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Family of Choice

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Fíli clung desperately to his uncle’s tunic while his little brother burrowed even further into Thorin’s chest as the green door flew open. The little dwarf prince flinched at the sudden movement and his uncle gripped the sword at his hip. If the person—hobbit, Tharkûn had called them—was an enemy, Thorin would protect them. He promised their mother that he would. Even if Thorin hadn’t been able to protect her, he would protect them.

“Come inside, quickly!” A female voice came from the doorway. Fíli glanced towards the voice and his eyes met her bright green ones. “Yavanna! Children! They would harm children!” She stepped out of their way. She didn’t even reach past Thorin’s chest. “Inside, quickly. You need to get warm!”

The three dwarves stumbled forward into the bright and warm hole in the ground. Fíli blinked. It was like nothing he had ever seen before. It was so bright and colorful, nothing like the mountain of Ered Luin which was always cold and a little dark. There was a fire roaring and so many blankets and pillows that could be used for so many families back home.

Home.

At the thought, Fíli felt tears begin to burn their way into his eyes and a knot began to form in his chest. He pressed his face into Thorin’s hip and his uncle picked him up immediately. Kíli reached out and gripped Fíli’s sleeve and he returned the gesture by holding his brother’s wrist. They had each other. That’s all that mattered now.

“Here, warm yourselves by the fire. I will check how Bilbo is coming with the food.” Their hostess waited for Thorin to sit down before wrapping blankets around them. Fíli looked up at the woman’s face and she was looking between himself and Kíli. “Children,” she whispered, tears in her eyes. “How could they do this to children?” She rushed off towards where he supposed the food might be.

“Uncle, will we stay here?” Kíli’s voice wavered with tight breaths.

“Unless Tharkûn moves us elsewhere we will stay until our hosts prove treacherous.” Thorin watched where the hobbit woman had gone. It’s something Fíli liked about his uncle. He told it as it was. He didn’t talk to them like they were children, even though they were. He also didn’t seem to trust their hosts, which meant Fíli wouldn’t quite trust them yet either.

The hobbit woman came back with a male-looking hobbit following behind. They were carrying plates of food and drinks. The hobbits put the trays before them. It was mainly broths and stews.

“Gandalf said you haven’t had much to eat, we don’t want any of you to get sick,” the male hobbit, Bilbo, said gently. His hair was a soft brown and his eyes were a warm sort of brown. He looked friendly.. Bilbo put his hand on the hobbit woman’s shoulder.

“I’ll start a warm bath so you can all get clean before we set you all to bed.” The hobbit woman smiled. “I’m Briar Baggins and this is Bilbo Baggins.” Her eyes focused on Thorin who was watching her very closely. “I promise we’ll keep you safe.”

Briar didn’t look like any dwarrowdam that Fíli had ever seen. Her hair was a bright sort of golden color, the firelight made it look like amber. Her bright green eyes were so deep they almost made Fíli feel frightened. Almost. She looked soft, but Fíli felt Thorin tense at her words. He wouldn’t trust this woman. She made Thorin nervous.

He burrowed himself closer into his uncle’s side. Fíli couldn’t imagine how people so tiny would be able to keep them safe. Feed them? Maybe. Keep them safe? No.

Only Thorin could keep them safe.

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Thorin watched the hobbits carefully as they bustled about. The male one, Bilbo, went about making sure their rooms were ready while his wife, Briar, fussed about them. Of the two, the hobbit woman was the one he felt wary of. She was too open with her emotions for it to be how she really felt. There was a quiet reserve in Bilbo that made Thorin think the hobbit wouldn’t ask too many questions. The hobbit woman, on the other hand, seemed far too focused on his nephews for comfort.

Thorin pulled his nephews a little closer to him every time she passed by to check on them. If she noticed, she didn’t mention it. Instead she would look at the children and smile sadly at them. When their bath was ready she led them to it and Thorin saw that there were clothes for them to change into.
“Some of my father’s clothes might fit you and some of Bilbo’s old things might fit the children.” She fidgeted slightly. “Would,” she paused for a moment and shook her head. “Nevermind. After you’re done come out and Bilbo or I will take you to where you’ll be sleeping.” She paused again. “Would you rather sleep with the children tonight or would you rather have your own room?”
Thorin looked at her warily. Having them all together would make them easier targets. But he refused to leave his nephews alone while he wasn’t certain if he could trust these hobbits.
“I’ll stay with them.”

She nodded and left quickly, making no sound as she did so. It was unsettling.

Thorin stripped himself and the boys and they took their bath. Fíli was being unusually quiet and Thorin realized that his oldest nephew hadn’t spoken since they fled. Kíli had spoken only a little more, but now that they were in private the youngest Durin was talking a little more. He washed and dried them quickly.

Thorin dressed themselves just as quickly. The clothes he had been given were big enough but he couldn’t close the shirt at the neck and decided to leave it opened. The hobbits were married, it didn’t seem improper for him to walk around with a partially bare chest. The clothes for his nephews were far better. They were on the bigger side, but that was better than them being too small.
They left the bath and found the woman sitting on the floor near the door. She looked up and stood immediately. When she looked at Thorin she turned bright red and instantly turned around. That couldn’t have been faked so Thorin could at least hope that if the hobbit woman did try to attack she’d be too flustered to do anything.

Thorin followed behind her, holding his nephews tightly in his arms. Briar occasionally glanced back at them, her green eyes focusing on the drowsy children. Something flashed in her eyes so quickly that Thorin couldn’t catch it and it only made him more wary of the hobbit. He would not let her alone with his nephews. Not even for a second.
She led them to one of the room. Although dark, Thorin could see it was a nursery. He wondered, then, if the hobbits had children of their own or if they were perhaps trying to have one. Two beds were pressed together to make it big enough for Thorin and his nephews to share.

“There’s another room you can use eventually,” Briar said softly. “It’s the room Gandalf uses when he comes. It’s man-sized so you should be fine. Bilbo and I thought you could all sleep here until you’re comfortable to sleep separately.” Thorin glanced at her. The boys began to grow heavy in his arms. “Children need consistency.” She bowed her head. “Goodnight, Master dwarf.” She left before he could reply.

Thorin heard nothing behind the door and slipped into the bed, his nephews burrowed into his sides. He waited until they settled and continued to wait until their breathing became steady. He closed his eyes and listened to the sound. The exiled king fell into a deep sleep, his sister’s screams echoing in his head.

Chapter Text

Kíli woke up first. It wasn’t that unusual for him to do so. Back home, his mother would wake up next and it would be their cuddle time until Fíli woke up. He bit his lip, trying not to cry. Thinking about his mother hurt. It wasn’t fair.

She was supposed to be here too.

Kíli sat up slowly to not disturb his brother or Thorin. He needed to pee. The youngest Durin crawled out of bed and made his way to the where he thought the bathroom was. But he couldn’t find it. The hobbit home felt like a rabbit warren. Now, Kíli didn’t know how to get back to Thorin.
He sat on the floor and started to cry. It wasn’t a loud cry. It was a soft I-don’t-want-Thorin-to-worry sort of cry. After a few moments, Kíli senses someone kneeling by him. He looked up and saw the hobbit woman, Briar, kneeling down next to him.

She was in a dressing gown with robe over it. Her long, curly amber hair was in a braid that hung over her shoulder. Briar looked at him with her sad green eyes. Kíli has noticed how sad she looked when her gaze rested on him or Fíli. He had also recognized that the room he had slept in was a nursery with toys that didn’t seem to be in use. There was so much sorry. She had lost something like he had.

“Are you alright, little one?” She asked, not touching him.

“I need to go pee…”

She smiled, gently. “And you got lost?” He nodded. “I’m sorry, I should have made sure you knew where it was. Do you want me to take you or get your dad first?”

“I don’t have a dad. Thorin’s my uncle.”

“Do you want me to get Thorin, then?” Kíli shook his head. Briar stood up and held out her hand. “I’ll take you then. Will you need my help?”

Kíli took Briar’s hand and shook his head again. “I can go by myself.”

Briar gave him a big smile. He liked her smile. “Such a big boy thing to do.” Kíli puffed out his chest proudly as she led him to the bathroom. “After your done, do you want me to take you back to your uncle and the other little one or do you want to help me start first breakfast?”

“Breakfast.” She nodded and opened the door to the bathroom. “Thank you Mistress Boggins.”

“Baggins. And you can call me Miss Bri if you want, most fauntlings do.”

“Thank you Bri.”

Kíli did his business and came out very much relieved. He took Briar’s hand again and she led him to the kitchen. She asked if she could pick him up and he said she could. She lifted him up in her arms and she felt so warm. Kíli snuggled closer and wrapped his arms around her neck. Briar pauses and put her hand on his head and stroked his hair gently, offering soothing noises as she rocked him slightly. He pulled away and Briar set him on the counter of the kitchen and told him to just ask her any questions he had about her and the house.

“Don’t you want help?”

“You’re keeping me company. That’s help enough.”

Kíli nodded and tried to think of questions that might help Thorin. He knew that his uncle didn’t really trust the hobbits, but Briar seemed nice. She reminded him a bit of his mother.

“Where’s Master Bilbo?”

“He’s still asleep, I’m afraid he was still awake when I finally went to bed.” She chuckled slightly.

“Is Tharkûn here?”

“Who?”

Kíli paused. “Gandalf.”

“Oh, yes. He’s still here. He came back late last night and will stay for a few days I think. He left after you arrived to make sure no one was following you. I think he said something about creating a false trail too.”

“Are we going to stay here?”

“Unless you don’t want to, you and your family can say here as long as you want.” She ruffled his hair slightly. “This house has been quiet for far to long with only Bilbo and me.”

“My name’s Kíli.”

Briar smiled. “It’s nice to meet you Master Kíli.”

Kíli smiled. “My brother’s name is Fíli.”

“Very nice, strong sounding names. Very dwarvish.”

Kíli’s chest puffed up with pride again. “They are.” He likes Briar a lot.

A loud crash came from somewhere inside the house and Kíli had a bad feeling that he knew where it came from.

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Briar heard the crash and paused. It sounded like it came from the rooms, but her hearing was far from perfect. Slowly, she picked Kíli up and set him down behind her and grabbed a wooden spoon. She didn’t know who was chasing these dwarves exactly, but she was going to protect them. She’d promised she would.

The older dwarf, Thorin, came barreling into the kitchen and froze. His piercing blue gaze focused on Briar for a moment before looking down at Kíli, who was clutching at her skirt. The other little one, Fíli, was standing behind him, holding onto his tunic. He said something in a language Briar didn’t understand and Kíli looked up at her before looking back at his uncle and giving a reply. Thorin looked mildly annoyed at the answer.

“I’m sorry,” Briar whispered. His gaze snapped back to her. She felt herself flush. He really was rather handsome. She’d always had a thing for beards, ever since a Ranger had visited for medicinal herbs from her garden. Thinking about it, now was probably not the time to think someone handsome. “I should have brought him straight back to you after he went to the bathroom. I should have known that you’d worry.” She bit her lip. “I apologize.”

“But I asked you to let me help with breakfast.”

“Yes, but maybe we should have left your Uncle Thorin a note so he wouldn’t worry.” She smiled down at Kíli, hearing the worry in his voice. Briar needed to smile. She needed those little boys (for they were both boys, she hadn’t been sure when she saw them last night) saw that everything was going to be okay.

“How do you know my name?” Thorin asked, his eyes darkening. Fíli, the blond child, pressed himself closer to his uncle’s leg.

“I thought you were Kíli’s father and he corrected me and said you were his uncle. I apologize again if dwarven names are meant to be private.” She wished that she had thought to ask Gandalf more about the dwarves she and Bilbo were taking in.

“They are not a private thing, my dear Briar,” Gandalf said, stepping into the room carefully. “Thorin here is simply mistrustful of strangers.” The wizard glared at the older dwarf, who glared right back.

“Oh, well, that’s understandable.” She said smiling. So he wasn’t simply angry with her. She had thought he might be last night. “First breakfast is almost ready. Bilbo should be up soon. Once I start the bacon he’ll be up pretty quickly.”

“Perhaps you can convince Fíli and Kíli into setting up the table while I speak with their uncle in the study?”

“Of course!” Briar said brightly. “I can even teach them the dishes song Bilbo secretly loves.” She glanced down at Fíli who hadn’t left his uncle’s side. She knelt down so she was at his level. Kíli leaned against her, draping his body on her back. Such an adorable thing to do. “Your name is Fíli, yes?”

He looked to his uncle who was still glaring at Briar. She had decided not to look at him because she couldn’t seem to look at him without flushing. Fíli looked back at her and then glanced at his brother’s comfortable position. He nodded.

“Well, I’m Briar, although you can call me Bri.” She smiled again. “Your uncle and Gandalf need to talk about some grown up things.” She made a funny face. His lips twitched slightly. “I’m sure it will all be really boring. How about you help me with setting the table and finishing first breakfast? You can even make sure I’m making your uncle and brother’s favorite foods properly. I’m sure I’ll do terribly all by myself.”

Fíli looked at Thorin before putting on a very brave face and nodded.

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Bilbo woke up to find that Briar had already gotten up. It had been a hard night for her. The second he realized there were going to be children under their roof, he knew Briar would put on a brave face until they couldn’t see or hear her anymore. When she had climbed into his bed, she burrowed into his chest like she had when they were fauntlings and began sobbing.

“Children,” she had whispered through her tears. “They would hurt children.”

Bilbo hated seeing Briar cry. The sound alone ripped his heart to shreds because he knew there was nothing he could do to help her in those instances. That pain she felt was something Bilbo would never be able to fix. He felt so powerless. Bilbo sighed, the smell of bacon began to waft in through the cracked door. The hobbit sat up and stretched before heading to the kitchen.

He heard Gandalf and the older dwarf speaking in quiet harsh tones in the study and decided he shouldn’t interrupt them. Bilbo heard Briar singing a familiar tune that made him roll his eyes. He didn’t particularly hate the song. His mother had created it originally for her husband when Took relatives had gotten into a rather loud game of tossing dishes. Over the years, Briar has put Bilbo’s name in instead of Bungo’s.

When he came into the kitchen, the sight made Bilbo smile. Briar and the boys were singing to tune merrily as they set the table for first breakfast. The blond one looked a little somber but couldn’t help but smile at the faces the brunet was pulling. Briar was smiling brilliantly as she carried the food that was a little too heavy for the boys, dancing around them. This. This was the life Briar had always wanted. If it had been in his power, Bilbo would have given anything to let her have it.

She looked up at him, her cheeks a bright red from all the happiness she was feeling. “Good morning, Bilbo,” she skipped over and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “I knew the bacon would wake you up. Do you think you could get Gandalf and Thorin—oh, that’s the older dwarf’s name.” She turned to the boys who were standing straight. “The blond one is Fíli, the oldest, and the brunet is Kíli, the youngest. Thorin is their uncle.”

Bilbo laughed gently. “Good morning Briar.” He turned to the boys. “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” the boys said in unison. Fíli looked like he said it to be polite while Kíli seemed to genuinely mean it.

“Master Bilbo?” Kíli asked a very stern expression on his face.

“Yes little one?”

“Why is Bri calling breakfast ‘first breakfast?’” His brother looked equally interested in that answer.

“We call it that to distinguish it from second breakfast,” he laughed. He’d quite forgotten that other races didn’t eat as much as hobbits did.

“You have two breakfasts?!” Fíli’s jaw would have dropped to the floor if it wasn’t attached the rest of his face.

“We do. We hobbits have seven meals a day actually.”

The boys stared at him in wonder. They looked at each other and then to Briar, who nodded. Apparently she was going to be the authority on all things hobbit, which Bilbo found highly amusing considering.

“We get to eat seven times a day?” Fíli asked quietly.

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Fíli felt a little sick in his stomach. Seven meals a day. He glanced at the table. His mouth watered at all of the food he could see. His people were starving back in the mountains while these hobbits had their fill—even more than their fill—of food. He felt angry, and then sad, and then disappointed. For a brief moment he wondered if these hobbits would have sent aid to Ered Luin if asked. Maybe, with all that food, maybe the dwarrow wouldn’t have been so upset with the Line of Durin. Maybe his mother wouldn’t have been…

A warm hand brushed his hair gently, tucking it behind his ear. He looked up and saw Briar looking down at him. She was smiling, but it barely reached her green eyes, which had a touch of worry in them. They asked an unspoken question and, even though he couldn’t really guess what her question was, he nodded. Her smile brightened a little.

“Alright, let’s sit and wait for Bilbo to get your uncle and Gandalf.”

She helped the boys into the chairs which had been raised slightly so they could see and reach over the table. At first, Fíli didn’t like that Briar had put a seat between himself and Kíli, but then he realized that seat was for Thorin. She welcomed Tharkûn and Thorin to the table and then sat down next to Bilbo, who was smiling gently at his wife, although Fíli noted some worry in his eyes.

Thorin sat down between his nephews and Fíli felt instant relief at having him near. When they had woken up that morning to find Kíli gone, both had panicked. It was Thorin’s job to look after both of them and it was Fíli’s job to look after his brother. Kíli, of course, seemed completely oblivious to his family’s uncertainty about their hosts. The young dwarfling seemed to like the hobbits, specifically Briar, quite a bit.

“Was the bed comfortable?” Bilbo asked as they began eating. Without looking, he was filling Briar’s plate with food while she did something similar to his. “I was worried you might find it on the smaller side considering it’s made for hobbit children.”

“It’s fine,” Thorin replied slowly. “I hope that we weren’t displacing anyone.”

“Not at all,” Bilbo assured. “We still need to figure out some sleeping arrangements since someone,” he gave a pointed look to Tharkûn, “didn’t inform us who exactly was coming.”

“That isn’t to say you aren’t welcome,” Briar said quickly. “We were simply shocked that children… we were unprepared for housing children, but we have a nursery for a reason now, I suppose.”

Fíli noticed that her smile didn’t reach her eyes again and wondered what it was she was hiding. He supposed that perhaps they hobbit couple were trying for children had hadn’t had any yet. Perhaps that was why Briar looked at him and his brother sadly. Fíli felt bad for mistrusting her of that were the case. He silently prayed to Mahal to bless the hobbit woman with a child if she truly only wanted to help them. They continued to eat in awkward silence until one of them found the nerve to continue.

“We’ve already been making arrangements with the Thain about our guests,” Bilbo continued. “Our story is going to be that you, Master Thorin, knew the Thain when he was off adventuring with Gandalf. You’ve recently come into hard times and are looking to start afresh here in the Shire.” He smiled. “We’ve already bought the old forge, Gandalf said you were a blacksmith by trade and we haven’t had one in the Shire for decades.”

“Gandalf said you would probably like the make money on your own. I’m sorry if it was presumptuous of us to assume it.” Briar added nervously.

Fíli glanced at his uncle. These hobbits had gotten him a job and a place to work? They might not have to stay here then. They could find a home of their own or, depending on the forge, they could live there.

“That isn’t to say, you aren’t welcome in our home,” the lady hobbit said quickly. She glanced at Fíli and Kíli with a smile. “You can stay here as long as you wish. And if you need someone to look after the boys while you work, I’d be happy to look after them.”

A snapping sound turned Fíli’s gaze from Briar. He looked at his uncle and saw that Thorin had snapped a fork in half.

Chapter Text

“What payment are you asking for your services?” They were offering way too much. They bought a forge for him to work in, a place he could make money in. He’d have to pay them to use it, he was sure, just as the men had made him. The female hobbit was offering to watch his nephews, as though he’d leave them alone. As though he could trust her.

“I’m sorry?” She blinked at him for a moment before her eyes flickered to the snapped fork in his hand. The hobbitess looked almost frightened and Thorin felt almost bad for it if he weren’t so angry. “Payment? We’re not asking for—”

“Of course you are,” he hissed. “What do you want? Money?” He laughed. “Don’t have any. Not satisfied with hobbits? Not. My. Type.” He bit out the statement with every ounce of venom he felt towards the dwarrow that had killed his sister not even a day ago. The same dwarrow that had tried to force their daughters on him; the same dwarrow that had tried to court his sister after Víli died. “You want to play house with my nephews because you can’t have children? They aren’t yours!”

Thorin was not expecting the slap. He might have expected a punch from Bilbo, but not the stinging blow from the little lady that was now standing before him. She was no longer frightened, but she wasn’t crying either. Her emerald eyes were full of pain, but there were flecks of cold blue that shone in the morning light.

“I want nothing from you,” she said, her voice carefully neutral. “What I want is for your nephews to feel safe and know that no one will hurt them because no child deserves to feel unsafe in a place they call home. I understand that better than anyone.” She visibly shuddered at a memory that flickered in her gaze. Anyone else might have missed it, but Thorin had seen many warriors have the same look in their eyes. “We don’t need your money—we don’t expect anything from you. Gandalf asked that we take you and your family in because you needed a place where the people after you won’t look. We didn’t want you to feel like you were living on charity since Gandalf warned us that your pride wouldn’t allow for that. We bought the forge because it was a way for you to make a living for you and your nephews. I apologize if our actions wounded your obnoxious male pride, but I will not apologize for taking care of people in need.”

She took a steadying breath and straightened herself and looked down at him with pity, which made Thorin’s stomach clinch. “I’ll go start second breakfast. Then I’ll clean out the resting area in the library since I’ll need a place to sleep until we can better figure out the living arrangements.” She began to leave then stopped and turned a heated glare back to him. “Believe it or not, Master Thorin, I’m glad you don’t find me appealing. It makes everything so much easier. After all, even if I don’t reach my majority for another six months, people would still find it improper that a single male lives under the same roof as a single lady, even with her brother acting as her guardian.”

“Briar?” Bilbo reaches out and touched his sister—for that’s what she was to him—gently on the hand.

She smiled at him. “I’m fine Biblo. I already have a plan to make sure my reputation won’t be ruined more than it already is.” She smiled at Thorin, although he was fairly certain it was directed more at the boys then at him. “I apologize for slapping you and for frightening the children. Believe it or not, it’s not the worst thing a person has ever said to me.” She kissed the top of her brother’s head. “Don’t be too angry Bilbo. If I can handle a Sackville-Baggins who do mean it, I can handle a dwarf who speaks from a place of pain.”

Thorin watched her go. He felt sick to his stomach. As soon as he spoke about children he knew he had gone too far. He knew dwarrowdams had a hard time having children—most knew that they wouldn’t have any—but it didn’t change the fact that most wanted to have one. He should not have brought her lack of children up even if she was who he had originally thought she was.

Mahal, she wasn’t even of age yet. She was still a child. He had spoken so harshly to a child who was simply trying to look after his nephews. She had gotten down to their level when talking to Fíli and her first instinct had been to put herself between Kíli and a possible threat. She had done everything in her power to make sure his nephews were comfortable and he had insulted her in such a way that if she or her brother so wished it, they could ask for his braids since he had barely any beard to speak of and be well within their right for asking. Mahal, what had he done.

“I apologize for—”

Bilbo held up his hand. “You can apologize to my sister later, there’s no need to apologize to me since none of your anger was directed towards me.” He glanced to Tharkûn. “I suppose you told him nothing of us just as you told us nothing of them.”

The wizard sighed, releasing a smoke right in the process. Thorin had no idea when he had actually pulled the pipe out. “I thought there would be more time. My intention was to bring Thorin and his family after Briar reached her majority. I thought it would be best and I felt Thorin would be more inclined to leave the care of his nephews to a hobbit woman who was considered to be an adult.”

“And the fact that we are siblings,” Bilbo rolled his eyes. Thorin had to keep his mouth in a tight line. Apparently Tharkûn had this effect on all races, not just the dwarrow.

“I thought it quite obvious, but perhaps it is because I was there on both occasions when you and Briar were born. I will never forget you proudly stated that she was a treasure and you had the irrational fear that a dragon or a troll would take her.”

Bilbo turned a little pink at that which caused a brief upturn of lips to come to Thorin although no one but Fíli seemed to be watching him. Although a dragon was nothing to joke about, many a dwarrow family that had been blessed with a daughter said similar things.

“I promise to apologize to Miss Baggins before the day is out,” Thorin told Bilbo, who turned back to him.

Bilbo waved his hand. “My sister is far too kind for her own good, so she won’t hold it against you.” He gave a reassuring smile. “Now, to our plan on how to keep you safe in the Shire. We’ll probably finish by the time we’re done with second breakfast.”

Thorin nodded and then paused. “What’s second breakfast?”

Chapter Text

“Bri?” Kíli asked cautiously, interrupting Briar from the story she was weaving for the two dwarflings. Although she didn’t know much about the dwarrow, she was creating a story of a dwarf traveling to rescue his family. If Kíli didn’t know any better, he would say she was telling the story of Durin, but most of it sounded too different to be the actual story. Plus the dwarf had a different name: Grumpy.

“Yes, little one?”

“Uncle Thorin is seeing your grandfather, right?” She nodded. “And your grandfather is the hobbit king?” Fíli perked up at that.

“Hobbits don’t have kings, we have a Thain,” this was the third time she’s told him this, but the first time she had told him this with Fíli present.

“But he’s like a king?”

“I suppose, if you have to compare him to something. I know the other races don’t have Thains.” Briar shrugged.

“Does that make you a princess then?” Fíli asked, rather seriously. “And Bilbo a prince?”

Briar laughed. It sounded a little like a babbling stream. Something about it reminded Kíli of his mother’s laugh, although his mother’s laugh was like distant rolling thunder. The hobbit’s eyes lit up at the thought. “I suppose you might call us that, but we really aren’t. Like I said, hobbits don’t have royalty.”

“Thorin’s a king.” Fíli glared at Kíli when he said it. His brother probably thought that it should be a secret. “Fíli is his heir.”

“Oh my,” Briar bit her lip, trying to hold back a bit of laughter. She stood up and gave a deep curtsy. “It is an honor to meet two princes. I’ve always dreamed of meeting royalty.”

“Really?”

“What girl doesn’t dream of meeting royalty?” She sat back down. “Are all dwarven kings so… grumpy?”

Ah, that’s where the dwarf in her story got its name. “Thorin just over thinks a lot. He doesn’t mean to be grumpy.” Kíli felt the need to defend his uncle only a little. He was a little mad at Thorin too. The youngest Durin saw the unshed tears that shone in Briar’s eyes when Thorin has brought up her lack of children. Even if she wasn’t of age, Kíli could tell it was a touchy subject for the hobbit. Kíli had also noticed how pale Bilbo had become when Thorin had said it too. “He doesn’t mean to be mean either.”

Briar smiled gently. “I know, little one. Don’t worry, I’m not angry with him.”

Kíli smiled. He crawled over into Briar’s lap and curled up there in the folds of her full skirt. She started to brush her fingers through his hair and Kíli buried his face into her thigh. She was so soft and warm. “Can you keep telling your story Bri?”

“Of course!” She looked to Fíli. “Now, where did I leave off?”

“Grumpy was on the second trial. The evil dragon,” the boys had insisted it be a dragon,” was tempting him with gold.”

“Right, right.” Briar motioned for Fíli to come closer and he did, hesitantly. He leaned into the hobbit’s side and she put her arm around him.

She waited for him to get comfortable. “And so, Grumpy found himself lost. The gold sang to him sweet lullabies of cold riches and wealth that could make him the greatest dwarf there ever was.” Kíli thought it a little ridiculous that gold could do something like that. “Grumpy wandered the halls of the dragon for days. Madness began to pound into his heart with every beat and it coursed through his veins as he tried to count every single coin. Thoughts of his family began to dim to the point where he even forgot his wife’s voice—”

“That’s not possible,” Fíli interrupted.

“Sorry?”

“It’s true, Bri.” Kíli added quickly. “Dwarrow could never forget their One’s voice. It’s how they know who Mahal created them for. Grumpy could never forget his One’s voice. It’s part of what makes up his very soul!” Fíli poked him on the hip. Oops. He’d probably said too much. Other races weren’t even aware of Ones.

“Oh? So dwarves have something like that too?”

“Dwarrow,” Fíli corrected, she knew now anyways. “Do hobbits have Ones too?”

“We don’t call them that, but it’s very similar I suppose. We call them our Enaids though.”

“Do you tell if someone is your Enaid by their voice too?”

“No,” Briar shook her head. “Although that sounds very romantic.” She pulled down the collar of her dress. Kíli sat up and saw a mark just above her heart. It was in the shape of a tree. “We have soul-marks. It’s the shape of our soul that matches our Enaids.” She let go of her collar and it shifted back into place. “Not all hobbits have Enaids though. Bilbo doesn’t have one. Although that doesn’t mean he isn’t someone else’s. It just means he’s whole all by himself.”

“Some dwarrow don’t have Ones either. Uncle doesn’t have one,” Fíli said.

“Have you met your Enaid?” Kíli asked.

“No, and I might never meet him,” she paused, “or her. Although it’s probably a him in my case.” She smiled. “Legend has it that sometimes hobbits don’t meet their Enaids until they are in Yavanna’s Garden. Sometimes the timing is just off.”

“I hope you meet him, Bri.”

Briar smiled. “Thank you, Kíli.” She pressed a soft kiss to the crown of his head. “And the gold’s pull was so strong, Grumpy began to forget his One.”

Chapter Text

Briar set the boys to bed. Although it wasn’t too late, Bilbo, Gandalf, and Thorin hadn’t returned from the Thain’s home yet. She supposed talks were just going longer than expected. Or her grandfather and Gandalf had smoked a little too much Old Toby and Bilbo couldn’t get them apart. The image made Briar giggle a bit. She imagined that the sullen dwarf had no idea what to do.

She looked at the two boys as they clung to each other. Briar never pressed them about what they were running from, but she knew they had lost their parents. Whether that was recent or not, she couldn’t say. But the loss of a parent never really leaves a person once they experience it.

Briar sat to the side of the beds. They had been hers and Bilbo’s. Well, one of them was technically still hers, although for now her room would be in the library, until things were more settled. She didn’t mind giving up her bed. The boys needed it. They were so small, and it wasn’t because of how young they were. They seemed to be small for the same reason Briar and a few of the others her age were on the smaller side. Briar knew that the boys hadn’t had enough nourishment as they were growing up—still growing. She intended to change that.

As she watched them sleep, Briar vowed they would be cared for. She owed it to their parents, may Yavanna tell her husband to bless them. She would look after them as Bilbo and their family had looked after her. All children should grow up knowing they were loved. It’s obvious their uncle loved them. But Briar found it very easy to love them too.

Fíli began to squirm slightly in his sleep. His brow furrowed in a nightmare and Briar brushed the lines away and began to hum. The hum became a soft whisper of a song Briar had created when her soul mark had first begun to appear over her heart. It had always soothed her when she was younger—when she learned what she would not be blessed with. Perhaps it would help the little ones to find restful sleep.

‘I suppose that I look different without the robes and crown / I come this day before you with no riches, no renown / For here I am no leader, I am just a humble man / And I only ask you take me, you take me as I am’

She had written it after reading of a king, she couldn’t remember what race he was from now, who had disguised himself as a peasant and had fallen in love with a woman with the kindest of hearts. Briar had found it terribly romantic. Especially how the king had laid himself bare to his love and offered himself as her equal. As far as Briar knew, most men, of any race, didn’t do that.

‘I'm not looking for perfection, I'm not offering a saint / I'm not looking for a pretty bird to put in some restraint / The only thing I want is that you love me if you can / And I only ask you take me, you take me as I am’

Fíli started to relax some more and she saw a slight smile tug at his lips. He was the one Briar worried about the most. He looked like his uncle at times, at least in expression. Sometimes, he looked as though the weight of the world rested on his shoulders. If she knew he wouldn’t resist, Briar would pull him into a warm embrace and rock him in her arms and tell him everything was alright and that he was safe.

‘I offer you a look inside, I offer you that trust / I need your strength to help me fight the battles that I must / I need you to remind me of the light we bear within / That there's more to life than struggle and the things we seek to win’

Kíli, Briar could see, missed his mother. He was so young, of course he did. But the way he craved intimacy that was perhaps foreign to male relatives (Bilbo was different because he always tried to overcompensate for their parents not being there for her) were not used to giving. Briar was sure Thorin made him feel safe, but feeling secure was another matter. The way the youngest dwarf burrowed into her whenever he held onto her or she picked him up, was all the answer Briar needed.

‘Don't take me out of duty, don't take me out of pride / Just take me if the man you see is one you'd stand beside / I'm offering an open heart, I'm asking for your hand / And I only ask you take me, you take me as I am / You take me as I am’

The door was open and Briar looked up and found Thorin looking at her with thinly veiled confusion. Briar felt herself flush again. She really needed to stop doing that. Glancing one last time at the boys, Briar stood up and made to leave. She wasn’t mad at Thorin, or scared of him. She just knew he didn’t really care for her. It wouldn’t be good for him to get angry now and scare the boys.

Before she could skirt around him, he put his hand lightly on the crook of her elbow. “May I speak to you in private, Miss Baggins?”

She stares at him for a moment before nodding. Briar took him to the library and allows him through first. She leaves the door open a crack for propriety’s sake. The hobbit turns to look at Thorin and watches as he shifts uncomfortably. He looked everywhere but at her.

“What is it Master Thorin?” She narrowed her eyes and begins to worry. Perhaps the talks hadn’t gone so well? Perhaps the he and the boys would have to leave. “Is everything alright?”

He looked at her then. “Yes.” The dwarf king was silent again, although Briar could see he was searching, perhaps, for the right words. After a moment, he spoke again. “I would like to apologize for how I treated you this morning, Miss Baggins.”

She chewed her bottom lip. “It’s alright. You didn’t mean it.”

“I did.”

They were silent again.

“You said it anger and I won’t hold it against you. Don’t worry.”

“I hurt you Miss Baggins.” Thorin looked away again. “Whether it was said in anger or not, it was something I should not have said. It was wrong of me to… I shouldn’t have accused you of those things, especially since you are so young.”

Briar was probably as red as Bilbo’s tomatoes. “Well, just because I’m young doesn’t mean I can’t be talked to like an adult. I’m almost one anyways.” She looked down. “Oh, I should tell you that I’ve created a plan so you won’t have to worry about the other hobbits thinking you have any, um, designs on me.”

“Of course.” He nodded. “It would be highly improper.”

She smiled, but felt her heart cracking slightly. Why though? She didn’t quite understand. She was attracted to the dwarf—no denying that. But why did it hurt so much. Of course it would be improper! He was a dwarven king and she was just a hobbit. A hobbit who couldn’t even—

“Even so, myself and my family owe you and your brother a great deal.” He stiffened slightly and gave a slight nod. “Thorin Oakenshield, at your service.”

Oh. The oak-shaped mark on her chest burned slightly. That was why. Stupid. “Briar Baggins, at yours.”

She was his, but he wasn’t hers. After all, why would he want a hobbit as broken as her?

Chapter Text

When Bilbo woke up and went to his sister in the kitchen, he knew something was off. Oh, she looked fine and happy, especially with Fíli and Kíli sitting on the counter telling her about the dream they had about Grumpy the Dwarf and how they wanted her to tell them another story that night. No, Bilbo knew something was wrong with Briar because he knew his sister far better than he knew anyone else.

He supposed Yavanna gave him no Enaid so that he could be whole for his sister. Their parents had been Enaids, but when Bungo had gotten injured and died in the middle of the Fell Winter, Belladonna hadn’t lasted much longer. She hadn’t been whole without their father. That left Bilbo, at the tender age of twenty-five, to take care of his little sister. She had needed someone sturdy who wasn’t fretting over his Enaid being lost somewhere in the winter.

Now, looking at her bustle about, Bilbo knew something was wrong. “Boys, why don’t you go set the table and wake your uncle. If you want to wake Gandalf, you should probably jump on him.” The two little boys smiled wickedly—oh, Yavanna he needed to keep them from the Tooks—and scampered off to do the funnest of the three options. He turned to his sister. “Briar, is something wrong?”

She chewed her lip as she continued cooking. “Nothing is, necessarily, wrong,” she said rather slowly.

“Briar…”

She sighed. “It’s nothing Bilbo. Nothing you can fix.”

Oh. It was probably just the boys then. “Alright, I won’t ask again.” He kissed her on the cheek. “So, you going to let me in on your plan? Gandalf thought it would be quite amusing.”

She rolled her eyes. “Of course he would. I think he does most everything because it might amuse him.”

Bilbo snickered and the siblings burst into laughter when they heard Gandalf shout. Thorin was grumbling as he stumbled into the kitchen and Briar turned around and finished making breakfast. Bilbo narrowed his eyes before turning to the dwarf.

“Good night sleep?”

“As good as it can get when you have four feet kicking you in the stomach or shins.” Thorin’s lips twitched slightly. Bilbo noted that the only thing that got the dwarf to smile was his nephews. The dwarven king, Gandalf had explained who Thorin was while at the Thain’s home, seemed at peace only in the thought of his nephews. “I heard Tharkûn a bit ago, I’m guessing that was my nephews?”

“Bilbo might have made a suggestion,” Briar giggled, not looking up.

“Want to help set the table?” Bilbo asked.

Thorin nodded and the two set to work while Briar finished. Soon enough, everything was set and Gandalf and the boys came out to eat. Their seating arrangements were the same as they had been the day before, although Kíli complained about wanting to sit next to Briar.

“So, Briar, you had a plan to make sure the other hobbits don't think Thorin has certain designs upon you?” Gandalf decided to start.

“Yes,” she nodded. “It’s rather simple really. We’ve already established that Thorin will be pretending to be a friend of Grandfather and now Bilbo. The best way to show that Thorin can be trustworthy, especially around lady hobbits, is by showing he is someone Bilbo would trust with my virtue.”

Bilbo nodded. “That makes sense. So, what do you have in mind?”

“I sent a message to Drogo yesterday,” she looked to Thorin. “He’s a cousins of ours on our father’s side. And asked if he could help with this. At the end of the week, Drogo will take me out on a walk and Thorin will accompany us as a chaperone.” She turned a little pink. “I know most hobbits probably find dwarves,” she paused and looked at Fíli, “sorry, dwarrow as frightening warriors that only know battle. If they see Thorin as someone who can be trusted as a protector, it will ease their conscious. Acting as a chaperone would also show that he isn’t really interested in me.”

Gandalf nodded at this assessment. “A solid plan, my dear.” There was a slightly annoying twinkle in the old man’s eyes and Bilbo didn’t particularly like it.

How often did the old wizard deem it necessary to meddle in the Baggins family’s life? It was almost two years ago that he had suggested taking Briar away to Rivendell to study healing. Bilbo had flat out refused him and only allowed for books to be brought to help his sister’s natural talent. No. No adventures for Briar. She was perfectly safe in the Shire, just as Bilbo wanted her to be.

“Does this sound agreeable to you, Thorin?” Bilbo asked.

The dwarf nodded. “The dwarrow have similar customs of chaperones as hobbits do. I was the chaperone when my sister—” he stopped and cleared his throat. “I should be able to handle it as long as I’m not required to talk.”

“You won’t. Drogo and I have known each other since we were fauntlings, we’ll have plenty to talk about. And he’s a good sort of hobbit so he won’t try anything.” Briar giggled. “The worst that could happen is he trips while I’m holding his arm and we both fall. Don’t worry Master Oakenshield, you won’t have to work too hard when defending my honor.”

Bilbo froze. He glanced at Gandalf who was now smoking that damned pipe of his. The old wizard was stifling a smile. The hobbit looked at his sister and finally understood why she felt off in the kitchen. Oh, poor Briar. Bilbo knew that some part of his sister always hoped to meet her Enaid, someone who would accept her despite everything. But, Thorin was a king, even if he was only a king in exile. And a king had certain duties—ones Briar would be unable to fill.

Chapter Text

Fíli wasn’t an idiot. He knew a lot about Ones and he knew an oak tree when he saw one. When he saw Briar’s soul mark, he knew what it meant. It’s why he told her Thorin didn’t have a One. It was mean, he knew, but it needed to be said. Briar has even said that just because one person was marked, it didn’t mean the other person felt the same.

Thorin’s One couldn’t be a hobbit. He liked Briar well enough. She told good stories and she was good to Kíli. She gave nice hugs too when he let her. But she couldn’t be Thorin’s One. Fíli knew it could never be because, one day, Thorin and Kíli and Fíli would leave. One day they would reclaim Erebor and never come back. Kíli might come back to visit.

But Briar couldn’t come with them. She was a hobbit. She was soft and all smiles. She was nothing like the dwarrow. They would take and take until she was a hollow shell. They would use her kindness and suck her dry. They’d use her until she was of no more use to them. They’d toss her aside like they had his mother. He shuddered.

“Are you alright, Fíli?” Briar knelt beside him looking at him with her bright emerald eyes.

He nodded. “Just thinking.”

She nodded. “I thought about taking you and Kíli out to the market to get some proper clothes for you two. Your uncle said it was okay. Do you want to go now or your uncle can come with us tomorrow.”

Fíli looked at her. There was sadness in Briar’s eyes that was similar to Thorin’s. It was similar, but not the same. Maybe it wasn’t actually sadness. Maybe they were the eyes of someone resigned to how things would go. Even so, Fíli wouldn’t tempt anything.

“Thorin would find it boring, we can go today.”

She smiled and offered her hand, calling to Kíli. The three of them made their way to the hobbit market and Fíli watched as the other hobbits went about their day. Briar has assured them that the other hobbits knew that dwarrow were living in Bag End and that she was in charge of taking care of them. She said the other hobbits would accept that.

Even so, Fíli could hear the slight hiss of whispers. He knew Briar had better hearing than him, but she didn’t seem to acknowledge the whispers obviously aimed at them. She simply smiled and kept talking to him and Kíli. She ushered them into the tailor shop and started to help them with dressing and talking to the hobbit tailor.

“Their uncle will probably need clothes bigger than you have. He tried on some of my father’s things but even those were on the smaller side.”

“I saw the dwarf when he and your brother were going to the Thain,” the tailor laughed. “It’ll be an honor to clothe a friend of the Old Took. Although I don’t know much about dwarven clothes.”

“Dwarrow,” Fíli said under his breath.

“I think he plans on coming here tomorrow with Bilbo. I’m sure he’ll tell you what he does and does not want to wear.” Briar smiled. She took the parcel of clothing that could be bought. The rest would have to be made. “I’m just worried about their shoes. We don’t have a cobbler in the Shire and I don’t think anyone in Bree would know about making shoes for dwarrow.”

“I’m sure your brother will think of something,” the tailor assured her. “Now, when are the invitations for your birthday going out?”

“Oh, very soon,” she smiled. “I’ve already begun making birthday presents for everyone.”

“Why would you make birthday presents for someone on your own birthday?” Fíli asked.

“Hobbit tradition. You give presents on your birthday instead of getting them. I’m not sure why we do it. But we do.”

“So will we get presents?” Kíli asked.

Briar laughed. “Of course.” Fíli’s brother perked up. She turned back to the tailor. “Thank you again, Master Weaver.”

“No problem Miss Briar,” he smiled. They three began to leave. “Miss Briar?”

She paused. “Yes?”

“I hear young Drogo is taking you out for a walk the day after tomorrow.”

Briar tensed briefly. Her hold on Fíli’s hand tightens for a second. “Yes. It’s very sweet of him to ask. He’s a second son after all he and I’d be a perfect match if it works out.”

The hobbit tailor smiled knowingly. “Of course. I hope it works out.”

She nodded her head and smiled. As they walk back to Bag End, Kíli tells Briar all the things he wants to do tomorrow. He wants to go fishing. He wants to climb trees. He wants to meet other hobbit children. ‘Faunts’ Briar calls them. He wants Briar to take him to all the places she likes to go. Even as Fíli listens, he can hear the whispering again. This time, however, he’s close enough to hear it.

“I suppose it’s always been her fate: taking care of someone else’s children. What else can a halfling expect?”

Fíli glances up at Briar and sees that she’s still smiling. However, her green eyes were closed and her parted lips were trembling.

Chapter Text

He hadn’t meant to overhear her sing.

Thorin’s intention had just been to come in since that was the room he would be staying in for an undetermined amount of time. He had meant to walk in the second the first note fell from her lips. But then her voice echoed in his chest and he felt as though Mahal himself had made his heart into an anvil to make the purist mithril harp to match the sound his One made in the dark room that had once been hers.

Now, he listened and watched as she giggled at something her cousin Drogo told her. Her arm was clutching his and she leaned in to whisper a response. It was a riddle he had asked apparently.

“Right again, Briar.” Drogo laughed. “Always were good at riddles.”

She blushed. “Only because of Bilbo. He’s a master of riddles. Here’s one for you: I am small, but I take up the entire room. What am I?”

Drogo thought for a moment and Thorin found himself thinking for the answer as well. On instinct, Thorin would say the answer was herself. She seemed to brighten up any room in Bag End when she entered it. Brighten…

“A candle light!”

Briar beamed at Drogo and gave him a swift kiss on the cheek, causing the hobbit lad to turn bright red. Thorin felt his stomach churn. No, she was still a child. He had almost a century and a half on her. Regardless of her being his One, he was not hers. As far as he knew, hobbits didn’t have Ones. He had been so cruel to her that first morning, he had no right to feel this way about her. The least he could do is make sure she married properly and was happy with a proper hobbit who could give her all the children he knew she wanted.

“Do you know any riddles Master Oakenshield?” Drogo asked, glancing back at him.

Thorin narrowed his eyes for a moment. He wondered why Briar and this hobbit seemed to refer to him as ‘Master Oakenshield,’ and then, after thinking for a moment, supposed they might think it’s his last name.

“I know a few.” He only knew those few because his younger brother had been fascinated by riddles.

“Mind sharing?”

“I shine and sparkle white. I’ll brighten the day with a single light. I’ll charm and enchant you all. What am I?”

The two hobbits thought for a moment. Drogo furrowed his brows to and mouthed the riddle repeatedly. Briar chewed her lip and looked up at the sky as though it would give her the answer. Thorin’s lips twitched into a smile. Briar’s eyes snapped to his face and Thorin stiffened. She smiled brightly.

“A smile?”

“Correct.”

Drogo laughed. “Quite a riddle. Mind if I use it next time one of the Tooks try to out riddle me?”

“I don’t see why not,” Thorin replied.

Briar giggled again and pulled Drogo along. They kept walking and talking until they came to what Thorin guessed was a community garden. They paused for only a moment before going down one of the pathways. The two started looking at the flowers and stopped in front of irises—Thorin only knew what they were because he had to forge one for his grandmother when he was young, before Erebor fell.

The two hobbits laughed as they picked a flower each and placed it in the other’s hair. The violet flower contrasted beautifully against her amber curls and green eyes. Thorin followed them out and waited as Briar pressed a gentle kiss to Drogo’s cheek, the hobbit lad did the same. Briar whispered something to him and he blushed. She waved him goodbye and waved him off. She smiled as he left.

“Time to go home,” she hummed.

They were quiet for a bit as they walked. A few hobbits glanced at them curiously as they walked. They narrowed their eyes and then spotted the flower in Briar’s hair and then shrugged, turning back to whatever they were doing.

“Does the iris mean anything special?” Thorin asked. Hobbits didn’t seem to be as secretive as the dwarrow. “If it’s something private, you don’t have to tell me.”

“Oh, it isn’t private at all!” Briar assured him. “I don’t know how it is with the dwarrow, but hobbits have a second unspoken language. We can use flowers to communicate with one another. The garden we just came from is where all dates end. At the end of a date, the two hobbits give each other a flower to signify what our feelings for one another are.” She pointed to the iris. “This means ‘I thank you for your friendship.’”

“So, you parted as friends?”

“Well, yes. Obviously. Drogo and I never had romantic feelings for one another. I invited him out to help the other hobbits get used to you.”

“What did you say to him before you left?”

She giggled and Thorin felt a hammer strike at his heart. “I told him he needs to ask Primula, a cousin on my mother’s side, out for a walk. He’s been mooning over her for ages.” She smiled gently. “He’s just too shy to approach her. I told him that she likes him too.”

“I suppose you like playing matchmaker?” Thorin chuckled.

“Only when two people are being idiots.” She hummed happily and started to skip towards Bag End. “I’m sure once I reach my majority I’ll have too much to do and won’t have any time to matchmake.”

Thorin released a slow breath as he followed her.

One day, she was going to get married. She was going to find a nice, plump hobbit that would love her cooking and her smiles and her laughter and her songs. One day she would, Mahal willing, grow round with child and be doted on by a husband that will never deserve her. She’ll have children she will tuck into bed and kiss goodnight. She will tell them stories about hobbits and dwarrow and elves and men. She will have a life he could never give her.

What could he possibly give her?

He was a king without a kingdom. He was a king without a people. He had no home for her to settle in. He had no happy songs to sing for her. He had no guarantee that he could give her a child. He could offer her nothing but an already broken and hollowed heart.

One day, he’d have to let her go because death would come to her more quickly than it would for him. The thought ripped at his chest and he wished he could take his heart from his breast and throw it into the fires of Mordor. Thorin was certain that would be less painful.

He was hers. He’d only ever be hers. But he couldn’t ask her to be his. He didn’t deserve her. She didn’t deserve someone as broken and cursed as he was.

Chapter Text

Kíli curled up in Briar’s lap as she wove another story. This time, Thorin and Bilbo were in the sitting room as well. Tharkûn has left them by then—Briar had assured him that the wizard would visit again. “He’s a wizard, they’re a strange folk. He comes and goes as he pleases. He’s like the wind.” Fíli was sitting next to Briar and watching her carefully as the story began to unfold. Kíli knew his brother didn’t really care for Briar. But he hoped that, someday, his brother’s mind would change.

“The elleth whispered painfully to her king that he did not know love. How could he? He used it as an excuse to hate and to be cruel. She turned her back on the elf she had pledged her loyalty to and made haste to give aid to the one she loved: a dwarf whose bow had pierced her heart many decades before.”

“Elves don’t like dwarrow,” Fíli interrupted. Kíli glared at his brother. What did it matter if Briar’s stories weren’t possible? They were just stories.

“This elf did. Not all elves are snotty. My mother was called an elf-friend. He came to the aid of the Shire during the Fell Winter many years ago.” Briar smiled and began to stroke Kíli’s hair. “What do your braids mean? I noticed your uncle and both of you have the same ones.”

“They’re family braids,” Fíli said. “It shows we are from the line of Durin.”

“Durin?” Briar thought for a moment. “He’s one of the first of the dwarrow isn’t he?”

“Yes,” Kíli nodded. “We’re his descendants.”

“So is your last name Durin then? I thought it was Oakenshield.”

“Oakenshield is a name uncle earned in battle.” Fíli explained. He and his brother both liked that story (although he was sure Thorin left out quite a bit).

“It sounds like an amazing story,” Briar said. “Would you like to tell it?” She looked up at Thorin then. “If it doesn’t bother you.”

Kíli’s uncle glanced at her. He noticed Thorin doing that recently. If Kíli didn’t know any better, he would have thought that Briar was his uncle’s One. But Thorin didn’t have a One. He remembers his mother telling him so when he was smaller. His One had apparently been killed when Smaug came to Erebor. Even so, Thorin looked at Briar and simply nodded before turning to continue his quiet conversation with Bilbo about the forge.

“After the dragon took Erebor—that’s why we don’t like dragons, by the way,” Kíli said in a reverent whisper. “Our great-grandfather, King Thror tried to take back the kingdom of Moria, a dwarven kingdom lost long ago. However, Moria already housed an enemy: orcs. They were led by the evilest orc of all: Azog the Defiler.”

“The pale orc had sworn to wipe out the line of Durin,” Fíli continued. “He began with our great-grandfather. It made our grandfather, Thrain, go mad with grief. He went missing. We don’t know where he is. That’s why Thorin’s king.”

Briar looked at the boys with such sadness. She was stiff as though to keep herself from glancing at Thorin.

Kíli continued. “The dwarrow were leaderless. Surely defeat was close when suddenly, a young prince stood to face against the pale orc. He stood with nothing but an oaken branch as a shield and Azog the Defiler learned that the like of Durin was not so easily broken.” He smiled.

“The forces rallied and the orcs were driven back and the pale orc could defile no more,” Fíli finished.

“That’s how Thorin earned the title of Oakenshield,” Kíli said proudly.

Briar looked to Thorin again. Her emerald eyes were wide with both awe and terror. Kíli thinks about how none of the hobbits have ever seen battle. They were comfortable in their little holes, ‘smials’ Briar called them, and knew only peace. Kíli had never seen battle either. But he was certain it was something he was built for. It was in his blood.

Kíli sat up and wrapped his arms around Briar and buried his face into her chest. She gave a soft laugh and wrapped her arms around him. She pressed a cheek to the crown of his head and began to hum softly.

“I promise to protect you, Bri,” he whispered softly. He had lost his mother. He refused to lose Briar. When it was time for them to leave, Kíli would convince Thorin to bring her with them.

She pressed a soft kiss to his temple. “And I promise to protect you, mab calon.”

Chapter Text

Briar woke up to the fading dreams of a bearded kiss pressed against her lips. She was flushed and embarrassed and ready to cry. Stupid. It was never going to happen. Why would Yavanna curse her with such… such a wonderful dream? She had made her peace about her Enaid not needing her as she wanted him. But it still hurt—rather frequently.

Briar peered outside and saw that it was still dark. She sighed in relief. She didn’t have to start first breakfast yet. The hobbit crept quietly through the smial and left through the back door to sit in the garden. She looked up to her bench and froze.

There he was. Her Enaid sat, sword in hand, sharpening the blade. Briar hoped he would never have to use again. He looked so lonely that Briar felt a hollowing in her chest. There was something about Thorin that she had noticed the first night she saw him. He was all hardness and sharpness, but there was a deep softness in him that he was not willing to let show, save for those moments with his nephew’s.

He felt too much.

When Fíli and Kíli told her the story of how Thorin had earned his name, she understood him a little more. He had lost so much and he had to continue giving: for his people and for his nephews. She wanted to comfort him. Briar wanted to wrap her arms around him and press a tender kiss to his temple and tell him everything was going to be okay. He didn’t have to be strong in front of her. She would carry his weakness with him and hold him until the pain turned into a dull ache.

But she knew he would refuse if she offered. He would say it would be highly improper. Even so, she didn’t want him to be alone. Briar let out a cough and Thorin stiffened and turned to look at her. His blue eyes seemed to pin her to the spot.

“I’m sorry,” Briar breathed. “I thought it would be better to make my presence known out of sword reach. I didn’t mean to startle you.”

He continued to stare and Briar hoped dwarrow couldn’t see well in the dark because she was starting to remember her dream and felt herself flush. He turned away. “It’s alright. I didn’t think anyone else would be up.”

Briar’s lips twitched into a smile. “I didn’t either.” She carefully went over and sat next to him on the bench. The hobbit watched as he continued to sharpen his sword. “Is this the same sword you used to defeat the pale orc?”

“It is.” He looked pained as he said it. He had killed the orc that took his grandfather, but that didn’t change the loss.

“I’m glad you were able to get vengeance.”

He looked at her, eyes narrowed. “I wasn’t aware vengeance was something hobbits cared about.”

She smiled up at him. “You’ve known about the existence of hobbits for almost three months. Have you decided that you’re the expert?”

A chuckle rumbled through him and it echoed through the air and into Briar’s chest. “I suppose I’m not. Tharkûn says he has known your people for centuries and you still surprise him.”

“I’m just glad you got your vengeance. It’s one less thing that has to weigh on your mind.” She pulled her robe tighter around herself. “I wish… I wish I could get vengeance sometimes. But the one who did me wrong isn’t here anymore.”

“Who would do you wrong?” He didn’t say it harshly, he said it softly. His eyes were on her again.

“Twelve years ago, the Fell Winter happened. I don’t know what it was like for the dwarrow, but the Shire had it bad. We had no food—hobbits don’t really need seven full meals a day. During our Wandering Years, where hobbits had no land to call our own, we didn’t have much food. We were afraid of the other races, who seemed to only care about war, and so we never sought out help save for the race of shape-shifters and tree herders who were given life by our Lady Yavanna. Even so, food then was scarce. So when we finally found a land where we could live peacefully, we ate as much as we could. Then we just got used to it. When the Fell Winter happened, no one knew what to do. Our food stores were depleting rapidly and soon many began to starve. We were so weak and helpless and because of the weather we couldn’t call anyone for aid.”

She glanced at Thorin who was transfixed by the history she told. Perhaps he thought she was sharing some great secret about hobbits, but Briar wasn’t. Hobbits didn’t really mind telling others about their history. It’s just that no one seemed to care to ask except Gandalf and the Rangers.

“The Baranduin river froze over,” she continued, “and that’s when everything became worse. Wolves and orcs began to enter the Shire, looking for food and we were easy prey.” She shuddered. “Bilbo and Mum went out to collect wood and to find something to eat. Da and I couldn’t go because I was too young, I was only twenty then, and an orc got into Bag End.” She remembered the ugly creature smashing their house and her father screaming as the orc tried to grab at her. She could still feel his rancid breathe on her face as Bungo tried to free her. The orc used a knife to force him away. “I was lucky. Gandalf and the Rangers arrived before the orc could hurt me. They killed him in an instant. It was the first time I ever saw someone die. My da wasn’t so lucky. The orc’s dagger scratched open his shoulder. It was a cursed blade, probably left over from when Sauron walked the earth, I suppose. Gandalf did everything he could. He even called Lord Elrond. But it was too late. Da died from the poison and Mum followed soon after from heartbreak. We call it fading. She just—” Briar bit her lip. “She just lost the will to live.” She sighed. “I know the orc that did it is dead, but sometimes I see him in my dreams. He laughs at me and speaks in that horrid tongue, but I know what he’s saying. He’s laughing that I wasn’t able to protect my da and that he died because I wasn’t able to protect myself.”

She looked up at Thorin and the look he gave her was so heartbreaking. He probably hadn’t thought a race as peaceful as the hobbits had ever suffered so much hardship. If he offered her comfort in his arms, Briar knew she wouldn’t refuse him. She would fall into his arms and never want to leave. She would want to burrow into his chest and find comfort in the warmth of his beating heart.

She looked away. “Sorry, I was rambling.”

“You’re alive.”

Briar blinked up at him. “I’m sorry?”

He cleared his throat. “That orc wanted to kill you. Your father prevented that by delaying the harm it wanted to cause. The last thing your father did was protect his daughter. Losing a child is… losing a child is much worse than losing a parent. If your father had been the one to live. He would have regretted it for the rest of his life.”

He’d lost a parent, Briar knew. How would he understand the loss of a… oh. Fíli had said Thorin ‘doesn’t’ have a One. That didn’t mean that he hadn’t ever had one. Maybe they were lost when the dragon came. A stone formed in her throat. Stupid. Stupid little girl. She knew he would never want her. Why should it matter that he loved, still probably loves, someone else? Why should it matter that he mourns his family? It shouldn’t. It didn’t. It just hurt. He was capable of loving. He just wasn’t capable of loving her.

“Thank you, Thorin.”

His lips twitched in a brief smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “It was no problem at all, Miss Baggins.”

“You can call me ‘Briar,’ you know.”

He chuckled softly. “It wouldn’t be proper.”

Her heart sank. Just once she wished he would say her name. He didn’t have to say it with love or endearment. She just wanted him to say her name. She wanted to hear what her name sounded in his voice on his tongue.

“No, I suppose it wouldn’t be.”

Chapter Text

Bilbo rushed about trying to get everything done for Briar’s birthday party. It was the day after tomorrow, but he wanted to make sure everything for the day his baby sister reached her majority was ready. Briar was rushing about as well, finishing presents. Most of the presents were more favors than anything to distant relatives who were showing up. The closer a person was to the one celebrating their birthday, the better the present. Bilbo knew that the gifts for those presiding in Bag End were locked in Briar’s glory box in the old library, which has since been turned into Briar’s actual room.

“I just want to give the boys the best present I can,” Briar had said, puffing her chest out defiantly when Bilbo had told her she needn’t go so far. “This is their first hobbit birthday party and I want them to know how much I care.”

The dwarves staying with them were rather confused on why the hobbits they were living with were rushing about. The boys were thrilled, to be sure, about getting presents on a birthday which was not theirs. However, they had both sheepishly asked (Fíli asked it with more of a reluctant curiosity) if they could get Briar a gift anyways. Bilbo told them his sister wouldn’t mind at all. He paused and then reminded them that since the giving of presents was a hobbit tradition, so when their birthdays came up, they would not be required to give out gifts. He and Briar could handle that for them since they were still children. Thorin, the Royal Git as Bilbo occasionally thought him, helped prepare decorations with only the barest interest in what was going on. He spent most of his time in the forge anyway.

“Bilbo?” Kílis voice came from the door to his study.

The hobbit looked at the youngest dwarf and smiled. Bilbo motioned him in and Kíli closed the door behind him. “Yes, little one?”

“Because Briar is reaching her majority,” he paused, “does that mean she can get married?”

“Yes, it does.”

Kíli frowned. “Is she going to leave us then?”

Bilbo sighed and knelt down to the little boy’s level. “Briar would never leave you. Even if she gets married someday,” which Bilbo doubts she ever will now, “she will never leave you. She will visit and look after you just as she is now.”

“How do you know?” Kíli asked, tears beginning to form in his eyes.

Bilbo knew what happened to the boy’s mother. Thorin had told him one night after they shared a pipe as the dwarven king-in-exile barely held himself together. It was obvious he had had a nightmare and hadn’t wanted the boys or Briar to see. It had only been pure coincidence that Bilbo had been up at all.

Bilbo didn’t know what it was like to lose a little sister. But he knew that if he ever lost Briar, and she left no faunts for him to care for, he would probably fade instantly. Regardless of Thorin’s inability to love Briar, Bilbo would readily admit that the dwarf was a good man simply for how much he cared for his nephews.

“Because I know my sister and I know how she feels about you.” Bilbo put a hand on Kíli’s shoulder and tucked his braid behind his ear with the other. “Do you remember what my sister calls you sometimes?”

“‘Mab calon.’”

“It’s in old Hobbitish,” Bilbo explains. “It’s not a secret language because we don’t really use it at all. We just slip it in occasionally when referring to other people. When we use Hobbitish, it means something very deep and very important to us.”

“What does Briar call me in Hobbitish, then?”

“She’s calling you her ‘heart son,’” Bilbo smiled as the little boy’s brown eyes widen. “To Briar, you’re her son and she is your mother in every way but blood. It’s not uncommon for hobbits like Briar to form bonds like that.”

“She sees me as a son?” He asked quietly.

“She does. I know she probably feels the same about your brother, but you’re the one who holds onto her the most.” He ruffled the dwarfling’s hair. “She probably didn’t say anything because she doesn’t want to be disrespectful to your uncle or your mother.”

“Do you think she’d be my mother if I asked?”

Bilbo smiles brightly. “That would probably make her the happiest person in the Shire. But I would go make sure that’s okay with your uncle.”

“He won’t mind,” Kíli said far too quickly.

“He might not, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask.”

The little dwarf thought for a moment. Chewing his lip in careful deliberation. If he didn’t look so serious, Bilbo would have laughed. Although the dwarves were very secretive of their culture, although Briar seemed to know a little more than him, Bilbo knew family was important.

“I think I know what I’m going to get Briar for her birthday,” the boy said at last.

Bilbo smiles, gently. “Run along then.”

Chapter Text

Kíli was up to something, Fíli was sure of it. His little brother had already made something for Briar’s birthday, but now he was running around as though he hadn’t. There was only one day more to go and Kíli was very close to driving Fíli insane. The youngest Durin didn’t make his plans known until the dwarrow were getting ready for bed.

“Uncle,” Kíli said as Thorin finished washing Fíli’s hair. “I made something for Bri’s birthday and I was wondering if it was okay.”

“You already showed me the quill you made for her a few days ago,” Thorin reminded him.

“I made her something else. I think she’ll like it better, but I wanted to run it by you.”

“What did you make?” Fíli asked, drying himself off.

“I want to show it to you when we get back to the nursery.”

Thorin had only just moved into Tharkûn’s old room a month ago, but he still tucked Fíli and Kíli into bed every night unless he had to work late in the forge. Then Briar was the one to do it. But tonight Thorin was there so he’d follow his nephews to their room.

They finished bathing and headed out of the bathroom and saw Briar heading towards her room in the library. She looked at them and smiled sweetly. Kíli ran up and gave her a hug, wrapping his arms around her hips.

“Hello, mab calon,” she said, bending down slightly to give Kíli a kiss on the top of his head. She looked up to Fíli. “Are you all ready for the party tomorrow?”

“Is everyone from the Shire going to be there?” Fíli asked.

“Most of them.” She shrugged. “Gandalf and a few of the Rangers are coming too. Oh, if you haven’t seen them yet, Gandalf’s fireworks are the best! I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun.”

“I bet there are a bunch of master hobbits that hope to dance with you tomorrow,” Fíli said. Bilbo had told them ahead of time that Briar was expected to dance with a lot of people so she couldn’t spend as much time with them as she normally did. Inwardly, he hoped Briar would meet a hobbit that liked her and that she liked well enough to marry. She was a nice lady. She deserved happiness, it just couldn’t be with Thorin.

“I’m sure most will just want to be polite,” Briar laughed. “Maybe you boys will find a little hobbit lass to dance with. I can already tell you’ll both break some hearts when you’re older.” She yawned. “Well, I’m off to bed. Goodnight boys,” she gave Kíli another squeeze. “Goodnight Thorin.” She disappeared down the hall and to her room.

The Durins went into the nursery and Kíli went over to fetch the present he had made for Briar. Fíli watched his brother, who seemed nervous, and then looked at his uncle, who was shaking his head, smiling. The youngest dwarf hesitantly came forward, holding the present he made behind his back.

“I really like Bri,” Kíli said, shifting from foot to foot. “She’s nice and she gives nice hugs too.” Fíli roller his eyes. “Bilbo says she likes me too. So, I made her this. I just wanted to make sure it was okay.”

Fíli’s eyes widened when Kíli held out his hand and opened it to reveal a bead. It was wooden and stained with a small yellow flower with many petals. It wasn’t professionally made and it was obvious that a child had made it. However, it was crafted well, considering.

“I stained a coltsfoot blossom onto it,” Kíli said quietly. “It means ‘maternal care’ in the hobbit flower language.” He was turning red in embarrassment. “I know she isn’t Amad, but I really like Bri.” He glanced up at Thorin. “I want her to wear an Amad bead.” Suddenly he looked a little panicked. “I’ll tell her what it means, don’t worry! It doesn’t mean she can’t get married or anything!”

“Kíli, Kíli, calm down.” Thorin knelt in front of his nephew and closed his hand around the bead. “I’m sure Miss Baggins will like it.”

Kíli looked to Fíli. “Are you mad?”

Fíli looked at his brother and then to Thorin. Kíli would explain it to Briar and then she’d probably ask Thorin just to make sure it was okay. She was always very careful about not being insensitive to dwarrow culture. Fíli could already guess how Briar might interpret this. It would probably hurt her a bit. But it was better to let hope fan out quickly than to let it fester.

The dwarrow did not belong in the Shire and hobbits did not belong in Erebor.

Chapter Text

Thorin’s mouth went dry when he saw Briar step up and officially thank her guests for coming to her party. She was wearing a deep blue dress. Although she didn’t know it, it was a Durin blue. Her amber curls were loose save for a braid that bore Kíli’s bead tucked behind her ear. She wore a crown of azalea blossoms, which Tharkûn told Thorin meant womanhood, and baby’s breath, which meant innocence. She was smiling brightly and almost a little out of breath having finished eight dances in a row, each with a different hobbit lad leading her to the line.

“Thank you all for coming to my birthday party!” She said from her place on a small stage. “To all the Bagginses, Tooks, Boffins, Brandybucks, Grubbs, Chubbs, Hornblowers, Bolgers, Bracegirdles, Proudfeet, Gamgees, and, I suppose, Sackville-Bagginses, I couldn’t ask for better party guests.”

Bilbo snickered beside Thorin. In these six months, the king-in-exile learned to stay away from the Sackville-Bagginses. He’d done so well that he had yet to meet them in person.

“Today is my thirty-third birthday and as such, I have reached my majority. This, of course, means it’s time for me to pick a trade and no longer depend on my brother for my allowance.” She stuck her tongue at her brother, who stuck his tongue right back, although no one seemed to notice except Thorin. “I doubt it will be any shock to you to announce my intention of continuing my trade as an apothecary. My medical garden has earned me quite a bit of praise so I suppose I should apologize for now requesting payment.” Many hobbits began to laugh. “However, fauntlings are free to come and ask me to help with cuts and bruises they don’t want their parents to know about.” She winked and a few children giggle. “Most of you will get your gifts as you prepare to leave, but here are a few gifts I have prepared.”

She motioned towards Bilbo, who shuffled over with a scroll. He handed it to Briar and went to where the gifts were behind her.

