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All The Rivers Sound In My Body

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Considering all the misunderstandings he had stumbled into during the course of his grand adventure, Bilbo wasn’t overly concerned with the few sartorial surprises that had cropped up after battles were won, mountains were claimed, and heavy crowns laid upon heavier brows. Of course dwarven cities would have their own notions of fashion— the prefered cut of shirt collar amongst the stylish and well-to-do changed regularly in the short distance between Hobbiton and Buckland, for goodness sake, to say nothing of the queer fashions of Bree. Of course things would be different so very far east.

Yes, when Bilbo had agreed to stay in the vaulting halls of Erebor (and more specifically, when he had agreed to stay at the side and in the bed of Erebor’s triumphant king), he had fully expected he would require an expansion of his wardrobe, even if he managed to have some of his own things shipped in from Bag End. It was a realisation that brought with it no great hardship or worry— his good friends had been a scruffy lot during their harrowing journey, but that was hardly surprising. Bilbo’s poor waistcoat certainly hadn’t come away from their quest unscathed, nor indeed had any of his clothes.

He hardly thought it fair to judge the style (or lack thereof) of the entire dwarven people based on the dusty travelling togs of thirteen dwarrows. Things, he imagined, would be quite different in a settled dwarven kingdom, especially with treasure aplenty lining new, neatly sewn pockets.

And, as luck would have it, Bilbo had been correct on all accounts. Dwarves, in the proper circumstances, had a very fine grasp of fashion.

There had been a great deal of unpleasantness to clean up after decades of dragon habitation— or infestation, as Thorin would insist— but there were also many hidden caches of treasures to be found amid the slowly rejuvenating city. Items of precious metals might have tarnished, but they could often be polished to new again, and much of Erebor’s iron and steel was still solid. Intact pottery was salvaged and dusted off, some of it reglazed, and most of the city’s stonework had survived as well.

Food had rotted on shelves and in cupboards, rust and the ravages of age had destroyed some things beyond saving, and of course there were whole districts that had been brought to crumbling ruin by gouts of dragon fire and swipes of great, terrible claws. Dust and ash blanketed parts of the city in eerie shrouds of mottled grey, drifted like snow and deep enough to bury a hobbit, but there were so many little sheltered corners that neither time nor Smaug’s destruction ever seemed to have reached.

It was the fabric that was the real surprise: shop storage rooms, sealed tight behind dwarven-made door hinges and thick stone walls, were found piled with bolts of wool, of linen, rainbows of silk and even velvet. Lace, more delicate than spiderweb, and rolls of sturdy hemp and cotton.

Of course, it made sense to use such unexpected boons when they could find them, especially with Dale and Esgaroth in similars state of ongoing repair. Trade was chugging slowly to life between Dwarves and Men, but such relationships still had far to go, just as both peoples had much to recover.

Dwarves were crafters, builders, and artists by nature— even their warriors usually had some ability at a trade— and between the forces from the Iron Hills that had remained behind, and the growing trickle of dwarrows arriving daily at the gates, there was no lack of eager, skillful hands to put to work.

Four armies of free folk had stood on the sprawling landscape of the Desolation and beaten back the hordes of orcs that had spilled across the land like ink over a page, their bravery met with great loss and great triumph in near equal measure. It had been a battle more terrible and terrifying than Bilbo had ever imagined, but somehow, by some miracle of fate and luck, each of his thirteen companions, and Gandalf besides, had stumbled out from the other side of all that death. Not unscathed, but breathing. Alive.

And it was hardly more than a month after the final clatter of steel, after the last orc fell, after their own scores of dead had been buried and their enemies burnt— hardly more than a month, though it had seemed like longer to Bilbo, with Thorin stubbornly refusing to stay abed the moment he could stand, despite the countless stitches holding all his particulars inside like the stuffing in a child’s soft toy— when the first offer of new clothes was brought before the king and consort.

 


 

The dwarf who stood in front of them was nearly as broad in the shoulders as Dwalin, though at least a head shorter, with a complexion like smooth walnut wood, and a complex mass of beaded braids crowned around their head and woven through their inky black beard.

