Bilbo never bothers denying that he is a slight, little bit, probably infatuated with Thorin. It’s not something that bothers him. Really. He’s pretty sure that everyone very likely has a little flutter in their chest for the dwarf. Thorin is just Thorin. He’s the brooding lost king you always hear about in stories, larger than life and filling every space he occupies with a solid surety that draws everything in around him. Thorin’s a magnificent legendary figure made real, walking around in Bilbo’s formerly quiet, ordinary world.
He’s also a bullheaded, temperamental, arrogant moron who seems to expect that all he should have to do is lower his thick eyebrows and look Regally Angry enough to get whatever he wants.
And when he smiles, rare as it is, it’s a flash of white teeth and brilliantly blue eyes. He cares so intensely and warmly, so fully and deeply, and all of it comes out in this glowing grin that tugs insistently at something in Bilbo’s chest every time it arrives.
Bilbo doesn’t let himself think on that part though, and he is always very firm with himself to keep it locked down whenever anything deeper than a little flutter starts to stir. It’s better to stay shallowly infatuated with the Hero Thorin. Because Thorin is something grand and so, so unobtainable. And that’s alright, because it’s much safer that way.
“Thorin no, come on look at me, Thorin, look at me.”
The wind is screaming with eagles and death and the ice is biting into his legs and Thorin’s blood is hot and and sticky-thick between his fingers. There’s been so much death and horror and blood and he knows someone should be looking for Fili and Kili, but all he can think about is how Thorin can’t die. He can’t die and leave a hole in the space he always filled up. He can’t leave Bilbo in a world that isn’t made more full with the existence of Thorin Oakenshield.
Thorin watches him with a distant and faded wonder and smiles weakly with something warm and welcome and final, and Bilbo presses his hand down tight over the hole in Thorin’s side, grits his teeth against the stench of blood in the air and the gore under his palm.
“Bilbo …” It’s a soft, rasping sigh and Bilbo refuses to hear any of the rest of it.
“Don’t. Don’t you dare say goodbye to me, Thorin Oakenshield. Do you hear me? You’re not done here. You aren’t done, we aren’t done. Look at me, Thorin, look at me. Keep breathing, just stay awake, and look at me.”
Thorin looks at him. His eyes are distant, and the bright blue is a dulled gray, but he does as he’s told and looks at Bilbo without asking why. He’s looking at Bilbo when talons delicately and gently scoop under them, and he’s looking at Bilbo in the air and as they land. He only closes his eyes as other hands gather him away and he’s taken into a room of cots and whispered voices. (But Bilbo holds onto his hand because he can’t let Thorin go. If he lets go then Thorin could go forever and Bilbo feels he has to keep his bloody fingers clenched on Thorin’s hand to keep him anchored here.)
Bilbo’s still looking hours later, staring at Thorin swaddled up in bandages, blood wiped away, pale but breathing against the pillows. Bilbo keeps looking until the aches and pains in his body, combined with what he’s sure was some heavily laced tea courtesy of Oin, overcome him and fade everything into black.
Thorin’s warmer to him since the goblin tunnels. Bilbo thinks he perhaps should have thrown himself at some orcs earlier, because it’s like a switch has been flipped and Thorin is calling him to sit in the middle of the group, and he actually pays some attention to what Bilbo says instead of just scowling at him whenever he remembers the hobbit exists.
He’s just starting to think it’s downright peaceful when Thorin sits heavily beside him on a log and, without a word, pulls out Orcrist and begins carefully wrapping the blade tight in a leather cloth.
Bilbo stares at him for a few seconds, waiting for some sort of explanation. He raises his eyebrows, clears his throat a little bit, lowers his eyebrows, then finally sighs as Thorin binds his sword.
“Pull out your sword,” Thorin interrupts, finishing a knot and giving the wrappings an experimental tug.
Bilbo does, still frowning, and holds the hilt awkwardly in his fist. “Okay … why did I do that?”
Thorin looks up to answer, then his eyes flit to Bilbo’s hand on the hilt of the sword. He scowls like he has been personally offended and his nostrils flare with a sharp exhale.
“It’s not a ladle,” he huffs, reaching out and grabbing Bilbo’s wrist in one massive hand and covering Bilbo’s fist with the other. He adjusts Bilbo’s fingers and the sword, ignoring Bilbo’s incredulous stammering as he talks. “You can’t clutch it that tightly; you’ll lose control of the blade. This is a small, quick weapon. Have most of your grip closest to the guard, your fingers loose and ready to shift so you can adjust your grip easily.”
“Okay? Wait. What are you doing?”
Thorin’s sigh is long suffering, his eyes going skyward for a second at Bilbo’s apparent stupidity at not being able to automatically know what the blazes he’s doing at all times.
“I’m going to teach you how to use a sword.”
“Oh.” Wow. That is actually … “That’s … very nice of you actually. Considerate. Considering that I may be using this again. Later. At some point, hopefully not soon.”
“My goal is to at least make sure you can use it without taking your own fool head off.”
“Excuse me?” Oh, never mind any of the thanks! Bilbo is about to remind Thorin that this fool head is the one that saved his life, thank you, but he shuts his mouth on it quickly with an annoyed huff. It’s rude to point out that someone is in your debt, after all.
Thorin raises his eyebrows slightly. “I saw how you flung that thing around. You were closer to hurting yourself than anything else.”
Bilbo shuts his mouth with a click of teeth, thinks on it, then nods. “Right. Good point. Probably want to avoid that. So why all the … that?” He gestures to the binding on Thorin’s sword.
“We don’t have wooden blades here. This is so I don’t end up accidentally hurting you.”
“Oh. Good. Thank you for that. You’re not going to, uh,” Bilbo waves his sword a bit. “Just in case I—”
The look Thorin gives him is absolute pity.
“Oh, right, of course not, nevermind.”
“Exactly,” Thorin says, standing up and pulling Bilbo roughly to his feet. “Now, what do you know of swords?”
What sort of question is that? The closest thing Bilbo had held to a sword before this was a toothpick. He holds his blade before his face and makes a show of considering it, turning it to glint in the light as he weighs it in his hand. “Well, I do know, though this is mainly an academic knowledge, mind you. But I do know for certain that this bit,” he says, giving the blade a smart and certain tap with his finger, “goes into the squishy parts.”
He keeps his expression very serious. Even in the face of the stare Thorin gives him, as if he has just sprouted not one, but two extra heads. Bilbo leaves him hanging for a few moments, just to enjoy the absolutely flummoxed confusion on Thorin’s usually grim features, before he grins and raises his eyebrows.