“To my brother, Bilbo—I don’t understand why I need to specify your name, I only have you—I give a collection of Sindarin books copied from books in the vast library of Rivendell.” She smiled at her brother, who tipped his head in thanks. “To my dear cousin Drogo Baggins, I gift a walking stick to take him on the journeys I know he will one day take.” The hobbit stood up, blushing, and retrieved the gift. “To my dear cousin Primula Brandybuck, I gift a journal to fill her secrets with because Yavanna knows I can’t remember them all.” This got a laugh out of a the hobbit lass who had visited Bag End frequently the past few months.

“To Gandalf, I gift a pocket watch so he can stop pretending wizards are neither late nor early. Afternoon tea is at four.” The wizard rolled his eyes, but accepted the watch gladly. “To my mab calon, Kíli, I gift a child’s bow carved by one of the Rangers. I apologize in advance if any of the arrows hit someone else’s tree.” Kíli squealed as he jumped up and hugged Briar, their matching braids swinging together. He took his bow and went back to Thorin. It was quite a good one too. “To Fíli, I gift a small fiddle. Believe it or not I noticed you eyeing my father’s old one, but it’s too big for you yet. Maybe in a couple birthdays, Bilbo or I will gift it to you.” A slow smile spread across Fíli’s face as he hesitantly took the small fiddle from Bilbo. “Now, when you practice you ask first because I would rather not wake up to the screeching of strings.” Briar winked at the heir, causing him to turn a little red. “To Thorin Oakenshield, I gift a blacksmith apron. I know you say you don’t need one but I’ve had enough hobbits bugging me about you not wearing proper protection.”

Thorin took the apron and saw the leather was engraved in the corner and stained with dark ink. The symbol of Durin. How she had found out what it was, he would not know. But it was obvious from how the apron was made that she had made the item of clothing by hand. His One was truly talented.

“Thank you, Miss Baggins.”

She smiled at him. “To my cousin Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, I gift a pair of rabbit gloves my mother used when she first visited Rivendell.” Thorin watched as a pinched-faced hobbit woman came up and got the gloves. She glared at Briar the entire time. The woman was mumbling under her breath as she sat back down where a male hobbit instantly shoved the gloves in his pocket and turned back to Briar, scowling.

“And, finally, to the Old Took, I gift a pipe made of briar wood inlaid with silver.”

Thorin had done the silver himself. He could still remember Briar watching him in the forge as he worked on it. He remembered her leaning against the table next to him, her elbow barely brushing his as she looked at his hands move with awe. He remembers the searing kiss she placed on his cheek when he finished it. He remembered her thanking him over and over as he assured her he was glad to do it. He remembered her skipping out of the forge, unaware of how much he longed to bury his face in her hair and hold her tightly.

Mahal help him. He could never have her.

“Now that the gifts are all settled, I think I have one final surprise for you. Although I suppose it isn’t much of a surprise since he does this almost every year. Enjoy the rest of the party!”

With that, fireworks erupted into the sky at the delight of everyone in attendance. Music began again and hobbits began to dance. His nephews put down their gifts and went to join the other children in different games, even a few dances. Thorin stood back and leaned against a pole, watching the merriment.

“Having fun?” Briar asked beside him.

He gave a slight jump and glanced at her. She was trying, and failing, to stop a pleased smile form. “I believe I quite enjoy hobbit parties, Miss Baggins.”

She looked out at her guests and smiled. “I’m glad the boys liked their gifts,” she said, her finger twirling her new braid. “I had been worried they might not like them as much as I loved theirs.” Kíli had given the bead to Briar that morning. Fíli’s gift was more practical, a small cushioned bench of sorts for her to kneel when she was gardening. “Oh, that reminds me, we need to start thinking about how we want to do the boys’ birthday. If there’s any particular dwarrow tradition you want to include feel free to tell me. I’m sure the other hobbits will understand. They’ll all probably find it quite exotic. We’ll be known as the best party throwers in all the Shire.”

The way she said ‘we’ made Thorin smile. He could almost imagine her in Durin blue robes walking the halls of Erebor as she dictated how the next ball should be prepared. She would be wearing his braid and beads. She would wear a crown much like the one she was wearing now, only of silver and violet jewels. When making decisions, it would always be ‘we.’

“Thorin?” She broke him from his thoughts.

“Yes?”

“It doesn’t bother you, does it?” She tugged at her braid, rolling the bead in between her thumb and forefinger. “That Kíli gave me a mother bead? Your his uncle so I just wanted to make sure.” She looked up at him with her large green eyes. They were imperfect emeralds that Mahal had blessed with flecks of sapphire in them.

“I don’t mind. It suits you. If my sister can't be there for him, I’m glad it’s you.” She gave him a small smile and he wished he could simply lean in and claim her lips with his. “I have a gift for you as well.”

“Oh, Thorin, you didn’t have to.”

“I wanted to. You’re family now, after all,” he joked. Her lips twitched slightly, but her eyes were downcast, watching as he pulled his gift out.

Her eyes widened as she held out her hands and he gave it to her. It was a dagger small enough for her to handle. It was in a leather sheath engraved with intricate vines. She unsheathed it and found a similar design on the dagger itself. She looked up at him again, her eyes wide with surprise this time.

“I thought you might like something to protect yourself with. I’ll teach you, if you want. I know there are no dangers in the Shire, but I want you to have something so you can protect yourself and my nephews just in case.” He also wanted her to feel safe when he could no longer be by her side. Thorin knew he would have to leave one day. He knew he would leave and he would never be able to return to her. His place would be in Erebor. His home would be in the Shire, where his One would live a life without him.

“Thank you, Thorin.”

He smiled and leaned down and pressed his lips to the crown of her head. He could never allow himself to go further. Thorin pulled away. His chest ached for she who could never belong to him. His chest ached for the heart she was in possession of.

If he were allowed, he would worship this woman who seemed to give everything that she was to his family. He would give up everything for her, but he couldn’t. Even in this state of exile from his own people, he owed them his duty. He couldn’t ask her to come to Erebor with him. She deserved the freedom the hills of the Shire gave her. She deserved sunlight and babbling brooks, not darkness and cold stone.

She deserved so much more than him.

“Menu tessu, mizimelûh.”

She tilted her head. “What does that mean?”

He smiled down at her. “Happy Birthday, Miss Baggins.”

Chapter Text

Kíli’s eyes snapped open. He sat up quickly, breath escaping him. The littlest Durin looked over at his brother’s bed and saw Fíli was still sleeping. It was just a dream. They were all safe in the Shire. Those other dwarrow wouldn’t find them here.

Tears began to spill down his cheeks as he got up from bed and left the nursery. He went past Thorin’s room and went to Briar’s. Kíli carefully opened the door and went to Briar’s bed. The hobbit was curled into a ball. He took a deep breath.

“Bri?” She stirred. “Bri?”

Her green eyes opened. “Kíli?” She sat up and held out her arms. He crawled onto the bed and into them. “Are you alright?”

He shook his head as he buried his face further into her chest. The hobbit shifted them slightly so they were laying in their sides and she curled around him, pulling the covers around as though they were in a nest. She pressed kisses to the top of his head and he snuggled closer.

“I miss my amad.”

“I know you do, sweetheart,” she whispered.

“The dwarrow who killed her were evil.”

“No, they were frightened. They were frightened and it made them do evil things.” Briar cupped Kíli’s cheeks and tilted his head up. She rubbed her nose against his before placing her forehead against his own. Green eyes stared into brown. “When people are frightened, frightened for themselves or for their families or for their children, they can do terrible things. This does not excuse their actions. Fear does not excuse anything. Your mother, from what you and your uncle and Fíli have said, was a brave and kind dwarrowdam, who didn’t deserve the evil things that happened to her. Those dwarrow were frightened because they thought your family was a threat.”

“We aren’t.”

“No, you aren’t.” She pressed a kiss to his nose. “One day you and Thorin and Fíli will reclaim Erebor and will lead a new age of dwarrow where no one needs to be frightened anymore. You cannot change the past. If I could I would go back and save your mother, even if it meant I never got to meet you—any of you. You can change the future though. You and your family can make sure nothing like that happens again.”

Kíli snuggled closer and tucked his knees in, letting Briar tuck hers around him. “Do you think so?”

“I know so.”

“Bri?”

“Yes, mab calon?”

“Could you sing to me?”

She began to hum.

‘Before I got to fighting (or when fighting got to me) / I looked to find examples on the field of chivalry / And I saw mighty arms much stronger than my arms could ever be / So I thought perhaps the field was not for me’

Kíli smiled. A giggle escaped his lips as he imagined Briar attempting to fight. She’d be awful at it. Almost as bad as Thorin was at sewing.

‘But still I stayed and watched the fighting 'til one figure stood apart / In armour newly fashioned and a helm more pot than art / But each blow was thrown with honour and a lightness of the heart / So I took that step which soon became a start’

He snuggled closer to Briar and closed his eyes, imagining the figure would be his mother.

‘'Cause she was not the biggest fighter nor one to raise a fuss / But I remember being proud that she was one of us / And we might never stand together in the shield-wall side by side / But because of her I lift my sword with pride’

He remembered Dwalin telling him there was no greater warrior than his mother.

‘She was ladylike and lively, not the type you would expect / With a braver heart than many and a slot-shot to respect / I guess she'd once decided this was where she'd like to be / And I thought if she could do it, why not me’

Kíli curled closer to Briar.

‘'Cause she was not the biggest fighter nor one to raise a fuss / But I remember being proud that she was one of us / And we might never stand together in the shield-wall side by side / But because of her I lift my sword with pride’

One day, they would take Erebor back. Even if his mother wasn’t there. He’d do it for her.

‘So now as I gather armour, bits and pieces here and there, / I think about examples: how you act, and what you dare / 'Cause you never know who's watching or how far that story goes / And where'er that Lady is I hope she knows’

He looked up and smiled at Briar. She smiled down at him and nuzzled his nose again.

‘'Cause she was not the biggest fighter, nor one to raise a fuss / But I remember being proud that she was one of us / And we might never stand together in the shield-wall side by side / But because of her I lift my sword with pride / We may never stand together in the shield-wall side by side / But because of her I lift my sword with pride!’

Kíli slid his arms around Briar as she shifted into her back. He felt the slow rise and fall of her chest as she breathed. She carded her fingers through his hair. “Bri, when we go to Erebor, could you come with us?”

Her fingers stilled. “If you want me to come, I will.” She wrapped her arms around him and pressed a cheek to his head. “Your home is my home too, mab calon.”

Chapter Text

Briar woke up to Kíli still snuggled against her chest. She smoothed the hair from his face and pressed a kiss to the crown of his head. He giggled slightly and snuggled closer. “It’s time to make first breakfast, little one. We need to get up.”

“Just a few more snuggles?”

Briar rolled her eyes and sighs. “Yavanna save me from the stubbornness of dwarves.” She shifted and picked Kíli up in her arms. “I’ll carry you to the kitchen, how does that sound?”

“Fine,” he buried his face in her neck and seemed to settle.

She’d carried him to the kitchen, rocking him slightly. There was a sort of comfort in the weight he put against her chest. It was what she felt made for. She began to hum and was surprised to find Thorin in the kitchen, already starting some of the cooking.

“Good morning,” she said softly as he turned to her.

“Good morning, Miss Baggins.” He turned back to his cooking. “I thought you might be exhausted from last night and thought to help out with first breakfast.”

“Thank you,” she smiled. “Honestly today making breakfast was just an excuse so I didn’t just decide to stay in bed with this little one all morning.” Kíli grumbled something and Briar just shook her head and kissed his temple. “Now, do you need any help.”

Thorin chuckled and Briar felt her stomach flutter slightly. “I should be fine.” He nodded to one of the chairs at the dining room table. “You can sit down. I’ll come get you if I fear the house will burn down.”

“I believe I would step in long before that fear became anywhere close to being realized.”

He smiled at her and Briar had to will her heart from pounding in her chest. She sat down, still holding Kíli and thought about how, well, domestic this was as she watched Thorin cook. She flushed slightly and turned away. Briar swayed slightly in the chair and hummed softly into the little dwarf’s ear. This was all she would ever have.

“Thorin?”

“Yes?”

He glanced back and her and Briar swallowed before she spoke. “Last night…” she bit her lip and glanced down at Kíli. The boy was breathing gently. He was asleep. “Last night, Kíli asked me a question and I answered what I would want to do. I just… I just want to make sure it was alright. Besides, I don’t even know when it would happen. For all I know it could happen in fifty years when I would be eighty or so.” She laughed nervously.

“What did he ask?” He narrowed his eyes, obviously catching her nerves.

“He asked that, when you all go off to reclaim Erebor, that… well, he asked if I might come with you.”

“Ah.” He turned back to the food. “You don’t need to take him too seriously. By the time anyone thinks of reclaiming Erebor, you’ll probably already be married with a few faunts chasing you about the yard.” He laughed. “You probably wouldn’t have time for anything like that.”

“Yes,” her heart sank. “Yes, of course.” She wasn’t going to tell him that she’d probably never marry. How could she? Her very soul was his. She shifted Kíli slightly. “I just thought you should know.”

“Thank you, Miss Baggins.”

She smiled and stood up. “I don’t think it’s wise for me to just sit down. I think I’ll start setting the table.” She kissed Kíli awake and set him down on his chair before setting the table. “Can’t spend my second day as an adult just sitting around.” She bit her lip. “Thorin?”

“Yes, Miss Baggins?”

“Do you think, after you get back home from the forge, we could start my dagger lessons?”

He placed some of the food on the table and looked at her. His eyes were like a cloudless sky in this light. “I don’t suppose why not.”

She beamed at him and he smiled back, politely.

The day went by rather quickly and as the hours went by, Briar felt more and more excited. Bilbo was starting to tell if something was off, so Briar tried to breathe and calm herself just a little. She had reached her majority and Bilbo seemed to trust Thorin. There would be no reason to have a chaperone.

She blushed. It wasn’t like she was planning on doing anything improper. It was… she simply… Thorin didn’t think of her that way. She knew that. Briar would just accept what she could have. She was a mother to his nephews, especially Kíli. He probably saw her as a sister as he was beginning to see Bilbo as a sort of brother. That was all she was going to have.

It was better to feel as though he cared a little than not at all.

She waited for him in the back gardens, almost shaking with excitement as the sun began to touch the horizon.

A laugh comes from behind her and she turned and saw Thorin leaning against the frame. “I did not think a hobbit lass would be so eager to learn how to use a dagger.” He chuckled and pushed himself upward to walk to her. “But I suppose you are not a usual hobbit lass.”

“I’ll have you know, most seem to think I have no Baggins blood in me at all. They think I’m all Took.” She lifted her chin proudly.

He chuckled. “I wouldn’t doubt that.”

She pulled out her dagger. “This is for protection?”

“Yes. You could cause some damage with it, but I imagine it will be more of a way to protect and give you an opportunity to run with the boys should the need arise.”

“Do you think other dwarrow will come? To find you, I mean.”

He sighed. “I hope that they won’t, but I had hoped that they wouldn’t dare try in the first place.” His expression grew stern and the lines in his face deepened. His eyes were a storm of bitterness and sadness.

“Well, if they try anything on Bag End, they’ll be quite surprised to find a little hobbit lass cutting at their knees.”

Thorin shook his head, a small smile forming in his lips. “I’m sure most dwarrow would not know what to do with someone like you.”

She smiled. “I’ll take that as a compliment, although I can’t decide if it is or not.”

“It is a compliment.”

“Shall we begin then.”

He nodded. “We’ll start with your stance.”

He apologized for having to be so close and she stopped breathing for a moment as she felt his chest against her back. He took her wrist, a finger pointed and brushed against her knuckles.

Briar breathed and remembers that she can ask no more than this.

Chapter Text

“Hello, Thorin,” Bilbo called into the forge.

The dwarf paused in his work, some cooking pan for a Chubb. He was wearing the apron Briar had made for him and his hair was pulled back in a blue leather cord Fíli had fashioned for him. In the nine months he had been living in the Shire, he had put on some weight. He wasn’t as soft as a hobbit by any means, but he had seemed to fill out more than he had upon coming. When they had met, Thorin and the boys had been rather thin, but now there was a healthy glow about them.

“Afternoon, Bilbo.” Thorin put down his work and sat at his bench, motioning for the hobbit to sit. “Something wrong?”

“No. No, not at all,” Bilbo assured, sitting down. “It’s just…” Oh, bother.

He had noticed his sister’s feelings for the dwarven king. She was very good at hiding it outside of Bag End, but at home she always brightened a bit when Thorin came into the room. He had tried to talk to her about it, tried to tell her to either act on her feelings or not keep putting herself in situations that might hurt her farther down the road. He was her Enaid. She needed to do something!

He wasn’t able to place Thorin’s feelings for Briar though. Bilbo was certain Thorin cared for the hobbit. He was probably as protective of her as he was his nephews. One only needed to think about the previous week when Briar fell out of a tree and cracked her elbow. The boys had been in near hysterics and Thorin had grown so pale that Bilbo thought the warrior might faint. Briar was fine, of course, she was a hobbit and had fallen from much further up the tree when she was still a fauntling. Thorin had almost insisted on carrying her into the smial and made sure she didn’t work her arm too much. He even made a brace for her arm to make sure she healed properly.

Oh, bebother and confusticate this. He knew he wasn’t old, but he felt too old for this.

“It’s just Briar.”

“Is she alright?” Thorin stiffened slightly.

“She’s fine. She’s just been getting a few offers of courtship that I’ve been having to go through. I’m not sure how dwarves do it, but for hobbits head of family’s handle courtship offers for their lady-folk.”

Thorin nodded. “As do we.” He paused. “Are the offers not to your satisfaction? Are they improper?”

Bilbo glanced at him and noted the slight bounce of his heel. “They aren’t improper, no. They just aren’t right for her. Briar needs both freedom and security. Most hobbit lads would offer her one or the other. It doesn’t help that Briar is my heir so she’s rather wealthy so I have to make sure no one wishes to marry her for that.” He sighed. “You’re a king. How did you deal with such things?”

Thorin undid his hair and rand his fingers through it. “Not well, to be honest.” So there had been offers for him. “Back when I was a prince, still in Erebor, there were many offers. I was even engaged once.”

“Engaged?!” Bilbo spluttered.

Thorin winced. “It was rather political. She was a good friend and she would have made a good queen.”

“What happened to her? Why did she not come with you from the Blue Mountains?”

“She died when the dragon attacked, or, at least, she never made it out of the mountain.” His eyes were hard and distant. “She had a daughter from a previous marriage, one I saw as my own. I couldn’t find her after we were able to regroup. I can only pray to Mahal that she hadn’t been alone and that her mother had found her.” He pulled out a leather string that hung loosely around his neck. “These were my engagement beads to her and the ones that claimed her daughter as my adopted one.” He tucked the necklace back under his shirt.

“I’m sorry.”

“It was over a century ago.”

“It doesn’t take away the pain.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

“And after?”

“Many lords tried to offer me their daughters or sisters, but I couldn’t bring myself to marry and claimed I would wait until we were able to reclaim Erebor or at least get Ered Luin in proper order first.” He sighed. “My sister got married and had the boys, so that lifted most of my burden when it came to marrying. I made Fíli my heir and I didn’t have to bother with courtships for the past twenty years or so.”

Bilbo nodded. “I wish I were able to do something like that. I’ve never had the inclination to marry. Never felt the need. My whole life has been focused on raising my sister and making sure she was happy. Perhaps if I had gotten married there wouldn’t be so much pressure on her and she wouldn’t feel as though she—” as though she were a failure. He sighed. “Briar deserves the world. I just wish someone could give it to her. She deserves it.”

This would be Thorin’s chance to offer. If the dwarf offered his sister courtship, Bilbo wouldn’t refuse. Let him take his sister away from this place. She hadn’t belonged in the Shire well before the Fell Winter.

“That she does.”

The conversation ended. No offer was made and Bilbo wished he could read the dwarf better. He wished it were more proper. He wished his sister could be more open. He wished. He wished.

Chapter Text

They had been living in the Shire for a little over a year. Fíli and Kíli were going to school where they learned history and even some Sindarin, much to Thorin’s annoyance. He made it quite known that he was not happy about his nephew’s learning elvish. Briar had rolled her eyes. “It’s better to know the language so you don’t get cheated out of something because you have no idea what they’re saying.” That got him to quiet down about it, but he had refused to learn any of it.

The two young Durins were even making some friends. Kíli was more outgoing so most of the fauntlings were his friends rather than Fíli’s, but he followed along on their little adventures anyways. Life was peaceful. It was more peaceful than the life in the mountains, that was for sure. There were more children to play with and none of them knew the Durins were royalty, so they didn’t expect anything from them except friendship.

That day, Briar was taking care of them again, while Thorin worked in the forge and Bilbo went out to check on the hobbit renters. The three were playing a little and Briar even let Fíli help her retune her father’s old fiddle. Everything was going rather well. It was calm, just as it had been for the past year.

The sun was rather bright that day, so Briar had closed the curtains and set up the livingroom to be a sort of makeshift campsite. The fire was going, although a screen was placed in front of it to stop it from getting too hot. It was cozy and Fíli almost wanted to take a nap. Kíli was already fading in and out of one.

A knock came to the door.

“Coming!” Briar shouted. She stretched before heading around to the front door. Fíli heard her open it. “Y-yes?”

“Are there any dwarves of Durin here?” Fíli heard a rough voice answer her.

Fíli froze.

“W-what?”

“We’ve heard talk that they were here. There would be an older one and two children.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Fíli could almost hear Briar puffing out her chest in defiance. “We’re respectable hobbits here, we have no dealings with dwarves.”

“You need to learn to lie, lass.” The voice said, growing more annoyed. “Those are dwarf braids in your hair.” Fíli heard a push against the door as though the other person was trying to force his way in. “Now, where are they?”

He heard the other voice howl in pain and the door was slammed and Fíli could hear the locks clicking. Someone began pounding on the door, demanding it be opened.

Briar rushed in, holding her dagger, beads of blood along the edge. She rushed to the fireplace and broke a stick and tossed it in the fire, causing the smoke to turn red. She picked up Kíli and grabbed Fíli’s hand and ran further into the house.

“Bri?” Kíli blinked quickly upon realizing how pale the hobbit was.

“Where are we going?” Fíli felt a knot in his throat. No. No. No. Not again.

“You mean, where are you going?” Briar corrected, going to the pantry and closing the door behind her. She put Kíli down and locked the door. She pulled a shelf out and behind it was a hole big enough for the three of them. “Inside, now.”

The young dwarrow crawled inside and Briar did so after they were in the far back. She pulled the shelf back against the wall, hiding them from view.

“Bri?” Kíli was crying now.

“It’s okay, sweetheart,” Briar said, tucking his hair behind his ears and kissing his face. “Everything is going to be okay.” She looked behind her at the entrance of their hiding place. “Okay, you boys have to listen to me very carefully okay?”

They nodded.

“See that sheet covering the back of our little alcove?” She pointes and the two nodded. She lifted the sheet to reveal their little alcove went much deeper. “That’s a tunnel that will take you the the Gamgee’s pantry. You are going to hide with them for a little while until Thorin, Bilbo, or I come get you.” She took a shaky breath. Fíli’s eyes widened. She was lying. “If anything happens and we can’t come and get you, Gandalf will come and take you two to Rivendell. You’ll be safe there and then he might take you to the Iron Hills.”

“Are you coming with us?” Fíli whispered.

“No, no I’m not.”

“No!” Kíli flung himself into Briar’s arms. “No, you’re coming too!”

Briar wrapped her arms around him. “I can’t, mab calon. I can’t. I have to stay here to make sure they can’t find you. If they come, Thorin made a trick stone that will collapse the tunnel so they can’t follow you. It can only be triggered from this end.”

“Briar—” Fíli began. She couldn’t… She couldn’t… Tears were beginning to stream down his cheeks.

Briar pulled him into her embrace. She buried her face in his hair and he felt hot tears splash against his forehead. “Fíli, you need to take care of your brother. Okay? Both of you need to take care of each other. Thorin trusted me to take care of you and, Mahal, I will do everything I can to keep you safe. If this is what Yavanna made me for, then I will be the happiest hobbit in her Garden.” She peppered their faces with kisses and whispered things about how proud she was of them and how she knew they would grow up to be brave and kind and good. She kissed them each again and Fíli found himself burying his face into her chest, his hands fisting her skirt. “You have to go, my little ones.” She pulled them from her and cupped their cheeks. “No matter what happens, I will always be watching over you. Now go.”

They heard the front door break.

“Go!” She pushes them through the curtain. “Tell me when you get to the other side!”

Fíli dragged his still sobbing brother through the tunnel and into an alcove similar to the one in Bag End. “We made it!” He shouted. “Briar?”

“I love you, my sons.” It was almost a whisper, but Fíli could hear it over Kíli’s sobs.

“Briar!”

The tunnel collapsed and Fíli was left clutching his younger brother as they waited. The Heir of Durin found himself praying to both Mahal and his wife Yavanna. He didn’t want to lose anyone else. He prayed that Thorin would get home quickly and save Briar and then come and get them. Fíli wrapped his arms around his brother and began sobbing too.

Chapter Text

He was fixing one of Briar’s hairpins. It was an easy fix, but he was taking his time with it since he didn’t have any orders he needed to fill yet. It was a delicate piece. Elven made, so the details were delicate. The reason it was taking longer was because Thorin wanted to make it just a tad more dwarvish. He knew Briar liked elves, but Thorin’s lips were always in a grim line whenever she wore something of their make.

She had actually asked him to fix this, so it wasn’t as though he was changing it solely for the chance to make it more dwarvish. She’d probably never talk to him if he ever did do something like that. He finished the hairpin and admired his work.

“Look at you,” a familiar voice came from the door of the forge. “These halflings haven’t just made you gain some fat, they have you tinkering with tree-shagger jewelry.”

Thorin turned and a smile spread across his lips. “Hello, Dwalin.” The two embraced and swiftly cracked their skulls against each other. “It’s been too long.”

“That it has,” the guard nodded. “We felt like it had been enough time for us to try and find you. We heard rumors in Bree that the halflings weren’t using their blacksmith anymore, so there had to be a blacksmith in this place. We planned on just passing through, but a rude lady halfling told us where we might find you.”

Ah, Dwalin hadn’t come alone. “Who else came?”

“The thief tagged along, but I hadn’t planned on him coming. That toy maker, Bofur came. It was a good cover. He’s been making toys and thinking about selling them outside the mountain. Balin’s come as well, under the guise to make some trading agreements.”

Thorin nodded. “How’s the mountain?”

Dwalin’s lips formed a thin line. “A little worse than when you left. The lords are getting nothing done. All they care about is personal gain. What little help we got from the Iron Hills is now non-existent. Dain was furious when he found out what happened. He pulled all his support from the mountain. Some of the dwarrow seem to regret it. Most of them don’t though.”

Thorin sighed. He closed his eyes and images of his sister floated into his vision. “Did she get buried properly?”

“I made sure of it myself.”

“Thank you.”

Dwalin nodded. Thorin motioned for them to sit down. “So how are the halflings treating you?”

“They are half of nothing,” the response was immediate. Bilbo had warned him that the term was a slur and should never be used. Thorin had made sure to pull the boys aside to remind them. “They prefer to be called hobbits. And it’s been going well. The family we stay with take care of us and they even got this forge for me to use. Their families are rather influential.”

“Well, they’re feeding you properly, at least.”

Thorin laughed. “Hobbits have seven meals a day. What do you think?”

“Seven?” Dwalin’s eyes bulged. “No wonder all of them are so big.”

“They’re a peaceful race. They’ve only been in one war as far as I know and their most recent disaster was almost twelve or thirteen years ago, but everyone had it rough that winter.”

Dwalin nodded. “Well, if you told me a year ago that this is where you’d be, I’d have laughed in your face and told you you were drunk.”

“I probably would have thought the same as well.”

“How are the boys?”

“Thriving.” A smile spread across the king’s lips. “The woman in the family we live with takes care of them most of the time. Kíli adores her.”

“It’s good they have a woman’s hand in their lives. Mahal knows how broody they’d turn out if they only had you.”

Thorin shook his head. “Mahal forbid. She’s good for them. Dís would have liked her.” He paused. “Where are the others?”

“The hobbit who told us you were here told us the places we might find you. We spread out to cover more ground.”

Thorin nodded and glanced out the open window of the shop. Red smoke was billowing from the direction of Bag End. He shot up. Boys. Briar. “Who did you send to the house?”

“The thief. I thought he’d be more discreet.”

Thorin swore and tossed his apron on its hook before running out of the forge. None of the dwarrow would be subtle. None of them. If the red smoke was happening, someone had tried to force their way in. Briar had panicked. The boys were probably panicked. He hoped it was Nori. He prayed to Mahal that it had just been Nori. If it was anyone else and his One and his nephews were hurt, he would murder them. He would rip them apart for daring to touch his family.

Fíli. Kíli. Briar. Fíli. Kíli. Briar.

He raced to Bag End. It was afternoon tea so no one was out and about. It made it easier. He got to the green door and saw Nori pressing the palm of his hand to his face. Balin was standing over him although, by the look of his hands he had been pounding on the door.

“Thorin—” his advisor began.

“Not now,” Thorin hissed. He pulled out his key and opened the door, swinging it so hard it slammed into the wall. First, he went to the fireplace and broke a blue stick and tossed it into the fire, creating green smoke to let Bilbo know everything was okay.

He rushed to the pantry. Door was locked. Good girl. He banged on the door, not wanting to break it down. If the boys were already gone, Briar should still be there. That was the plan, no matter how much Thorin hated it.

“Briar! Briar! It’s Thorin, it’s okay! It’s okay!”

He paused the banging and waited. Thorin heard movement on the other end and then the door swung open. Briar was red in the face, her green eyes were wide and flooded with tears, the dagger he had made for her dropped to the ground when she saw him.

“Thorin…”

Her voice broke his heart and he opened his arms to her as she crashed into him. Briar’s arms slipped under his as she clutched at his back. Her hands fisted his jacket as he curled over slightly to wrap his arms around her. One hand was around her waist and the other cradled her head. She pressed herself closer and he could feel his tunic grow damp from her tears.

“Sh. Sh. Sh.” He hushed, rocking her slightly. “You’re okay. We’re okay. The boys are okay.”

“I was so afraid.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” Thorin pressed his lips against her temple. “I should have thought about my friends trying to find me to.” He began to stroke her hair. “I’m sorry I didn’t think of that. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

She pressed her face into his chest before tipping her head back to look at him. He could hear the others coming in, but he didn’t care. All that mattered at this second was Briar.

“The boys are safe.”

He smiled. “You did well, Miss Baggins.” He had said her name out of panic, but he couldn’t call her that again. It was too sweet, too intimate, too painful. He could barely contain himself when she said his name. “Did the tunnel work?”

She nodded before burying her face in his chest again. Thorin let her calm down, knowing she probably didn’t want the boys to see her like this. He also didn’t want to let her go. He stroked her hair and waited for her breathing to even out. After a moment, she pulled away and sniffed, straightening herself out.

“Let’s get the boys.”

Chapter Text

Kíli was clutching his brother’s hand as they sat in the Gamgee’s kitchen. The two hobbits were fussing after them and trying to make them feel at home. They assured the two dwarrow that everything was going to be okay and that Bilbo or Thorin was going to get them soon.

The didn’t mention Briar.

“She’s going to be okay,” Fíli said, his voice hoarse from crying. “She’s going to be okay.”

Kíli wanted Briar. He wanted her to hug him and tell him everything was alright. He wanted to hit Thorin though. Why would he make a tunnel but not make a way for Briar to get out? Why? Thorin liked Briar, he was certain of it. He might not care for her as much as he did Fíli and Kíli or his One, but he cared. So why had he made a plan that left her behind?

Kíli squeezes his brother’s hand tighter.

“Boys!”

Briar’s voice sent a tremor of relief through the youngest Durin. He leapt from his chair, hand yanking from Fíli’s. He ran out the door and found Briar smiling as she was coming to him. Kíli ran to her and she sank to her knees to pull him into a hug.

He buried his face into her chest as she rocked him gently. She kissed his temple and brushed his hair from his face. Briar cooed softly as tears began to bubble in his eyes. She stroked his hair gently.

“It’s okay. We’re all okay.” She shifted and Kíli turned back and saw Fíli standing in the doorway. “I’m sorry I scared you. I should have been calmer. Are you okay, Fíli?”

The blond prince’s blue eyes were stormy, rimmed red from crying. His eyes shifted to behind Briar. Kíli looked too and saw Thorin standing a little behind Briar. Behind him are Balin and Dwalin and a star-haired dwarf Kíli had never seen before. The star-haired dwarf had one eye closed and had a shallow gash that ran from the middle of his eyebrow to the curve of his cheek. That must have been Briar.

Something rushed by Kíli and Briar and the little dwarf realizes that it was Fíli. His brother threw himself at Thorin, balling his hands into tight fists and hitting their uncle in the stomach and chest, anywhere he could reach.

“Fíli!” Kíli shouted in shock.

However, Thorin didn’t try to stop his heir from hitting him. He stood there, calmly. The king-in-exile looked down at his nephew as he fought it out. Fíli’s words unable to bubble up from the anger he seemed to feel.

“You told her to stay behind!” Fíli screamed at last. “Just like Amad! You made her stay behind!” His hits became slower. Tears were tracking down his cheeks as he glared at Thorin and all Kíli could do was stare. He had never seen his brother so angry before.

“I’m sorry,” Thorin said, placing his hand on Fíli’s head. “I’m sorry.”

Fíli wretched himself away and stormed over to Briar. Kíli watched as his brother wrapped his arms around her shoulders and buried his face in her neck. The Durin heir shuddered a breath and then began to sob. Briar soothed him just as she had soothed Kíli. After Fíli eased into a sleepy calm, Kíli watches as Briar’s eyes glance up at Thorin.

Kíli’s uncle remained quiet, pain and sadness etched on his face.

Chapter Text

“Easy there, sweets,” Nori, the star-haired dwarf, hissed as Briar cleaned the cut.

“I’m sorry again, Master Nori.” She let one hand touch Fíli’s hair, tenderly. The blond Durin hadn’t let her go since they had gotten him and Kíli from the Gamgees. “At least it isn’t that deep and I’m sure you can make some great story of it.”

He smirked up at her from his place on the couch. “I’ll be sure to tell the boys back home I let a pretty lass take liberties with me.”

The tattooed dwarf, Dwalin, smacked Nori across the back of the head. “Behave.”

Briar giggled. “It’s quite alright, Master Dwalin. It’s hardly impolite and I’m sure he’s just teasing.” She threw back a smile at Thorin. “He was much ruder in our first conversation.” Thorin bristled and his cheeks flushed slightly. Briar turned back, laughing. “I’m glad you weren’t actually trying to hurt us. If you had been, I don’t think I would have done any damage at all.”

“I’m sure any dwarrow would be mighty shocked to see your bite, sweets,” Nori assured.

“Briar, are you and the boys okay?” Bilbo came in through the door. “I saw the red—the green—I—”

“It’s fine, Bilbo. They’re friends of Thorin. I just panicked.” Her brother was instantly at her side and kissed her cheek. “Everyone, this is my brother, Bilbo. Bilbo, this is Nori, Dwalin, Balin, and Bofur.” She pointed them each out as she said their names. They each murmured their greetings. “All of them but Bofur are distant cousins to Thorin and the boys.”

“Brother, lass?” Balin asked. “You two aren’t married?”

“No,” she shook her head, making a slight face. “Bilbo’s my older brother. Don’t feel bad for assuming. Thorin thought the same way.”

“So, you’re unattached?” Nori asked, as Briar finished bandaging the slight wound. “Guess I can make a proper effort then.” Dwalin hit him again. “Ow!”

Briar rolled her eyes and turned back to Bilbo. “I hope you didn’t cut your rounds short.”

“I was going to, but then I saw the green smoke. I finished my rounds quickly though.” Bilbo turned a little pink. “I guessed Thorin had taken care of everything and I didn’t want to walk in on anything.”

Briar shook her head. “You mean you didn’t want to clean up if anything was a mess.”

Bilbo glanced at the boys. Kíli was sitting on the floor playing with some building sticks Bilbo had whittled for him. Fíli still clung to Briar’s skirt. “You boys okay?”

“I’m fine!” Kíli chirped.

Fíli didn’t answer.

Bilbo glanced at Briar, who shook her head. “Do you have a place to stay?” She asked. “You can all stay here if you don’t.”

“We couldn’t possibly—” Balin started.

“Nonsense. We have room. We might have to change the sleeping arrangements, but it should be fine,” Bilbo assured.

“I can take the nursery with the boys and the rest can sleep in the library and Thorin’s room,” Briar suggested.

“You’ve already given up your bed once, Miss Baggins,” Thorin said, quietly.

She smiled. “It’s fine. The boys would love to have a slumber party. Wouldn’t you, boys?” She looked down at Fíli. The boy glanced up at her but kept his face in her hip. She smiled sadly. “It’s no bother at all.” She bent down and picked Fíli up, he wasn’t going to let her go for now. “I’ll just take some of my personal things out of the library and put them in the nursery.”

Briar carried Fíli to the library and put him down again. He clutched to her skirt as she moved about to pick up about a week’s worth of clothes and a few more personal items she would rather the dwarrow not see.

“Why aren’t you mad at him?”

Briar looked down into Fíli’s blue eyes. “I’m sorry?”

“Why aren’t you mad at Thorin? He made you stay behind.” His eyes were stormy. While Kíli looked very much like his uncle, Kíli’s eyes were just too much like Thorin’s. They were so much sadder than they needed to be. “What if it hadn’t been dwarrow we knew? What if it had been bad ones? You could’ve…”

The boy was fighting back tears. Briar knelt down and began to stroke his hair. “I’m sorry, Fíli. Thorin, Bilbo and I will think of a plan that can protect all of us next time. I promise.” She cupped his face in her hands and used her thumbs to wipe his small tears. “I’m not mad at Thorin because you and Kíli are our top priority. You two are still children. It’s our job to protect you.” She smiled at him. “Not the other way around.”

“No,” Fíli sniffed. “You’re not mad because Thorin’s your Enaid.”

Briar stiffened for a moment, but smiled again. Of course Fíli would see it. He was rather observant. “It’s not because he’s my Enaid. He’s just as prone to mistakes as I am. I can’t expect him to be perfect just as I am not perfect.” She straightened out. “Now, let’s put these things in the nursery and go out and you can say your sorry to Thorin.”

Fíli glared at her.

“Whether or not you were in the right in how you felt, you shouldn’t have hit your uncle. You don’t have to apologize for how you feel, just for how you acted. Okay?” He looked away. “Mab calon,” his eyes snapped to hers. “If you have learned anything today it’s that you don’t always get the time to say what you want. Don’t live your days in regret.”

They stored her things in the nursery and went back to where the dwarrow and Bilbo were still gathered. They stood in the entryway and Briar nudged Fíli forward. He glanced at her before going over to Thorin and hugging him. As they reached an understanding, Thorin glanced at Briar and mouthed ‘thank you.’

Chapter Text

“I’ll take the children to bed,” Briar yawned. “I think the three of us had a rather long day.” She picked up Kíli, who had already fallen asleep in her lap, and managed to pick Fíli up as well. “Goodnight everyone. I’ll see you all for first breakfast.”

“First breakfast?” Bofur’s eyes widened and Bilbo had to suppress a smile. He was probably never going to tire of other races learning about the two separate breakfasts.

Briar smiled and left the room with a hum as the dwarves continued their discussions. Bilbo’s sister began to sing softly as she made her way down the hallway. Her voice carried over sweetly into the sitting room.

‘Fate has been cruel and order unkind / How can I have sent you away? / The blame was my own; the punishment, yours / The harmony’s silent today.’

Bilbo was slightly surprised when he heard the dwarves quiet down as they listened to Briar’s lullaby. He was most surprised by Thorin who seemed to have still completely, yet his muscles were tense as though he longed to move. Once again, Bilbo questioned Thorin’s feelings for Briar. Perhaps, if they weren’t romantic, he might still ask the dwarf to take Briar away from this place.

‘But into the stillness I'll bring you a song /And I will your company keep / Till your tired eyes and my lullabies / Have carried you softly to sleep.’

Briar must have closed the door to the nursery because the song could no longer be heard. The spell seemed to be broken and breath returned to the sitting room.

“Your sister has quite a voice,” Nori said, breaking the silence.

Bilbo smiled. “That she does. Gets it from our da, thankfully. Our mum sounded like a screeching fiddle,” he laughed.

“I’m sure she couldn’t have been that bad,” Bofur laughed as well.

“Oh, she was terrible. Didn’t stop her from singing though. One year she forgot to get something for her and Da’s anniversary so she gave him a sheet of paper that she signed saying he could ask her to stop singing three times for the coming year. He used them up way too quickly.”

“They must be mighty proud of their grown children,” Balin said with a smile. “But why does your sister live with—” Thorin put his hand on Balin’s elbow and shook his head. “Ah. I’m sorry, lad.”

“It’s alright.” Bilbo have a grateful look to Thorin. “You didn’t know.” He paused, unsure of where to go next. “So, I suppose I’m taking most of you to the Thain tomorrow.”

“And you say he’s your grandfather?” Balin asked.

“Yes. And, no, Briar and I aren’t royalty. Hobbits don’t have kings or anything like that. We have a Thain. It’s familial I suppose and I’d be…” he closed his eyes. “Thirteenth… in line… I think. Maybe fourteenth. Someone had a baby or is expecting one soon. I can’t remember.” He shook his head. “But yes, he’s my grandfather. My mum was his favorite daughter which is why he agreed for Thorin and the boys to stay here. That and Gandalf swore they were good dwarves.”

“You and your family have done a lot for us,” Dwalin said.

Bilbo smiled. “Just doing what we can. I know you dwarves have had it bad since Erebor. Hobbits had a time like that, we call it the Wandering Years. It was so long ago and we were wandering for so long that we have no clue where we even came from. Even the elves don’t know where we came from. By the time the discovered us, we had already been in the Shire for a while. Hobbits are just always glad to help. No repayment necessary by the way, I know Thorin worried about that when we first took him and the boys in.”

“I apologized for that,” Thorin brooded.

“Yes and Briar forgave you.”

“Mahal, Thorin, what did you say to her?” Dwalin chuckled.

“Nothing pleasant.”

“I’m sure my grandfather can set up some form of trade. As long as the dwarves don’t find Thorin and the boys, everything should be fine. We could even use the Rangers as a go between so the other dwarves don’t have to step foot in the Shire.”

Balin nodded. “It’s a good idea, Master Bilbo.”

The hobbit smiled cheekily. “All for the boys really. Briar would murder me if anything happened to them.”

“I feel so welcome in the Shire,” Thorin said, shaking his head.

“Believe me, many a hobbit lass would weep if you left.” Bilbo felt his stomach churn. Maybe if he could just push Thorin in the right direction. “I’m fairly certain you’ve caused quite a few to rethink their idea of beards.”

Thorin chuckled. “I’m certain Fíli and Kíli will break more hearts the longer we stay. Their father was quite the desirable dwarf.” He rubbed his beard. “Dís was fairly sought after too.”

Bilbo stood up. “I suppose I’ll head to bed now. You all can make sleeping arrangements. Thorin knows where everything is.”

“Goodnight, Bilbo. We’ll stay up a little longer yet.”

“Alright, then. Goodnight.”

Chapter Text

Fíli woke up curled next to Briar’s side. He blinked himself awake and sat up slowly. He glanced out the window. Still dark. First breakfast wouldn’t be for ages. Oh, well. They had gone to bed rather early. Fíli stretches and felt his stomach bubble slightly. He’d get a drink from the kitchen and go back to bed.

He got up carefully and snuck to the kitchen, hoping not to wake anyone. Fíli slowed when he heard the other dwarrow’s voices coming from the sitting room. He heard three voices which meant two of the dwarrow had gone to bed. He closed his eyes and recognized Thorin, Balin, and Dwalin’s voices as they spoke in Khuzdul.

“You can’t be serious, lad,” Balin’s voice was strained. “This isn’t something to joke about.”

“Why would I joke about this?” Thorin gave a tired sigh. Fíli could almost imagine his uncle running his fingers through his hair. “Do you think I wanted this?”

“At least I know you have good taste,” Dwalin snickered. There was a short pause. “Sorry.”

“What was Tharkûn thinking, putting you here with this family?”

Fíli bristled at Balin’s words. What was wrong with Bilbo and Briar? They were good hobbits. Much better than most of the dwarrow in Ered Luin.

“Bilbo and Miss Baggins can be trusted, that’s why. They’re good people and haven’t asked anything of us.” Thorin wasn’t shouting, but sounded very close to it.

“Except the lass has you thinking that she’s your One,” Balin snapped.

Fíli’s jaw might as well have dropped to the floor. Briar was Thorin’s One? But… but that was impossible. Briar’s soulmark made sense because she said the feelings didn’t have to be mutual. Dwarrow Ones, however… they had to be other dwarrow… didn’t they?

“She is my One. But I’m not hers. She doesn’t even know what she is to me. I wasn't telling you to let you know my intentions. I was telling you so you would respect her. She’ll never be mine because her race doesn’t believe in such things.” Thorin sounded pained and Fíli felt bad for ever putting Briar off of his uncle.

“Thorin,” Dwalin said, slowly. “You have Fíli, and Kíli as well. You don’t need an heir. But if you were married and had children, some dwarrow might use that to their advantage, even if they weren’t fully dwarven. And the other dwarrow might not react kindly to their queen not being a dwarf. She could be your official consort. She couldn’t wear your official beads like Runa did, but you could still—”

“Their ways are different from ours,” Thorin said, exasperated. “Hobbits would see it as an insult if I asked her to be with me outside of marriage.” His voice was filled with so much pain that Fíli flinched. “Besides, she belongs here. She belongs in the earth with sunshine. She’d suffocate in the mountain. I can’t… I can’t ask her to give this all up when another hobbit could offer her more than I ever could.”

“I’m sorry, lad, but you know you can’t—”

“I know. I know.” There was a short pause. “If I was a simple blacksmith… but I’m a king.” He sighed. “I’ll do my duty and perhaps, one day, we’ll take back Erebor. I will do everything I can to do right by our people, even if many don’t care for me. Just… don’t ask me to marry Balin. I can’t.”

“I’m sorry, Thorin,” Dwalin said, quietly. “I wish there was another way.”

Fíli crept back to the nursery, his mind buzzing. Briar was Thorin’s One, but Balin opposed it. Why? Because she was a hobbit? What did that matter? Mahal’s wife was the hobbits’ Yavanna. No one even knew what Durin the Deathless’ wife was except that she was not a dwarrow, in fact, no one knew who she was. What did it matter if Briar wasn’t a dwarf. She was kind and good and gentle.

He climbed into bed, but froze seeing that Briar was watching him.

“Are you okay?” She whispered. The hobbit extended her arm and Fíli crawled into her side again. “You were gone for a while.”

“Briar?”

“Yes, mab calon?”

“Can I make you a mother bead?” Maybe if both the heirs of Durin saw her as a mother, other dwarrow would accept her more easily.

“Of course,” she smiled. “I would like that very much my little lion cub.”

Fíli smiled at that. He cuddled closer to her and drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Thorin knew it was the cowardly thing to do, but he began to withdraw from Briar ever so slightly. While he was happy when she came out one morning with another mother bead in her hair from Fíli, it only reminded him that she could never wear his beads. Briar seemed to notice his withdrawal, but said nothing of it. Balin and Dwalin noticed it as well. His advisor assured him it was for the best while his best friend said he at least owed Briar an explanation.

It all came to a breaking point when he woke up from a dream involving Briar in his bed. Thorin groaned and got up, careful not to disturb Balin or Dwalin, and went to the back garden to practice with his sword. It wasn’t the first time he had dreamed of Briar being by his side, but this dream had been more heated than any previous one.

He swung his weapon against the padded tree in the back garden with enough ferocity that he was surprised the padding didn’t tear. Images of Briar kept coming to mind. Her lips brushing against his. Her fingers tangling in his hair. Her chest pressed to his. His own body trapping her against his bed. Her voice telling him to—

“Thorin?” He turned so quickly against the swing of his sword that he lost balance and hit the ground hard. Briar rushed over to him, kneeling quickly by his side. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” his voice cracked and he cursed all the Valar for it.

“Thorin, you’re flushed.” She put the back of her hand against his brow. “You’re burning up. Let’s sit down on the bench and I’ll get you some water.” She led him to sit down and went to get him some water. After she came back and he drank from the water skin she put her hand on his arm again. “Are you okay? Don’t say you are because you think it’s what you should say. I do want to know. I want to help, if I can.”

“I’m fine. It was just a dream.”

She narrowed his eyes. “It must have been a horrible dream to have you so worked up.”

He let out a single, breathy laugh. If she had seen him any earlier she might have seen how pleasant a dream it had been. It was the downside of having less layers than dwarrow usually had on when sleeping. “It wasn’t a bad one. It was…” Half-truths. That’s all he could give her. “I was dreaming about my One.”

“Oh,” he could feel her hand tense against his arm. “She died in Erebor, didn’t she? She and her daughter?” Thorin looked at her, confused. How had she heard about Runa or Brenna? “Balin told me about them. I was asking about Erebor and more about dwarrow names because I wanted to include them in the stories I told the boys.” Of course Balin would tell her about Runa. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Thank you.”

“From what Balin said, she would have made a wonderful queen. I’m sure if you had gotten married had she and Brenna had made it out of Erebor, we would have had to find you a bigger place to live.” She was turning a little pink and laughed. “I’m sure the boys and your children wouldn’t have all fit in Bag End.”

It would have been horrible. Thorin was certain he would have heard Briar sing the second night they were in the Shire regardless of if Runa had been there or not. He would have heard Briar sing and he would be more depraved than he already was. He would be married and be wishing for another woman to be by his side. It was already complicated as it was. How much more would it have been if Runa and Brenna or any child he might have had had been under the same roof of his One?

“I’m sure we would have figured something out,” she smiled up at him. “She sounded like a formidable dwarrowdam. I’m sure she and I would have gotten along.”

Probably.

He and Runa knew that their match wasn’t for love. Her One and husband, one of Thorin’s closest friends, had died in a mining accident and Thorin had been there for her and Brenna in the aftermath. She wouldn’t have expected him to be faithful to their vows when he had realized Briar was his One. She would have simply asked that she retain her title as queen and their child or children remain his heirs while he could take Briar as his consort. Thorin wouldn’t have done that though. Not for Runa’s sake, but for the same reason he wasn’t claiming Briar as his One now: he couldn’t have her as a mere consort when she deserved to be the wife of someone who could give her everything she deserved.

“I wish things could be different,” Thorin breathed, feeling heat beginning to coil in his belly as he looked at her.

“Me too.” She put his hand on his shoulder, squeezing it gently, and smiled tenderly. “You deserve all the happiness in the world, Thorin Oakenshield.”

“As do you, Miss Baggins.” Which is why she could be never be his. Let her think his heart belongs to someone else. He prayed to Mahal that she never had to feel as he did. Let her find someone worthy of her.

She pressed her hand to his brow again. “You seem to be feeling better. I’ll go back inside and start working on First Breakfast. Would you like to join me?”

“I’ll stay out here for a bit longer.”

She nodded and Thorin watched as she walked back into the smial. Thorin turned back to the garden and looked up at the sky. He closed his eyes and could still see flashes of his dream dance across his vision. He pushed the brightness of them down and focused on the darkness of the mountain and the responsibilities he could never place on her.

“I’m sorry, Briar. I’m sorry, Gimlelul.”

Chapter Text

Kíli did not like Nori. The star-haired dwarf followed Briar constantly, to the market and garden and shops, and was always making her smile and blush at his grown up comments. The youngest Durin clung to Briar’s skirt and glared at the dwarf, which only made him laugh.

“It appears the little pup doesn’t much care for me.”

“I’m sure he’s just nervous around newer people,” Briar assured him.

“I’m certainly glad you aren’t nervous around me, sweets.” He grinned at her. “Feel free to tell me if you’d rather have a grown dwarf in your bed instead of the little pup or cub.”

Briar turned bright red at the comment. Kíli bristled.

Dwalin came up behind Nori and batted him upside the head. Kíli liked Dwalin quite a bit more for that. “Be nice, thief.”

“I am, guard.”

Briar giggled. “Is this how all dwarrow act around one another?”

“No,” all three dwarrow replied.

Briar laughed as she continued around the kitchen for lunch. “Kíli, do you want to help set the table? You can show Nori and Dwalin where everything is and they can help. You’re always so helpful.”

Kíli puffed out his chest in pride as he told the older dwarrow what to do. Although, he didn’t like how Nori winked at Briar. Kíli glared at Nori as he handed the thief the plates. The dwarf just laughed.

“Don’t worry, little pup, just flirting. I won’t take her away from you.”

“You should respect her because Bri’s coming to Erebor too so you have to respect her.” Kíli lifted his chin proudly.

“Who said she was coming to Erebor, lad?” Balin asked, coming in from the library. Bilbo had offered to let the advisor look through the different texts in there.

“I asked her and she said she’d come.”

The three older dwarrow glanced at Briar who had begun to set plates of food on the table.

“I said I would try to go with you. But for all we know I’ll be quite old by then.” She laughed, obviously trying to ease the tension. “Yavanna, imagine dragging a little old hobbit across Arda. It’d be quite the tale I admit.”

“But you’re really young Bri!”

“Hobbits age a little more quickly than dwarrow do, mab calon.” She said, stroking his hair. “Hobbits live to be about a hundred and fifty years at most. Dwarrow live to be almost four hundred. Now, it can sometimes change if we’re bonded to a different race. I once read a story where a hobbit married an elf and they lived for quite a long time. But I’m probably not going to, so I might be rather old when you go to Erebor.”

“No! You’re coming with us!” Tears began to bubble in his eyes and the other dwarrow began to shift uncomfortably.

Briar knelt down quickly and wrapped him up in a hug. “How about this, you take back the mountain with Thorin and I come later and I can retire there in the mountains and tell your children all the fun adventures we’ve had in the Shire. How does that sound?”

“You could always marry me, sweets,” Nori said, attempting to break the tension. “I’ll make you a proper bed in the mountain, none of this feather stuff you have here.”

Kíli glared at Nori and the comment earned the thief another knock on the head from Dwalin.

Briar giggled. “You’re my heart’s son, Kíli. You and Fíli both are.” She rubbed her nose against his. “We’ll figure it out once we get there.”

Chapter Text

Briar had dreamed of Erebor that night or, at least, what she assumed was Erebor. She was sitting next to Thorin, leaning into his side with his arm around her shoulder and a hand on her protruding belly. The boys were older. She couldn’t see their faces but she knew they were Fíli and Kíli. They were young men now. They were playing in a field of grass and flowers with two children. Their ears were rounded and their black hair was long and braided, but their feet had fur on top and they looked every bit like Thorin as they looked like her.

Thorin’s beard scratched against Briar’s cheek as he whispered in the language she didn’t understand. He was about to say something else when a kick to her stomach woke her up.

She was in bed and Fíli’s foot had collided with her belly. Briar groaned, but sat up. She looked outside and sighed. She needed to get ready for the day anyway.

Having all the extra dwarrow in Bag End was becoming normal and Briar found that she quite liked having all the people in the house. The day would be great if it weren’t for the fact that Lobelia had told her the previous day that she would be stopping in for afternoon tea.

“I don’t see why she has to come,” Fíli sulked. “She’s awful.”

“She can’t be that bad, lad,” Balin assured.

“I’d rather be stuck in a mine shaft listening to Glóin talk about his wife than be in a room with that woman,” Thorin muttered.

Dwalin’s eyes bugged out. “How bad is this woman?”

“A right pain,” Briar sighed. “But she’s family.”

“At least she just asked you to tea, I can just sit with the dwarves and talk about anything but whatever she finds appropriate.” Bilbo smirked.

Briar shot him a look. “She’s only mad because you refused to court her, Bilbo. She wanted to be a full Baggins with full Baggins children. All she got to be was a Sackville-Baggins and that awful Lotho.”

“He’s the absolute worst,” Kíli made a face.

“I’ll make sure he has to pay extra if he comes up to my stall.” Bofur said with a smirk.

Briar laughed and pinched the tip of Kíli’s nose tenderly. “Well, you don’t have to play with him or talk to her. I’m sure she’s here to see who’s living in Bag End right now and will tell me that it isn’t proper for me to walk around with a dwarf unaccompanied.”

Yavanna, she hoped that was all it was going to be.

When Lobelia came for tea, Briar relegated everyone else to the sitting room. They could all see and hear what would happen between the two hobbit women, but they wouldn’t have to react or be a part of the conversation if they didn’t want to be.

“So, Lobelia, how are Otho and Lotho doing?” Briar asked as her cousin began looking around the dining room. She would not take home any of the silverware that day.

“My little Lotho is a perfect faunt, not that you would know what that was like.” Briar strained a smile and took a sip of her tea. “You have those little stonelings.”

“Dwarflings, Lobelia.”

“Whatever. You’re letting them run wild.”

“I’m letting them act like Tooks. They’ve been through a lot. Let children be children. Their childhood is longer than hobbits’.”

Lobelia rolled her eyes and took a sip of her own tea. “And you’ve been walking out with different dwarves. Really, Briar, your reputation is already terrible.”

She sighed. “I’m showing them around so they can walk around the Shire on their own. They aren’t like hobbits. They’re very up front when they want courtship. They wouldn’t go around asking for a stroll. Besides, from what I understand, hobbits don’t fit the dwarrow idea of beauty. We’re not hairy enough.” She smiled.

“I still don’t know why Bilbo would trust you alone with them. Have you seen those weapons! They could frighten you into their own advantage.”

Briar glanced at her brother and dwarrow in the sitting room. Lobelia was being intentionally loud. She was probably hoping to set one off. “The dwarrow really respect their women. Their women are considered to be like treasures. They would never make her do something she didn’t want.”

“Well, you’re letting them take advantage of your Baggins hospitality. Look at all the dirt they’ve tracked in!”

“This isn’t nearly as bad as the Old Took’s smial and you know it.”

“You should think about who is going to live here after you and Bilbo are gone.”

Briar tensed. “I’m not sure what you mean, Lobelia.”

“Of course you do, you can’t grow lilies.”

“Just because I can’t grow lilies, doesn’t mean I can’t run my own smial.”

“Well, it’s not as though you can pass Bag End on to your children. So, you and Bilbo should start thinking about who you should give it to. Preferably a family who actually has a faunt to raise.

A muscle ticked in Briar’s jaw and her hand tightened on the handle of her teacup. It began to shake slightly and Briar cupped her other hand around it to steady it. “Like you? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I have no plans on giving you Bag End. Bilbo has no plans on giving you Bag End either. So what if I can’t grow lilies. I can marry and—”

“And what? Hope he has an affair?” The sitting room had grown rather silent. “Or are you hoping he’ll have children already? Yavanna forbid this house go to someone who isn’t family! Even the Thain wouldn’t allow it!” She sighed as though she was reprimanding a child. “Briar, you know I’m saying this for your own good. Everyone is talking. It’s ridiculous watching you flaunt yourself with those stonelings as though they were your own children. You’re only embarrassing yourself.”

“Fíli and Kíli are better children then your little brat,” Briar seethed. “I won’t have you insulting my heart sons under my roof or in my presence!”

“How dare you Briar Baggins! I am trying to help you!”

“Please,” Briar rolled her eyes. “You don’t care about anyone but yourself. I pity you, Lobelia. You are a cold hearted person that doesn’t see the value in others unless it benefits you. You aren’t even half the person Thorin, Fíli, or Kíli are and two of them are children!”

“And you would know all about being a half-person, you pathetic halfling!” Briar’s teacup shattered in her hands. “Don’t think we can’t all see what you’re doing. No one would want a wretched halfling like you so you stick to those dwarves because they don’t know what you are! It would have been better if that orc had killed you. It would have been a mercy for you to never find out what you are! It’s by Yavanna’s grace that your parents don’t have to see you like this!”

Briar could barely feel the gashes in her hand as Bilbo stormed into the dining room screaming, “Get out of my smial Lobelia Sackville-Baggins! Get out!”

Chapter Text

Bilbo was furious.

If he didn’t have to worry about Briar, he would have chased Lobelia out of the Shire completely. Instead, he went to Briar after that horrible woman left and pulled out his handkerchiefs and wrapped them around her hands. They weren’t terrible, but it was very clear that Briar was in shock.

“Hamfast!” Bilbo shouted.

The gaffer hurried inside almost as soon as Bilbo began to call his name. “I heard what she said, Master Bilbo. The old cow.”

“Take Briar to Bell and have her looked after for a bit.” Bilbo looked at his sister. She was staring at her trembling fingers as blood began to sleep through the cotton fabric. “Briar?” She looked up at him. Her eyes and face blank. “Hamfast is going to take you to see Bell, okay? She’s going to make sure your hands will heal properly and then she’s going to make you some tea to help you sleep. Does that sound good?”

She nodded. Briar absently walked over to Hamfast. The gaffer put his arm around her. “We’ll take care of Miss Briar. Don’t you worry.”

Bilbo watched them go and when the door closed he turned to the standing dwarves who all expressed varying degrees of shock and confusion. The remaining hobbit sighed. He pinched his nose and motioned for everyone to sit again. “I suppose I have to explain a few things I had hoped I wouldn’t have to.”

“Is ‘halfling’ truly such an insult?” Balin asked.

At the word, Bilbo winced. “I know most races call us that because of our size, but it means something else to hobbits.” He glanced at the boys. Kíli’s eyes were shining and Fíli looked horrified by what had happened. “When a hobbit calls another hobbit a halfling, they’re telling them that they are only half a person. They aren’t… whole.”

“After the Fell Winter happened and our parents were gone, Briar stopped smiling. She was like a ghost. She barely spoke and she barely ate. She was wasting away to such a point that most people thought she might start fading.” Bilbo glanced up. “That’s where a hobbit basically dies of heartbreak. Briar was like that for about three years and then it was time for her to participate in the Lily Ceremony and Briar began to brighten a bit.”

“Lilies are for children? Right?” Kíli asked.

Bilbo smiled. “Sort of. It means fertility, actually,” This caused Thorin to choke on air. “As you’ve probably noticed, hobbits value large families. It’s why we are so connected to everyone even if it was by marriage a few generations back. My mother was actually one of twelve, so our family is rather large anyway.”

“Your mother had eleven siblings?” Balin’s jaw dropped. Bilbo thought it was rather undignified for the wizened dwarf.

“Yes. But, anyways. When a girl is twenty-three, ten years before her majority, they go to the community garden to gather a handful of lily seeds to plant in their garden. Depending on how many lilies sprout, that’s how many children Yavanna will bless her with so they can plan ahead on how to provide for their future family. My grandmother grew twelve. My mother was able to grow two.” Bilbo closed his eyes, not wanting to see the reaction to what he was about to say. “Briar wasn’t able to grow any.”

There was silence.

“Which means Briar can’t have children,” Dwalin said quietly.

Bilbo opened his eyes. “Yes. Briar was devastated. I think one of the things that kept her going was the idea that she could fill Bag End with laughter again. And then she lost that dream.” He sighed. “Most hobbits are kind enough to not mention it to her. Briar was always good with children and faunts love her, so most thought she might just marry a hobbit who already has children and that’s why Yavanna wasn’t going to give her children. But because of inheritance laws, whenever Briar or I pass on to Yavanna’s Garden, it would go to someone related to us.”

“So it wouldn’t go to the children she raised.” Bofur looked disgusted.

“No it wouldn’t.” He glanced at Thorin and then the boys. “When you first came, Briar cried for you two boys. She couldn’t understand how anyone would want to hurt children when they should be treasured.” Bilbo smiled. “Since you’ve started living with us, I’ve never seen her happier. She hasn’t been this bright since before the Fell Winter. I’m her brother and I know it’s my responsibility to make her happy, but there’s only so much I can do.” He looked at Thorin. “I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know when you’re leaving for Erebor. But take Briar with you if you can.”

“Bilbo—”

The hobbit held up his hand. “I know your dwarrowdams can’t always have children. You don’t care if she can’t give you children. It’s not like that here. Please, maybe someone from your race will value her for who she is rather than the legacy she could have given them.”

If it couldn’t be Thorin, maybe another dwarf would be able to love her. Briar had already resigned herself as not being able to be by Thorin’s side. Maybe another dwarf will love her. Maybe she would simply raise the boys and their children would know her as their grandmother. Briar deserved so much more. She deserved so much more than what she has been given.

Chapter Text

When Briar came back to Bag End, she went straight to the kitchen to make supper. Fíli watched as the other dwarrow skirted around her awkwardly. It was just as Bilbo said, dwarrowdams weren’t expected to have children, some even chose not to even have the chance. However, hobbits were expected to have children. How could they comfort her when she had a need they could never fill or even really understand?

At supper, Briar smiled and talked as though Lobelia hadn’t even stopped for a visit. She smiled generously, but it never quite reached her eyes. The other dwarrow relaxed marginally, but Fíli guessed there was going to be a conversation after she went to bed. Bilbo had asked them to take Briar to Erebor with them. It was different from him or Kíli childishly asking her to come with them. If Briar came to Erebor, she would be seen as the mother of the Heirs of Durin.

She would be thrown into the politics that had eventually killed their mother. Although Thorin had made it clear that he didn’t want to marry, plenty of lords would try to get him to marry one of their daughters for the power of being related to the queen or being the uncle or grandfather to the newer Heir of Durin. Briar, with her proximity to Thorin and his heirs, would put her in danger because many would see her as a threat or pawn to their cause.

There was one very logical thing to do, but Fíli has no idea how to make it happen. Yavanna had made Briar for Thorin, but it seemed like self-doubt was the main reason she wasn’t perusing him. Mahal had made Thorin for Briar, but he wasn’t convinced that he could give her all that she deserved. He also probably feared the same things Fíli did.

The logical thing to do was for Thorin to marry Briar.

Bilbo obviously trusted Thorin and would probably welcome it. So, on Briar’s end, things could go smoothly. The main problem was on the dwarrow end. Balin made it clear that he didn’t want Thorin to marry Briar. The main point seemed to be was that she was a hobbit. The second point had been that she would have a baby that might threaten Fíli as heir. Fíli doubted that, but it apparently worried Balin.

But, now it was made apparent that Briar couldn’t have children. Maybe Balin would change his opinion now. Even if Briar could bare children, Fíli doubted he would feel threatened by them. He was Briar’s son now too. She was his mother and any children she could have had would be his siblings and he would protect them as he did Kíli. Besides, her children would be part hobbit. Hobbits didn’t seem to care for power, he doubted Briar would have raised her children to want it.

After the hobbits and Kíli went to bed, Fíli was correct in thinking the other dwarrow were going to talk. Unlike the previous discussion, Nori and Bofur were included.

“You should go to bed, little cub,” Nori said gently.

Fíli didn’t really care for the thief. He flirted with Briar way to often for his liking and knew he was only half-teasing. “I’m the heir to Erebor. I should stay.”

Nori shrugged and then shifted on the couch to allow Fíli to sit.

“We can’t take her,” Thorin said, beginning the discussion.

“You mean you can’t,” Dwalin mumbled, earning a glare from Fíli’s uncle.

“She could still find a place here. She might not be able to have children and her family home might be lost, but she might find a hobbit with children she could be happy with.”

“Thorin is right, brother,” Balin said. “She would be better off here.”

“You don’t want her to come because she’d upset the political balance. Don’t act as though you’re thinking of her.” The heavily veiled venom in the thief’s voice surprised Fíli.

“Getting protective of the hobbit lass?” Bofur said, quickly trying to dispel the tension.

“She’s the kind of girl Dori would love for me to bring home.” Nori smiled. Fíli noticed Thorin tense slightly, his knuckles whitening. “If you’re worried about her only having wee dwarflings to protect her from the other dwarrow, the Ris could adopt her in. As I said, Dori would love her, Kori always wanted a sister, Ori would be thrilled to have someone who enjoyed telling stories, and I like that she takes me seriously when I’m serious and jokingly when I’m not. I’d adopt Bilbo and Briar both if they’d have us.”

“You would adopt her?” Balin spluttered.

“We’re not the nobilist of families, but we’re from the Line of Durin too.” Nori stroked his beard. “She’d be from a lesser family so she wouldn’t be usable as a pawn. But she’d be in considered as part of the Line of Durin and many would see that she’s simply taking care of her kin so she wouldn’t be seen as a threat, especially if she’s seen looking after little Ori too.”

Fíli stared at the thief, open mouthed. That was… it was a really good plan. Better than his own simply because he didn’t know how to bring up that Thorin and Briar were made for each other.

