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The Foe That Is Mistletoe

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„Explain.“

The young dwarf squirmed under the intense scrutiny of his King.

His Amad might say what she liked about His Majesty´s sturdiness and pleasingly sharp profile and most exemplary Durin nose – only, if she could perhaps keep her approbations within the small circle of her equally befuddling group of similarly afflicted dwarrowdam-friends! - if she found herself the object of that stare she would wish herself back in Ered Luin, too!

And he had only helped lugging the thing into the chamber!

Princes´ orders!

And Master Baggins had been so pleased and so kind and had smiled and had promised him a little bag of those maple biscuits he had seen his Captain scoff on the training grounds not-quite-so-secretly and -

He gulped.

„It is a Shire tradition, your Majesty.“

His only reply was a grunt.

Was that -

He wished his Amad were here.

Nearly.

Because his Amad would -

„I suppose I should have expected it.“

Well – Master Baggins had the propensity to show himself quite undwarvenish at times, from what one heard, but he was such a nice little fellow and it was only a very little botany (as long as one discounted all the many twigs with the tiny, green leaves and the strange white pearly things – which he was certainly not going to mention to his King if nobody had pointed them out to him yet because -), really, and -

„Make certain there is no kissing taking place anywhere near it.“

The flabbergasted member of Erebor´s Guard could only gape after the resolutely stomping form of his King.

Uhm... right.

No -

He would put some snow on his cheeks before he returned to his friends.

His Amad had not raised a slow-witted dwarf.

Besides -

One did not simply crawl under a tree with one´s sweetheart.

Those needles – poked.

Of which he had had first-hand experience, having heaved the thing across half of Erebor to deposit it in the King´s chambers for Master Baggins to - the dwarf very nearly whimpered -

Decorate it.

~ ~ ~ ~

„That was very rude, you know.“

Thorin Oakenshield, son of Thrain, son of Thror, newly and officially crowned King under the Mountain; unrepentantly ignored that assessment of his actions while continuing to glare after the hapless dwarf who appeared nearly as dejected as the small, ribbon-adorned offering of mistletoe that was hanging from his hand as he retreated to a far corner of the progressively stuffy kitchen.

Once safe in the knowledge that no further shameless attempts should be made on one who was still under his protection, the King crossed his broad arms and favoured the former burglar with kingly almost-indifference.

~ ~ ~ ~

It had all begun somewhat harmlessly.

Inconspicuously.

Nearly.

It was not that he had minded.

Much.

He supposed that their former burglar had to find something to occupy his fussy little self with during those long, cold, dark months that would keep him safely enclosed within the confines of the Mountain. Something that was not related to any daily patting and cuddling of offensively dusty tomes and parchments. (Thorin still sneezed every time he was forced to enter the library.)

And had it not been a surprisingly easy feat to get Master Baggins to agree to spend the winter months in Erebor and to only set out for his beloved Shire once the roads had been cleared of the abundance of snow that had been making it near impossible for any dwarves, Men or impractically boot-less hobbits to take to much in a manner of leaving or entering the Mountain.

No elves had tried either ever since Thranduil and his contingent of tree-shagging advisers had taken their exasperating, over-tall selves back to the woodland realm.

Mahal be thanked.

And he had accorded himself with all the possible amiability. Diplomacy. Foresightedness. Common sense.

No matter what any entirely too cheeky Shirelings had to offer on the matter.

He had barely lifted an eyebrow when he had happened upon Kili and that elf prince -

(His brow still took to twitching at the recollection.)

But he had been too grateful and too ashamed of his actions before the battle and while he would never lower himself as much so as to call the King of Mirkwood his friend he was trying to let some old grievances become a thing of the past and to give all his focus to the rebuilding of his Kingdom; to guarantee its flourishing and prosperity for many generations to come.

And he had Bilbo Baggins to knock some sense into him whenever his majestic head got too thick.

Mahal knew he did not deserve the hobbit´s forgiveness but it had been granted to him and the weight that had fallen off the injured King´s shoulders when those small, shaking hands had grasped his own, calloused, bleeding one -

He would behave as much as he found it within himself to do any such obnoxious thing and then fob the bastardly bunch off on Balin.

His old friend had always been better at that whole Courting The Other Races tiresomeness.

And if he were to court anyone -

He still had not been kissed.

There had not even been an attempt at kissing him.