“I’m not wrong, am I?”
Thorin stares at him for a few more seconds, his mouth opening and shutting a few times, then he honest to gods snorts and ducks his head. Bilbo sees a flash of teeth while the dwarf shakes his head in disbelief.
“No. You’re not wrong on that at least, Master Burglar.”
There’s the heat of a roaring fire on his face when he comes to. Warm air, scratchy cloth under his face, and a crick in his back from passing out slumped forward in the chair he’d pulled up next to Thorin’s cot. His back declares a very loud argument when he moves to sit up, and Bilbo groans at the pops and cracks. Next time he gets his own cot.
He’s still rolling his shoulders and wincing when he hears rustling sheets and a small shift in Thorin’s breathing. A few wrenches in his neck loudly proclaim themselves and are ignored as Bilbo whips his head around and confirms that yes, Thorin is stirring and his eyelids are starting to flutter, though his skin is ashen and shining with fever.
It’s such a lost, soft, sad little sound that Bilbo nearly scrambles up to grab at Thorin’s shoulder and shush him. “Right here. Right here, Thorin, I’m here. Lie down. Just … stay there. You got a bit banged up and a few more uh … holes … in places. Just lie down. Balin said you’d probably be feverish for a few days and—”
“Bilbo?” Thorin’s eyes dart all over Bilbo’s face, wide and desperately fevered. He grabs at Bilbo’s arm, fingers scrabbling at his shirt until Bilbo places a hand over them with more flurried shushings.
“Calm down, Thorin, it’s alright. Everything’s alright, just rest up and—”
“Bilbo. Bilbo I’m so sorry. I can’t—” Thorin’s voice catches, rough and dry in his throat, his eyes still wide and wet and darting. “I am shamed, Bilbo. The way I acted. The things I said.”
“No, shh, come on now. You weren’t yourself, Thorin. It’s alright. You were sick.”
“I was wrong,” Thorin gasps, and he looks so pained, so gutted that Bilbo rubs the hand clutching at his shirtsleeve, making soft, calming sounds to try and get Thorin to ease back and stop looking so lost and horrified.
“Thorin, really, stop it. It’s alright!”
“I tried to kill you,” Thorin whispers, fingers nearly bruising Bilbo’s arm now. His voice hitches and cracks hoarsely.“I wanted to kill you. I couldn’t, I could never. It wasn’t—You were the only one brave enough to do what was needed and I—”
“Thorin, it’s okay. It’s really okay. I forgive you. You were sick and now you’re you and it’s okay. Just calm down and—”
“I was going to throw you,” Thorin goes on, breathing it, now, and shaking. “Throw you from the wall. Make you”—his face twists, pained and sick—“make you break on the stones. You. I was going to hurt you. My own betrothed and I nearly destroyed you—”
“Thorin, please! Calm down and—” Bilbo stops. His mouth opens, shuts, repeats a few times before he settles on pressing his lips hard together. Thorin’s words replay back and forth a few times in his head. “Sorry, what was that?”
“Forgive me, Bilbo, forgive me, please—”
“Yes, yes, alright! I forgive you! Plenty of times already! Now what on earth—”
“Keep it,” Thorin demands, fisting his hand in Bilbo’s shirt, eyes blazing. “The mithril, keep it.”
“Yes, yes I was planning to, I don’t know why I wouldn’t—”
“I’ve no right.” Thorin coughs and Bilbo is beside himself trying to calm Thorin while his chest seems to have quite forgotten where all the internal bits are supposed to go, and it’s making everything tight and difficult to breathe. Thorin goes on regardless, shaking his head firmly. “No right. No right to call you mine, Bilbo, I know, but keep it.”
“Thorin, what does the mithril—”
“Keep it. Bilbo …” Thorin’s grip starts to go lax, his eyes fluttering, and Bilbo’s name leaving as a sigh.
“No. Nooono. No! Thorin! Don’t you—! No, do not fall asleep! Thorin! What was—”
Thorin breathes out softly, sinking into the pillows and drifting off again, forehead tensed with fever dreams but otherwise lost to the waking world.
Everything is all sharp and jumpy and he can’t place what the feeling is, but it feels a remarkable deal like panic, like a scream lodged in his chest. Because none of that, besides the apologies, made any sense. Thorin is sick. Thorin is confused.
Something desperately beating flares in his chest, compresses his lungs and makes every breath into a short gasp. Bilbo scrubs a hand over his face and shuts his eyes, feels the air fill his chest and slowly empty, again and again, until he can let out a steady exhale and lower his hand. He tries to clamp down on the beating, shoving it back down into the safe place.
There just needs to be some clarification. There’s been mistranslation somewhere, certainly. Thorin is sick. Thorin is confused. Thorin is unobtainable.
“Tell me about the Shire.”
It’s a warm, clear night. A rare breath where they’re far from anything chasing them and everyone is taking their time getting ready for bed. Bilbo has taken the first watch, which has been normal ever since it had been discovered how good his eyes were, and that he tended to stay up a little later anyway. The air is calm, the breeze just perfectly cool in the late spring. Thorin had sat by him without a word on the bit of rocks Bilbo had settled on, pulling out his knives to clean in the comfortable silence that has been growing into a regular occurrence.
Bilbo thinks it has to do with the fact that the two of them are the only ones in the group who really can be easily quiet for long periods of time. The dwarves tend to be a rowdy bunch, and sometimes one just needs a breather.
The silence is so comfortable, in fact, that it takes a bit for the words to register to Bilbo. He blinks, shakes himself and looks over with an apologetic twist of the mouth. “Sorry, didn’t catch that?”
“The Shire, tell me about it,” Thorin replies, voice smooth and low. Bilbo’s come to recognize it as a sort of special conversational tone, something that only comes out in quiet moments like this, when Thorin won’t quite look up from what he’s doing.
“Aaaahhhhh …” Bilbo trails off and blows out through pursed lips, shrugging and humming as he thinks. “That’s a bit of a general topic? There’s quite a bit to the Shire, you know. Well. Maybe not. Not compared to what all you lot have put up with. But there’s a lot to be talked about and trust me, not all of it is really all that interesting. What bits of the Shire do you want to know about?”
Thorin shrugs, a jerky hitch in one shoulder as he scrubs and buffs at one of his smaller blades with an odd amount of focus.
“Helpful,” Bilbo says drily. “That narrows it down. If you don’t come up with a more select topic I’ll just start rattling off the names of the entire Baggins family tree.”