Fíli glanced at his uncle. Thorin’s eyes were closed as he thought over what Nori had suggested. “We’ll do it your way,” he said at last. “She already understands what our beads mean. You may ask her tomorrow,” he paused. “You may ask her as long as she appears well enough for such a conversation.”

Nori nodded. “Of course.”

Chapter Text

The next day, Briar was wearing a braid and bead that said she was a sister of the Ri family from the Line of Durin. She had her arm around Nori’s own and beaming happily as she showed it off. Bilbo, whose hair was not long enough to braid, had his family bead on a leather cord around his neck. Thorin found it rather easy to be happy for Bilbo. However, he couldn’t bring himself to feel the same thing for Briar.

She would never wear his beads. He would never have the privilege of running his fingers through her hair as he tamed it into a braid befitting a queen.

It also didn’t help that Nori seemed to flaunt his newfound closeness to the lady hobbit every time Thorin was around. The thief would put his arm around her shoulder and kiss her temple whenever he passed her by when Thorin was in the same room—Thorin wasn’t sure if he did it any time else. He would even occasionally pick her up in a hug and spin her around a bit.

Thorin’s dreams started becoming even more heated, almost always ending without actually getting that far—not that he wanted them to. He already felt ashamed as it was. The dreams made every time Briar’s hand accidentally brush against his send a static feeling that rumbled through his body like thunder.

The occasions where she would find him training Bilbo, who had decided he wished to better protect his family just in case, he felt the foolish need to take off his shirt. It was a rather dwarven way of showing off how great of a warrior he was, having survived so many blows. The first time he had divested his shirt, Bilbo rolled his eyes and muttered how he wasn’t going to follow suit. Many hobbit lasses slowed their walking and giggled and blushed as they saw Thorin shirtless, which meant he was at least attractive to hobbits (he had been a little worried about that since most hobbit lads were on the rounder or leaner side). Briar, however, looked at Thorin with a distant sad feeling when she finally saw him without his shirt.

Thorin didn’t take his shirt off again after that.

He shouldn’t even be trying to show off to her anyway. It was never going to happen.

“Can I trust you with my sister after I leave?” Nori asked as he leaned against the door of the forge.

Thorin paused his work. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The thief sighed and shook his head. “You have a tell you know. You get really still and when you’re around her you close your eyes as though you want to live in that moment.” Thorin grimaced. “She’s your One, isn’t she?”

“It’s none of your business, I’m not going to do anything. When she comes to Erebor I’ll look after her like I will look after Kori or I would have looked after Dís.”

“It is my business, she’s my sister. And she isn’t Kori or Dís. She’s your One and you love her.” Nori sighed. “This isn’t healthy. Just talk to her. Honestly, the shirt thing was ridiculous.” Nori left Thorin to his thoughts.

That night, in his dreams, Thorin held Briar close, his lips against her neck, and whispered all the truths he could not tell her in the morning.

Chapter Text

Kíli liked Nori now. He was Briar’s brother now, so that made him Kíli’s uncle. Briar was safe from him and he’d keep her safe when they went to Erebor.

Kíli liked Bofur. He was nice and funny. He made Briar laugh and he was sweet to her. Kíli liked Bofur, but he didn’t like him for Briar.

Briar deserved all of Arda.

“Bri?” Kíli handed Briar the laundry as she hung it up to dry.

“Hm?”

“Do you like Bofur?”

“Of course. How could anyone not like Bofur?”

“Do you want him to court you?”

Briar paused and looked down at him. “Why would you think that?”

“He makes you laugh and you smile a lot around him.”

Briar looked down at him and smiled. She pressed her palm to the side of his head and stroked his cheek with her thumb. “You make me laugh and smile a lot. Smiles and laughter don’t equal the want for courting.” She paused. “Is that why you didn’t like Nori? You thought he might court me?”

“Maybe…”

Briar laughed. “Nori is my brother now. And while Bofur is a nice person, he isn’t really my type.”

“Type?”

“He isn’t the type of person I imagine myself marrying.”

“Do you think you’ll get married someday?”

Briar smiled sadly. “I dream about being married, but I probably never will.”

“But what about your Enaid? What if you meet him.”

“Oh, mab calon, I’ve already met him.”

“Then why aren’t you courting already? You’re amazing!” Kíli threw his hands in the air for effect.

Briar smiled and shook her head. “He’s in love with someone else.”

Kíli crosses his arms. “I bet she’s not as nice or pretty as you.”

Briar laughed. She scooped him up in a hug and sprinkled his face with kisses. “You’re too sweet, Kíli.” She put him down. “Let’s go give Thorin his lunch.”

They walked to the forge, hand in hand. Kíli swing them happily along as they went. When they neared the forge, Kíli ran ahead and found Nori already there.

“Hello, Nori.”

“Hello, pup, you come with Briar?”

“Hello, Nori,” Briar smiled as she stood at the door.

The thief bent down slightly and kissed her on the cheek. “Hello, namadith.”

She beamed up at him. She glanced at Thorin. “Hello, we brought your lunch.” She held up the basket.

Kíli had noticed Thorin had stiffened slightly when Nori had kissed Briar, but he had shifted his expression to an impassivity when Briar looked at him. Kíli tilted his head. Curious.

“Where’s Fíli?” Thorin asked, taking the basket. Their hands brushed ever so slightly. Curiouser.

“Oh, he’s going on his rounds with Bilbo.” Briar smiled brightly. Kíli saw her cheeks go a little red. Curiouser. “He wanted to go and see how it was done. Balin went with them too.”

Thorin nodded. “It will be good for him to learn while he can.”

They gave small talk for a little while before Briar and Kíli left. Kíli glanced up at Briar as they went back to Bag End. The hobbit’s cheeks were a soft pink and she chewed her bottom lip absently as they went.

Oh. Her soulmark was a tree. Kíli could even call it an oak tree. Oh.

Oh.

Kíli frowned.

Briar deserves all of Arda and Kíli would give it to her if he could. But he couldn’t give her Thorin, even if he was the only one who could possibly deserve her.

Chapter Text

Briar quite enjoyed having another brother. She had four now and a sister as well. Nori was sweet and always helped her when she bought food from the market. The other hobbits didn’t really understand how he had adopted her as his sibling, but most accepted it as a familial bond as opposed to a romantic one.

“So, sweets,” Nori said as he helped Briar gather some wood for the stove. “I saw you watching Thorin a few days ago. Want to talk about it?”

Briar felt herself flush. “It’s nothing.”

“I noticed other hobbit lasses were ogling him.” Nori smirked. “Guess us dwarrow can be your type.” Briar rolled her eyes. “You, on the other hand. You looked sad.”

Briar purses her lips. “That wasn’t my intention.”

She hadn’t meant to stare. When Briar saw Thorin shirtless, she had felt very lude. She felt her entire body grow cold and then warmth coiled in her belly. She had seen his arms before. They were so firm in comparison to the hobbit lads she knew. But he was built like that all over. It was worse now that she had actually felt his arms wrapped around her and her body pressed to his chest.

But then she saw the scars.

“What were you thinking when you were looking at him?” Nori asked. “When a dwarrow, especially a male dwarrow, shows off their body like that, it’s meant to show how battle hardened they are. It shows how much adversity they’ve overcome and how strong they are.”

“So, scars are a good thing?”

“That they are, sweets. I’ll proudly show off this scar here,” he motioned to the one at his eye. “Shows how strong my little sister is. A true lass from the Line of Durin.” Nori paused. “Are scars not something to boast about for hobbits?”

“We don’t really fight so we don’t really have scars. I suppose if you get hurt you might get a scar, but we don’t really boast about them. I don’t really understand why anyone would want to boast about them.”

“What were you thinking about when you looked at Thorin specifically?”

Briar chewed her lip. “I couldn’t help but think that Thorin got all those scars—he got hurt—protecting the very people who killed his sister. He’s sacrificed so much for the dwarrow—his heart, his time, his body—and has been given nothing in return.” She fiddled with her skirt. “He deserves more than what he got.”

“We rarely get what we deserve, sweets.”

“I know.” She blushed.

“If he was just a blacksmith, I’d tell you to go for it.”

Briar snapped her head and stared at Nori with wide eyes. He was smiling sadly. “I… I’m not… I don’t…”

“You actually aren’t the only one in our family to fall in love with someone out of our league.”

“You—”

He shook his head. “Kori. Her One’s Dwalin.” He huffed a laugh. “He’s captain of the guard while she’s a foot soldier with a thief for a brother. Not the best of circumstances.”

“Does Dwalin know?”

He snorted. “Kori would kill me if I said anything and no he doesn’t. She’s trying to work herself up the ranks before she approaches him.”

“From what you’ve said about her, Kori seems like a good match for Dwalin. I’m sure he’ll consider her at least.” Nori nodded. “But Thorin already has a One.”

Nori’s brow furrowed. “Since when? Who said he had a One?”

“Balin told me about her. And Thorin told me a bit about her too.” Briar forced a smile.

Nori sighed. “Of course.”

“Of course, what?”

Nori shook his head. He ruffled her hair and offered her a smile. “You’re too good for him, sweets.”

Briar blushed. “I’m fine. You don’t have to worry about me being around him.” She bit her lip. “He’s a good dwarf. He wouldn’t do anything… um… improper.”

“Mahal. You’ve been my sister for five days and I’m already having to worry about you.” He shook his head, but smiled. Nori put his hand on Briar’s shoulder. “Even though Bilbo’s your brother and head of the Bagginses, Dori’s the head of the Ris. If a dwarf or hobbit want to court you, they need to ask him. Okay?”

Briar blushed and nodded. “I’m probably not going to court though.”

Nori sighed. “Sure, sweets. Sure.”

Chapter Text

“Why don’t you like my sister?” Bilbo asked as he and Balin were locked in his study finishing out the details of the treaty.

Balin froze. “I don’t dislike your sister. Miss Briar is a kind woman.”

“She just doesn’t have a place in Erebor, at least you don’t think she does.”

Balin frowned. “You have to understand. She—”

“Isn’t a dwarf. I know.”

“That isn’t—”

“It is.” They were both silent for a moment. “I know you’re looking after the boys and Thorin. I know you’ve all been through terrible things and outsiders have done nothing for your people. But you don’t have to worry about Briar. She isn’t a threat. She’d never try to take what isn’t hers.”

Bilbo actually wished his sister could be a little selfish sometimes.

“She might not, but people might—”

“Briar’s stronger than you think.”

He and Balin stared at each other for a long moment.

A knock came to the door. “I have tea,” Briar’s voice came. “May I come in.”

“Come in!” Bilbo called.

“Hello!” Briar smiled happily as she came in with the tray. “How is everything going? No fighting? Nori says that’s how most dwarrow work through treaties.”

Balin chuckled slightly. “Not always.”

Briar smiled again and set the tray down. She glanced at the paper. “If any disagreements happen, make sure Westron is the spoken language at court. Nori told me dwarrow courts are held in Khuzdul and a hobbit wouldn’t be able to speak for themselves if that happened.”

Bilbo beamed. “Any other suggestions?”

She thought for a moment. “I would also suggest that a few dwarrow could apprentice in Buckland and learn a bit more about farming. They know how to grow in harsher climates there. It isn’t much, but it might help.”

“That’s a good idea, Miss Briar.”

She smiled. “I’ll go back to the boys now. Have fun finishing everything out.” She was about to leave when she paused. “We should also sell spools of wool. The boys said it always got cold in the mountain. I doubt a hobbit tailor could figure out dwarrow fashion, but we could at least give them the tools to make warmer clothes. Ta for now.” She closed the door behind herself.

Bilbo spoke after his sister’s steps were out of earshot. “My sister loves those boys. They’re the only children she will ever have or know. Yavanna and Mahal both wouldn’t be able to protect the person who tried to harm them.”

Balin bowed his head and Bilbo let him think.

Chapter Text

They all stood out in the front garden as they waved off the visiting dwarrow. Fíli was sad to see them go, but was kind of happy to go back to their regular schedule. However, he knew nothing would be as it had been before.

The blond prince had noticed that things had begun to shift amongst the inhabitants of Bag End for the past few months. Bilbo wanted to learn how to fight with a sword and was getting along rather well, although slowly. Briar had begun to make more dwarven dishes, commenting how the boys were growing up so quickly. Kíli was becoming more serious at using his bow and the occasional ranger came to teach him proper shooting techniques. Fíli, himself, had begun to apprentice with Thorin and was working on making daggers. Thorin, however, seemed the most changed.

It wasn’t that his uncle was pulling away from everyone. He was simply pulling away from Briar. Thorin would run away to the forge a few times a week to distance himself from her. She didn’t seem to notice, or, at least, she didn’t say anything or let the boys know that it bothered her. Fíli could sometimes hear Thorin when they were supposed to be in bed.

Fíli knew Thorin had battle dreams and regular nightmares, but they seemed to be getting worse since the dwarrow had come and since they had left. The blond prince was fairly certain it was because of seeing the red smoke and knowing that Briar would have been in immense danger if it hadn’t been Nori that had found her. They had since made a better plan, but it didn’t change the fact that Briar could have been hurt.

It also didn’t help that a hobbit, one named Caspian Evergreen, had begun to drop by the smial every so often. He was rather good looking, Fíli supposed. Briar blushed a lot around him, at least. He had copper hair and blue eyes that were almost Durin blue. He came to talk to Briar a lot and Bilbo was always in the room whenever Caspian came. Fíli noticed that Thorin always decided to leave whenever the hobbit lad came over.

Caspian was a decent hobbit. He got along with Fíli and Kíli alright. Fíli heard some gossip as he walked the market and heard that Caspian had lost a wife and daughter a few winters back and had just moved back to the Shire from Buckland to be a teacher. It made sense that he was good with children if he had once had one.

He carried things for Briar and did some repairs that Bilbo didn’t know how to do. He helped Briar cook occasionally and let her borrow some man books she hadn’t read before and always made sure to ask what she thought about them when he visited.

If Fíli didn’t firmly believe that Briar and Thorin belonged together, he might have told the two hobbits to go for it.

“Is there anything going on between your uncle and Miss Briar?” Caspian asked Fíli one day when he was showing the young dwarf how to patch the roof of the smial.

Fíli’s mouth tightened into a firm line. Drat. “No.”

Caspian brightened slightly. “I’m not trying to take her from you, you know. I know she’s probably going to the mountains with you all at one point. I’ll come too, if she’ll have me.”

Fíli wished the hobbit was mean. But he was so nice.

A few days later, Caspian took Briar on a walk.

Chapter Text

Torture.

That’s what this was.

Pure torture.

Bilbo was supposed to chaperone Briar’s walk with Caspian, but something had come up. So, that left Thorin following behind his One and the hobbit lad that was making her giggle.

Torture.

“Then, the little faunt had the gall to tell me he wasn’t the one to scratch his initials on the newly painted school door,” Caspian smiled as his arm straightened so he could grasp Briar’s hand instead of letting her hold his arm.

Thorin watched as she blushed a pretty shade of pink and smile. Her emerald eyes brightened. “Oh, faunts always think they can get away with anything just by batting their eyes,” she giggled. “They’re right of course. My boys can get away with most things when they blink up at me with their big brown and blue eyes.”

Thorin felt his chest tighten at her referring to his nephews as her boys. Caspian’s laughter knocked that feeling straight out of his chest. Thorin closed his eyes and asked Mahal what he had done to deserve this. He opened his eyes to find Caspian leaning into Briar slightly as he whispered into her ear. She giggled again. Mahal, Thorin wished she would do that for him.

“My Daisy used to say I don’t have a strict bone in my body. It’s difficult being a teacher when I don’t like punishing bad behavior.” Caspian had a wistful look in his eye and Thorin felt a little bad about disliking him so much.

“Well, Daisy Proudfoot did always like acting all grown up, even when we were children.” Briar squeezed his hand gently. “But she got in just as much trouble as the rest of us. She was a Took through and through.”

Caspian smiled down at Briar thankfully and Thorin had to look away. His stomach churned uncomfortably at the sight. He could only wish he were able to look at Briar like that in public.

“Well, it looks like we’ve reached the public garden,” Caspian let go of Briar’s hand and put it on the crook of his elbow. “Shall we stay together or shall we surprise each other at what we pick?”

Briar smiled up at Caspian and bit her lip. “I think I would like to surprise you.”

Caspian beamed. “I think I’ll quite like your surprises.”

The two hobbits spit up, promising to return to the entrance in ten minutes. Thorin followed after Briar as she looked through flower after flower. She finally settled on a daffodil. Thorin watched as she smiled down at the flower before putting it behind her back as she walked to the entrance of the garden. Caspian was already waiting for them.

Thorin’s heart stuttered in his chest as he saw Caspian perk up and smiled for Briar and Briar alone. He met her halfway and looked all the besotted fool in love.

“Shall I surprise you first, Miss Briar?” He teased.

Briar stood straight with a slight lift of her chin. “If you can, Master Caspian.”

He smiled and pulled a small, fragile flower from behind his back and placed it behind Briar’s ear. Although he only saw it briefly, Thorin was certain it might be a hawthorn blossom. Briar thanked him and presented him with her daffodil. Caspian beamed. He took her hands in his and pressed his lips to her knuckles in a featherlight kiss.

Thorin felt his heart drop to his stomach.

“I’ll walk you home,” Caspian said, keeping one of her hands in his. “Wouldn’t want Bilbo to think I have any improper ideas.”

Briar giggled. “A lass is allowed to have a few improper ideas.”

Caspian’s ears turned a little pink and Thorin was quite certain he was red as well. He continued on behind the two hobbits as they walked to Bag End. A few hobbits glanced at the pair as they made their way down the main road. Quite a few of them smiled at them before going about their business.

“Do you know flower language, Master Oakenshield?” Caspian asked, glancing at Thorin for the first time since he first arrived at Bag End to pick Briar up.

“I’m not fluent,” the dwarf replied, dreading what the flowers might mean.

“I gave Miss Briar a hawthorn blossom, which means ‘hope,’ and she gave me a daffodil, which means ‘new beginnings.’” He smiled down at Briar, who smiled back. “I suppose that means we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other, even if it’s just dating.”

“For now,” Briar turned pink again and Thorin so desperately wished it was because of him.

“I see.”

This is what Thorin wanted. He had wanted a nice hobbit lad to find Briar and give her all the love Thorin could never give her. Caspian was decent, from what he could tell. He got along with the boys just fine. Even Fíli seemed to like him. Even so, Thorin felt a twisted knot form in his stomach.

She was his One. Mahal had forged him for her. He had waited over a century to meet her and there she was, standing before him as beautiful as a summer’s day in the midst of the cooling fall and he couldn’t hold her. He had to watch as she giggled and sighed over someone else. He had to watch as Caspian pressed his lips to Briar’s cheek as he wished her a good rest of the afternoon, promising to see her again the next day.

Thorin went to bed early that night. His nightmares were getting worse. They mixed with his dreams of Briar in his bed, in his arms. His bed was always cold in the morning.

Chapter Text

Kíli actually sort of liked Caspian. He made Briar smile and laugh and didn’t mind Kíli clinging to her skirt. Caspian helped whittle a few arrow shafts for Kíli’s bow. He took Fíli and Kíli fishing, he said he and Briar and Bilbo used to do it when they were younger, and taught them how to clean them. “Miss Briar told me there was a lake near Erebor. Maybe we can continue our fishing there.”

Kíli even caught them kissing a few times. Usually they were quick pecks when the two hobbits thought he and Fíli weren’t looking. Kíli even saw Caspian give Briar a goodnight kiss after he dropped her off at Bag End. It was longer than any of the kisses Kíli had seen them share previously. It reminded the youngest Durin vaguely of when his mother and father had kissed. It was one of the few memories he had of his adad.

Briar couldn’t have Thorin. He already had and lost his One to Smaug. Briar could at least have Caspian.

They weren’t officially courting yet. They were, as Bilbo explained, only ‘dating.’

“Courting means they’re going to get married within the year. But dating means they are seeing if they’ll be interested in becoming more serious.”

“Does that mean they can kiss and stuff?” Kíli asked, wondering if that was why they were sneaking around.

“Yes,” Bilbo shook his head.

“Does that mean they need a chaperone for all their dates?” Fíli asked.

“No, chaperones are for people who have no commitment to one another and could take advantage of that fact. Now that they’re dating, their relationship is their own. They are supposed to test the waters and see if it will work.”

“How will they test it?” Kíli scrunched up his nose.

“You boys aren’t old enough for that yet and I’m not going to be the one that gets to explain that to you.”

So, Kíli didn’t ask Bilbo. He first asked Briar. She turned bright red and started to stutter about how sometimes hobbits just wanted to make sure they could handle living together before getting married. That didn’t really answer anything so he asked Thorin. His uncle became pale and said to go ask Briar. When Kíli told him that he had, Thorin said he couldn’t explain it at that moment but might many, many years down the road. Kíli then asked Caspian. The hobbit turned pink too and said something similar to Briar.

“She and I aren’t going to do anything that drastic,” Caspian said quickly. “I respect Miss Briar far to much to let things go that far.”

Kíli still didn’t get it, but he supposed no one was going to get hurt and that was all that mattered. Briar seemed to be happy so he’d cheer the two hobbits on and hope for the best.

Chapter Text

Briar liked Caspian. She liked him quite a lot.

She had known him for most of her life. When she was a wee faunt, she used to pray to Yavanna every night for her soulmark to turn into an evergreen tree. It never did, but she only stopped praying when Caspian learned his Enaid was Daisy and he was hers. She had wished them all the happiness in the world. If there were any hobbits who deserved it besides Bilbo, it was Caspian and Daisy.

When Daisy and her little Poppy passed to Yavanna’s Garden, Briar had cried for a full week. It wasn’t fair that someone so kind and good and someone so innocent were lost to those they had left behind.

When Caspian had come back, she was certain she would simply have a friend again. That was how they parted. He had lost his Enaid, even if those sort of things didn’t seem as permanent as dwarrow Ones, and she had found hers but couldn’t be with him. Yet, things between them were changed. They were changed.

When Caspian first asked Briar for a walk, Briar had been truthful. She told him who Thorin was to her and also explained that the dwarf only saw her as a sister or something along those lines. Briar told him that she loved Thorin and that would never change, just as he, no doubt, still loved Daisy. The hobbit nodded and a few days later he asked her again. “I lost my Enaid and you can’t be with yours. We won’t be whole together, but we can be happy. We were once, weren’t we?” Briar had given him a watery smile and agreed. It had been a little awkward with Thorin chaperoning them, but Caspian made sure to distract her with laughter and memories of uncomplicated times.

He was charming and kind and handsome. He made her forget her heartbreak for the hours she got to spend with him. Sometimes she would even feel something warm pool at the base of her belly whenever he pressed a kiss to her lips. Sometimes dreams of him were even able to chase away the sad dreams of Thorin holding another woman in his arms.

“You would come with me to Erebor?” Briar asked as she packed away the small basket they had used for their picnic. They were in the forest under a beautiful oak tree. “But what about your job? What about teaching?”

“I can teach anywhere as long as I have students.” His hand brushed against hers as he helped put the plates away. “I don’t even have to teach. I could easily farm and help revitalize the land. I’m sure it hasn’t been doing well since the dragon came.” He straightened up and looked at her. “What?”

“Nothing,” she blushed.

He didn’t pick up the basket and took a step forward. Briar blushed a deeper red and stepped back against the tree. Caspian braced himself against the trunk, balancing himself with his arms, locking her in front of him. “What?”

“It’s just…” she glanced down at his lips before looking back up into his blue eyes. “I’ve never heard someone talk about the future like that with me before. It’s… it’s nice. Keep… keep talking.”

She watched as his eyes went to her lips as her tongue darted out to wet them. He took a shaking breath as he turned his eyes to meet hers again.

“Our rooms would have a balcony that we could make into a shelf garden. We’d have the boys over every afternoon for tea. We’d invite all the dwarflings in the mountain for tea if they can fit.” Caspian leaned forward, his lips brushed softly against hers. His boys pressed against her own ever so gently. She felt the heat beginning to coil in her belly again. Briar watched in fascination as she saw his eyes dilate. “We’ll visit the library every day and I’ll read you stories from there and you’ll weave your own and have the scribes jot them down so everyone will know the lessons you hide in them.”

He pressed his lips against hers again, but this time, Briar opens her mouth. His tongue swept into her mouth and fought tenderly against her own. She sighed and slowly wrapped her arms around his neck, her fingers tangling in his curly copper hair. He pulled away and began to search her eyes. Briar panted helplessly against him before his lips crashed against hers once more. She pulled him flush against her. One of his hands dropped to her hip while the other tangled in her hair, causing her beads to clack together. He pulled away.

“I’ll carve you a marriage bead from briar and pine wood,” he took her lips again in a fierce dance. Briar felt her heart thundering in her chest. “I don’t know how, but I’ll figure it out. We’ll build our lives in the mountain, amongst the dwarrow, beneath the eastern sky.”

Briar pulled him closer again. A flash of a bearded kiss from a dream echoed across her mind but she pushed it away as she explored Caspian’s mouth with her tongue. The heat in her belly was becoming unbearable. She shifted her leg and lifted it to wrap it comfortably around Caspian’s hip. He moaned against her mouth as she felt something hard press against her inner thigh.

She gasped away from the kiss as he began to rock against her, causing a sweet sort of friction between her legs. He pressed a quick kiss to her lips before his own descended to her neck. Briar’s head fell back against the tree and she lifted her other leg, crossing her ankles behind his back. Caspian shifted his hands so she wouldn’t fall, pushing her skirt up her thighs, and pressed her more firmly against the oak tree.

“C-Caspian—” A moan escaped from her lips as the image of long raven hair faded from her thoughts. All she could think about was Caspian and his sweet warmth.

He began to rock quickly against her, her breath felt as though it were being pushed from her chest. She gasped again as she felt him beginning to suck a mark against her collarbone. Slowly, she began to meet his rocking with a steady roll of her hips. Briar cried out at the pressure and Caspian began groaning as his movements became sharper.

“Caspian—”

One of his hands pressed against her breast. The fabric of her dress made her shiver against his touch as she arched into him.

“Briar—”

She loved how he said her name. One of her hands slipped under his shirt and she relished in the warmth of his skin against the palm of her hand. “Caspian—”

Something clattered to the ground and Briar looked up, over Caspian’s shoulder. Her entire body went cold. Her eyes widened.

“Th-Thorin!”

Caspian’s head shot up and he turned to see the dwarf staring at them in a mix of horror and anger, the firewood he’d been carrying scattered at his feet. Caspian quickly helped Briar down and stood in front of her protectively as she arranged herself to be more presentable. Caspian began to straighten himself out, pulling at his once tight trousers.

“M-master Oakenshield.” His voice is low and cracked. His breath still tries to catch up to him.

Thorin’s eyes shifted to Briar and she could not look at him. She could not look at the other half of her soul. Briar reached out and took Caspian’s hand for comfort or to reassure him that he hadn’t done anything she didn’t want.

“I’ll be taking you home now, Miss Baggins,” Thorin said, his voice low and dangerous. He stormed over and moved Caspian aside. The dwarf took Briar by the wrist and pulled her away from the tree that bore his name.

“I’ll-I’ll see you tomorrow Caspian.”

“You most certainly will not!”

Caspian quickly nodded at Briar before rushing to finish packing the picnic and then he disappeared from sight as Thorin continued to pull Briar along. His grip on her tightened and it felt like a forge against her wrist.

“Thorin, let go. I can walk myself.”

He let her go as though she were the one on fire. Thorin turned on her sharply and Briar walked right into him. She pulled back and rubbed her nose and glared up at him. His blue eyes were almost completely black.

“What do you think you were doing?” His voice was a dangerously quiet growl.

Briar began to flush. “None-none of your business.” She lifted her chin. “Unless I actually need to explain the birds and bees to you.”

He went white in a silent rage. Then, something in him seemed to snap. He closed his eyes and he looked so very weary. She could see some of the silver threads of hair in his mane and beard. She could see some of the lines in his face deepen. Briar so wished to caress his cheek and ask him what was wrong and to comfort where he felt hurt. She wished to smooth away those worried lines and tell him it was alright.

Oh.

She was the mother of his nephews. She was a sister to him in all but blood and beads. He was probably worried about her honor or something like that as Nori or Dori or Bilbo would be.

Carefully, she put her hand on Thorin’s arm. He tensed under her touch but then relaxed into it. He opened his eyes and some of the blue was visible again. He took a shaky breath.

“We…” she tried to find the words. “We weren’t going to… We were just…”

He pulled away from her then and her body felt cold. “You still shouldn’t… It isn’t… It’s highly improper.”

“Plenty of hobbits do more when they’re dating. And those lasses have to worry about getting—”

“That isn’t an excuse.”

“No.” Briar felt her cheeks burn red. “It isn’t. But we weren’t going to…”

He pulled off the light scarf he was wearing and wrapped it around Briar’s neck and shoulders. It almost buried her.

“Best not let Bilbo see what you were up to.” He turned around and began to walk towards Bag End again.

“I really like him, you know.”

Thorin froze mid-step. His foot came down slowly and he turned to look at her. Briar felt her heart stutter in her chest. It wasn’t fair. She was trying so hard to be happy even if she couldn’t be with him. Even so, she knew she couldn’t expect anything from him.

She had been made by Yavanna with him in mind, but he was not hers. His heart was buried in the stone of Erebor. It wasn’t fair to him to allow her feelings for him to become a burden. It wasn’t fair to let herself wallow in heartbreak. It wasn’t fair for Caspian, who was the sort of hobbit Briar dreamed about marrying growing up.

“I hope he makes you happy,” Thorin said in a gentle whisper. He turned his back on her and continued forward.

Any hope Briar had left shattered in her chest.

Caspian made her happy. Surely she deserved that much. She could be broken with him and he could be broken with her. They could be happy. It wouldn’t be a romance that would be passed on through the generations in songs. But it would be a romance that kept her warm at night and would fill her days with music and laughter.

That would be enough.

Chapter Text

Bilbo liked Caspian.

He and Caspian had actually been friends before he moved to Buckland with his first wife and Enaid, Daisy. They had grown up together and, in the back of his mind, Bilbo had always thought that he might be Briar’s Enaid. It wasn’t to be, but Bilbo trusted Caspian with Briar.

He was a good hobbit who cared so very deeply for everyone around him. He’d always had a soft spot for Briar. It hadn’t always been romantic, but it had always been a caring one.

Bilbo could still remember the time, back when his parents were still alive, where he and Caspian would go fishing and little Briar and Drogo and Primula would follow after them. They didn’t help at all, but they all had a good day. In his mind’s eye he could still see Briar falling asleep against Caspian’s shoulder as he hummed some Took drinking song.

If there was any hobbit Bilbo would trust with Briar, it would be Caspian.

When Bilbo heard about Daisy and little Poppy, he had been heartbroken. Daisy had always been so full of life and laughter and Briar had cried for little Poppy as well. She had met the baby once when she went to visit Daisy. “She was just so perfect Bilbo. Why would the Valar cut such a beautiful life so short?”

Bilbo picked up his letters to Caspian and began writing weekly. They kept up their correspondence for the next two years as Caspian slowly put his life together again. Eventually he wrote that he’d be moving back to the Shire to teach.

Bilbo had been excited to see his old friend again. Caspian came over and, soon, something shifted. He noticed his friend and his sister beginning to spend time sitting closer together. Bilbo always made sure to sit with them whenever they got like that, but Bilbo trusted Caspian wouldn’t do anything indecent.

When they started dating, Bilbo knew they might experiment a bit. He’d felt a little sorry that Thorin had apparently come upon them. Poor Briar looked like she wanted the earth to open up and swallow her. Caspian came the next day and apologized for his behavior but promised that he would never force himself on Briar or take her to bed. The last bit caused both hobbit lads to turn red. “She deserves to be held by a husband only. I wouldn’t dishonor her that way.”

Caspian kept coming over. He took Briar out on walks and more picnics. Others were wondering when a courtship announcement would be made, but Bilbo knew they were taking their time with that. As far as Bilbo knew, Caspian was aware that Briar had an Enaid who couldn’t be with her. They were two fractured souls trying to see if they could fit together. They might. They just might.

He warned Caspian that, should he ask Briar for official courtship, he would have to meet their dwarven brothers and sister as well. Caspian just smiled and said it would be an honor.

It was nice seeing Briar smile again. She giggled and clung to him like any besotted lass did. She was happy. Sometimes, after Caspian had gone home and the occupants of Bag End sat in the living room doing their own thing, Bilbo would catch Briar smiling softly to herself at a thought. Other times he would notice her glancing at Thorin and he could see the deep pain in her eyes before she turned away from the dwarf.

Caspian made her smile. He made her forget.

Briar was happy and that’s all Bilbo could ever hope for.

Chapter Text

Fíli worried that Briar and Caspian were getting more and more serious. They would come home a little later in the afternoon with Briar giggling and Caspian grinning from ear to ear.

As Briar seemed to grow happier and more content, Thorin appeared to grow more and more withdrawn and depressed. The anniversary of Azanulbizar was coming up and Fíli knew that wasn’t helping his uncle’s mood at all. But this was different. Dark circles were beginning to form under his eyes and he snapped a little around the house. He would apologize immediately afterwards, but it didn’t stop him from snapping again.

In Fíli’s mind, this was getting beyond ridiculous.

It was obvious that Thorin loved Briar. Briar’s Enaid was Thorin and she definitely had feelings for him still. But then there was Caspian. She definitely loved him enough to kiss him almost every time she thought Fíli and Kíli weren’t looking. But she and Thorin were made for each other.

Fíli wished he was big enough to lock them in a closet and not let them out until they talked things through. If they’d only just talk—really talk—there wouldn’t be all this dancing around or awkwardness.

If Thorin didn’t get his act together specifically, he was going to lose his chance. Surely Briar wasn’t so far gone that Thorin didn’t have I one anymore.

“Briar,” he asked one night as he stayed in her room. Kíli had a slight cold that she and Thorin didn’t want him to catch.

“Hm?” She wrapped her arms around him.

“If Thorin’s your Enaid, why are you dating Caspian?”

She stiffened slightly before relaxing. “Because Thorin doesn’t feel the same way about me. I’ve known Caspian for almost my entire life. I knew his Enaid, Daisy, too. I can be happy with Caspian and he can be happy with me.”

“But you love Thorin.”

Briar kissed the top of his head. “Sometimes we can't be with those we were made for. I love Thorin, I probably always will, but he is not mine. I love Caspian—not as much as I love Thorin—but enough that I would be happy to spend the rest of my life with him by my side. Does that make sense?”

“No.” She chuckled. “What if Thorin did love you? Hobbits don’t have to be with their Enaids. Thorin doesn’t…” He bit his lip. There were so many lies. “What if Thorin could love you too?”

There seemed to be a hollow weight in Briar’s arms as she held him. “He doesn’t though and we can’t change that. I know you’re probably worried that things will change if I… if Caspian and I get married, but I’ll still be your mother and you’ll still be my son, both of you will be. No matter what happens, that will never change.” She kissed his head again. “Goodnight, dear heart.”

Fíli’s heart sank in his chest. So many lies, plenty started by him. He wanted to make them right, but he didn’t know how.

Chapter Text

“Thorin!”

Her voice is so far away.

The dwarf king stumbled through the halls of Erebor. The golden floors of his forefathers stretched beneath his feet as he began to run. He couldn’t hear her anymore. He couldn’t hear her music, her laughter, her voice. Why could he not find her? Thorin began to scream for her but his voice echoed across the stone of the cold mountain.

He was in the treasury. Piles of gold rumbled at his feet and toppled over themselves as he tried to push his way through. He kept screaming for her, begging her to come to him. Begging her to show herself. Begging her to speak to his name. Begging her to be found.

He fell and found himself in Azanulbizar. The bodies of his shield brothers laid scattered across the rock. Even so, he called for her. His screams mingled with the voices of the dying as they cried out to him, to their brothers and sisters on the field, to the families left behind. He heard someone call for him, but it wasn’t the voice he longed to hear.

Someone took him by the shoulder and turned him and he was in Ered Luin. There was no noise save for the ringing in his ears. He closed his eyes, falling to his knees, as he felt fire surrounding him. He knew it was the fire that had separated himself and the boys from his sister. He could hear his sister screaming for him and her sons. Even so, he screamed for her instead. He screamed for her, but no sound could be heard.

“Thorin?”

He looked up and saw her standing above him next to the hobbit she loved. The hobbit that made her happy.

“Thorin?”

He closed his eyes, unable to look at her.

She was happy. Why did she look so sad? Why did she look so sad?

He screamed the question but she did not answer, instead he could feel the burning pain he had felt in his stomach when he saw her tangled against the tree that bore his name as she sighed the hobbit’s name. Never his own. Never his own.

He opened his eyes and found her lying motionless at his knees. She was pale and her amber curls lay limply against her brow. He said her name in a hoarse whisper. Thorin touched her hesitantly. She was cold as stone. He said her name again. He scooped her up in his arms. Thorin felt a cold wetness against his hand. He looked at them in horror and realized it was blood.

Thorin held her close to him. He buried his face into her neck and begged her to wake up. He begged her to come back to him. When she did not answer, he roared, swearing vengeance against the ones who had done this to her.

“You did this,” a voice that sounded oddly like his own whispered against his mind. “You did this to her. You should have left as soon as you knew who she was.”

“No!” The scream ripped at his throat and tore through his chest like thunder.

“Thorin!”

Someone grabbed him and he was in his bed. Thorin grabbed the wrist of the person. He looked and saw it was her. Her green eyes were wide as she looked at him. Her chest was heaving. She was breathing. She was alive.

Thorin stared at her for a moment before pulling her to him. Their lips crashed together as he tangled his fingers in her hair. He parted her lips with his tongue and tasted her. A groan rumbled from deep within his chest as he pulled her on top of him and then rolled her onto her back while he rested between her legs. One of Thorin’s hands began to descend down her side until he could hitch her leg up his hip by her knee. She moaned against his tongue as he settled against her, so she could feel just how much he wanted her. Her hands pressed and strained against his shoulders as he let his weight fall upon her.

Thorin’s hands began to move again, his roughened palms pressing harshly against her porcelain skin. Mahal he had never felt anything so soft and perfect. His hand went under her nightdress and up to her hip. She whimpered against his lips and her tongue began to fight against his, the heat becoming almost too much, almost all consuming.

He pulled away from her to breath. She panted against him, her chest rising to meet his as he pressed a kiss to her cheek. Thorin’s lips began their descent, stopping momentarily to suck on the tip of her pointed ear. She cried out, pulling her head away, exposing her neck to him. A hand left his shoulder and pressed into her mouth as she tried to muffle the noise. He hoped to hear her scream for him soon. His lips made their way down her neck scorching it with opened mouth kisses until he reached her pulse point. Thorin began to suck on it greedily as she arched into him, almost unbalancing him.

“You are mine and no one will take you from me,” he growled, licking the red mark he had just made. She was his. She was only ever meant to be his. “Mine.” Thorin began rutting against her mercilessly. He could hear her panting as she tried so desperately to catch her breath. “Amrâlimê—Kurdel—Ghivashel—My One.”

With a sudden force far greater than her own, she pushed him up and away from her. He looked down at her in confusion. Then, panic began to seep into his heart and mind as he saw tears beginning to bubble in her emerald eyes.

“Amrâlimê?”

“I’m not Runa,” she whispered, trying so desperately not to let her voice crack.

He furrowed his brow.

Why was she talking about Runa?

Then it hit him.

This was no longer a dream.

She didn’t know.

She thought his One was Runa.

She was truly in his bed, outside his dreams, and pressed under him, his body aching against her, for her. She didn’t know. His expression morphed into that of horror. She thought he loved someone else. She didn’t know.

“I’m sorry,” she said quickly. She pushed herself out from under him until she was backed against the headboard. Her night dress was pressed up to her thighs and her dressing gown hung at her shoulders. “I heard you crying out and I thought you were having a nightmare. I’m sorry.”

Thorin stared at her for a moment before reaching out to touch her, to comfort her, to hold her, to tell her the truth, but she flinched away and everything in Thorin began to feel like it was slowly breaking. His hand froze in the mid-motion.

“I’m sorry, you were probably dreaming of her.” She was trembling now. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…” Her hands pulled the dressing gown tightly around her. “I’m sorry.”

Then, she was gone.

The door closed quietly behind her and everything in him fell apart. Thorin could not speak. He could not speak her name or cry out for her. The pain in his chest hollowed out into his stomach as he stood. He swiped his desk of its contents, tools and designs for work, ledgers, small things the boys had made him. But it was not enough. Thorin flipped the desk on its side and threw the chair across the room. His vision grew black and when he came to, his room was a mess. The mattress was almost destroyed, paper was strewn across the room, some still wafting to the floor.

He sank to his knees and buried his face in his hands.

Mahal. What had he done?

Chapter Text

Kíli knew something was wrong when he saw Briar. At first he thought maybe she missed Nori and the others. But that couldn’t be it. It could have been Caspian because he had gone to his sister’s wedding back in Buckland and wouldn’t be back for a few days yet.

She was smiling brightly as usual, but it seemed to stay on her lips for a little longer than necessary. She was even dressed differently. Instead of her usual skirts and dresses, she wore pants and a tunic that had a collar that wrapped snugly around her neck. Fíli had commented on it when she got them from the nursery, fully dressed. She had simply smiled and said it was getting a little colder out and she just wanted to stay warm.

Fíli didn’t seem to believe her and neither did Kíli.

Something was wrong with Thorin too. He came to the dining room, telling everyone he had a lot of work to do at the forge, so much so that he was going to be sleeping there for a few days. He said he’d get food at the market so they didn’t have to worry about him. He was going to be busy so he asked that no one bother him. Then, he was gone.

Everyone else went about their daily schedule. Bilbo went to his room to fill out some forms and check over finances while Briar took the boys out to play. She laughed as they rolled across hills and climbed trees. She sang them silly songs and told them stories about her and Bilbo’s childhood, most included Caspian.

But she looked hollow. It reminded Kíli of when she had come back from the Gamgees. She was trying so desperately to be happy for their sake.

“Bri?”

“Yes, mab calon?”

“It’s okay to cry when you’re sad, you know.”

She looked at him with wide eyes. “I’m not sure… I know, sweetheart.” She smiled. “I’m fine. I suppose I’m just a little tired is all.”

Kíli was about to say something more when Fíli put his hand on his shoulder and shook his head. They would talk about this later.

Later wound up being that night when the hobbits had gone to bed. The brothers quickly agreed that something was wrong with Briar and Thorin was the cause of it.

“Do you think it’s about Caspian? She isn’t courting him yet.”

“It might have something to do with him,” Fíli said softly.

“Do you think Thorin found out he was her Enaid and he told her that he already had a One back in Erebor?” Kíli asked.

“No.”

“No to which part?”

“She’s Thorin’s One.”

Kíli stared at his brother for a moment. “What?! Wait, how do you know? When did you know?!”

“After the first night the others visited.”

“That was months ago!”

“Sh!!!”

“Wait, did you tell Briar?”

Silence.

“Did you tell Thorin?”

More silence.

“Fíli!”

“It wasn’t my place to say and I didn’t know how to,” the blond snapped. “I was going to tell Thorin he should marry her the night we found out that she couldn’t have kids, but Nori has a better idea so I didn’t say anything. And then Caspian started coming around and Bri was… she looked happy. Thorin even seems to like Caspian. Sort of.”

Kíli closed his eyes, trying to put everything together. “What do you think happened then if not the Enaid or One thing?”

“I don’t know. But obviously Thorin’s the one at fault since he’s the person who ran away.” Fíli sighed. “He did this all the time back in Ered Luin. Amad always had to go and drag him back home.”

“We should do that then.”

“Do what?”

“Drag him back to Bag End and make him apologize for whatever he did to Bri.”

Kíli watched as his brother thought about this. Kíli loved his brother dearly, but sometimes the Heir of Durin could be rather stupid. He was slow to act, which was probably a good thing in most instances. But when it came to making their uncle dealing with his, now obvious, feelings for Briar, they needed to act. No thinking was required. Caspian would be coming back any day now and he just might ask Briar to officially court him.

“Okay,” Fíli said, opening his eyes. “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

Briar was a terrible person.

She knew she was.

There was no denying it.

What had happened with Thorin—or rather what had almost happened—was an accident. He had been dreaming of his One and had gotten confused. Balin had told Briar that she reminded him of Runa. He had explained it was probably why Thorin was so protective of her. It was only because he hadn’t been able to protect his One. His heartbreak was palpable and when he realized it was Briar under him, the horror in his eyes broke everything inside her. He loved Runa so much that he dreamed of her even after a century of separation.

Briar was a terrible person.

Why?

Because she liked it when Thorin kissed her. She liked having his weight pressing into her. She had liked it when he growled into her ear and…

She had fought against him. Briar knew he would have never done what he had if he realized it was her. She had called his name between his kisses and caresses. She tried to push him off in hopes that he would wake up.

He loved Runa. The thought kept running and slipping through her mind as his hands moved up her body and he rocked into her. For a brief moment, she wished she could forget about Runa. For a moment she wanted to know what it would be like to be whole with him—to be loved by him.

At least, she had been able to push him away so he wouldn’t hate her or himself afterwards.

Briar was a terrible person.

She was terrible because her dreams started to feature Thorin more heavily and had them in similar situations that had gotten her there. Sometimes she dreamed that he said her name. She had heard him say it once, twice actually, but she knew that it wouldn’t be the same if he growled her name into her neck. Sometimes the dreams morphed into nightmares and Thorin doesn’t stop and he kept going on, Briar would wake up hearing Runa’s name on Thorin’s lips.

Briar was a terrible person.

Briar was terrible because she had to tell Caspian, who was the sweetest and kindest hobbit—the kind she had always dreamed of marrying—that she couldn’t court him. It wasn’t fair to him. He had smiled sadly and asked if he could at least get a kiss goodbye. She pressed her lips to his. It was just as sweet and kind as he was and she started to cry because of it. Caspian just smiled sadly and cupped her cheeks in his hands, wiping the tears away with his thumbs, before pressing one last kiss to her brow. “You deserve the world Briar Baggins.”

She truly didn’t.

Briar was a terrible person.

She was a terrible person and a coward.

Briar was a coward because she didn’t try to talk through it with him. She had run away and curled up in her room and cried because any thought of her being able to be normal around him flew out the window. Any chance of her moving on was finished. Any possibility of being able to live a life without him was gone.

She would put on a brave face for the boys and be kind, but she wouldn’t seek Thorin out anymore. If he woke up from a nightmare and started his sword practice, she wouldn’t go to make sure he was okay. She wouldn’t go and bring him his lunch to the forge when he forgot. She couldn’t do it anymore.

The morning after he had left for the forge, not even looking at her. How he must hate her for what had happened. She had let herself get too close.

The boys had been the ones to bring him back. Not her. Fíli had gone to her and said Thorin was sorry for what he had done, although Fíli admitted to not knowing what had happened. Kíli was not so subtly trying to pull Thorin and Briar into situations where they would speak or interact. He smiled so happily when he saw his uncle and Briar together that she didn’t have the heart to tell him that she felt uncomfortable around Thorin now.

It would be a lot easier to do if the dwarf didn’t walk around like a wounded puppy.

He tried to talk to her in private once, but the day he tried had been a bad one for her. Thorin had asked if they could go to the study to talk. Briar simply glared at him and told him it would be “highly improper” to do so, before telling Bilbo she was going to go to the market to get some groceries. She hadn’t missed the pained expression on Thorin’s face.

After two months, Briar was still being a coward.

Today, she was spending time, rather hiding, with Primula. She and her cousin were helping sew warmer clothes for everyone in the family. Briar didn’t have to be there, but she volunteered. Well, Primula had asked that she come, but Briar had said yes.

“Briar?”

“Hm?”

“I didn’t invite you here to sew.”

“You did actually.”

“It’s what I said, but I had an ulterior motive.”

Briar rolled her eyes. “Do tell.”

“I’m having a baby.”

Briar nearly impaled her thumb on her needle. “You’re what!?”

“Sh!!!!”

“You’re… you… Drogo?”

Primula blushes and nodded fervently.

Briar whistled. “Look at him, acting like a Took.”

“We’re going to get married in a few months so I’m not showing too much.”

Briar smiled. “Congrats! I claim flower crown duty!”

Primula giggled. “Of course. And there’s something else.”

“Oh?”

She nodded. “Drogo and I want you to be godmother.”

Briar’s jaw dropped. “Me?”

“Of course you! You’re the one who encouraged us both when neither of us thought it would work out. It was always the three of us growing up, following Bilbo and Caspian or being chased by Bilbo.” Primula smiled. “Also, we know how important Bag End is to you. The Sackville-Bagginses are your closest relatives, but the baby,” she put her hand on her belly, “if you become godmother, they could be your heir because they’re related to you on both sides of the family. Drogo and I can’t change what fate has given you.” She reached out and took Briar’s hand. “But we can protect your legacy. Yavanna forbid something happens to Drogo or I, we want our baby to have you. You… you deserve happiness, Briar. You’re the kindest person we know. Our baby needs someone like you.”

She really wasn’t, but tears began to prick Briar’s eyes anyway. “I would be honored.”

Primula smiled.

Briar was a terrible person.

But she could be a good one for her boys and the little one who would call her ‘auntie.’

Chapter Text

Bilbo was thirty-eight.

He was only thirty-eight.

He felt like he was at least sixty as he watched his sister and Thorin skirt around each other. Well, Briar was doing most of the skirting now. Thorin had apparently been dragged back by the boys during the first night the stupid dwarf had declared he would be sleeping in the forge for a while. Bilbo watched as Thorin constantly tried to approach Briar, only to be rebuffed. Whatever the dwarf had done, it must have been bad.

He knew whatever it was had caused Briar to breakup with Caspian. Bilbo’s friend had told him that it was his own decision, but he knew Caspian was just saying it to be polite. “She deserves so much more than what fate’s given her,” he had said. “I wish I could be the one to fill the spaces, but we both know it isn’t me she needs.”

Whatever Thorin had done, it must have been bad.

Bilbo might have been mad at whatever Thorin had done, but the dwarf just looked so heartbroken whenever he watched Briar walk away from him. It was punishment enough.

Bilbo felt too old for this.

Two months, going on three, was long enough for his sister to stew and Thorin to sulk. First things first, Bilbo needed to know what it was the dwarf had even done.

“Thorin, I noticed something odd in the ledgers yesterday. Could you come take a look at it after second breakfast?” Bilbo asked.

“Of course.”

They went to Bilbo’s room after eating. The hobbit closed the door and turned to Thorin, crossing his arms. “Alright, what exactly did you do to my sister?”

Thorin paled considerably. It was actually quite amusing that Bilbo could have that effect on a battle-hardened warrior considering Bilbo was a head shorter than Thorin. The dwarf looked like he’d rather talk to an elf than look Bilbo in the eye. “Bilbo, I—”

He held up his hand. “Just tell me what you did so we can fix this. This is getting ridiculous.”

Thorin shifted his feet. How bad had he mucked this up? “First, I would like to tell you that I only thought of your sister’s honor and that’s how this… miscommunication happened.”

Bilbo nodded. “I am well aware.”

Thorin took a shaky breath before pouring out everything. He began with realizing Briar was his One to the firm belief that she deserved better than him to his belief that she wouldn’t fit in the mountains to the lie that his One was someone else to, finally, the night that had caused Briar to avoid him like the plague.

Bilbo let out a long sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“You aren’t mad?”

“Oh, I’m furious, but that isn’t going to help anyone.” Bilbo took a short breath. “Now, we need to figure out how to get you two to talk again because I’m tired of being the go between and I’m sure the boys are too.”

“She hates me though.”

“No. No she doesn’t. She’s hurt and confused because she thinks someone else is your One and then you did that.” Bilbo held up his hand before Thorin could say anything. “We’re going to discuss that later because I don’t want to talk about my sister in that context.”

Thorin nodded quickly. “Is… is it true what the boys said… about her Enaid?”

Bilbo glanced at him. “Yes. I figured it out after I found out you go by Oakenshield. Gandalf, the old bugger, seemed to already know before you got here, which seems to be why he had wanted you here after she had already reached her majority instead of before.”

“Damn that wizard.”

“I’ve been thinking that for a while now, but thank you for voicing it.” Bilbo quirked a smile. “Alright, now we need to get you and Briar to talk.” If he was being completely honest, they needed to do a lot more than talk, but Bilbo had said he didn’t want to think about it and that was the truth.

“What do I need to do?”

“I’m going to take the boys out for a few days and you have to fix things with Briar before we come back.”

Thorin’s eyes widened in horror. “But—”

“No buts, I can’t go in and magically fix everything. There’s a reason I don’t want to get married. I’ve never felt the need to… to do all those things. It doesn’t disgust me, it just doesn’t interest me. Therefore I don’t know how you can explain what you feel to Briar so she can understand it. All you can do is tell her the truth. She’ll forgive you because that’s just who she is, but you have to show her that it’s the truth.”

Thorin turned pink.

Bilbo sighed. “That’s not what I meant.”

Bilbo was too old for this.

Chapter Text

“Why are we going to Buckland?” Fíli asked, arching a brow as Bilbo lifted Kíli onto the cart they were taking. “And why are we going without Briar and Thorin?”

“Yeah, why aren’t they coming?” Kíli crossed his arms as he was set down.

“Those two need to talk it out and I refuse to be there when they do,” Bilbo said, lifting Fíli now.

“You know?” Kíli gasped.

“I probably know a bit more than you two do considering I’m an adult.”

“Ew.”

Bilbo chuckled. The three turned to see Briar heading towards them with Thorin close behind her. Fíli watched as Bilbo sighed and shook his head.

“No, you can’t come with us, Briar.”

She stopped and crossed her arms. “And why not?”

Fíli’s gaze flickered to Thorin. He looked like facing a dragon would be more pleasurable.

“Maybe I want to bond with the boys and I can’t do that with you there.”

“Bilbo.”

“Nope,” he popped the word.

She sighed. “Fine.” Briar glanced back at Thorin, but turned away quickly. Fíli didn’t miss the fact that she was flushing though.

Briar went to Kíli first and showered him with kisses. Kíli giggled and nuzzled is nose to Briar’s. She then came to Fíli. She kissed his nose and cheeks and forehead. She rubbed her nose to his.

“You keep your brother out of trouble. Mahal knows he’s going to get into it with all those Tooks around.”

Fíli smiled. “I’ll keep Bilbo out of trouble too.” Briar smiled and kissed his nose again. “As long as you talk to Thorin though.”

“Fíli,” she warned.

“Please.”

She sighed and stroked the back of his hair. “I just can’t say no to you, can I?”

Fíli smiled. “Nope,” he popped the word.

She rolled her eyes.

Briar and Thorin waved them off.

“Do you think everything will be okay when we get back?” Kíli asked.

“Hopefully.” Bilbo shook his head.

“Is it bad?” Fíli asked.

“Your uncle’s an idiot, but you don’t get to repeat what I just said.”

“Do you think Bri and Thorin will get married?”

Bilbo laughed. “Considering? Yes. They should or I will have a very firm talk to Thorin and will write immediately to Dori and Nori.”

Fíli shuddered. Dori was ridiculously strong. He doubted Thorin would be able to take him. “I hope they talk it out.”

Chapter Text

Thorin had an idea of how to start the conversation, but he wasn’t sure how to actually have it. The afternoon Bilbo and the boys left for Buckland, Briar found a bouquet of flowers waiting for her. White tulips and purple hyacinths and daffodils, all begging for forgiveness and asking for a second chance, were held in a vase Thorin had made himself. Thorin was making supper for Briar when she found the flowers. She came into the kitchen holding the vase in her arms.

“Do you know what these mean?”

“Yes.”

“What are you sorry for?”

“A lot of things.”

He saw her pull her bottom lip in with her teeth. She took a shaky breath. “I know you didn’t mean it. You were just…”

“I wasn’t confused except for the fact I thought I was dreaming.” Thorin turned off the stove and turned to Briar. She was watching him carefully. “I dream of you,” Mahal he knew how corny that sounded, “often.”

“No you don’t.”

“I do.”

“Runa—”

“Was a friend. She…” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Her One, her husband, was one of my closest friends. When he died I wanted to take care of her and Brenna. My parents decided marriage was the best way to do that.”

“Because she was your One.”

Thorin walked to her, taking the vase from her and setting it aside. He continued forward until she was backed against the wall. “She wasn’t my One.” Her eyes met his and Thorin wanted to drown in them. “You are.”

“I’m not.” He could see the hurt in her eyes. “I’m not. Please, Thorin.”

“I love you,” he said quietly. He felt his heart thundering in his chest. “I love you, Miss Baggins.”

Her eyes widened for a moment before she closed them. “I don’t believe you.”

“It’s true.”

A tear tracked down her cheek. “I don’t believe you.”

Thorin took a shaky breath and stepped back. Briar fled to her room and closed the door.

The next morning, Thorin left another bouquet for Briar to find. There were acacias (“secret love”), anemones (“unfading love”), forget-me-nots (“true love”), and yellow tulips (“hopeless love”). Thorin came into the kitchen and saw her staring at them. She glanced at him when he came in but quickly looked away.

“I thought I didn’t deserve you.”

Briar looked at him skeptically.

“You are… you are the kindest woman I have ever met. I’m… I’m not a good person Miss Baggins. There’s… there’s a darkness in my family. When… when we take back Erebor… I might… and hobbits don’t live as long as dwarrow. I couldn’t… I can’t…” He went to her slowly and wrapped his arms around her. “I can’t…”

Hesitantly, Briar wrapped her arms around his waist. “I still don’t believe you.”

He took a shuddering breath. “Tell me what I have to do.” He got down on his knees and pressed his face into her stomach. “I would do anything—will do anything.”

“I don’t know. You hurt me, Thorin. You made me think… I thought I was… you hurt me.”

“I wanted to protect you.”

“I can’t trust myself with you Thorin. I thought you were in love with someone else and I was still going to let you… I almost let you...”

Thorin closed his eyes and buried is face in her belly. “I don’t deserve you, Miss Baggins. I could take on Smaug himself and still not be worthy of you.”

He felt Briar’s fingers run through his hair. “You’re a king, Thorin. I’m just… I’m just a hobbit.”

“You aren’t just anything, Miss Baggins.”

She let out a small laugh. “You think too highly of me Thorin Oakenshield.”

“I love you.”

Her fingers paused their ministrations. “I can’t…”

“I never expected anything from you. If… if you came in and told me you wanted to marry Caspian Evergreen, I would wish you all the happiness in the world.” He pulled back and looked up at her. “You deserve more than I could ever give you.”

“I just wanted you. I don’t need anything else.” She pulled away from him. “I have to go help Primula with her wedding preparations.” She slipped from his grip and left Thorin on the floor.

He stayed there for a long time, trying to think of what he could possibly do to make this right.

Chapter Text

Remembering his mother was getting harder every time he woke up. Kíli remembered her face, but he couldn’t remember her voice anymore. Whenever he thought about his amad, his first thought went to Briar. He still sometimes woke up and went to her room for a morning cuddle. He couldn’t do that now since she was in the Shire and he was in Buckland.

“What if Bri and Thorin don’t make up?” Kíli asked as he and Fíli went to bed.

“They’ll make up.”

“But what if they don’t?”

“They will.”

“But what if they don’t and Bri doesn’t want to come to Erebor anymore?”

“She’ll come because she has us.”

“If you had to choose between Bri and Thorin, who would you choose?”

“Thorin,” he said a little too quickly. Kíli gaped at him. Fíli sighed. “You’d pick Briar. Someone has to stick with Thorin. He’d get lonely.”

Kíli nodded. He knew Thorin could get really lonely.

Chapter Text

Briar was making Thorin’s bed when she heard him swearing down the hall, well, she imagined that it was swearing. He was speaking in Khuzdul, so she wasn’t sure. It always amazed her how loud the dwarrow could be when they walked. He threw open his door and froze. His eyes grew wide and Briar turned on her heels and closed the curtain so no one would be able to look inside.

Her mind was racing, trying to think of something to say and trying to think of how to flee without looking like a total idiot. She was trying so hard to understand that Thorin cared about her in a romantic way. But she also knew she deserved better than to be lied to.

She had planned on telling him the truth about him being her Enaid when he didn’t seem to care about her being unable to give him children. But then he and Balin both told her about Runa and how amazing she was. How he mourned her for a century. How he still wore the beads he had braided into his hair to show that he was hers. He let Briar believe he was still in love with her.

He had lied when she had been nothing but honest. She hadn’t told him about him being her Enaid because she didn’t want to pressure him. He saw her as family and she didn’t want to lose his friendship because that was the only thing she thought she could have from him.

But now, there he was, there they were, with him in only his trousers, his feet bare, and a shrunken shirt in his hand. His hair was still wet and it dripped down the planks of his chest and was puddling at the floor. Briar could hear it.

“I’m sorry, Miss Baggins.”

She turned slowly and opened her eyes to him. It wasn’t like she hadn’t seen him shirtless before.

This was worse because she hadn’t seen him up close before.

Briar turned bright red. “You seem to be apologizing a lot Thorin Oakenshield.”

“I do,” he smiled gently. “You seem to bring out the part of me that needs to apologize a lot.”

Briar looked away again. He had so many scars. Pale lines and puckered skin cut across his tanned skin and the inked designs that decorated his chest and stomach. She knew it was the same on his back.

His smile fell when she didn’t return his. “I’ll get a proper shirt.”

“Why did you let me think Runa was your One?”

He froze, just behind her. She could sense him turning but she didn’t look at him.

“I wanted to protect you.”

“How was that protecting me?”

She felt movement behind her and tensed. The movement froze. “They killed my sister because of who our family is. Imagine what they would do to my One. Imagine what I would do if they hurt you. I would die for you. I would kill for you.”

“You hurt me.”

She heard him take a shuddering breath. “You are my One, but I didn’t know about Enaids or that I am yours. You deserve so much more than me, Miss Baggins. You deserve someone like Caspian Evergreen who makes you laugh.”

“Who were you to decide what I deserve?” She turned and realized just how close he was to her. Briar wouldn’t lose her nerve. “It’s my life.”

“You weren’t of age when I met you.”

She lifted her chin. “You’re over a hundred years older than me regardless.” She looked into his eyes and tried to see things his way but she couldn’t. She just couldn’t. “I know that you’ve gone through terrible things and I can’t possibly understand no matter how much I want—”

“I don’t want you to understand,” he cut her off. “I’ve seen and done terrible things that I don’t want you to know or understand. I’ve killed, Miss Baggins. I’ve killed and I’ve starved and I’ve lowered myself to work for coppers a day just so I could feed my family, my people.” He stepped back, as though the weight of it all pushed him that way. “You deserve someone who brings life into this world, not take it. You deserve someone who can guarantee you seven meals a day. You deserve someone better than me.”

“Then what do you deserve Thorin Oakenshield?” She took a step forward, reaching and holding his arms. “You who have given everything to a people who still turned their back on you. You who were willing to marry a woman not your One so she and her daughter could be provided for. You who killed to keep your people safe—for I know it wasn’t for your enjoyment. You who has starved so that others may eat. You who has lowered himself, a king, so that he might provide for his family.”

“I don’t—”

She reached up and cupped his face. “What do you deserve? You deserve happiness. You deserve someone who understands that they can’t and will never be able to come first because you are a king and your people must always come first. You deserve someone who will hold you when the battle dreams become too much. You deserve someone who will split their meals with yours. You deserve someone who will never think any less of you because you’re doing what you think is best. You deserve someone who will do the work with you. You deserve someone who will share the burden with you.”

“I cannot ask that of you, Miss Baggins. I cannot ask you to sacrifice yourself for me. I cannot ask you to share in this.”

“You aren’t asking me, Thorin. When I decided that I would go with you and the boys to Erebor, no matter when it will be, I decided that I would be all that I could for you. I would never ask you to put me first. I would never ask to ride out to battle with you, only that you let me know if you hurt so I could help you. I would never ask for you to give me seven meals a day while others starve. I would do all that I could do so you could provide for your people. I would share your burdens. You aren’t asking me, Thorin.” She brushed her thumb across his cheek. “I’m not sacrificing anything. I’m giving, Thorin. All that I am, it would be freely given.”

Thorin closed his eyes and pressed the palms of his hands against hers. “I don’t deserve you, Miss Baggins.”

“You didn’t deserve to watch your family die, Thorin. You didn’t deserve to have everything placed on your shoulders. You don’t deserve to do this life alone.” Briar took a step closer. “You’ve always given, Thorin.” The dwarf shuddered as she leaned against his frame. “Take. Take what you want. Take what you need. All I ask is you let me share in your joys and your sorrows.”

He opened his eyes to hers and they were shining. “Miss Baggins, I—”

“Just say my name, and all that I am is yours.”

He searched her eyes for a brief moment. Blue eyes like the sky and green eyes like the lush earth below found what they were and what they wanted and what they needed. Thorin brushed some strands of copper curls from her face and smiled tenderly.

He leaned forward, pressing his brow against hers. He nuzzled her nose with his. “I love you, Briar Baggins.”

She eased into him and smiled back, hands slipping down to his chest. “I love you, Thorin Oakenshield.”

He cupped her face in his hands and brought his lips to hers. It wasn’t a kiss that would inspire songs for all to hear. It was a kiss that was for Briar and Thorin alone.

They were home.

Chapter Text

Bilbo wished his Took cousins goodbye.

They were sad to see him go, but a little relieved that he was taking the boys with him. The Took children and Fíli and Kíli got along really well. It was great at first, but then they all started to roughhouse and then they started going on many adventures and tracked mud all over the house.

Bilbo had apologized profusely. They all laughed about it. But Bilbo wondered how on earth Briar was able to keep the boys entertained and the house clean.

“Do you think they worked it out?” Kíli asked as they headed back.

“Hopefully, or I just might lock them in the closet until they do.”

Fíli laughed at that. “Balin doesn’t think they should get married. But they should get married, right?”

“They should. And I don’t particularly care what Balin thinks. Briar and Thorin would be good for each other. Our makers created them for each other. They are what they other needs.”

The boys nodded.

When Bilbo brought the boys home, it was just after afternoon tea. They were both on the couch. Briar was sitting on the far end, reading a book she had gotten for Bilbo’s birthday. One hand was stroking Thorin’s hair. Said dwarf was laying on his side, feet propped up and hang slightly off. His head rested on Briar’s lap, his forehead pressed to her stomach.

Briar glanced up from her book and smiled at Bilbo and the boys. Bilbo smiled back.

He sighed. He supposed it was time to meet Dori, Kori, and Ori now.

Chapter Text

The first thing Fíli did when he got the chance was apologize to Briar for not letting her the truth the second he knew it. She had smiled and placed a gentle kiss against his brow. “You were trying to protect you uncle. I could never fault you for that.”

From what Fíli could see, Briar wasn’t as kiss-y with Thorin as she had been with Caspian. Sure they kissed occasionally—more often on the cheek than on the lips. The only thing that really changed in Bag End was where Thorin sat in the living room. He sat on the couch now with Briar leaning against him or sitting opposite him with her feet propped against his thigh. They never sat the way they had found them after returning from Buckland. That seemed almost too intimate to share.

Now, they were waiting for the Ri Siblings to arrive. Thorin was progressively getting paler and paler as the minutes ticked by. Fíli knew why. Dori could be rather frightening when he wanted to. Besides, dwarrow courting seemed to much stricter than hobbit courting. Thorin and Briar weren’t even courting yet. They were only dating. When asked, Thorin said they wouldn’t start courting until Dori approved.

Thorin had been working on a courtship gift for the past week. He hadn’t allowed anyone to look at it, but Fíli knew it was going to be good and worthy of Briar.

“Dori isn’t going to say you can’t marry Bri, you know,” Kíli said as they waited for the cart that the Ris were coming in.

“He might.”

Fíli thought for a moment. “Is that why you don’t kiss Briar a lot? You don’t want Dori to think you’re dishonoring her?”

Fíli watched as his uncle’s ears turn pink.

“Please don’t say stuff like that in front of the others,” Briar came out from the smial and stood beside Thorin. She put her hand on his and he took it gratefully. Briar looked down st Fíli. “We don’t kiss often because we don’t want to embarrass you.” She stressed the last word with a smile.

Fíli rolled his eyes while Kíli sniggered.

Bilbo joined them soon after and then the cart was visible just down the road.

Nori was the first to jump down as the cart was close enough to see the occupants. Briar let go of Thorin’s hand and hugged her older brother tightly. He whispered something to her and she slapped him playfully on the shoulder. He put his arm around her shoulder and kissed her temple.

“So I was right to worry was I?” The thief smirked over at Thorin and Fíli felt his uncle stiffen beside him.

“Not at all.” Thorin extended his hand and Nori took it with the one not already around Briar.

Fíli could see their knuckles turning white as they shook hands. He also saw Briar roll her eyes.