The dark brows drew together.

Was he so undesirable?

Unkissable?

His lips were – adequate.

His cheeks suitably adorned.

His nose -

And he was King.

It should be his prerogative.

To be kissed.

He should have been the first to be kissed.

He was still kiss-less.

There had not even be a single peck.

Not the merest, faintest brush of -

Of course he had glared.

Regally.

Repeatedly.

Mildly discouragingly.

It was his duty to glare.

To keep his subjects in line.

His Council.

His Company.

Friends.

Nephews.

Especially those.

As for any erstwhile burglars -

Who had been standing just there, the picture of gentlehobbit-ish, burglar-ish, happily unsuspecting and cheerful innocence -

Having no care for the great danger they had placed themselves in -

Intent on making a spectacle of themselves in full view of all of Erebor (´s kitchen staff)-

With that thing dangling in the would-be assailant´s hand -

An abrupt movement had seen the King of Erebor cross the stone floor.

~ ~ ~ ~

„Hot wine.“

The hobbit rolled his eyes; shoving the mug into his entirely too suspicious companion´s hands.

„Hot spiced wine. Don´t you have – no, of course you don´t. Really -“ The hobbit huffed as he bent to observe the progress in the oven that he had unscrupulously requested Bombur to hand over to him, as it were - dwarves! It was bad enough that they had not heard of mistletoe and snow-hobbits – not even the dwarrow-equivalent! - and knew not one Yuletide carol but to also completely and happily forgo the most important and pleasurable seasonal delights! His own tummy protested at the ghastly thought. He was going to have to produce a cauldron of his mother´s orange and cinnamon punch for his deprived, sorry lot. „I still can´t believe that a race that is so fond of celebrations and observing their holidays so studiously – Ori has told me about the traditional Durin´s Day festivities you know – has never - oh, I think these might be ready in another minute or two! - even heard of Father Yule! And the presents! Eru, don´t get me started on the pres-“

„It´s... pleasant.“

Bilbo Baggins, his curly head still bent so that he was able to ascertain the exact moment when his baked goods would be ready to be taken out of their heated surroundings, could not but permit himself a smile at the reluctantly pleased admission by way of an interruption that was so – Thorin.

That deep, growly timbre still did funny things to his insides at times.

It probably always would. Which made it a very good thing that he would be leaving to make his return to Bag End come spring. Lest he should at any point be tempted to take revenge for its really quite rude disturbance of a hobbit´s equilibrium and silence the offending, uhm, offender.

With his -

Yes, well.

A hobbit was allowed his far-fetched fantasies.

Especially if he was just a hobbit. Among dwarves.

And as long as he was among dwarves – his dwarves – he was going to make certain that there was a little extra cheer during those long, cold months and also to reward them for all the many hours of hard and diligent work that were being put into restoring their home so as to make it habitable to as many of their kin as quickly as possible.

Fili and Kili had been instantly supportive of Bilbo´s schemes.

He had a strong suspicion that the silly boys would agree to anything that would make him feel At Home – Yavanna knew there were hints enough of him being Family and gardens that could be created and little kitchens of his own and the puppy eyes had been resorted to on more than one occasion and it was really quite sweet and made his little hobbit heart nearly burst out of its confines but Bilbo Baggins was a very sensible hobbit (if you ignored the small, insignificant incident with a quest and a dragon and that bit of a nearly fatal battle) and any sensible hobbit knew that a hobbit´s home was with his garden and his armchair and his books and away from any temptations that might make him forget himself and cause a rift in an only recently, carefully repaired friendship – but the idea of Yule celebrations with all its small – and big – benefits had especially endeared itself to the young Durins and so Bilbo had had no qualms about sending the pair of them off into a slowly recovering Dale on a day that had at least not plagued them with any fresh snow to procure him a tree. Those boys had had need of a bit of fresh, cold air anyway. After all that sugar. And he really could only take so much of said puppy eyes on an average day.

He had promised them that they would be permitted to assist him at creating the ornaments, of course.

And perhaps he would turn another blind eye if they helped themselves to more of his rapidly diminishing stash of mistletoe.

~ ~ ~ ~

He had not been able to help the giggle.