“What parts do you miss?” Thorin asks, still low and strong. But there’s something a little softer in his voice. “When you think of it,” he goes on, still not looking up, “what parts come to your mind first?”
There’s another pause, a few moments of breathing while Bilbo thinks about it. He hasn’t really let himself do that as much lately, think about the Shire. It’s so far behind that it feels like a dream, like life has always been the travel and the road and running.
“The woods,” Bilbo finally says, almost wincing at the wistful way his voice sighs out. “The little rivers … it’s such a small yet sprawling place. The people and homes are tucked away, but the trees are so large and the rivers so full and rushing by. There’s peace. It’s always so quiet and peaceful and there’s always light and warmth. Even when it rains, it’s soft and warm. Everything there is nurturing. It’s like the land itself is trying to take care of everyone there.”
It’s the land that keeps coming to him. He misses his armchair when he sits on the stones and he misses his hearth when the wind guts their campfires, but in moments like this he thinks of the wind through the trees and the bubbling sound of rivers and brooks that can be heard no matter where you stand.
He realizes the pause has gone on for a bit again, and he realizes that Thorin’s looked up now, hands stopped on his knives as he watches Bilbo. There’s something searching, something open and longing, like he’s drinking in every word from Bilbo’s mouth. Bilbo blinks at the open stare, and clears his throat. Thorin quickly looks away, mouth twisting oddly, and goes back to his work.
“Why? If I may?” Bilbo asks, honestly curious. “It really isn’t the kind of place you’d be interested in.” Thorin’s head whips up, giving Bilbo another odd, searching look that makes his skin tingle, and he has to look away, break the contact and cough a bit. “I mean, I guess you could be? But it’s just … it’s such a little place. It’s small and quiet and nothing exciting ever happens there. It’s just … the Shire.”
Thorin blinks slowly, his mouth twisting again and jaw clenching a few times, before he shrugs and his face goes blandly neutral. “It’s pleasant, at times,” he says stiffly. “Hearing people tell tales of home.”
It makes sense now. Thorin hanging on words of home, even if it isn’t his. Listening to how others feel of home, what they miss, what their memories are. The dwarf stubbornly sets his gaze on the horizon, eyes flitting back and forth, and it’d be a perfect replica of scanning for danger if it wasn’t for the way his throat was swallowing, his jaw clenching and unclenching.
“Well,” Bilbo says, smiling a bit, “you’ll have some of your own I expect, at the end of this.”
Thorin looks back at him, brows furrowed. “Some what?”
“Stories about home. You’ll be able to have some again, when we get your little mountain back to you.”
The silence crashes in, and Bilbo swears Thorin turns to stone. His fists clench sharply in his lap and Bilbo worries for a second that Thorin will cut himself on his blade. Thorin’s so stiff that Bilbo fears that he’s somehow angered the dwarf, but then there’s his face.
He looks pained. Sort of. He’s just staring at Bilbo, face still but eyes oddly frantic as he looks at the hobbit, hands clenching and unclenching between his legs. It’s such a nearly vulnerable thing that Bilbo wants it to stop, wants to break away from it, but he also wants to ask what on earth is going through that strange, dark mind.
Before he can figure out how to ask, or even what to ask, Thorin shoots up, bids a hurried, hoarse goodnight, and strides off back towards the camp.
The next time Thorin stirs into consciousness, Bilbo has found a book to very firmly distract himself with. He doesn’t realize that Thorin’s stirring until he feels the brush of a hand on his forearm that makes him jump.
“Thorin! You’re awake!” He grimaces at the shrill edge to his voice and takes a few breaths. “How uh … how’re you then?”
“How are you so small and soft?” Thorin asks hazily, eyes narrowed and bleary.
“Oh. Good. You’re still all wonky in the head.” Bilbo sighs, swallowing nervously and fighting the urge to brush off the warm, solid and calloused fingertips on the skin of his arm. “And who’s soft?” he asks brusquely, narrowing his eyes at the prone king. “Last time I checked, I’m not the one babbling away in a fever from a lot of wounds now am I? So tell me again who’s small and soft then?”
“You’re such a little thing,” Thorin says in a dazed wonder, less frantic than before but eyes still fever bright and the red splotches on his cheeks bright against his pale skin. “Such a small thing, and yet you’re so large. I don’t understand you.”
“Thorin, I’m just … Bilbo. And you’re not yourself right now. I prefer this sick Thorin to the last sick Thorin, don’t get me wrong, but the fact still stands that you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“So small,” Thorin says again, “and you’re always so kind and loyal and simply good.” Thorin exhales sharply at that, brows furrowing as if that is the most confusing and incredible thing of all. “Everything you do is with goodness and warmth. Everything seems soft, but there’s steel. You’ve steel in your bones and fire in your blood. But you’re still so soft. I don’t understand. I don’t understand you.”
The air’s getting too thick again, closing in, and no one describes Bilbo like this. He’s gotten used to ‘small’ and ‘little,’ but Thorin’s voice is thick with a breathy reverence. It’s like he’s describing an abstract but stunning artwork, a poem with a hidden meaning. Like something that’s most definitely not Bilbo.
“Thorin … I don’t. Just stop. You’re not yourself and you have no idea what you’re saying. None. I’m just me. I’m not all … all that, with the steel and fire. I’m just Bilbo. Bilbo Baggins of the Shire.”
“Don’t go,” Thorin suddenly pleads, fingers firmer on Bilbo’s arm, as if Bilbo might get up and walk away right now.
“Thorin, I’m right here. I’m not leaving for a while yet, not until—”
“Don’t!” Thorin repeats, sharper now. He goes on frantically, voice harsh and almost quietly manic, “You’re bigger than them. Better than them. You’re too much, too you for that place Bilbo. You’re too Bilbo. You can’t. You can’t go back there.”
“It’s my home,” Bilbo whispers, chest aching and stabbing and he can’t tell if it’s at Thorin’s words, the emotions behind them, or the distant pain of the thought of the quiet, warm and sunny Shire.
“I can make this home,” Thorin says, grits it out with a strange ferocious certainty, his eyes shining. It’s brilliant and burning but also so different from the burn of the dragon sickness. “I can. You should be here.”
“Once, then.” Thorin’s soft again, fingers back to a brush and eyes guttering a bit from the burning, dying back down to the shining and glazed fever-gleam. “Just once.”
Bilbo looks to the wall, working his jaw and blinking rapidly as he tries to sort out what’s happening. Thorin is sick. Thorin is confused.
“Once before you’re gone,” Thorin says softly, voice starting to peter out into the sigh of another sleep episode.