“I suppose I should introduce our siblings to each other,” Nori said, glancing back at the cart. He looked down at Briar. “Dori’s gonna mother-hen you, so don’t take it too personally if he treats you like a dwarflings. You’re only a decade or so older than Ori.” He winked.

The two other dwarrow and the dwarfling got out of the cart. Fíli had seen Dori and Kori before. He had even met Ori a few times. But this was different. They had complete control over whether Thorin could court Briar. Most families would fall over themselves to have a king asking for courtship from one of their dams, but this was different. Fíli knew that.

Briar was young by dwarrow standards—it was strange to think that she was only nine years older than Fíli himself—most fathers or brothers would be hesitant to let her court even if she was of age. Thorin had over century on her too. Then there was the fact that Thorin was a king-in-exile. Sure other dwarrow had broached courtship with him since the fall of Erebor, the death of Thror and the disappearance of Thrain, and the settling of Ered Luin, but this was also different. Thorin truly was in exile. The Council of Lords didn’t even know where he was. Last they saw him he was almost murdered. No father or brother would willingly put a dam in that much danger—especially when a dam had already been killed.

Fíli’s chest tightened at the thought of his mother.

“It’s an honor to finally meet you all,” Bilbo said, extending his hand to Dori first. The two shook hands and Bilbo did the same with Kori. Bilbo ruffles Ori’s hair slightly. “Please, come in. You all must be exhausted.”

“Dori, would you like to help me with the tea?” Briar asked.

The mithril haired dwarrow beamed. “Of course.”

They all settled in the living room as Briar and Dori sorted out the tea. Bilbo was getting to know Kori and Ori. Fíli and Kíli and Nori joined in the conversation as well. Thorin nodded and said one word answers when addressed, but other than that he looked nervous. He’d probably rather face the Pale Orc again than this.

Briar and Dori brought in the tea and served it. She was about to sit in her usual spot next to Thorin, but Dori maneuvered her over to sit between himself and Nori. The thief looked smugly at Thorin who turned a little pink. Briar just looked confused.

There was a short, but very awkward, silence.

“So,” Dori began. “You wish to court my youngest sister.”

“I wish for it more than I do the halls of Erebor,” Thorin said, bowing his head.

Fíli looked at his uncle with his mouth open.

“Hm,” was all Dori said in reply to that.

Maybe that was a normal response for someone who wished to court a dam? Fíli didn’t know. He hadn’t sat in on many courtship discussions. He actually hadn’t sat in on any.

“And what are you prepared to offer her, Thorin son of Thrain?” Dori said, lifting his chin in such a way that Fíli was certain Lobelia Sackville-Baggins would be jealous. “You have no home or halls to offer. You have no jewels to give. You have your craft, I’ll give you that. But you can’t even offer her real protection. Nori told me of your initial plans of protecting the boys had other dwarrow found you.”

Fíli felt his stomach churn. The initial plan. The plan that would have left Briar to fend for herself. The plan that could have let Briar die. Dori had a point.

“Nadad,” Briar whispered, shocked.

“It needs to be said.”

“I was the one who came up with the idea though.”

“If he knew you were his One he shouldn’t have put you in harms way at all.”

“I didn’t tell her she was my One because I didn’t want her to be targeted for that very reason.”

“Then what changed.”

The couple were silent. Bilbo shifted uncomfortably and took an interest in the portrait of his father.

“Do you have a courtship gift?” Nori asked, trying to break the tension. He glared at his older brother and put his hand over Briar’s giving it a gentle squeeze.

“I do.” Thorin put his tea aside and stood up. He went to a locked trunk and opened it with a key from his pocket. He pulled out something wrapped in cloth and walked back to Dori. He got down on his knees and offered it to the dwarf for inspection.

Dori unwraps the gift, opening the box it was in and everyone in the room, beside Thorin, lean in to look. It was made of silver—Fíli had no clue on how Thorin had even gotten his hands on that much silver—the gift was jewelry. Delicate rings adorned with flowers of love and devotion. A simple necklace that bore the Durin crest entwined with briar thorns and a briar rose in the corner. There was a circlet that mimicked the weaving of wicker strands that sprouted flowers of their own.

A sharp intake of breath came from Dori when he saw the last of the gift: mithril beads.

“How?” Nori’s voice wavered, the words stuck in his throat.

“My mother gave me a stone of mithril as a boy,” Thori replied, his voice quiet. “It was small and she asked I keep it to my heart whenever I see battle. It had the Khuzdûl word for ‘breath’ carved into it. I carried it with me through Smaug, the wandering, settling Ered Luin, Azanulbizar, and to here.” He looked up at Dori. “I have carried her with me before I even knew her name.”

Dori watched him with a cautious eye.

“She is my heart, the very air in my lungs. She is what will carry me through the rest of my days. If I go to battle, it is to protect the heart I leave behind.” He looked at Briar and he smiled so gently that Fíli wasn’t sure he ever saw his uncle look like that before. “I come to you, not as a king, but as a humble blacksmith who loves your sister more than all the jewels and gold of Erebor. I was made for her and will honor her fully.” He looked back to Dori. “Even if you decide against this courtship and find me unworthy of being her husband, I will shield her back, keep her council, and give my life for hers, if need be. I swear it by our maker and hers.”

Dori and Nori exchanged a look. Dori then looked at Kori who was holding their youngest brother. She nodded. The silver haired dwarf lifted his chin. “We accept your suit.”

Fíli had never seen his uncle smile so brightly.

Chapter Text

Thorin knew full well that, if they were caught, Dori was certainly going to kill him. He didn’t particularly care because it would be worth it. He’d die a rather contented dwarf. Briar would be safe because Dori wouldn’t dare hurt his little sister. He had grown too fond of the hobbit lass in the week they had been there. The boys would be fine with Briar taking care of them too. But Dori and Nori were off visiting Bree to sell a few of their wares (well, Dori was, Nori was probably picking a few pockets).

Thorin held her hand gently, their fingers intertwined with each other’s. The walked quickly and quietly in the darkness of evening. Occasionally they would stop and press fervent kisses to the other’s lips or cheek or temple. His heart pounded loud in his ears as they finally reached his forge. He opened the door for her and Briar giggled as she stepped through. Thorin closed the door behind him and quickly took Briar into his arms.

They held each other as they kissed. It was a gentle one. One they had shared plenty of times in Bag End.

This was the first time they had done something like this since the unfortunate morning he had woken believing her to only being a dream.

Thorin was not going to take her to a marriage bed that night. He wouldn’t dishonor her so. No, tonight they would simply be together. No brothers or sisters to worry about. No children to be quiet for. It would be just them.

They pulled apart to breath.

“Thorin?”

“Hm?”

“I can’t give you children, you know.”

He looked down at her and saw the shine in her green eyes as she looked back up at him. They had never talked about the fact that she couldn’t have children, not even when they had begun dating. Thorin knew most of the Shire didn’t seem to think it a problem that Briar couldn’t get pregnant—Lobelia Sackville-Baggins was an exception to most things. However, Thorin knew children were something Briar had always dreamed of having, even when she was a little faunt.

How the Valar could be cruel.

“I never dreamed of having children,” Thorin admitted. “Fíli and Kíli are the only sons I will ever know, just as they are yours.” He pressed the palm of his hand to her cheek. She closed her eyes and nuzzled his hand. “I don’t need anyone else, Briar.”

“I’ve always... Sometimes I still dream that I...” Her voice wavered.

This isn’t how he wanted this night to go, but this is what Briar needed.

“I know.” He pressed his lips to hers before guiding her to the cot he had in the forge. “Fíli and Kíli will be our sons. I’ve known that since the beginning, even before I thought we could—” he paused. “I never dreamed of anything else. I love you, Briar. I don’t give a damn about what others think. I have two heirs and I have you. It is all that I want in this life. The Dwarven Lords can hang and Smaug can sit in Erebor’s halls for all eternity. I just want you, Briar. Just as you only want me.”

“Thorin…”

“Just as you cannot give me children, I cannot give you any either. I can’t change what the Valar have planned for us. But I am choosing this Briar. If I married a dwarrowdam, there is a high possibility that they would never give me children either. Just as you sacrifice nothing, I am not sacrificing anything either.” He pressed his brow to hers. “Men lananubukhs me.” Thorin nuzzled her nose with his. “I love you. I was made for you, Briar, daughter of Yavanna. I was made to be yours. Just as you were made to be mine.”

She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. He could taste the salt of her silent tears as he parted her lips with his own and claimed her mouth with his tongue. He turned them so he could sit on the cot. Briar came down with him, straddling him. She wrapped her legs around his waist and Thorin was already aching for her.

She pulled back and sighed into him. His lips trailed to her neck. He pulled down the collar of her dress and pressed his lips the the oak tree-shaped mark over her heart. She gasped and her hips began to grind into his, making him groan. He began to suck a mark into the skin that already branded her as his own. Briar began to rock against him and it took everything in Thorin to not turn her on her back and take her there. Instead, his hands went to her knees and he pushed up her skirt so that nothing save for her underthings and his trousers separated them. She was so achingly soft under his touch and he felt a slight shiver come from her as a soft moan escaped her lips.

Her hands wound in his hair as he began to lick at the sore spot he had created. The softness of her skin was sweet against his tongue. If he just dipped his head lower… Thorin swore under his breath in Khuzdul as he felt Briar’s lips against his pulse point. She nipped and sucked and lick and if she was planning on asking him anything after this, he was going to tell her yes. His fingers dug into her hips as she continued to rock against him and he began to meet the movements.

She began to pant, her hot breath fanned across his neck between her licks and the caress of her lips against his skin. She whimpered his name and he growled out hers.

Their movements became sharper as they began to grind into each other with every rock. Briar clung to him tightly. Her fingers dug into the fabric of his shirt and Thorin was certain she was close to drawing blood. His own fingers were going to leave bruises, he was sure.

“Thorin—Thorin, please—” She moaned and pleaded against him. Her hands made their way between them and he could feel her tugging at his laces.

He turned her on her back. Thorin took her hands in his and pinned them above her head. “We can’t.” He growled. She squirmed beneath him, trying to rub herself against him and he groaned at the growing pressure. “Not yet, Atamanel. Not yet.”

She whimpered against his lips as he began to rut against her. Thorin pulled her leg higher up his side as he began to pound against her. She cried his name and he roared hers. They rode their pleasure out and clung to each other as though they were the only true things left in all of Arda.

Thorin lowered himself carefully resting his head at the center of her chest. He painted heavily and he closed his eyes at the feel of the steady rise and fall beneath him.

“What is it you called me?” She asked, her voice was rich and low.

“Breath of all breaths,” he said, pushing himself up on his elbows.

Briar smiled up at him. The flushness of her skin made Thorin’s heart swell in pride. She reached up and touched his cheek. “And you are fy annwyl un, my dearest one.”

Thorin sank into her again and claimed her soul as his own and found it was getting harder and harder to wait to make her his own with each passing day.

Chapter Text

Kíli’s birthday was a rather small affair. He wanted to have a dwarven birthday that year and he was content to spend it surrounded by his family. Briar made him a birthday cake—she made him two because he had been determined to decorate one and Briar wanted one to look somewhat more presentable. Since it was a dwarven birthday, he would be receiving gifts instead of giving them, however he was going to have to make goodie baskets with Briar for their hobbit neighbors and tenants.

From Bilbo, Kíli got a book on the history of archery. It was an elvish book, but Thorin didn’t say anything about it, although that might have been because Briar elbowed him in the side.

From Fíli, Kíli got slips of paper promising to do one of his chores for a full week. Kíli was going to make sure he picked bathroom duty because who really liked being on bathroom duty.

From Thorin, Kíli got a small work apron. He wasn’t ready to start leaning how to be a blacksmith, but he could come and watch at the forge and even help around with Fíli.

From Dori, Kíli got a new shirt that was very dwarvish. He knew Fíli had gotten one as well, but Kíli’s was a little more decorated with fine embroidered hem of arrows.

From Nori, Kíli got a silver pin that would fasten to a sheath of arrows to hold it in place. The ginger dwarf assured both Briar and Dori that he paid for it.

From Kori, Kíli got a rather pretty chest protector for his shooting practice. The leather had been engraved with the symbol of Durin and some more hobbitish patterns. She and Briar had become rather close so that’s where the dwarrowdam must have gotten the pattern.

From Ori, Kíli got a Khuzdul practice book. Kíli would have to admit he hadn’t been practicing his runes in a while and probably should. Especially considering Bilbo had been teaching him a bit of the elvish language.

From Briar, Kíli got a smooth black stone about the size of his hand. On one side carefully carved runes were etched into the surface. INNIKH DÊ. “Return to me.” He looked up at Briar and she smiled.

“Faunts get something similar when they get to be about your age,” she smiled. “Well, Took faunts do. My mother gave a similar stone to me and one to Bilbo too. Ours are in Hobbitish of course. But Thorin helped me with the Khuzdul.” She stroked his hair and pressed a soft kiss to the crown of his head. “You’re getting old enough to go off on your own adventures without me present. This stone is so you remember home while your off raiding strawberry fields.”

Kíli smiled and looked down at the stone again. “Thanks, Mum.”

Everything went quiet and Kíli realized what he’d said. His eyes widened and he looked up at Thorin and then to Briar. She was smiling down at him. She pressed a kiss to his hair.

“Your welcome, mab calon. Your amad would be proud of how big you’ve gotten too.”

With the permission to think of Briar that way, Kíli reaches up and hugged Briar around her neck and she hugged him back, tightly.

Chapter Text

“So,” Briar began, glancing at her sister through the mirror. The dwarrowdam was braiding her hair before they went to Primula and Drogo’s wedding. “You and Dwalin?”

Kori stilled for a moment. “I’m going to murder Nori.”

“No you aren’t.” Briar smiled, but Kori merely shrugged. “He says you haven’t said anything because you want to work up in the ranks. From what I saw of him, Dwalin didn’t seem to care about rank. He seemed to be more concerned about skill and loyalty. Which I’m guessing you have based on how much Dori and Nori both enjoy bragging about you.”

Kori thought for a moment as she finished braiding Brair’s hair. “How much do you know about our family?”

“You’re related to Thorin and the boys, although distantly. Dori is a tailor. Nori is technically a locksmith.” That got a snort from the dam. “Your craft is in leather. Ori is too young but he will probably be a scribe.”

Kori nodded. “Anything else?”

Briar turned a little pink. “You all have different fathers.”

“Almost all of us do. Nori and I are full-blooded siblings. But yes, Dori and Ori have different fathers from us.” She sighed. Kori switched places with Briar and the hobbit began to braid the dam’s hair into a soldier’s fish braid. “We also aren’t the riches of relations which is why Nori has his side job.” Kori glanced away.

Briar put her hands on Kori’s shoulder and squeezed. “You’re family now. If you ever need help—”

The dam put her hand over one of Briar’s. “I know.” Briar went back to her braiding. “I decided to become a guard because I felt like it was the only way to rise in the ranks. It didn’t take me too long to figure out Dwalin was my One from how much the others liked singing.”

“Are you his?”

She shrugged. “I haven’t tried to see if I am.”

“Why not?”

“Fear mostly, but I don’t want to pull Dwalin down by being connected to the Ri part of the family.”

“Well, I think you’re pretty amazing and Dwalin would be lucky to be with you.”

Kori’s lips curled into a soft smile. “Thank you Bri.” The two were quiet for a moment. “So, you and Thorin have been sneaking out quite a bit the past few nights.”

Briar turned bright red. “I’m going to kill Nori.”

Kori’s head tipped back and she gave out a hearty laugh. “No you aren’t.”

Chapter Text

Bilbo sat back and watched the dances with a smile on his lips. He didn’t do much dancing, he’d always had two left feet. The hobbit would admit that he had gotten better since Thorin had been teaching him sword forms, but dancing felt like a different matter. Now, he just enjoyed watching.

He had danced a few times during the wedding. Twice with Briar and once with Kori. His dwarven sister seemed to not enjoy dancing either but that might have been more due to the fact that hobbit dances were apparently very different from hobbit ones.

He and his older brothers and sister watched the festivities happily. Dori was smiling watching the motion of the clothes, making audible notes about how he might be able to incorporate a few of the designs into dwarven clothes. Nori was entertaining children with slight of hand (they had all told him he was NOT to steal anything since the people getting married were family). Kori was hesitantly humming along with the song.

Ori and the boys were off playing and dancing with other faunts. Yavanna have mercy on whoever gets pranked. There were a large amount of Tooks at this gathering.

Bilbo’s eyes found Briar and Thorin at the edge of the dancing. It was a slower dance meant for couples, although Bilbo knew quite a few dating and courting couples would conveniently slip out. Bilbo was vaguely aware that his little sister and Thorin were testing the more physical parts of their relationship, but he was greatful that they had some sense of propriety.

Although, that might be simply because they were very aware that some people questioned their relationship. Some rumors, no doubt started by Lobelia or a hobbit lass who had fancied Thorin (Bilbo knew there were quite a few), said that the two had been intimate before they had started courting, even before Briar had started her relationship with Caspian. Most of the rumors looked at Briar with a bad light but there were some that looked down upon Thorin. Some had begun to wonder why he and the boys were living in the Shire instead of in the dwarvish settlements.

Bilbo trusted both of them though.

He watched as his little sister and her Enaid danced. One of Thorin’s hands was spread against the small of her back wile the other held hers. Her other hand was placed lovingly against the dwarf’s shoulder. Thorin was bent down slightly so that Briar didn’t have to crane her neck to look up at him. Bilbo could see his sister smiling tenderly up at him. She said something that made Thorin chuckle. He pressed his lips to the crown of her head and whispered something. She grinned up at him and pressed her cheek to his chest. She closed her eyes, as did he. They looked content.

“He’s good for her,” Nori said, sliding in next to Bilbo. “She’s good for him.” He smirked, then a frown crossed over his features. “Balin’s not going to like this.”

“No, he won’t,” Kori nodded. “He was probably hoping to arrange a marriage that could bring Thorin and the boys back to Ered Luin.”

Bilbo stiffened. “Will the Dwarven Lords accept Briar?”

“Some will,” Dori assured him.

“Some won’t,” Nori muttered.

“Briar will handle it. If she could get through the stubbornness of Durins, she’ll make it through to the other dwarrow.” Kori crosses her arms.

Bilbo nodded.

It would work out.

Chapter Text

Fíli was once again included in the discussion on how to make Balin understand that Thorin was going to marry Briar whether he wanted the king to or not.

“You’re the king, can’t you just, I don’t know, order him?” Fíli asked.

His uncle shook his head. “Being a king is not about demanding my people to see things my way. I understand why Balin doesn’t want me to marry Briar, but his reasons aren’t good enough to keep me from my One.” He sighed. “We just need to make good arguments for his reasons.”

“But you’re the king.”

Thorin’s lips twitched in a smile. “I am a king. But I am not a dictator. My people have just as much say in politics as I do. But, as a king, my personal life will never truly be my own.” He ruffled Fíli’s hair slightly. “You’ll understand someday.”

Fíli really didn’t think he ever would.

Chapter Text

“Thorin, you can’t be serious,” Balin said, crossing his arms.

“I am serious, Balin.” Thorin’s knuckles turned white and he felt Briar hold his larger hand in hers. “She’s my One and I am hers. There’s no reason for you to worry about what anyone else will think.”

“Our people were already concerned with Durinfolk, do you think they would accept a hobbit?”

“Brother—”

“It’s alright Master Dwalin,” Briar said, her hand coming up to rub Thorin’s arm muscles into a more relaxed state. “I know it would be hard for the dwarrow to accept me.” She rocked to the balls of her feet and pressed a gentle kiss to Thorin’s shoulder. “But, by hobbit law, I am the mother to the Heirs of Durin anyway. Even if I could have children, their future king would be a full-blooded dwarf.”

Thorin watched as Balin paled. It was very much against every dwarrow code to make a dam feel any less than important because she could not have children.

Dori was very near fuming but his younger brother and sister were holding him tightly. Bilbo was sitting in his chair, watching very carefully. Thorin was glad they sent the boys and Ori to the Gamgee’s to play that afternoon.

“Miss Briar, that’s not—”

“It is in part.” Thorin glanced down at his One who was smiling up at him. “You’re also worried that someone would take advantage of my personality to hurt my sons or Thorin.” She looked at the older dwarf. “I’m getting better with my dagger and you saw what I was willing to do even when I wasn’t very good.”

Nori smirked with a proud look in his eyes. Even Dwalin’s lips trembled into a repressed smile.

“I can’t promise I won’t make mistakes,” Briar said. “I’m a person just as any of you are. But I was made for Thorin. His struggles are mine as are his people’s. Even if you don’t allow us to marry, I’ll still follow him and serve his people the best I can.”

“You make it sound easy, Miss Briar, but it isn’t.”

“Perhaps, Master Balin, you are making it sound too difficult.”

They soon broke for supper, which Briar announced would be a time where no one talked about politics and they were all simply friends and family spending a meal together. Politics, she said, were for Afternoon Tea.

That night, he and Briar went out to the back garden. They didn’t do anything. Thorin decided he rather liked being alive at the moment. Thorin simply sat at the base of one of the trees with Briar sitting between his legs and leaning against his chest. His hands were on her waist and his lips would brush against the juncture between her neck and her shoulder or the tip of her ear, which he had learned quite a while ago made her melt into him rather quickly. Her own hands were on his bent knees, rubbing her thumbs at the dip in the joints.

“I’m sorry Balin feels the need to talk to you like that,” he whispered into her ear, nuzzling against sensitive skin. The mithril beads brushed his cheek.

“He makes valid points, so I don’t take it to heart. He isn’t doing this because he doesn’t like me.” She turned her head slightly and her nose brushed against the side of his. “It’s not personal.”

“Still,” he grumbled.

“And he does it because he cares about you.”

He would rather not talk about his cousin at the moment. He took the tip of her ear between his lips and let his tongue brush against it. Briar hummed her contentment and pressed herself closer to him. She shifted his arms so they wrapped around her waist and rested her own hands on his.

“We’ll figure this out, my love.” She turned her head and nuzzled his chin. The hairs of his beard shifted and he felt heat beginning to coil in his belly. “I promise.”

“We should just elope.” He was definitely not thinking about how tight his trousers were getting. “You’re making this hard.”

She wiggled slightly, eliciting a groan from Thorin as he buried his face in the nape of her neck. Briar giggled and the sound made the wait worth it.

Chapter Text

Kíli shot up in his bed and screamed.

The smial came to life in an instant.

His brother was curled around him and soon they were both in Briar’s arms as she pressed soft kisses to Kíli’s face and asked if he was okay and reminding him that he was okay. That he was safe. That she would never let anything hurt him.

Thorin sat down next to his One and his nephews and put his arms around all three of them. Kíli burrowed into Briar’s arms and chest.

“What’s wrong, mab calon?” Briar whispered softly into Kíli’s hair. “Was it a bad dream?”

He nodded as tears began to spill down his cheeks. She shifted him in her arms and let him wrap his arms around her neck. He felt Thorin’s large hand beginning to rub his back. Kíli could hear others and supposed everyone was either in the nursery or just outside of it.

“You were old and I was still small,” he whispered, although it was so quiet everyone could hear him. “You left like Amad, Mum.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Kíli.”

“But hobbits don’t live as long as dwarrow.” Kíli felt Thorin’s hand still on his back and heard Briar suck in a sharp breath.

“That’s true. But because I’ll likely be bonding with your uncle, I’ll age like a dwarf. I’ll age a little more slowly from then on.” Briar pressed a kiss to Kíli’s head. Thorin’s hand began to move again.

“Promise you won’t leave?”

“Sweetheart, even if there comes a day where you can’t see me, I’ll always be with you.”

That night, Thorin pushed the two nursery beds together and the four of them—Kíli, Fíli, Thorin, and Briar—slept together with Kíli curled into Briar’s chest.

He had never felt more at home.

Chapter Text

Briar woke up to Kíli snuggling into her. She smiled. Their morning snuggle. Yavanna she hoped he would be fifty and still wanted that in the morning. He’d be bigger and Thorin would probably grumble about it, but Kíli was always going to be Briar’s baby. Fíli was starting to decide that snuggling was no longer something he really needed.

“I need to get up and make First Breakfast for everyone,” she whispered into Kíli’s hair. “Do you want to help me?”

He nodded, but gave a soft yawn into her neck. She picked him up and made sure not to wake up Thorin or Fíli as she left the nursery.

She and Kíli began First Breakfast.

Balin was the first to wake up and come to the kitchen. “Good morning, Miss Briar.”

“Good morning, Master Balin.”

“I have to admit, I did miss your breakfasts back in Ered Luin.”

Briar smiled weakly.

“She’s could be a cook in Erebor!” Kíli said cheerily.

Balin simply looked pained.

“I’m certain I cook far too much green food for most dwarrow. I’ll just feed the Durins. How does that sound?”

Kíli beamed up at her. “More cookies for me!”

Briar smiled. “Why don’t you get everyone else up?”

Kíli ran from the room in an instant. It was too early for him to remember or understand Balin’s reluctance towards her.

“Do you really intend to go to the mountains, Miss Briar?” Balin asked, setting up the table.

“Of course. That’s where my sons will be. Even if you don’t let me bond with Thorin—that’s part of hobbit marriage traditions by the way—and I turn into a wrinkly hundred year old maid, I’ll still follow my boys to the mountain and asked to be buried there so I can look over them when I’m gone.”

“Is your place not here in the Shire?”

Briar sighed. “The Shire stopped feeling like home when my parents died. My home is with the boys and Thorin. They are my heart. I would follow them anywhere and be whatever they want me to be. I’m telling you what I told Thorin. I made this decision before I knew I was Thorin’s One. I was going to go to Erebor with no thought of Thorin loving me. All I needed was his friendship and the boys’ love.”

“You need to understand, Miss Briar, the politics of—”

“Thorin is the king, and his word is law. Others might try to use me to get to him, whether by threat or by gifts. I understand that. If you don’t trust me, Kori can follow me around whenever I go out by myself. Any correspondence I receive may be looked at by you and Thorin can take his right and tell me I may never leave the royal apartments—something I doubt he would ever do. I would never do something to betray him or my sons. I love them and they love me. I don’t care about gold or power. I just want my family to be safe and happy.”

Balin looked at her for a long time. Thorin grumbled in through the entryway, either not noticing or acknowledging Balin. The king pressed his lips against Briar’s temple and rumbled a good morning. She smiled up at him and kissed his cheek.

Balin watched them for a moment before finishing the table.

Chapter Text

Bilbo, his older brothers and sister stood in front of Balin. Nervous, the hobbit kept glancing at Dori and Nori for assurance. He didn’t know enough about dwarven culture to really understand why Balin’s permission needed to be had. All he understood what that Balin was Thorin’s oldest relative. But Thorin was a grown dwarf and head of his own family. If Bilbo wanted to get married (which he didn’t) the lass’ family wouldn’t have to go to the Thain to ask permission.

“So,” Nori said, breaking the tension. “You’ve finally seen the light and found our little sister to be amazing?”

Balin glared at him for a moment before coughing into his fist. “A marriage to a king is different than most marriages.”

Bilbo saw Kori rolling her eyes. “Yes, we know,” she breathed. “We considered that before we allowed them to get this far.” She smirked and Bilbo really didn’t want to know what that meant. “But he’s in exile twofold right now and unlike the rest of our people Briar has accepted him despite his many flaws.”

“Kori,” Dori warned, nudging his younger sister in the side with his elbow. She shrugged in return. “So, you want to create a contract.”

Bilbo stiffened at that.

“I do. It’s only logical.”

“It’s not,” Bilbo said. The dwarves looked at him. “I know I’m not the expert on dwarven rituals or whatever, but I do know hobbits and I do know Briar.” He folded his arms. “If any other hobbit heard you talking about writing a contract for Briar and Thorin’s marriage you would be sending all the wrong signals and I’m half inclined to think my grandfather would pull any support he’s given Ered Luin thus far.”

Balin blinked at Bilbo for a moment. “Do you not write contracts for important marriages in the Shire?”

“No. We don’t have royalty and everyone knows everyone. There’s no point to writing a contract. The vows hobbits take are binding enough as it is.”

“Bilbo, what message would writing a marriage contract send hobbits?” Kori asked.

Bilbo smiled at her appreciatively. “Contracts are only made in the Shire when they’re dealing with property or maybe with labor.” He paused for a moment. “See the problem?” The dwarves all flinch. “Yeah. So, a contract will not be a good idea.”

“Then what do you suggest, Master Baggins?” Balin asked.

“Trust them.”

Chapter Text

Fíli watched as his little brother practically vibrated with happiness.

Thorin and Briar were going to get married!

Fíli didn’t think he had ever seen his uncle smile so much. Even Dwalin was getting a little creeped out by it. But there Thorin was, grinning and pressing kisses to Briar’s temple almost every time he passed her. Briar would giggle our pout. At one point, Fíli was fairly certain he hear a small thwack and Briar began reprimanding Thorin profusely. Thorin just grinned at her like an idiot, definitely not listening to a word she said.

Kíli was excited and constantly asked Briar about what the wedding would be like since it was going to be dwarvish too.

He was calling her “mum” more now. Fíli wasn’t sure how he felt about it. Sure, they had been in the Shire for almost three years, but Fíli still remembered his amad. Fíli asked Kíli about it once and his brother just shrugged. “I remember her laugh and I remember her kissing adad. Everything else just hurts.”

Fíli could understand that. He really could. But he couldn’t call Briar anything but her name. He might call her Aunt Briar occasionally after she and Thorin get married, but that was it. She was his mom in so many ways, but he still remembered his amad too clearly to call Briar anything else.

He felt bad about it. He felt like he should be calling her that. She was the one that did everything his amad used to. He wished he could call her his mum, but he couldn’t bring himself to. It felt like a betrayal.

“Fíli, could you help me with laundry?” Briar asked.

“Sure.”

He handed her the clothes from the basket and she hung them up on the line. She sighed. “You’re starting to hit your growth spurt. I need to start making your clothes bigger and then letting them out.”

He had been growing. He was almost to Briar’s shoulder now. And Kíli was almost the same age Fíli was when they first got to the Shire. He wondered if he would tower over Briar like Thorin did. He’d kiss her forehead like she does now.

“I’ve got a little more than ten years until I reach my majority,” Fíli said quietly.

Briar shuddered. “Mahal, you’re growing up too fast. Nope,” she popped the word. “You are going to be twenty-six for all eternity and you shall never grow up.”

Fíli rolled his eyes. “We have to grow up at some point.”

“You’ve got a while yet,” she hummed.

“Briar?”

“Hm?”

“Does it bother you that I don’t call you ‘mum’ like Kíli does?”

Briar paused for a moment and looked down at him. “You can call me whatever you want to.” She swooped down and sprinkled his face with kisses. “I’m going to smother you regardless.”

Fíli smiled.

Chapter Text

Thorin grunted as Briar’s hands slid up his chest and she collapsed on top of him, panting. She shifted her weight so she wasn’t straddling his hips anymore. Her skirt whispered against his trousers and Thorin wished he knew what her skin sliding against his sounded like. His One crossed her arms and rested her head against his chest. Thorin pressed kisses to the crown of her head, rubbing her back gently as she found her breath.

“Was that… okay?”

“Mahal, Briar,” he whispered. “You have no idea how hard I wanted to make you mine.”

He saw Briar smirk, a glint in her eye that was reserved solely for him. “I think I know how hard you wanted me.” She turned red almost instantly. “I didn’t…”

Thorin tossed back his head and laughed. He looked down at her after a while and saw that Briar had only gotten more flustered. “Sorry. Sorry,” he said, pressing a kiss to the crown of her head again.

She buried her face in his chest and hummed her embarrassment. “That’s it. We aren’t coming to the forge for three months after we’re married.”

He smirked down at her. “Does someone want their brother and our boys to hear?”

She pushed herself up and slapped his chest. “Behave.”

He smiled sweetly before flipping her on her back and shifting to loom over her. “I am. That’s why we do this here and not at home.”

She blushed. Her hands came up slightly and touched his biceps. This only made her blush more. He was very much aware that those were her favorite feature. He flexed underneath her touch and her eyes darkened and she scowled up at him.

Thorin laughed again before resting his weight on top of her. His head rested against her shoulder. He tucked his hands underneath her back and her fingers dragged gently against the fabric of his shirt.

“I love you.” He smiled as he felt her lips graze across his forehead.

“I love you too, Briar.”

Chapter Text

Married.

Tomorrow, his mum and Thorin were getting married!

Kíli sat in the room when Briar tried on her wedding dress for the final adjustments.

She looked like a princess.

It’s more dwarvish than hobbitish, but she looked like Yavanna had made her to wear dwarvish clothing.

The sleeves are long and white and flowy, wrapped around her wrists with a deep Durin blue. Her bodice was had a squared blue neckline woven with silver flowers sewn in. The skirt was blue with more Durin blue trim. All the white bits had lace that Briar had apparently been working on since she was a wee fauntling. Rose patterns were mixed with silver beads that even Dori was impressed with saying that there was no possible way she didn’t know she was going to be marrying a dwarf.

“Do you think Thorin will like it?” She asked.

Kíli shot up and wrapped his arms around her waist. “He’s gonna feel like an idiot for not doing this sooner, Mum.”

She smiled down at him and pressed a kiss to his brow.

Chapter Text

“You look beautiful, Briar,” her brother whispered, pressing a soft kiss to her brow as they waited around the corner so Thorin couldn’t see them. “Mum and Da would be proud.”

Briar looked up at Bilbo and felt tears beginning to sting her eyes and threaten to spill over. “You shouldn’t make me cry at my own wedding Bilbo.” She smiled up at him. “It’s my job to make you cry.”

“I’m saving up my tears for when I give you away.”

“Bilbo…” She threw her arms around her big brother and squeezed him tightly. “Thank you for everything.”

Bilbo hugged her back. “You are the best thing I’ve ever done, little one. I’m proud of you too.”

Briar sniffed and pulled away as she heard the fiddle beginning to play. “I love you, Bilbo.”

“I love you too, Briar.” He extended his arm. “Why don’t I take you on one more walk.”

Briar put her hand on the crook of his arm. “We’ll have more walks after this, you know.”

Bilbo smiled. “I know. But this is the last time I get to walk you as your protector. It’ll be Thorin’s job now.”

Briar squeezed his arm gently.

The siblings took a deep breath and made their way to Thorin.

He smiled the second he saw her and Briar smiled brightly right back.

When they reached him, Bilbo took Briar’s hands and pressed a kiss to her knuckles. He then turned to Thorin. “Take care of her, Thorin,” he said, his voice betraying how much he was straining to not cry. “I know how to use a sword now, so take care of her.”

“Always, Bilbo,” Thorin said, smiling at his friend. “Always.” Her Enaid offered his hands and Briar took them. She still marveled how large his hands were compared to hers. How warm and how rough and how gentle.

“We are gathered here today,” her grandfather announced, “to bind not only two souls, but two people as well. Our races share many similarities. We have wandered without a home. We have starved. We have survived hardships. We have thrived in ways the other races have not. Where our peoples were separate, we now bring together in the marriage between Thorin Oakenshield and Briar Baggins.” The Thain gave his granddaughter a warm smile. “They come together as Enaids formed by our Makers for each other.” He took a chain of flowers woven together with a cloth of spun gold. Slowly he began to wrap it around the couples held hands. “Where they were once incomplete, they are now whole. Where there was once weakness, strength.” He finished wrapping it around their hands and pressed his hands around theirs. “Efallai y byddwch chi'n tyfu mewn hapusrwydd yn ystod y blynyddoedd lawer, mae Yavanna ac Aulë yn eich bendithio chi. Efallai y byddwch chi'n tyfu i fod pwy y cawsoch chi ei greu i fod. efallai y byddwch chi'n tyfu fel un.”

Briar felt her hands grow hot as though she were being placed in the forge. She squeezed Thorin’s hands and he squeezed her back. This pain was only temporary. Mahal was blessing her with the gift of a prolonged life so that she could grow old with her husband and see her sons grow up as well. This pain was worth it.

“Your vows,” the Thain prompted.

“Thorin Oakenshield,” Briar began. “Whatever our souls were made of, yours and mine are the same. For you, Yavanna grew me to be yours. From the rocks and tribulations of my life, I grew to be the woman that stands before you. For although I am not perfect, I come to you as One who will be with you until the sun no longer rises. My heart has made its home in you. In this life, you will be my greatest friend, my greatest comfort, and my greatest love. For you, I will be your surest friend, your constant companion, and your truest love in the life our Makers grant us. By all that has come before and all that will come after, I am yours, body and soul.”

“Briar Baggins,” Thorin held her hands tightly. “In all my wanderings, from the halls of Erebor to the fields of Moria to the stone of Ered Luin to the green hills of the Shire, it is, for the first time, that I have found what I can truly love—I have found you. You are my better half, my guiding light, and my only One. I am bound to you, forged by Mahal to be your loyal shield and protector. I have been made for you who is good and gifted and lovely. The night I first heard you sing, a solemn passion was conceived in my heart. From that moment on, there would be no others. From that moment on, a bond was struck and I was bound to you from that point on. For me there is no before, there is only the moment I met you and onward. I am yours and you are mine. From this day and until my last, I am yours.”

“In the name of all that is good and right in the world and life our Makers have given us, you are now bound in soul. May you grow in your lives and forge the bond that has been given to you. I announce you to all as husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.”

Thorin tipped his head downward and pressed a deep, chaste kiss to Briar’s lips. He pulled away only slightly and pressed his brow against hers. Briar closed her eyes and relished in the weight against her.

“I love you, Briar,” he whispered as the crowd began to cheer. “My love. My queen.”

“And I love you, Thorin.” She opened her green eyes into his blue and for a moment it was only them. “My love. My smith.”

His smile grew bigger and her placed a kiss on her lips that was not so chaste and Briar was almost certain she heard one of their boys gag.

Chapter Text

Bilbo smiled as he watched his sister dance with her husband. Briar was smiling up at him and Thorin was grinning down at her. She was radiant. He looked as though Mahal himself had blessed him and, Bilbo supposed, he had.

“You should ask Dwalin to dance,” Bilbo said to Kori quietly, not taking his eyes off his baby sister.

“I’m going to kill Nori,” the dam muttered under her breath.

“No you’re not and he didn’t tell me. I guessed.” Bilbo smirked. “He’s Thorin’s closest friend and cousin, you’re the sister of the bride. Tell him it’s hobbit tradition. Tell him it would be rude if he didn’t.”

“Is it?” Kori asked. “Tradition, I mean.”

Bilbo chuckled. “No. But he doesn’t know that.”

Kori chewed her lip carefully. “Should I?”

“If you don’t I’ll tell him he has to dance with you and I’ll make a big deal out of it.”

Kori narrowed her eyes at him. “You are now my least favorite younger brother.”

Bilbo laughed but it turned to a smile as Kori carefully went over to Dwalin. He watched as Kori awkwardly asked Dwalin to dance. The warrior nodded his consent and Bilbo was fairly certain he saw the bald dwarf’s ears turn red.

“You’ve outdone yourself Bilbo.” Caspian sat down next to his friend and took a small swig of his wine. “Your mum would be impressed.”

Bilbo smiled. “Thank you. How are you?” He hadn’t been a good friend. He hadn’t checked to see how Caspian was doing. Even though Briar was with her Enaid now, Bilbo couldn’t help but feel sorry for his friend. He had cared for Briar after all.

“She’s happy. That’s all that matters.” Caspian smiled, his gaze drifting to the dancing couple. “Daisy would have found this all amusing.”

“That she would have. I can imagine her now. She’d be telling Thorin off for not giving Briar a real flower crown.”

Caspian laughed. “She would have also told you that the Sackville-Bagginses should have been barred. Who cares about propriety? They’re Sackville-Bagginses.”

Bilbo chuckled.

“I miss her.”

Bilbo could still remember her wide smile and shining blue eyes and golden-yellow hair. If he ever thought himself capable of loving someone romantically, it might have been Daisy. He couldn’t imagine losing someone like that. He didn’t envy Caspian in that. “Me too.”

Chapter Text

“And you’re going to behave for Bilbo, right?” Briar asked.

“Of course,” Fíli answered, lifting his chin proudly.

“And we won’t come to the forge for the next three days,” Kíli added.

“Not unless there’s an emergency,” Briar reminded.

“Briar, they’ll be okay,” Bilbo assured her. “It’s not like I haven’t taken care of them before. Prim even offered to come by and help. She said it would give her some practice.”

Fíli glanced up at Briar. She still looked nervous. He wasn’t sure why exactly. It’s not like they weren’t coming back. Fíli honestly wasn’t sure why she and Thorin were going away for a few days. He knew couples did that occasionally. Most adults would say, jokingly, that they were practicing making a baby or something along those lines. But Briar couldn’t have children so why would they need to practice?

“We’ll be fine Bri,” Fíli said. “No worries.”

“They’ll be fine, Briar.” Thorin put his hand on her shoulder. “The worst they could do is burn the house down because Bilbo forgets to turn off the stove.”

“That was one time, Thorin.” Bilbo rolled his eyes. “Let it go.”

Briar swooped down and peppered Fíli and Kíli’s faces with kisses. “I’ll see you two in a few days okay?”

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

Thorin awoke to a sight blessed by Mahal himself.

Briar’s back was pressed against his bare chest. She was wearing one of his shirts. The Durin blue contrasted against the beard burned skin of her neck and shoulder. He could even see the bruise that had bloomed against her pulse point at its juncture. His wife was still asleep, her head resting against his arm as a pillow.

His wife.

Thorin smiled.

Using his free hand he moved the collar of his shirt over her shoulder. He pressed his lips against her skin. His hand slid down to her hip and began to grind against her backside. Briar moaned and began to wiggle against him. She shifted and flipped over to face him.

“Good morning,” her voice was raspy and still heavy with sleep.

“Good morning.” He pressed a kiss to her nose and then her lips. Thorin had meant for it to be a quick kiss, but, apparently, that wasn’t going to happen.

His tongue quickly found itself clashing with hers as Thorin rolled them onto her back. She sighed against him as she hitched her legs over his hips and locked her ankles in place.

“I’m still a little sore,” she whispered as he began to kiss down her throat. “So let's take it easy today.”

He hummed against her neck as he began to rock gently against her. The friction against his trousers would be enough for now. She moaned softly. “I should have been more careful.”

“Ah,” she sucked in a sharp breath. Her fingers knotted in his hair. “It’s fine. I wanted—” her hips bucked against his—“wanted you to—Oh, Thorin—”

He had begun to mouth her breast beneath the fabric of his shirt. His tongue could feel the pebbling hardness against the rough fabric. He groaned as Briar’s nails began to graze firmly along his back, dragging against the claw marks she had given him the previous night.

He let Briar roll them over onto his back and watched as she sat up, straddling his hips. His shirt was too long on her for him to actually see anything, but he could feel her. Thorin slid his hands up her thighs and held onto her hips as she began to rock against him.

She was flushed and wanting and it was all for him. She put her hands on his chest, rubbing her palms against him. She threw her head back as Thorin began to thrust gently up against her.

“Men lananubukhs me, yâsûn,” she moaned as her movements became sharper. Her hands fumbled against the already loosened laces of his trousers. “Thorin—!”

He flipped them over and found himself buried in her again. He kissed her, his hands fumbled between them to make her more comfortable. He wanted her to find her pleasure first. She called out for him as she found it. He groaned into her and spilled. They rocked into each other and soon found themselves spent and boneless.

“Did I hurt you?” He panted.

She pressed warm kisses against his cheek and shook her head. “You could never hurt me.”

It was a lie. He had before. Thorin pressed a kiss to her temple. He eased out of her fell onto his back. Briar curled up into his side and Thorin wrapped himself around her.

“Where did you learn that Khuzdul?”

“I asked Kori to teach me how to say it.” She blushed.

“Say it again.”

“Men lananubukhs me, yâsûn.”

They kissed again and Thorin hadn’t felt this content since his childhood in Erebor.

Chapter Text

Kíli was almost to Briar’s shoulder now. At thirty he was starting to hit his growth spurt. At thirty-four, Fíli was as tall as Briar was now though.

Since Briar and Thorin has gotten married, thing had begun to form a normal, a new routine. Kíli and Fíli began to work more in the forge and Briar has begun teaching at the hobbit school down the road. Occasionally, Fíli would go off with Bilbo so the hobbit could teach him about handling those who he was in charge of. Kíli went occasionally too, but Fíli seemed to enjoy the responsibility more.

Tharkûn had visited only once more in the time they had begun their life in the Shire.

The wizard came only to see how they all were and seemed rather happy to learn that Briar and Thorin had married. He had such a mischievous gleam in his eye that Kíli was rather confused as to why Bilbo glared at him.

Things were going well. Bilbo and Thorin were even talking about expanding Bag End so that Fíli and Kíli could get their own rooms.

Things were going well.

And Kíli was glad things were finally getting settled.

Chapter Text

“Are you sure you’ll be okay?”

Briar hummed as she nuzzled Thorin’s hand. “I’m fine. Just a little bug. It’ll be out of my system soon.” Her husband pressed his forehead to hers. She closed her eyes and pressed back against him, sliding her hand against his neck. “Go. I’ll be fine. I just need to rest. And you haven’t been giving me any recently.” She giggled when she pulled back and saw the tips of his ears turning red. “Go.”

Thorin pressed a gentle kiss to her lips. “Fine. But if you need anything, send Hamfast to get me.”

“Okay.”

Thorin pressed another kiss to the crown of her head before leaving.

Briar settled back into their bed and closed her eyes. She had been really sick recently. She turned on her side and pulled Thorin’s pillow into her arms. The hobbit pressed her face into the fabric and could smell the mix of oak and metal and fire. She smiled. Such a comforting smell.

It must have been something she had eaten. Her nose had been rather sensitive recently. It’s partly why Bell Gamgee had been helping a little with cooking the past week. She had been a little late that morning because her littlest one Samwise had been fussy.

Late…

Briar sat up quickly, her breath caught in her throat. She took a shaky breath. No. No. No. She laid back down carefully, feeling a little dizzy after moving so quickly. She hadn’t been able to grow any lilies. Not even a sprout. She was just overthinking things. Her life was extended by Yavanna and Mahal, maybe her body was changing as well. Besides, Briar had no idea how dwarrowdams were with these sorts of things. Kori would know, but that would be a rather awkward letter. No. It wasn’t possible.

She closed her eyes.

What had been the rhyme again?

“To each little girl the seeds are given/To plant and tend and grow/To show what life will be livin’/And give their tender a motherly glow/The flowers that bloom are a sure sign/Of how many children she will raise alive.”

It was possible.

Briar pressed her hand to her belly as tears began to roll down her nose. That last line could mean so many things. Maybe she could grow children, but maybe they would be born still. It rarely, if ever, happened with hobbits but she heard about it happening to the Tall Folk. Oh, Briar wasn’t sure she would be able to handle that. Then the other possible meaning crept into her heart and she clung to Thorin’s pillow tightly. What if she was able to grow a child to term and it lived. What if the one to perish was herself. The lilies would be true then. She wouldn’t be able to raise her own child.

Thorin would be alone. The boys would lose another mother. Bilbo would lose his baby sister.

A sob escaped her lips as she buried her face in her Enaid’s scent.

What was she going to do?

Chapter Text

“Briar?” Bilbo asked, narrowing his eyes in confusing as he saw his sister up and about. “I thought you were just going to rest today.”

“Yes, well…” She looked as though she had been crying. “I decided I just really wanted to see Grandmother. Grandmother Took,” she added when he almost interjected. “I’m feeling better and just want to go check in on her. She’s been so heartbroken since Grandfather passed.”

“Do you need me to walk you?”

“No, no.” She shook her head. “I’ll be fine.”

Bilbo watched his sister go in confusion and worry. She hadn’t been well recently. In the past eight years of her marriage to Thorin as well as since her bonding, his sister has changed ever so slightly. Although it wasn’t noticeable, her aging was slowing. Her nighttime vision was better than it was before and she seemed to handle heat a little better than she had previously. She had been a little on the weaker side but their grandfather had assured them that it was because her body was changing and it was tired from such a great change. Blessings from the Valar came with prices. He said it would take a few years for her body to reach a sense of normalcy within itself again.

“Has Mum gone out?” Fíli asked as he came through the door. “I thought she was staying in bed today.”

“She decided to visit the Great Smial to see our grandmother.”

“Ah.” The blond dwarf nodded. “I saw her yesterday when I brought something she ordered from Thorin. She was doing a little better. Primula brought young Frodo over and she seemed content.”

“Great-grandchildren will do that to you.”

Fíli chuckled. “Thorin wanted me to come back and do some measurements around the smial to see where it would be good to expand. He also wanted to know if you have the original plans to the smial in the study.”

“They’re in one of the drawers. I’m not sure which. Feel free to check.”

Fíli nodded. Bilbo watched as his nephew stretched before he made his way to the study.

It was early, but Bilbo went to the kitchen to make some tea. He needed to think.

Chapter Text

“Have you noticed Mum acting weird lately?” Fíli asked as he and Kíli settled in for the night.

“Yeah,” Kíli nodded. “She’s been a bit scatterbrained too. She seemed a little better today though. She went out to see Gran.”

Fíli grunted in response. They had all been a little worried about Briar. She had been pale and kept getting sick. She kept assuring everyone that she was fine until she finally decided she just needed to rest in bed for a little while.

How Briar was acting though, was sparking a memory that he couldn’t place. In his gut he knew she was okay. But he wasn’t sure why he knew that for certain. And if he knew she was okay, why was he so worried.

Chapter Text

Thorin climbed into bed and in an instant, Briar was pressing herself against his chest, burying her face against his neck and nuzzling against him as though the contact and closeness were not enough.

“Briar?” He wrapped his arms around his wife. He pressed a kiss to her brow. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Just hold me. Just for a moment.”

She pressed a kiss to his lips. It was needy. Thorin opened his mouth to her and let Briar plunder his mouth and reacquaint herself with it. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him closer. Closer.

“Briar,” he pulled away panting. “You’re scaring me. What’s wrong?” He pressed his forehead to hers and nuzzled their noses together. “Sweetheart, what’s wrong?”

Briar didn’t look him in the eye. Instead, she placed a hand on his cheek and let her fingers drag against his beard and card through his hair. “I need you to write to Balin and have him send a healer we can trust. And I need to send a message to Lord Elrond and ask him to come to the Shire as soon as possible.”

His heart dropped. “Ghivashel, what’s wrong?”

She was silent for only a moment, but to Thorin it might as well have been an eternity. “I’m pregnant,” she whispered.

The air grew stale in his lungs. “That’s impossible.”

She shook her head, blinking away tears. “I went to Grandmother and she confirmed it.”

“Shh… Shh…” he cupped her face and caught the tears that did fall with his thumbs. “It’s okay. It’s okay. Maybe the lilies were wrong or you missed—”

She shook her head again quickly and she broke out into silent sobs. Her body began to tremble and Thorin sat up quickly and cradled his wife in his arms.

“Briar, please,” he whispered into her hair. “Please talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong.”

“It could mean three things,” she pressed her face into his neck. “I might not carry the baby to term.” Thorin’s stomach churned. “Or it might be born still.” Her nails dug into his shoulder and didn’t speak.

“What’s the third possibility?”

“The baby lives,” she breathed. “I… I just won’t be here to raise it.”

Thorin closed his eyes and fought back tears. He couldn’t do that to Briar right now. He needed to be strong for her. “I’ll send word to Balin immediately. I’ll write to Elrond myself too.”

“But you don’t like—”

“I would bend the knee to Thranduil himself if it meant you and the baby are safe.” Thorin pressed his forehead to Briar and looked into her eyes. “I will not lose you or the baby. If I have to carry you to Rivendell myself, I will.”

“Thorin… it can only go—”

“No.” Thorin closed his eyes. “I refuse. I would fight Mahal himself if that is what it takes to keep you and the baby. I would give up my claim to the mountain. I would give up everything. I will not lose you—either of you.”

“Thorin…”

She pressed her lips against his and Thorin returned her worry with his own frustration. Briar clung to him as though he were the only one keeping her there and he grasped for her as though to show the Valar that he would not stand for them to be parted.

He could feel the slight change in her body and he froze.

“Thorin?” Briar’s warm breath fanned against his neck.

“You’re the best mother in all of Arda and this child will be the luckiest in the world.” He shifted them into his back and held her to his chest. Thorin wasn’t going to take his frustration out on Briar. “Fíli and Kíli are going to be wonderful big brothers and Bilbo will be a great uncle. We’re all going to live here in Bag End and the baby will keep us all up at odd hours. You’re going to complain about looking fat and how nothing fits you anymore after you give birth. Bilbo will be polite but be absolutely done once the baby starts teething on his favorite book or something. I’ll muck it up and the baby will probably like you and one of the boys more. I’ll be overprotective and not let the child outside my field of vision for more than two seconds. You will keep me grounded. If it’s a boy, we’ll name him Frerin or Bungo. If it’s a girl, we’ll name her Dís or Belladonna. We will have a life together and it will last for two hundred more years.”

Briar snuggled closer to him and Thorin rested his hand protectively over her stomach. She sniffed. “Tell me more.”

“They’ll have my hair and your curls,” he whispered, pressing soft kisses into the amber of her hair. “They’ll have your nose and my ears.”

Thorin continued to tell her about the life they would make for their child until his wife’s breathing evened out and she was asleep in his arms.

Thorin kept talking. He needed to. He needed to fill the air with words he would make come true. He had to.

He had to.

Chapter Text

Something was very wrong.

The adults were all on edge. The seemingly happy environment from a few months ago felt gone. Sure, they all seemed to go through the motions of what their routines have been, but everything felt slightly off.

Thorin seemed distracted at the forge. It took him a little longer to finish projects. He was quick to frustration but even quicker to apologize. Kíli couldn’t help but remember the times he had been on edge with Briar dating Caspian or when he was determined to try and woo his now wife.

Thorin had become more careful around Briar, and yet he seemed to cling to her more. They had not done so since they first began to date, but Thorin began to rest his head in her lap and she would comb her fingers through his hair as he muttered something against her stomach. It was a sweet gesture, but there was something tense about it that Kíli couldn’t place.

Bilbo was fretting. He was drafting documents all day and often. He seemed on edge. He hadn’t been this flustered since the other dwarrow first stopped by and he saw the red smoke. He had also been this flustered when he almost burnt down the smial, but this felt different. He notably dotted on Briar and even went on more walks with her than usual.

Briar was a pillar of strength through whatever was going on. She was always smiling and coming by to see Thorin or checking in on Bilbo when he was locked in his study. She asked Fíli to do laundry with her and would ask Kíli to help her with the gardens. She would sprinkle the boys’ cheeks with kisses and tell them how big they were getting.

“Master Kíli!” Little Samwise Gamgee came running up the road as Kíli was going back to the forge.

“What is it, Sam?” Kíli knelt down to be at the faunt’s level. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s Mistress Briar! She has fainted!”

Kíli’s heart dropped. “Go get your mum and tell her to go to Bag End immediately. I’ll bring my mum there soon. Have your da get my uncle immediately.”

The boy nodded and made his way to his own smial while Kíli raced to the schoolhouse, where Briar would be at the moment.

He burst through the doors to find Briar sitting in one of the chairs with Caspian kneeling in front of her, checking her pulse. When he came in, both of them looked up at him. Caspian looked relieved.

“I’m fine,” Briar said, when she saw him. “It was just a little dizzy spell.”

Caspian scowled, something Kíli had never seen him do before. “You blacked out for two minutes. That is not a dizzy spell.” He turned back to Kíli. “Best take her home.”

Kíli nodded. “Come on, Mum.”

“I’m fine, Kíli, really.” However she still wrapped her arms around his neck when he knelt down for him to carry her on his back. “It’s nothing serious.”

“I’ll handle things for the rest of the week. You need rest, Briar,” Caspian said, patting her back. “I’ll come by later this evening to check on her.”

They were silent for most of the way back to Bag End. That is, until they saw Thorin walking very quickly towards them.

“You didn’t tell your uncle, did you?”

“I sent little Sam to have his father get him, but I probably should have sent Mrs. Gamgee instead.”

Briar sighed. “I’m fine, Thorin.”

Kíli’s uncle stood next to them and the younger dwarf was easily able to transfer Briar into his uncle’s arms. “Caspian said she was out for two minutes.”

Thorin shifted Briar carefully in his arms. She sighed again and cupped his face and brushed her thumb across his cheek. “I’m fine.”

“Uncle, I know there are good healers here and in the mountain, but do you think we could call Lord El—”

“A letter had been sent,” Thorin assured him. “He should be arriving soon.”

Kíli nodded and followed behind his uncle as he carried Briar back home.

Chapter Text

Briar awoke to an empty bed. It was strange. Since they had gotten married, Thorin had always woken her before he left for the day’s work. She had always awoken to his kisses or his touch. It was strange to find the other half of her bed bare. She sat up and slid her hand across the sheets to Thorin’s side of the bed. It was cold.

Briar pulled her hand back and placed it on her belly. It was firmer than it had been four months ago. It was too small. Any other hobbit woman would be showing by that point. She would have had a belly grown and a child kicking. But Briar felt nothing, save for the warmth and firmness.

“Let’s go check on your adad, okay, little one?”

Briar got out of bed and pulled on her dressing gown. She padded through the quiet smial and out the back door. She found Thorin sitting on the bench, sharpening his sword. He hadn’t done that in a while.

Her husband still felt so much. She knew he was worried, but he was so determined to not worry her. Briar felt inattentive. How many nights had he come here to worry and she had not noticed at all?

“Thorin?”

He froze and turned to look at her. He looked so lost.

“I woke up and you weren’t there.” Briar made her way to sit next to him. She leaned into him, hugging his arm and pressing her cheek to his shoulder.

“I’m sorry.” He leaned his sword on the other side of him and set his stone down as well. He shifted so that she was held against his side and his arm could wrap around her. “I needed to think.”

“Thorin, talk to me.” She got up and stood between his legs and cupped his face in her hands. “Please.”

“I cannot lose you, Briar. I cannot lose you and know I’m the reason.” Thorin wrapped his arms around her and pressed his face against her breast. “I can’t do that again.”

“Thorin…” Briar began to stroke his hair as she felt a warm wetness spread across the fabric of her nightgown. He was trembling.

“I can’t… I can’t…”

“We’ll figure this out,” Briar whispered. “Lord Elrond is the best healer in all of Arda. He’ll know what to do.” Her voice wavered at the thought that the elven lord might not know what to do. Tears began to burn her eyes. “And you are never to blame yourself, Thorin Oakenshield. I forbid it.”

He gave out a breath of a laugh. “Forbid me then.”
He looked up at her, tears still sliding down his cheeks. “I am your obedient servant. I shall do as you bid.”

“Thorin, there’s a greater chance that I will live, you know.” Briar slid one hand from his shoulder and pressed it against her belly. “But there is a chance Thorin.” His eyes hardened and she cupped his face with her free hand. “There is a chance and you have to promise me that you’ll love this child for the both of us. You’ll love the boys for the both of us.”

“Briar, please…”

“Thorin…” With the hand that had been on her belly, she took one of his hands and placed it where hers had been previously. He shuddered at the touch. “This child is mine and yours. Perhaps we were not made to have centuries. Perhaps we were meant to have a decade’s worth of happiness together. We have been given the chance to bring life into this world. If this is all the time I get with you, then I want you to know you have made me the happiest person in all of Arda and I can at least give you this.” She brought his other hand to her belly and she placed her hands over his. His hands could cover the full expanse of her belly and even part of her hips. “The baby might not make it. Maybe the Valar don’t intend this for us. But maybe they do. Maybe some miracle will happen and you’ll keep both of us.” He closed his eyes. “Right now, let’s just pretend that nothing’s wrong. Let’s just pretend that there’s nothing we could possibly lose.”

Thorin nuzzled against her chest. His thumbs began to sooth circles against her belly. “We’re going to be parents,” he whispered.

“Yes we are.”

“You need your rest.” He pulled away and looked at her.

“You do too.”

A small smile spread across Thorin’s face as he stood and picked Briar up in the process. One arm was hooked under her knees and the other held her back. She felt like a child when he did this simply because of how large he was in comparison to her, but it felt mixed. Briar wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her face against his chest.

“I’ve missed you,” she whispered as he carried her back into the smial.

“I’ve been here the whole time.” He pressed a kiss to the top of her head as he carried her inside.

“You’ve been distant.” She sighed as he placed her back in their bed and he crawled in after her.

Thorin pulled the covers around them and wrapped his arms around Briar. He was so warm against her skin. “I’m sorry,” he pressed another kiss to the crown of her head. “I’ll try not to be so distant anymore.”

Briar nuzzled up against him and began to press kisses against Thorin’s cheeks, lips, and then throat.

“Briar,” Thorin warned, his hold on her tightening.

“I’m not made of glass, Thorin.” She pulled his top hand up to to cup her cheek. She pressed a kiss to his inner wrist. “I’ve missed you,” she said again.

A smile flickered across Thorin’s eyes. “I don’t want to crush you.”

Briar smiled. “Then don’t crush me.”

Thorin turned so that he was on his back and pulled Briar along so she was straddling him. “I am yours to comand, Ghivashel.”

Briar leaned down and pressed a kiss to his nose. “And I am yours.”

For a moment, they could forget their worries and find comfort in each other.

Chapter Text

“Thank you for coming, Lord Elrond,” Bilbo gave a small bow. He didn’t know what else to do. “My sister, her husband, and a dwarvish healer are in her room. You should be able to fit. It’s a Man-sized room.”

The boys had been made to go to the forge. They hadn’t wanted to go, but Thorin and Bilbo made them. Someone had to look after it and they would be underfoot if they stayed. Bilbo knew it was cruel in some ways, but it was necessary. Briar didn’t need to worry more than she already was.

“Lead the way Master Baggins.”

Bilbo led the elf lord to Briar and Thorin’s room. Briar was leaning up against the headboard, sitting atop the covers. Thorin was sitting next to her, his arm around her shoulders as the healer, Óin, was pressing his fingers against Briar’s belly and pressing a hearing instrument against its curve.

Briar looked up as they entered. “Lord Elrond,” she tipped her head in acknowledgement. “Thank you for coming.”

“I am happy to make your acquaintance, my dear.” The elf smiled. “You look very much like your late mother. I wish our first meeting were under better circumstances.” His eyes shifted to Thorin. “Thorin, son of Thrain. You have your father’s baring. Again, I wish this were under better circumstances.”

Thorin nodded. Briar slipped her hand into Thorin’s and squeezed it. Bilbo knew this was a blow to his brother-in-law’s pride. But it was a blow he was willing to take.

“Four months along,” Óin said. “From what I can tell, the babe is too small for what a pebble should be at this rate, but that could be a good thing considering you’re smaller than most dams, my lady.”

“Thank you, Master Óin,” Briar smiled at him gently.

“It’s not trouble, my lady. I was there for the lads’ birth too.” The old healer nodded towards Lord Elrond and stepped back to allow the elf lord to make his way to the bed.

Lord Elrond placed his hand over Briar’s belly and the air around them seemed to hum and still all at once. Briar stiffened and Thorin’s hold on his wife tightened. The elf closed his eyes to concentrate.

Bilbo kept his eyes firmly on his sister. He knew the few options that this pregnancy could lead to. There was only one perfect option. All the others would lead to heartbreak. Briar was so pale and tired and worried. Bilbo wished he could go next to her and hold her like he had when they were children. But he felt his comfort would only lead her to worry more. For if Bilbo comforted her now, it would be as though there were no hope left.

“The child is small for a hobbit pregnancy, which is no doubt the reason you’ve only noticed it now. You were correct in saying the child is progressing well for a dwarvish pregnancy, Master Óin. I have seen few dwarvish pregnancies, but this is how I remember them being at this stage.” The elf smiled down at Briar. “You are progressing well, my dear. Your weakness and your fainting spells are due to stress of the situation and the change that has happened to your body after your bonding with your husband. It makes sense you have only been able to fall pregnant now.”

“I don’t know how much you know of hobbits, my lord,” Briar said quietly. “But I have spent the last twenty years believing Yavanna would not bless me with children.”

“You are correct in believing so, my dear.” Lord Elrond took Briar’s free hand in his. It was like a child’s in comparison. “The Lady Yavanna did not bless you with children. Her husband, Aulë, however, has. From what I can see, your child, while developing at a slower rate than an average hobbit, is predominantly dwarvish. I do not think you need to worry about much, but this is the first time such a child has been born.” His lips formed a tight, worried line. “I cannot tell you how large this child will grow before it is ready to come into the world. I would feel better if you could come to the Halls of Healing, but I fear the moving and the journey would be too much for you and the child. My sons do work with the Rangers and are good healers in their own right. I would advise that one stay with you for the remainder of your pregnancy. When they feel the child is about to arrive, they will send word to me immediately and I will come and assist with the birth.” He looked to Thorin. “Have I overstepped my bounds.”

Thorin shook his head. “It would ease my mind greatly.” He bowed his head. “Thank you.”

Lord Elrond dipped his head. “I will send my son Elladan to you. He is the calmest of my two sons and I believe he will be more willing to help around your home than my younger son, Elrohir, who may simply wish to encourage your two boys into mischief.”

Bilbo chuckled at that.

“Thank you, Lord Elrond.” Briar smiled up at the elf, looking calmer than she had when she and Thorin had come to tell Bilbo what had happened.

There was hope.

Chapter Text

Briar was pregnant.

Things were clicking into place in Fíli’s head. It made sense. He vaguely remembered his mother’s pregnancy with Kíli, or he at least remembers Thorin telling him about it.

Briar and Thorin were going to have a baby.

His first reaction was to be excited. How could he not be? Briar was a wonderful mum and she looked so happy. Kíli had hugged her immediately. Thorin was grinning like an idiot and Bilbo was telling Kíli not to squeeze too tightly.

Then, something started to churn a bit in his gut.

A baby.

It would change things. A lot of things. Fíli wasn’t foolish enough to believe that it wouldn’t. They were already planning on expanding Bag End so that wasn’t the problem. It just meant that Thorin and Briar would be busier. They wouldn’t have as much time for…

Ever since his own father passed away, Thorin had always been there for Fíli and Kíli. He had always been a father figure and a protector. What’s more, Fíli was Thorin’s heir. There was a bond between them that was different from Thorin’s bond with Kíli. In a way, Kíli was free to be whoever he wanted to be. Fíli would always have to live in Thorin’s shadow until his time to rule came, just as Thorin had lived in Thrain’s and he in Thror’s.

With Briar, it was a little different. Kíli had bonded to her right away. He was always the first to go for a hug and the last to kiss her goodnight before bed. Fíli had always been a little more reserved in his affection towards Briar. He called her ‘Mum’ now, but it had taken four years for it to happen. She gave him his space too. But sometimes he wished he could be more open with her, that he hadn’t set this weird distance. He could be anything with Briar. She didn’t see him as Thorin’s shadow. She saw him as he was: a kid trying to become a man that would make his parents and Thorin proud.

Would the baby change that?

It would.

Thorin would have a kid of his own. In his head, Fíli knew this wouldn’t change anything between himself and Thorin. But his heart was telling him it would. He was the heir, he knew. The baby wouldn’t be recognized as the heir except for if something happened to both Fíli and Kíli. But it felt odd. Thorin would have a kid that looked like him. What if he didn’t have time for Fíli anymore?

And then there was Briar. Some part of him felt like her attachment and care for him and Kíli had do to the fact she’d believed she couldn’t have children of her own. Briar’s heart was big enough to love everyone in all of Arda, but she would be busy with the baby. Fíli had sixteen years until his majority. He wasn’t a child like he had been when Briar first carried him to bed and held him whenever he got the occasional nightmare. She’d have to start putting the baby first.

“Fíli, could you help me with something?” Briar asked as the others were getting ready for bed. “It’ll only take a minute.”

Fíli nodded and followed Briar to the study. “What do you need, Mum?”

Briar smiled at him and went over to sit on the window seat. She indicated that she wanted him to sit next to her. Fíli paused for a moment before making his way to sit next to her. He sat down slowly and looked at her questioningly.

“Fíli, I want you to do something for me and you can’t tell Thorin you’re doing it.”

Alarms began to sound in Fíli’s head as he narrowed his eyes in confusion. “Okay…?”

“I need you to be on my side whenever an argument comes up.”

Fíli blinked for a few moments. “I’m sorry?”

Briar took his hand. “I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but your uncle can be very overprotective.” Fíli snorted. “He’s going to want to coddle me and I do not want him to do that. He’s going to go overboard and try to handle this like a dwarvish pregnancy. Bilbo is going to do the exact same thing, only he’ll try to handle it like a hobbit pregnancy. Kíli is just going to worry and side with Thorin or Bilbo based on what he thinks right. I need someone who will listen to me and back me up on my decisions.”

“And you want me to?” He asked slowly.