Thorin refused to hold court with his own people in the vast throne room of his forebears (at least until the hulking throne had been replaced with a pair of matched seats side by side, at Thorin’s obstinate insistence). Instead, the king chose to receive petitions in a smaller, less stiflingly formal hall. From his perch on a raised bench (which was cushioned enough not to hinder Thorin’s recuperation too severely, at Bilbo’s obstinate insistence), with Bilbo seated beside him, Thorin greeted this stout dwarf with a deep growl of sounds. Khuzdul rumbled like boulders in Bilbo’s ears more and more often now, like the deep echos of the mountain itself, though he could not grasp a word of it.

The dwarf replied with some further dwarvish speech and a dipping bow, but only spoke very briefly before switching smoothly to Westron, with the same warm, gentle lilt that accented Bofur and Bombur’s voices.

“And it is my great honour as well, to greet the Lord Consort.” The dwarf bowed again, just as low as the first time, and Bilbo swallowed back the assurances that immediately sprang to his lips. He could not be forever begging dwarves not to call him Lord anything at all, thank you; there was a particularly meaningful silver bracelet snapped ‘round his wrist, a makeshift throne under his behind, and a king holding his hand. Whether or not he enjoyed all the pomp and ceremony that came along with it, Bilbo had made his choice, and he couldn’t regret that for a moment.

“I am Tarrin,” the dwarf said, rising to full, sturdy height. The reflection of torchlight winked back from dozens of small, colourful beads worked through masses of thin braids, like stars in a clear, black sky. “Daughter of Terna. My mam was a dam of Durin’s Folk, and a Master in the Tailor’s Guild of old Erebor, and I am an artisan in the Guild of the Iron Hills, come back to the home of my foremothers.”

“And Erebor welcomes you home,” Thorin intoned; the phrase was well-practiced by now, with more dwarves arriving every day, seemingly from all four corners of the world. It was to Bilbo’s continued surprise and pleasure, however, that Thorin’s voice never failed to imbue that simple, ceremonial greeting with such profound warmth, every single time. “Tarrin, daughter of Terna. My own mother favoured several fine frocks bearing your good mother’s mark, I believe.”

Black brows rose high, and Tarrin’s lips parted, wordless and clearly astonished for an instant before she rallied.

“You—” Blinking sharply, the dwarf glanced away, then back towards Thorin again. If her eyes were suddenly gleaming like her beads, Bilbo thought it more polite not to notice. “She would have been honoured by your memory, my king, much as I am honoured for her. I have come today for her, for all the grand stories she told me of the Mountain, and for the faith she never lost in this—” With a sweep of her arm, Tarrin indicated the room around them, scoured free of the filth of desolate years and teeming now with light and life. “This return to Erebor. Not a single sliver of doubt in her heart, even if she passed on before seeing it with her own eyes.”

Swinging a cloth sack off her shoulder, Tarrin unlaced the top and pulled out a stack of fabric, displaying a riot of rich jewel tones and intricate, metallic embroidery. It looked like several different pieces, perhaps shirts, though Bilbo could hardly be certain with it all folded together so neatly.

“I make no claim to have her skill, not by half, not yet.” Tarrin pressed one large hand gently against the top of the pile. “Nor many supplies on hand, but these are made of Ereborian cloth— silks and velvet, recovered from the crafter’s district, and still good as new. Measurements might be a wee bit off— did them by eye, from what I saw of the pair of you— but they can be altered for best fit.”

Bilbo had no idea why Thorin was suddenly tightening their shared grip, thick fingers squeezing around Bilbo’s palm not too hard, but certainly noticeable. Meaningful, but meaning what, Bilbo wasn’t sure.

“A gift: some simple tunics for our king and his consort, and a humble offer to do more, whatever you need,” Tarrin continued, holding the shirts slightly forward. “If it please His Majesty.”

With the hand not keeping Bilbo locked in a firm clutch, Thorin motioned for one of his newer guards, and the dwarf immediately trotted out to accept the offered clothes. Bilbo was eager to see the tunics in more detail, but Thorin’s strange shift in mood stilled his tongue and kept him seated for the moment.

“A generous offer,” Thorin said, and crooked a finger for the clothes to be brought near. Bilbo felt rather like a faunt again, straining to catch a peek at Yuleday gifts. The restraint it took to keep still, rather than strain out of his seat entirely, was far more of a challenge than it should have been.

In Bilbo’s defense, it had been some time since he had enjoyed fresh, fine, properly tailored clothes. Something that didn’t stink of sweat and mud, something not stained or torn, something that fit as it was meant to— such a thing sounded like a miracle.

