Wait a minute now, I'll see you when I come back
I could be sharing someone else's pillow
And my love for you is better than diamonds
To you, everything I bestow
And tomorrow, I'll be dancin' on my own
And I'll need a kiss for my head that's achin'
And I'll be a hungry dog without a bone
Hoping my place with you's not taken
Kiss me and tell me it's not broken
Kiss me and kiss me 'til I'm dead
See, I give you the stars from the bruised evening sky
And a crown of jewels for your head now
For your head now
For your head now
For your head
One last night in bed for a time
And two more wishes and both are for thine
And three guesses, you're the angel's child
Four hopes that this love's not spoiled
Kiss me and tell me it's not broken
Kiss me… “To You I Bestow” - Mundy
The snow thawed, the ice broke and the mountain warmed with the lighting of the forges. Durin’s Folk returned to Erebor. The halls and chambers filled with treasure and bones were cleared and polished until they reflected golden torchlight bright as day. It was a warm, snug place to wait out the winter, and far more to a Hobbit’s liking than the silent scent of death and decay which lay upon Erebor like a shroud in the early days after Smaug.
Bilbo Baggins made himself useful to Ori in the royal library, to Balin in the guild halls, to Gloin in the treasury (though only the once), but mostly he found himself at the right hand of Thorin. As always, Bilbo lent himself to the fight against the tide of responsibility cresting upon the royal head with determination, resolve and limited results.
Thorin was still in bandages when Balin, with deepest regret, brought forth the crown to place upon his blood and battle stained brow. Bilbo watched from Thorin’s bedside as he once again pledged his fealty to his people and the mountain while still struggling to breathe against his broken ribs. Only moments thereafter he was brought quill and ink and had but rarely put them down since.
There was no time for joyous reunions with the company following the battle. Oin was ever present in the early days to tend to Thorin’s wounds, but when he was satisfied Thorin would live, there were others more seriously injured to tend to. Gloin had the unenviable task of organizing the guild masters and making an accounting of Erebor’s obscene wealth that it might be divided fairly. Bombur, meanwhile, was head of the kitchens, and feeding the armies of men, elves, and dwarves who assisted them was no small matter. Dwalin organized a guard for the King, conscripted soldiers into duty, worked to establish order and generally attempted to make opportunistic crime impractical for would-be thieves and brigands. To this end, Nori was of great assistance and could be found at Dwalin’s side more often than not. Ori had taken himself off to the library and was little seen outside its walls again. Dori, Bofur and Bifur, all active within their respective guilds, were occupied with establishing their place as masters.
Meanwhile, Thorin concerned himself with matters of state, ably assisted by Balin, his nephews and Bilbo himself. New treaties with the elves and men were drawn and redrawn. Trade was established with eastern kingdoms, the Iron Hills, the Blue Mountains and even the Shire. Dale was to be rebuilt and Thorin lent himself and Erebor to the aide of Bard and the people of Esgaroth.
And when the treaties were signed and the aide pledged, there were then constant disputes over trade, over land, and over aide to see to. Thorin, needled by constant missives from the lords of men, elves and dwarves demanding more than was their right, breaking faith over the price of goods, grew sharper and quicker to anger with Balin and his nephews. For what could anyone do? The mountain, for all it’s wealth, could not sustain itself without trade, and Thorin would never dare threaten to bring the might of his military against anyone so soon after such a costly battle.
Thus, despite his best efforts, the royal head hung lower than it used to, his shoulders weighed down beneath his unrelenting burden. Bilbo felt quite useless. Thorin’s eyes were constantly shadowed from lack of sleep. (Though how anyone could find rest in that cavernous, gilded hall they called a royal suite, Bilbo had no idea.) When Fili suggested to Bilbo he ought to invite Thorin to tea, he thought it odd until Thorin removed his cloak. Bilbo realized how frail and wan he’d become, and resolved to do his part to ensure Thorin kept up his strength. But no matter their efforts, it was abundantly clear Thorin found no joy in his hardwon role.
It wore upon Bilbo’s mind as they met in his chambers at Thorin’s request (“The royal suite is far too large to serve any purpose but to remind me of my office!”) Bilbo laid their customary tea: the smoky, peaty blend favored by Thorin, jam tarts, a bit of cheese, a few sliced, boiled eggs, and (as a special surprise) two steamed artichokes from the Shire’s first harvest, newly arrived with the morning’s caravan.
If Thorin had seemed dismissive once, even disdainful, of Bilbo’s home; he was now its champion in extremis. He could be heard remarking at every meal they shared, “Bilbo, did you not serve something similar in the Shire, though far more delectable?” At their daily tea, “How I admire how you keep your rooms! Hobbits do, as ever, know how to make a house feel homely.” When Thorin remarked upon one of Bilbo’s new brocade waistcoats, it was all Bilbo could do to keep him from his source lest the kingdom find themselves at audience with a King more suited to a Proudfoot family reunion than the rule of a mighty, dwarven kingdom.