Which had provoked an even more put-upon expression on Thorin´s thunderous face, but for the King of Erebor to walk into the Company Room; as a cosy, little adjoining chamber next to the Council Chamber had been christened by the younger members of the former Company of Thorin Oakenshield – they were the only ones seen in the same and it had quickly become a habit for some or all of its members to convene there for a smoke or a drink or some, uhm, company; to see those lean, sharp, bearded cheeks turn quite red upon witnessing a quite unnecessarily slobbery smacker on his own cheek at the hands – or rather – lips of his younger nephew had been nearly worth the resulting commotion that was the confusion over Kili´s romantic interests, the halfling´s encouragement of dishonouring them and Thorin Oakenshield´s entire stupefaction at understanding that it was common for hobbits – or anyone – to favour the person they found themselves meeting under a twig of green leaves and white pearls with a -

Kiss.

The King´s wide eyes had travelled between the botanic offenders that were to be found in the centre of a door frame, hanging from a chandelier and in His Nephew´s Own Hand and the hobbit – only for a certain hatted dwarf to march into the room, briefly pause at the sight before him, to then stalk up to the pair of giggling hobbit and grinning nephew, with his own little bouquet appearing from his pocket, holding it over the burglar´s head and planting a no less impressive variation of the lip-aided imprint on the other beardless cheek; fairly smirking at his King and enquiring whether Bilbo had already provided His Majesty with his own share or if His Majesty wished to borrow his little helper?

The cheekiness was only a little subdued on the miner´s merry face in view of the icy glare that was directed at him and before the hatted dwarf could offer any further helpful input the King had turned swiftly to stomp out of the room, quite forgetting that he had agreed to meet his Company for dinner.

It had taken Bilbo the better part of an hour to coax the stubborn dwarf out of his outraged sulking and only the assurance that no, he had not made it his business to hand out dubious bits of botany to every dwarf in the Mountain to encourage its population to adopt licentious behaviour towards someone whom its ruler had previously considered respectable and that he really had no intention of letting anyone try their kissing expertise on his woefully hairless person before skulking off to find another victim had eventually appeased the growling King.

The hobbit had run a hand through his unruly hair – which was still a little too long for his taste but any time he as much as mentioned the possibility of having it cut a pair of horrified dwarven eyes would land on him and he had not yet quite had the heart to subject their entirely ridiculous owners to that pain -

„It´s just – well, you know, it´s something we would do at home and it´s all quite harmless fun and well, I won´t be able to enjoy the season with my relatives this Yuletide (not that I really regret not being forced to sit and smile while my cousin Lobelia serves her nasty, overspiced pie, thank you!) and I thought, you know, it might be nice to have some decoration around Erebor and maybe have a meal on the Eve. Just you and me and the boys and the Company. But if you really mind I will naturally -“

Bilbo had been stopped from further elaboration by the firm grip of a large hand on his wrist; which swiftly moved to cover his hand.

„You may adorn the whole Mountain with your sprigs, Master Hobbit. If it will please you.“

The hobbit did not quite know what he was to do with the solemn intensity in those very blue eyes and the seriousness in the deep rumble of a voice but he was quite touched by the dwarf´s understanding and returned the unsettling look with a smile – and a little cheek.

„You´ll only have yourself to thank if you wake up to the sight of a generous arrangement of mistletoe hanging from your canopy now, you know.“

The blue eyes instantly narrowed.

Bilbo merely patted the appendage that was still placed on his hand, rising to leave the dwarf to his Kinging.

„I´ll tell the maids you are not to be kissed before your morning tea. Your Majesty.“

The hobbit left the chamber unabashedly laughing at the ominous promise of violent retribution and painful revenge that followed him out into the hall. Loudly. Growlingly.

~ ~ ~ ~

Thorin took another careful sip of the festive beverage, having carried it with him to his private rooms.

Hm. It really wasn´t half bad.

Which he would certainly not inform their hobbit of; the little creature was already top-lofty enough as it was.

Perhaps he should have Ori look deeper into the traditions shared by both Shirelings and Men; if they came with such – tasteful accompaniments. His kingly nose had not been entirely displeased with the scent that had come from within the oven either.

Apparently, their Yule feast was to contain a sparkling pudding, bread made from ginger, vanilla flavoured biscuits in the shape of a half-moon, an assortment of pies and cupcakes, meats, potato dishes, fish, a turkey with no less than six variations of stuffing – most of which were to be served on the side and thus made no sense at all but when he had informed the halfling of the fact he had found himself at the receiving end of an extremely pitying look – and he had not even known that there was more than one kind of gravy!, and -

And sprouts.