There was a bit of deep, cornflower blue silk near the bottom of the pile, and Bilbo desperately hoped it was cut to his own size rather than Thorin’s. What a lovely colour that would be against his skin.

“And a most appreciated one. The crown shall indeed be calling upon your skilled services.” Thorin bent his head, offering a nod, while Tarrin obviously fought to keep a wide grin from splitting her face. “You have our thanks, Tarrin, daughter of Terna.”

Bilbo had every intention of offering his own thanks, but after our thanks had been announced, it felt redundant. Feeling strangely discomfited, he settled for sending Tarrin a bright curl of a smile, which the dwarrowdam returned.

Then it was all simply a matter of the usual official dismissals before Tarrin strode out of their presence; she was quickly replaced by the next petitioner, and Thorin’s grip gradually eased.

 


 

Hours later, hidden away in the privacy of their shared rooms for the night, Bilbo finally, finally was allowed a chance to inspect Tarrin’s handiwork. The tunics had been spirited off earlier, and Thorin hadn’t mentioned anything about them for the remainder of the day, invariably changing the subject with increasing desperation whenever Bilbo attempted to bring up the topic.

If only to spare Fili from taking on the mantle of kingship far too soon, Bilbo eventually decided to bite his tongue, lest Thorin work himself into enough of a lather to finish the gruesome job orc arrows could not accomplish. They had only been married for a fortnight; it was probably bad form to badger his husband to death quite so quickly, even when said husband was being so irritatingly strange.

Apparently, the tunics had been placed atop the large chest at the end of their bed. Bilbo was on a mission; it only took a moment to sniff them out, once he slipped past and left Thorin to his own devices in their solar.

“Wine,” Thorin called after him. “That Laketown red you fancy, âzyungâl.”

That word, Bilbo recognized. It was one of the few that had been explained, privately, with Thorin breathing the meaning against Bilbo’s neck, and kissing the sound of each coarse syllable across his skin.

“Yes, please do pour me a glass, my love,” Bilbo called back, disappearing around the screens that gave their bedroom its cloistered, private cosiness, even beneath the ridiculously vaulted ceilings. “It’s best when given the chance to breathe.”

Thorin grumbled something unintelligible, but Bilbo couldn’t spare a thought to wonder what it might be. Someone had already lit the lamps, casting their rooms in warm, golden light, and the fine fabric shimmered like liquid when Bilbo began sorting through the stack of tunics.

The blue silk was indeed cut for Thorin, which was only mildly disappointing— Bilbo expected he would enjoy the view, and his regal husband did look terribly, unfairly handsome in blue. Still, Bilbo began a mental list of commissions he planned to discuss with Tarrin, if Thorin had indeed been serious about retaining her services.

It was oddly hard to tell, with Thorin being so very tight lipped about the whole thing; perhaps there was more to the tailor’s story than Bilbo had been privy to. Some old, uncomfortable political morass about her family, possibly? Now that they had a moment to themselves, Bilbo was determined to know.

Looking at the artisanry and fine detail of these tunics, Bilbo was also determined to keep this tailor well employed, regardless of whatever dwarven foolishness had Thorin’s hackles up.

“Oh my.” Setting aside the obviously larger garments, Bilbo carefully unfolded one with shoulders cut more to his own width, petting the creamy soft velvet with his thumbs. His breath hitched as the fabric tumbled loose and unfolded, spilling down from the embroidered collar. “Oh my word.”

Velvet, as rich and gleaming as a polished copper coin, and precisely the same warm colour. The neckline was rounded, but dipped deep into a narrow, slitted vee in front, and looked as though it would end just below his collarbones. Such a gap was somewhat daring for a chap’s shirt in Shire fashion, but then again, even the most stylish shirts in the Shire weren’t often embellished with gemstones and fine silver thread.

And indeed, rows of gems winked at him from all around the collar, hemming either side of the vee and lower still, ending in one flared burst in the centre of the chest— small chips of blue, possibly sapphires if Bilbo was guessing correctly, and pearly stones that reflected countless soft, shifting colours. Not one gem was larger than Bilbo’s smallest fingernail, but there were dozens of them laid out in a well-ordered, beautiful pattern. Perhaps hundreds of them, many no larger than a radish seed, and stitched around the sleeve cuffs as well.