“Once wh—” Bilbo doesn’t see the hand reaching for his collar, fisting it with a shocking strength and yanking him down.
It’s hardly a kiss. Not really. Bilbo nearly bashes his nose on the way down and their lips meet in more of a smushed crash than anything else. But he feels it spark down his back and dance over his skin and grab at his lungs, lighting him on fire while Thorin lets out a slow sigh and goes lax beneath him. Bilbo’s rearing back up as quickly as he was dragged down, gasping and almost wheezing with the shock of it all while he tries to process the fact that Thorin kissed him and then fell asleep.
“Wh—What. What! What just—! Thorin! Thorin, wake up! Don’t you dare—No. No, you do not get to. To just—” Bilbo shoots up, shaking and stammering and … and angry. That’s it. That’s exactly what this is! Anger! How dare Thorin just—! Just do that! That there! With the kissing!
He paces the room, breath coming fast and his hands scrubbing through his hair. Thorin is sick! He’s not in his right head and … what? What had he been talking about with the mithril earlier, with the damned talk of betrothed and home and staying and, and the kissing!
Bilbo pivots sharply from his pacing to face the bed again and the pale, sleeping dwarf on it. He points an accusing finger sharply at Thorin, nearly shaking with the cacophony of emotions exploding everywhere. “We,” Bilbo hisses, “we … are going to have a discussion when you’re lucid again, Mister Thorin Oakenshield.”
“I look absurd. I’m a hobbit, not a warrior!” Bilbo sighs, holding out his arms to prove his point and wincing at the clinking chime of metal. It’s a beautiful thing, no doubt, and very kind of Thorin to give to him, but Bilbo doesn’t think he could ever be comfortable in something so glittering.
It’s quiet. He realizes the dwarves are silent and watching, and Bilbo feels like he’s missing something vitally important again, because the dwarves are silent and watching like witnesses, and Thorin’s eyes are burning through him, flaming and roaring behind the expanse of his blown pupils. He’s gotten used to Thorin’s long stares, but this makes him want to shrink away, to hide, not from the strange emotions usually caught in Thorin’s gaze, but from the memory of burning orange eyes in the dark.
And then Thorin’s yanking him aside, voice frantic and low and flaming still with the growl of suspicion. Even his smile is twisted. Thorin’s smile, which had before been a rare and glowing treat that Bilbo had seen a bit of when he had shown the acorn, is now a dazed and sickly thing, burning with a happiness that feels deranged and twisted.
He growls and the dragon’s voice echoes in Bilbo’s ears, drowns out the sound of the dwarves marching up towards the wall; their metal clangs and clashes against stone, but it’s the dragon that Bilbo still hears.
As the last of the dwarves stomps by, Thorin still stares at him from across the narrow hall, something dark in his gaze, dark and burning and glowing like the dragon’s chest did before a spout of flame.
“I …” Bilbo clears his throat and quickly looks away, feeling sick with the need to run, to run away from Thorin, who is still looking, still making Bilbo feel like a small and helpless thing pinned down for inspection. “I’ll just … I’ll be …” He gestures towards the front of the hall, where the others are standing along the ramparts, and coughs again, stepping out to quickly hurry to them.
Thorins hand shoots out and is an iron grip on his upper arm. Armored fingers dig so sharply into the muscle that Bilbo has to bite down on a yelp at the sharp pain of it. He’s yanked back, held firmly in place, and Thorin is looming over him, eyes incandescent.
“Not you,” he says, the low, smooth voice a stark contrast to the earlier snarling growls. “You’re to go to the treasure halls.”
“What? Why?” He can’t honestly be expected to guard … ?
“It’s safer!” Thorin snaps, fingers digging in. “And now it’s where you belong.”
“You’re to stay there until I come to get you, is that understood?” Thorin growls, not angry, but still aggressive, dark and dangerous.
“Thorin, what on earth am I going to be able to do down there? I can’t guard it all by myself.”
“They will not,” Thorin hisses, pulling Bilbo in a few inches, “take anything from me. The thieves. The usurpers who would have what’s mine. I won’t let them. Do you understand me?” Thorin’s other hand comes up, gripping Bilbo’s shoulder, fingers curling into the mithril. Thorin fists the thin metal in his hand, staring over where it hangs on Bilbo’s body. His voice drops further and he bares his teeth in a feral snarl. “They won’t have anything that’s mine. Now do as I say.”
Bilbo nods, mouth dry and lungs robbed of air. Thorin relaxes visibly as soon as Bilbo agrees; the hands digging painful bruises release him and rub over where they had sunk into Bilbo’s flesh, as if in apology. Thorin leans in a little, and sighs heavily. Bilbo forces himself to suck air down and not start shaking, even when Thorin lifts one hand and rests it along his jaw, the metal armor biting into his skin, and Bilbo nearly flinches at the contact.
“We will speak of this later. After I’ve defended our home. Wait for me, Bilbo.”
With that, he releases Bilbo, who nearly slumps to the ground in relief as Thorin marches off. He stumbles back, falls against the wall and covers his mouth to hide the terrified, pained noise that tries to claw its way up from his ribs. He walks in a daze to the treasure, the gold glowing with its own light, catching the flickering fire of the torches all around.
He waits for a few hours, forces his breath to even, and feels the Arkenstone heavy and digging into his ribs.
As soon as he knows it’s dark out, he snatches up one of the long, homemade ropes and heads to the front wall.
Bilbo leaves and doesn’t go back to where Thorin’s tucked away, instead wandering the mountain with shaking limbs and ragged breath. He does end up eventually going back to the infirmary, thinking to grab some of the calming tea that Oin is already well stocked up on.
He nearly pours the scalding water on himself, his hands are still shaking so much, and he’s flapping his hand out in the cool air and cursing softly when he hears a soft, sweet, lyrical laugh echo through the stone halls, a delicate sound that is instantly out of place in the sharp mountain.
There’s another more familiar laugh, and Bilbo follows it and the tinkling of conversation to the lit sickrooms, away from the crowded main hall filled with cots of the wounded.
Definitely not something that belongs here. It’s a womans voice, flowing and pure, and Bilbo frowns at the elvish words in the dwarven mountain. He finally places the room where the conversation is coming from and his first impression is fiery red hair catching the candlelight and a long green body tucked and curled around the small form on the bed. The elf woman, the guard from Mirkwood, curled easily on the bed that is much too small for her, her legs and arms almost forming a cage around Kili.
She’s bright and giggling and smiling sweetly, but Bilbo’s reminded of a large mountain cat, protecting what’s hers from the rest of the world with soft purring and sheathed claws.
