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Courtship Works Best When Both Parties Are Aware of It

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The halls of Erebor flourished under the reign of Thorin Oakenshield. His coronation was a welcoming ceremony to celebrate the final wave of refugees returning to the Lonely Mountain.

The company were richly rewarded and then settled into their various roles: Balin and Dwalin as advisors to the King, Oin as the head healer, Gloin as the head banker. Bombur was happy in his role as master of the kitchens, Bofur was mapping the mines for the growing number of miners arriving. Dori, Nori, and Ori were always busy, though Bilbo couldn’t confidently say what they were busy doing. Bifur was also constantly around, though he didn’t seem to be doing anything Bilbo could understand. Fill and Kill were settling into their roles as Thorin’s heirs, and spending much of their free time with Bilbo.

Thorin’s time was never free but he still managed to spend a considerable amount of it with Bilbo. Which Bilbo appreciated of course, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was leeching the time from those who needed it more.

He’d tried to discuss this with Balin, but the advisor had admonished his doubts, with confusing responses like, “Of course not! He should be spending time with you. Did… Did you want him to replace the mithril because of… what followed?”

Bilbo said, “Of course not!” And wondered how the two were related.

Balin didn’t press the point further, and Bilbo was left with more questions than answers.

~~~*~~~

It was later that evening, during supper with Thorin and his nephews that Bilbo brought up any of his questions. “You will busy with the delegations from the six clans for the next several days.”

Thorin nodded as he chewed his chicken. Fill and Kill were eating messily but happily. Dwarven table manner were still not something Bilbo found himself accustomed to, despite the length of time he had spent among the company. He felt it had something to do with the lack of tables on their quest.

“And Fili and Kili will be representing the line of Durin, very aptly, I am sure.” The two nephews of the king puffed up with pride, cheeks bulging with food.

Thorin smiled over at them fondly. “They bring pride to our line, in all that they do.” This praise brought a flush to their cheeks but the two simply bowed their heads to their uncle.

“And with all this going on, I’m sure your time, precious as it is, will be overwhelmed with duties and obligations.” Thorin peered over at Bilbo, an edge to his gaze.

“That is so.”

Bilbo smiled up at his friend. “Well, then perhaps we can rearrange our calendars? I know you go out of your way to make time for me, and it really is quite kind of you, but. Well, with all the fuss for these guests, surely one small hobbit isn’t the most important claim to your time."

“You are spurning my attention?” Thorin’s voice was low. Kili choked out his food onto his plate in coughs, having inhaled something he shouldn’t have. Fili’s mouth had fortunately been empty during this suggestion, and he turned to stare at Bilbo in shared horror.

This wasn’t going well at all. “No. No, of course not, Thorin. I only mean that you will need your sleep, and your meals will be among the guests, and your meetings and councils will fill your days. I do not want you wearing yourself thin for short moments of polite company with silly old me.”

Silence covered their hall. Thorin was looking at Bilbo as though he had declared his desire to marry Thranduil and have Thorin perform the ceremony.

It was Fili who first spoke. “You are wise, a hobbit among dwarves, to be understanding of the pressures on my uncle’s time. You do not seek to refuse him, only to reassure him that you would help him with these burdens as you can?”

Bilbo beamed at the golden-haired heir. “Of course! I’ve always sought to do my part, and I’ll not have any thinking I am taking more than my share of—“

“Your share?” Thorin’s voice is strained still, but growing stronger. “All my time is yours, Bilbo. I give it to you freely and without reservation.”

“Oh, well, but your people, and the diplomats will—“

“Sod them. The diplomats, not the people.” Kili catches himself as he speaks. “You’re family, Bilbo. Don't you dare go putting yourself lower than that.”

Thorin adds, “Is this because I haven’t had completed your gift?”

“What, no of course no— What gift?” Bilbo blinks up at Thorin in a state of bewilderment.

“Did you really think I was not— I have made time each day to dedicate myself to the work, Bilbo. Fear not, I will treat you as you deserve. You are the highest of honored guests, before all others.”

Bebother and confusticate all dwarves. This was even more confusing. “Well, I don’t know what that’s got to do with—“

“You are not turning me away?” Thorin’s voice presses in.

“No, of course not. Thorin, I-“

“Then please, do not doubt me or my efforts.”

Well. That wasn’t what Bilbo meant at all. He smiled tightly, and nodded, afraid of fitting his foot any further into his mouth. How had he bungled this so badly?

~~~*~~~

The next day, Bilbo couldn't go more than four steps without a member of the company suddenly by his side. It was nearly suffocating, despite the clear amount of care each one showed. He was still confused about how he had somehow created concern in his friends. Each seemed to think he might disappear at any given moment.

He bore under it for two days. The stress of visitors and constant companies of mother-henning dwarves eventually led him to putting on his ring and becoming invisible when the first opportunity presented itself. He stole away to his chambers and stepped onto his balcony, breathing in the heady summer air.

It was a total of thirty minutes before the search party was formed.