She nodded. “You have a more level head about these sorts of things.” She put her hand behind his head and brought his forehead to hers. “You’re my oldest son. In hobbit tradition, you’re always supposed to take my side on these things anyway.”

“Really?”

Briar pulled back and smiled. “Of course. It wouldn’t change if you were a dam either. The oldest child is always their mother’s rock during their pregnancies. Fathers and the rest of the family often get too emotional.”

“Can I veto your decision if I think you’re being…”

“Over-emotional?”

“You said it not me.”

“I will take your veto into consideration if it happens.” Briar hugged Fíli tightly. “You best get to bed. I plan on sleeping as much as I can. Who knows when we’ll all get a good night's sleep after the baby’s born.”

Fíli chuckled and hugged Briar back.

Chapter Text

“Thorin, I can go to work. I’m fine.”

The dwarf grumbled at his wife’s insistence. “You fainted the last time.”

“Because I wasn’t eating properly and because of stress.” Briar placed a chaste kiss against the corner of his mouth. “I’m fine. And Caspian is going to be there as well. He’s probably going to make me sit all day anyway.”

Once again, Thorin felt a lot of gratefulness to the hobbit. Caspian has a good head on his shoulders and regardless of what almost happened between him and Briar, he was going to look out for her.

At five months, Briar was beginning to show.

Thorin’s hand cupped her belly and he could feel it protruding slightly and its firmness that was only getting more pronounce. Elladan said the baby would arrive in five months. It was strange. This was something he had never really thought about before. It was a strange feeling, knowing his wife, his One, was growing round with their child. He remembered both times Dís had grown pregnant. Víli had been over the moon. Any chance his brother-in-law got he would put his hand of Dís’ belly and talk to the boys. Thorin had a strong urge to do that now.

“You have to work in the forge and help expand Bag End anyway, let me teach. Let me get out of the way.”

“You aren’t in the way.” Thorin nuzzled her jaw, causing Briar to giggle at the feeling of his beard against her skin.

“If you don’t let me go, I just might withhold kisses.”

Thorin grumbled against her neck.

“Come on Thorin, let’s go,” Fíli came out of the smial. “If we do any construction it would be best if Briar was out of the way.”

Kíli poked his head out from behind his brother and made a face. “Ugh, do that in private.”

The boys, specifically Kíli, were rather embarrassed by their uncle’s and Briar’s rare public displays of affection. He would never tell them such, but part of this was payback for all he had to endure with Dís and Víli. Those two had been utterly ridiculous.

Briar laughed. She pressed a kiss to Thorin’s cheek. “I’m heading to work now, Thorin.”

Elladan, who looked remarkably like his father came from the direction of the Green Dragon. He nodded at the dwarrow and made his way to stand next to Briar. She waved off to the boys and went on her way with Elladan close behind her.

“Alright. So, first we’re going to start working on Bag End and then head to the forge after lunch.” Thorin reiterated the plan to the boys.

“We need to decide if we want to make a new nursery or if we want to make two new rooms for me and Kíli.”

Thorin sighed. That was the decision that needed to be made. The nursery had been built to room two children since most hobbits had children close together. Now that it was possible for Briar to have children, Thorin had no idea how many children they might have. Dams didn’t have that many children. The Ris’ mother was an exception. Four children was a blessing from Mahal. Even the birth of Thorin’s younger siblings had been seen as Mahal’s blessing upon the Line of Durin, especially when Dís had been born.

Briar was young, ridiculously so. Even if she would age as a dwarf now, she would only be in her sixties if she had been born a dwarf herself. Thorin had a good hundred years on her—something he rarely liked to think about. Dams had trouble having children, but hobbits didn’t seem to. Who knew how many children Mahal might bless them with. Girls also didn’t seem to be a minority in the Shire either. There were an equal amount of lads and lasses.

“For now let’s add rooms for you boys. We’ll see where this goes.”

Chapter Text

Kíli followed after Briar as they did their shopping.

At six months pregnant, Briar was beginning to waddle. Kíli thought it was adorable and loved how his mum scowled whenever he told her so. “I am not adorable.” Kíli would just roll his eyes and place a kiss on her cheek.

Plenty of hobbits would glance at Briar as she began showing. There were plenty of whispers. Plenty of people congratulated her and others whispered their worries to Bilbo or Thorin. They never voiced these things to Kíli or his brother, but they heard them. It was hard not to. Even with Elladan staying in the Shire, they both still worried a little.

As the birth date got closer, Briar’s habits were becoming a little odder. None of the hobbits seemed bothered that she was buying blankets or more overcoats for Thorin and the boys and Bilbo. She made them all wear the new coats and tucked them all up in blankets when they were sitting together after dinner. Her brother didn’t seem worried either.

“She’ll be nesting soon. Don’t worry,” Bilbo told them when Thorin asked what Briar was doing.

“Nesting?” Fíli had asked. “Like a bird?”

“Sort of. The baby will probably stay in her room for the first few months. She’s making her room into a sort of nest where she feels safe and protected.” Bilbo shrugged. “She’s getting us all these things so she doesn’t take our normal clothes for the nest. She just really needs our scents. Hobbit mothers have a keen sense of smell and surrounding themselves with family smells help calm them. Don’t worry. She’s fine.”

Today, Briar was buying some pillows.

“Why do you need pillows, Mum? We have plenty at home.”

“It’s comfy.” She hugged it to her chest and looked at him with big eyes.

Darn it.

Kíli sighed. They should have made Fíli come with her instead. Kíli noticed how his brother tended to reign Briar in when it came to her buying things, he and Thorin and Bilbo were willing to let her buy anything. Elladan tried to dissuade her once and she wound up crying. The poor elf panicked and bought out an entire stock of fabric because it apparently reminded Briar of her mother’s old dress.

“How about we don’t get these pillows and I sneak you one of Thorin’s forge aprons?”

She beamed at him. “Really?

“Really. He won’t notice.”

She looked at the pillow and sighed. She put it back on the shelf. “I suppose we do have too many pillows at home.”

“If you plan on smothering Thorin in a sea of pillows, I don’t think we have enough. But if that wasn’t the plan, then I think we’re good.”

She laughed. “I suppose.”

“Hey, Mum?”

“Hm?”

“If the baby is going to be more dwarvish, why do you need to nest?”

“It makes me feel safe, I suppose,” she shrugged. Briar turned and began to head back to Bag End with only a couple blankets.

Kíli furrowed his brow. He caught up to Briar and offered his arm. She took it. “You know we’d never let anything happen to you, right?”

“I know.” She squeezed his arm. “Hobbits find pregnancy rather easy, but this one is going to be longer than what I’ve seen.” She patted his arm. “It’s not that I don’t trust you, I’m just getting as comfortable as I can.”

Kíli kisses his mum’s cheek. “Okay.”

Chapter Text

Briar sighed as Thorin settled next to her. His hand slid across her bare stomach as he pressed tender kisses against the skin that was already beginning to sport a blooming red mark. She could feel the drying sweat of his chest as he pressed into her. Her husband whispered into her hair, making sure she and the baby were alright. He was always worried that he might hurt her.

At seven months pregnant, she had grown incredibly horny. She was well aware that this was normal, but now that she had grown so large, Thorin had become hesitant with his touches. “I don’t want to hurt you or the baby.” While Briar thought it was incredibly sweet, it had also been incredibly frustrating. She finally had to drag him to the Great Smial and have her grandmother (privately) assure him that she and the baby would be okay. He had still been hesitant.

It took Briar to break down into sobs that he thought she was ugly to break him. She felt bad for it much later after Thorin made bloody well sure she knew just how beautiful he thought she was.

“I’m fine, Thorin.” Briar placed her hand over his and laced their fingers together. “We’re fine.”

“Are you sure?”

“Mahal, Thorin!” Briar struggled to push herself up. “I told you it’s okay.” She brought his knuckles to her lips. “It’s natural, even.”

“But—” Thorin sat up with her.

“No buts.” She brought his hand to her belly where she felt the usual restlessness. She knew full well he could feel the annoyed kick that often came after their recent couplings. “See, she’s fine.”

Thorin’s concern melted into a warm smile. His face remained angled towards her stomach, but he looked up at her through his lashes. “She?”

Briar blushed. “Grandmother thinks so based on how I’m carrying and she’s had so many children I’m inclined to believe her.” Briar felt another flutter in her belly as the baby kicked again. “Is that alright with you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Are you alright with it being a girl?”

“Of course.” Thorin narrowed his eyes in confusion. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Would you rather it be a boy?”

“Briar, I just want both of you healthy.”

She smiled. “Well…” she blushed. “We should start talking about names soon.”

“I told you the first night. If it’s a girl it can be Belladonna or Dís.”

Briar nuzzled Thorin’s cheek. “I think we should name her Dís.”

Her husband shifted so she would be sitting between his legs and his hands could be cup her belly with her leaning against his chest. When they had first gotten married, Briar had felt so self-conscious about being bare with him, but he apparently didn’t mind it. She hummed contently as she felt Thorin’s beard scrape against the nape of her neck.

“Do you not want a hobbit name?” He asked.

“I do, but…”

“But?”

“Would your people accept them if they have hobbit names?” Briar guided Thorin’s hands to rub her belly. It was soothing. Their room was filled with things from around the house and their bed was covered in blankets, even if they slept on top of most of them. She just wanted to be surrounded by their family, but especially him. “Would it be easier for they to accept us if our children had dwarvish names?”

“Briar, my people will accept our children because they are my children. They can’t ask you to give up your heritage just because you are their queen.” Thorin’s hands slid up to her shoulders and he slowly began to knead against the tensed muscle of her back. “If it makes any difference, we can name our daughter after your mother and call her Bel for short. That’s a perfectly fine dwarvish name. How does that sound?”

Briar melted into his touch and nodded. “Thorin…”

“Mm?” He pressed his lips to the shell of her ear.

“I need you…” Briar pressed herself into him and began to stutter to breathe.

“Was before not enough?” Thorin groaned as his hands went to her hips helping her to grind against him.

She shook her head. “We only have a couple more months left to ourselves.” She gasped as one of Thorin’s hands began to rub her inner thigh.

“We should take advantage of these last couple months then,” Thorin all but growled into Briar’s ear.

Carefully, Briar rocked up onto her knees with Thorin’s help. He smiled up at her as he helped her straddle him and made sure she was steady.

“I think I quite like looking down on you, my husband.”

Thorin laughed and it reverberated through Briar’s body. “And I quite like looking up at you, my queen.”

Chapter Text

Bilbo and Thorin sat on the floor of his and Briar’s bedroom trying to assemble the cradle. They were having a difficult time of it. Thorin, while knowledgeable in woodwork and complex metalwork, this made no sense to him. And Bilbo, whose dexterity was only that of a squire at the sword, found that something so simple was rather complicated. Once the two realized this would take a rather long time to figure out, they asked the boys to take Briar out on a picnic with Elladan keeping an eye on them.

Needless to say it was because both of them were embarrassed.

“This is ridiculous,” Thorin grumbled. “You would think there would be an easier way to do this.”

“Didn’t you help your sister with the boys’ cribs?” Bilbo asked, finally fitting two pieces together.

“That was their father Víli. His craft was carpentry.” Thorin put down two pieces before he decided to snap them in two. “Let’s take a small break.”

Bilbo nodded in agreement. “Let’s go out for a smoke of Old Toby.”

“It’s something to do.”

The two made their way to the back of the smial and sat down on the bench and began to smoke. Bilbo was rather proficient in his smoke rings while Thorin very much preferred to let the smoke waft.

“Are you hoping for a girl or a boy?” Bilbo asked.

“A girl,” Thorin said immediately. “Girls are rare for the dwarrow. But not so in the Shire. Besides, a girl might make it easier on the boys.”

Bilbo nodded. “I don’t remember what it was like when Briar was born. I was only five at the time. I suppose such things would be harder on siblings so far apart. What was it like for you?”

“I was five as well when my brother Frerin was born, so I don’t really remember much. But I was fourteen when Dís was born. I remember my father being worried and and my brother and I were rather nervous. It wasn’t that we were afraid our parents would love us less. I think we’re we’re nervous that something would happen to the baby and our parents would lose themselves in their grief. There was such a space between Frerin and Dís that many on the mountain were afraid for my mother’s life.” Thorin’s lips quirked into a small smile. “When Dís was born all the bells of Erebor rang for the entire day.”

Bilbo smiled. “I’m sure they’d be proud of you.”

“I wish they were here.”

“Do you ever wonder what life would have been like if your sister had made it?”

Thorin chuckled. “She probably would have pushed myself and Briar together much sooner. She always insisted I was too uptight and needed to get loose.”

Bilbo laughed. “You two were getting a bit unbearable. I was rather ready to lock you both in the pantry until you both talked it out.”

They sat in companionable silence for a few moments.

“Do you know when you might reach out to the dwarves of Ered Luin again?” Bilbo asked.

Thorin sighed. “I have no idea. After the baby is big enough to be moved. If we do have to leave the Shire because I’ve made my presence here known, I want Briar and the baby to be able to travel safely.”

Bilbo nodded. “Have you heard anything from Balin?”

“The mountain is settling, but the lords are constantly in disagreement. My cousin Dáin still hasn’t returned the support he initially withdrew when I was cast out. Poverty is growing and more dwarrow are leaving the mountain to find work elsewhere.” Thorin sighed again and ran his fingers through his hair. “I want to help my people but I am in no position to do so right now. Both because I have nothing to offer but my knowledge of politics and because, right now, I need to put my family’s safety first. The boys are growing up in a safe environment where they don’t have to worry about hunger and Briar is safer here than she would be in the mountain right now. Even if she is married to their king, the lords wouldn’t understand the need to have Lord Elrond here for the birth. I simply can’t put the mountain first at the moment.”

Bilbo nodded. “That doesn’t make you a bad king, you know.”

Thorin smiled slightly. “I know. Sometimes I wish I were able to do more, though.”

“Someday you will. I’m certain of it.”

They were quiet for a few more moments.

“Want to ask Samwell Gamgee if he can help us with the crib and not tell the boys or Briar?” Thorin asked.

“Oh, absolutely.”

Chapter Text

Fíli and Kíli helped set up the blanket for Briar to sit on for their picnic. They hadn’t gone on one with her in quite some time. It wouldn’t be like their previous picnics simply because Briar wouldn’t be able to roll down the hill with them.

Fíli helped Briar settle down as Kíli helped fluff up some pillows for her back.

“You boys spoil me.” Briar smiled.

At eight months pregnant, Briar was having a little trouble moving. She had been stuck in the smial for the past week and had been itching to go out and do something. Lord Elrond would be coming within the next week.

“Of course,” Fíli said, pressing a kiss to his mum’s temple. “Let’s see what Mrs. Gamgee made for us today.”

It was a lovely lunch.

“Do you think Thorin and Bilbo will be finished with the crib when we get back?” Kíli asked.

“Doubtful,” Fíli replied. “They’ll have probably asked Mr. Gamgee to put it together.”

Briar laughed. “Most likely. Your Uncle Thorin will probably get too frustrated and your Uncle Bilbo is just clueless about these things anyway.”

The three laughed.

“Oh!” Briar jerked ever so slightly.

“Are you okay?” Fíli asked.

Elladan, who was close by, came quickly, but Briar motioned that she was okay.

“I’m fine.” She took one hand from both Fíli and Kíli and placed them on the side of her protruding belly. They waited for a few moments when they felt a kick.

Kíli practically squealed in excitement.

Fíli stared at the place he had felt the kick in wonder. They hadn’t really been able to feel the baby yet. For some reason the child was active more at night or midday when they were at the forge. He couldn’t really remember much about his amad’s pregnancy with Kíli, but he wondered if he had felt the same thing. Now that he thought about it, Thorin had probably felt Fíli and Kíli both when they were kicking in their mother’s stomach.

“This is amazing,” Fíli whispered.

Briar smiled. “Well, that was a lovely lunch. I’d rather enjoy a nap in the sun. What do you boys think?”

That is how they settled into an afternoon nap in the Shire sun. Elladan eventually had to go get Thorin so the dwarf could carry his sleeping wife home.

Chapter Text

There was fire everywhere.

Thorin ushered Briar along, covering her with his coat. She was coughing and tears were making lines in the ash and dirt on her face. Dwarrow were screaming and trying to make their way out. A roar shook the stone halls and Thorin’s heart pounded in his chest.

He needed to get Briar out. He needed to get Briar out. He needed to get Briar out.

“Thorin…” She was pulling against him. Why was she pulling against him? They needed to get out. “The baby… We need to get the baby…”

“What do you mean?” Thorin tried pulling her forward towards the gates. “You’re—” he looked down at her flat stomach. He paled. “The baby.” His heart stopped and panic began to flood his veins. He grasped Briar and and pulled her close. “Leave the mountain and find your brothers or sister. I’ll get the baby.” He pushed her forward. “Go!”

She almost seemed to disappear as he runs back to the mountain.

The baby. The baby. The baby.

A daughter. A son. A daughter. A son.

Dwarrow were pushing past him and yet they were like smoke as he raced to the royal chambers. The roar of the dragon were deafening. He tore past the treasury and he was certain he heard some unearthly thing screaming for him.

‘Come back! Come back! I will feed your people! I will give your child clothes to wear and food to fill its belly! I will make you rich! I will make her love you! You are nothing without me!’

Thorin ignored it.

He reached the royal wing and heard screaming.

“Briar?!” He rushed into the nursery. “Briar?!”

“Thorin!”

He shot up in his bed, reaching for his sword.

“Thorin.” Briar sat up and pulled him to her with more force than he thought she was able. “Thorin, love, what’s wrong?”

“I couldn’t get you out.” He whispered. Tears began to stream down his face. “No matter what I did… I couldn’t get you out.” He buried his face in his hands and wept.

“Oh, Thorin…” Briar wrapped one arm around his stomach and placed the other hand on his back, rubbing slow, wide circles. She pressed a kiss to his arm and pulled him as close as she could. “I’m here. We’re here. We’re safe. I’m here. We’re here. We’re safe.”

Thorin wrapped his arms around Briar and curled in around her. He buried his face in her hair tried to regain himself. He could smell her. The faint smell of roses and leather. She was here. She was here. She was here.

Briar slowly pulled his hand over her stomach and he felt a kick.

“That’s right, sweetheart. Your adad has a nightmare.” She rubbed her thumb across his knuckles. “That happens sometimes. Your adad is a brave person and for you he will be the strongest person in all of Arda.” Thorin watched as his wife continued to talk to their child. Her voice, the one he had fallen in love with, was slow and precise in the same way she used to tell the boys stories. “But your adad is also one of the kindest and most gentle people I know. Sometimes he can’t always be strong. But we’re going to be there for him for all of it and we’re going to be okay. Aren’t we?” She looked up at Thorin. “We’re going to be okay.”

Thorin tipped his head down and pressed a kiss to his wife’s lips. He pulled back and pressed his forehead against hers.

“We’re going to be okay.”

Chapter Text

Kíli and Fíli wandered the Shire with Elladan and Elrohir and Ori walking with them. Lord Elrond was preparing Briar for the birth and the Ris were helping. Briar had actually cried when Kori brought some of her and her brothers’ clothes for the hobbit’s nest. That was when all the younger people decided they would rather leave.

“Anything fun we could do?” Ori asked. “Last time I was here it was for Briar and Thorin’s wedding.”

“We could do a lot of things if they,” Kíli motioned towards the elves, “weren’t with us. They stick out like sore thumbs.”

Elladan nodded. “Fair enough.”

Fíli thought for a moment. “We could set up pranks around the Sackville-Baggins smial.”

Kíli’s lips curled into a smirk. “Perfect.”

“Sackville-Baggins?” Elrohir asked. He turned to his brother. “Who are they?”

“The worst people I have ever met,” the older elf sighed. “I’ve never met more rude and obnoxious people. Even Thranduil would prefer the company of dwarves over them.”

“Sounds about right,” Kíli said, although he had never met the elf king himself, based on his uncle’s dislike of the Sackville-Bagginses Thorin just might prefer Thranduil too. “So,” he smiled, “shall we?”

It was a prank that would eventually go down in Shire and Hobbit history. It would technically go down in dwarven history too since it was the first time in centuries that dwarrow and elves did anything together peacefully (helping Briar give birth didn’t count).

It was a prank that would be told to fauntlings for generations after.

They cut the tops of all of the Sackville-Bagginses carrots and potatoes in their garden so Lobelia Sackville-Baggins wasn’t able to get them without digging into the ground.

Chapter Text

Briar held her daughter in her arms. Little Belladonna Oakenshield (it had become a surname for her little family—even the boys were being called Fíli and Kíli Oakenshield by other hobbits) was wrapped in an old blanket Bilbo had found a few days prior. It had been her own baby blanket when she was a wee faunt. Briar looked down at her daughter and was certain she had never seen anything so perfect in her entire life.

Lord Elrond had shooed everyone out of the room to allow Briar to bond with her child alone. While she would have liked Thorin to stay with her, she needed a moment to compose herself as the reality of motherhood to an infant, something she had only vaguely thought of in recent years, came upon her. Besides, Thorin needed to calm down just a tiny bit. Briar has punched him in the jaw during her labor.

Bel had curly black hair and a button nose. Her eyes were a greenish blue although Lord Elrond seemed to believe they would turn more green as time went on. Briar’s daughter pressed her face into her mother’s breast and began to mouth the fabric of Briar’s nightgown.

Briar’s heart fluttered in her chest. Her grandmother had told her that her baby would know when she first wanted to nurse. She supposed now was the time.

Carefully, Briar opened her nightgown and pulled the fabric to the side to expose her breast. She carefully positioned Bel against her and helped guide her daughter’s mouth to her nipple. Her chest had been growing painful recently due to the production of milk. Kori had helped her with that. But now, she was going to feed her baby and for a moment Briar panicked and feared that she might do it wrong.

Bel latched onto Briar’s breast easily and began to suck.

Briar’s eyes widened as she watched her daughter breastfeed. The sucking noise filled the room and Briar’s heart beat rapidly in her chest. Almost unconsciously, Briar began to rock gently.

She thought of her own mother, of Dís, of Thorin’s mother, of the Ri’s mother. All those women who had done this before her. Those women who shaped the family she had now.

‘I pray you’ll be my eyes, and watch us as we go / And help me to be wise, in times when I don’t know / Let this me by the prayer that every mother knows’

She could remember her own mother singing something similar when she was a girl. She called it her prayer to Yavanna and to all the mothers that had come before her.

‘Lead us to a place, guide me with your grace / To a place where we'll be safe’

Briar supposed She was praying to Yavanna and Mahal both. This child, although more Mahal’s, was still a child of the West. They had both made mothers. Bel was a child of stone and earth. Briar prayed for protection from both of the Valar.

‘I pray she will find her light and hold it in her heart / When stars go out each night, remind her where we are / Let this be her prayer, when shadows fill her day’

She was a mother two times over already. But briar knew a daughter would be a little different. Daughters would eventually leave to make their own families.

‘Lead her to a place, guide her with your grace / Give her faith so she'll be safe’

Briar pressed a soft kiss to her daughter's curls.

‘I ask that life be kind, when I watch her from afar / I hope her soul will find, another soul to love / Let this be my prayer, just like all those before’

Briar hopes her daughter’s life would be easier than hers and Thorin’s. She prayed she would live the life they already wanted for the boys.

‘Need to find a place / Guide me with your grace / Give me faith so we'll be safe’

May Mahal and Yavanna and all those mothers who came before her, guide her.

‘Need to find a place / Guide her with your grace / Give me faith so she'll be safe’

Chapter Text

Bilbo held his niece in his arms.

He had offered to take her for the night so Briar and Thorin could sleep for at least a little bit. He wasn’t certain if the baby girl had gotten her lungs from the Tooks or the dwarves, but, either way, she had quite the pair of them.

Right now, though, she was blissfully asleep in Bilbo’s arms. He had never thought he’d be here. He’d remembered when Briar’s lilies hadn’t grown. She had been heartbroken and Bilbo hadn’t known quite what to do.

Now, here he was holding the most precious thing he had ever gotten to hold. He wondered if Thorin had felt like this when he held the boys.

Bel began to squirm slightly and tears began to form in her tightly closed eyes. Bilbo stood and slowly began to rock her to help calm her down.

“Shh… little one,” Bilbo whispered, pressing a kiss to her forehead. “It’s okay. Your Uncle Bilbo’s better. I’m here.” He continued to rock her carefully in his arms. “That’s a good girl. Shh… Shh…” She seemed to like his voice. He didn’t have quite the same way with words that Briar had, but he did have it. “How about I tell you the story of your parents. Hm? Would you like that?” Bel opened her eyes and looked at Bilbo blankly, but with a glint that implied recognition or curiosity. “Alright. Alright. Let’s see.” He thought for a moment. “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort…”

Chapter Text

“Hold her for one moment,” Briar said as she placed Bel in Fíli’s arms.

“Wait—Mum—” Fíli shifted his weight between his feet.

“Support her head and hold her to your chest.” Briar helped position his arms. “I need to go and get the laundry before it starts raining. Sit down.” She smiled at him. “You’ll both be fine.”

With that, she was gone, leaving Fíli alone with his baby sister and no clue what to do about it.

Fíli sat down on the couch carefully, making sure to support Bel’s head and trying not to jostle her too much. He settled in his seat and glanced down at his baby sister.

Briar had been a little scatterbrained since Bel had been born, but so had Thorin. They really needed to get more sleep.

“Hello,” Fíli said, glancing down at his sister. He panicked when he saw her face scrunch up and he realized he had spoken a little louder that he meant to. “No, no, no. Sh. It’s okay. It’s okay.” He began to rock her slightly in panic.

Bel looked up at him with fat tears that refused to slide down her cheeks. She almost looked like she was judging his worthiness of holding her. Mahal she had Thorin’s glare down. After a moment, Bel let out a coo and struggled within the confines of her blanket. Fíli helped her by pulling at the top of it to loosen the fabric.

Bel managed to free one of her arms. Her hand lifted up, reaching. Fíli bent his head down slightly to see what she wanted and his breath froze in his throat when she gently grabbed his nose and giggled.

Fíli’s eyes widened for only a moment before his gaze softened. She was so tiny.

“I’m always going to be here for you,” Fíli whispered softly. “I’ll protect you. I promise.” And he knew that he spoke the truth. He would always protect his little sister. Always.

Chapter Text

Thorin awoke to the sound of his daughter crying. Briar, who was curled into his chest, grumbled softly, pressing her face against him. She shifted to move, but Thorin places a quick kiss against her temple.

“That’s a diaper cry, not a hungry cry,” he whispered. “I’ll take care of it. Go back to sleep.”

“You are a saint, Thorin,” Briar murmured as she snuggled into Thorin’s place when he got up.

“Not really,” he chuckled. “I just prefer my wife well rested.” She lazily chucked her pillow at him which thumped anticlimactically against his arm. “Sleep, Briar. I’ll take care of her.”

Thorin pulled the covers around Briar and tucked her back in. Her amber curls were a bird nest and her cheek was red from sleeping but Thorin had never been more in love with his wife.

Thorin went over to the crib and picked his daughter up. Her hands were balled into tiny fists as she squirmed. Fat tears tuck to her eyelashes and he knew she was uncomfortable. He could smell it.

He began to hum to her gently, and rock her as he made his way to the changing table, formally his desk. He took off Bel’s diaper and closed it up before tossing it in the bin. Thorin cleaned her up and redid her diaper. He lifted Bel back into his arms and pressed a kiss to her black curls.

Thorin went over to the rocking chair and sat down. He shifted Bel slightly in his arms before pulling his sleep tunic open to rest his daughter on his bare chest. He wrapped his tunic back up so she could snuggle more securely into him. Lord Elrond had advised him that skin-on-skin contact helped create a bond between parent and child. Thorin was inclined to believe him.

The king-in-exile began to rock his daughter gently. Bel’s breath puffed against his chest. A hand wrapped around his marriage braid and he could feel his daughter’s eyelashes flutter against his chest.

“Sing to her,” Briar said, softly. Thorin opened his eyes and saw his wife watching them with a small smile on her lips. “She loves it when you sing.”

Thorin nodded.

‘Far over the misty mountains cold / To dungeons deep and caverns old / We must away ere break of day / To find our long-forgotten gold’

Bel curled into his chest and Thorin ran his thumb over her back. He closed his eyes and imagined them in Erebor. One day, he would be able to take his family home. For now, he was content in this smial in the longest period of peace he had ever felt.

Chapter Text

Kíli struggled to help move everything out of the old nursery and into his newer room. It was smaller compared to the nursery, but Bilbo was right, he had been getting too big for the nursery height wise.

“You Durins are just too darn tall,” the hobbit muttered the second time Kíli decided to jump through the doorway and wound up knocking his head against it. “And too hard headed.”

Fíli and Kíli would have their own rooms now and Kíli was kind of excited about it. He hadn’t ever had a room to himself.

But, that night, the room, which had looked small, felt entirely too big and too quiet. He couldn’t hear Fíli breathing. Kíli shifted in his bed a few times before getting up.

He crept down the hallway and made his way past Thorin and Briar’s room and paused outside the nursery. There was still a bed in there. It was for nights where, if she got too tired to make it to her own bed, Briar could sleep there.

Carefully, Kíli opened the door and snuck in. He didn’t actually need to sneak in. Who was Bel going to tell? The stuffed doll that sat on a shelf near her cradle?

He wandered over to look in on Bel and found her with her slightly hairy foot in her mouth staring up at him. Kíli reached down and pulled her foot out of her mouth (that couldn’t be sanitary) and offered her his pointer finger knuckle. She began to gnaw on it and Kíli was almost certain she was going to start teething soon, poor kid.

“You’re going to be a biter,” Kíli told her. “I’m sure of it.”

She babbled something in reply before gnawing on his knuckle again. Kíli smiled.

“You couldn’t have picked a better family to be born into, Bel.” Her gnawing began to slow until she was only sucking lightly. Kíli pulled his finger away and she blinked up lazily at him before her eyes fluttered shut. “I’m going to sleep here tonight, okay?”

She answered in soft breaths.

Chapter Text

As the years went by, Bag End grew to accommodate its growing population.

Two tears after Bel was born, Briar and Thorin were blessed with a little girl with amber fuzz and Durin blue eyes. Freya, after Thorin’s amad, was more lively than her older sister. She cried for hours on end and only seemed to calm when her big brother Kíli let her sleep on his chest.

Three years after that, they were blessed with a little boy who was the spitting image of his mum. Frerin was like his oldest sister in his quietness, but he was much more shy. He’d rather pressed face into his mum or adad’s neck than let anyone see how upset he was.

Three years after that was a daughter who looked every bit like her adad. Dís was a fierce little thing that had the Durin glare down pat by the time she was one month old.

Two year after that, little Beryl was born. She took the most after her mother. Her birth had been the most difficult for no other reason than she decided to be born a month and a half early. Briar was quite certain a handful of Thorin’s grey hairs were from the day Beryl was born.

Although Briar understood why Thorin began to be careful after that, Briar wouldn’t trade her children for the world. They had a relatively peaceful six years after that.

Then, their world would never be the same again.

Chapter Text

Bilbo blinked up at the towering wizard that stood at his gate. The blasted man hadn’t been heard from in years. Probably hadn’t even heard of the children that now ran around the front yard of Bag End. Beryl was the only one that took pity on her poor Uncle Bilbo. Said niece was currently curled in his lap fast asleep.

“Good morning,” Bilbo said with a curt nod.

Gandalf smiled. “What do you mean? Do you mean to wish me a good morning, or do you mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not? Or, perhaps you mean to say that you feel good on this particular morning, or are you simply stating that this is a morning to be good on?”

The children had stopped their playing now and looked at the wizard in awe. They hadn’t seen many tall folk save the Ranger Arathorn or Lord Elrond and his two sons. They’d certainly never met a tall person with a beard that rivaled Master Balin’s.

“None of them really,” Bilbo said curtly. “I just wished to be polite. What do you want Gandalf?”

“I must speak to Thorin,” the wizard frowned. “It’s important.”

“He’ll be around for lunch soon. As will Briar.”

“Uncle Bilbo?” Bel tugged on his sleeve.

“Yes, dear?”

“Who is he?” She pointed to Gandalf. “Why does he want Adad?”

“He’s an old friend of sorts,” Bilbo replied. He returned a narrowed gaze to Gandalf. “And it probably has something to do with the mountain.

“That it does,” the wizard nodded solemnly.

Bilbo’s stomach twisted in a knot. There could be many reasons Gandalf came to them now when it came to the mountain. They might need to flee to Rivendell. The smial would go to young Frodo. The Ered Luin might want Thorin to return and Bilbo wasn’t sure if he would be able to without leaving Briar and the children, maybe not Fíli and Kíli, behind because he can’t guarantee he’ll be able to provide for them. Then again, the news might be about Erebor. Bilbo shuddered. He was a part of that plan to retake Erebor. He wanted to be part of it. But that meant leaving Briar and the children alone.

“Hello, Gandalf.” Thorin’s voice came from the road.

“Adad!” The children shrieked. Even Beryl stumbled out of Bilbo’s lap as they all rushed to their father. Thorin kneeled down and took all of them into his arms. Bilbo watched as he pressed kisses to their heads and appeared very interested in the rocks they found and how Frerin cried when a butterfly landed on his nose.

Thorin released his children and they huddled against their mother asking her when lunch would be ready and when they could have dessert.

“We’ll talk in the office.” Thorin nodded to Bilbo before heading into Bag End. Gandalf followed behind.

Bilbo caught Briar’s eye and he knew she was worried.

Chapter Text

“You’re in charge while I’m gone,” Thorin said, putting his hand on Fíli’s shoulder. “Look after your mother and siblings.”

Fíli nodded. “I will.”

Thorin smiled and pressed his forehead against his. After a short moment, her turned to Briar and gave a short kiss. He bent down and kissed the kids as well. He hugged Kíli next. He shook Bilbo’s hand.

Fíli knew his hobbit uncle wasn’t thrilled at the fact that Thorin was going back to the mountain, if only briefly. There were too many variables, he had said. Fíli understood that. Even he didn’t like it. He wanted to go with Thorin and be there as a support. He and Kíli were both of age. They could have come. But Thorin had ordered them to stay home and look after their family.

“My duty is to our people as well as our family. Right now, your duty is to our family only.”

They watched as Thorin left on a pony with Gandalf on his own horse. The children waved goodbye, calling out to Thorin, not fully understanding what was going on. When he was far enough away, Bilbo ushered the children inside.

Fíli glanced at his brother and Kíli nodded his head. “I’ll make sure they don’t break anything.” And he went outside.

Fíli glanced down at Briar. “He’ll come back,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

“I know,” she whispered.

Now that he was older, Fíli understood Briar and Thorin’s marriage better than he did when he was a kid. As a child, Fíli had naively thought that because they were Ones, everything would run smoothly for them. But with the mountain, Fíli knew things would be different now. Briar and the kids wouldn’t alway get to be Thorin’s top priority. They would always be his biggest concern, but Thorin would have so much more to worry about if they reclaimed the mountain.

Until he was king himself, Fíli would be, in a way, leading this family when Thorin had his other duties to attend to. It was a frightening thing to think about, but he knew it’s what would happen.

Fíli tucked Briar under his arm. She leaned against his side and sighed, still looking in the direction Tharkûn and Thorin had gone.

“If he get hurt, I’m going to smack him with my frying pan,” Briar mumbled.

Fíli chuckled, giving his mum a squeeze. “Let’s get inside and make sure Kíli and Uncle Bilbo haven’t started a fire yet.”

From the door, which was still open, both shouted, “It happened one time!”

Fíli and Briar laughed and headed inside to wait.

Chapter Text

Thorin held himself with pride as he strolled into the Hall to the Council of Lords. Balin was smiling at him while Dwalin had his face carefully masked, but there was a glint in his eyes and a smirk no doubt beneath his mustache. The dwarven lords stared at him in awe. He was healthier looking than they remembered, Briar always made sure her family was fed. He recalled her always having food available for the boys the first few years to let them know that food was always available to them.

He knew, however, what shocked them the most was his marriage braid.

“You’re married?” One of the lords who had, no doubt, initially profited from Thorin’s exile, exclaimed.

“And a father, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss.” Thorin took his seat at the head of the table. He was not the same dwarf they had thrown away.

They talked of Erebor, of the key and the map Tharkûn had given Thorin. It came down to the fact that most of the dwarrow, while wishing to return to Erebor, did not want to waste their resources gaining the mountain back. Especially for a king they haven’t seen in years with a family they didn’t know about.

They would never know about them if they kept up some of the angry looks some of the lords, who Thorin knew to have daughters around his age, gave his braid.

“So, what are you asking of me?” Thorin asked. It was the way of kings. He had to ask what he could do for his people, not the other way around.

“Get the Arkenstone and we will fight for you.”

Thorin closed his eyes. He and Bilbo had talked about that. It was always something that might be asked. “It will be done then.”

The meeting dispersed. Thorin turned to Balin. “Gather the others. I know the Ris and Óin and his brother are coming. Anyone else with us?”

“Bofur, his brother and cousin as well. Then Bilbo and the boys, of course,” Balin said.

Thorin nodded. “Tell them to prepare. No one is to mention out loud where we are meeting. They don’t view me as their king yet.”

“Kori will take care of them while we’re gone Thorin.” Dwalin put his hand on Thorin’s shoulder.

“I know. I just… I’ve never been away from them. Even now it feels like I’ve been gone for far too long.”

Chapter Text

The kids were in bed and the house was ready for the guests coming in a couple days. Thorin would be back tomorrow morning and the company that would be with them on the quest for Erebor would come the following night.

Kíli made his way to bed when he passed his mum and Thorin’s room. He heard crying.

“Mum?” He opened the door and found Briar sitting on the floor surrounded by Thorin’s clothes, a traveling pack open. Kíli hadn’t seen it in over twenty years, but he knew it was the one that held the only things they had fled Ered Luin with. “Mum, are you okay?”

She looked up at him and Kíli saw what she was holding. It was his and Fíli’s and Thorin’s shirts, the ones they had worn when they fled. Kíli sighed. Of course Thorin would keep them. Dís had sewn them for them.

Kíli entered the room and knelt down next to Briar. He pulled her into his arms and rocked her gently. “It’s going to be okay, Mum,” he whispered. “It’s going to be okay.”

Chapter Text

Thorin pulled away from her and fell onto his side, the momentum carrying him onto his back. They were both panting, spent and boneless. Briar knew she was going to be sore the next morning. They hadn’t been this active since Beryl had been born. Mahal, that was six years ago.

She wasn’t an fool. She knew what her husband was doing. She knew what she was doing. They were memorizing each other. Thorin had tasted and touched every inch of her skin and she had tasted his own. They had coupled three times already, each time more desperate than the last.

Briar liked Thorin like this. She loved when he worshiped her body and she explore his. She liked it when she could taste herself on his mouth and she knew he liked it when he could do the same.

She knew what he was doing.

Briar rolled over onto her side and curled against his. Her fingers carded through his chest hair. She traced them along his scars. She outlined his tattoos without looking. She knew him and he knew her. They were One with each other. In the twenty years that they had been married, they had learned what the other liked and knew what they other wanted when the time came.

“The others are coming tomorrow,” Briar whispered. She carded her fingers through his coarse beard. It left so many burns against her skin. She liked the friction. None of her hobbit friends seemed to understand that.

Thorin grunted in reply. His arm curled around her and his thumb pressed circles into her hip. Neither of them were talkers after coupling. They would… say things before and during, but they were usually too spent to do anything but cuddle afterwards. It didn’t help that Thorin was so much older than her. He was nearing middle age for a dwarf and she was still young and spry. She knew what he was doing.

“Thorin?” She knew what he was doing.

“Hm?” He sighed when she pressed a kiss to his shoulder.

“Can you promise me something?” She knew what he was doing.

“Anything.”

He was saying goodbye, just in case.

Briar sat up and moved her leg over his waist, straddling his stomach. Thorin watched her, silently. His blue eyes cataloging her movements. He braced his hands on her thighs as she made herself comfortable on top of him. Briar leaned down slight. She put one had on his chest for balance and her other hand grabbed his marriage braid and held it tightly.

“If you realize the boys or Ori aren’t ready for this, you send them back to me. Understood?”

He nodded. Thorin began to stroke her thighs reassuringly.

“If you think Bilbo is in over his head, you send him back to me. Understood.”

Thorin nodded. He shifted so he was sitting up and Briar slid down to his hips. She could feel him hardening beneath her.

“If my older brothers are putting themselves in danger, especially Nori, you send them back. Understood?”

He nodded. Thorin’s hands went to her hips. He closed his eyes and pressed his face into her neck.

“And if you think this quest is hopeless, if you think you can’t make it, come home. Come back to me. Come back to us.” She felt Thorin take a sharp intake of breath as Briar pulled harder on his braid. “Promise me,” she breathed. Thorin’s hold on her tightened. “Promise me.”

“I promise.”

He rolled them onto her back and sealed the promise with a searing kiss.

Chapter Text

Bag End slowly filled with dwarves.

Bilbo watched as his nieces and youngest nephew rush about between their favorites of the dwarves.

Bel latched onto Balin, ordering him to tell her stories about the funny things her adad did as a child. The advisor laughed and began telling an embarrassing tale of when Thorin apparently streaked across the halls of Erebor with his parents and grandfather running behind him.

Freya sat with her Uncle Nori who is most definitely teaching her how to steal spoons. Uncle Nori, for his credit, said she was only allowed to use these skills on Sackville-Bagginses.

Frerin was sitting in his Uncle Ori’s lap. The young dwarf was patiently teaching the boy how to knit a scarf. The boy asked questions about the differences between the needle and the yarn. Ori answered each question with kindness.

Dís bounded over to Dwalin and demanded that he show her his knuckle dusters and explain his tattoos to her. The guard complied with a deep smile and let her crawl onto his shoulders for a better look.

Beryl was curled up in her Uncle Dori’s arms, trying very hard to stay awake.

All the children eventually gathered around Bifur, fascinated by the dwarf’s skill and the little toys he brought for them. They were distracted enough by the toymaker so the rest of the adults could talk about their plans for the mountain.

Bilbo would serve as their official burglar, with Nori giving him some pointers along the way. His part was difficult, but they hoped it would work out well.

The hobbit glanced over at his sister. Briar was sitting next to Thorin, her eyes hard and strong, but Bilbo could see her hand discreetly in Thorin’s lap. To outsiders, it might appear that Thorin was twiddling his thumbs under the table, but Bilbo knew he was stroking Briar’s hand in comfort.

Once things were settled, they all went to the living room. The dwarves began to sing and part of Bilbo feared he would never see Bag End or his sister and the children again.

Chapter Text

The regular tenants of Bag End piled onto the large bed that tended to hold only Thorin and Briar (with the occasional child who needed refuge from a nightmare). That night, the last night they would all be in Bag End for the foreseeable future, they decided to stay together.

Bilbo laid at the head of the bed, parallel to the headboard. His head was near Briar’s and a meer tip of his face it would allow his nose to brush against her hair.

Fíli and Kíli were on either side of Briar, tucked into their adoptive mother’s sides like they were still the children that had done so before she had even married their uncle. Freya was curled against Kíli. Bel was resting on Fíli’s chest, her head tucked just under his own, she had cried a bit earlier that day when she realized they would be leaving. She had stomped her foot and cried that she wanted to go too. Thorin had had to hold her for most of the rest of the night, but she had crawled onto Fíli for their sleeping arrangement that night.

Thorin was surrounded by three of his children. Frerin and Dís were tucked into his sides, his arms keeping them against him. Frerin’s nose was pressed into his father’s side and Dís was drooling slightly on his chest. Beryl was perched on her father’s chest, burrowed beneath his low-cut shirt. Her head poked out and she occasionally nuzzled against his beard.

Fili was going to miss them all being together like this. He was going to miss Briar and the girls and Frerin. He trusted Kori to help take care of them, but he couldn’t help but wish that he was able to protect them too. When they had finished their packing, Briar had made sure he and Kíli had their rune stones with them. “Promise to come back to me,” she had said.

She had refused to cry after Kíli had found her earlier. His brother had told him about that moment in her bedroom and Fíli couldn’t help but regret some of his actions from when he was younger. How much heartbreak could he have stopped if he had just let Briar and Thorin know the truth?

They awoke to their positions being changed, but only slightly. They were drawn closer together in the middle of the night. Thorin was holding Briar’s hand.

Chapter Text

Thorin and the rest of the company prepared to leave. He hated that he had to leave Briar behind, but he loathed the fact that he would have to leave his children. He didn’t know how long this quest would take. Months? Years? When would he see them next? How old would they be when he saw them again?

He and Briar stayed behind in their room for only a moment. The company knew to give them space. Bilbo told the children they needed adult time for just a moment.

Thorin bright his lips down to hers and kissed her like it might be the last time because he wasn’t a fool enough to believe it might not be. Briar circled her arms around his neck and pulled him against her, stretching her body flush to his. Thorin trailed his lips down her jaw and neck. He pulled down the bodice of her dress to reveal her soul mark. Tentatively he licked the mark before biting it and sucking it, only to lave it with his tongue once more. He pressed his lips to it one more time before pulling back to look at the irritated skin. It was going to bruise.

He looked back up at her and Briar looked back at him, her cheeks red and her green eyes were shiny with unshed tears.

“Promise me,” she whispered.

Thorin pressed his forehead to hers. “I promise.”

They headed out to get ready to set out. The hardest thing he had to do was say goodbye to his kids.

Bel was trying so very hard to be strong. Her bottom lip poked out and she looks remarkably like her mother in that moment. Thorin got down on his knees and hugged his daughter close to his chest.

“Why do you have to go?” She asked, wrapping her arms around his neck.

“Because sometimes the right thing to do is the hardest,” he replied, pressing his forehead to hers. “I’ll be back before you know it.”

“Are you going to leave like Fíli and Kíli’s adad?”

Thorin sucked in a sharp breath. “No.”

Bel nodded and grabbed onto her mother’s skirt. She was only sixteen. Thorin’s heart ached. And it only got worse from there.

Freya was pouting as well. “Don’t go, adad.” His fourteen-year-old daughter looked up at him with his own blue eyes. “Don’t go.”

“I’ll be back,” Thorin said, pressing his forehead to hers as he enveloped her in a hug. “I promise.”

Frerin, his little eleven-year-old boy, looks up at Thorin with his mother’s green eyes and the king-in-exile was so very close to canceling the quest right there. Thorin took his son in his arms and Frerin buried his face in his father’s neck. He can feel the hot tears drip against his skin. “I won’t be gone long,” he told his son. “I’ll be back for your mum and your sisters and you soon. I promise.”

“I take care of ‘em,” Frerin sniffed.

Thorin’s heart broke. “I know you will.”

His little eight-year-old, Dís, is glaring at him. Mahal, did she take after her namesake. Thorin knew full well she didn’t understand what was going on. She just knew her adad was leaving and he was not taking her with him. Thorin pressed a kiss to her forehead and whispered to her in Khuzdul, promising he’d come back. He looked back at her glare. She bonked her forehead against his and then looked away. She took her brother’s hand.

“I take care,” the little boy assured him.

Beryl, his baby, his six-year-old daughter, was being held by Kori. His sister-in-law hands his baby girl to him and he pressed tender kisses to her face. She giggled. “Ada’~ Ada’~” She grabs his hair and pulls his face closer to hers.

“I love you my little jewel,” he whispered, his voice hoarse. He had to hand his baby girl back to Kori.

He went back to Briar one more time. Between his goodbyes to his children, the boys and Bilbo had also been making their goodbyes.

Thorin rested his forehead against his wife’s.

“Promise me,” she whispered.

“I promise.”

Chapter Text

When he and Fíli were a little younger, Briar took them out camping. It was some time around the second year she and Thorin were married. One day she just announced that she was taking the boys out camping and Thorin and Bilbo weren’t invited. Kíli later learned that Thorin and Briar had gotten into a small argument—he didn’t know what it was about—but Briar had decided she needed a night to herself and a camping trip with the boys seemed like a perfect opportunity.

She had brought sleeping pallets out and they had slept under the stars. She told them slightly scary stories (they weren’t too scary, but they boys had slept very close to her that night) and then taught them about the stars. That night, there had been a fire moon.

That night though, the first in their quest, no moon shone. They all grouped together, families coming together. Bilbo slept near his adoptive brothers, although he was outside them, close to the boys if he needed to be.

Kíli glanced up at the stars. That night, they felt cold and distant, not the warm things Briar had told him about.

“I wish Mum could come with us,” he said to Fíli.

“This wouldn’t really be her thing,” Fíli shrugged. “Besides, could you imagine how much more protective Thorin would get if she were here?” Kíli nodded. “And this is our chance to prove our adulthood.”

Kíli nodded again. He was the youngest in the company, but he was of age. He remembered Briar crying after his party. “My baby boy is all grown up,” she had said. Kíli wanted to point out that Frerin was actually a baby at the time, but he decided against it.

Fíli turned to his side, indicating that talking was over. Kíli curled onto his side too.

He missed his mum and younger siblings.

Chapter Text

“Briar, you need to sleep.” Kori placed her hand on the hobbit’s shoulder. “You need to come inside.”

Briar had been sitting out in the front garden. She knew that she looked lost as she did so. Kori has put the children to bed, all in the extended nursery. Briar knew she was being foolish, but part of her was waiting for her boys to just come back home.

“I know,” she whispered. “I just want to stay out here a little longer.” She looked up at her sister. “Would you like to join me?”

Kori sat down next to her on the bench. They were quiet for a few moments.

“I saw you say a brief goodbye to Dwalin,” Briar began. “Dori looked… pleased.”

Kori scoffed. “Dori is Dori. Nori thinks it’s hilarious.”

Briar smiled. “Of course he does. So…?”

Kori blushed. “He promised to court me properly once the quest is done.”

The hobbit smirked. “Properly?”

“Shut it,” Kori bristled.

Briar laughed. “They’ll be back soon.”

“Yeah, they will.”

The two women held hands and looked at the road their family had begun their journey on.

Chapter Text

Well, this was certainly one of the things Bilbo HADN’T expected to happen.

He should have gone to Thorin the second he realized the boys had lost the ponies. How they had managed to miss that, he could only guess. Then he had to get caught by the trolls and he could just feel Thorin glaring at him even now as they were in the sacks and some of the company was on the spit.

Thorin’s glare, when he had thrown down his sword, had not been a Durin glare. No. It had been a ‘Briar has taken a side and so I’m with her’ sort of glare and Bilbo could kind of understand. Briar wouldn’t have done something like this.

Wait. No. She would have. So Bilbo glared right back. His brother-in-law could not use that glare on him. Bilbo INVENTED that glare.

He was getting too old for this.

Now he had to think of how to get them out of this mess because none of the company was thinking of anything besides ticking the trolls off.

“Don’t bother cooking them,” one of the trolls grunted. “Just sit on them and squash them into jelly.”

Oh, Briar would kill him if they all die barely over a week into the quest.

“They should be sautéed and grilled with a sparkle of sage,” said the troll cook.

“Well, that does sound quite nice,” replies the first.

“Never mind the seasoning; we ain't got all night!” The third shouted. “Dawn ain't far away and I don't fancy being turned to stone.”

A faint memory of his mother telling him and Briar a bedtime story about trolls popped into his head. Of course!

“Wait!” Bilbo shot up, still tied into his bag. “You’re making a terrible mistake!”

“You can’t reason with them!” Glóin shouted from the spit. “They’re half-wits!”

“Half-wits?” Dwalin growled. “What does that make us?”

“I meant with the seasoning,” Bilbo says, ignoring the dwarves.

“What about the seasoning?” The grill cook asked.

“Well, have you smelt them? You're going to need something stronger than sage before you plate this lot up.”

The dwarves began to protest, while Bilbo just rolled his eyes. He could feel Thorin’s eyes on him. It’s not his usual glare, it’s probably the same glare he occasionally has when someone gave him elvish work to look at in the forge.

“What do you know about cooking dwarf?” The third troll asked.

“Shut up!” The troll cook roared. “Let the burglurrhobbit talk.”

“Yes, well, the secret to cooking dwarf is—”

“Yes? Come on!”

“It's—”

“Tell us the secret.”

“Yes, I'm telling you, the secret is to skin them first!” Bilbo winced. Probably not the best choice.

That really got the dwarves angry.

The troll cook grinned. “Tom, get me filleting knife.”

“What a load of rubbish!” The third troll said. “I've eaten plenty with their skins on. Scruff them, I say, boots and all.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Bilbo sees Gandalf slipping between some trees. Just a little more. There’s another jerk of movement and, to his horror, he sees the third troll pick up Bombur.

“Not that one!” Bilbo shouts. The trolls look at him. “He’s… He’s infected! Worms… in his tubes!” Bombur was promptly dropped. “In fact, they all have them! Riddled with parasites!”

“You have parasites!” Kíli snapped. He hadn’t been sleeping well recently so Bilbo tried not to hold it against his nephew.

The other dwarves began to hurl insults and Bilbo rolled his eyes. He glared at them and made eye contact with Thorin. His brother-in-law’s eyes narrowed and then widened slightly, realizing what Bilbo was trying to do. He saw Thorin kick Kíli slightly. The dwarves became quiet before all announcing they had parasites.

The trolls were just about to put two and two together when Gandalf split a rock in half and let the light of the rising sun flood into the troll camp.

“The dawn take you all!”

Chapter Text

A howl ripped through the forest and everyone froze.

“Was that a wolf?” Bilbo asked, his face pale. He knew the answer.

“No,” Fíli answered. “That is not a wolf.”

From a nearby crag, a warg appeared. It leapt into the midst of the company, snarling. Thorin buried his sword into its neck, killing it instantly. Another warg leapt out from behind. Kíli drew and arrow and shot the beast down. The blow wasn’t fatal and Dwalin brings his grammar down upon its head and the warg died with a whimper.

“Warg scouts!” Thorin growled. “Which means an orc pack is not far behind.”

“Orc pack?”

Fíli noticed Bilbo gripping his new sword and putting himself between his nephews and the wargs.

Gandalf turned to Thorin. “Who did you tell about your quest, beyond your kin?”

“No one.”

“Who did you tell!?” Gandalf shouted.

“No one, I swear! What in Durin’s name is going on?”

“You’re being hunted.”

Fíli felt his heart drop. Briar… the kids. Surely they aren’t in dan—

“We have to get out of here!” Dwalin barked.

“We can’t!” Ori called from the crest of the hill. “We have no ponies, they’ve bolted!”

“I’ll draw them off,” the brown wizard said.

“These are Gundabad Wargs,” Gandalf said with narrowed eyes. “They will outrun you!”

“These are Rhosgobel rabbits!” The strange wizard cackled. He had a gleam in his eye. “I’d like to see them try.”

Another howl echoed across the forest.

“Come on!” The grey wizard shouted.

They make a run for it. Led by Thorin and Gandalf, the company weaves in and out of the rocks. Thorin stopped in his tracks. Fíli’s eyes widened when he realized the brown wizard and the orcs ran past then, too close for comfort.

“Stay together,” Gandalf ordered.

The wizard turned around and led the company back into the barren fields. They paused behind another boulder. Ori stumbled forward.

“Ori, no!” Thorin grabber Ori and pulled him behind the rock.

Gandalf beckoned the dwarrow and Bilbo to run.

“Where are you leading us?” Fíli heard Thorin ask.

“Rivendell is close by.”

An orc sitting on a warg seemed to have scented them. The company dove behind an outcropping rock, their breaths ragged. The orc and his warg climbed onto the boulder the company were hiding behind. Thorin glanced at Kíli and nodded. Fíli watched as his younger brother slowly readied his bow and arrow.

Kíli sprung out from behind the rock. The orc grabbed his horn, but Kíli let loose his arrow. The enemy stumbled to the ground. The wounded orc attempted to rise to his feet again, but Dwalin sent his ear hammer crashing down onto the foul creature, killing him instantly.

The company heard the wargs howling.

“Move!” Gandalf ordered. “Run!”

Gandalf led the company forward. They sprinted past rocks, boulders, bushes and trees. Even so, the orcs were coming closer and closer. They dwarrow and Bilbo continued to flee from the scouts until their apparent leader emerged from the crest of the hill.

They were surrounded.

“They’re coming!” Kíli shouted.

“Kíli,” Thorin roared. “Shoot them! Shoot them down!”

“We’re surrounded!” Fíli felt panic begin to seep into his bones.

Kíli began loading and unloading his arrows as best he could, taking out an orc here and there. “Where’s Gandalf?”

Fíli looked around. The wizard was gone.

“Has he abandoned us?” Dwalin barked.

Thorin drew his elvish blade. The sword gave off a blue glow. “Hold your ground!”

The company circled up, weapons raised, ready to fight.

“This way, you fools!” Gandalf’s voice comes from behind a rock and Fíli turns to see the blasted wizard motioning them to him.

“All of you, go, go!” Thorin ordered.

They all dashed toward the cavern entrance. One by one, they slid into an underground cavern. Fíli heard his uncle call for Kíli and soon they were both in the cavern as well.

A familiar horn blew and Fíli knew they were safe.

Chapter Text

Thorin thanked Elrond for coming to their aid.

While most of the company were aware of the fact that he and the elven lord were on speaking terms, the Urs were not and stared at Thorin as though he were an orc himself.

“It is strange that orcs should choose to roam these lands,” the elf said. He looked to Thorin at dinner that evening. “Gandalf fears you are being hunted.”

“That is the fear, yes. There is no love between my family and the orcs. I am also aware that a price has been placed on my head by those who do not wish me to succeed.” Thorin paused. “Lord Elrond, I must ask you a favor.”

“Then ask, my dear friend.”

“Send your sons to bring my wife and children here to be under your protection. My sister-in-law is there as well, but I would be at ease if I knew they were all here.”

“I shall send my sons at once.”

Thorin nodded his head. “Thank you.”

“It is nothing. I would feel better if your family were here as well. Besides, You may not thank me later. I am certain most of the elves here will spoil your children rotten.”

Thorin chuckled at the thought. “It may come in handy to have good portion of the elven realm wrapped around my children’s fingers.”

For the rest of the night, the company rests. Thorin checked his nephew’s and Bilbo to make sure they were okay. He made sure to praise Bilbo’s quick thinking with the trolls since he is very much aware he hadn’t handled the situation with the amount of grace he should have.

He then goes to sleep himself and dreams of Briar atop his chest smiling down at him.

Chapter Text

Kíli liked Rivendell.

The elven city was beautiful and big and it felt safe. He was glad that Thorin had decided to send word for Briar and the children (with Kori) so that they could be safe under Lord Elrond’s protection. They would be safe here. The second Gandalf has said they were being hunted, a sense of dread washed over Kíli like a giant wave.

If they were being hunted, then were Briar and the kids safe?

“Uncle,” Kíli pulled Thorin aside as they prepared to go for breakfast (he was beginning to get use to only having one). “I… I’m worried about Mum.”

Thorin sighed. He ran his fingers through his hair. “I am too, but Lord Elrond is sending Elladan and Elrohir to fetch her and Kori and the children. They’ll be safe here.”

“I just…” Kíli bit his lip. “I feel like one of us should stay and protect her. You’re the king and the head of the company. Fíli’s the heir and Bilbo is our burglar. You’re all… necessary. Maybe I should stay behind so they aren’t alone.”

“Kíli,” Thorin put his hands on his nephew’s shoulders. “Do you not wish to go on the quest? I would never make you… I had just assumed—”

“I want to go, Thorin,” Kíli assured him. “You raised us with stories of Erebor. I want to be there when we open the door and get to be the first of our people in a century to see those halls again. But I just worry about Mum. I don’t like the idea… I know this quest is dangerous. I just want to be there for her if… if…”

Thorin nodded. “I will not stop you, regardless of your decision. You are of age and I cannot make any decisions for you unless I know you are doing something truly idiotic.” Kíli smiled. “We have some time until we have to leave again. You have until then to make your decision. Whichever choice you make, it is the right one. Never doubt that Kíli.”

“Thank you.”

Their breakfast was just as bountiful as their dinner. There was even more meat. Apparently the meat simply hadn’t been prepared since the elves weren’t expecting the dwarrow for another day.

They wouldn’t be able to read the map until the following night. He had until the morning after to make his decision.

“Bilbo?” Kíli went to his hobbit uncle for guidance. “Can I ask you something?”

“You can ask but I can choose not to answer.”

“Uncle Bilbo…”

The hobbit chuckled. “I know. Ask away.”

“I’m worried about Mum and the kids,” Kíli pushes the words from his lungs. “I was thinking it might be a good idea to stay here and be with them while everyone goes off on the quest.”

Bilbo looked at him in surprise. “Is that what you want to do?”

Kíli but his lip. “I want to go on the quest, but I don’t like leaving Mum and the kids alone.”

Bilbo was quiet for a moment. “Go on the quest.”

“But, Mum—”

“Will feel guilty that you’re staying behind for her sake.” Bilbo put his hand on Kíli’s shoulder. “You’re old enough to make your own decisions, but you can’t use your mother as an excuse. You can’t. She’ll either blame herself or you just might resent her one day for making you feel that way. Kíli, you deserve to be there when we open the door. You and Fíli and Thorin all do.” He smiled slightly. “Think about it.”

Chapter Text

Briar woke up to the sound of Thorin's gasps.

She reached over to her husband’s side of the bed. Empty. It had been for weeks. Briar reached out and grabbed Thorin’s pillow and pulled it to her chest, burying her face into the softness. It had only been a bad dream. He was okay. Her family was okay.

Briar got up from bed and went to check on the children. The nursery door was open. Narrowing her eyes, Briar glanced in and did a head count. All of them, save Bel, were tucked in asleep. The hobbit sighed. She knew where her eldest daughter was.

Briar went to Fíli’s room and, sure enough, Bel was curled up in her oldest son’s bed. The hobbit mother padded over and sat on the bed next to her daughter.

“Sweetie, are you okay?”

“When is adad coming home?” Her daughter looked up at her with her big eyes. “When’s Fíli and Kíli and Uncle Bilbo and Dori and Nori and Ori coming back?”

Briar laid down on her son’s bed and curled around her daughter. “They’ll be back when they can. They’re on a quest, like in the stories I tell you and your sisters and brother.”

“But those are only a couple of hours long,” Bel snuggled into her mother’s chest.

“Real quests are a bit longer than that, love.”

She could feel her daughter’s pout. “Mum, could you tell me a story?”

Briar smiled tenderly and pressed a kiss to the crown of her daughter’s head. “Of course.” She thought for a moment. “Once upon a time, there was a dwarf who felt too much. To give his family a better life, he went on a quest to find them a home. Before he left, he promised his family that he would return.” She smiled. “Do you want to know how it ends?”

“This is a short story.”

“It’s a long one. I’m just asking if you want to know how it ends.”

“How does it end?”

“The dwarf comes back.”

Chapter Text

Lord Elrond lead Bilbo, Thorin, Balin, And Gandalf into an open area outside on the side of a cliff. Waterfalls seemed to surround the place. As they approached a crystalline table, Bilbo noted the moon was behind some clouds. He hoped that wouldn’t get in the way of the reading of the map.

“These runes were written on a Midsummer’s Eve by the light of a crescent moon nearly two hundred years ago,” Lord Elrond told them. “The same moon shines upon us tonight.”

The group looked up and Bilbo was relieved to see the clouds covering the moon float away. Rays of moonlight hit the table, causing light to flow through the map that had been laid on it. Ancient times became visible and Lord Elrond began to translate them.

“Stand by the gray stone when the thrush knocks, and the setting sun with the last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the keyhole.”

“Durin’s Day?” He had heard about that day before.

“It is the start of the dwarves’ new year,” Gandalf said. “When the last moon of autumn and the first sun of winter appear in the sky together.”

“This is ill news.” Thorin furrowed his brows. “Summer is passing. Durin’s Day will soon be upon us.”

“We still have time,” Balin assured him.

“Time? For what?” The door couldn’t possibly be that hard to find.

“To find the entrance,” Balin said. “We have to be standing at exactly the right spot at exactly the right time. Then, and only then, can the door be opened.”

“There are some who would not deem it wise,” Lord Elrond said, handing Thorin the map back.

 

“Who do you mean?” Gandalf’s asked.

“Some may deem it unwise, but I feel that this is the time for which the mountain should be returned to its rightful people. The dwarves have been scattered for too long.” He smiled at Thorin. “Their days of wandering should be over. I would advise you leave tomorrow morning after a good night’s sleep. Mithrandir, you should stay for only a little longer. There is a meeting that must be held.”

“Briar and the children?” Thorin asked.

“My sons are on their way to get her as we speak.”

Chapter Text

Fíli glanced at the portrait in the locket he had around his neck. His thumb brushed against the face of the person and sighed. This would be over soon. They just needed to get through the mountains and then it would be easy. They’d get the Arkenstone and get the aid of the other dwarrow and then Erebor could be reclaimed.

Then he’d be able to come back for her.

“Is that what I think it is?” Kíli threw his arm around Fíli as they made their way out of Rivendell.

Fíli felt his face turn red before snapping the locket closed. “No.”

“It is! Does Thorin or Mum know you—”

“Shh!” Fíli clasped his hand over his brother’s mouth. “Mum knows already. Thorin… doesn’t. He’s been too busy.” He slowly released his hand when he saw Kíli’s eyes widen.

“It’s serious then?”

“I left some beads behind… just in case…”

Kíli whistled. “She staying with Mum?”

“I asked her to help around. Kori isn’t used to helping with so many children,” Fíli muttered. “I told her I’d be more official once we come back. Thorin won’t let us fight against Smaug. It’s too dangerous with us as his heirs. I left her my beads so Thorin and our folk would be honor bound to look after her.”

“What’s her soulmark?”

“The head of a lion,” Fíli blushed. “It’s on her shoulder.”

“She yours?”

“I felt like I couldn’t breathe when I first heard her sing.”

Kíli smirked. “She’s a nice lass. She’d make a good queen.”

Fíli nodded.

Lily Took had started to help around Bag End a little after Frerin was born. She was a second cousin of Briar’s who had five siblings herself. She had just moved to the Shire because she was apprenticing as a healer at the Great Smial with Briar’s grandmother.

Fíli had felt quite smitten with her when they first met while she had appeared less than impressed. That, however, might have been because she had just finished helping Briar tidy up the house and he had come through covered in soot and sweat from the forge. She’d been a little spitfire.

They had begun dating a little after Frerin turned three. They’d gotten… more serious in recent years, but Fíli hadn’t wanted to dishonor her in any way. She was so much younger than him. Well, it wasn’t as much of a difference as Thorin and Briar, but he knew she had been young when they had started dating, barely out of her majority.

They’d promised each other courtship once he got back.

“Do you think she’ll come with Mum to Rivendell?”

“Probably,” Fíli nodded. “She’s always been fascinated by elvish healing.”

Kíli elbowed him. “She’s a good lass.”

Fíli smiled, thinking of how she had sweetly kissed him goodbye the day before they left. “She really is.”

Chapter Text

A fierce storm raged against the side of the mountain.

“Hold on!” Thorin shouted. “We must find shelter!”

“Watch out!” Dwalin shouted.

The company looked up and saw a massive boulder hurtling through the air. It hit the mountainside above them, causing rocks to fall all around them as they pressed themselves against the mountain.

“This is no thunderstorm; it’s a thunder battle! Look!” Balin’s voice came from behind.

A stone giant reared up from a nearby mountain. It ripped off a massive boulder from the top of the mountain.

“Well bless me,” Bofur gasped. “The legends are true. Giants; Stone Giants!”

“Take cover!” Thorin roared.

“What’s happening?” Kíli shouted.

The giant threw the boulder far in the air. Another giant appeared behind the company and the boulder hit its head. The company yelled for each other to brace and hold on. the rocks beneath their feet began to give way from the disturbance of the falling rocks. The ground between the company members split.

They were being separated.

Thorin began to panic. Briar…

“Kíli!” Fíli shouted. “Grab my hand! Kí—”

As the two stone giants fought with their fists, the company held on tight as they were flung around. A third giant appeared and it threw a boulder at the head of one of the first two. The one hit fell over. The company watched in horror as half of the company was smashed to bits.

“No! No! Fíli! Bilbo!” Thorin screamed. No. No! He couldn’t! He couldn’t lose them!

The remaining members of the company rushed to see the remains of their family and found them safe.

Thorin could breathe.

“We’re alright!” Balin shouted. “We’re alive!”

“Where’s Bilbo?” Bofur shouted. “Where’s the Hobbit?”

“There!” Ori pointed to the edge of the cliff.

“Get him!” Dwalin ordered.

Bilbo was hanging onto the edge of the cliff by his fingertips. Thorin’s heart stuttered in his chest. Ori dove onto the ground to try and grab his brother’s arm, but Bilbo slipped and fell another few feet before he caught onto another handhold. As the dwarrow attempted to pull him up, Thorin made a decision.