Which he was most certainly not going to eat.

He would not even try them.

Nor would he be the one to tell Ori.

Or to attempt to make the scribe sample them.

It was enough that he had to suffer the idiosyncrasies of his sister-sons; he was not going to endure the hurt disbelief on yet another face that was entirely too prone to enlarging its eyes and let them blink at one soulfully.

And that included his burglar.

He would not be moved by any cute lip-wobbling or any endearing huffing and if the halfling as much as tried to use his adorable little finger on his person he would -

He would try the bread.

Even if it should be made from ginger.

That should appease the really quite abominable bossy creature.

Leaving the small desk where he had perused the culinary notes Thorin found himself in front of the needled abomination.

It smelled -

Like a forest.

Like -

Mirkwood.

He hated it.

It was green.

And -

Full of needles.

He was going to wake up in the morning and walk across his bedroom and into his sitting room and his feet would step on needle after needle and they would bother him and end up in his boots and he would be forced to endure the strange itching while in Court all day and he would not be able to remove his boots and Fili would start snickering at his wriggling and he would have to disinherit him and then Kili would be next in line to the throne and Durin help them if that should ever come about!

The needled nuisance had to go.

It served no purpose.

It was green.

If the hobbit had to torture him with botany than he demanded to have his chambers infested by various ribboned sprigs of mistletoe!

As he had been promised.

Threatened with.

Cheeky hobbit.

The twigs seemed to be everywhere else and more than once had his fastidious dwarven ears perceived the disturbing sounds of a kiss being exchanged in a conveniently placed alcove or under a non-strategically placed door.

His nephews, bane of his existence as they were, could be seen carrying the little sprigs they shamelessly insisted the hobbit had gifted them – those brats had pinched them, and nothing they tried to assure him of would convince him otherwise! - in their pockets and he had had the very great pleasure to witness Dwalin cuff Kili for attempting to test his prowess on his bald head once.

The effect had been sadly ruined by the King´s oldest friend´s recommendation to take himself off and find an elf to pester.

He was not going to send an invitaion to the Prince of Mirkwood to join their Yule festivities.

No matter any pleading eyes or little glares or plump, pouting hobbit lips.

Lips.

Hobbit.

Thorin glared at the tree as if it had personally insulted him.

Which it had.

He could not even hack into tiny pieces and make his own sprig.

No-one would mistake the result of his labour for mistletoe.

With a huff, his arms crossed in front of his tunic-clad chest, the King resigned himself to his kiss-less fate (One would have thought a brazen, frustrating, tiresome, proper, respectable little hobbit would accord the matter the to be expected precedence. He was King. He had been crowned.)

If their former burglar was happy to dispense with his favour at his leisure then he would not be the one to deter him.

It was not that he needed the hobbit to present him with an opportunity to kiss him.

Or to be kissed.

At all.

It was simply a matter of – respect.

Upholding protocol.

In all matters.

And tradition.

If he had any say in the matter there would be no kissing going on whatsoever.

But then Bilbo would look at him with those sad, soft green eyes again and he would immediately give in to anything the blasted hobbit should wish because -

Damn the hobbit.

Damn his cute little nose and his abundance of honey-coloured curls and his all-over softness and his gentleness and his fussy manners and that astounding tendency of landing himself in a scrape and that really quite foolish preference for throwing himself before creatures many times his size in order to save a foolish, old dwarf from certain death and if Bilbo Baggins was not going to present himself in front of the same dwarf´s person with a respectable arrangement of those intolerable twigs and ask him to lean down so that he could hold them over their heads within the next -

„Uhm... Thorin?“

~ ~ ~ ~

The King eyed the boxes and little bags at his feet with trepidation.

Decorate.

Bilbo – the hobbit - their hobbit - his hobbit – had sought him out in the privacy of his rooms to -

Decorate.

The tree.

Which was tradition.

Apparently.

And would be quite beautiful.

And homely.

And cosy.

And Yuletide-y.

And Thorin would like it.

Apparently.

And he had not gaped.