“You should wear one of them.” Thorin’s voice was quiet, but unexpected enough that Bilbo nearly jumped out of his skin. Turning, clutching the tunic carefully against his chest, Bilbo found his husband leaning against one of the privacy screens, arms crossed and lips turned down.

“Whichever you find least distasteful,” Thorin continued. “Wear it once to court, somewhere public, and then never again if you wish, but I would appreciate your help in this, âzyungâl. This tailor’s family was well loved in Erebor, and it is a boon to our city if she chooses to stay. It does us well to reforge old ties.”

Bilbo stared at the stony moue that graced Thorin’s face, then cut a quick glance towards the tunics. They were just as splendid now as a moment before; they hadn’t suddenly turned into rags when he wasn’t looking.

“You don’t like them?” He hadn’t meant for the question to sound so accusatory, but now that the words had been said, Bilbo realised he wasn’t at all sorry for his sharp tone. The tunic in his hands must have taken such skill and time, and its crafter deserved better regard than this, even if Thorin’s tastes ran more towards rough wool and leather.

He was a king, and bother it all, Thorin Oakenshield would bear owning one smart shirt if Bilbo had anything to say about it at all.

“You haven’t even given them a proper look, Thorin, for goodness sake.” Without conscious thought, Bilbo had begun hugging the copper tunic to himself, almost defensively. The prod of small, precious beads against his palms was enough to coax his grip to relax before the fabric was wrinkled too badly. “Whichever I find least distasteful, honestly. I’m finding your lack of courage rather distasteful at the moment, if you must know.”

“My— my what?” Standing straighter, Thorin proceeded to puff up like an irritated owl. “Did you just imply I lack courage?”

“I think you’ll find I didn’t imply anything at all. I said it outright.” Smoothing one hand over plush velvet, Bilbo drew up straighter as well, his chin lifting challengingly in the face of thorny dwarven annoyance. “They’re only shirts, and I promise they’re not lined with dragon fangs or anything like that. They’re quite safe, and altogether lovely, so you ought to at least give them a fair try. You can always wear that great smelly coat of yours on top, if you must.”

Thorin made a rough, aborted sound, not nearly sensible enough to be termed a word even if it was Khuzdul, and stepped forward, shaking his head.

“Bilbo.” There was a particular wrinkle deepening between Thorin’s brows; it was a line that spoke much more of confusion than anger. A deep breath was inhaled, then gusted dramatically from Thorin’s mouth, not unlike the bellows of Erebor’s great forges.

It had not been so very long since the fevered fury of sickness had been cast from Thorin’s eyes, but in these weeks of recovery (and delicate but dedicated forgiveness for any and all wrongs between them), Thorin had always kept any flares of temper well leashed. Sore and healing from grievous wounds, he had sometimes been tetchy and quick to growl, but never truly angry. Not with Bilbo— not even when a certain stubborn hobbit had insisted he rest when there was so much work to be done.

One enormous, callused hand rose up, gently cupping the side of Bilbo’s head. Without hesitation, Bilbo pressed his cheek into that warm palm.

“Bilbo,” Thorin said again, nodding slightly toward the remaining tunics. “You like these?”

“Well, yes.” Bilbo reached out with the hand not holding the copper tunic, slipping his fingers beneath Thorin’s heavy woolen surcoat. There was no armour to hinder his seeking touch, just linen and the promise of warm skin and firm muscle. “I think the blue will be especially fetching on you, and so will the burgundy with the velvet yoke.”

“Not for me.” Thorin stepped nearer, peering down at Bilbo with a faint, largely unreadable frown. “For you. You like them for you? You’ll... wear them?”

“Of course— why wouldn’t I? They’re beautifully made, and they look like a decent fit even without alterations.”

Bilbo felt vibrations rise up under those sturdy ribs, and so was already expecting the deep, frustrated groan before Thorin even voiced it. A short burst of Khuzdul rumbled like a distant rock slide, and the wrinkle on Thorin’s forehead did not fade, even as he shifted back to Westron.

“Mahal gird me against the whims of impossible, contrary hobbits— ah!”

It was good that Bilbo had memorized every healing cut and bruise that had peppered Thorin’s body. That mental map allowed him to pinch with impunity, certain he was squeezing nothing more dangerous than unmarred flesh when he dug his fingers into Thorin’s ribs.

