go running around—"

"Wait," Bilbo said sharply, and Thorin must have heard something in his tone, for he fell abruptly silent. "You—you kicked me out of Erebor, if I recall rightly, and I most certainly do. And you claim our, our… the courtship is still," he searched for a suitable word. One that did not make his belly do uncomfortable things with the breakfast he had yet to even have a bite of. Finally he settled on: "valid. We're still—it's still valid."

Thorin was scowling mutinously at him, but there were high points of red forming on his cheeks.

Bilbo glared right back.

"I told you weeks ago, I came here for you, Bilbo," Thorin said. Then he added, "Only to find you… dancing with others—"

"Yes, yes, I do recall. And it's just dancing, thank-you," Bilbo said. "No need to say it like—well, like that."

"Which should only be with me," Thorin said.

"You don't know hobbit dances," Bilbo said firmly, nerves finally sizzling down back to something resembling normal. Not calm, not since he'd met Thorin over two years ago, but normal at any rate. There was even the warm fizzling feeling in his veins like he had a hive of Beorn's bees humming happily through him. And he finally remembered to pour the kettle water into the waiting teapot. He didn't know if it was the prospect of tea or courtship with Thorin that inspired such warmth. "And I'm not giving up one of my favorite festival activities because you're jealous," he added, though he was now mentally planning the best way to lure Thorin into hobbit courting.

"There is no reason to—"

"There's still five days of the Spring festival left, you realize, and each of them contains dancing in the evenings."

Thorin looked displeased. "I'm a quick learner."

"Oh, would you sit and have some breakfast?" Bilbo sighed, waving at the table. He sat himself, as an example, and picked up a slice of bread.

"I don't like it," Thorin grumbled, but he sat and Bilbo counted that a victory.

"You don't have to," Bilbo said. "But I don't see why you're so upset. Hobbits dance socially every festival, and in between too. It's not as though I'll dance just any dance with any person." He nudged his foot against Thorin's shin under the table, knowing the dwarf would have no clue such behavior was highly flirtatious indeed. "There's one I'd only dance with you."

Thorin eyed him suspiciously. "Is that so?"

Bilbo hummed acknowledgement. "Quite so. It's more intimate, and largely regarded as only proper for lovers." He smiled up from where he'd been slathering honey on his bread.

The surprise and hint of pleasure on Thorin's face was well worth the entire morning. "You will teach me."

It wasn't a request, but Bilbo answered as though it was. "Of course. After breakfast."