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Home is Where the Heart is

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Kili was sitting in the den at Bag End, trying to put his finger on what exactly was bothering him. Something had been nagging at him since they'd come back to the Shire, but he couldn't put his finger exactly on what was bothering him. So instead of going and sparring with the others or accompanying Bella to market, he'd decided to take advantage of the quiet to do some deep thinking. It wasn't something immediately obvious, more like a slightly mistuned harp string. Subtle enough at first, but after a while, it was the only thing that you noticed.

So lost was he in his thoughts that he didn't hear the front door open and shut and Bella calling for him. It was only when she was in the doorway of the den, calling his name with a voice sharp with worry that it finally broke through his stupor. He looked up to find his beautiful wife standing hesitantly in the doorway, her brow creased with worry. Wordlessly, he opened his arms and silently invited her to join him.

She immediately crossed the room and climbed into his lap, reaching up and stroking his hair as she studied his face, "What's wrong, love? You didn't hear me calling for you and you looked troubled."

He looped his arms around her waist and tucked her in close to him, savoring her nearness. He sighed and admitted, "Just thinking, ghivashel. Something's been bothering me but I haven't been able to put my finger on what exactly it is. I didn't want to worry you though."

She rolled her eyes and leaned up to drop a kiss on his nose, laughing when he went cross-eyed for a moment. "Love, how many times have I told you that I'm not made of glass? You don't have to protect me from everything."

Not willing to rehash an old (read ongoing) argument, he sought to distract her, "What are you doing here anyway? I thought that you were heading to the market."

She teased, carding her hands through his hair again, "And were you just planning to sit here and brood the entire time I was gone, hmm? I came back because I forgot my basket since my beloved husband usually carries it for me."

He grinned at that, his face lighting up with a happiness that she would never get tired of seeing, drawing an answering smile from her, "How inconsiderate of me. How shall I ever make amends?"

She cupped his face, gently stroking a thumb over his cheekbone, "Why don't you tell me what's bothering you? And if you're not exactly sure what that is, why don't you talk it out with me. You know that that always helps."

He sighed in mock exasperation, his expression fond, "Of course I had to fall in love with a clever woman. Very well." He started to speak then hesitated, repeating this several times before reluctantly admitting, "I don't know where to start, that's half the problem."

She frowned and he had to restrain himself from kissing the little crinkle that she got between her brows that she got every time she worked on a complex problem. Finally she shrugged, "Well, why don't we start at the beginning and work from there. When did you first feel uneasy or bothered?"

That answer was easy, "Since we reached the Shire." He frowned suddenly as he thought it over carefully, "No, that's not quite right. Since we arrived at Bag End."

She processed that for a few moments, playing absently with his fingers, before offering, "Could it be old memories? After all, this is where the quest really started. Or maybe it's because you're subconsciously worried that now that I'm back here, I won't want to go back to Erebor?"

He shook his head, "No, it's not that. I had no problems with Ered Luin and my memories of here are of meeting the most charming yet baffling lass that I'd ever laid eyes on. And if you really want to stay here, we'll figure it out."

She giggled a little, remembering that first night, "I was so overwhelmed that first night and then you had to wipe your boots on my mother's dowry chest and mangle my name. I almost strangled you on the spot, the only thing that saved you was the small armory that Fili had heaped on me. Who knew that you'd become the love of my life?" She batted her eyes teasingly at him before returning to the subject. "As for staying here, no. My place is in Erebor now, with my family. It's home. I just wanted a few things and to make sure that Bag End goes to someone who will love her as she's meant to be loved, not used as a status symbol like Lobelia wants."

His face screwed up at Lobelia's name, "I'm sorry, amralime, but I still find your cousin one of the most unpleasant creatures on the planet."

Bella shrugged, absently straightening his collar, "Well, I can't blame you for that. And you do get on marvelously with my Took cousins, so there is that."

He chuckled at that, remembering their visit to the Great Smials, "They are a lively lot. I'm just sad that Fee didn't get to meet all of them as well."

She shuddered slightly at that, "I'm glad of it. If you, Fili, and Bofur had all gotten together with my cousins, Tookland wouldn't be standing. Thorin's reign is still young, he doesn't need that kind of diplomatic incident, thank you very much. Now, what were we talking about?"

He stood, careful not to dump her on the floor, then turned and placed her in the chair so he could pace. "What's bothering me. It's just... I can't..." His fists clenched and unclenched as he fought to find the right words to explain his dilemma.