“If you’re asking for divine boons, please do beg that Aulë delivers me from the nonsense of dwarves as well.”

Once the pinching began, it was beyond question that tickling would follow soon thereafter. Bilbo was not at all surprised to find himself tossed bodily onto their thick straw mattress just a few short moments later, with the substantial weight of a dwarven king crawling up between his legs, pressing him down into the haphazardly matched quilts and various furs they had gathered together.

“I— oh— I surrender,” Bilbo wheezed, not simply for the chance to catch his own breath, but also to keep Thorin from exerting himself overmuch. He slung his arms around the back of Thorin’s neck, drawing their foreheads together. “Mercy.”

This close, and at this angle, Thorin’s hair spilled down on either side of Bilbo’s face, curtaining them away from the world. Somewhere, amid the blankets, the copper tunic was splayed out and momentarily forgotten.

“Mercy,” Thorin agreed, tilting his head down just enough to catch Bilbo’s mouth, kissing briefly and undemanding. He tasted of the wine he had offered earlier, rich and sweet, and his lengthening beard was a lush sort of bristle.

Another kiss followed easily from the first, but just as Bilbo’s hands found their way up beneath the hem of Thorin’s shirt, the increasingly comfortable truce was broken.

“I fear I may never understand what goes on between these pointed ears,” Thorin murmured, running the length of his nose along Bilbo’s smooth jaw. It might have simply been ill-considered pillow talk, a flare of Thorin’s sometimes awkward humour, but no. Bilbo’s pointed ears were never mentioned with that particular note of bitterness, unless Thorin was truly unsettled.

Before Bilbo could determine the best way to begin his inquiries, however, Thorin kept speaking, all but burying his face in the rounded, soft flesh beginning to fill out again beneath Bilbo’s chin. He was steadily returning to the healthy hobbit he once was, now that the meals came regularly and they weren’t running for their lives quite so often.

“You choose to wear the clothes of Lakemen.” Rather than wander as Bilbo’s had done, Thorin’s hands settled in more innocent climes, tracing slow, meandering patterns up the sides of Bilbo’s neck and over his still-clothed shoulders. “Which are invariably miles too large, or cut for children. Even now you wear Men’s clothes every day, when any dwarf in Erebor would offer the very shirt off their back to you.”

“Well, be that as it may—” Craning a bit, Bilbo was treated to a view of the top of Thorin’s head. It was a very nice head, but less conducive to conversation than actually looking in his husband’s face. “I’d rather not go around snatching shirts off folks’ backs, if it’s all the same.”

“You refuse to wear the royal jewels,” Thorin continued, in the same quiet, dull voice, and did not so much as glance up from his contemplation of the hollow of Bilbo’s throat. “You refuse to wear my mother’s crown— the consort crown— but these tunics? Dwarven tunics you agree to wear without hesitation, and you expect me not to be shocked.”

The jewels, the crown… it had never crossed Bilbo’s mind that those things would trouble his husband, and he berated himself as a fool for not foreseeing such a thing. It seemed as though the root of this particular problem ran deep, and yet Bilbo had been blind to it.

He had an adoring husband, who ofttimes would grow as taciturn as a turnip when he worked himself into a black mood. Silently, Bilbo counted from one to ten, and smothered his profound annoyance with himself for not noticing this mess sooner.

“Thorin.” Shifting around slightly, Bilbo managed to wriggle his arm up, burying his fingers in the thicket of Thorin’s beard. He made no attempt to coax Thorin’s head up, not yet, but he was pleased he was allowed the tether. “I’ve not been avoiding dwarven craft, truly. It’s simply that the Lakemen have more to spare for the moment, and, well…”

Clearing his throat, Bilbo reminded himself that Thorin’s well-being was easily worth such a small sting to a hobbit’s pride. “To be completely frank, my dear husband, you’ve married a hobbit with somewhat embarrassingly sensitive skin compared to you hardy folk, and some of your dwarven spun wool... it’s tough and exquisitely made of course, but it itches. Terribly.”

At that, Thorin raised his head, finally looking Bilbo in the eye. “I could have finer wool made for you, kurdu. Soft—” One of Thorin’s hands began to migrate, sliding firmly down from Bilbo’s shoulder, dragging over his chest, before coming to rest cupping his hip. “But of unrivalled strength, not unlike my own husband.”

