With just an hour to spare before the start of the banquet, Bilbo hurried through the halls of Erebor, smiling and humming to himself.
Fully a month after the battle, the restoration of the once-great kingdom was well underway, and the stone passages, now brightly lit with torches every few feet, did not seem so foreboding as they once had. In truth, the lonely mountain had even started to feel more and more comfortable to Bilbo, and he gladly offered what little assistance he could to the restoration effort. And now he was content, tired from a day of good, honest work and looking forward to a grand meal.
He had spent the day in the Great Dining Hall with Balin, helping the old dwarf as he went over the richly decorated room in minute details, applying finishing touches where they were needed. Bilbo always liked making himself useful of course, but today he had also enjoyed the work itself. It hadn’t been so different from the preparations he would have made in the Shire for an important byrding or the Midwinter feast, only with more emphasis on protocol and less worrying about never leaving Lobelia alone with the silverware.
Bilbo’s left shoulder gave a sudden twinge of pain and he sucked in his breath. The swelling had subsided in a few days and the extensive, ugly bruise had faded in a few weeks, but the injury was still not fully healed. The rock that had hit him had been hurled from on high and the force of the impact had been enough that Bilbo had nearly passed out from the pain, right there on the battlefield.
He breathed deeply, reminding himself that many others had suffered worse, and that the pot of numbing salve Óin had given him was waiting in his rooms. He would have to apply a good layer before dressing for the banquet. He didn’t want the evening spoiled by the injury, or any other reminder from that awful battle.
It would be good to change, he thought as he turned into the corridor to the Royal apartments. Thorin had insisted that, as a most honoured guest of Erebor, Bilbo should have lodgings alongside the Royal family — and so the Hobbit had been given a cosy suite of rooms, appointed with anything he might need, including piles of clothing in the dwarven style.
He had not thought to make much use of the contents of his wardrobe, but he would make an exception tonight. The feast was meant to celebrate the good health of the King and his heirs, and the budding renovation of Erebor, so it would only be fitting for Bilbo to wear dwarven garb.
The King’s voice tore Bilbo from his thoughts and he turned to face Thorin. He’d just walked past the dwarf’s chambers without noticing that the door had been open wide.
“Master Oakenshield,” said Bilbo, who found it quite impossible to stand on protocol and address his dear friend as ‘Your Majesty’ when they were alone.
“I would have a word, if you can spare the time?” Thorin said, inclining his head to Bilbo in a mild and polite greeting.
“Of course,” Bilbo agreed, with a ready smile, before worry immediately seized at his heart. Why would Thorin need to speak with him now? And privately? They would sit together at the feast in an hour, what news could not wait that long? Or not be delivered in public?
Unbidden, Bilbo’s vision filled with the image of Fíli and Kíli’s limp bodies, pale and near lifeless in their cots at the infirmary. The Princes’ injuries had been the worst of all who had survived.
Bilbo’s throat was dry when he next spoke, “Is anything amiss? Are the Princes-”
“No, nothing like that,” Thorin reassured him swiftly, gesturing Bilbo into his private chambers. “They’re both fine.”
“And you?” Bilbo pressed, the knot of worry in his stomach tightening. The boys had lain senseless in the infirmary far too long for anyone’s liking, but the King had been gravely injured too. Bilbo had come around first after the battle, waking up in the infirmary long hours before Thorin regained his senses. The Hobbit had never felt smaller, or more powerless as he had in these hours, watching the wounded King.
He could not banish the sight of Thorin, lying so deathly still in the cot beside his. Bilbo could still see his dark hair and beard matted with blood and his face unnaturally ashen, a jagged cut across his forehead.
“Bilbo?” The King touched his shoulder lightly and Bilbo shuddered, willing the memories away. On meeting Thorin’s eyes, Bilbo found understanding and sorrow there. No one under the mountain had quite gotten used to being a Kingdom at peace yet, and Thorin’s company of thirteen dwarves and a burglar were more prone than most to expect trouble.
But Thorin stood before him now, hale and whole, his cheeks flushed by the warmth on the fire, his piercing blue eyes meeting Bilbo’s. “I am well,” Thorin assured him, in the fervent tone of a promise. “As are Fíli and Kíli.”
At that, a deep shudder of relief coursed through Bilbo.
“Good,” was all he could say, his breath catching on the simple word. “Good.”
“Come, sit with me,” said the King, clearing his throat, and gesturing awkwardly for Bilbo to take a seat by the fire. “I spoke to Óin not an hour past, he’s kept the Princes off their feet today, to make sure they could attend the feast.”