“Amelamanin?” Kili tries, frowning through a smile when the elf woman laughs in delight. Bilbo’s anxiousness is dispelled completely for a bit by a rushing relief that Kili is very much alive, a profound confusion as to what the elven guard is doing braced over him and teaching him sweet elvish endearments, and a wild thought of “Does Thorin know about whatever is going on here?”
“Ah, Bilbo, thank Mahal you’re here.” Bilbo’s attention is brought to the other cot, where Fili is nearly completely hidden in the swathes of bandages covering him.
“Fili!” Bilbo forgets the odd pair on the bed for a second, manages to briefly forget Thorin and all … all that that’s with Thorin, and rushes over. The last time he saw Fili, the dwarf had violently kicked himself out of Azog’s grip and gone tumbling down the mountain. Bilbo runs over, grinning near to split his face with relief because that’s everyone, everyone’s alive. They’ve done it, and everyone’s made it through this madness. “Ah, thank heavens you’re alright! Well”—he clears his throat and takes stock of how completely immobilized Fili is by all the wrappings—“you’re mostly alright. Alive, anyway.”
“I won’t be much longer!” Fili huffs, then winces in absolute pain at the tittering from the other bed in response. He looks up at Bilbo in misery. “They won’t stop. They keep just giggling on over there, Bilbo. It’s draining me. I can feel the will to go on leaving my broken body with every insipid little muttering!”
Bilbo tsks at him and gingerly pats him on the arm. “Now, Fili, I think it’s, uh … well it’s very nice. We could use some laughing after all this.” He looks up and nearly jumps a little, because the elf is watching him now with hazel eyes that gleam like finely polished amber.
The elves … unnerve Bilbo. They’re splendid and beautiful, but there’s something about their stare that keeps making Bilbo want to fidget and crawl off and sit and ask them endless questions all at once. The woman is no different, though her eyes are warmer and less piercing than the pale, icy gaze of the King. She studies Bilbo, then a slow, mischievous smile curls over her lips as she absently runs long fingers through Kili’s dark hair fanned on the pillow.
“Kili was telling me about you,” she says, voice rich with amusement. “You’re the one, I hear, who stole the keys and took my captive charges out right under my watch.”
Oh, is that what all the elves are going to start saying now? Bilbo clears his throat awkwardly, feeling as caught as he had done when King Thranduil had fixed him with his sharp eyes and said the same thing, though he had been far less entertained. “Yes … well, I still needed them, after all. And it’s not like they could’ve managed that well on their own.”
Fili squawks an indignant protest and Kili begins stammering in offense overlaid by the brilliantly chiming laugh of the elf that had drawn Bilbo here.
“Well,” Bilbo says, “my reputation precedes me again, I see, but I don’t think I was introduced to you much besides all the angry yelling and arrows everywhere?” He makes himself look up expectantly at the elf woman, for all that her easy, dangerous grace and bright eyes make him want to hide a bit.
“Tauriel,” she says, the word flowing like rolling water, and Kili smiles up at her like she’s the most wonderful and amazing thing he’s ever seen. Tauriel catches his gaze and smiles back, the warmth of all the sun caught in her face, and she gazes down at the dwarf like he is life itself.
Bilbo clears his throat, feeling incredibly awkward, and looks at Fili, who gives him a look that so clearly says “Now do you see?” that Bilbo has to hide his laugh behind a coughing fit.
“All day, Bilbo. They’re like that for hours. I can’t take it much longer, I really can’t.”
Bilbo chuckles and pats Fili consolingly on the hand. “Ahhhh, stay strong, Fili. You’ll make it through.” He grins and sits back. “It is good to see you alright, Fili. Very good. I was … well, I was worried there, for a bit.”
“Can’t let my little brother run off to do whatever he likes, can I? Who knows”—Fili’s lips twist into a wry smile—“he might do something completely mad, like run off with a wood elf.”
Tauriel’s laugh carries over again, and Bilbo snorts. Fili sighs in suffering, then his face relaxes, smile small but brows furrowing a little.
“It’s good to see you as well, Bilbo. What of Thorin? Have you seen him? I heard he was in a bad way.”
“Thorin is …” Bilbo clears his throat, rubs his hand over his face and takes a few breaths, trying to keep his voice casual and not at all like Thorin has become a source of incredible panic and earth-shattering confusion. “He’ll be alright, I expect. He’s not quite aware yet, sleeps mostly. And whenever he wakes up he—” He stops again and swallows, scrubs a hand over his face again and shakes himself while the other three watch him with mild concern. “He’s … well he’s still feverish. Oin says he’ll break through alright, but he mostly just talks, uh. Nonsense. Utter nonsense. He’ll ramble a bit and then pass back out.”
Fili looks at him with such a small, sympathetic smile that a mad part of Bilbo wonders if he knows what sort of strange madness Thorin has been spewing. He shakes off that thought quickly. There’s no way anyone else could have known about all … all the nonsense.
“He’ll be alright,” Kili says firmly. “He’s too stubborn to die on a cot.”
Bilbo’s laugh is a little hysterical, and he quickly calms it down with a flurry of little coughs, ignoring the odd look the others give him at his outburst.
“Right … right, that’s Thorin. Stubborn to a fault.”
“You know, I think I’m actually getting the hang of this.”
He says this as he awkwardly manages a flail that knocks Thorin’s slow jab to the side. Thorin raises his eyebrows and flips the sword around in his grip without a hitch. Bilbo knows he’s being babied at an almost embarrassing level. Every swing is obvious and the parries slow and steady as Thorin takes Bilbo through maneuver after repeated maneuver.
Bilbo would protest for the sake of his pride, if it weren’t for the fact that he still keeps ending up knocked to the ground within minutes.
“No, really!” Bilbo huffs, forcing his feet through the sidesteps and moving from parry to parry. “This isn’t so bad really. Bit like dancing. Though maybe shouldn’t compare it to that. I was always just, just awful at dancing. Did I ever—whoa!” He nearly trips over himself as he dodges another swing and laughs when he keeps his footing and blocks the secondary swing. “Aahhaaaa!” He waggles his sword in triumph, grin only growing at Thorin’s unimpressed eyebrows. “Alllmost had me there, eh? As I was saying, did I tell you about the time Arabelia Brandybuck tried to take me dancing when I was just a tween lad?”
Thorin isn’t reacting at all to what Bilbo’s saying, of course. But it’s calming, in a weird way: the useless prattling makes him feel like he’s more at home. It’s a nervous habit, but something about the casual chattering makes it feel like this isn’t practice for a battle that could leave him in a very unpleasant state.