Thorin Oakenshield could be unapologetically sentimental when he set his mind to it, almost too soppy to be believed, and Bilbo had never been able to shore up defenses firm enough to weather such sweetness.

“Hush, would you.” He gave Thorin’s beard a tug, but the gesture was more affectionate than anything else, and any hint of rebuke in his voice lacked teeth. “Softhearted old dwarf. We’ve more important things to be worried about than the state of my wardrobe, with more folk arriving on the doorstep each day, and months more winter waiting just over the next hill.”

“Supplies arrive daily as well,” Thorin countered, pressing a firm kiss against the heel of Bilbo’s hand. “We’ll not go hungry or freeze when the heavier snows arrive in earnest. I’ve done the sums myself, as has Balin, and a half dozen learned advisors agree: we have the means to live and rebuild in relative comfort. I am not asking to bury you in a mountain of gems and mithril, âzyungâl, and I would never take food from the mouths of our people to do so.”

As Bilbo had feared, there seemed to be darker, more serious threads wound through Thorin’s tone. A hint of aggravation, of tart displeasure and defensiveness, but worst of all, a low thrum of doubt underscoring the whole unpleasant tangle.

“I know, Thorin.” It was not empty reassurance; Bilbo was utterly certain that Thorin would suffer, would starve, would fight and die for the good of his people and Erebor. He very nearly had. “You are a good and honourable king, my dear love, and I have a number of sharp words for anyone who’d dare say otherwise.”

“A king whose consort dresses like a travelling beggar.” Thorin scoffed from the back of his throat, lowering his head to rest on Bilbo’s shoulder again. “Never mind it; this is all my own foolishness to bear.”

A travelling beggar, indeed. With a sharp, hard shove and practiced leverage, Bilbo managed to roll Thorin’s weight off and over, sending the dwarf flopping onto his back. Without pause, Bilbo reared up, looming over his husband’s baffled face.

“Now you listen here, Thorin Oakenshield,” he said, hooking his thumb under the jut of Thorin’s chin. “I’ll not have my wardrobe besmirched by a dwarf who still thinks scale armour and leather is appropriate dinner attire, and who wouldn’t know a morning coat from a swallow-tail. I’ve been making do, as we’ve all have, but I’ve got four lovely new shirts now, which I’ll be wearing regularly, and a skilled tailor keen to dress me tip to tail. If you think for one instant I can’t eagerly empty even your vast coffers on the price brocade and gold buttons alone, you obviously never saw my closet in Bag End. You’re in for quite a surprise, let me tell you.”

“Gold buttons,” Thorin repeated dubiously, raising both brows. “You refuse to wear even a simple diadem, but gold buttons—”

“Simple? Simple, my foot! Your mother was miles sturdier than me if she could bear the weight of that thing without toppling over.” With both hands, Bilbo mimed the shape of a huge, bulky mass encircling his own head. “Wearing that, I’m apt to break my neck just by turning my head. And those necklaces are heavy as boulders, as well; I felt like I was pulling a wagon.”

Heavy— you never said,” Thorin squawked, sitting up. He looked wide-eyed and gobsmacked, as though the discomfort of wearing half one’s own weight in metal and gems on top of the skull had never occurred to him. “It can be reforged, all of it, however you like. I can have it started tonight—”

“Wait, Thorin—” Grabbing hold of those broad shoulders, Bilbo just barely managed to keep his husband in the bed. Thorin was instantly champing at the bit, ready to dash into the corridor and stir up goodness knows what sort of nonsense far too late in the evening, which was precisely the sort of thing Bilbo had been trying to avoid. “A single tailor might spare a moment now and then, but you know there isn’t a smith in Erebor who ought spend their time fussing over something like this. Not yet, not in the middle of rebuilding.”

I could reforge them,” Thorin insisted, and another attempt to escape ended with Bilbo crawling into his lap to keep him sitting. “I’m no master jeweler, but I know I could manage the crown. Fili would help; he’s always had a good eye for fine gem work—”

“Stop, stop.” Scooting even closer, Bilbo wedged his knees on either side of broad ribs and wrapped his arms behind Thorin’s neck, clinging like a creeper on a tree trunk. It only took the slightest encouragement to bring Thorin’s head down enough to butt their brows together.