Thorin jumped down and swung from the cliff’s edge next to Bilbo and boosted him up to the others, who pulled him to safety. Dwalin tried to lift Thorin back as well, but the dwarf king lost his grip and began to fall as well.

Briar.

The feel of her lips against his. Her body writhing underneath him. Her fingers running through his hair. Her soft songs. Her smile. Her arms wrapped around his waist as she tries to push herself up to kiss him. Her laughter.

‘Promise me.’

Thorin was jerked from his memories as Dwalin grabbed his arm and hoisted him back up.

“Don’t scare me like that, you old fool,” his oldest friend ordered.

Thorin nodded. He looked to Bilbo, his nephews, and Ori. This had been a mistake. They shouldn’t have come.

Chapter Text

“Wake up!” Thorin’s shouts woke Kíli. “Wake up!”

Before Kíli could do anything, the floor of the cave they had been sleeping in collapsed. The entire company fell down a chute, slid through a tunnel, and landed in a giant wooden cage. As the company tried to find their bearings, a horde of goblins attacked them, took away their weapons and dragged them all away.

The goblins brought them through a vast network of tunnels and wooden bridges to what looked like a mockery of a throne room. On the throne sat a large, ugly, fat goblin, holding a mace topped with a skull.

Kíli remembered a story Briar told him and Fíli of goblins once. She said that they and orcs were the same but their origins were different. Orcs came from men and elves. Goblins came from hobbits and dwarrow.

The company’s weapons were piled together. The large goblin jumped off his throne, trampling several other goblins in the process, and approached the company.

“Who would be so bold as to come armed into my kingdom?” He asked. “Spies? Thieves? Assassins?” He reminded Kíli a little of Otho Sackville-Baggins.

“Dwarves, Your Malevolence,” a goblin answered.

“Dwarves?”

“We found them on the front porch.”

The large goblin sneered. “Well, don’t just stand there; search them! Every crack, every crevice.”

The company was searched thoroughly, although Kíli was certain Fíli would have quite a bit left by the end of this.

“What are you doing in these parts?” The large goblin asked. “Speak!”

No one did.

“Well then, if they will not talk, we’ll make them squawk! Bring out the Mangler! Bring out the Bone Breaker! Start with the youngest.”

They grabbed at Ori.

“Wait!” Thorin shouted, stepping forward.

The goblin grinned. “Well, well, well, look who it is. Thorin son of Thrain, son of Thror; King under the Mountain.” He gave a dramatic bow to Thorin. “Oh, but I’m forgetting, you don’t have a mountain. And you’re not a king. Which makes you nobody, really. I know someone who would pay a pretty price for your head. Just the head, nothing attached. Perhaps you know of whom I speak, an old enemy of yours. A Pale Orc astride a White Warg.”

Kíli felt the entire company grow still and heard them all become silent.

“Azog the Defiler was destroyed,” Thorin growled. “He was slain in battle long ago.”

“So you think his defiling days are done, do you?”
the large goblin laughed, then turned to a tiny goblin sitting in a basket and holding a slate. “Send word to the Pale Orc; tell him I have found his prize.”

Chapter Text

Briar wandered a long hallway of Bag End.

“Thorin?”

The smial felt so empty.

“Fíli? Kíli?”

It was like there was no one else there.

“Bilbo?”

Somewhere in her heart, she knew her younger children were safe. Somehow she knew that.

“Thorin?”

She walked into the living room. Her brother was sitting in a chair next to the fire, looking at something in his hand.

“Bilbo?” He was holding a ring. “What is it? What’s wrong?” He didn’t answer her. “Bilbo?”

She reached out to touch his face, but her fingers brushed against the ring as well.

Fire spread through her veins as a blazing eye scorched its way through her mind. Briar screamed and jumped back. She fell to the floor as her head began to pound.

Pain.

It hurt so much…

Thorin...

“He couldn’t even remember you,” Bilbo whispered.

“W—What?” Briar blinked away her tears as she looked up at him. “Bilbo?”

“Thorin couldn’t even remember you.” He chuckled. “He couldn’t even remember the children. All that mattered was the damn gold.”

“Bilbo… what are you talking about?”

He turned to look at her. He looked hollow. He looked withered. He looked dead. “He said it would destroy him and he was right.”

“Who Bilbo?”

“The dragon,” he answered simply. “He never loved you, Briar.”

“That’s not true,” she breathed.

“It is. You were just a replacement. A replacement for Runa. A replacement mother for the boys.”

Briar’s lip trembled. “That’s not true.”

Bilbo turned his attention back to the ring. “He never loved you. The boys didn’t love you either. They’re gone now, so it’s okay.”

“G–gone?” Briar clutched at her throat. She couldn’t breath.

“Dead.” Bilbo looked up at her again. “They’re all dead.

Briar woke up screaming. Thorin’s name on her lips and her sons’ in her heart.

Chapter Text

How did Bilbo keep getting into these situations? He signed up for a dragon. Not whatever this was. Personally, Bilbo blamed Thorin. He didn’t know how it was his brother-in-law’s fault yet. He was just going to blame him until he figured it out.

“What has roots as nobody sees, is taller than trees,” the creature asked. “Up, up, up it goes, and yet, never grows.”

“...The mountain.” Bilbo silently thanked the Valar for the fact that Briar loved riddles. The fact that he was even in this situation was ridiculous.

The creature laughed loudly, it was almost a wheeze. “Yess, yess, oh, let’s have another one, eh? Yes, come on, do it again, do it—do it again. Ask us.” The creature’s tone changed again. “No! No more riddles. Finish him off. Finish him now. Gollum! Gollum!”

Bilbo supposed he might as well give the creature a sort of name since it was sentient. Gollum fit, he thought.

Seeming to come out of his own conversation, Gollum snarled and began to rush to Bilbo. The hobbit held out his hand to stop the creature.

“No! No, no, no. I wa—I want to play. I do. I want to play. I can see you are very good at this. S—so why don’t we have a game of riddles? Yes, just, just you and me.” Bilbo crouched until he was at Gollum’s level.

It peeled up immediately. “Yes! Yes, just, just—just us.”

“Yes. Yes. And—and if I win, you show me the way out.”

“Yes. Yes ” Gollum appeared to turn in on himself. “And if it loses? What then?” Bilbo really wasn’t liking where this was going. “Well, if it loses, Precious, we will eats it!” Gollum’s laughed to himself and turned back to the hobbit. “If Baggins loses, we eats it whole.”

Bilbo thought for a moment. This couldn’t possibly be the weirdest thing said to him. The trolls had already threatened to eat him. “Fair enough,” he said, standing up and sheathing his sword.

“Well, Baggins first.” Gollum’s rested his hands and chin on the edge of a rock.

“Thirty white horses on a red hill. First they champ, then they stamp, then they stand still.”

The creature contemplated for a moment. “Teeth?” Bilbo grimaced and Gollum gave a throaty laugh. “Teeth!! Yes, my Precious. But we—we—we only have nine.” He smiled to show that he did indeed have only nine teeth. Bilbo’s stomach churned in disgust. It was definitely not as cute as his little nieces and nephew. Gollum drew closer but Bilbo made sure to keep a rock between them. “Our turn. Voiceless it cries, wingless flutters, toothless bites, mouthless mutters.”

“Just a minute.” Bilbo walked off to think.

“Oh, oh! We knows. We knows!” That was the higher voice. “Shut up.” That was the lower voice.

Whatever was wrong with Gollum was getting old.

As Bilbo observed the water, he noticed tiny waves forming as a breeze ruffled the surface of the water.

“Wind. It’s wind! Of course it is.”

Gollum snarled in frustration. “Very clever, Hobbitses, very clever.”

The creature got too close for comfort and Bilbo quickly drew his sword and pointed it at Gollum again. Thorin had trained him for this. “Ah, ah, ah, ah. A—a box without hinges, key, o—or, or lid; yet golden treasure inside is hid.”

Gollum began muttering to himself. “A box...and a lid...and then a key....

“Well?”

“It’s nasty. Uh, box, uh...”

“Give up?”

“Give us a chance, Precious, give us a chance!” He pounded the floor in frustration and snarled. He puckered his face up, then suddenly opened his eyes. “Eggses! Eggses!” He laughed. “What crunchy little eggses, yes. Grandmother taught us to suck them, yes.”

The sound of bat wings caught Bilbo’s attention and he glanced into the darkness when he turned back to Gollum, the creature was gone.

Gollum’s voice began sounding like an echo as he spoke his riddle from some unknown place. “Ahh. We have one for you: All things it devours, birds, beasts, trees, flowers. Gnaws iron, bites steel, grinds hard stones to meal. Answer us.”

“Give me a moment, please, I gave you a good long while.” The hobbit tried to think while looking for the creature, sword drawn. “I don’t know this one.”

“Is it tasty? Is it scrumptious? Is it crunchable?”

Bilbo jumped and pointed his sword at Gollum who had just tried to grab him by the throat. “Let me think. Let me think.”

“It’s stuck. Bagginses is stuck.” Bilbo paced back and forth next to the water while Gollum smiled eerily and put up His hands in a shrug. “Time’s up.”

“Time. Ti—the answer is time.” Bilbo would have to remember to tell Briar that one. Gollum snarled in frustration. “Actually, it wasn’t that hard.”

“Last question. Last chance.”

“Ah, uh....”

“Ask us. ASK US!!”

“Yes, yes, alright.” Bilbo strolled to the edge of the lake to think. Absentmindedly he rubbed his pocket and felt the ring he had found just before stumbling upon Gollum. “What have I got in my pocket?”

Gollum looked at Bilbo in disgust. “That’s not fair. It’s not fair! It’s against the rules!” He threw down a rock he had apparently been clutching, startling Bilbo with the noise. “Ask us another one.”

“No, no, no, no. You said ‘Ask me a question.’ Well, that is my question. What have I got in my pocket?”

Gollum jumped off his rock and approached Bilbo. The hobbit moved to keep a rock between them.

“Three guesses, Precious. It must give us three.” Gollum held up two fingers.

“Three guesses. Very well, guess away.”

“Handses!”

Bilbo showed his hands. “Wrong, guess again.”

Gollum crouched on the floor, trying to think. He muttered potential answers to himself and slapped the floor in anger. “Fishbones, goblins’ teeth, wet shells, bat’s wings ... Knife!” Then, to himself, “oh, shut up.”

“Wrong again. Last guess.”

“String! Or nothing.”

“Two guesses at once; wrong both times.”

Upon hearing this, Gollum fell to the floor, sobbing. Even Bilbo’s little nieces and nephew weren’t this temperamental.

“So, come then, I won the game, you promised to show me the way out.”

“Did we say so, Precious? Did we say so?” Gollum slowly turned around and glared hatefully at Bilbo. “What has it got in its pocketses?”

Bilbo pointed his sword at Gollum. “That’s no concern of yours. You lost.”

“Lost? Lost? Lost?” Gollum’s grinned as he slowly approached Bilbo. He reached for something hidden at his side, but Bilbo guesses it wasn’t there based on the shock on the creatures face. Gollum began to grope all over himself to find it. “Where is it? Where is it? No! Ahh! Where is it? No! No!!!” Gollum scuttled around the cave, scattering bones and rocks as he searched for whatever it was he had lost. He even splashed the shallows of the lake. His voice broke as he cried. “Lost! Curses and splashes, my precious is lost!”

A sense of dread began to pool at the base of Bilbo’s stomach. While Gollum’s back was to him, the hobbit took the ring from his pocket and held it in his hand behind his back. “What have you lost?”

“Mustn't ask us! Not its business! No! Gollum, Gollum.” Th creachsd leaned over the edge of the lake and began to sob quietly. He stared into the water and his sobs suddenly ceased. His face contorted in rage. “What has it got in its nasty little pocketses?”

“He stole it.” His whisper turned into a roar. “He stole it! Ahh! HE STOLE IT!” He threw a stone at Bilbo.

Bilbo deflected it with his sword and then ran, Gollum chasing after him.

Chapter Text

A goblin was examining their weapons as the big goblin was singing and dancing. The goblin picked up Orcrist and slid it a few inches out of its sheath. He gasped in horror and threw the sword down in full view of the others. The goblins all began to howl in fear and rage at the sight of it. The large goblin leapt to his throne, trampling many goblins.

The large goblin pointed at the sword. “I know that sword! It is the Goblin Cleaver, the Biter, the blade that sliced a thousand necks.” As he spoke, the goblins began to whip the dwarrow with ropes and lept upon them, biting and slashing them. “Slash them! Beat them! Kill them! Kill them all! Cut off his head!”

Goblin held Thorin down and one of them pulled out a knife ready to behad the dwarf. Fíli couldn’t watch.

Suddenly, there was a massive explosion of bright light. The sound became nonexistent for a moment as a shockwave rippled through the cavern, flinging goblins in the air and destroying the torturing machines. Everyone was knocked down. When the force of the explosion passed, most of the lights in the cavern were snuffed out. A shadow walked up as though this were exactly when he intended on arriving.

It was Gandalf, holding his staff and sword. Light slowly returned to the area as the goblins and dwarrow alike slowly stood up, recovering from the shock.

“Take up arms,” the wizard shouted. “Fight. Fight!”

The dwarrow quickly got up and began to fight the goblins. Some of the Company reached the pile of their weapons and began tossing weapons to each other. The knives and daggers mainly went to Fíli, which he didn’t mind at all. With their returned weapons they began to fight and defeat the goblins around them.

***

As they escaped from the mountain, Gandalf paused to let the Company rest for a few moments.

“Five, six, seven, eight...Bifur, Bofur...that’s ten...Fili, Kili...that’s twelve...and Bombur that makes thirteen. Where’s Bilbo? Where is our Hobbit? Where is our hobbit?!”

“Curse the hobbit!” Dwalin shouted, although Fíli knew full well he was worried. Kori would birder him if he lost her younger brother. “Now he’s lost?!”

“I thought he was with Dori!” Glóin asked.

“He was with us in the cage!” The eldest Ri began to panic.

“Well, where did you last see him?” The wizard asked.

“I think I saw him slip away, when they first collared us.” Nori’s voice trembled slightly, worried about his brother as well.

“What happened exactly? Tell me!” Gandalf demanded.

“He might have gone back to Rivendell to be with Briar,” Thorin said, quietly. Fíli grimaced. When he realized Bilbo was gone he thought the same thing.

“No, he isn’t.” Bilbo stepped out from behind a tree.

Gandalf laughed. “Bilbo Baggins! I’ve never been so glad to see anyone in my life!”

Fíli and Kíli rushed to hug their uncle.

“I never doubted you Uncle Bilbo!” Kíli cheered.

“How on earth did you get past the Goblins?!” Fíli asked.

“How, indeed,” that was Nori. The Ris came up to hug their brother.

It really didn’t matter. Bilbo was back and that’s all that did.

Suddenly, the howling of wargs ripped through the air and Fíli remembered the large goblin speak of Azog the Defiled.

“Out of the frying pan...” Thorin cursed.

Gandalf continued the saying. “...and into the fire! Run! RUN!”

Chapter Text

Thorin’s mind was running wild.

Azog was still alive. He was still alive and he wished to destroy the Line of Durin. His wife, his nephews, and his children. All of them, gone. He couldn’t let this continue. He couldn’t let the orc get to them.

He had made a vow when he married Briar. He was to be be her shield and protector. This orc that would threaten her and their family must meet his end.

His nightmares of Briar screaming and begging for him roared in his ears as the fire cracked around him.

Thorin pulled himself up from the burning tree and drew his sword. He began to run through the burning ground to Azog and his white warg. A smile split the orc’s face and Thorin growled in response. He lifted his sword and his oaken branch shield up as he ran towards his foe.

Azog crouched low and then roared as his warg lept ar Thorin. The dwarf tried to swing his sword, but the warg hit him squarely in the chest with its forepaw, smashing him to the ground.

Thorin scrambled to his feet, panting. He needed to catch his breath. Azog wheeled around in his warg and charged at Thorin again. The orc swung his maze and smashed Thorin in the face before the dwarf could react. Thorin was flung to the ground and gasped upon impact as all his breath left his lungs.

“No!” He heard Balin.

Other members of the Company were calling to him as well. But he heard Briar’s voice more.

‘Get up! Get up, Thorin! Please!’

A roar was ripped from his lungs as the warg clamped its jaws around Thorin.

“Thorin!” That was Dwalin. “Nooo!”

‘Fight it, Thorin! You promised! You made a promise!’

Thorin smashed the pommel of his sword into the warg’s head. Roaring, the warg threw Thorin several feet away onto a flat rock nearby. His sword fell from his hand and the dwarf saw stars.

“Biriz torag khobdudol,” Azog leered.

Another orc approached Thorin as the dwarf’s vision began to dim. The orc placed its sword against Thorin’s neck and raised it.

Briar.

Her green eyes that pierced his soul when she first saw him. Her laughter. Her body pressed against his. His hands cradling her bulging belly. The way she started snoring a bit after Freya was born. His head in her lap. Her smiling at him like he was a better dwarf than he was. Her fingers running through his hair. Her forehead nuzzling against his.

‘Promise me.’

Thorin looked up to the sky.

Briar.

He couldn’t think of the children. He couldn’t think of how he would be leaving them as his own father had.

Briar.

The orc’s blade began to swing down when a blur of a hobbit threw himself at the orc and knocked the orc over. Thorin could hear the silence that followed that kill and knew that his brother-in-law was victorious based on Azog’s angry growl.

Thorin slipped into darkness.

‘Promise me.’

Chapter Text

Kíli and Fíli and Dwalin managed to get out of the tree and plowed into the wargs from the side, pushing them from Bilbo, And began to fight. The brunet prince turned as he heard his hobbit uncle yell. Bilbo wounded a warg but the white one hit Bilbo with his head, causing the hobbit to get knocked to the ground. The fighting dwarrow became surrounded by wargs and Kíli lost sight of Bilbo.

Suddenly giant eagles joined in the fight. Some grabbed wargs and orcs and tossed them over the cliff. Others knocked down trees, crushing the wargs below them. Another fanned the flames with its wings and the smell of burning flesh pierced Kíli’s nostrils. Then, they were all being picked up by the eagles and being flown away. Kíli caught sight of Thorin in one of the eagles’ talons.

“Thorin!” He hears Fíli cry out.

They flew for a long time, soaring for a great distance. Kíli vaguely wondered why they hadn’t done this from the start. The eagles took them to a massive rock structure that almost looked like a bear. As soon as they were able, the Company rushed to Thorin’s side.

Gandalf got their first. He placed his hand on Thorin’s face and whispered a spell. Thorin’s eyes fluttered open and he gasped for air. Kíli felt tensions he wasn’t aware he had in his chest lessen.

“Bilbo?” Thorin asked weakly.

“It’s all right,” the Wizard said. “Bilbo is here. He’s quiet safe.”

Kíli and Dwalin helped Thorin up. However, once he was up, he shrugged them off and approached Bilbo quickly. Kíli winced. He knew that look. He definitely got it from Briar.

“You! What were you doing? You nearly got yourself killed! I knew I should have made you stay back in Bag End!” Thorin advances until he was face to face with Bilbo, who remained surprisingly impassive. “But without you, Briar would be a widow and my children without a father.” Thorin grabbed Bilbo and hugged him. “Thank you.”

Bilbo chuckled. “As long as you don’t do anything stupid like that again, I say we’re even.”

The Company chuckled.

Thorin looked beyond Bilbo and something caught his eye. He strode forward and the others followed his gaze.

Kíli’s heart clenched in his chest.

“Is that what I think it is?” Bilbo whispered.

In the distance, upon the horizon, they saw the outline of a single, solitary mountain.

“Erebor—The Lonely Mountain,” Gandalf said proudly. The last of the great dwarf kingdoms of Middle Earth.”

“Our home.” Thorin’s voice tumbled and Kíli felt a strange sense of calm.

A bird chirped and flew by them.

“A raven!” Óin called. “The birds are returning to the mountain!”

“That, my dear Óin,” Gandalf said, “is a thrush.”

“But we’ll take it as a sign a good omen,” Thorin said.

“You’re right,” Bilbo nodded. “I do believe the worst is behind us.”

The Company looked on at the mountain as the sun came up from behind them.

Chapter Text

“Miss Briar!” Lily Took called from the front garden. She sounded slightly distressed.

Briar came out and saw two very familiar elves and a few Rangers at her gate. Bel and Freya had already thrown open said gate and had their arms wrapped around the elven twins’ legs. “Elladan and Elrohir,” Briar looked to them in confusion. “What are you doing here?” Dread began to seep into her heart. “Has something happened?”

“No, no,” Elrohir assured her, picking Bel up. “Everyone was fine last we saw them.”

“Then why—?”

“Master Thorin sent us to get you and your family to take you to Rivendell,” the younger elf said.

“Mithrandir seems to believe orcs are hunting your family,” Elladan told her. “Master Thorin wished you to be brought to the safety of Rivendell’s borders.”

Briar’s heart stuttered in her chest. “Lily, go fetch Kori from the forge and tell her what’s happening.” The hobbit lass nodded. Briar turned back to the elves and the Rangers. “Help me pack for the children.” She then looked to her children who had gathered in the garden. Beryl was down for a nap. “I want you to help them, dear ones. Do you remember when your adad and brothers and uncle and I played ‘Flee’?”

Her children nodded. Thorin had always been slightly afraid that someone might cause her or the children harm. They had a plan in place should they have to leave quickly.

“We’re going to do that now and Elladan and Elrohir are going to help you.” She looked to the elves. “How long do we have?”

“As much as you need,” Elrohir said.

“But as quickly as you can,” Elladan added.

Briar nodded. “Finish the game before Afternoon Tea, understood?”

“Yes, Mum!” Her children shouted before rushing inside, giggling. To them it was a game and Briar hoped they would never know how terrified she was.

Briar hurried inside, the Rangers and elves following in behind her.

“We have a cart you can carry some of the bigger things on,” Arathorn told her. “Children need something familiar.”

Briar smiled. “Thank you.” The hobbit hurried off to get Beryl’s things ready before she finished her own. Soon, Lily brought Kori back. Briar turned to her sister. “Make sure the children aren’t just packing toys.” The dwarf nodded and rushed off. “Lily, do you wish to stay? I won’t make you come with us.”

“Fíli asked me to look after you,” Lily lifted her chin proudly. Her raven hair and violet eyes were striking. “This is my family too now, even if it isn’t official yet. I won’t stay behind.”

Briar smiled. “Thank you. Rush home and get everything you might need. We’re trying to leave before Afternoon Tea.”

Lily nodded and rushed off.

Once Briar readied Beryl and handed her to Arathorn, who was much better with smaller children than the elves were, she went to her own room and began to pack as well. There was nothing of Thorin’s or Bilbo’s or the boy’s to pack save for a few knickknacks. Briar closed her eyes and prayed that everything would be okay.

Chapter Text

The company ran through plains and across streams to get to whatever house Gandalf was leading them towards and away from the orcs.

“Come on!” The wizard yelled only to be interrupted by an ear-splitting roar. “This way, quickly!”

They all gather their bearings and force themselves onward. As they left the forest, they spied a house surrounded by a hedge in the middle of a plain.

“To the house!” Gandalf ordered. “Run!”

The Company ran across the plain. Bilbo was surprised to see Bombur outrunning all of them. They made it through a gate in the hedge.

“Come on,” Gandalf continued. Uses less wizard. “Get inside!”

They make it to the front door of the house, but it’s closed. The Company began to throw themselves against the door, trying to open it. Bilbo glanced back and saw a massive bear break out from the edge of the forest and run towards them.

“Open the door!” Gandalf actually sounded panicked.

“Quickly!” Thorin shouted. He managed to push through the Company against the door and raised the exterior bolt, opening the door.

The entire Company bolted inside the house and tried to slam the door shut, but the bear managed to get its head in the door. As the bear roared and tried to push the door open, the dwarves yelled and strained to close it. Bilbo pulled out his sword and pointed it steadily at the bear. If he pushed past the dwarves he’d go right into Bilbo’s sword and at least be injured enough to give them all a little time.

“Come on, lads!” Dwalin shouted.

With a final shove, the dwarves managed to close the door and drop the bold across it. They sighed and all slumped over.

“What is that?” Ori squeaked.

“That…” Gandalf paused. “Is our host.” The Company turned to the wizard in bewilderment. “His name is Beorn, and he is a skin-changer.” They all blinked up at him in confusion. “Sometimes he’s a huge black bear; sometimes he’s a great strong man. The bear is unpredictable, but the man can be reasoned with. However, he is not overfond of dwarves.”

“He’s leaving!” Ori, who had peaked through a crack in the door, shouted.

Dori pulled him away quickly. “Come away from there! It’s not natural, none of it. It’s obvious: he’s under some dark spell.”

“Don’t be a fool,” Gandalf said sternly. “He’s under no enchantment but his own. Alright now, get some sleep, all of you. You’ll be safe here tonight.” The dwarves started to spread through the house and missed Gandalf whispering to himself. “I hope.”

If they got eaten by a bear, Bilbo was going to blame Thorin.

Chapter Text

Beorn was a strange person. He was much larger than any man Fíli had ever run into (regardless of how few that actually was). He was a gentle sort of giant. He called Bilbo a bunny which was odd and funny all at once.

They had time until Durin’s Day so they decided to wait a week for Thorin to heal. In the time that his uncle was healing, Fíli found himself taking a role of leadership amongst the Company. It was a learning experience. Fíli had spent enough time with the hobbits to have some understanding of what it meant to be a leader, but hobbits were very different from dwarrow in what they needed from leaders, especially one as temporary as Fíli.

“This is why queens are necessary,” Balin told him when Fíli admitted to feeling a bit overwhelmed. “And from what your uncle tells me, you’ve found One.”

Fíli turned bright red. “I—I—I—”

“Didn’t think Thorin would know?” The old dwarf smiled. “Briar thought he had a right to know that you had found your One, but they both thought you should be the one to tell him who the lass was.” That was definitely an invitation to tell the advisor.

“Her name is Lily Took.” Fíli blushed. “She’s a cousin of Mum’s. She’s a bit like amad, to be honest, based on what Thorin told me what she was like before I was born. She’s with Mum now. I asked her to take care of her and the kids.”

“Is she that lass that helped with the food before heading home?” Fíli nodded. “She seemed nice.”

Fíli glanced at Balin. “You aren’t… upset are you? About my One being a hobbit? I… I remember how upset you were about Mum being Thorin’s. And I know… you were worried about the kids too.”

Balin sighed and motioned for Fíli to sit next to him. “I admit, I wasn’t fond of Briar as a One to your uncle. The politics are difficult. Even now I sometimes worry that someone might use the children against you some day.”

Fíli scowled. He loved his younger siblings as much as he loved Kíli. He was their big brother. Bel always ran to him first when she had a nightmare. Freya had him teach her how to engrave leather. Frerin liked doodling on Fíli’s designs. Dís pulled his hair when she was upset but always ‘kissed it better’ when she calmed down. Beryl liked butting her head against his whenever he set her down for a nap.

“It’s not because I think they’re a threat to you,” Balin said quickly. “It’s because they’re children. I feared the same when you and Kíli were born when it came to Thorin. The more people you care about, the more people can use against you. However, Briar will make a gentle queen. The amount of children she has given Thorin, especially considering how many girls, will endear her to our people.” Balin smiled. “And if your Lily gives you half as many children as Briar has given Thorin, the Line of Durin will thrive more than it has the past two centuries.”

Fíli smiled.

That night he dreamed of Lily smiling up at him as she pressed his hands to her growing belly.

Chapter Text

Briar was curled up against him. Her bare chest pressed to his side, her fingers catching against the hair on his chest, nails grazing across old scars, her leg slung across his hip. Her lips and teeth dragged against his collarbone. A content hum rumbled in his chest as he rubbed circles into her lower back.

They were in Erebor. It was his grandfather’s old chambers, but the decor and the feeling of the room had changed so that it reminded Thorin a little of their room in Bag End. They laid in wolf pelts that Thorin knew he had hunted. This was for her. All for her.

Briar’s hand made its way to Thorin’s stomach and he felt a growl come from his throat as he turned them over onto Briar’s back. He began to kiss down her throat, sucking against her pulse point for a moment before going towards her soulmark.

“Thorin…” she whispered. “Thorin… Thorin…” Her voice warbled and he pushed himself up to look down at her. She was crying.

“Briar…” Thorin cupped her cheek in one of his hands. “What’s wrong?” His thumb slid across her cheek to wipe away the budding tear.

Her lip trembled and she just closed her eyes. “Why didn’t you come back?”

“Briar?”

“You promised me.” She opened her eyes to reveal her emerald eyes has dulled into a dim green. “Why didn’t you come back?”

“I am!” Thorin assured her. “I am! I’m coming back! We all are!”

Briar covered her face with her hands. “Why didn’t you come back?”

A warg’s howl broke out around them before Thorin could reply. He reached out for Orcrist and lept from the bed to defend his wife.

Briar screamed behind him.

Thorin turned quickly and saw the wolf pelts beginning to swallow Briar into their folds.

“Thorin!”

Thorin tried to go to her but his feet were planted into the ground.

“Thorin!”

“Briar!”

“Adad!” His children’s screams began to echo throughout the room as everything began to go up in flames.

“Kids!”

Thorin woke up gasping. He sat up quickly and saw that the rest of the Company was still asleep in the skin-changer’s home. The dwarf king laid back down and curled into himself, burying his face in his hands as he began to weep.

He wanted to go back to his children and Briar, but they’ve come too far to turn back now.

Chapter Text

Kíli helped load up the ponies as they readied to head to Mirkwood. Their week of resting was up and soon they would pass through Mirkwood and then get to the mountain. Their quest was almost over.

Soon, they’d be able to send word to Rivendell and Briar and the kids would be able to make the journey. He knew exactly what he would do when he saw them all again.

The second he saw his mum again, Kíli was going to sweep her up into his arms and swing her around. He’d let Thorin and Fíli get their chances afterward. He’d show her the cool looking scar he had gotten while fighting some goblins and then proceed to show her that he was very much alright.

He’d tell the children all about his adventures and give all the girls a big sloppy kiss to the cheek and scratch his stubble to their cheeks just how they liked it. Then he’d first bump Frerin and hoist his little brother onto his shoulder and announce that they were going to role play the battle at the Carrocks.

“Kíli!” Thorin called. “We’re heading out!”

Kíli nodded and mounted his pony. He was next to Fíli on their initial trek to the edge of the forest. As they neared the border, Kíli stuck his hand in his pocket and felt the ridges of the runes on the stone his mum had given him all those years ago.

He would return to her.

He had promised.

Chapter Text

Rivendell was beautiful.

But it wasn’t home.

Lady Arwen, Lord Elrond’s daughter, made sure Briar, Kori, Lily, and the children felt at home and felt comfortable. It didn’t change the fact that this place was not home. Briar belonged back in Bag End or in the mountain. She belonged wherever Thorin was.

The children liked the city well enough and all the elves loved them and adored them for how small they were, but the children wanted to go back to Bag End as well.

“Adad won’t know where we are!” Freya had cried when it was about time for her to take a nap.

“He knows where we are, dear heart,” Briar assured her. “They’ll come for us soon.”

Briar asked that she and the children all share one room. They could all get lost, after all, if they were left to their own devices. Kori and Lily were a wonderful help. Briar wasn’t sure what she would do without them.

“Are you sure you don’t need anything else, Briar?” Kori asked after handing her sister some extra blankets for the children.

“I’m sure,” Briar smiled. “Now, go to sleep. You’ve been staying up too much worrying about us on the road.”

Kori smiled. “Goodnight, Briar. Night kids!”

“Night, irak’amad!” The children called.

Briar tucked her children in and settled in the center of them all. Beryl slept on Briar’s chest. Dís was curled around her head. Frerin and Freya were tucked into her sides. Bel was curled around Frerin, her hand on Beryl’s foot resting on Briar’s stomach.

She closed her eyes and dreamed that Thorin, her boys, and her brothers were coming back for them.

Chapter Text

The Company began to wander through the forest aimlessly. Their minds grew foggy and they staggered in their steps.

“I don’t remember this place before,” Balin grumbled. “None of it’s familiar.”

“It’s got to be here,” Dori grumbled.

“What hour is it?” Thorin asked.

“I do not know,” Dwalin answered. “I don’t even know what day it is.”

“Is there no end to this accursed place?” Thorin growled.

The dwarves were all muttering and rambling as they wandered about. Bilbo absentmindedly plucked a spiderweb. He plucked it again. His ears twitched as he heard a strange whispering sound.

They continue walking and Bilbo found he could not concentrate on where they were going. He looked down to try and figure out where his feet were taking him only to find that he was walking backwards. He looked back up. Nope. He was moving forward. He looked down again and his feet looked like they were going backwards. He glanced behind himself, where Dori was, only to find himself looking at him.

The world was shifting.

He didn’t like it.

Ori looked down and picked up a tobacco pouch. Dori then took it from him.

“Look,” the youngest Ri murmured.

“A tobacco pouch,” his oldest brother observed. “There’s dwarves in these woods.”

Bofur took it next and examined it. “Dwarves from the Blue Mountains, no less. This is exactly the same as mine.”

“Because it is yours,” Bilbo tried not to laugh it was so very frustrating. “You understand? We’re going round in circles. We are lost.”

“We’re not lost,” Dwalin barked. “We keep heading east.”

“But which way is east?” Ori asked. “We’ve lost the sun.”

As the rest of the Company began to bicker, Bilbo looked up and saw a bit of sunlight flutter through the tree canopy.

“The sun,” he said quietly. “We have to find the sun. Up there. We need to—”

The dwarves continued to argue, beginning to push each other around. Thorin was the only one to stand apart from it. Bilbo heard the strange whispering again.

“What?” Thorin called. “What’s that?” He turned to the other dwarves and yelled. “Enough! Quiet! All of you! We’re being watched.”

Bilbo ignored him, which he admitted was probably not the best idea, and climbed one of the nearby trees. He kept climbing up until his head broke through the trees and into the air. It felt as though all the fog in his brain had been lifted and whatever spell the first cast on him was broken.

The hobbit took a deep breath. Blue butterflies flew around him, the sun was setting and everything looked beautiful Bilbo could only smile and laugh.

Right. Landmarks. What direction was the mountain?

He saw several places that could help the Company gain their bearings and called down to the dwarves below. “I—I can see a lake! And a river. And the Lonely Mountain. We’re almost there!” There was no reply. “Can you hear me? I know which way to go! Hello?” He looked down, climbing slightly lower, trying to see his friends and family he heard a thumping noise in the distance and looked up. “Hello?”

Chapter Text

The dwarrow has defeated the spiders that had attacked them and ran through the forest. More spiders jumped down on threads of silk before them and hissed at them. Thorin raised his sword in preparation to fight, but paused and looked up. A blonde elf swung down a spider’s web, landing on it and killing it. He slid on the forest floor under the spider and faced Thorin, slicing it in half and came up kneeling with an arrow nocked in his bow, pointing at it at Thorin and Fíli felt the air in his lungs freeze for a moment. Several other elves appeared, drawing arrows and pointing them at the Company.

“Do not think I won’t kill you, dwarf,” the bond elf growled. “It would be my pleasure.”

Fíli glanced around and saw that the Company was completely surrounded as well as outnumbered. The elves all had their bows drawn. Wait… where was—

“Help!”

“Kíli!” Fíli shouted, turning to where his brother’s voice was coming from.

A spider was pulling his brother away by the door. Fíli tried to reach for him but the elves stopped him. A red-headed she-elf killed the spider pulling Kíli with an arrow. She turned to attack another spider behind her, but another one rushed towards Kíli.

“Throw me your dagger!” His brother called. “Quick!”

“If you think I’m giving you a weapon, dwarf, you’re mistaken!” The she-elf killed her spider with her knife and then spiked and threw the knife that was attacking Kíli.

Kíli looked at the she-elf in amazement and Fíli mentally cursed. Kíli better not be doing what he thought he was doing. Red heads were Kíli’s type.

“Search them,” the blond elfordered. He must be the leader.

The elves approached the dwarrow and started to do as ordered. An elf confiscated two of Fíli’s knives. That was fine. He had more. He heard the blond elf making fun of Glóin’s wife and son. Meanwhile, the elf searching Fíli found more of his knives and the prince sighed when thebelf found more in the secret pockets Lily had sewn in for him. At least they didn’t bother with his locket.

“Gyrth in yngyl bain?” The blond elf asked.

“Ennorner gwanod in yngyl na nyryn. Engain nar,” the she-elf replied.

Fíli opened up His jacket to show the elf searching him that he had no knives left. However, the elf found one hidden in Fíli’s hood. Darn.

An elf handed the blond elf Thorin’s sword And he inspected it.

“Echannen i vegil hen vin Gondolin. Magannen nan Gelydh,” the elf muttered to himself. He looked to Thorin. “Where did you get this?”

“It was given to me.”

“Not just a thief, but a liar as well,” the elf said, pointing the sword at Thorin. “Enwenno hain!”

As the elves began to lead them away, Fíli heard Bofur turn to Thorin and whisper, “Thorin, where’s Bilbo?”

Fíli looked about them wildly. Bilbo was nowhere to be found.

Chapter Text

“Some may imagine that a noble quest is at hand,” Thranduil, king of the Mirkwood, said from his throne. He stood up, slowly. “A quest to reclaim a homeland and slay a dragon. I myself suspect a more prosaic motive: attempted burglary, or something of that ilk.”

Thorin hadn’t seen the elven king since the Fall of Erebor. He was all the pompousness that Thorin had associated with elves for a good century. Where Elrond wore his regality in his grace and gentle smiles, Thranduil wore his with his tall crown and sliding sneers.

Thranduil looked at Thorin closely. “You have found a way in. You seek that which would bestow upon you the right to rule: the King’s Jewel, the Arkenstone. It is precious to you beyond measure. I understand that. There are gems in the mountain that I too desire. White gems of pure starlight. I offer you my help.”

Thorin knew of which he spoke of. “I am listening.”

“I will let you go, if you but return what is mine.”

Thorin turned away and slowly began to walk away, hoping to hide his fury and contempt. He might have become friends with Lord Elrond and his family, but such good feeling had not passed on from Thorin to the rest of his race. “A favor for a favor.”

“You have my word. One king to another.”

Thorin stopped. This elf had let women and children burn by dragon fire. He would surely have refused to aid Briar had Bel been born in the mountain.

‘Breathe, Thorin,’ he heard his wife's voice in his head but he ignored it.

“I would not trust Thranduil, the great king, to honor his word should the end of all days be upon us!” His tone grew into a roar as he spun around and pointed at Thranduil. “You lack all honor! I’ve seen how you treat your friends. We came to you once, starving, homeless, seeking your help, but you turned your back. You turned away from the suffering of my people and the inferno that destroyed us!” He snarled. “Imrid amrad ursul!”

Thranduil leapt from his throne and put his face in Thorin’s. “Do not talk to me of dragon fire. I know its wrath and ruin. I have faced the great serpents of the north.”

As he spoke, his face contorted and Thorin could see his face was covered in what appeared to be burns and scars. His left eye was milky and unseeing. He drew away and his face returned to normal.

The king was a coward, Thorin thought. His pain had turned him to anger and a need to look at others as beneath him. He did not speak of worry for his people. He spoke only of himself, the evidence was in how his kingdom was falling to ruin. Briar had been through so much pain and yet she and Bilbo both had retained their kindness. His sister had lost her husband and their parents and yet she had still been brave. This elf was a coward.

“I warned your grandfather of what his greed would summon, but he would not listen.” Thranduil turned and walked up the steps to his throne. “You are just like him.” The elf king motioned and the guards grabbed Thorin and hauled him to where the others were. “Stay here if you will, and rot. A hundred years is a mere blink in the life of an elf. I am patient. I can wait.”

Thorin could hear Briar in his mind telling him he should have taken the deal. It would have brought him back to her and the children quicker. His own pride had gotten in the way of that.

‘Promise me.’

He was thrown into a cell beside the other dwarrow of his Company and his jailer walked away with a ring of jangling keys.

“Did he offer you a deal?” Balin asked.

“He did,” Thorin grumbled. “And I may have let my temper get the best of me.”

‘You did.’ He could see Briar’s strained smile. It was the one she had had when the children had torn up the garden looking for buried treasure.

Balin sighed wearily in frustration. “Well...that’s it, then. A deal was our only hope.”

“Not our only hope.”

They still didn’t know where Bilbo was.

Chapter Text

They were waiting for Bilbo. If anyone could get them all out of this, his hobbit uncle could.

In his cell, Kíli inspected the rune stone Briar had given him. He made a promise and he intended to keep it. He flipped the stone in the air and caught it on the back of his hand.

The red headed elf, he thought her name might be Tauriel, passed and then paused by his cell. “The stone in your hand, what is it?”

“It is a talisman. A powerful spell lies upon it. If any but a dwarf reads the runes on this stone, they will be forever cursed.” He quickly held up the stone towards Tauriel and she stepped back slightly, a brief look of fear in her eyes. She began to walk away, but stopped when she heard Kíli laugh. “Or not, depending on whether you believe that kind of thing. It’s just a token.” He smiled up at her and she smiled as well. “A runestone. My mum gave it to me so I’d remember my promise.”

“What promise?”

“That I will come back to her.” Tegret flashed through the she-elf’s eyes and she glanced at the bars of his cell. “She worries. She thinks I’m reckless.”

“Are you?”

“Nah.”

He smiled and tossed up his stone. He missed when he tried to catch it and it rolled out of his cell. His heart dropped. But Tauriel stopped it with her foot before it could roll off into the cliff outside his cell. She picked it up and inspected it.

“It says ‘return to me’ in Khuzdul,” he told her. “My mum gave it to me when I was a child. my brother has one too. I don’t think my uncle has one though.” Bilbo had one that his own mum had given him when he was a faunt. “My younger siblings are too small to have one yet.”

“How many siblings do you have?” She asked.

“An older brother, he’s the blond one with all the knives. Four little sisters and a little brother.”

“I wasn’t aware dwarves had such big families.”

“We don’t. My mum’s not a dwarf.”

Her eyes widened slightly. “Then are you not a dwarf?”

He smiled weakly. “My mum is my uncle’s wife. She took care of us after my amad died.” After she was killed. “She became a mother to us long before she married my uncle though. My siblings are technically my cousins, but we share a mum, so they all think of me as their brother.” Kíli stood and leaned against the cell bars. “She’s a hobbit, although I don’t think anyone this far East has ever heard of her kind.” He could hear elves laughing in the distance. “Sounds like quite a party you’re having up there.”

“It is Mereth-en-Gilith, the Feast of Starlight.” She stepped away slightly. “All light is sacred to the Eldar, but Wood Elves love best the light of the stars.”

“I always thought it is a cold light, remote and far away.”

The elf maid came back to him and spoke earnestly. “It is memory, precious and pure. Like your promise.” She smiled at him and handed the stone back to Kíli. “I have walked there sometimes, beyond the forest and up into the night. I have seen the world fall away and the white light forever fill the air.”

“I saw a fire moon once,” Kíli told her. “My mum took my brother and I out camping. We slept under the stars and she told us stories. There was a fire moon that night. She made up a story of how the moon shone red because it had fallen in love with a maid with red hair, but she was a daughter of the earth and could not be with someone destined to hang in the sky amongst the stars. The Valar took pity on the moon and let her be reborn so that he might see her again. He becomes red when he has found her again.” He smiled. “I wish I could show you.”

They continued talking and Kíli never felt more at peace.

Chapter Text

Briar was sitting with Lily and Arwen and Kori in a solar outside their main rooms. Lily and Arwen were talking over politics and Briar had to smile. She and her future daughter-in-law would definitely be the ones to deal with elves once they make their final move to Erebor. Kori was sharpening one of her many daggers (her collection was probably equal to Fíli’s). Briar was mending some of her children’s clothes. The nights had gotten lonelier since the children, save Beryl, had decided that they wanted to sleep in their own beds, which had been brought from Bag End with them.

She had been dreaming of Thorin more often. She dreamed of him holding her close and almost always he faded away. She didn’t dream of Bilbo or that awful ring again. Sometimes she dreamed of her eldest sons, but they were children again. Ones who would snuggle into her side and ask her to sing them songs and tell them stories.

The thought brought tears to her eyes.

“Miss Briar?” Lily and Arwen were looking at her and Kori had stopped sharpening her blade. “Are you alright?”

The hobbit sniffed. “I just… miss my boys, is all.”

Suddenly, Lord Elrond burst into the solar, looking pale and lacking any of the grace he usually carried.

Arwen stood up. “Adar, what’s wrong?”

“I must leave to aid Mithrandir in something. I will return as soon as I am able, but I do not know how long I shall be gone.” The elf lord regained some of his graces, but Briar felt her stomach knot in fear.

“Is everything alright?” She asked, standing up. “Is everyone safe?”

“From what I have been told.”

He was keeping a secret. “Lord Elrond, please.”

His lips formed a stern line. “Your husband and the rest of your family is safe. But Thorin faced Azog the Defiler in battle and did not come out unscathed.”

Kori was at Briar’s side in an instant as the hobbit fell to her knees. Thorin had been injured. He’d been hurt. Her Enaid had been hurt. What of her boys? What of her brothers?

“Everyone is safe and Thorin is recovering as well. It is not towards them that I am to join Mithrandir.”

“The orc that killed his grandfather and wishes to destroy the Line of Durin still walks amongst the living. Gandalf has gone away from them and you are to join him. My family is safe, but for how long?”

“Briar,” Lord Elrond knelt before her. “I promise you, all shall be well with the Line of Durin. Taking back the mountain is necessary. There is an evil rising in the East and Erebor would help with the fight towards the light. If I didn’t think this quest was necessary, I would have ended it the second I came to understand your family was being hunted.”

Briar did not know what came over her. “I want to go home. We would all be safe in the Shire.”

Lord Elrond frowned as Kori began to rub circles on Briar’s back. “I’m afraid that whatever darkness is spreading, the Shire would not be safe from it.”

Briar buried her face in her hands and wept. She wanted her husband. She wanted her sons. She wanted her brothers. She did not know how much more of this she could take.

Chapter Text

“I’ll wager the sun’s on the rise,” Bofur bemoaned. “It must be nearly dawn.”

“We’re never going to reach the mountain, are we?” Ori asked quietly.

What would these dwarves do without him, was the thought Bilbo had as he took off his funny ring. “Not stuck in here, you’re not!” He shook the keys triumphantly.

The dwarves all jumped in surprise and Bilbo hastily tucked the ring into his pocket.

“Bilbo!” Balin and the other dwarves exclaimed.

“Shhh! There are guards nearby!” Bilbo unlocked Thorin’s cell first and then got all the others out. They were all chuckling at their freedom and wondered how on earth they were all so happy when they could be caught any minute. Some of the dwarves began to head up. “Not that way, down here. Follow me.”

Bilbo proceeded to lead them through the Woodland Realm—if it were any other moment in time, Bilbo might have wondered at the strange beauty of it all, but there was no time to do so. They snuck through the halls and Bilbo was able to finally get them in the wine cellar the hobbit had found earlier. The elves were still asleep with several very empty bottles of wine in front of them. Bilbo led them further in.

“This way.”

“I don’t believe it!” Kíli exclaimed. “We’re in the cellars!”

“You were supposed to be leading us out, not further in!” Bofur accused.

Bilbo sighed. “I know what I’m doing!”

“Shhh!”

“This way.” Bilbo motioned for them to follow him. They followed him into the large room with the barrels stacked sideways down the middle of the room. “Everyone, climb into the barrels, quickly!”

“Are you mad?!” Dwalin barked. “They’ll find us!”

“No, no, they won’t, I promise you. Please, please, you MUST trust me!” The dwarves looked at him skeptically which only caused Bilbo to glare at Thorin.

His brother-in-law sighed. “Do as he says!”

Each of the dwarves climbed into a barrel and Bilbo walked along to make sure all the dwarves were accounted for.

Bofur stuck his head out of his barrel. “What do we do now?”

All the dwarves looked at him expectantly as he walked towards the lever. “Hold your breath.”

“Hold my breath? What do you mean?”

Bilbo pulled the lever and the part of the floor the barrels were on tilted downward and into an opening And into the river below. Bilbo ran and slid after the barrels, the trap door closing just above his head.

Chapter Text

The river had calmed down and the dwarrow paddles along in their barrels with their hands.

“Anything behind us?” Thorin asked.

“Not that I can see,” Balin answered.

“I think we’ve outrun the orcs,” Bofur hiccuped.

“Not for long; we’ve lost the current,” Fíli heard his uncle grumble.

“Bofur is half drown,” Dwalin rolled his eyes.

“Make for the shore!” Thorin ordered. “Come on, let’s go!”

They paddled to the riverbank and climbed out onto a slab of rock hitting out a bit into the river.

“Come on!” Dwalin called.

Fíli saw as his brother stumbled onto the rocks and fell to his knees in pain from the arrow wound on his thigh. He had apparently bound it quickly, but blood was sleeping through.

“I’m fine, it’s nothing,” Kíli brushed off the concern given to him.

“On your feet.” Thorin gave Kíli only a passing glance, keeping his eyes on the direction that they came.

“Kili’s wounded,” Fíli said, going to his brother. “His leg needs binding.”

“There’s an orc pack on our tail; we keep moving.”

“To where?” Balin asked.

“To the mountain, Bilbo suggested. “We’re so close.”

“A lake lies between us and that mountain,” Balin sighed. “We have no way to cross it.”

“So then we go around,” the hobbit suggested.

Fíli wished they could have gone around the forest.

“The orcs will run us down, as sure as daylight,” Dwalin grimaced. “We have no weapons to defend ourselves.”

“Bind his leg, quickly,” Thorin ordered. “You have two minutes.”

Fíli quickly got to work on Kíli’s leg. Something in all of them seemed to tense and they looked over to where Ori was getting the water out of his boots and saw an archer standing on a pile of rocks, his arrow aimed at Ori. Fíli felt dread instantly pool in his stomach. The company jumped to their feet, the pain Kíli felt, apparently forgotten. Dwalin was the closest and held up a branch in front of Ori to defend his One’s youngest brother. He began to charge, but the man shot his arrow and it embedded itself in the middle of the branch between Dwalin’s hands. Kíli raised a rock to throw, but the man shot the rock out of his hand.

“Do it again, and you’re dead,” the man growled.

Balin approaches the man slowly, hands in the air. “Excuse me, but, uh, you’re from Laketown, if I’m not mistaken? That barge over there, it wouldn’t be available for hire, by any chance?”

The man lowered his bow and stomped off towards his barge as the dwarrow and Bilbo followed. “What makes you think I will help you?”

“Those boots have seen better days,” Balin said calmly. The man ignored that and began to load the dwarrow’s empty barrels into his barge. “As has that coat. No doubt you have some hungry mouths to feed. How many bairns?”

“A boy and two girls,” he answered.

“And your wife, I’d imagine she’s a beauty.”

“Aye. She was.”

Fíli winced.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-”

The advisor’s brother interrupted him. “Oh, come on, come on, enough with the niceties.”

“What’s your hurry?” The man asked.

Dwalin glared at him. “What’s it to you?”

“I would like to know who you are and what you are doing in these lands.”

“We are simple merchants from the Blue Mountains journeying to see our kin in the Iron Hills,” Balin said and it was almost convincing.

“Simple merchants, you say?”

Thorin crossed his arms. “We’ll need food, supplies, weapons. Can you help us?”

The man looked at the barrels and Fíli knew he could see the damage they had gained during the fight with the orcs.

“I know where these barrels came from.”

Thorin stiffened. “What of it?”

“I don’t know what business you had with the elves, but I don’t think it ended well. No one enters Laketown but by leave of the Master. All his wealth comes from trade with the Woodland Realm. He will see you in irons before risking the wrath of King Thranduil.”

The man began to board his barge tossing a rope to Balin. Fíli saw his uncle mouth ‘offer him more’ to his advisor.

Balin nodded. “I’ll wager there are ways to enter that town unseen.”

“Aye. But for that, you will need a smuggler.”

“For which we will pay double.”

Chapter Text

Thorin leaned against the wall of the barge, watching his nephews carefully. Óin was tending to Kíli’s wound. His youngest nephew was fighting off delirium and the pain.

“Those your sons?” Bard, who had finally given his name, asked.

“Nephews,” Thorin conceded. “But I’ve raised them twenty-five years or so since their mother, my sister, passed.”

“I’m sorry for your loss,” the man conceded.

“I’m sorry for yours.”

“Do you have any children then?”

“Five. Four girls and a boy. My wife is back home with them. Her sister and my nephew’s… well, she isn’t his betrothed yet, are helping her.”

“Why do they not travel with you?”

“Our children are too young. The youngest would be only three by your years. The traveling is too dangerous for them with a company so small.”

“Yet you travel.”

“That we do.”

“To the Iron Hills.” He sounded skeptical.

“Where we lived is no longer safe. We are hoping to find safer passageways for my wife and the children to come through once we make connections to the Iron Hills.”

“They have been still as of late. Years ago there were some trades between them and the Blue Mountains. Yet in the past couple decades there has been nothing.”

“Aye. The people of the Blue Mountains did some things to anger the lord of the Iron Hills. You could say that my company and I hope to bridge the two together again.”

Bard nodded and the two continued on in silence.

Chapter Text

Kíli felt cold. He had been in a river for far too long, but it was more than that. He felt cold to his very bones. He could feel his heart pulsing, not in his chest, but from the wound in his leg. Fíli kept telling him to stay awake but it was just so hard.

Every time he closed his eyes he saw his mum. He saw his amad, or at least who he assumed the dam was. He saw Tauriel.

Their soft voices whispered in his head and it only made it hurt worse.

He wanted it to stop.

Kíli curled into his brother’s side and tried to shut out the cold and the pain. Fíli wrapped his arms around him and Kíli realized he was trembling.

For a brief moment, he dreamed of Briar stroking his hair when he was sick as a child. He remembered her soft voice as she sang a tender lullaby.

Kíli wanted his mum.

Chapter Text

Briar could hear the elves talking. Many of them were still not completely used to her presence in Rivendell and she wasn’t as loud as her children were. They talked of things they probably did not want her to know, but still, she listened.

More orcs had been found near Rivendell and a few Rangers had come by to say that a few orcs, orcs who seemed to be under orders from someone, were trying to get to the Shire.

“They knew the name Baggins,” one of the Rangers grunted. “I don’t like that any of them were near the hobbits. Last time they were that close was during the Fell Winter when they were starving. They aren’t starving now.”

Briar shivered. She was glad they had come when they did.

They had been in the Shire for two months since the Company left and they had traveled for a month and then they had been with the elves for another two. Five months she had not seen her husband or her boys or her brothers. She did not wish to sleep in fear that she might dream of them only to wake and find them gone.

Her children kept her busy. Beryl was getting more confident in her explorations and Lady Arwen was good with all the children, she was even teaching them all Sindarin. Bel and Lily both were the quickest learners. Kori said it was pointless to learn, but Briar saw her practicing the elvish script when she thought no one was looking.

That night, she went to fetch some more blankets, as the nights had been getting colder, when she heard more hushed tones coming from Lady Arwen’s solar. Briar peeked in.

“There’s a battle coming,” an elf, Glorfindel she believed his name was, said. “I do not know when or where, but those dwarves and the hobbit will be caught up in it.”

Briar stopped breathing for a moment.

“They are only going to get the Arkenstone and then go to their council of lords for aid afterwards. They are not going to fight the dragon,” Lady Arwen said urgently.

“It may be their plan, but plans do not always go as one initially thinks. Perhaps things would be different if Azog the Defiler were not skulking about, but there are powers beyond happenstance that is trying to impede the quest of Thorin Oakenshield.”

“But the children—”

“Will be safe here, but we cannot promise the safety of anyone beyond these borders. Your grandmother has left Lorien. Do you understand what this means?”

Briar did not, but she could listen no more as she rushed back to her bed and to her youngest child. She curled around Beryl and prayed to all the Valar that would listen to someone as insignificant as her and asked that they watch over her family. For she could not lose her family again. She couldn’t.

Chapter Text

Bilbo thanked the youngest girl, Tilda, as she passed out blankets to him and the rest of the Company. They had all mutually agreed to never speak of having to climb through the sewer… Ever.

Bilbo could see Thorin looking out the window. Whether it was to keep a lookout or to simply look out, Bilbo wasn’t sure. His brother-in-law’s eyes narrowed and then widened.

“A Dwarvish Wind-Lance.”

Bilbo stood, taking a sip of a hot drink the oldest girl, Sigrid, had given him. He glanced out the window and saw what Thorin was referring to. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“He has,” Balin said. “The last time we saw such a weapon, a city was on fire. It was the day the dragon came.” Thorin looked away, but his advisor continued. “The day that Smaug destroyed Dale. Girion, the Lord of the city, rallied his bowman to fire upon the beast. But a dragon’s hide is tough, tougher than the strongest armor. Only a black arrow, fired from a wind-lance, could have pierced the dragon’s hide, and few of those arrows were ever made. His store was running low when Girion made his last stand.”

“Had the aim of Men been true that day, much would have been different.”

“You speak as if you were there,” Bard said coming up behind them.

Thorin glanced at him. “Many dwarves lost their home that day. All dwarves know the tale.”

“Then you would know that Girion hit the dragon,” the boy, Bain, said. “He loosened a scale under the left wing. One more shot and he would have killed the beast.”

Dwalin laughed. “That’s a fairy story, lad. Nothing more.”

Thorin looked to Bard again. “You took our money. Where are the weapons?”

“Wait here,” their host said. He left them to do as he promised.

“Tomorrow begins the last days of autumn,” Thorin said darkly.

“Durin’s Day falls morn after next,” Balin said wearily. “We must reach the mountain before then.”

“And if we do not?” Kíli asked. “If we fail to find the hidden door before that time?”

His older brother shuddered. “Then this quest has been for nothing.”

Chapter Text

The Company was arranged under guard in the town square before the doors of a mansion. It was a poor looking building but far more extravagant than the rest of the buildings in the town. A couple guards opened the doors of it and a large, fat man stormed out as he was still putting on his coat.

“What is the meaning of this?” He bellowed.

“We caught ‘em stealing weapons, sire,” the captain of the guard sneered.

“Ah. Enemies of the state, then.” The man, who Fíli supposed was the Master, grinned.

His lackey came up next to the foul man. “This is a bunch of mercenaries if ever there was, sire.”

“Hold your tongue,” Dwalin barked. “You do not know to whom you speak. This is no common criminal; this is Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror!”

He motioned towards Thorin and Fíli’s uncle stepped forward. The crowd began to murmur in amazement.

“We are the dwarves of Erebor,” Thorin said with every inch of power that only a true king could possess. Fíli imagined his mum would be proud of how he held himself surrounded by all these Tall Folk. The crowd continued to whisper in school and recognition and people even began to crane their heads to see the Company better. It was a strange feeling. Fíli wasn’t exactly used to being recognized. “We have come to reclaim our homeland. I remember this town and the great days of old. Fleets of boats lay at harbor, filled with silks and fine gems. This was no forsaken town on a lake! This was the center of all trade in the North.” People were nodding in agreement at Thorin’s earnest words. Thorin had been their leader in this quest, but it felt as though Fíli were seeing a new side of him. “I would see those days return. I would relight the great forges of the dwarves and send wealth and riches flowing once more from the halls of Erebor!”

 

The people began to clap and cheer. Fíli focused on the Master. His eyes reminded him vaguely of the dwarven lords just before his amad was killed. Suddenly, a voice broke from the crowd and Bard strode forward.

“Death! That is what you will bring upon us. Dragon-fire and ruin. If you awaken that beast, it will destroy us all.”

The people began to whisper anxiously. Fíli contemplated how easily they were persuaded.

“You can listen to this naysayer, but I promise you this: if we succeed, all will share in the wealth of the mountain.” Fíli smiled at his uncle’s words. “You will have enough gold to rebuild Esgaroth ten times over!”

The people began to shout in excitement and they applauded. The Master looked on, smiling and nodding at the turn of events.

“All of you!” Bard shouted. “Listen to me! You must listen! Have you forgotten what happened to Dale?!” The people grew quiet. “Have you forgotten those who died in the firestorm?!” They answered that they had not. “And for what purpose? The blind ambition of a mountain-king so riven by greed, he could not see beyond his own desire!”

Bard and Thorin stared at each other and then the Master stepped forward. “Now, now, we must not, any of us, be too quick to lay blame. Let us not forget that it was Girion, Lord of Dale, your ancestor, who failed to kill the beast!” He pointed to Bard accusingly.

Fíli’s eyes widened in shock.

“It’s true, sire,” the lackey said with a smirk. “We all know the story: arrow after arrow he shot, each one missing its mark.”

Bard looked around him and saw that he was losing the people. He went to Thorin and spoke to him earnestly. “You have no right, no right to enter that mountain!”

“I have the only right.”

Chapter Text

“You lied,” Bard accused as the revelry of the town continued.

“I omitted, but I never lied,” Thorin said calmly.

“You intend to wake the dragon!”

“I intend to get the Arkenstone and then leave to the Iron Hills where my people will amass an army that can take on that dragon. Your people can join the fight or they can find refuge amongst my people in the Iron Hills while we fight.” Thorin looked up at him. “Your people weren’t the only ones to suffer because of that dragon. Your family lost honor. Mine lost our home. My grandfather was beheaded, my father died in some cell, my brother died in battle, my sister was murdered by our own people because they did not believe we were good enough to serve them. My wife and children are in danger because the orc who killed my grandfather seeks vengeance on me and mine.”

Bard was silent.

“You may judge me all you like, but I am not doing this for my own pride or desire. I am doing this because I need to have a safe place for my children to grow up in. I will not have them live in fear of hunger as my nephews did in their younger years. I will not have my wife live with a dagger underneath her pillow because she fears someone might hurt our children. You are a father, Bard. What would you do for them if you knew you had to face dragon fire to secure them a better future? Would you face the beast or would you run until your son has to take up the running for you?”

At that, Thorin left and joined his Company in their revelry.

Chapter Text

“You do know we’re one short,” Bilbo’s voice came from the group as they made their way to the boar that would take them to the mountain. “Where’s Bofur?”

“If he’s not here,” Thorin said, “we leave him behind.”

“We have to,” Balin muttered, “if were to find the door before nightfall. We can’t risk anymore delays”

They marched along the pier and they all began to board the boat. The Master has given them all armor and something regal, but it was very obviously man-made.

Kíli was about to get on the boat when Thorin stopped him. “Not you. We must travel with speed, you will slow us down.”

Kíli smiled. “What are you talking about? I’m coming with you.”

“No.”

No. This couldn’t be happening. “I’m going to be there when that door is opened, when we first look upon the halls of our fathers, Thorin.”

“Kili, stay here. Rest. Join us when you’re healed.” Thorin put his hand on Kíli’s shoulder and smiled sadly. “Your mum would strangle me if she knew I put you in any more danger than I could help.” That was when Kíli knew his uncle was serious.

Thorin turned as Kíli looked on to the others. As Thorin got on the boat, Óin got off. “I’ll stay with the lad. My duty lies with the wounded.”

“Uncle, we grew up on tales of the mountain,” Fíli said as Óin began to examine Kíli. “Tales you told us. You can’t take that away from him!”

“Fili,” Thorin warned.

“I will carry him, if I must!” Fíli shouted.

“One day you will be king, and you will understand,” their uncle said, putting a hand on Fíli’s shoulder. “I cannot risk the fate of this quest for the sake of one dwarf, not even my own kin. We have your mother and the children to think about as well.” Kíli caught his brother’s she and Fíli stepped out of the boar. Thorin tried to stop him. “Fili, don’t be a fool. You belong with the Company.”

“I belong with my brother. It’s what mum would want.” Fíli pulled away from Thorin and joined Kíli and Óin.

Chapter Text

Briar was panicking.

She was rushing about trying to find it.

“Where is it!” She cried as she searched through the things that had come with them from the Shire. “Where is it?!”

She couldn’t find it!

After what felt like hours of searching, Briar collapsed and began to cry, clutching Bel’s baby blanket. Glorfindel was the one to find her. The elf froze for a moment before running out of the solar as though a Balrog had returned to seek vengeance. Soon after, Kori and Lily came to her with a worried Arwen at their heels.

Kori reached her first. “Shhh… what’s wrong?”

“I can’t…”

“Can’t what, sis?” The dam asked gently, rubbing circles in her back.

“I can’t find Thorin’s forge apron!” She sobbed. “I thought I packed it! I thought I brought it with us! But it’s back in the Shire!” Briar buried her face in her daughter’s old blanket. “And I can’t find Fíli’s old coat or Kíli’s first bow pads or Bilbo’s dress shirt! I can’t find Thorin’s scarf!”

“Shh…” Kori pulled the sobbing hobbit into her arms. “We’ll have one of the twins go to the Shire and have Caspian and Primula and Drogo find everything for you. Shh…”

“I need them!”

“Miss Briar,” Lily sat down next to her future mother-in-law. “I think you should have Lady Arwen look you over.”

“Why?”

“Things have been hectic recently and I thought you were just trying to make the kids comfortable, but… Miss Briar, are you nesting?”

The three who knew the term froze.

Arwen, who had no idea what nesting was, knelt before Briar calmly. “What should I be looking for?”

“She might be pregnant,” Kori whispered. She scoffed. “Of course Thorin would do this. He was so careful after Beryl was born but now that he’s about to face a dragon he got reckless.”

“Beryl was just an anomaly,” Lily said quietly as Arwen began the examination. “It was the middle of winter and everyone was getting sick. Miss Briar was ill for the last month of that pregnancy.”

The younger hobbit and the dam whispered comforting words to Briar as Arwen continued her examination. After a few moments the elleth pulled away.

“I’m not as great a healer as my father, but I can see you are pregnant.” She held Briar’s hand. “I would say you’re a little over five months along.”

Briar was happy, happy that Thorin left a little treasure with her, even without either of them knowing it. But Thorin wasn’t there. He didn’t know. She didn’t know how long it would take for the quest to finish. She didn’t know how to send word to them without the possibility of someone intercepting it.

She had four months at least until the baby came. Briar closed her eyes and curled into her older sister’s arms. She didn’t want Thorin to miss this. Forget the mountain. She wanted her husband back. She wanted her sons back. She wanted her brothers back.

Briar just wanted her family back.

Chapter Text

Bilbo watched in horror as the sun disappeared behind the distant mountains.

“No!” Thorin cried out as he stumbled forward and re-examined the old map. “The last light of Durin’s Day will shine upon the keyhole. That’s what it said.” He looked at the others in disbelief and Bilbo’s heart broke for all of them. “What did we miss?” He looked to his advisor. “What did we miss, Balin?”

“We’ve lost the light,” the old dwarf said sadly. “There’s no more to be done. We had but one chance.” Everyone bowed their heads in despair and turned towards the stairs. “Come away; it’s...it’s over.”

“Wait a minute!” Bilbo shouted.

“You wait,” Glóin muttered.

“Where are they going? You can’t give up now!” He looked to Thorin, hoping his brother-in-law would be able to rouse the spirit of the rest of the Company as he had been doing since the start of the quest, but Thorin turned away, unable to look Bilbo in the eye. He held out the key and dropped it to the ground. “Thorin...you can’t give up now.”

“I told you I could guarantee Briar nothing when we married, Bilbo,” Thorin said, his voice utterly broken. He pushed the map into the hobbit’s chest. “It’s over. We need to go back. You can return to the Shire if you wish, but it’s not safe for the children anymore. We’ll stay in Rivendell. It’s over, Bilbo.”

He turned and he and the Company began to descend down the stairs, but Bilbo remained.

Bilbo would not give up. They didn’t come all this way just to give up. He’d stay here for another year or decade if it meant finding that door.

“Stand by the grey stone...” he went and stood by the grey wall. “When the thrush knocks…” There was not a thrush to be found. “The setting sun...and the last light of Durin’s Day will shine. Hmm. The last light. Last light…”

He turned away and continued to mutter to himself. He looked up to where the sun had once hung in the sky and saw the clouds move to reveal the moon. The light flooded into the clearing. He heard a noise and turned to see a thrush hitting a snail against the grey wall. Just as the moonlight hit the wall, the thrush flew away.

Bilbo laughed. Of course! “The last light!”

The moonlight illuminated a keyhole in the rock and Bilbo gasped. He turned to hell for the dwarves, but they were already gone. He rushed to peer down the stairs, but he saw no sign of them.