“It was just … well it was terrible.” He whups again as his sword is nearly knocked from his hand. “I think I must have stepped on her feet about ten times. And she wouldn’t talk to me for days after!”
“Doesn’t sound like that interesting of a girl, then,” Thorin replies easily, and it’s such a shock that Bilbo can’t begin to react to the sudden rush-in and twist Thorin does, swooping behind Bilbo and hooking a leg behind his knee to send him crashing down onto his back. He yelps when Thorin’s leather-wrapped sword points at his chest.
Thorin raises his eyebrows and looks down at him. “You talk too much. I don’t even need to bother distracting you when you do it just fine yourself.”
Later, there’s a small goblin raid, and there’s a white noise in Bilbo’s head that always seems to come and cover Bilbo in an oddly fuzzed, numb feeling whenever something like this happens. And there’s the usual frenzy of the dwarves working like a complicated machine. All the constant drilling from Thorin is finally coming through, though Bilbo still feels like an awkward, slashing disaster compared to the whirlwind of fury that is Thorin.
He’s found his own tactic for battle, however.
“And then there’s this particular move which I”—Bilbo flicks his sword lightly, knocking the goblin’s spear and jumping back from the return swing at the same time—“am quite fond of! Now then what you usually do as a counter—” He jumps back again. “Noooo! No, no, not like that. You need to answer it with a Handrilian Guard Parry!”
There is no such thing as a Handrilian Guard Parry. Bilbo hasn’t the slightest idea what he’s talking about; he’s barely somewhat functional with a sword now after a few months of practice with Thorin. But the goblin stops and stares at him with its face twisted up in what Bilbo assumes is confusion.
Bilbo keeps his sword up, waiting to see if the goblin will lower its guard a bit. “Now, now you see, what you need to do is, uh. Well, your footwork. Your footwork is just atrocious.” Bilbo snorts and shakes his head, not moving his eyes from the goblin’s weapon. “It’s almost embarrassing, really. I would be embarrassed. I am embarrassed, actually.”
The goblin squints at him, and from somewhere behind them there’s an odd choking sound.
“So what you do is—”
“BURGLAR!” Thorin’s voice bellows out behind him, “SHUT UP!”
Bilbo jumps a bit, but the goblin’s head whips around in confusion, enough of a pause that Bilbo can lunge forward and shove his blade through its chest with a yell.
He takes a bit of effort to yank the sword free, making a face at the wet, sloppy crunch it makes on the way out. When he looks up, Thorin is standing there staring at him like he’s the maddest and most unnerving thing he’s ever seen.
“What,” Thorin sputters, “in Mahal’s name, is a Handrilian Guard Parry?”
“What? Oh. That.” Bilbo looks down at the goblin, sniffs, and shrugs as he looks back at Thorin. “Haven’t the slightest idea. He didn’t either, though.”
Thorin stares at him for a few more seconds in complete, amazed shock. The laugh that comes out of him seems to startle him even more, and for a few seconds he seems more confused by that than anything else, until Bilbo grins and starts chuckling back, and soon Thorin’s leaning on his sword and laughing hard enough to shake his solid frame.
Once, Bilbo happens—completely by accident, mind you—to wander down close to where Thorin’s holed up. He can hear whispers of other voices, the splash of water, muttered curses and rustles of cloth and assumes that Thorin’s bandages are being changed.
“Hold him down now, never was the best patient of mine, even when he’s lucid. Especially when he’s lucid.” Oin’s voice drifts to him, and Bilbo can’t help but smile. He’d seen a bit of Thorin’s reaction to fussing: snarling angrily and batting everyone away after the eagles had dropped them on the Carrock. As if he thought he would be just fine walking off getting thrown around by a warg like a chew toy. That lasted until he ended up collapsing again, as Gandalf had predicted with a surly mutter.
“Bilbo …” Thorin’s voice, so small and faint where it’s usually demanding and sure, breaks Bilbo from his thoughts.
“And will someone find Master Baggins already?” Oin sighs, and Bilbo feels a jolt of panic. There’s cool metal around his finger before he’s even aware he’s reaching for the ring, enveloping him in surreal light as he quickly hurries away from the dwarvish mutterings and the soft whispers of their King.
It’s tempting to keep the ring on. Sometimes all he wants to do is disappear and wander as he pleases where no one will talk to him or ask him questions or make him think about unpleasant ideas that make his chest constrict painfully. But each time he considers giving in, there’s another wilder panic that arises, screaming against it, screaming at him to throw it away.
He yanks the ring off, inhales cool air on the rubble outside the main gate of Erebor, and shoves the ring into his pocket.
It’s also tempting to leave before Thorin wakes up. To write a little note. Something heartfelt and easy and polite. It’s been a wonderful time, minus the screaming and the fire and all the death. Really had a fantastic time almost getting killed on several occasions. Would love to do it again. Come by anytime, tea is at four. Don’t bother knocking. Your friend, Bilbo.
It would be easier. Turn away, flee on his pony and start the long journey home. He’d leave in friendship and leave Thorin to his mad, fevered babblings. Leave Bilbo to his fantasy of the unobtainable dwarven king, made to be admired from afar. Out of reach, out of possibility, simple and uncomplicated. He would be safe to tell tales of the dashing, dark-haired dwarf that everyone could fall a little in love with, because that was what one did with legends. And he could pretend that his nice and easy little world hadn’t been upended by mad talk that he couldn’t even fully trust.
He fingers the cool metal collar under his shirt. The mithril is so lightweight that he sometimes forgets that he’s wearing it, and it’s become a regular part of his outfit. He wonders, briefly, how he’d look to the folks in the Shire. His hobbit shirt and breeches, dirty and threadbare now, the buttons on his lovely deep green vest mostly gone. A shining shirt of priceless metal, a scuffed-up and soot-smeared jacket from the men of Lake-town, far too large and belted shut with a thick dwarven belt, an elvish blade hanging from his hip.
“Not the least bit respectable,” he whispers with a small smile, and turns to walk back into the mountain.
“It is a good blade, even if it is a bit small.”
Thorin’s sitting so close to him that their shoulders are brushing: a bit of warmth in the cold, dank cabin of Lake-town as they wait for night to fall.
“Even if a letter opener is the only weapon we’re left with right now?” Bilbo asks mildly, still feeling just a little proud that he’s the only one who managed to keep a hold on his sword, which he’s gotten very fond of.
Thorin’s lips twitch up at the corners. “I don’t worry so much about the length of the blade. I worry much more about the one using it.”