She smiled warmly at him and soothed, "It's all right, Kee. There's no rush but we will figure it out. This is supposed to be a break from your duties, a time for you to relax and enjoy. So we'll figure it out and then we'll move on." She stood and moved over to the desk, intent on finding something.

He frowned when he saw the outfit that she had planned to go to market in. It was a drab thing, muted earth tones, nothing at all like what his lady usually favored. She reached into the desk and pulled out paper and then carefully uncapped the ink well and selected a quill, making sure that everything was just so. His frowned deepened as he thought about her office back in Erebor where she handled all her tasks of overseeing the farming around Erebor.

Without saying anything to her, he left the den and did a quick walk through of the entire house before returning to the den. He made his way around the desk and leaned against it, crossing his arms over his chest as he studied her carefully. She raised an eyebrow at his intense scrutiny but didn't say anything, knowing that he would speak when he was ready and had it all sorted in his mind.

Smiling, how had she ever gotten so lucky as to catch his eye, she reached up and smoothed a strand of hair from his face. When she would've pulled back, he captured it and pressed a tender kiss to her knuckles before lowering it and running his thumb over her knuckles soothingly. He said quietly, "I think I know what's bothering me now."

She looked at him curiously, "Well, that was quick. What is it?"

His eyes were distressed, but he said calmly, "You're deeply unhappy here. I should've realized it from the start, I'm so sorry, amralime."

She blinked, trying to process what he'd just said. That was not at all what she had expected him to say. She shook her head slowly, "Kili, dear heart, I'm not unhappy. How can you even think that?"

He sighed, gently tucking a curl behind her ear. "Because it's the truth. You've retreated to the proper Belladonna Baggins, head of the Baggins family, respectability is everything. You've tucked the free spirited Took lass, the one who shoved dwarves in barrels and riddled with a dragon, away so deeply that none of your beautiful spirit is shining through."

A hint of ire shot through her, but she did her best to stay composed and responded coolly, "You're imagining things. I'm the same as I always was."

He shook his head sadly, "No, you're not. Look at that answer that you just gave me. Now, imagine telling me the same thing in Erebor."

Resisting the urge to cross her arms and huff, she nonetheless did as he'd asked. If they'd been in Erebor and told her that, she would've... She frowned as she realized that she would've tossed something at him and rolled her eyes before laughing and saying that someone needed to be proper at times and keep the rest of them in line. When had she changed? How had she changed without realizing it? Uncertainty washed over her and she met Kili's eyes hesitantly, "Why don't you tell me the changes that you've noticed."

He nodded, his eyes compassionate, "When we first met, you were always prattling on about respectability, as if you were reminding yourself just as much as you were reminding us. And then the whole quest and everything happened and then we happened and you ended up staying in Erebor. But love, your life is filled with joy and color. You never really made Bag End yours after your parents passed, did you?"

She tilted her head at that, "I don't know what you mean. Of course Bag End is mine. I lived here for many years after my parents passed, alone of course, but Bag End was my home."

"Mizim, you love bright colors. Just think of your office and how you insisted that aquamarine was the only color that you wanted it to be. I still don't know how you and Ori pulled it off, but you did. All of Bag End is done in soothing earth tones with dark, rich accents, all of which point me more towards your rather staid father. Steady and reliable, even as he adored you and your mother. The brightest part of the house is the kitchen with it's cheery yellow paint and copper pots, but I'll wager that that was your mother's influence, as you seem to prefer blues and greens to reds and yellows."

Reaching up and absently tracing her marriage bead, a beautiful thing made of silver and aquamarine chips, she frowned thoughtfully, "You know, I never realized that." She studied him, "I guess I do tend to favor lighter, brighter colors, whereas you tend to favor the deeper jewel tones, deep burgundy, forest green, Durin blue."

He nodded, offering her a half smile, "I think that your red coat when you ran after us was the brightest thing you owned and it was only when you were leaving the shire that you actually wore it."

She admitted softly, "It was my mother's. She would wear it on her rambles outside of the Shire." Pushing it aside before she become melancholy, she said, "What else have you noticed?"

He nodded sideways at the desk behind them, "Look at the desk. It's too neat. Don't get me wrong, your desk at Erebor is tidy too, you can find anything that you need, but the entire thing is covered with reports and plans and paper as well as a potted plant or two. You've been working here for days getting all of your affairs into order and all of the legalities handled, but everything is tidied away out of sight."

She gave him a scandalized look, "I can't have guests over with all of it laying about."

He sighed, "Bella, the only ones that come into the den are the ones that have business to do here, all other guests are entertained in the parlor. How is that any different than Erebor?"