He had, at most -

„Why?“

„Hm? Oh – well, I thought – be a dear and hand me the red baubles in that box, thank you!“ The hobbit, quite immune to any kingly befuddlement – or opposition – had climbed on a chair, which he had dragged over to the tree, holding out an imperious hand while inspecting the needled torture device for – Mahal knew what. Broad shoulders slumping, the resigned King gave in to his fate. „What with you spending so much time in Court and when you are not shouting at your advisers you glare at all that nasty paperwork and really, you will find yourself with such a headache one of these days, Thorin; Balin says you are not even eating all your meals!-“ One shiny item was placed amidst needled twigs. „I know from the boys that you have not even thought to make your own rooms your own again and it makes me really quite sad to think that you come back to them after a horribly stressful day – there are straw stars in that small box, will you – to a nearly bare, impersonal room and my father always fell our own tree back at home and Mother and I used to put all sort of things on it and, well, I guess I thought it would bring you a little cheer, too, and – oh, thank you! I made that one myself! Bofur helped me and Eru, Thorin, you should have seen the – Thorin!“

~ ~ ~ ~

That – that dwarf!

He had nearly toppled over, for Yavanna´s sake!

And he was not keen on making the acquaintance of that hard stone floor, other than with the soles of his suitably sturdy feet, thank you very much!

Yes, it was perhaps not the prettiest or most masterfully crafted ornament but he had tried, hadn´t he, and he would have thought the King would appreciate the gesture behind it but clearly he had been mistaken because -

Really.

Was it quite that necessary to study the unhappy thing with quite that much distaste?

He was a hobbit.

The dwarf should be glad that he had not brought fruit to adorn his lovely tree with.

And if there had been any time and, more importantly, supplies, he would have fashioned a flower garland and see if His Fastidious Majesty would have liked that!

Bilbo sniffed.

Honestly.

He had quite a mind to not share any of the eggnog cream biscuits he had taken out of the oven earlier and had brought with him with the dwarf.

Crossing his arms, Bilbo glared at the King who was still very much focused on the wooden ornament.

„Well I am very sorry if it does not meet your Majesty´s high standards but I never pretended to be gifted at that sort of thing. Now give it here and I´ll find another home for it! And there was really no need to almost make me fall off that chair, you know.“

Those unfathomable blue eyes slowly looked up from the offending object and fixed themselves on the thoroughly annoyed hobbit, only he felt somewhat less inclined to allow himself the brief pleasure of nearly drowning in them at that moment. In fact, he felt much more inclined to favour the dwarf further with his opinion of -

„Would you give it to Bofur?“

Errm – what -

Bofur?

„Uhm -“

„You presented him with the sprig. You let him kiss you. You looked for his approval in your crafting.“

By the Green Lady, what on Middle Earth -

Oh.

Oh!

Oh!

Small hands went onto a pair of pleasingly wide hips.

„Thorin Oakenshield, if you are telling me that you are jealous of Bofur -“

The King lifted his chin in an act of haughty superiority.

As if that would impress any hobbit.

Really.

He had dealt with a dragon.

And furthermore -

„You had no mistletoe to give to me.“

Ah.

That was -

Right.

So.

Oh, he was going to murder that silly dwarf.

After he had -

The hobbit, lifting an accusing finger, taking a step towards the King, turning around again to only immediately spin on his heel and determindedly march up to the frowning creature to then grab at both his kingly braids and pull him ruthlessly down to a more acceptable combat level, quite ignoring the widening of those incredible eyes, went in for a -

~ ~ ~ ~

„But you let him kiss your cheek -“

„Do I have to pull your braids again?“

Grunting, the still somewhat pleasantly dazed dwarf king passed over another shiny bauble.

He was not even going to inform his hobbit of the plan that had been forming in his mind while he had assisted his surprisingly fierce little love in his attempts to make the tree more – festive, Thorin. Really, Eru knows why I had to fall for a dwarf with no sense for the more aesthetic things in life! NO! That sapphire will most certainly NOT be placed on its top! I don´t care if this is your room, I will be sleeping in it, too, and umph! -.

He would employ the young guard that had assisted with the relocation of his needled enemy to his chambers.

The lad looked to be quite capable.

And trustworthy.

Dwalin would spare him for a few hours.

On official Erebor business.

And if the lad should not be enterprising enough to rid himself of the accumulation that was going to be the result of his collecting every single sprig that had been strategically placed around Erebor before any hopeful male or female should lay eyes on his load then he would have learned a valuable lesson.

No-one was going to kiss his hobbit during this – or any future - Yuletide but him.