“I should shove you back into the barrels!” Bilbo snaps. “Sit in a bit of fish guts and see what you have to say about my blade skills then!”
Thorin chuckles, leaning easily in his chair. “Barrels,” he says, shaking his head and smiling at the fire. “How on earth did you think of barrels? I never doubted you’d get us out of there for a second, but that was hardly the way I would have ever thought of going about it. I believe you’re the only one who would be mad and brilliant enough to escape from that elvish ponce in barrels.”
Bilbo’s eyebrows shoot up, and he lays his sword in his lap, feeling an odd bubble in his chest. “You … seriously thought I was going to get you out of there? Didn’t you think I may have, I dunno, run off? Or was maybe lost, wandering the woods?”
Thorin snorts, as if the very idea is hilarious, as if the oaf hadn’t spent several months bemoaning how utterly useless Bilbo was. “Master Burglar, by that point you had somehow disappeared within the Goblin King’s domain and come out the other end with no explanation and missing only a few buttons. You climb up and vanish in the woods and later you’re leaping around like you were born in the trees, cutting us all down. So when you vanished again? No, I didn’t doubt that you would pop up with no warning or reason and with an escape already in place. I’ve learned well that, when you vanish, it seems to be just before you do something unexpected and incredible.”
Bilbo swallows. Blinks rapidly. Breaks eye contact and looks into the fire. “That’s … thank you. That’s very …” He looks down at his sword, wipes his face, clears his throat a few times. There’s that blasted bubbling in his chest again and he squashes it down firmly, frowning down at the sword in his lap. It’s no use, Mister Baggins, to get yourself all worked up over some praise. Don’t be that swooning fool in all the stories. No good can come of that.
“I named it, you know,” he says, looking up and keeping his voice light. Thorin’s still got the little hints of a smile and raises his eyebrows expectantly.
Bilbo holds the sword up before him, watching the way the firelight flickers and dances over the fluid curves of the blade, catching in the elvish scrawl lacing its way over it like the veins of a leaf. He feels a smile tug at his lips, a bit different from usual: it feels slightly darker, a little more confident. It settles in place when he thinks back on the spiders screaming. “Sting,” he says softly, pleased still with the title.
Thorin doesn’t answer, and when Bilbo looks up, the smile is gone, but Thorin’s still staring at him, looking surprised but strangely intense. Bilbo looks away quickly and clears his throat. “I got the idea from the spiders,” he says quickly. Then he realizes that he could only hear them speaking while he had the ring on and quickly adds a lie. “From … y’know. Their stingers. I got one in the trees and the idea hit me.”
“You killed one of the spiders?” Thorin asks, voice unreadable.
Bilbo clears his throat awkwardly. “I … wasn’t really counting them. Actually.”
Thorin’s eyebrows go up.
“Well it’s a lot easier to manage if you don’t go shouting and charging at them!” Bilbo points out, feeling pinned under the fierce look Thorin’s got trained on him.
Thorin blinks, then sits back with a huffing exhale of a laugh, shaking his head. “And the surprises never cease,” he says, almost to himself, before pushing up out of his chair and giving Bilbo’s shoulder a quick, friendly grab as he walks by. “It’s a good name, Master Baggins. I’ve no doubt it’s earned it in your hands.”
Three days of wandering the mountain and Dale have passed by when he hears that Thorin’s actually awake. He’s been sneaking around so well that word doesn’t even get to him directly, but is overheard as he sits tucked within a small pile of rubble. An exchange of words from unfamiliar dwarf voices that drift off as they continue walking.
Bilbo taps a sharp, rapid beat against his knee and he chews his lip, heart suddenly pounding near out of his chest.
Thorin’s awake, and no longer madly babbling, and Bilbo can finally get an explanation for all this rush of confusion he’s been thrown into. It’s what he’s been waiting for, pacing around in anticipation of it, for three days. But now that it’s here, now that his answers are so close, he’s paralyzed and staring at his knees with growing frustration.
He could pretend none of it happened. That’s a good option. He could just smile and say it’s good to see Thorin back to himself, and he could slip back into the way it was.
“Not bloody likely,” he mutters with a grimace. Thorin had to go and stir things up, had to make Bilbo wonder, and now Bilbo has to go up and face what will probably be either complete confusion or awkward rejection. At least he can count on Thorin to try and do it gently.
He can still be angry that he has to do this at all, though.
“Right,” he snaps, nodding to himself and shoving himself up. “Right,” he repeats, marching firmly into the mountain. He knows enough of the maze-like passages by now to make a straight shot for Thorin’s room, ignoring any passing friends who seem smart enough to move out of his way at the scowl he has growing over his face.
By the time he reaches the door, he’s worked himself up into a nice fury, which suits his purposes just fine. Anger is fairly easy to deal with, all things considered.
Thorin’s up. Sitting up against the headboard of the plain bed that was thrown together for his recovery, his entire abdomen wrapped in bandages and his skin pale, but healthier-looking than he’s been in a long time. Gandalf sits in a chair by the bed, and both look over when Bilbo storms into the room.
Gandalf smiles, warm and amiable and far too entertained as he chuckles and gets up. “Well, well, Master Hobbit! Good to see you, as always.” He sweeps by, unmoved by the betrayed look Thorin gives him on the way out, as well as by the scowl Bilbo has fixed firmly on the dwarf who has made his life hell for the past three days. Bilbo only huffs as Gandalf pats him on the shoulder. “I’m sure you two have much to discuss.” The wizard chuckles, putting on his hat and laughing as he goes out the door.
The door shuts, and Bilbo scowls on.
Thorin actually fidgets, which in any other situation would be hilariously out of the ordinary, but now he plucks at the blanket and watches Bilbo warily and it just makes the hobbit want to knock that fool, troublemaking head a bit more.
“Right,” Bilbo says, taking a deep breath and stalking towards the bed. “Right then. Mister Thorin Oakenshield.”
“Bilbo,” Thorin replies cautiously, watching Bilbo’s approach like he would a hostile combatant. His face is unusually schooled, or at least it looks like he’s trying for schooled and collected. “It’s … good to see you are well.”
“Don’t,” Bilbo snaps, now standing next to the bed. “Don’t. Give me that. You.” He points at Thorin, who eyes his finger like it’s a sword. “You. You kissed me.”
Thorin blinks, very slowly, and his face is blank as he hesitantly looks up at Bilbo. “No I didn’t.”
“Oh yes you most certainly did!” Bilbo yells. “Trust me on this one, I was actually awake for it!”