“I know you’re feeling cooped up,” Bilbo said, tutting over Thorin’s immediate objections. “No, listen. You were over a week abed, and it is a miracle you’re up and about now— I’d rather you not exhaust yourself at a hot forge for at least a little while longer.”

Of course, Thorin did not appreciate the logic of that. “A week abed, and now weeks more of being coddled like some reedy, sickly child by every healer in Rhovanion, as well as my own hobbit. I am whole and healed, Master Baggins— perfectly hale.”

Reasoning with Thorin when the dwarf had already dug in his heels was like trying to wear down a boulder, or talk a Took out of a wild notion. Bilbo’s head was beginning to ache behind his eyes.

“Humour me.” Shifting his hips forward, Bilbo licked his lower lip, his tongue gliding slow and not at all subtle. If it meant the difference between Thorin getting a night of rest, or a night spent smashing hammers around, Bilbo was not above using every charm at his disposal. “Wait a week— just one more. Another week of having you all to myself in the evenings, hm?”

“You are more precious to me than the most flawless stone, ghivashel,” Thorin replied, as his hands found their way to cupping the seat of Bilbo’s trousers, kneading. “And even more transparent, though I do appreciate your wiles.”

Well, bother it all.

“That feast you’ve been planning,” Thorin continued, and now he was smiling, looking far too pleased with himself for any good to come of this. “Is set for five days from now, isn’t it?”

It would be a wee bit later than traditional, but when Bilbo had mentioned the bolstered spirits Yule invariably brought to even the harshest Shire winters, several members of their fine Company had insisted it was a grand idea. And indeed, supplies had been carefully counted and a modest feast for every dwarf returned to Erebor had been cobbled together, largely under the supervision of Bombur and a few other eager cooks.  Bofur (along with Dwalin of all people) had begun composing new tunes, numerous unspoiled casks of mead had been recovered from cellars, and Bilbo was already expecting a more boisterous celebration than even the rowdiest dances in Tuckborough. 

“Four days,” Bilbo corrected, with mounting suspicion. “It’s this coming Highday. Why?”

Rather than answer, Thorin stole a pair of kisses, first on Bilbo’s lips, then another in the centre of his forehead.

“A king should know the goings on in his kingdom,” Thorin said, which wasn’t anything approaching an adequate explanation. His tone was marinated in smugness. “And the pastimes of his beloved consort. I’m sure you’ll look striking in one of your new tunics.”

And your new crown. Bilbo heard the unspoken addendum, clear as day.

It was too late in the evening, however, and the feel of Thorin’s fingertips slipping under the waistband of Bilbo’s trousers was far too distracting. This was simply not the proper time for a fruitless argument.

“You do think you’re awfully clever, don’t you,” Bilbo muttered, and an answering chuckle quivered through their next kiss.

“Clever enough, I think,” Thorin said shortly thereafter, as he twisted ‘round to ease Bilbo back down amongst the welcoming quilts. Bilbo, for his part, suffered a minor struggle to recall the thread of the conversation, as well as a growing need for Thorin to put his mouth to better use than talking. “I simply try to keep up with you.”

 


 

The lamps were extinguished, the fire had been banked for the night, and Bilbo was just beginning to drift off in his cosy little cocoon of blankets and strong, hairy limbs, when Thorin’s voice rasped quietly through the darkness.

“My coat isn’t actually smelly, is it?”

Though it had been returned through elvish envoys, along with the rest of the Company’s possessions lost in the Mirkwood dungeons, Thorin’s familiar fur mantle did waft more than a little musty. It wasn’t simply the earthy pungency of sweaty dwarf, either; the poor thing had a clinging odour now, as though Thranduil had been keeping it in a dank cupboard for months. Or perhaps a barn.

None of this seemed wise to explain, however, with the tentative accord between Mirkwood and Erebor still drawn so delicate. On top of that, Bilbo was rather keen on the idea of sleep, and soon.

“The next fine day,” Bilbo said, pressing closer to Thorin’s bare, furnace-warm side. “We’ll give it a good airing out. It’s nothing a fresh breeze won’t fix.”

Thorin grumbled, but blessedly pushed the topic no further. Hot breath ruffled against the crown of Bilbo’s head, and a kiss followed.

“Good night, kurdu.”

“Mm, yes. Sweet dreams, my dear.”

END