“The keyhole! Come back! Come back! It’s the light of the moon, the last moon of autumn!” He laughed like a madman as he began to search the ground. “Where’s the—Where’s the key? Where’s the—it was here… but it was here, it was here! It was just…”

Bilbo continued looking frantically for the key. He felt his foot hit it and the key went flying from the clearing. Bilbo shouted and just as it was about to fall off the side of the mountain, a boot stepped on it. Bilbo sighed in relief when he saw it was Thorin. Slowly, he reached down and picked the key up to examine it. He looked to Bilbo and smiled.

Chapter Text

“Ah!” Bofur came up behind them as they remaining dwarrow watched the other half of their Company sail away. “So you missed the boat as well?”

Suddenly, Kíli moaned in pain and began to double over. “Kíli?” Fíli caught him. “Kíli!”

Óin examined him for a moment. “We need to get him inside.”

“But where to!” Bofur asked, helping Fíli support the younger prince.

“I don’t trust the Master,” Fíli said. “We go to Bard.”

It took them a moment or two to get to the bargeman’s home. They knocked frantically until the man opened his door.

“No. I’m done with dwarves. Go away.”

He tried to close the door, but Bofur stopped it with his foot. “No, no, no! No one will help us; Kili’s sick. He’s very sick.”

Bard looked at Kíli for a moment before letting the dwarrow in. They laid a moaning Kíli on a bed as he strained against the pain. His face was covered in sweat and even without any training, Fíli knew they needed to get the fever down. Bofur brought them a bowl of hot water to help.

“Can’t you do something?” Fíli asked the healer.

“I need herbs,” Óin replied. “Something to bring down his fever.”

“I have nightshade,” Bard said from behind them. “Feverfew…”

“They’re not use to me,” the healer said as he tried to tend to his patient. “Do you have any Kingsfoil?”

“No, it’s a weed,” the man replied. “We feed it to the pigs.”

“Pigs? Weed? Right.” Bofur pointed to Kíli. “Don’t move. I’ll go get it.”

Chapter Text

Thorin inserted the key into the keyhole and turned it. He could almost hear the mechanism behind the rock as the dwarven king pushed the wall and the previously unseen door opened into the mountain. The seam of the door shifted and it opened into a tunnel that would go all the way into the mountain.

“Erebor.” Thorin stood at the threshold god the place of his birth.

“Thorin…” He heard Ballin’s choked back breaths and Thorin put his hand on his advisor’s shoulder and stepped into the mountain.

“I know these walls…” Thorin ran his hands over the side of the tunnel. “These walls, this stone.” He and his siblings had played here. His father used to steal kisses from Thorin’s mother here. He used to come here to think. “You remember it, Balin. Chambers filled with golden light.”

He could almost see the family he had lost still laughing and happy in the memories they lived in.

Soon, his new family would be here. He could see his children running along the stone as Briar called out to him. He could see his wife smiling up at him as she laughed at their children's antics.

This would be their home one day.

Thorin’s thoughts were interrupted by Balin’s words: “I remember.”

Chapter Text

Kíli could hear his brother and Óin talking to him, but he couldn’t make out what they were saying. He thought he heard Briar’s too. Then he heard a voice that was like an echo in his soul.

Amad?

He felt someone stroking his forehead. “Shh… it’s not your time yet,” the voice said gently.

He saw dark hair and piercing blue eyes. Amad?

“Just wait a little while longer and everything will be okay.”

Amad?

“You have to stay awake, love. You don’t want your mum to cry, so you?”

No. He did not.

“Just a little while longer.”

He felt cold lips press against his fevered brow.

Chapter Text

Briar sat in Arwen’s solar as she mended some of Beryl’s smaller clothes for the new baby. She was certain the child was going to be another girl. Briar seemed to have the opposite problem most dams had when it came to the gender of her children. Even so, all of her children’s baby things had been very neutral in color, as was the tradition of hobbits. Blues for girls and then greens for boys.

After learning she was pregnant, Briar had calmed down greatly. Her nesting he stopped being such a worrying thing after Frerin was born, but that might have been because she had plenty of family to nest from. In Rivendell, the elves were very accommodating in what they were willing to give her to nest. The twins had fetched quite a few things from Bag End, including some of Thorin, Fíli, Kíli, and Bilbo’s old clothes that Briar had stored for when Frerin got a little older.

“Miss Briar?” Lily entered the solar with some sewing projects of her own. “May I join you?”

Briar smiled. “Never ask, Lily. You’re always welcome to join me. I am your future mother, even if it is only by law and I am your cousin regardless.”

The young hobbit beamed and quickly sat next to Briar and began to sew. The matron recognized what Lily was working on. “Your marriage quilt?”

Lily blushed and nodded. “I want it to be as beautiful as yours.”

Briar smiled. Her own marriage quilt was at the base of her nest at the moment. It’s how all hobbit nests began. Her own was a Durin blue with her husband’s family crest at the corners with briar vines lacing the crests together. At the center was a briar flower with oak branches stretching out. Briar had been quite proud of it. Thorin had loved it too, although he didn’t understand the need at first.

“Have you chosen your design?”

“I thought to do something similar to yours. It’s what is done anyway. But instead of briar flowers I would do lilies and then I hoped to do a lion at the center with a Lily in its mouth.”

“It sounds beautiful. I’m sure Fíli will love it.”

Lily blushed. They were quiet for a few moments as they began to work again. “Miss Briar?”

“Hm?”

“What’s it like, being married to a dwarf? Is it different from being married to a hobbit?”

Briar chuckled. “I’ve never been married to a hobbit so I wouldn’t know. But I will tell you that loving a dwarf is so very different from loving a hobbit. Your life will be longer after the bonding. I’ve aged much slower than a hobbit my age should. I’m only a decade or so older than Fíli, but Because I was born a hobbit, I aged much faster than he did. Dwarrow age at a slower rate so, now that I’ve bonded to a dwarf, I age more slowly. That, I suppose is the biggest difference. It only means I get to spend more time with Thorin than most hobbits do with their Enaids.”

Lily smiled. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“It took some getting used to. It might take you about as long as it did me to fall pregnant.” Briar thought for a moment. “The true question is how different hobbit and dwarrow children are. They age more slowly as well so they are babies for longer. It’s both a blessing and a curse.” She smiled. “It’s why I was so grateful for you coming to help us.”

“I’m glad I came to the Shire when I did.”

“Was your father alright with you coming with us?”

“He knows my heart and souls are with you all. You will be the only mother I really know since mine died when I was only thirteen.”

Briar put down her project and took Lily’s hand. “And it is an honor to be that for you.”

Lily smiled and squeezed Briar’s hand back.

Chapter Text

“Well, thief, I smell you,” the dragon rumbled, his voice like tumbling boulders. “I hear your breath. I feel your air. Where are you?” He moved his head trying to place where Bilbo was under the protection of his ring.

In a panic, Bilbo ran down the mountain of treasure. The coins dislodged as he went and Smaug could tell where he was going. The dragon followed and Bilbo sucked behind an outcropping of stone as Smaug continued his search.

“Come now, don’t be shy. Step into the light. Mmm, there is something about you, something you carry. Something made of gold, but far more...PRECIOUSSSSS.”

The final word reverberated through Bilbo’s head over and over and his head began to pound against the strain. A flaming rye burst into his vision and he yanked the ring off, becoming visible to Smaug.

“There you are, thief in the shadows.”

“I did not come to steal from you, O Smaug the Unassessably Wealthy,” Bilbo said, stumbling back. “I merely wanted to gaze upon your magnificence, to see if you really were as great as the old tales say. I did not believe them.”

Hearing this question of his glory, Smaug stomped back and drew himself up so Bilbo could see the dragon’s entire body. The beast was massive with two back legs, two massive, bat-like wings with claws, and both his neck and tail were long and muscled.

“And, do you you now?!”

“Truly, the tales and songs fall utterly short of your enormity, O Smaug the Stupendous.”

“Do you think flattery will keep you alive?”

“N—no, no.” Think. Bilbo needed to think. Something. Anything!

“No, indeed. You seem familiar with my name, but I don’t remember smelling your kind before. Who are you, and where do you come from, may I ask?”

Smaug snaked his head closer to Bilbo when he asked this. Bilbo was about to answer when he saw the Arkenstone. It really WAS obvious once seen. It was small and white and flowed with an unnatural light. It was visible even under a small layer of coins.

“I—I come from under the hill.”

“Underhill?” The dragon sounded intrigued.

Bilbo nodded and glanced at the Arkenstone again. “And under hills and over hills my path has led. And, and, through the air. I am he who walks unseen.”

“Impressive.” Smaug appeared to settle in upon the treasure hoard to listen to Bilbo’s title. “What else do you claim to be?”

“I am...luck-wearer.” What else had he done on his quest? “Riddle-maker.”

“Lovely titles; go on.”

“Barrel-rider.”

“Barrels? Now that is interesting. And what about your little dwarf friends? Where are they hiding?”

Bilbo’s heart stuttered in his chest. “Dw—Dwarves?” He hopes he sounded convincing. “No, no, no dwarves here. You’ve got that all wrong.”

“Oh, I don’t think so, barrel-rider. They sent you in here to do their dirty work while they skulk about outside.”

“Truly, you are mistaken, O Smaug, Chiefest and Greatest of calamities.”

“You have nice manners...for a thief and a liar! I know the smell and taste of dwarf. No one better. It is the gold! They are drawn to treasure like flies to dead flesh.”

As Smaug began to stomp about, his claws knocked the Arkenstone away from where it had been and Bilbo gasped. The stone bounced down the mountain of gold and Bilbo ran after it.

“Did you think I did not know this day would come, when a pack of canting dwarves would come crawling back to the mountain?!”

Bilbo tripped and slid down the gold. The dragon followed, knocking down a massive stone pillar. It fell and Bilbo was certain all of Arda could feel it rumble from the mountain.

Chapter Text

The house shook.

Everyone looked up at the sound as dust began to drift down from the ceiling in large chunks. Kíli continued to moan in pain.

“Da?” The oldest girl looked to her father.

“It’s coming from the mountain,” the boy said after looking from the window.

Fíli left his brother’s side and went to Bard.

“You should leave us. Take your children; get out of here.”

“And go where? There is nowhere to go.”

Fíli’s heart clenched. They should have thought of this. THEY SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT OF THIS.

“Are we going to die, Da?” The younger girl asked, clutching her sister’s skirt.

“No, darling.” The bargeman looked so very tired.

“The dragon,” the girl cried, “it’s going to kill us.”

Bard looked at his children for a moment before reaching up and pullinga black arrow from the wall. Fíli’s eyes widened. “Not if I kill it first.”

Chapter Text

Something inside him was growing cold and he felt a slight throbbing in his head. Standing there outside the tunnels was becoming painful. His chest felt hollow and he couldn’t figure out why.

An orange glow came from within the mountain.

“What about Bilbo?” Ori asked.

“Give him more time,” Thorin grunted.

“Time to do what?” Balin stood from the side of the mountain. “To be killed?”

Thorin clutched his head. Briar. Her name was Briar. The children… “You’re afraid.”

Balin paused for a moment before stepping up to the king. “Yes, I’m afraid. I fear for YOU. A sickness lies upon that treasure hoard, a sickness that drove your grandfather mad.”

Briar, Bel, Freya, Frerin, Dís, Beryl… “I am not my grandfather.”

“You’re not yourself. The Thorin I know would not hesitate to go in there—”

“We wait!”

Their names… Their names…

‘Promise me.’

He didn’t recognize the voice.

Chapter Text

Kíli could see Briar.

She was sobbing in Kori’s arms as the children cried as well.

“Mum?” Kíli stepped forward. “Mum, what’s wrong?”

He reached out to touch her but his hand went through her.

‘G–gone!’ The hobbit woman wailed. ‘They’re gone!’

“Mum!?” Kíli tried to take hold of her. “I’m right here! We’re alright! Mum!”

He felt something begin to pull him away.

“Mum, were going to be okay! I promise! We’re coming back!”

His world dissolved into darkness.

Chapter Text

Something was wrong.

Briar placed her hand on her rounding belly. It was firmer than it had been a month ago. She was getting sicker than usual.

Something was wrong and Lord Elrond was nowhere in sight.

Sometimes pregnancies were like this. She had helped plenty of cousins before. Surely this was normal in some pregnancies.

Briar wouldn’t bother Arwen with this. Everyone was too busy. She didn’t want to worry the children. She didn’t want to worry Kori. She didn’t want to worry Lily.

Everything was fine. Everything was fine.

Thorin, her boys, and her brothers would be back soon and everything would be okay.

Everything would be okay.

That night, Briar dreamed of an eye of fire and a husband who didn’t know her name.

Chapter Text

Bilbo still hid behind the pillar.

“You have been used, thief in the shadows,” the dragon taunted. “You were only ever a means to an end. The coward Oakenshield has weighed the value of your life and found it worth nothing. You and all your kin.”

“No. No. No, you’re lying!”

“What did he promise you? A share of the treasure? As if it was his to give. I will not part with a single coin. Not one piece of it.”

Bilbo tried to ignore it. Thorin was doing this for their family. The bloody dragon didn’t know Thorin at all. However, the fact that Smaug knew the name Thorin had earned half a century after the fall of Erebor was disconcerting.

Bilbo shook his head. The Arkenstone. He could see it. The hobbit made a run for it. The dragon saw him and whipped his tail, sending Bilbo, the Arkenstone, and gold flying. Bilbo tumbled down and landed against a pillar—his breath knocked clean from his now burning lungs.

“My teeth are swords! My claws are spears! My wings are a hurricane!”

Smaug reared up and displayed his wings. Bilbo noticed a scale missing on the left side of the dragon’s chest.

“So it is true,” Bilbo whispered. “The black arrow found its mark.”

“What did you say?” Smaug nearly roared, his head whipping around to stare at Bilbo.

“Uh, uh, I was just saying your reputation precedes you, oh Smaug the tyrannical. Truly, you have no equal on this earth.” Bilbo slowly backed away trying to get to the Arkenstone without the dragon noticing.

“I am almost tempted to let you take it, if only to see Oakenshield suffer, watch it destroy him, watch it corrupt his heart and drive him mad.” The dragon sneered and Bilbo’s heart hammered in his chest. “But I think not. I think our little game ends here. So tell me, thief, how do you choose to die?”

Smaug’s chest flowed with a light from within and his head reared forward, jaws open, ready to devour Bilbo.

Without a second thought, Bilbo shoved on his ring and disappeared. The dragon’s jaw snapped shut and had nothing. A frilly, he raised his head again and roared. Smaug bellowed our amassive walk of fire over the area where Bilbo had once been.

Bilbo ford and ran up some stairs, reaching a hallway. He took off his ring and continued to run, the dragon raging behind him.

Chapter Text

The orcs had found them.

The door opened and an orc strode inside. Óin threw a stack of plates at its head but another orc broke through the roof and fell into the house. The first orc swung his weapon at Sigird and she fell back onto the table bench. She slid under the table and pulled the bench sideways to act as a shield. Fíli grappled with the orc, determined to protect the human child. Bard might not have put him in charge, but he wouldn’t let the man’s kindness be repaid in the deaths of his children. Another orc fell through the roof. Gilda threw a plate at it.

“Get down!” Fíli ordered as Sigrid pulled her sister behind the bench.

An orc threatened Bain, but the boy pushed the bench at it, knocking the creature over. The boy grabbed the end of the bench and threw it up, hitting the orc in the head. More orcs jumped down from the roof. One approached Kíli.

“Kíli!”

The girls began to scream and Fíli began to panic. Then, suddenly, the readheaded elleth appeared and slit the neck of the orc approaching the girls. She pulled out her knife and began to fight the orcs. The elf prince came as well and began to fight.

Kíli screamed in pain when an orc grabbed him by the leg.

“Kíli!”

The elleth killed the orc and, content that the elleth would protect his brother, Fíli focused on the children. As an orc charged at them, he grabbed Bain and forced him down, ordering him to stay there.

The orcs had been chased away, but Kíli fell over onto the floor after helping the elleth kill the last orc. Fíli’s brother growled in pain.

The children slowly stood.

“You killed them all,” Bain said in awe.

“There are others,” the elf prince turned to the guard. “Tauriel, come.” The prince headed to the door, but Tauriel hesitated.

Óin knelt next to Kíli and began to examine the prince. “We’re losing him!”

The elves were talking, but Fíli didn’t care. His brother was dying and there was nothing he could do. Suddenly, the elleth appeared next to him, a bewildered Bofur next to her. “What are you doing?”

Tauriel didn’t look at him, shooting to focus all her attention on Kíli. “I’m going to save him.”

Chapter Text

He couldn’t remember who the voice belonged to, but he knew the burglar was important to them. He charged down the tunnel to find the hobbit. The dwarven king reached an overhang and stopped abruptly. The gold was singing to him. It whispered all it could give him.

‘Come! Come! I will feed your people! I will give your children clothes to wear and food to fill their bellies! I will make you rich! I will make her love you! You are nothing without me!’

Thorin blinked. Her? Children?

Suddenly, the hobbit appeared.

Thorin shook his head, .org noting the gold for a moment. “You’re alive!”

“Not for much longer!” The burglar shouted.

“Did you find the Arkenstone?”

“The dragon’s coming!”

“The Arkenstone!” They both stood there, Thorin blocking the hobbit’s exit. Again, Thorin asked, this time more quietly, “did you find it?”

“No.” Thorin narrowed his eyes. “We have to get out.”

The burglar tried to enter the tunnel, but Thorin swung his sword across it, blocking him. He pressed the blade to the hobbit’s chest. The burglar stumbled back, but Thorin stepped forward to make sure it didn’t leave him.

“Thorin. Thorin!”

The king stepped forward, forcing the burglar back another step. The hobbit’s eyes widened in fear.

‘Promise me.’

Why did his chest hurt so?

Briar…?

Bilbo looked to the side and Thorin heard before he saw Smaug’s approaching them over the pile of treasure. The dragon snarled just as the rest of the Company ran from the tunnel, weapons drawn.

Smaug roared and rushed at them. His check and neck flowed orange. “You will burn!”

Just as the dragon breathed his fire, the Company lept from the staircase and tumbled down a pile of treasure and landed near another tunnel, which they ran into. In his anger, the dragon’s flames bloomed forth. Thorin was pushed by the force and stumbled into the room at the other end of the tunnel, the back of his coat on fire. He put it out quickly

“Come on!” He ordered as the dragon roared behind them.

Chapter Text

Kíli felt himself being lifted and then laid somewhere hard. Someone was holding him down and he struggled against them. Orcs? Other dwarrow?

He heard something spoken in another language. It wasn’t black speech. It sounded too beautiful. Too feminine. Something pressed into his leg and he cried out in pain. He screamed and began to thrash about, trying to break free of whoever was holding him. Someone shouted and he felt small hands holding him down. The kids?

He stilled and the pain began to slowly ebb away. A beautiful voice began to echo through his head and soon it was all he could hear. Kíli needed to know where it came from. He opened his eyes and saw Tauriel. She glowed like a star.

He wasn’t sure how much time passed, but he couldn’t stop looking at the elleth.

“Tauriel…”

“Lie still.” She smiled at him.

This had to be another dream. “You cannot be her. She is far away. She is far, far away from me, and she walks in starlight in another world.” He stretched his hand out at his side. “It was just a dream.” He felt fingers brush against his own as the dream Tauriel took his hand in hers. “Do you think she could have loved me?”

She was his One.

He’d yet to hear her sing and he might never be able to, but he was so certain.

Everything went black.

Chapter Text

Briar felt so very uncomfortable. She had never felt like this in her previous pregnancies.

“You should talk to Arwen,” Kori said calmly.

“It’s just because Thorin isn’t here,” Briar said, waving her hand. “I’ve never gone through a pregnancy like this. Even with Beryl, it was just because I was sick.”

“You should really see Arwen.” Kori paused for a moment. “If you don’t go talk to Arwen—with Lily and me present—I’ll tell Thorin about the time you accidentally almost burned his wolf coat during your nesting with Frerin.”

Briar gasped. “You wouldn’t!”

Kori narrowed her eyes. “Try me.”

They stared at each other for a long moment. Briar sighed. “Fine.”

Kori got Lily, leaving the kids with Glorfindel (who was remarkably good with them, he just didn’t know how to handle a very emotional and very pregnant hobbit) and the three went to the lady elf’s solar.

“Could you please check her?” Kori asked. “Make sure everything’s alright. She’s getting right unbareable.”

Briar rolled her eyes. “I’ve not been that bad. Right, Lily?”

“Well…”

“Traitor,” Briar muttered as she sat down on a low couch to allow Arwen to examine her. During the examination, Arwen’s eyes furrowed. “What is it? What’s wrong?” The hobbit looked at her rounding belly. “Is the baby alright?”

“Babies.”

“What?”

Arwen looked up to her. “You’re carrying twins.”

“That’s impossible,” Kori whispered.

“Twins aren’t that uncommon for hobbits,” Lily said quickly.

“They aren’t for dwarrow and all of the babes have been more dwarf than hobbit,” Kori said softly. “I can’t think of a single dwarven pregnancy that resulted in twins. The kids were always on the bigger side. It’s why Briar always had bedrest the last month.”

Twins.

Briar rubbed her hand over her belly.

“I’ll try to send word to my father as soon as possible,” Arwen said, trying to sound calm. “He’ll be the best person to help with this.” She didn’t need to comment on how dangerous this pregnancy was becoming.

Briar nodded.

Twins.

Tears began to roll down her cheeks.

‘Promise me.’

Chapter Text

Bilbo and the others fled. Occasionally the dragon caught up to them, but more often than not, they were running from his fire.

‘You should leave.’ A voice echoed in his head and he felt the ring burn in his pocket. ‘You should save yourself. Why should you die for Thorin’s stupidity?’

“Briar asked me to look after him.” Bilbo crashed into a wall of a tunnel as they continued to flee. Yes, Thorin could be an idiot, but he was a good dwarf, a good husband, a good father, and would make a good king.

Then there were the boys in Laketown too.

‘She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.’

Bilbo was well aware that his sister DID know what she was talking about. Briar didn’t trust so easily. She could act like she did, but her first instinct was to protect her family. The boys became family the instant they showed up at the door of Bag End. Thorin was just as loyal and distrusting of those who might harm his family. What they had—what they had built over the past two decades—was something incredible. Briar trusted Thorin. Bilbo trusted Thorin with Briar. He trusted his own judgement of the dwarf and the rest of the Company. He trusted his sister.

‘You shouldn’t.’ The ring continued to burn. ‘After all, she’s the reason your father is dead.’

Bilbo’s heart stuttered in his chest. Horrified of the thought.

‘You know it’s true.’

The fact that the ring was talking didn’t bother Bilbo. He’d felt some other presence from it since he’d found it in the cave. They had usually been echoes of his own thoughts, but this wasn’t his thoughts. They could never be.

Bilbo shoved his hand into his pocket and grabbed the ring. He threw it as they turned in the tunnel, just as Smaug roared behind them and breathed fire to them.

The ring screamed as the flames hit it and suddenly there was a loud pop and the halls were filled with a blinding white light. The dragon roared from the brightness and barreled after them.

Chapter Text

When Fíli saw that his brother was okay, he allowed himself to feel relief.

He’d already lost their adad and their amad. He would have never been able to lose his little brother (the title of baby brother had long since been given to Frerin).

He watched as his brother stared at the elleth and figured that there might be something going on. Fíli wasn’t going to stop it. He was marrying a hobbit and Thorin had married one too. The elleth wasn’t Thranduil. Fíli doubted his uncle would mind too much.

Fíli sat down and closed his eyes and let himself rest for a few moments.

He dreamed of Lily.

Chapter Text

“Lead him to the Gallery of the Kings!” Thorin shouted.

Smaug began to thrash about, one of the heavy metal buckets tangled around him went flying towards the hobbit. The burglar shouted. Thorin turned and grabbed a wheelbarrow and ran while pushing it, dodging the dragon’s thrashing limbs. The beast’s tail smashed into the bad and Thorin could hear a crack. The deleted king threw the wheelbarrow into a channel of gold and leapt into the pan of the contraption, skidding along the molten gold as it carried him along.

Smaug roared and whipped his head around, stomping towards him. Before he could reach Thorin, the dwarf floated towards the entrance of the larger room. Something fell and the dragon snarled at the burglar.

“Keep going, Bilbo!” That was the burglar's name. “Run!”

Thorin’s ride upon the gold ended and he leapt from the edge and grabbed onto a chain. He watched as the gold poured into the mold.

This would work. This would work.

Thorin’s head throbbed.

‘Promise me.’

What did he promise?

Who asked him to keep it?

He blinked away green eyes from his mind that made his chest ache.

Smaug leapt onto the floor of the Gallary if Kinga and roared. “You think you could deceive me, Barrel-rider? You have come from Laketown. There is some sort of scheme hatched between these filthy dwarves and those miserable cup-trading Lakemen. Those sniveling cowards with their longbows and black arrows!” The dragon sneered as he voices the name of the only weapon that could tell him. Then, he seemed to purr. “Perhaps it is time I paid them a visit.”

“No!” The burglar shouted as the dragon turned. Thorin saw the hobbit scramble out from his hiding place. “This isn’t their fault! Wait! You cannot go to Laketown.”

The dragon froze for a moment before turning to the hobbit. “You care about them, do you? Good. Then you can watch them die.”

Thorin climbed atop a massive stone shaped like a dwarf and shouted at the dragon as he began to stride down the hall. “Here, you witless worm!”

Smaug stopped in his tracks. He turned and began snarling. “You.”

“I am taking back what you stole.”

The dragon stomped towards him slowly. His head coming towards Thorin. “You would take nothing from me, Dwarf. I laid low your warriors of old. I instilled terror in the hearts of men. I am King under the Mountain.”

“This is not your kingdom. These are dwarf lands, this is dwarf gold, and we will have our revenge.”

Smaug’s chest and neck began to glow with fire. Thorin reached up towards a rope and shouted to his fellow dwarrow in Khuzdul. The dwarf king yanked on the rope and the pins encasing the stone feel out. The dragon reared his head back in confusion. The mold cam apart and the gold from earlier was revealed Thorin swung away on the rope to escape from the falling cracks of mold. The dragon stared at the gold statue with desire. Suddenly the statue began to warp and melt into a linguist form once more. Smaug roared in anger as he tried to escape the wave of gold, but it hit him and knocked him over. He continued to roar until he was smothered and drowned, the weight of the gold pushing him down and filling the entire hall in several feed of the hardening gold.

Suddenly the surface of the golden lake exploded as Smaug leapt out. He was covered in gold and began to scream in anger and pain.

“Revenge?! Revenge! I will show you REVENGE!”

The dragon ran down the hall and took off on flight. He broke from the mountain. The dwarrow and the burglar ran after him. They watched in horror as he flew higher and higher into the sky. He spun, the gold cascading like falling stars into the lake below as he made his way to the town of men.

“What have we done?” The burglar whispered.

Chapter Text

Tauriel was trying her best to get everyone going. The second they had heard the dragon roar, they all knew what they had to do. “We have no time, we must leave.”

Fíli grabbed onto Kíli’s arm. “Come on, brother. Come on, come on. Let’s go,” he was panicked as he lifted Kíli off his bed.

“I’m fine,” Kíli said, steadying himself. “I can walk.”

“As fast as you can.” Kíli hadn’t ever heard an elf sound this worried. No, that was a lie. Elladan had panicked once because he’d almost left the Shire not realizing Freya had stowed away in his pack and the elf had almost been certain Thorin would kill him.

“We’re not leaving!” Bain shouted. “Not without our da!”

“If you stay here,” Tauriel said, “your sister’s will die. Is that what your father would want?”

They were able to get out of the house.

“Down here, now!” Bofur motioned to a boat. “Come on! We gotta go!”

“Quickly how, hurry!”

“Kíli,” Fíli pulled him along, trying to keep the weight off Kíli’s already healing leg. “Come on!”

They all managed to get into the boat and tow off as Smaug flew down and began to breathe fire upon the town. A shadow was climbing the bell tower and they all knew it was Bard.

“Da!” Bain and Tilda shouted.

Kíli saw an arrow hit the beast. “He hit it! He hit the dragon!”

Tauriel shook her head. “No.”

“He did, he hit his mark! I saw!”

Those arrows cannot pierce its hide. I fear nothing will.”

Suddenly Bain grabbed onto a hook and swung off the boat.

“What are you doing?!” Bofur shouted, missing the boy’s coat by mere inches as he reached to grab him.

“Come back!” Fíli shouted. “Bain! Come back!”

They all began to call him except Tauriel. “Leave him! We cannot go back!”

“Bain!” The youngest girl cried.

But the boy disappeared into the town as fire continued to rain down upon them.

Chapter Text

Briar awoke to her stomach fluttering.

It was a familiar feeling. One she had never thought she would feel when she was younger. The hobbit placed her hands on her now rounded belly and closed her eyes. After a few moments, she felt a kick.

It should be a happy moment.

So, why was she crying?

The tears fell freely and Briar buried her face in her hands as a sob ripped through her throat.

Thorin should be there. He should be feeling the twins move. He should be curled up next to her with his face buried against her neck, his lips pressed against her pulse point as he lazily stroked her belly to encourage another kick. He should be there kissing her gently with every kick because he knew it hurt a little. He should be there to hold her.

“I’m sorry, little ones,” Briar whispered. “I’m sorry your adad can’t be here right now.” She laid back on her side and curled around her belly in her nest, Thorin’s forge apron, the one she had made for him, pressed against her belly and one of the twins began to kick there. “He’s getting a home for us. He’ll be back soon. He’ll be back soon and he’s going to love you both so much.”

Briar began to cry again.

She felt so useless. With it being twins, everyone wanted her to start resting long before her final month. She couldn’t help with her children as easily as she did before. She wasn’t able to go on the Quest. She was so useless.

Why would Thorin ever come back for a useless hobbit like her?

The thought tore through her and and a whine ripped through her throat as she began to sob more loudly.

Briar felt the bed dip.

“It’s going to be okay,” Kori whispered as she curled around Briar, wrapping her little sister in a warm embrace. “They’ll come back soon. Whatever you just thought, it isn’t true. It isn’t true.”

Briar cried herself to sleep.

Chapter Text

Bilbo’s eyes widened as he saw the dragon’s body plummet to the ground, into the water and the flames of the town he was trying to destroy.

“Wh—What was that?” Ori asked, worried. “What happened?”

“It fell,” Bilbo whispered. “I saw it. It’s dead.” He looked back at the rest of the Company, feeling to amount of content. They had let the dragon fly to Laketown. All they could do was pray to Mahal and Yavanna both that the boys and Bofur and Óin were okay. “Smaug is dead.”

“By my beard,” Glóin exclaimed. “I think he’s right!” He pointed up towards the birds flying to the mountain. “Look there! The Ravens of Erebor are returning to the Mountain.”

“Aye,” Balin replied. “Word will spread. Before long, every soul in Middle Earth will know the dragon is dead!”

The Company began to rejoice, but Bilbo could find no joy as he turned from the burning town. He watched as Thorin did not join the others and watched as the dwarf king headed back into Erebor again.

Chapter Text

Fíli helped everyone out of their boat.

He still couldn’t believe the dragon was dead. He had watched it go down, and yet he still could barely believe it. Bard’s aim had been true.

As soon as they were able, they began to help sort out the survivors of Laketown. He helped them organize what blankets they had.

“See how much you have,” Fíli ordered. “Children, the sick, and the elderly have priority. Once they have blankets to keep warm, women are nexts, then the men. See what food has survived. There might still be some usable meat in Laketown. You’ll have to ration until we know where to hunt. Whatever game is nearby has likely been frightened away.”

“What of the mountain?” The elf prince found them then. “Will you not offer shelter?”

“I don’t know how livable the mountain is. It hasn’t been aired in years. If the dragon hasn’t been seen for half a century, where do you think he relieved himself? Winter is upon us and sickness may spread. Stifled air will help no one. Besides, gold offers no warmth when there are no blankets or bread to buy.”

Legolas nodded.

“Speak to your father. Mirkwood might be Laketown’s only hope for the winter. Give them aide. Your father once refused my people aide due to a slight. He felt that the death of women and children was worth his injured pride. These people have done nothing wrong. Do not make your father’s mistakes.”

Chapter Text

Thorin dreamed he was underground. But it was not the mountain.

This place felt too warm and bright to be in the mountain. The walls were not like stone, but like the earth itself.

Thorin knew this place and yet he did not.

He wandered through the twisting halls and found himself in a large open area. Well-loved toys were strewn across the floor and Thorin found himself smiling. He heard the slight murmur of a voice but it was as though were underwater.

Thorin turned and saw a woman sitting in a chair. Her eyes were like emeralds and her hair was amber. She was a hobbit, like the burglar. There was something in her face that made him think of Bilbo and Thorin wondered if the woman was connected to the hobbit somehow.

The hobbit woman was speaking and yet he couldn’t hear her words.

He knew her somehow—in some way.

Thorin watched her as she continued to speak.

No. Wait.

He narrowed his eyes.

She wasn’t speaking. She was singing.

Thorin strained to hear her.

It was important. Her voice was important.

She turned to look at him and seemed almost surprised that he was there. Her surprise melted into a warm smile as she stood and waddled towards him. Thorin’s gaze dropped slowly. She was heavily pregnant. He looked at her round belly in awe.

He wanted to hold her.

Thorin stepped back and away from her at the realization.

The hobbit woman paused and then frowned.

“Thorin?”

Her voice hammered into his chest and he fell to his knees at the pain.

‘Promise me.’

Thorin looked up to her, she came to him, her hand on her belly and her emerald eyes full of worry.

“Who are you?”

She looked as though he had slapped her.

Then, Thorin woke up to the gold calling him once more.

Chapter Text

Kíli went to the elleth as his brother and the other two dwarrow prepared their boat to join the rest of their company in the mountain. “Tauriel—”

“Kíli, come on,” Fíli shouted for him. “We’re leaving!”

“They are your people,” she said quietly. “You must go.” She began to leave.

“Come with me,” Kíli said quickly. His mum would like Tauriel. He could almost see the two of them and Lily sitting down for afternoon tea. It felt right. He hadn’t heard her sing, but he just knew. “I know how I feel, I’m not afraid. You make me feel alive.”

“No, I can’t.”

She turned again, but Kíli stopped her by taking her hand. “Tauriel.” She looked at him in surprise. “Amrâlimê.”

“I don’t know what that means,” she whispered.

Kíli smiled up at her. “I think you do.”

The elf prince came up from behind Tauriel and Kíli frowned. The two elves spoke to each other in their on language.

Tauriel turned to look at Fíli and they stared at one another for a moment before Kíli knew he had to leave. Reluctantly, he turned and began to head towards the other, then stopped. He turned back to Tauriel, his hand going into his pocket. He pressed his stone into her hand. “Keep it as a promise.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but Kíli bowed quickly and joined the others on the boat. As they towed off towards the mountain, Kíli watched as Tauriel’s figure grew smaller and smaller on the distancing shore.

Chapter Text

Briar was back in Bag End, so she knew she was dreaming.

Perhaps she was in the mountain?

Sometimes, when the children were asleep and they were curled up into one another, Thorin would whisper about what they could do if they ever took back Erebor. He would sometimes tell her that he would design their rooms to look more like Bag End. He would tell her about the woodwork he would design. She would always tell him that wasn’t necessary.

“Your father built this smial for your mother. It’s the least I can do for you.”

But how long until that could happen?

Orcs were gathering like a storm. Some were still found upon the edges of the Shire. Glorfindel had whispered to Arwen of a necromancer that seemed to be aware of Bilbo on the quest and that somehow led the orcs to Briar and the rest of their family.

Something evil was rising in the East and Briar didn’t know what to do.

The hobbit stroked her growing belly. So much would have to happen before she could see the rest of her family again.

‘At the edge of darkness / Hope is whispering still, / Tender, unerring, / Gently stirring.’

She hated waiting. Not when half her family felt half a world away.

‘Memories unfurling in the mind. / Warm wind from a far, forgotten country, / Long left behind.
Wandering the empty road, / In twilight's silver shade, / Following the hidden paths / Lonely and afraid. / Let the sunlight free the heart, / Forever bound to roam, / And let the waking morning find / The weary traveller returning home.’

Briar sighed and looked to where the door was. Her eyes widened. There stood Thorin. Her lips parted into a smile as she stood. He was here. At least in her dreams he could be there with her. She waddled over to him and his gaze dropped to her belly.

He stepped back from her.

Briar frowned and stepped forward hesitantly. “Thorin?”

He fell to his knees in pain.

“Thorin!” She clutched at her belly and reached for him as her husband looked up at her with eyes blank of understanding.

“Who are you?”

Her world dissolved into darkness and she woke up sobbing as the twins growing inside her grew restless. Briar clapped her hand over her mouth as she remembered Beryl had slept with her that night because her youngest daughter had had a nightmare.

Briar held in the sob as Thorin’s voice echoed in her head.

‘Who are you?’

Chapter Text

Thorin wasn’t sleeping.

He had slept once as far as Bilbo knew.

He wasn’t eating either.

Bilbo’s brother-in-law was wasting away. It had only been a day or so and the dwarf looked withered.

They all tried getting him to sleep.

He said he couldn’t. He couldn’t because his dreams made no sense. That’s all he would say. He was now spending most of his time in the treasury. He had fashioned himself into a king, but not the king Bilbo had ever thought Thorin would become.

Smaug’s words echoed in Bilbo’s brain.

‘Watch it destroy him, watch it corrupt his heart and drive him mad.’

They needed to get out of this mountain.

Chapter Text

They finally made it to Erebor, but found the gates broken open. They rushed inside to find no one. Fíli wasn’t sure why, but a bad feeling lurked in his stomach.

“Hello!” Bofur yelled. “Bombur? Bifur? Anybody?”

“Wait!” They heard a shout from below. “Wait!”

“Bilbo!” Kíli exclaimed.

They rushed for him but he pushed Kíli back as soon as they reached him. “Stop! Stop! Stop!” He panted before catching his breath. “You need to leave. We all need to leave.”

Bofur quirked his head. “We only just got here.”

Bilbo shook his head. “I tried talking to him, we’ve all tried, but he won’t listen.”

Óin narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean, laddie?

“Thorin!” He shouted. And then more quietly, “Thorin. Thorin, he’s been down there for days. He doesn’t sleep, he barely eats. He’s not been himself, not at all. It’s this…it’s this place.” He pointed up into the mountain. “I think a sickness lies upon it.”

Fíli noticed a soft glow and his stomach dropped. Something was wrong. He needed to look. So he did

“A sickness?” Kíli’s eyes widened as he looked to Fíli and followed him. “What kind of sickness?”

“Fíli?” Bilbo tan after them. “Fíli! Kíli!”

Fíli reached a landing and saw Thorin walking amongst a sea of gold.

“Gold. Gold beyond measure, beyond sorrow and grief.” His voice echoed in a low rumble around the hall. He looked up at them. No. This wasn’t Thorin. This was a shadow of the dwarf that had been a father to him.

A story Briar had once told them long ago, back when they had first come to Bag End.

‘And so, Grumpy found himself lost. The gold sang to him sweet lullabies of cold riches and wealth that could make him the greatest dwarf there ever was.’ He had thought it so ridiculous then. But as a child, even he knew of his great-grandfather’s gold sickness. ‘Grumpy wandered the halls of the dragon for days. Madness began to pound into his heart with every beat and it coursed through his veins as he tried to count every single coin. Thoughts of his family began to dim to the point where he even forgot his wife’s voice—’

“Behold, the great treasure hoard of Thrór.” He threw a golden cup up to Fíli and the blond prince caught it. “Welcome, my sister’s sons, to the Kingdom of Erebor.”

Fíli’s eyes widened in horror.

They needed to leave the mountain.

Chapter Text

“Any sign of it?” Thorin barked.

“Nothing here,” the hatted dwarf replied.

“Nothing here,” shouted the scribe.

“Keep searching!”

“The jewel could be anywhere,” the guard mumbled.

“The Arkenstone is in these halls,” Thorin growled to him. “Find it!”

The guard looked at him for a long moment. “You heard him, keep looking.”

“All of you! No one rests until it is found!”

He would have his prize. He didn’t care of the cost.

‘Promise me.’

He squashed the voice from his head.

“I owe nothing to no one.”

Chapter Text

Kíli was able to—no, allowed to—rest because he was still healing. He thought of Tauriel most, wondering how she was and if she was alright. He wondered if the girls were able to find Bain and Bard.

He watched as his uncle ordered the others around in search for the Arkenstone. Kíli personally didn’t understand why the dwarven lords needed to have the Arkenstone to prove Thorin’s right to rule. Their family hadn’t needed it to rule before. Besides, everyone knew what happened to Thrór. Why would they want anyone of the Line of Durin to be near it?

Perhaps it was a dwarvish thing that someone who had been raised by a hobbit couldn’t understand.

Kíli’s thoughts then turned to his mum and the children. He looked to Thorin again.

He thought of Briar and her stories.

That was not the dwarf that had raised them.

That was not the dwarf Briar had married.

That dwarf was not Thorin.

It was a dragon in the body of a dwarf.

Chapter Text

Ever since her dream, Briar had felt a hollowness in her chest.

It was as though she couldn’t breathe.

It was as though she couldn’t feel.

The only thing that kept her tethered to this world were her children. Even the two currently kicking at her.

“It as if she is fading…” Lord Elrond whispered upon his return.

Briar could hear them, but she could not speak. She was so tired. She felt nothing save the occasional kick of the twins.

“That’s impossible.” Kori crossed her arms. “Nothing has happened that would make her fade.”

“It is not exactly fading, but I feel as if she has lost something. Something inside her is dying.”

“Thorin…”

It was all she could say, but it was as though no one could hear her.

“The twins are putting great strain on her body. The stress of all that’s happening is not helping.”

It was as though a part of her were dying.

“I’ve heard stories about this,” Lily’s voice came. “Sometimes Enaids form such a deep bond that when something happens that suddenly causes the bond to shutter in one, it’s felt in another.”

She knew it had to do with Thorin. Something was terribly wrong. She could feel it.

“Thorin…”

‘Who are you?’

“Mithrandir, you need to get to the dwarves and Bilbo now.”

Briar’s gaze shifted to a beautiful blonde elleth.

Your family is in danger, a voice said softly in her head. A shadow has come to the Line of Durin.

“No,” Briar’s voice came out as barely a whisper.

Thorin’s smile flashed in her mind. Fíli’s laugh. Kíli’s arms wrapped tightly around her waist.

But, the voice said softly, there is hope. Even the smallest person can change the course of the future. And you, Briar, daughter of earth and wife of stone, have changed much.

Briar closed her eyes and was lost to the darkness.

Chapter Text

Bilbo watched quietly as Thorin continued to rave.

“It is here in these halls, I know it.” Thorin’s voice shook. It rumbled as though it were a dragon’s purr.

“We have already searched and searched,” Dwalin tried to reason.

“Not well enough,” Thorin snapped.

“Thorin,” the guard tried to reason again, “we all would see the stone returned.”

“And yet it’s still not found!”

“Do you doubt the loyalty of anyone here’s?” Balin asked cautiously. “The Arkenstone is the birthright of our people.”

“It is the King’s Jewel!” Thorin roared. “Am I not the king?” He snarled then. “Know this, if anyone should find it and withhold it from me, I will be avenged.” He turned and left them to continue his own search.

“Dragon sickness,” Balin said when only he and Bilbo remained. “I’ve seen it before. That look, the terrible need. It is a fierce and jealous love, Bilbo. It sent his grandfather mad.”

“If Briar were here—”

“I would not wish her to see this, Bilbo. It would only break her heart. They say Queen Freya died of a broken heart at what Thrór became. your sister is a good woman with a tender heart. She should not have to bear such a sight as this.”

Bilbo felt the Arkenstone weigh heavily in his pocket. “Balin, if Thorin had the Arkenstone, well, if it was found, would it help?”

The old dwarf was quiet for a moment. “No. I fear it would make him worse. Perhaps it is better that it remains lost.”

Balin left him and Bilbo sat down. The hobbit sighed. They never should have left the Shire. He should be sitting on his bench in Bag End as the children ran around the garden. Briar would be brewing afternoon tea. Fíli would be failing at the act of pretending to not be interested in Lily. The children would probably be piled on top of Kíli. Thorin would be holding Beryl to his chest as he smoked.

Bilbo reached into his pocket and held his acorn in the palm of his hand.

“What is that?” Thorin came from behind him. Bilbo could hear the accusation in his voice. “In your hand.”

“It’s nothing.” It was the truth.

“Show me,” Thorin all but growled.

Bilbo held out his fist and opened it to reveal a large acorn. “I picked it up at Beorn’s garden.”

Thorin’s scowl softened into a small smile. “You’ve carried it all this way?”

“I’m going to plant it in my garden,” Bilbo said. “In Bag End,” he added. The Shire was always going to be his home. Perhaps he might come to the mountains when he retired, when his heir, Frodo, was a little older.

“It’s a poor prize to take back to the Shire.” There was a soft gleam in the dwarf’s eye that made Bilbo hope, just a little bit.

“One day it’ll grow, and every time I look at it, I’ll remember. Remember everything that happened: the good, the bad and how lucky I am that I made it home.” The two shared a smile. The Arkenstone weighed heavily in his pocket. “Thorin, I—”

“Thorin, the survivors from Lake-town, they’re streaming into Dale,” Dwalin called to them. “There’s hundreds of them.”

Thorin’s face instantly hardened and his blue eyes grew cold once more. “Call everyone to the gate.”

Chapter Text

Fíli and the others began to move the fallen debris and stones to close the gate. He understood it was necessary. Winter was upon them and having a gaping dragon-sized hole would keep no one warm, but he felt as though this was not Thorin’s reasoning.

“I want this fortress made safe by sun-up. This mountain was hard-won, I will not see it taken again,” Thorin told them.

Fíli blinked. He thought about the people of Laketown. He thought of their soot smudged faces and their ash covered clothes. He thought of their burnt homes and their dwindling supplies. “The people of Laketown have nothing,” Fíli gapped. “They have lost everything as we once had. If we are able, we should offer them aid!”

“Do not tell me what they have lost. I know well enough of hardship. Those who’ve lived through dragon fire should rejoice! They have much to be grateful for.” He looked to Dale. “More stone! Bring more stone to the gate!”

Fíli’s stomach twisted into a firm knot. This was not the uncle that raised him.

This dwarf felt like the same ones that had driven them from Ered Luin.

Chapter Text

Thorin and the others climbed up the stairs to look over the stone walls to see Thranduil’s army in Dale. He saw the bargemen ride over to the base of Thorin’s mountain.

“Hail, Thorin, son of Thrain. We are glad to find you alive beyond hope,” the man called up to the dwarf king.

Thorin sneered. “Why didn’t you come to the gates of the King Under the Mountain armed for war?”

“Why does the King Under the Mountain fence himself in like a robber in his hole?” the man countered.

Thorin growled. “Perhaps it is because I’m expecting to be robbed.”

“My Lord, we have not come to rob you, but to seek fair settlement. Will you not speak with me?”

Thorin thought about it for a moment.

‘Promise me.’

He shook his head and went down to speak to the man privately, although a wall of stone still separated them. “I’m listening.”

“On behalf of the people of Laketown, I ask that you honor your pledge. A share of the treasure, so that they might rebuild their lives.”

“I will not treat with any man, while an armed host lies before my door.”

“That armed host will attack this mountain if we do not come to terms. I have no quarrel with you, Thorin. I only ask for what you promised.”

“And your threats do not sway me.”

“What of your conscience? You said this was for your children. Is this what you will have their lives built upon?”

Thorin narrowed his eyes. Children?

Bard continued, “Does it not tell you our cause is just? My people offered you help and in return you brought upon them only ruin and death.”

Thorin sneered again. “When did the men of Laketown come to our aid but for the promise of rich reward.”

“A bargain was struck!”

“A bargain? What choice did we have but to barter our birthright for blankets and food. To ransom our future in exchange for our freedom. You call that a fair trade? Tell me, Bard the dragon-slayer, why should I honor such terms?”

“Because you gave us your word. Gave me YOUR word as one father to another. Does that mean nothing?”

Thorin stepped away from Bard's view and looked up at the rest of his Company. He closed his eyes.

‘Promise me.’

“Begone! Ere our arrows fly!”

He heard the man leave in anger. Thorin climbed back to his Company to watch Bard ride away.

“What are you doing?” The burglar shouted. “You cannot go to war!”

“This does not concern you.”

The burglar gaped at him. “Excuse me, but just in case you haven’t noticed, there is an army of Elves out there. Not to mention several hundred angry fishermen. We…we are in fact outnumbered.”

Thorin grinned. “Not for much longer.”

The burglar paled. “What does that mean?”

“It means, Master Baggins, you should never underestimate dwarves. We have reclaimed Erebor. Now we defend it.”

Chapter Text

Kíli wondered what was going to happen now.

He was glad that he had come on the quest, proud even. There had been moments where he had wished that he had stayed in Rivendell with Briar. He couldn’t imagine not coming on the quest, not fighting the orcs, not meeting Tauriel.

He wonders where she is now.

Was she with the elves, that prince? Was she going to fight? Would he have to fight her?

Kíli was glad he had been able to come on the quest.

But, Mahal, the costs.

Chapter Text

The last thing Briar consciously remembered was the beautiful blonde elleth and then she was lost in tunnels.

She had never been in tunnels like these before.

She wasn’t pregnant anymore.

It’s the only reason she guessed this was a dream, unless she had been in these tunnels a lot longer than she thought she had been.

Some part of her thought she was in Erebor. It reminded her a bit of how Thorin sometimes described it.

She was to look for Thorin.

‘Who are you?’

Briar took a deep breathe.

She needed to get to Thorin.

She thought she heard his voice.

“Thorin?”

She continued forward.

“Thorin?”

‘Who are you?’

“Thorin!”

Chapter Text

Bilbo watched as the dwarves dressed for battle. He wasn’t going to fight. Thorin might have taught him to fight, but he was no warrior.

“Master Baggins, come here.” Thorin has gotten to calling him that since Smaug fell. Bilbo personally didn’t like it. The hobbit went to him anyway. “You’re going to need this.” He held up a mithril vest.

“Mithril?”

“You know of it?” Bilbo didn’t answer him but thought of the mithril beads in Briar’s hair. “Put it on.” Bilbo took off his coat. “No blade can pierce it.”

Bilbo pulled the best on. “I look absurd. I’m barely a warrior, I’m a Hobbit.

“It is a gift, a token of our friendship. True friends are hard to come by.”

“We were already friends, Thorin,” Bilbo said slowly. “Brothers, even.” By law, anyway.

Thorin suddenly pulled Bilbo aside. “I have been blind, but now I’m beginning to see. I am betrayed!”

The Arkenstone felt heavy in his pocket. “Betrayed?”

“The Arkenstone… one of them has taken it. One of them is false.”

“Thorin, the quest is fulfilled, you’ve won the mountain. Is that not enough?”

“Betrayed by my own kin.”

“Thorin,” Bilbo tried to reason. “You made a promise to the people of Laketown. Now is this treasure worth more than your honor? Our honor, Thorin. BRIAR’S honor. We spoke for you, Thorin.”

“For that, I’m grateful. It was nobly done. But the treasure in this mountain does not belong to the people of Laketown. This gold…is ours, and ours alone.”

“Thorin, you’re starting to sound like—”

“With my life I will not part with a single coin. Not one piece of it.”

—Smaug.

Chapter Text

Fíli knew Bilbo was hiding something and he was certain he knew what it was that he was hiding.

“Uncle Bilbo?”

“What do you want, Fíli?”

“Who says I want anything?”

“You never call me Uncle Bilbo unless you want something.”

Drat. That WAS true.

“If you’re going to ask me to talk about Lily with Thorin for you, not right now.”

Fíli shook his head quickly. “No, not like that.” He chewed his lip for a moment. “Balin told me he sometimes worries about the children because people could use them against Thorin.”

“Your point, Fíli?”

“The children aren’t here to use against him.” He paused. “I’m not sure they or Mum would even work at this point.”

“Fíli—”

“The Arkenstone might work though.” Bilbo looked at him curiously. “Should it be found. Thorin might be willing to listen if the elves and men had it. Don’t you think?”

Bilbo looked at him for a long time. “You might be right, Fíli. Shame we don’t know where it is.”

“Of course.”

Chapter Text

Thorin let the Company rest. They would need it in the upcoming battle.

In his mind, Thorin knew he should be resting as well, but he couldn’t. The gold still called to him. This was his reward. Let all those who doubted him feast their gaze on the horde of his grandfather and the riches he had now gained for his people.

‘Thorin,’ the voice of the hobbit woman echoed in his mind. Her green eyes haunting him.

‘Promise me.’

‘Thorin!’

He knew her.

His heart ached at the thought of her.

He felt anger at the thought that she carried someone’s child.

It should be his.

But he did not know her.

He could not sleep in fear that he might dream of her again.

‘Promise me.’

“Stop it,” Thorin mumbled.

‘Promise me.’

He owed nothing to no one. “Stop it.”

‘Promise me.’

“Silence!” Thorin roared. His voice echoed across the walls of the hall until it faded into the quiet voice of the gold.

He felt cold and ignored the voice calling to him.

The green eyes far from his mind.

Chapter Text

Kíli dreamed of his mum that night. He dreamed of the Shire. It was warm. It had always been warm. Even though he couldn’t really remember his time in Ered Luin, he could remember that Bag End was warmer than anything he had ever known before.

Briar was softer than anyone who had ever held him before. He could curl into her side and melt into her as they cuddled. She’d sing softly and sweetly to him as she was now.

“Mum?” He sounded younger than what he was.

“Yes, mab calon?”

Kíli smiled at the old endearment. She didn’t say it much anymore. Since Bel, she wanted her children to all see themselves as equals to one another.

“I wish we could have stayed home in the Shire.”

“Perhaps we should have, but we were always meant to leave. As long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, we shall find wandering more bearable: we shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if we may not stand there again.”

“It was home.”

“Home is with the people we love, Kíli. It is not a place with a roof and a kitchen and comfortable chair and all the stories we could read.” Briar brushed the hair from his brow and pressed a kiss to his temple. “We will be home again when we’re all together.”

“It won’t be the same.”

“No, it won’t. But sometimes change is the beginning of the next big adventure.”

Chapter Text

Briar continued to run along the tunnels calling for her husband. She knew her oldest sons would be with him, as would her brothers, but she knew it was Thorin she had to find.

Occasionally flashes of gold came into view and Briar felt her stomach twist painfully.

“Thorin!” She thought she could hear his voice. “Thorin!”

“Silence!” Her husband’s voice resounded across the tunnels, causing them to shake and stone to hiss as loose dusting of rock began to drift down.

Briar curled against the side of the tunnel she was in and covered her ears with her hands. After the shaking stopped she let her hands fall.

“Thorin?”

“You have been used,” a deep baritone voice whispered, a hiss underlying the tone.

“Hello?”

“You were only ever a means to an end.”

No. Thorin loved her. He said so. He promised.

‘Promise me.’

“... Has weighed the value of youth life and found it worth nothing.”

“You’re lying!”

“It has destroyed him. Corrupted his heart. Driven him mad.”

“Liar!”

The voice laughed as the tunnels continued to shake.

Briar had to find Thorin. She had to.

Chapter Text

Bilbo snuck out of the mountain and ran towards Dale. He made for a large tent he assumed the generals, or whoever was running this, would be. Surprisingly, he heard Gandalf’s voice.

“You, bowman! Do you agree with this? Is gold so important to you? Would you buy it with the blood of dwarves?”

Bard was the one to answer. “It will not come to that. This is a fight they cannot win.”

“That won’t stop them,” Bilbo said quickly, alerting them to his presence. “You think the dwarves will surrender? They won’t. They will fight to the death to defend their own.”

“Bilbo Baggins!” Gandalf explained. “I think you have done much since I have last seen you, more than you might think you have.”

“If I'm not mistaken,” Bilbo had forgotten that Thranduil was there, “this is the Halfling who stole the keys to my dungeons from under the nose of my guards.”

“Yes,” Bilbo shifted awkwardly. “I came to give you this.” He pulled the Arkenstone from his pocket.

Everyone seemed to move at once.

“The Heart of the Mountain,” the elf king tipped his head. “The King’s Jewel.”

“And worth a king’s ransom,” Bard added. “How is this yours to give?”

“I took it as my fourteenth share of the treasure,” Bilbo said, setting the stone on a table.

“Why would you do this?” Bard asked. “You owe us no loyalty.”

“I’m not doing it for you,” the hobbit said quickly. “I know that dwarves can be obstinate and pigheaded and difficult. And suspicious and secretive with the worst manners you can imagine. Three of them have lived in my home for twenty years. My sister is married to the most difficult of them all. And I would not trust her with him or any of them if I did not know that they are also brave and kind and loyal to a fault. I’ve grown very fond of them, and I would save them if I can. My nephews and brothers more than anything. My brother-in-law for my sister and their children’s sake. Right now, Thorin values that stone above all else. In exchange for its return, I believe he will give you what you are owed. There will be no need for war.” He gave an awkward bow. “I’ll leave you to it.”

He left the tent, only for Gandalf to follow him. “Rest up tonight. You must leave on the morrow.”

“What?”

“Get as far away from here as possible. Go to Rivendell, to your sister.”

Bilbo frowned. “I’m not leaving.”

“Oh?”

“You brought Thorin and the boys to our doorstep. You always knew I was going to come on this quest. I’m not about to leave the Company now. I’m not about to leave the boys and Thorin.”

“There is no company, not any more. And I don’t like to think what Thorin would do when he finds out what you’ve done.”

“I’m not afraid of Thorin. I’ve seen the dwarf in near tears because of Briar. He cannot frighten me.”

“He should,” Gandalf said firmly. “Don’t underestimate the evil of gold. Gold over which a serpent has long brooded. Dragon-sickness seeps into the hearts of all who came to this mountain.” He smiled kindly. “Almost all.”

“It is only affecting Thorin.”

“Have you not thought to wonder why?”

“You don’t know Thorin, Gandalf. He’s not the same dwarf you brought to Bag End all those years ago.”

“Perhaps not, but perhaps he is not the same dwarf you once knew anymore either.”

Bilbo said nothing and returned to the mountain.

Chapter Text

Fíli winced as Thorin’s arrow landed in front of Thranduil.

“I will put the next one between your eyes!” the dragon masquerading as his uncle shouted.

The rest of the Company did not cheer and hid slightly when the elven army aimed their arrows. They only straightened when the elf king had his archers stand down.

“We’ve come to tell you payment of your debt has been offered and accepted.”

Fíli’s heart pounded in his chest. Bilbo had done it.

“What payment? I gave you nothing. You have nothing.”

Bard took the Arkenstone from his pocket and held it up. “We have this. The king may have it, with our good will.” He pocketed the Arkenstone once more. “But first he must honor his word.”

Fíli held his breath. Surely they could come to peace now.

Thorin chuckled darkly. “They’re taking us for fools,” he told them quietly before shouting down the rampart. “This is a ruse, and a filthy lie. The Arkenstone is in this mountain, it is a trick!”

“It’s no trick,” Bilbo said, stepping forward. “The stone is real. I gave it to them.”

Thorin turned to face Bilbo slowly. Fíli couldn’t see his expression, but he could see the determined one of Bilbo’s.

“You?” Fíli hadn’t heard Thorin sound so weary in a long time.

“I took it as my fourteenth share.”

“You would steal from me?”

“Steal from you?” Bilbo almost chuckled. “No, no. I may be a burglar, but I like to think I’m an honest one. I’m willing to let it stand against my claim.”

“Against your claim?” Thorin’s chuckle darkened. “Your claim? You have no claim over me, you miserable rat!”

Bilbo didn’t even flinch, even when the rest of the Company did. “I was going to give it to you,” the hobbit admitted. “Many times I wanted to, but—”

“But what, thief?”

At that, Bilbo did flinch, but only slightly. “You are changed, Thorin. The dwarf I met in Bag End, the dwarf who married my sister would never have gone back on his word, would never have doubted the loyalty of his kin.”

“Do not speak to me of loyalty,” Thorin growled. There was a short pause before the mad dwarf looked to his Company. “Throw him from the rampart!”

No one moved.

“Did you not hear me?!” Thorin grabbed Fíli by the coat, but the blond prince pulled away from him in disgust. The mad dwarf looked at the others. “I will do it myself.” He grabbed Bilbo by his coat and lifted him, pressing the hobbit against the edge of the rampart. “Curse you!”

It was only then that the Company moved, trying to get Thorin off of Bilbo. The Ris tried to rescue their brother, Fíli and Kíli their hobbit uncle, and the rest of the Company, their friend.

“No!” Fíli shouted as Bilbo began to dangle back beyond the edge of the stone.

“Cursed be the wizard that forced you on this company!”

“If you don’t like my burglar, then please don’t damage him,” Gandalf’s voice boomed as the wizard appeared, walking to the front of the elven army. “Return him to me. You’re not making a very splendid figure as King Under the Mountain, are you, Thorin, son of Thrain?”

Thorin let go of Bilbo and shoved him into Fíli. “Never again will I have dealings with wizards!” The Company began to urge Bilbo to go. “Or Shire rats!”

An image of Briar and the children flashed in Fíli’s mind.

They all watched as Bilbo made his way down a rope to join Gandalf.

“Are we resolved?” Bard asked. “The return of the Arkenstone for what was promised.” Thorin did not seem to be listening and only watched the horizon. “Give us your answer. Will you have peace or war?”

A raven landed in front of Thorin before he spoke his answer. “I will have war.”

Dwarvish horns began to sound and Fíli saw the army of the Iron Hills arrive.

Chapter Text

Thorin was sitting on his throne when the guard came to him.

“Since when do we forsake our own people?” he asked. “Thorin, they are dying out there.”

“There are holes and tunnels within this mountain, places we can fortify. Shore up, make safe?” His thoughts were scattering. “Yes. Yes, that is it. We must move the gold further underground for safety.” He stood.

“Did you not hear me? Dáin is surrounded. They’re being slaughtered, Thorin.”

“Many die in war, life is cheap. But a treasure such as this cannot be counted in lives lost. It is worth all the blood we can spend.”

The guard’s expression twisted into pain. “You sit here in these vast halls with a crown upon your head, and yet you are lesser now than you have ever been.”

“No not speak to me as if I were some lowly dwarf lord,” Thorin’s voice trembled. “As if I were still Thorin—”

‘Promise me.’

“Oakenshield.” He pulled out his sword and swung to where the voice came. “I am your KING!” he roared, stumbling slightly.

“You were always my king,” the guard—Dwalin, his name was Dwalin—said quietly. “You used to know that once.” He shook his head sadly. “You cannot see what you have become.”

“Go,” Thorin said bitterly. “Get out, before I kill you.”

The guard turned, his eyes shone with unshed tears, and left.

Thorin went to the Gallery of Kings, his head throbbing.

‘You sit here with a crown upon your head. You are lesser now than you have ever been.’

‘I hurt you Miss Baggins.’

‘A treasure such as this cannot be counted in lives lost.’

‘A sickness lies upon that treasure.’

‘The blind ambition of a Mountain King.’

‘You can call me Briar, you know.’

‘It wouldn’t be proper.’

‘Am I not the King?’

‘If I was a simple blacksmith… but I’m a king.’

He stepped onto the hardened gold on the gallery floor.

‘This gold is ours, and ours alone. Treasure hoard… I will not part with a single coin.’

‘I come to you, not as a king, but as a humble blacksmith who loves your sister more than all the jewels and gold of Erebor.’

‘He could not see beyond his own desire!’

‘…as if I were some lowly dwarf lord. Thorin Oakenshield.’

‘A sickness which drove your grandfather mad.’

‘Oakenshield.’

‘This is Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror!’

‘I am not my grandfather.’

‘You are the heir to the Throne of Durin.’

‘They are dying out there.’

‘Take back Erebor.’

‘Dáin is surrounded…is surrounded.’

‘Take back your homeland.’

‘You are changed, Thorin.’

‘I’m not my grandfather.’

‘Is this treasure truly worth more than your honor?’

‘Come back to me. Come back to us.’

‘I’m not my grandfather.’

A shadow shaped like a dragon slithered beneath the gold.

‘This treasure will be your death.’

‘Promise me.’

He could see her now. She stood before him smiling. She cupped his face in her hands.

‘Promise me.’

“I promise.”

He threw his crown aside and felt nothing when he heard it crack.

Briar was gone, but he felt his heart beat contently in his chest.

Chapter Text

They were all waiting and wanting to join in the battle. Kíli thought of Bilbo, who was probably fighting. He thought of Briar and the children. He looked up aimlessly and saw Thorin walking towards them, a sword in his hand.

Kíli stood and the Company joined him.

Anger bubbled in Kíli’s chest. “I will not hide behind a wall of stone, while others fight our battles for us!” He drew closer to Thorin and pounded his fist against his chest. “It is not in my blood, Thorin.” He stopped in front of his uncle and could see the change in his eyes.

“No, it is not.” Thorin put his hand on Kíli’s shoulder. “We are sons of Durin, and Durin’s folk do not flee from a fight.” He smiled and Thorin pressed his forehead tenderly to Kíli’s. He turned to the rest of the Company. “I have no right to ask this of any of you, but will you follow me, one last time?”

“Until the end,” Dwalin replied.

Chapter Text

She found him.

He was wandering along a large hall with a floor of gold.

“Thorin.” She stood before him “you made a promise. Promise me.”

He looked up and saw her.

Briar reaches up and cupped his face in her hands. “Promise me.”

“I promise.”

He faded from view and Briar woke up. A smile on her lips.

Chapter Text

Bilbo jumped slightly when the elf prince ran to them calling out to Gandalf.

“Legolas!” The wizard exclaimed. “Legolas Greenleaf!”

“There is a second army. Bolg leads a force of Gundabad Orcs. They are almost upon us.”

“Gundabad? Ahh. This was their plan all along. Azog engages our forces, then Bolg sweeps in from the north.”

Bilbo’s heart stuttered in his chest. “What? The north? Which way is that?”

“Ravenhill,” Gandalf replied.

“Thorin and the boys are up there!” Bilbo cried. “They’re all up there!”

The red haired elf looked stricken as Bilbo rushed towards his family.

Chapter Text

It was Fíli’s job to take care of his brother. He hadn’t been doing the best that he could during the quest. Every time the two got separated, one or both of them got hurt or in danger.

These thoughts swirled in Fíli’s mind as he and Kíli scouted the ruins on Ravenhill, both hoping and dreading to do what they could for the battle.

They heard a noise and Kíli stepped forward, but Fíli stopped him.

“Stay here, search the lower levels.” He almost said he would go, but he could not. “We need to stick together. We need to look for the entrances and block them off, so nothing can come in or out.”

Kíli nodded.

Fíli has promised his amad, he had promised his mum. He had promised his amad. He would look after Kíli no matter what.

Chapter Text

“Where is that orc filth?” Dwalin growled.

“Thorin!”

Dwalin jumped at Bilbo’s sudden appearance, but Thorin barely reacted. He had needed to learn how to notice these things. His children might have been more dwarven in most things, but they had inherited their mother’s quiet feet.

“Bilbo.”

His brother-in-law smiled. He could tell he was back to normal. He frowned then. “You have to leave here. Now! Azog has another army, attacking from the north. This watchtower will be completely surrounded, there’ll be no way out.”

“We are so close,” Dwalin said. “That orc scum is in there, I say we push on.”

‘Promise me.’

“No,” Thorin took a deep breath. He had made a promise. “That’s what he wants. He wants to draw us in. This is a trap.”

‘Promise me.’

He looked to Dwalin. “Find Fili and Kili, call them back.”

His old friend looked to him. “Thorin, are you sure about this?”

“Do it. We live to fight another day.”

“Thorin Oakenshield,” the garbled voice of Azog broke through the silence of the ruins.

The three looked up and saw the pale orc standing on an opened part of the tower. He was grinning down at them. So, he could speak Westron. It could only mean he wanted Thorin to understand what he was saying.

“First your nephews will die,” the orc sneered.

“And then I suppose I die last!” Thorin shouted.

“No, you’ll live for now.” Azog grinned. “Only after I lay the heads of your wife and children at your feet. Your youngest will go last and I will make you watch as I snap their neck with my fist.”

Thorin’s blood ran cold.

“Only then will I let you die. You will beg me for it and your filthy bloodline will end!”

‘Promise me.’

“I swear on all that I am, you will not touch them!”

Chapter Text

“Kíli, look out!”

Kíli ducked just as a club swung to where his head was. One of the ugliest orcs the young prince had ever seen stood before him. He was glad that Fíli had not let them separate.

The two battled against the orc, occasionally parting to fight against aiding orcs.

An orc pinned Kíli by the knock during the squabble. The creature sneered as he squeezed Kíli’s throat. His vision grew spotty before he heard a battle cry far in the distance. The orc was pulled from him and Kíli gasped for breath as he watched the elleth stab the orc through the chest.

“Tauriel!”