It was such a change from the rhapsodic longing for the mountain he’d accustomed himself to over their long journey, he wondered if his host was not attempting to induce homesickness in hopes of prompting Bilbo to leave! Why, upon their arrival, Bilbo’s own chambers had been the subject of a lengthy monologue of their own. (“This suite of rooms was built by King Thror for the queen, though it was not until my brother Frarin was born that they saw use. You’ll note the carvings are some of the most splendid in all of Erebor, depicting the awakening of Durin. It has been long since I’ve seen craftsmanship to rival the relief upon your mantle.”) The carvings were indeed as splendid as Thorin had said. Perhaps he was offended that much of the relief was now obscured by the bundles of thyme and rosemary drying there. If it was his desire to give Bilbo’s rooms to a worthy dwarf, he could hardly blame him with space in the mountain now at a premium. But it puzzled him that Thorin would think of hurrying him along. Now that the snow was all but gone, travel to the Shire was much safer to attempt for a lone Hobbit and his plans to return home had been laid for weeks.
The heavy knock and groan of Bilbo’s opening door sounded. Thorin considerately removed his boots at the entry and hung his cloak upon the peg beside the door.
“I will never, as long as I live, understand why the King must formally witness every guild’s resolution of dispute! If the resolution is agreeable to both parties, then for Mahal’s sake, let it stand and leave me out of it!”
Bilbo hummed sympathetically as he poured. “But then they would need to schedule an audience for the opportunity to curry favor. And how dreadfully tiresome would it be to have a parade through the throne room at all hours simply because you refused to listen to them squabble like children for an hour every month or so?”
Thorin laughed softly, deep in his chest. Bilbo swallowed past the fluttering of his heart. “How true,” Thorin conceded. “Your experience of your relatives, no doubt?”
Bilbo flushed a bit. “My cousin, the Thain, uses our Summer Market for a similar purpose, as do I. With the possible exception of my cousin Lobelia, most tenants and relations are satisfied to resolve their disagreements on a large stage once a year rather than airing them continuously at my doorstep.”
“That does sound restful. This Lobelia Sackville-Baggins sounds as if she would be quite at home in the jeweler’s guild.”
Bilbo snorted. “You’ve no idea. But enough about meddlesome relations. There was a wagon from the Shire this morning, and I found these beauties in among the nettles and rhubarb. Look!”
Bilbo pulled the lid off the tray. A billow of steam rose from the bright green artichokes, a bowl of melted butter between them.
“Artichokes? You ought to begin considering which titles you’d like to hold,” Thorin said, tearing off a tender, green leaf and dipping it into the butter.
Bilbo laughed and began to dismantle his own thistle. “I’d no idea dwarves were so fond of anything green.”
Thorin moaned around his mouthful of the nutty, buttery flesh. “Well clearly you’d never asked their opinions on artichokes because I can quite assure you they are prized among us. Much like Hobbits and their mushrooms,” he added.
Bilbo nodded sagely and for a long while they were lost in the repast. When the artichokes were gone and the rest of the tea between them, Bilbo lit his pipe and offered it to Thorin.
“Not a patch on your Longbottom leaf, but welcome all the same,” he replied.
Bilbo shook his head at Thorin. “If you’re attempting to turn my feet faster toward home, I can assure you I’ll be gone within the month. There’s no need for all that.”
Thorin looked thunderstruck and nearly dropped the pipe. “Who said anything about leaving?”
Bilbo rolled his eyes. “I can only assume you’re constantly bringing up the Shire because you’re eager for me to return to it. Or am I to believe after battling to reclaim your mountain you’re longing for a place you visited once for just over twelve hours nearly a year ago?”
Thorin hung his head and ran two large hands through the curtain of hair obscuring his face. “And if I were?” he replied.
Bilbo barked an incredulous laugh. “Well, you’re welcome to return with me.”
Thorin looked up at his face with troubling sincerity. “Do you truly mean it?”
Bilbo frowned and moved to seat himself on the cushioned bench beside Thorin. “What’s going on? Truthfully now, let’s have it.”
Thorin turned away from Bilbo for a moment to stare into the fire. “Fili would make a good king, don’t you think? He’s quite taken with Bard’s eldest. And it’s only a matter of time before Kili works up the courage to tell me of his betrothal to the she-elf.”
“Thorin, I don’t understand what you’re driving at. Are you ill in some way? Have you been concealing a grave injury?”
Thorin turned to face him. “I’m weary of rule, Bilbo. I believed that ruling here, as King under the Mountain would somehow be less trying than leading a people in exile. But there’s so little difference as to be no difference at all—save that perhaps I have more to account for in my days and no one with whom I can share the burden. Of all my company, I have my sister-sons and yourself on whom I can rely. They are as occupied as I these days. And you are leaving.
“I am not a young dwarf, Bilbo. If I had perished on the battlefield, it would have been a fitting end. I’ve led my people through dragonfire, scarcity and famine and I’ve led them to prosperity again. I’ve led my people since I was forced from my home by the sickness of my grandfather and now that I am returned, I still cannot say that I have come home. I am not the same dwarf I once was. And I fear I never shall be again.”
Bilbo recalled the moment he resolved himself to the quest in that it was a moment nearly without thought in its entirety. One instant he was looking out his window, and the next, he was running to meet the company. He felt a similar aversion to deeper contemplation now.
“We’ll need to speak to Fili and Balin straight away. I’ll send word to my Brandybuck cousins to have the house aired before we arrive. There’s land a bit to the east if you’d like your own smial but I have rooms enough until then.”
Thorin’s smile, unseen since the battle, was benediction enough upon their adventure.