Thorin swallows and just looks up miserably at Bilbo.
“Just … where is this coming from?” Bilbo goes on, feeling the panic grab his chest again. “You pulling that! And everything else you were spouting off! I nearly watched you die and I had to deal with that, I had to sit there and hold your insides in where they’re supposed to be and I had to deal with that and then—you! You!”
Thorin’s wide eyes are unreadable, and the rage leaves Bilbo in a rush so sudden and wiping that his knees weaken and he sits heavily on the edge of the bed, scrubbing a hand over his face as it all rushes over him. The terror of Thorin’s rage, the rush of seeing him back out, out of his king’s regalia and sword back in hand. Terror again as he heard Thorin’s rattling breath and felt the blood pushing up against his palm.
“You nearly died up there,” he says weakly. “You nearly died and I didn’t … after everything else, I’d never thought of you dying at the end. You were always supposed to … to just be. Somehow. And I never took a chance to even think of, of any of that!”
“Any of what?” Thorin asks, voice quiet.
“This!” Bilbo snaps again, waving his hand generally at Thorin. “You! You kept waking up and, and saying things! And then in the mountain you were all—” He hears Thorin’s sharp intake of breath right as the cold memory grabs at him, and Bilbo shakes himself off, mentally brushing all that away. “You haven’t been you. It’s all too much. It’s all too much at once.”
He feels his eyes burning and quickly scrubs them with the back of one sleeve and tries to get control of his breathing. But he just can’t. He can’t deal with any of this or even get a chance to sit and breathe and think.
The hand in his lap is enveloped by a large, warm, calloused palm, thick fingers curling gently around his, and his breath is stuck in his lungs and refuses to budge or do anything useful.
“I meant it,” Thorin says, voice soft. Softer than Bilbo’s ever heard before. “All of it.”
Bilbo chances a look out the corner of his eye and instantly regrets it. Thorin’s leaning forward, reaching out to hold his hand, and his eyes are too bright, too full of … of everything. They’re full and warm and sparkling and fully directed at Bilbo.
“I meant all of it,” Thorin repeats, now reaching forward and taking Bilbo’s hand in both of his, covering it completely and pulling it closer to him as he looks up at Bilbo with a reverence that the hobbit can’t begin to accept. “Bilbo, even in my deepest madness, in my darkest time when I thought my kin were against me, I never thought to suspect you. Even then, through the sickness, I knew there was no darkness in you, that you were nothing but good. I’ve known it for a long time now. You’re the most … good, warm, and bright thing I’ve ever known. And that knowledge and surety stayed strong even against the dragon’s curse.”
“You never said anything,” Bilbo points out faintly.
“I had a few other things on my mind.” Thorin’s smile is wry. “There were several more pressing concerns than love or romance.”
Bilbo hadn’t prepared himself for actually hearing Thorin say the word, and the sound he makes is embarrassingly pained and strangled. This doesn’t happen. This is against everything he’s built up, everything he’s worked to keep down, and now it’s like a war hammer beating against his chest.
“You … called me your, uh.” He swallows and looks away, swallows again when Thorin’s large hands press in more around his one small one. “Your, uh … betrothed. When you first woke up. Something with the, uh. Mithril.”
Thorin winces, but doesn’t move back an inch. “An unfortunate miscommunication between cultures, and a gesture that was a bit rushed due to my state at the time.”
“You … seriously don’t actually mean … that was …?”
Thorin shakes his head and laughs a little breathlessly. “I gave you the second most valuable thing in my hoard, in the middle of dragon sickness, and you suspected nothing?”
“I thought it was a very nice gesture!” Bilbo says weakly, voice cracking a bit on the end.
“A gift,” Thorin says, staring in Bilbo’s eyes with such intense focus that Bilbo couldn’t look away if he wanted to, which he very much does. “Given, witnessed and accepted. Something of great value and symbolism. A token of binding.”
“What,” Bilbo squeaks.
“I didn’t mean for it to happen then. I hadn’t planned on it. I had wanted to wait, to wait until this all was passed and I could explain it. But the heart behind it was true.” The hands tighten around Bilbo’s and Thorin is leaning further, eyes alight with a wrenching, bright hope. “Bilbo, I meant it. Stay here. Stay with me. I want you here, by my side. Naiblil'âmralê …”
“What does that mean?” Bilbo quakes, heart clenching up because he doesn’t want to know the answer but needs to know what word Thorin says with such hope and wonder and reverence and so much else that should never be directed at Bilbo.
Thorin finally has the decency to look a little embarrassed, though it seems a tad bit late now. “I cannot give you the actual translation. It is similar to engagement.”
“You mean like. Marriage. Like married, marriage. Getting married. You, marrying me. You want to marry me.” If he says it enough times it will start sounding less insane, he's sure. "You, Thorin, want to marry me.”
“I was going to wait,” Thorin says again in a rush. “You don’t have to do anything now, Bilbo. Just stay here … stay with me. Think on it, with me.”
Bilbo has to look away, has to avert his eyes from everything that’s in Thorin’s. Because he’s never, ever, dreamed of anything like this. And there’s so much in his head still. He still feels like he’s drowning in the up and downs, the yanks and tears of these past few weeks straining on him, and then this.
Thorin was unobtainable. It was safe. Everything was held down and away and locked up and now Thorin, with a smile and without a care, has flung it open and sent everything rushing out like a wild autumn storm. Bilbo feels his chest constricting again, his breaths jumping into short little bursts while his eyes burn and everything is too much, too much too fast and all at once.
“I can’t,” he whispers. “I can’t. Thorin I can’t … can’t deal with this. Not right now. There’s too much. I can’t. I—”
There’s a small, hitched breath, and Thorins hands slowly let go and drag away. Bilbo doesn’t watch them, keeps his eyes on the floor and tries to stop his vision from swimming in front of him.
“I understand.” Thorin’s voice is flat, hollow, and when Bilbo looks over, Thorin’s face matches it. Blank and staring flatly at the wall.
Bilbo quickly looks away, scrubs at his eyes again with his hand, and pushes himself up. “I … I’m.” He stops, inhales and works on finding some sort of steady mental footing. “You … you’ll be a great king, Thorin.”
Everything feels heavy, like he’s walking through molasses, thick and dragging and ringing in his ears as he approaches the door. He needs his home, needs his armchair and sunlight and some space where he can sit alone, collect himself and think. Think without the rush of the life of the dwarves, without Thorin’s blue eyes full of hope and so much more.
He walks out the door, and pretends not to hear the ragged, wet, broken sharp breath of sound that follows him.