“Less flirting!” Fíli shouted. “More fighting!”

Tauriel grinned as they battled on. For some reason, Kíli’s heart felt lighter than it had in days.

Chapter Text

Briar’s felt a twinge in her lower belly but ignored it.

It was the test contractions. She had experienced them a few times on her previous pregnancies and thought nothing of them.

True, they were painful, but she was early yet and Lord Elrond did not appear worried so neither did she.

Besides, she was spending the day with her older children. Lord Elrond had wanted her to rest but she felt so energized after waking up. She had felt good after waking up from her dream of finding Thorin and wanted to spend time with her babies, for that’s what they would always be. The oldest girls and Frerin understood that their mum was tired because she was having two babies. The younger two could only understand that their mum was sick and needed to stay in bed more than usual.

Lily was working on her quilt and Kori was pretending to not read an elven book. The family that remained in Rivendell were at peace. Her fainting had scared many of them, but she was better. She felt—

Another clench shot through her belly and she had to put her hand on the table for balance.

“Mum peed!” Freya shouted.

In an instant, Kori and Lily were at Briar’s side and they began shouting for one of the elves. Bel, the leader that she was, got her younger siblings together and ushered them into the nursery the elves had set aside for them.

“Briar, how long have you been contracting?” Kori asked, picking her up and helping her to a couch.

“It’s nothing just—” She winced as pain shot through her body.

“Damn it, Briar! You need to tell us these things!”

Lord Elrond and Arwen rushed in. The elf lord checked Briar over. “You’re already beginning to dilate.”

“But they’re early!” Briar cried. No. No. No. this couldn’t be happening. Not now! They were weeks early!

“It appears your twins can’t wait to make their presence known through Arda,” Lord Elrond said in an attempt to comfort. “My own were the same.”

Briar cried out in pain.

“She needs to be moved to the Halls of Healing.” The elf lord picked Briar up into his arms and carried the hobbit to the wing of his home and rushed her to a bed.

Her labor had never been so painful. Even Beryl had not been this bad.

Something was wrong.

“Lord Elrond, please! I can’t—I can’t lose them!”

“They’re going to be find Briar.”

“It hurts! It hurts so much!”

Chapter Text

Bilbo’s first thought of seeing Azog up close was that he was even uglier in the light.

The mist of the ice rolled about them and the coldness began to bite through Bilbo’s coat. He gripped Sting tightly in his hand and glanced at Thorin.

“Together this time?” the hobbit asked.

“I think I managed rather well last time.”

Bilbo smirked. “I think we’re remembering last time very differently.”

Horns began to blow beyond the hill. Azog smirked before glancing behind him. He had brought reinforcements.

Azog roared and charged for them, dragging a chained bolder behind him. He swung it forward and Bilbo and Thorin ducked quickly, their feet sliding on the ice beneath them. The swing had enough force to come back around to them, but Bilbo dodged as it didn’t go anywhere near Thorin. The two moved fall back. Bilbo lunged forward, hoping to get Azog in the back, but Sting clanked against the metal brace around the orc’s waist.

A massive hand slapped Bilbo away and he flew back, his head hitting the ice.

Everything went black.

Chapter Text

The ugly orc shouted and an army of giant bats flew over head. Kíli and the elleth fought together well, Fíli would give them that. It was one less thing anyone had to worry about he supposed. Fíli continued his fight with the head orc and felt himself falling back towards the edge of the cliff.

“Fíli!” He heard his brother shout.

His heel skirted along the edge and the only word Fíli could think was ‘Lily.’

“Fíli!”

An arrow sliced through the orc’s forehead and he stumbled back. With that distraction, Fíli pushed forward until he managed to drive a dagger into the orc’s head.

It was over.

Now they needed to get back to Thorin.

Chapter Text

Thorin has managed to move the fight far enough away from Bilbo as to not cause injury to the hobbit.

Now Thorin and Azog circled each other like wolves ready to attack. The pale orc swung his bolder again, the ice finally cracking under the weight. The thick sheet of white began to shift under their feet. Thorin slid back as the fight continued, his foot plunging into the water briefly. He grunted against the sting of cold before fighting himself, only for the chain of Azog’s weapon to knock him onto his back.

He rolled away quickly when the boulder came for him again. The orc repeated the assault three times before Thorin was able to stand and slice at his foe’s stomach. The orc roared and he slammed the boulder at Thorin’s feet. Azog tried to yank his weapon from the ice but it would not budge. He sung the blade embedded in his arm, but Thorin managed to push back. The pale orc lifted his arm to strike again when he froze.

Eagles soared overhead and Thorin felt the thrill of victory crawl up his spine.

An idea sparked.

Thorin sheathed his sword and picked up the boulder that had loosened from the ice and threw it at the distracted orc. On reflex, Azog caught it. Thorin’s grin grew into a feral grin as he stepped back off the now rocking sheet of ice. To the orc’s horror, he slid down the broken ice and into the water.

Thorin fell to his knees in exhaustion. Something shifted under the ice and he saw the pale orc drifting under the surface. Thorin stood and watched as his foe passed. He followed the orc, as though entranced, blue eyes meeting their match. The orc’s eyes closed.

Then Azog’s eyes opened and his sword plunged into Thorin’s foot. The dwarf cried out in pain as the orc burst from the ice and pushed Thorin back. He was barely able to draw his sword to stop Azog’s plunging blade.

Thorin was pinned to the ground. He braced his hand to his sword to keep Azog’s own away from his chest.

“You cannot stop me,” the orc spoke in his garbled Westron. “Next I will kill those boys you claim as kin and then I will hunt your wife and children. I will give her your head and have her watch as I kill the children you couldn’t protect, just as your grandfather and father could not protect your brother or sister.”

He knew what he had to do.

“I will never let you touch a member of my family again!” Thorin roared.

Chapter Text

Kíli, his brother and Tauriel rushed to give Thorin and Bilbo aid. They heard Thorin roar just as they came to the edge of the ice.

The young prince watched in horror as he saw his uncle pull away his sword, the only thing that kept Azog from impaling him. The sword sheathed itself into Thorin’s chest as the dwarf king thrust his own blade into Azog’s chest. The pale orc fell and Thorin managed to turn them over and drove his sword through the orcs chest and into the ice below.

There was silence as Thorin stumbled towards the edge of the frozen waterfall and looked out upon the dwindling battle and the mountain before collapsing.

“Thorin!”

Chapter Text

“Briar, you’re going to have to push!” Lord Elrond ordered.

Briar could only cry out in answer as she pushed, gripping Kori and Lily’s hands.

Why did it hurt so much?

She could barely breathe.

Briar tried to push but her vision grew blurry as black spots danced across it.

“Stay with us! You need to push!”

Pain shot through her chest as though she were stabbed. She felt something in her bond to Thorin waver.

“Briar!”

Her eyes began to flutter.

It hurt so much…

She just wanted to close her eyes.

“Briar!”

Everything went black as a loud wail echoed in Briar’s mind.

Chapter Text

Bilbo awoke to Thorin collapsing as the eagles flew above them.

“Thorin!” Bilbo rushed to his brother-in-law’s side.

The dwarf shifted his tired gaze to the hobbit as Fíli and Kíli and the red-haired elleth ran to them.

“Bilbo…” He began to cough and blood dribbled down his chin. Thorin tried to move, but winced in pain.

“No!” Bilbo ordered. “Don’t move. Don’t move. Lie still.” He saw the wound and Bilbo’s heart twisted painfully in his chest.

“I’m glad you’re here.” Bilbo tried to hush him, but the dwarf pushed forward. “I wish to part with you… in friendship… in brotherhood.”

“No,” Bilbo’s voice broke. “You’re not going anywhere, Thorin. You’re going to live. You’re going to live and see the children grow up and scare all the boys away from the girls and give Frerin the talk because Yavanna knows I don’t want to.”

“Forgive me,” Thorin persisted. “I know I am not the dwarf you wished your sister to bond to. You were always a true friend to me and I have done nothing but wrong you. I am so sorry that I have led you and our family into such peril.” He began to choke some more on the blood dripping down his lips.

“No, I’m glad to have shared in your perils, Thorin. Each and every one of them. I know Briar is too. It is far more than any Baggins or Took could wish for.”

Thorin’s lips trembled into a smile. “Farewell, Bilbo Baggins. Take her and the children back to our books and our armchair. Plant your trees and watch them grow. Give my children all my people cannot.” Tears began to slide down Thorin’s cheeks. “I wish…”

“Thorin, please!”

“If more people valued home above gold, this world would be a merrier place.” His breath stuttered and his eyes fluttered closed.

“No! No, no, no, no! No! Thorin!” Briar’s smile as she looked up to Thorin on their wedding day flashed in Bilbo’s mind. “Thorin, don’t you dare…” The boys and the red haired elleth reached them. “Heal him! Please!” He begged the elleth. She knelt down quickly and placed her hands over his wound. Bilbo turned back to his friend. “Thorin? Look, Thorin. Thorin, hold on. You hold on. The eagles… The eagles are here. Thorin…”

Bilbo began to weep.

Chapter Text

With the help of Beorn, they managed to get Thorin down the side of the mountain and towards a healer’s tent. Legolas rushed ahead of them to get his father. Somehow the elf prince was able to convince the king to work on Thorin, but the wound was similar to Kíli’s.

“A cursed blade to the chest is a hard thing to heal,” Thranduil said, “if it ever does.”

“How long until you know?” Bilbo asked weakly.

“Soon.”

Chapter Text

Thorin was at his forge, hammering away at a pan for Primula Baggins. Bel was at his side, watching what Thorin did as he explained to his daughter the proper way of getting the bottom of the pan just right.

“Supper!” He heard his wife’s voice call from the kitchen, which Thorin had designed to be next to the forge when he built the smial for them.

“Go help your mother and your siblings,” Thorin told his daughter. “I’ll finish up here.”

Bel nodded and skipped to where her mother was.

Thorin made sure there was no fire left and that nothing would burn or melt while he was away before entering the kitchen himself. He saw his wife and children at the table, waiting for him. Thorin kissed the top of Briar’s head and stroked her large belly before going to his place at head of the table.

“Stowy!” Beryl demanded as Briar began to feed her. “Stowy!”

“You want a story?” Briar chuckled. “Which one would you like?”

“Oakey!”

Briar looked over to Thorin, who smiled back at her. “You tell it best, love.”

Briar rolled her eyes and began her tale. “I first met your adad as a child during the Fell Winter. Orcs came into the Shire, looking for little fauntlings to eat.” She loosely took Beryl’s hand and made munching sounds, causing their youngest to giggle. “I was out trying to get some wood for our fire when an orc found me. He was very big, very pale, and very ugly. I was so very afraid that I might die. Then, a large hairy dwarf appeared before me and put himself between the orc and myself. They fought and the dwarf lost his shield. The dwarf found a fallen oaken branch and lifted it up to protect the both of us before stabbing the orc through the chest.”

All the children, who had all heard this story plenty of times before, watched their mother in awe. Thorin chuckled. They were so entranced by the story they were forgetting to eat.

“That is how your adad got the name of Oakenshield. He and your big brothers were traveling and had gotten caught in the storm. The men of Bree could not take him so they came to the Shire.” Briar looked up to Thorin and smiled. “I know from that moment on that your adad was my Enaid and I would love him until my last breath.”

Thorin could feel his ears turning pink. “I was rather old when I met you.”

Briar laughed. “Yes we were quite the scandal when Lobelia caught us hugging at my majority party.”

“We were doing much more than hugging.”

Briar blew him a kiss and Thorin caught it as they got their children to eat.

That night, Thorin took his wife into his lap and let her find her pleasure as he laid back down and guided her hips with his hands, anchoring her down as he thrust up into her. When she had found her release, Briar began work harder so that Thorin could find his own.

He grunted as she began to grind against him. “Briar, I don’t—”

“I want to!” she gasped. “Mahal, I want to!”

Thorin pulled her off of him and Briar scrambled to get on her hands and knees. He cradled her belly in his hands as he took her again.

“Thorin!” she moaned. “Thorin!”

He found his release quickly, not wanting to put too much strain on his wife’s body. Thorin eased them to rest on their side and Briar sighed with content as she wiggled herself into his chest.

“We will be doing that for a hundred more years and I shall never tire of you,” Thorin said as he pressed kisses to her shoulder.

“I meant what I said,” Briar whispered, guiding Thorin’s hand to her now flat stomach. He frowned. “I will love you until my last breath.”

“I am asleep,” Thorin’s heart broke. “This is a dream.”

Briar turned to him and sat up, her amber curls cascaded down her shoulder and brushed along his cheek. She leaned down and kissed him tenderly. Thorin wrapped his arms around her and kissed her more soundly.

“Then it is a good dream,” she whispered as they parted. “It’s time to wake up now, Thorin.”

“What if I do not wish to?”

She smiled down at him and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “We were not made to live in dreams.”

“I am so very afraid. I am not the same dwarf they knew me to be in Ered Luin.”

“You are not,” she agreed. “You are better. Wake up, Thorin. It’s time to wake up. Our people need you.”

Chapter Text

When Thorin woke up, Kíli was quite certain that Bilbo was going to strangle him into unconsciousness again. Nori and Ori had to hold him back.

“Never do that again, you stupid dwarf!” Bilbo shouted before tackling Thorin into a hug.

They could only let Thorin heal for so long though. When he was able to walk around Thorin turned to them all and said, “now the real work begins.”

Chapter Text

It didn’t take too long to air out the mountain. Everyone was helping, well, most were helping. Thranduil was more supervising than anything.

Thorin placed Bilbo in charge of helping tend to the fields between the mountain and Dale so they would be ready for coming spring. He quite liked it. He’d always imagined that he would enjoy being a farmer and he and Hamfast had always been good friends and so it wasn’t unusual that Bilbo was aware of how many things were done.

The people of Laketown were staying in Erebor as they helped in the quick rebuilding of Dale. Dàin sent word for merchants of the Iron Hills to come to Erebor and Thorin passed out gold to the menfolk so they could begin some trade with the dwarves.

Overall, things were going smoothly.

“They can’t come until the spring,” Thorin said to him one night as they smoked their pipes on the ramparts.

“I know. It wouldn’t be safe for the children. It’s only a couple months away now, though.” Bilbo blew a large smoke ring. “Then we can tell Briar all about the bullheaded things you’ve done.”

Thorin laughed. “I suppose I deserve it. I know she’ll be rather cross with all the new scars we’ve gotten.”

“Most likely. Although it will be quite the tale to tell the children.”

“We’ll leave a few of the near death experiences out though.”

Bilbo chuckled. “Of course.”

“Bilbo?”

“Hm?”

“Thank you, for everything. I know I wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with these past couple decades.”

Bilbo smiled. “Maybe not. But you’ve grown on me.”

Thorin chuckled. “Perhaps you hobbits are who we dwarrow always needed.”

“Most likely.”

“Are you still planning on going back to Bag End?”

“I’ll decide after Briar and the children are settled. Maybe after Fíli gets married.”

“He still needs to talk to me about that.”

“I imagine your conversation with him will go a lot better than your conversation with me when it came to Briar.”

Thorin’s ears turned pink. “One less thing to tell the children.”

Bilbo gave a hearty laugh. “I don’t know, I think it would make a good story. Minus a few details of course.”

Chapter Text

The dwarrow of Ered Luin were coming.

Fíli was both excited and nervous. Some of those dwarrow had been his friends. And then there were others who had killed his amad.

He thought of his mum and the children and Lily. Them being hobbits was not going to be a problem. Bilbo was being hailed as a hero and the hobbits had done much to help with Ered Luin, but Fíli was still worried.

“Will there be dwarrow who might reject them?” Fíli asked Balin one day.

“There might be,” the advisor admitted. “But more because their daughters and sisters cannot be queen or the crown princess. More will love Briar for the amount of children she has had and many will no doubt think that Lily may give you just as much children. It would be seen as a blessing to the Line of Durin that so many had been lost and now there are many to be had. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few dwarrow went to the Shire to find their Ones.”

Fíli nodded.

“Have you talked to your uncle about Lily?”

The prince blushed. “I have.”

“Have you made your gifts to show her family?”

“Her da has already seen them. Mum and Bilbo are going to do it officially since she’s their cousin.”

“Very good, lad.” Balin smiled. “I still remember when you were born. Dís would be very proud of how you and Kíli have grown.”

Fíli blinked away the mist in his eyes. “Thank you.”

Balin nodded before walking off.

Gandalf told the Company that he would be heading back to Rivendell to fetch Lily and the rest of the family.

Soon they would all be together again.

Chapter Text

Thorin’s main project was putting together the royal suites. He had the children to think of and there weren’t nearly enough rooms for that many children. Luckily, the nursery was rather large. He then also had to think of Fíli and Lily after they married and the family they might start. His nephews and Bilbo helped with the repairs and the preparations.

Thorin wanted it to look like Bag End.

He knew that his children and any children Fíli would have would be more dwarven than hobbit, but he wanted the future Line of Durin to remember their hobbit roots and that they would not be there in Erebor if it weren’t for two very specific hobbits.

The royal apartments were looking more and more like home with each passing day. Bilbo and Thorin has drawn out the schematics and with the boys they began to build (Bilbo’s main focus was on the gardens that were on the balconies of two of the king’s suite.

The last thing Thorin worked on before the rooms were ready was the garden.

He wasn’t a gardener or knew much of the care of plants like Briar or Bilbo or any of his children, but there was one thing that was missing that he could not let go unfinished. He was careful in his craft, in the piece that would make Erebor home for himself and Briar.

It was a simple thing, really. The boys didn’t quite understand, neither did Bilbo. But this was what he needed to do.

He carved a bench, one similar to the bench he and Briar sat upon back in Bag End in the very beginning when she came across him sharpening his sword. The same bench they had held each other when they knew she was pregnant with Bel. It was where many moments were lived and many promises made.

When the bench was complete, everything was ready.

Thorin was ready for his family to come home.

Chapter Text

Kíli was being annoying, he knew it.

“Just ask her to sing!” Fíli said with an exasperated sigh.

“But what if I’m wrong?!”

“Then at least you know!”

Kíli didn’t feel comfortable asking Tauriel to sing for him. For one, it was a weird thing to ask. Then there was the fact that he couldn’t explain to her why and then get her hopes up only for it to turn out that she isn’t his One. That would just be painful for both of them.

“Ask Ori to ask her then,” Fíli said. “Tell him to tell her he wants to write a book of elvish songs or something like that.”

Kíli paused. “You know… That might work.”

Fíli rolled his eyes and went on to help with some of his more princely duties.

Kíli went to Ori almost immediately. His friend and (uncle? he wasn’t sure) agreed readily. For no other reason to be a part of a possibly historic moment in dwarven history.

Kíli was listening as Ori asked Tauriel to sing. He waited, his breath caught in his throat. He waited and then…

‘O môr henion i dhû: / Ely siriar, êl síla / Ai! Aníron Undómiel’

Kíli felt the hammer hit across his chest as his bones began to shake with the melody of her song. He felt like something had clicked into place. Everything in the world felt right.

‘Tiro! Êl eria e môr / I 'lîr en êl luitha 'uren / Ai! Aníron…’

Kíli smiled.

Tauriel was his One.

Chapter Text

It had been strange, traveling with the dwarrow of Ered Luin. Kori kept them all away from the Dwarf Lords for no other reason but she didn’t trust them quite yet. The family stayed together not straying too far from their main wagon. Many dams came to speak to Briar though. She had seven children and two of them were twins. Briar got to know her new people from the perspective of a mother and a simple woman—none of them knew who her husband was. The brief glances that they gave her and with Kori by her side, the idea that she wore Durin beads seemed natural to them.

As they approached the mountain, Briar could not help but look at her new home in awe. It was breathtaking. Her heart thundered in her chest with the realization that she would be able to see Thorin again. And then there was her surprise: the twins.

They were smaller than any of her other children had been, but Lord Elrond had assured her that it was normal and that they would grow in time. Even so, Briar loved them with all her heart and she couldn’t wait to introduce them to Thorin. Farin and Thén were as different as night and day.

Farin took after her. His curly hair was amber and his eyes were a deep forest green. But his smile was all Thorin. He was her happy baby and glowed under his mother’s affection. His laugh was infectious and he was a joy for everyone that held him, babbling on as though he was holding a very serious conversation.

Thén took after Thorin. His hair was straighter and raven black. His eyes were such a Durin blue that she knew a few of the fans twittered about who the father might be. He was her quiet one. He rarely cried and he pouted when he was about to, burying his face into her hair to hide his coming tears from his older siblings.

The twins were currently strapped to her back, their heads poking out from behind each shoulder. She was holding Beryl in her arms and walking with the rest of her family as they came to the steps of the entrance of Erebor. They weren’t in the front of the caravan, but they weren’t in the back either. Kori had wanted them to stay as inconspicuous as possible considering there were two hobbits in their party.

That’s when she saw him.

“Adad!” Bel shrieked.

Beryl began to squirm in Briar’s arms having seen Thorin too. She set her youngest daughter down and watched as her older children sprinted off towards where their adad, the Company, and a large number of dwarrow who stood to welcome the caravan.

The Company didn’t look at all surprised but rather happy. The other dwarrow looked on in a mix of confusion and awe as their king was tackled by five children.

Briar smiled as he watched Thorin kneel down with his arms opened catching his children as they buried him in hugs. Lily was too excited and had nothing to carry so she ran forward as well actually knocking Fíli down and showering his face in kisses, the two laughing happily together.

Kori and Briar walked more slowly. The hobbit could see some of the dams staring at her in a mix of surprise and awe. Perhaps she noticed some bitterness, but that didn’t matter. Her Enaid was waiting for her.

She reached Thorin, who was carefully transferring the children to the boys or their uncles so that his arms were free.

“Ghivashel,” he whispered, coming towards her. He cupped his face in his hands and Briar closed her eyes and basked in his touch.

“I have a surprise for you,” she whispered.

His eyes flickered to the sleeping boys on her back. “I can see that.”

“Meet Farin and Thén,” she gestured to which was which.

Tears began to form in Thorin’s eyes. “I thought it was all a dream.”

Briar smiled. “And it was a good dream. Mahal has blessed us both with more joy in our time apart.”

Still holding her face Thorin kissed her gently before pressing his forehead to hers.

“Ya told me ye had been busy, Thorin,” a thickly accented dwarf said from near her husband. “But ye didn’ say how busy.”

Thorin chuckled and Briar felt it in her very soul. He was here. She was here. They were all here together.

“Briar, this is my cousin Dàin from the Iron Hills. Dàin, this is my wife, Briar, and all of our children.”

Briar bobbed her head slightly. It was impossible to curtsy with two baby boys on her back.

Dàin took Briar’s hand and kissed it. “Pleasure to meet ye, lass,” he said with a broad smile. “I canna believe my wee cousin has got himself a little brood.”

Briar smiled. Oh, she was going to like him.

“I’ll hold the twins while you say hello to the others,” Thorin whispered, pressing a kiss to her temple. He helped her with the twins and she helped him position them in his arms and Briar was certain he had never looked so humbled and at peace. “I almost missed this,” he whispered.

“But you didn’t,” she said, taking his face in her hands and kissing him soundly. “We’re all here together and that’s all that matters.”

Briar turned and found herself being tackled by her oldest boys.

“We missed you, Mum,” Kíli whispered, nuzzling his face into Briar’s neck.

“We missed you so much,” Fíli added as they held her close.

Briar had to close her eyes to stop the tears from flowing as she cradled her sons’ heads in each hand. “My boys,” she whispered as the tears began to spill over. “My precious boys.”

They hugged each other tightly until they were ready to transfer their affection to their newest brothers.

Briar went to the Ris next, who had already been reunited with Kori (who was now hugging and kissing Dwalin). Her dwarf brothers hugged her tightly. Dori dotted and asked if she was eating enough. Nori told her she’s lucky Thorin doesn’t have a black eye and that he missed her. Ori just hugged her and promised to show her his journals and sketches about the quest.

She hugged Bilbo last.

Her brother held her tightly as they rocked back and forth. “I missed you so much,” he whispered.

“I missed you too.” She hummed contently as he kissed the top of her head. “I expect to hear a lot about the final bit of the quest.”

Bilbo chuckled. “An edited version, but yes.”

“Are you ready to meet your youngest nephews?”

“I’m sure they’ll have me wrapped around their fingers soon enough.”

Briar smiled.

They were home.

Chapter Text

Bilbo watched with his brothers and sister and nephews and nieces by his side as Thorin and Briar were crowned.

Thorin wore no crown save for a cricket of silver on his head. Briar wore the silver circlet that Thorin had made as an engagement present. The two had both decided that crowns were not necessary. They were there to serve their people.

The dwarven lords of Ered Luin has been angry to find out their new queen and future queen were hobbits, but Dàin and the Company, who were regarded as heroes, stood firmly behind the two hobbit women. And many of the dams of Ered Luin, including a few of the lords wives stood behind Briar as well. For why would Mahal bless her and the king with so many children if she were not meant to be queen.

But none of that mattered now.

All Bilbo could focus on was how happy his sister looked. He could hardly believe twenty or so years ago she had been depressed and almost lifeless. But now she was a mother of seven with more family than she logically knew what to do with. She was loved and respected and everything their parents would have wanted her to be.

The Green Lady was good and Bilbo knew she and her husband were probably letting them see their little girl get crowned queen.

Bilbo smiled when Briar’s eyes caught his. She smiled happily at him and then looked to Thorin who was smiling just as warmly at her.

Peace. They were all finally at peace.

Chapter Text

Lily kissed him tenderly as they stood outside Thorin and Briar’s door. Bilbo would be waiting in there as well. Fíli knew no one would be out in the royal wings at this time in the afternoon. Mainly because of the time but also because everyone knew what Fíli would be officially asking.

Fíli held his One in his arms and delved deeper into the kiss, drinking her in for strength. She gave a short moan and wrapped her arms around his neck. They parted for breath.

“They’re not going to say ‘no,’ Fíli,” She panted, pressing a kiss to his bearded jaw and then down his neck. “Just breathe.”

“I know… I just…” He kissed her again. Fíli knew that his mum and Bilbo would accept his official courtship to Lily, but it was still nerve wracking.

She took his bottom lip between her teeth and bit down lightly. “You know we can do more if it’s official.” Lily pressed herself against him and Fíli tried to think of anything but her because he really did not want to look aroused when he talked to his mum and uncles. The embarrassment alone would kill him. “Much more.”

“Lily…”

She pulled away but not before kissing him lightly. “Together?”

Fíli smiled and took her hand in his. “Together.”

Chapter Text

Thorin left his wife in their rooms to rest. The twins were down for their nap and would be asleep for—hopefully—an hour or two. She had finished feeding them and Thorin had made certain she was comfortable before heading to the nursery to play with his children.

He had been relatively surprised at how the new dwarven lords were willing to give him some time with his wife and children as long as Fíli spent time fulfilling his duties as crown prince. His oldest nephew was perfectly willing to do so as long as Lily was able to come along with him.

Thus, Thorin was able to spend the day with his children as Briar got much needed sleep.

They had decided to play a game of Orcs and Dwarrow where the children playing orcs chased the children playing dwarrow. Thorin was cast as Smaug for some reason and the game somehow became Orcs and Dwarrow verses Dragon.

Thorin didn’t care either way and simply loved being able to spend time with his children. He had missed a year of their lives. Over a year. His children were getting so big now. It blew his mind about how big Beryl had gotten. She was very determined to be a big girl and to keep up with her older siblings.

It didn’t stop her from crying when Freya’s accidentally knocked her down.

The game paused as Thorin picked his youngest daughter up and sprinkled kisses across her scraped knee. She buried her face in Thorin’s shoulder and he knew she wouldn’t want to leave that spot for a while but she wouldn’t want to ruin her older siblings’ fun.

“We’ll take a time out for a moment and take a wee break, okay?”

His children agreed and they all piled onto the family sized recliner Thorin had made for the nursery. While the children all had their own beds, he had made the piece of furniture so they entire family could pile in together and take a nap if need be.

It didn’t take long for most of his children to fall asleep.

“Adad,” Bel said, curling up into his side.

“Hm?”

“Will I have to go to meetings like Fí when I’m bigger?”

“No.”

“But he’s your son and I’m your daughter.”

“He’s my heir and the next king. It is different for the both of you.” Thorin paused. “Do you want to go to meetings when you’re bigger?”

“I heard some people whispering about Mum. They said she and us shouldn’t be in the mountain.”

Thorin’s heart seized in his chest. “Where did you hear that?”

“I snuck out to go to Uncle Bofur’s toy stall. It was that angry dwarf with the swirly hair.”

Lord Nar. Well, he wasn’t a lord anymore. His utter inability to move forward and to change with the times had lost him his seat on the Council. If Dwalin hadn’t thrown him out, Thorin might have gone up and strangled him.

“Bel, you are a Durin. Your mother and uncles and aunt are of the Line of Durin. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel less.” He lifted his head to kiss the crown of hers. “Is that why you want to go to meetings when you’re older?

“I want to have a voice.” Bel buried her face in Thorin’s side.

His heart broke for his daughter. “You will. When you’re older, Fíli is going to need all of you to stand by his side. A king is only one person. It’s why I have your mum, your uncles and aunt, and the rest of the Company. You’ll have a voice one day. I promise.”

Chapter Text

Kíli felt more at ease now that he knew that Tauriel was his One. It would have hurt him to think that she might not be, that his heart could belong so wholly to one person only to find out that they are not who Mahal had made him for. Even so, he knew there were things they needed to talk about.

As they took their usual walk around the base of the mountain, Kíli looked up to Tauriel. “Shall we date?”

“Date?” Tauriel’s eyebrow raised. “What is that?”

“It’s a hobbit term,” Kíli told her. “It’s a step below courting. It’s how we get to know one another without the idea of marriage bogging us down.”

“Do you not want to get married?” the elleth asked. “I do, but perhaps it would be best to get to know each other better and to learn how our races might intertwine without worrying over the actual marriage. It’s for the sake of the relationship after all and not just the one day that binds ourselves to each other.”

Tamriel smiled. “It sounds interesting. I would like to try it.”

“I thought that we might be able to get away with a few unusual things since we are an unusual couple.”

“And what unusual thing would we do?”

“Travel. I can show you where I grew up. The stars are a little different. I could show you my mum’s people. You could see the places in Arda you dreamed of.”

“When would we go?”

“After Fíli and Lily get married.” Kíli smiled. “You haven’t seen anything like a hobbitish wedding. I think you’ll like it.”

“I can’t wait to see.”

The two held hands and Kíli wondered if there were a way for him to bond with Tauriel as his mum and Thorin were and how Fíli and Lily would be.

He asked Bilbo later and his uncle said there just might be.

Chapter Text

Briar still wasn’t used to people bowing their heads in respect to her. It was not that it made her uncomfortable, she simply wasn’t used to being given such respect. Even so, she did her best to serve her people.

Briar stayed with Thorin during some of his meetings—she even implemented a Council of Ladies. Thorin had thought it was a wonderful idea. Some of the lords were not pleased with it, but Briar thought it would be good to have a female voice amongst them.

The children had settled in and they were all thriving. There were some bumps along the way, but they were all happy. They were all safe. They all felt at home.

The evenings Briar loved best, however, were the ones she and Thorin shared privately when their children were being looked after by their aunt or uncles.

Especially the one where she was better healed from birthing the twins.

She had thoroughly memorized every new scar that marked his body. As they laid in bed, temporarily sated and boneless, Briar traced the scar that dug deep into his chest. Her fingers whispered against his rising and falling chest and felt the ridges of the healed wound.

Thorin had his arm around her, his fingers played with her hair that was vaguely damp in their rather rough activities. They were quiet. They stayed in the bliss of the moment. Words didn’t need to be shared at the moment.

Briar pushed herself up and brushed Thorin’s hair from his face. He looked at her with his blue eyes that were the color of the sky. His gaze dipped to her soulmark. Thorin sat up, cupping her lower back, and pressed his lips to the mark that tied her to him. He nipped at it playfully and Briar smiled.

“I’ve missed you,” she whispered softly.

He scratched his growing beard along her skin and nuzzled at the base of her neck. “I’ve missed you too.”

Briar cradled his face in her hands and pulled his mouth to hers. She drank him in. She rediscovered his taste and his touch for the second time that night.

He turned her onto her back and was cradled between her thighs. Thorin took his time to trace every curve, every inch of her skin as he made her his own again. Briar chanted his name like a prayer, occasionally able to bring his mouth back to hers as her fingers dug into his back.

She supposed the best thing about their suite was that they need not be quiet.

Briar cried out his name as Thorin brought her to pleasure first, still chasing after his own, grunting against her skin and moaning sweet nothings against her as he spilled inside her. Thorin collapses atop her, holding her to him as they regained their breath. He kissed her again deepening it until it was an all consuming heat. He brought her to pleasure once more before rolling off her.

She turned to her side and curled next to him.

“I’ve missed you, Briar,” he whispers as he pulled her into his arms. “I almost lost you.”

“I’ve missed you too, Thorin.” She pressed a kiss to his cheek and snuggled against her husband feeling completely at peace. “And you will never lose me. Never.”

Chapter Text

Bilbo couldn’t think of a better way to spend time with his family and the rest of the Company than to have a meal on the one year anniversary of the Battle of the Five Armies. Preparations for Fíli and Lily’s wedding were coming to a close and soon the two young people would be starting their lives as a married couple. Kíli and Tauriel were already mapping out their journey and talking excitedly to Ori about their plans and promised to keep a journal to return back to him after their travels were thorough.

The younger children were absolutely thriving in the mountain. Bel had begun to work at negotiations, demanding she be allowed to practice her elven languages with Prince Legolas and Tauriel. Freya was following her Uncle Nori around, seemingly determined to outs-neak the master thief. Frerin was becoming rather good at drawing and Balin had confided in Bilbo that the boy might have a talent detailing events and might serve under Ori. Dís was constantly trying to hog Dwalin away from Kori and Dwalin had learned to be more careful with how he sat with his weapons so the girl might not reach them. Beryl sat on Lily’s lap and seemed fascinated by the necklace Fíli had crafted for her. Farin and Thén were being doted on by Glóin and Bombur.

Everything was peaceful as they all talked and laughed and sang and made a good time of it.

Out of the corner of his eye, Bilbo saw Briar and Thorin smiling at each other. He watched as Thorin lifted Briar’s hand to his lips and pressed a kiss to her knuckles before subtly sliding his other hand along her flat belly. Bilbo smiled.

Their family was only ever meant to grow.

Chapter Text

Fíli wasn’t too surprised when his mum and Thorin privately announced their pregnancy to the rest of the family. He had a gut feeling about it and figured it had been the reason Briar had been more tired recently.

It didn’t change the fact that he and Lily were getting married. It was getting harder and harder to keep his hands off his future wife, which his family seemed to notice which was why they turned Fíli’s younger siblings into perpetual blocks for whenever Fíli wanted to spend a little more alone time with Lily.

She thought it was adorable, of course. How could she not?

When Bel promptly sat in Lily’s lap and glared at Fíli when he asked her to sit somewhere else, Fíli gave up.

“Don’t worry,” Lily whispered to him. “We have a lifetime to do all that.”

Lily was beautiful in her wedding dress.

Fíli was almost certain he was going to faint when he saw her coming down to him. She was smiling brightly and Fíli could think of no other word but radiant . They said their vows at the base of a tree that had survived the desolation of Smaug surrounded by everyone who called Erebor home, but it felt as though they were the only two in the entire world that mattered.

Lily looked beautiful in her wedding dress, but Fíli wouldn’t lie and say she wasn’t even more radiant when he peeled the dress off her that night.

Little Esmeralda was born looking far more hobbit than dwarrow, but no one really cared. She’d been born early and had been quite small. She had beautiful green eyes and raven black hair. Everyone doted on her. Even her older twin brothers, although they more snuggled to her than doted.

One night, when Fíli and Lily offered to take care of Esmeralda for the night to give Briar and Thorin a good night sleep, he watched as his wife carefully rocked his baby sister in her arms.

It’s how they met, now that he thought about it.

“Do you think Mahal will bless us too?” Lily asked when they went to bed, Esmeralda sleeping between them.  

Fíli tucked a loose strand of hair behind her pointed ear. “I know he will.”

They were blessed with little Víli four years later. He had Fíli’s blond hair and Lily’s brown eyes. When Óin put his son in his arms for the first time, Fíli was certain he had never held anything more precious.

He sat next to Lily and they watched as their son smiled at them and Fíli kissed his wife’s temple and knew their lives would never be the same.

After Víli came Bri, then Dvarin, then Bo, then Brenna, and, lastly, little Ruby.

Becoming a father was probably the greatest honor he had ever been blessed with. Fíli knew he would do everything he could to protect his little family.

After fifty years of ruling, Thorin stepped down from his crown and handed off his throne to Fíli. It was a shock to most everyone outside the Company.

“I want to spend time with my grandchildren,” he told Fíli privately. “I want to be just a husband, father, grandfather, and blacksmith, not a king. I feel as though I was only meant to wait until you were ready.”

Fíli smiled and hugged Thorin tightly. “I love you, Da.”

He was certain he felt Thorin crying.

Lily was curled into his side, rubbing her hand along the plains of his chest. It was their anniversary and Fíli’s parents had offered to look after the children. Mahal had he missed the quiet (or not so quiet) moments he could spend with only his wife to pleasure.

Fíli traced a pattern across her back as they caught their breath. When he had, Fíli pulled her into his arms and nuzzled his face into her neck. She tipped onto her back and moaned softly as Fíli’s lips traced further down her body.  

“Fíli?”

“Hm?”

“You know that apron that you lost?”

He lifted his head from her stomach. “Yeah.”

“It’s under my pillow.”

Fíli smirked. “Are you nesting?”

“I am,” she smiled back.

“I suppose we should celebrate,” he said as he continued his way down.

Rosie was born nine months later  

Fíli became known as the Lionheart as the years went on. He was known to be fiercely protective of his family and his people, but he was known for his good heart and rational leadership, which he would always attribute to his mother, Briar.

He continued the tradition his predecessor started and, once he had ruled for long enough, he passed his crown on to his own son and would spend his time in the royal gardens with his wife and their gaggle of grandchildren, content to be home.

Chapter Text

Kíli and Tauriel put off their travels to wait until the baby was born. It had been worth it. He also loved seeing his One gush at how small the baby was and how adorable little Esmeralda was. Although he wouldn’t mind, Kíli wondered if he would be able to drag his One off anywhere because she seemed determined to hold the baby whenever she was allowed to.

Even so, eventually they did set off.

And what an adventure it would be.  

He took her to properly meet Beorn.

The skinchanger and the elf got along splendidly. They talked of stars and stories and Kíli just listened. They were both so much older than him, but it didn’t matter. He just loved listening to them talk.

Their first night there, Kíli and Tauriel slept outside, beneath the starlit sky.

He then took her to Rivendell.

She had never been and those of Lord Elrond’s family loved her. It was nice to see his One interact with those of her own race and with those who did not judge her based on her too harshly for her ancestry.

They explored the libraries and Tauriel even began to teach him her Silvian language.

Every night, Kíli would whisper to her that he loved her and she whispered her love in return.

They went to the Shire next.

He gave their greetings to the Tooks and some of the Bagginses. Kíli showed Tauriel the place he grew up and all the spots that held important memories for him and his family.

But, most importantly, he took her to the garden. He took her around it instead of letting her explore on her own. At the end, Kíli explained what the garden meant and Tauriel asked what sort of flower he would pick for her. Kíli pulled out the jasmine flower and told her it meant eternal love .

Kíli asked his great uncle, Isengrim Took, the current Thain, if it were possible to be bonded to Tauriel as his mum and Thorin were.

“Aye,” the old hobbit nodded. “It would be. You’ve lived amongst us long enough that our Green Lady might bless you. But you need an older tree than the ones we have here.”

“Where would we go then?”

“To the forests where the tree shepherds live. The ents might be able to help you.”

They went to Ered Luin next.

Even though Kíli had barely any memories of that mountain, it was still the place where he and his brother had been born. It was a part of him in some strange way.

They didn’t spend too much time there, but it was worth the visit.

They went to the ents next.

They bonded.

Although they weren’t officially married yet, Kíli held his One as though she were and they headed back to Erebor to wed before their next big adventure began.

Their daughter Jasmine was born seven years later. She took after her mother more than she did Kíli, save for the brown eyes. She was their pride and joy and the only child they would ever have.

They had returned to Erebor to raise her, feeling that moving around so much would do her no good. Everyone loved her.

Surprisingly, Thorin was a very doting grandfather. He carried her everywhere when he was allowed to (this was before he retired). “She’ll grow too big for me soon enough,” he said. “I have a right to carry my granddaughter as I please.”

“Da.” Kíli and his brother had gotten to calling him that. It just felt natural. It was as it was with Briar, he was the only father they ever really knew. “Don’t spoil her.”

“She’s my first granddaughter. I have a right.”

Jasmine soon became known as the Star of Erebor.

Once Jasmine was old enough, they took her on their travels as well. To Gondor, to Rohan, to Lothien. They took her everywhere.

It was Kíli’s proudest and saddest day when he gave away his little girl to her husband, an elf of Rivendell. His baby girl had grown up.

But she would always be his baby.

Once his brother had passed on to Mahal’s Halls, Tauriel and Kíli knew it was time for them to head off on their second to last adventure.

They took a boat to the Undying Lands, waved off by their Jasmine and her husband and her three children and their many children, where they would wait until weariness took them and they could see their loved ones again.

Seeing them all again would be the last true adventure.

Chapter Text

Bel thought it was weird that her mum kept having babies, But Esmeralda was cute and everyone seemed happy, so she didn’t mind at all.

She was fascinated with the elves. When they had been staying in Rivendell, Bel had found the elven language fascinating. She had picked it up rather quickly and found she enjoyed talking to the elvish prince and her older brother’s girlfriend.

When her adad promised she would have a voice, she took it to heart. She was going to have a voice that would be heard across the mountain.

She began making plans. The relationship between the elves and the dwarrow would take time to heal, but perhaps Bel and her family could help smooth things along.

Although she knew the relationship between the Mirkwood elves and those of the mountain had a far more complicated relationship than they did with the elves of Rivendell.

Bel was assigned a guard and she hated it. She was thirty and didn’t need a bodyguard.

It didn’t help that Gimli took his job too seriously and growled whenever Bel talked to the elves that visited for trade and other things. It took everything in Bel to not sock him in the jaw. He was too ready for a fight because he hadn’t been allowed on the Quest or taken part in the battle.

He was so annoying!

Bel complained to her mum but she just thought it was rather funny.

“Your adad was a little similar.”

“That’s completely different!”

“Whatever you say, dear.”

After her fortieth birthday, Gimli became so much more unbearable. Her party had been amazing she had gotten to sing and dance with all her friends and family and then Gimli just had to go ruin it.

Bel had just finished dancing with Prince Legolas when she went outside on the balcony for some fresh air. Gimli followed closely behind her.

“Why did you let that tree-shagger dance with you?”

Bel looked at him with annoyance. “Because he’s a prince and I’m a princess and we’re friends and it’s my party.”

“You seem to like them more than you do your own people.”

Bel scowled. “Perhaps it is because they don’t look down on me like some of the people here.”

“I don’t look down on you.”

Bel scoffed. “Please, I’ve seen the way you look at me. If it weren’t for my adad, you would probably be searching under Uncle Dwalin by now.”

Gimli scowled at her and Bel stomped off, tired of dealing with his attitude.

Bel went to live in the now thriving Greenwood for three years as she learned more about their culture and trade. Luckily, she didn’t have to bring Gimli along and she was happy for it. She visited the mountain and her family, frequently, but it wasn’t the same.

She enjoyed the freedom and the ideas she was getting to better strengthen the relationship between her people and the elves.

When she returned officially to the mountain, Gimli became her guard once again. It was annoying. She knew she was the oldest daughter, but it was ridiculous.

“I can take care of myself!”

“Doesn’t mean it’s not my job to protect you.”

“There’s nothing you need to protect me from!”

How wrong she was.

There had been a kidnapping attempt.

One moment, Bel was wandering the halls of Erebor on the way to the library and the next she was being dragged down an unused corridor. She was able to bite the dwarf’s hand and was thankful when she ran straight into Gimli.

Her guard shouted at her to go bring help and she did as asked. When she returned, Gimli had subdued the failed kidnapper, but he had been wounded in doing so.

“You idiot!” She threw her arms around him and cried. Perhaps she truly didn’t know what she would do without him.

He hummed to her softly and Bel knew she really couldn’t do without him.

The first time she kissed Gimli was a failure. Mainly because Frerin caught them and instantly told their adad, who was not pleased at all.

Poor Gimli looked as though Mahal himself had come down and declared him to actually be an elf.

When they married, Gimli had been annoyed that Bel’s elvish friends had been invited, but she knew he was secretly happy. He and Legolas had become close friends, despite their constant squabbling.

They went on to have three daughters. Bria, Goldie, and Sapphire. They took after their adad in appearance, but they were Bel’s daughters through and through.

“You all live to give me grey hair,” Gimli would grumble after a long day.

Bel would always kiss his cheek and say, “You know we do.”

Chapter Text

Freya was determined to outsneak her Uncle Nori.

It wasn’t too hard. If she took off her boots she could almost creep up on him, but he always caught her in the end. However, Freya was determined to be just as sneaky as her uncle.

As the years went by, it became easier to sneak on her family. Not her parents, of course, but the others. She got good at spying on other people too. It’s why, when she overheard that someone was going to try and hurt Bel that Freya realized she might be able to do something important. And so she told Gimli what she had heard.

After that incident, Nori officially (although privately) took Freya on as his apprentice.

Freya knew her job was to always protect her family. It was rather annoying that her family was rather well liked. Sometimes it just meant there was nothing fun to do. Most of the time the information she learned was that so and so wanted to marry one of her siblings or nieces or nephews. She didn’t properly understand the appeal, but she knew it was important to know.

She wasn’t all that shocked when her adad stepped down from the throne. Fíli, she felt, was ready for it. He would be an amazing king, she just knew it.

When (finally) Nori retired, things were still boring, but Freya supposed that was a good thing.

Her family was safe, and that’s all that really mattered.

Chapter Text

Frerin was allowed to begin his apprenticeship under his Uncle Ori a little earlier than most other dwarrow children. He had a talent for it, or at least Master Balin said he did. Frerin just liked drawing and taking notes. He found that it organized his thoughts and made everything easier to understand. He liked working with Uncle Ori. Besides, his big brothers were too big and too busy to play with him and his baby brothers were too little.

As the son of the king, Frerin knew he had to be on his very best behavior. Some people thought he should be the heir because he was adad’s blood son, but Frerin didn’t want to be king. It didn’t interest him at all. His mum said it was the hobbit in him.

Being the son of the king meant people tried to be his friend, even if they didn’t actually like him. It annoyed him. His older sisters didn’t really have that problem. He told his oldest brother Fíli about it and his blond brother just smiled.

“It’s the price of being a Durin, you’ll find your true friends soon enough.”

His first real friend was Topaz. She was Master Bombur’s youngest daughter. She was funny and she wasn’t afraid to call Frerin an idiot if he was being one. They played together often.

Frerin hated it when people made fun of Topaz’s size. She was chubbier than the other children their age, but she wanted to be the next head of kitchens so she had to have a good appetite. It wasn’t as if she were eating aimlessly. She made the best cookies and scones.

Topaz often brought some for Frerin to eat when he was stuck in his own head studying. She made sure he ate.

When he heard Topaz sing it was as though someone had dropped a book suddenly at his feet. The feeling slammed against his chest so suddenly he thought he might fall. He did fall, but Freya covered it up so he didn’t look like a complete idiot.

Topaz was his One.

Frerin wasn’t sure he had ever been happier.

He really hadn’t needed to see Gimli pressing his sister against a wall kissing. He really hadn’t. As payback, he told their adad.

Their adad had not been pleased.

He began to court Topaz properly when they were a little older. They just worked well together. It felt right.

Topaz in her green wedding dress would always be etched in Frerin’s memory. So much so that, even years later, he could still draw how she looked from memory.

They had two sons and three daughters. They had Thorin, Darin, Quartz, Lori, and Jade. Five little bookish children who always had a cookie on hand to eat or share.

“You should write about your parents,” Topaz said one night when Frerin was reading in bed and she was getting ready to join him.

He looked up at her. “What?”

“You should write about your parents. There are all those rumors about how they met and such things. You’re a master scribe. Perhaps you should give them the truth.”

Frerin thought about it for a good long while before he went to his parents to ask.

After his Uncle Ori, Frerin became one of the most celebrated scribes in dwarrow history. He wrote many books about agriculture, the relationship between dwarrow and elves, he wrote of the reign of his older brother Fíli Lionheart. However, his most famous book was that of the story of his parents from the moment they met and through his father’s retirement. It had been entitled There and Back Again: a Hobbit and Dwarrow Tale.

Chapter Text

Dís was fairly happy when Master Dwalin became Uncle Dwalin. She loved her adad, but the little dwobbit wanted to be like Uncle Dwalin when she got big. She wanted to protect everyone too.

Her mum said she was a dwarrow through and through. She and Her big sister Freya. However, while Freya enjoyed the skills their hobbit heritage gave them, Dís enjoyed the brute strength that came from her adad. Even so, her Uncle Dwalin refuses to start her training early like her Uncle Ori did with Frerin.

Her Uncle Dori was the strongest out of the whole Company and he trained her when she asked. It wasn’t too hard. All she had to do was bar her eyes and pout and he usually gave in. That never worked on Dwalin. The head guard seemed immune to Dís’ attempts at getting him to train her early.

“It’s because he grew up with your namesake,” her adad said gently.

“Auntie Dís?”

“Aye.”

“Am I very like her, adad?”

“You are.”

Even though she was really too big for it, Dís crawled into her adad’s lap and hugged him tightly. Sometimes she forgot that he and her mum and uncles and aunt had seen very sad things. Sometimes she forgot that the reason she wanted to protect them was because she didn’t want them to be sad anymore.

Dís personally thought her oldest sister and Gimli were being idiots. It was obvious to everyone that they liked each other. More so on Gimli’s end. How Bel couldn’t see it was beyond Dís.

When Uncle Dwalin finally began to train with Dís, she felt like she was in her own element. This was what she was made to do and nothing would ever take that away from her.

She met Ren while training. He was insufferable. Not because he was like some of the other boys who were training to be guards. Those boys liked to throw their weight around and were overconfident in their abilities to the point that she knew her Uncle Dwalin shouted at them more than he praised them.

Ren was different. He stayed on the fringes and tended to be everyone’s punching bag (although he more or less deflected rather than took on actual damage). However, Ren was stronger than he seemed to let anyone on. Dís has seen him help his adad, a miner, by carrying large heavy bags of uncut stones on his shoulders as though they weighed nothing.

“I want you to fight me.”

They weren’t in the training hall. They weren’t in the dining halls. They weren’t even in a public area. They were right outside his quarters in the barracks.

Ren stared at her for a long moment, shirtless and sweaty and still covered in the grime of the mines. His brown eyes opened and closed for a moment before they widened into shock. He grabbed her roughly by the arm and yanked her into his room before closing the door.

“What are you doing here?!?” he hissed.

“I want you to fight me.”

“So you come to the guy’s barracks instead of approaching me somewhere else like a normal person?!?”

“You would have said ‘no’ otherwise.”

“You need to get out of here!”

“It’s okay, my older sister helped me get here.”

“That doesn’t make it okay, Princess.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“You are a Mahal forsaken princess, so that’s what I’ll call you.” He ran his hand through his blond hair. “Will you leave quickly if I promise I will spar with you?”

“Yes.”

“Fine then.”

Dís has been right. He was strong.

She just hadn’t accounted for the damn humming throwing her off. It felt like he had punched her in the gut and she was flat on her back with his fist gripping her tunic collar.

Damn.

He was her One.

She wasn’t one to beat around the bush, so she told him that night, going to his rooms again, to tell him.

“You’re a princess,” was what he said in reply.

“Yeah, so?”

“I’m the son of a lowly miner.”

“So?”

“You deserve a prince or something.”

“The only princes are my brothers and that’s gross,” she replied in a sing song tone.

His eyes snapped towards her and Dís felt her heart thundering in her chest.

He was on her in an instant and nothing had ever felt so right.

When Dís realized she was pregnant, she told Ren right away. He’d grown pale, but held her securely in his arms and told her everything was going to be okay.

They went to her adad together and held hands when they told him and her mum about their relationship and the baby.

Her adad looked at her with sad tired eyes, glancing at Ren before giving them permission to court quickly.

Dís found out later that her Auntie Dís and Uncle Víli had done something similar decades ago.

They got married before the baby was born, but she had already begun to show, even in her loose dress.

Little Ben was born about four months after they got married. He was like his father in almost every way. Her older siblings were quite jealous of how well behaved her little baby was.

But seeing Ren hold their son and coo over him whenever he did cry was what made Dís smile most of all.

Ben was followed by Lís and then Fen. Three was it for them, but they loved them all just the same.

People talked about her family a lot. Ren preferred to stay home with the children and do the housework while Dís preferred to work her way up to be her Uncle Dwalin’s third in command (the place of second was her Aunt Kori). They saw Dís and her husband as being strange. But it worked just fine for them.

Dís became the captain of the king's guard a little while after her oldest brother became king. People called her too tough and told her she was nothing like her queen mother, but they did not know her as she was with her family.

With her family she was soft and gentle and loving.

In that, she was very much like her adad.

Chapter Text

Beryl has been her adad’s baby for a long time, but she didn’t mind sharing him with her knew younger siblings. Dís told her that she had to be a big sister now too. The boys had been smelly, but little Esmerleda had been was adorable, like a doll, although her mum said the baby was not to be played with like a doll.

She loved her mother’s circlet. Beryl knee her adad had made it for her, although he did not specialize in it. Her oldest brother Fíli had made a necklace for Lily. She liked that as well. They could make such delicate things with their large hands and Beryl wondered what she might be able to do with her hands that were small like her mum’s.

Her interest in jewelry and all that finery continued. Her adad once sat her down and asked why she found it so fascinating.

“Does it call to you?” he asked in a hushed tone, worry creasing his lined face. “Does it make you forget yourself?”

“I want people to feel pretty, Adad,” she told him. “I want people to feel pretty like Mum and Lily do when you or Fíli make something for them.”

Her adad took her to his private forge the next day to begin some lessons with him.

Beryl remained small, smaller than any of her sisters had been. She knew she had been born early and had been a rough birth for her mum and Master Óin said her size was nothing to worry about.

“Aye,” her Uncle Nori told her with a smile. “Your mum is a little thing too.” He pointed to a pale scar that ran along his cheek. “But she gave me this. Though she be little she is fierce. I reckon you’ll be just as, especially with that stubborn Durin blood in you.”

Beryl began her official training as a silversmith under the guidance of a Mistress Ris. Her son, Fallon, had preferred to learn the art of tailoring, and was apprenticing with Beryl’s Uncle Dori. She liked Mistress Ris. She was kind and sang many praises to Beryl when it came to her silverwork. Her small hands could carve details or work smaller items than another dwarrow might be able to.

She apprenticed until late hours in the evening, she sort of got lost in it like her brother Frerin got lost in his books. Fallon often walked her home under his mother’s orders, but Beryl found that she did not mind. She liked the way he talked about his own apprenticing.

It helped that she thought him very handsome, although he seemed to think her a child considering how small she was compared to him.

The first time she heard Fallon sing it was as he was leaving her at the entrance to the royal suites. He sang some old dwarrow song in an older form of Khuzdul, that had been lost ages ago. The meaning was still deep rooted in the dwarrow heart, the words just did not have meaning by themselves anymore.

Even so, she felt his voice echo to her very core. It was like her hammer had swung and rang through her body. She wanted to go after him and sing to him and ask if he felt the same as she.

But she remembered how he viewed her to be a child and she could not imagine him to be interested in her in that way.

Dating had caught on as a trend since her brother Kíli had begun dating Tauriel.

Fallon began to date a beautiful dam named Esper. She was tall and sturdy with hair like fire while Beryl had hair the color of pale amber like her Uncle Bilbo. Esper was everything Beryl was not. She had gone to her brother Frerin’s room and cried to him about it. Her brother was soft spoken and hugged her tightly as she sobbed into his chest.

Her One did not love her.

After she had cried all the tears she could, Beryl threw herself into her work, creating piece after piece of delicate silver. She was even able to begin selling her work. It took her mind off things.

Things like seeing Fallon and Esper kiss of the fact that Fallon no longer walked Beryl home.

Fallon and Esper broke up after a year and a half of dating. Beryl felt terrible about being happy about it, but she had been.

She closed her eyes.

Her One did not love her and she needed to learn to deal with that.

Esmeralda was still too young, but Beryl wasn’t and dwarrow lads began to ask her adad permission to take her on walks and other such things. Her adad didn’t force her to if she didn’t want to, but occasionally she let a dwarrow or two walk her around the mountain.

They were not her One and she saw no problem with it.

“I’m not a child,” Beryl said, her voice laced with annoyance.

“You’re still rather young,” Fallon said. “I don’t see why you feel the need to date.”

“I’m not dating, I’m going on walks and talking.” She looked away from him. “If you call that a date, what do you call this?”

Fallon stopped walking and Beryl stopped and looked at him. His eyes were dark. “This isn’t a date.”

“No, it’s not.” Beryl kept walking and Fallon followed behind her.

It soon became apparent that Beryl was going to dedicate herself to her craft, so dwarrow stopped asking her for walks. The only person outside her family and the Company that she walked with was Fallon.

It was enough.

Then Beryl got sick.  

She had always had a little bit of trouble breathing. Master Óin had said it was due to being born early and her mum being sick as well.

However, Beryl was truly sick.

She coughed and wheezed and turned red in moments where she felt as though she could not breathe. Her whole family was worried and Beryl was worried too.

Especially when the fever struck.

She didn’t want to die. There was so much she wanted to do.

She slept most days with the medicine that Master Óin gave her. Beryl would slip in and out of consciousness. Someone from her family or the Company would always be at her side.

Once, she drifted into a dreamy wakefulness and thought she saw Fallon sitting near her.

“Fallon…”

He stood instantly and went to her side, holding her hand in his. “I’m here. I’m right here.”

“Fallon…”

“I’m right here,” he whispered, kneeling down to be closer still. She could see his mithril hair and soft green eyes. She could see him.

“I love you,” she breathed back before letting the fever take her. “Always.”

She woke up to darkness and learned that the fever had taken her sight.

She cried for days and to her knowledge, Fallon never once came to see her.

It was an adjustment, learning how to move without sight. Her hearing was more like a hobbit and her sense of place underground was definitely dwarven. It took time, but she managed.

Even so, she would not be allowed in the forge again. The work she had been able to create for the past thirty years was all she would be able to make.

And still, Fallon did not come to her.

He came to her two months after she had lost her sight. Fallon came and asked her out for a walk. She agreed for no other reason but she wanted to get out, if only for a moment. Beryl held onto his arm and he led her through the halls of the mountain. She had a basic sense of where they were, but she would not be able to say where’ve was taking her.

He would occasionally pull her closer to his side and she felt the whisper of cloth against her skirt and knew that someone had passed them. Even so, he kept her close and Beryl could feel the warmth of him.

“Fallon, where are you taking me?”

“I want to show you something.”

“I can’t see.”

“I know.”

“Then how can you show me?”

“You’ll… find out soon.”

She heard him open a door and he brought her inside. It was warm, like how her adad made the Royal suites feel. Fallon let go of her and walked away, she heard the whispering of fabric and the trickle of dulled bells.

“Find me,” he whispered.

“Fallon…”

“Please.”

Beryl reached out with a sigh to where she last heard his voice and she walked forward and winced when she thought she was about to run into something hard, but felt something soft instead. The edges of a table were padded. She continued to where Fallon was supposed to be and touched something else. She tried to move it and found she could not.

“So you can memorize where everything is.”

His voice came from behind her and Beryl turned and found herself surrounded by his arms. “Fallon…”

“I love you too, Beryl.” He pressed his forehead to hers. “Always.”

His lips ghosted over hers and Beryl let the feeling sink in and found it as easy as breathing.

They had a son and a daughter, Kallon and Snowdrop.

They lived in the home Fallon had made for her the second he had found their love was shared. She was soon able to train herself to make her little jewelry again, although the details were not as precise.

Beryl never walked alone again. Fallon remained by her side. Just as both had promised.

Always.

Chapter Text

The twins were never to be separated. It was an unspoken rule amongst their siblings and the rest of their family. Farin would throw a fit if he wasn’t near his brother and Thèn would cry uncontrollably whenever they were apart. However, when they were together, they were perfectly content.

Farin often led his brother on their adventures. They preferred exploring the world outside the mountain. Their mum took them where she could and told them all about plants and what they were used for. Thèn would follow and take note of everything his mum said. Even so, he followed his brother’s lead.

Together or not at all, seemed to be their motto.

Their parents allowed them to grow their own plants in the garden that had begun to stretch below the mountain. It was a small plot of land, but it was theirs. Theirs to sow, theirs to grow, and theirs reap.

Theirs.

Farin began to grow interested in the study of healing. He worked under Master Óin. Figuring out how to get a person well was an interesting thing to study. Talking to people and trying to understand their symptoms and then putting together a way to help them was amazing. Thèn stuck with the gardening, although his produce became more medicine based than anything. Even when they began to work in different studies, the twins worked together.

The twins did everything together. Even if they weren’t always together one was doing something that would help the other in some way.

That was until Thèn met Lolly. The dam had an interest in gardening and Thèn taught her what he could. She was beautiful, but some could not look beyond the fact that she could not speak. It was a sad thing, really. Her One would not be able to recognize her. So, Thèn taught her the language of flowers. Even though she could speak with her hands, she was so interested in the way of flowers, Thèn would sometimes find so himself lost in his teaching that he would forget to send the new produce to Farin.

His brother, of course, noticed.

“Do you like her?” Farin asked him.

“I like spending time with her.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“It’s answer enough.”

Thèn still enjoyed working with his brother, but he enjoyed his time with Lolly in a different way. Things began to shift more the first time they kissed. Things couldn’t really be the same after that.

Then Beryl got sick.

The twins did everything they could to get their older sister better. They studied plant after plant, created concoction after concoction. What was there to do? Their sister was dying and they could do nothing.

When the fever broke they could finally breathe.

“We can’t do everything together, you know,” Farin said one day.

“No, we can’t.”

“You should pursue her.”

Thèn cocked an eyebrow at his brother.

“If I have to share you with anybody. She’s probably the least annoying.”

Thèn and Lolly married soon after. They had five children, two girls and three boys. Molly, Rosemary, Farin, Sarin, and Caron.

Farin never got married, but he became the cool uncle to his many nieces and nephews, at least when Kíli wasn’t there, then his older brother sort of booted him off. But Farin was the uncle that let his nieces and nephews get away with a few things and took them on little adventures. Freya occasionally joined in as well, the designated cool aunt .  

As the years went by, the twins remained inseparable. Together.

Together they were perfectly content. Surrounded by their loved ones, they were more than content. They were happy.

Chapter Text

Esmeralda was the baby of the family. The twins were closer in age to her than her oldest brother, but she was still considered the baby in the family, even though Beryl was the smallest. Even so, Esmeralda loved her large family. Loved every single one of them.

It was hard being a girl and being the baby in the family. Then there was the fact that she was more hobbit-y than her other siblings. She didn’t need boots like the rest of them, which suited her just fine. She liked having feet that were like her mum’s.

Her adad called her his little hobbit.

He was fiercely protective of Esmeralda and all of her sisters. It got worse every time a sister got married and had children. It got a LOT worse when Dís came home and told them she was pregnant before she assured them that she and Ren were going to get married. Then Beryl got married and all that was left was Freya and Esmeralda. Freya has announced a while ago that she wasn’t going to ever get married. It just wasn’t her style. So that left Esmeralda.

She didn't particularly want to get married either. It took a while, but Emeralda realized she must be like her Uncle Bilbo. She just wasn’t interested in romance or anything like that. A part of her wanted kids though, but she supposed that wasn’t in her future either (for obvious reasons). She would just be content with being the young aunt. The really young aunt considering her nephew Víli was only four years younger than her.

Esmeralda’s first instinct was to scream, but their adad had made them all daggers for a reason. She quickly lowered her guard when she realized it was just Freya.

“What are you doing here?” Esmeralda asked. “In my room. In the middle of the night.”

Freya didn’t answer. She looked pale and Esmeralda wondered if she was hurt. But then she would have gone to the twins if she had.

“Freya?”

“I’m pregnant.”

Esmeralda was glad she was still in bed because she’s certain she would have fallen. “But you… I thought you didn’t…”

“I’m not.”

“I… I mean it takes two to make a baby.”

“He’s part of my network and it just sort of happened. We got drunk on elvish wine.”

“What are you going to do? Have you told him?”

“I can’t.”

“Of course you can.”

“He’s married.”

“Oh.” Esmeralda got out of bed and hugged her older sister tightly. “It’s okay. What do you want to do?”

“I can’t be a mum. I can’t. My job… it’s not exactly family friendly. I don’t think I even really want to be a mum.”

Esmeralda nodded. “Again, what do you want to do?”

“I want to have it, but I want to keep it.”

“Okay.”

“This baby is our family though. I may not want to raise it, but it’s family and Mum and Adad taught us we don’t just abandon family because it’s convenient for us.”

Esmeralda nodded again. “Do… Do you want me to take the baby? I can raise them as my own, like Mum did with Fíli and Kíli.”

Freya nodded and hugged Esmeralda tightly. The younger dwobbit could feel the hot tears dripping against her shoulder. “I know you aren’t married, but everyone has kids of their own. I don’t…”

“I understand.” Esmeralda pulled away slightly and held onto Freya’s hands. “We have to tell Mum and Adad and the others though.”

Freya paled. “But…”

“They need to know. You can’t just disappear for nine months and then I suddenly come to second breakfast with a baby.”

“I… I suppose not.”

“Hey. I’ll be with you all the way.”

To say their father, brothers, and brother-in-laws weren’t pleased was an understatement. Even peaceful Ren looked ready to murder someone. However, Esmeralda used her baby status to get everyone to hear and listen. They eventually agreed to the plan.

Esmeralda and Freya would go to Beorn’s until the baby was born. Esmeralda would come back first with the baby and Farin would leave to help make sure Freya was doing well enough to return to the mountain. Everyone would accept the baby as Esmeralda’s as long as their adad acknowledged them as his grandchild. Because Emeralda was a dam, people could wonder but they could never ask. It was her right not to say anything.

Freya gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He had dark hair that was almost the color of raven’s feathers and hazel eyes that were almost blue in a certain light. Esmeralda asked for her sister to name him.

“Even if you won’t be his mother officially, he deserves to have something of yours.”

Freya thought for a moment. “Sam”

Esmeralda nodded before Freya passed the baby to her. She smiled down at her new son. “Hello, Sam.”

People talked.

She knew they did.

But Esmeralda didn’t care because she had her family backing her.

Sam was perfect. He had been what was missing in her life and she couldn’t imagine life without him.

Freya was as present in Esmeralda’s life as she had always been. She didn’t seem to regret her decision.

“It’s just not me,” she said.

Esmeralda understood. Freya wasn’t a mother, but Esmeralda was.

Sam seemed to grow up quickly. He got along well with his cousins, although he got into the habit of calling some of Fíli’s children and Jasmine auntie and uncle (which, admittedly, some of the other children did too). He was a smart kid and he wanted to apprentice under his Uncle Frerin when he was old enough.

Even so, Esmeralda waited for the question she knew she wouldn’t fully be able to answer.

“You’re not my birth mother, are you?” He asked her one day, just before he reached his majority.

“No, I’m not. But I am your mother.”

“I know. I think I know who she is, anyway.”

Esmeralda nodded.

“Do you know who my adad is?”

“I don’t, but I don’t particularly care to.” She paused. “Do you want to know?”

Sam shook his head. “There has to be a reason she didn’t tell you.”

It was probably more for the father’s sake than anything else. Actually, it was probably more for the dwarf’s family than himself.

“Sam, come here.”

Her son came to her and Esmeralda wrapped her arms around the boy and held him tightly. He held her as well.

“Mab calon,” the words were sweet on her tongue. It was what her mum used to call her eldest two brothers. “You are my son and nothing else matters. What have I always told you, growing up.”

“We are a family of choice.”

She nodded. “You are mine and I am yours. Our family is perhaps a little less than traditional in any sense of the word, and that’s for all of us, but it’s what we are: a family by choice.”

Sam nodded. “I love you, Mum.”

“I love you too, mab calon.”

Esmeralda never once regretted her decision. She loved her son, loved him with every fiber of her being.

She loved her family, every single person. It was her choice. And she made it every single day.

 

THE END