She started to reply but had nothing to defend with. She offered him a crooked grin and grumbled, "You just have to go and be all logical, don't you?"

He chuckled at that, "Has to happen occasionally, love. You've been a good influence, rubbed off on me."

Relaxing back into her chair, she rubbed her forehead, "Well, what else?"

He motioned at the smial in a sweeping, expansive gesture, "You've been treating Bag End like you're a guest. Everything is tidied away immediately, you never relax. At home, it doesn't matter if you leave something laying around for a little bit, or in another room than where it belongs. But here, everything has a place and strict order is maintained."

He didn't add how much he loved how she behaved in Erebor. She wasn't messy per se, but she was comfortable in her own home. Although she was respectable and every inch a princess in public, in their private chambers or the company rooms, she was much more relaxed. She'd often leave a shawl or a list of some sort or notes on one thing or another that she found fascinating laying around. He couldn't begin to count the number of times that one of the company had handed him one of her bangles or a tiara that she'd worn for some event and taken off as soon as she was out of the public eye. He especially loved when she pulled the hair combs out that she used to keep her hair tamed while she was working, allowing her curls spring free in a carefree riot that so clearly matched her beautiful spirit.

She started to say something and promptly clapped her hand over her mouth. He offered her a wry grin, "Let me guess, you were about to say that it wouldn't be proper. But the question is, proper according to who? Those stuffy straight laced hobbits that you tried to fit in amongst for years? The truth is, you never would've been good enough for them, especially since your mother was a Took. And you know what the truth is? Those hobbits that look down their noses at you and your mother? They're envious of the warmth and laughter that you carry so easily within you. They wish that they had half of your courage and spirit. But since they don't, they want to bring you down to their level and keep your wings clipped so that their weaknesses aren't so readily apparent. They tried to make you a sparrow, when in truth, you are a phoenix, amralime."

Well then, what could she do but kiss him after such sweet words. When she pulled back, her eyes were dancing with mirth as she murmured, "Who knew that I'd married such a silver tongued charmer. I'll have to let it slip discreetly to Thorin or Fili that you might have a future in diplomacy where you speak so sweetly."

He pressed his forehead briefly against hers and offered her a tender smile, "Ah, but I don't, for my sweet words are only for you."

She stole another quick kiss before pulling away entirely. "You are right, husband mine. I didn't realize how much I'd slipped back into who I was before you noisy lot rubbed off on me. That me, she wasn't happy, you're right. But I never want you to think that I'm not gloriously happy now, with you and my life in Erebor." She sighed and looked around the room with new eyes. "Just another couple of days here and then everything should be wrapped up and we can go home."

Straightening up, she abruptly shook herself out of her impending melancholy, "Still, I'd better go and get items from the market or we're going to have some hungry dwarves on our hands tonight. Since you've figured out what was bothering you, would you like to accompany me or would you prefer to go spar with the others?"

He hesitated, "I'd like to go with you, but..."

She looked at him curiously, "But?"

He took a deep breath and just went for it, "I think that you should change before we go to the market." When she frowned down at her outfit, Kili continued, "That dress can't be comfortable, it's much too stiff and restrictive. Besides, I hate to say it, but those colors just aren't flattering to you. I want you to wear a dress that you like and feel comfortable in, one that you can move easily in. Let the old biddies gossip if they want, you're a princess now. And I want all those blind hobbit males to be green with envy about the treasure that they let get away."

His expression when he finished speaking was pure, smug, male satisfaction. Bella laughed at that, loving how fiercely her husband loved and valued her and praying that he never lost his mischievous streak. She suddenly decided he was right. She had spent her entire adult life trying to make the other hobbits recognize her worth at the cost of her happiness. Now, however, she had people who automatically recognized her worth and valued her happiness. And those people loved her just the way she was.

Her answering grin was filled with pure mischief, "I'll just go change into my teal dress, the one that Dori made for when I work in the fields or spar."

He nodded, "One of your favorites, good choice. It also brings out the highlights in your hair and gold flecks in your blue eyes. Should I change as well?"

She shook her head, already heading towards their room. "No, you're already devastatingly handsome as it is. If we want to finish the marketing in a decent amount of time, I would prefer to not have to continually be shooing pert hobbit misses away. I'll be just a moment, love."

He said happily, "Take as much time as you need, I'll wait."

Moving to find the market basket, the reason that she had originally came back, Kili couldn't help the soft smile that crossed his face. Yes, he would wait for Bella as long as necessary. She was his heart and wherever she was, that was home. He was a lucky dwarf indeed.