“The boys must have loved that,” snorted Bilbo without thinking.
“Aye, they hated it all right. Bored out their minds they were, and so restless that Óin had to threaten them with a sleeping draft if they would not quiet down.”
The King chuckled alongside Bilbo and any remainder of worry lifted from the Hobbit’s chest. He still wasn’t sure why the King needed to speak to him now, but he was reassured that there would be no terrible news. Thorin was not much prone to mirth, and as far as Bilbo was concerned, any laughter of his was most welcome. Laughter took years of weariness from Thorin’s features, and Bilbo hoped fervently that with the mountain secured and the gold madness defeated, his King might have more cause to wear the comfortable smile that lit up his face just now.
"I hope you-” The King cleared his throat, shifting in his seat, “Well, are you looking forward to the feast?”
"Have you ever known me not to look forward to a good meal?"
"That I have not, and I should be glad never to see it under my mountain.” Thorin shook his head, a small smile emerging at the corner of his mouth, “It would mean a grave decline in the quality of Bombur's cooking, or your own spirits. Both would be quite unacceptable to me."
“You needn’t concern yourself on either account. I went by the kitchens earlier and if I’m any judge, Bombur has outdone himself.”
“Didn’t someone bring you your afternoon meal?” asked Thorin, raising an eyebrow. “You shouldn’t have to go all the way to the kitchens yourself.”
Bilbo waved the complaint off merrily. “Bombur does usually send someone up with food for me, but I thought to spare him and his lads today. I was not half so busy as the cooks.”
“Fine,” Thorin sighed, “as long as it’s only on feast days. I won’t have my burglar starved under my mountain, hear me?”
Bilbo snorted with laughter, rolling his eyes at the unwarranted concern.
“I assure you, I am well fed. I am starting to fill my clothes properly again,” said Bilbo, gesturing at the shirt which had hung on him like a tent when they’d first arrived in Erebor.
Bilbo met Thorin’s eyes and his chuckle caught in his throat. The King was watching him intently.
“This journey has not been kind to any of us, Master Baggins,” he said low, his voice filled with emotion. “I would- I would know that you are safe and well. And happy, Bilbo.”
“I am,” Bilbo said, and because he could not make his voice convey all that he wanted to say, he reached a hand out, tentatively, towards Thorin. The dwarf sat besides him, his elbow resting upon his broad thighs, and Bilbo laid a hand on his wrist, giving it a small squeeze. He wanted to reassure Thorin, to tell him he was safe and well and happy and more. He was proud to help rebuild Erebor; he was relieved beyond words to see Thorin’s mind sharp in his bright blue eyes, free of the dragon’s curse; he did not want Thorin’s mind weighed down by undue worry over him.
But there was only so much a touch could convey, and Thorin looked confused now, more than reassured. Bilbo took in his knitted brow and the colour in his cheeks and thought perhaps he had overstepped.
“Erebor is beautiful,” Bilbo stammered, taking back his hand. The mountain was a safe topic of conversation, and if he could convince Thorin that he was starting to feel more at home here, perhaps that would alleviate his worries. “I did not expect to find it so comfortable, deep under a mountain, to tell you true. But there are lights in every corridor, and warm fires in every room, and good cheer in every conversation.”
Thorin broke into a wide smile, exhaling in a rush at Bilbo’s babbling, and so the hobbit kept talking.
“Bombur sent one of his lads to ask me what he might cook that I miss from the Shire, and Ori has found every text in Westron from the royal library for me, and Balin has instructed me on protocol so that I might not say something utterly inappropriate at the feast and-”
“Yes, the feast,” exclaimed Thorin, sitting up straight and pinching the bridge of his nose. “That is what I wanted to discuss with you. Has Balin mentioned the giving of gifts?”
“He said there would be time for our guests’ delegations to present you with gifts,” said Bilbo, suddenly worried that he might be expected to present Thorin with a gift, when he had prepared nothing.
“And no more?”
“No! Thorin, I must apologise if I was supposed to prepare a gift also, I didn’t-”
“Oh, not at all,” Thorin reassured him. “I suppose Balin will have wanted to keep it a surprise although- I should think my old friend would know you better than-”
Thorin sighed and shook his head.
“Bilbo, I am expected to make you a gift.”
“Me?” Bilbo breathed, colour rising in his cheeks. “But-”
“You are my guest of honour for this banquet, Master Baggins,” said Thorin solemnly, “And the whole mountain knows I owe you my life. No, Bilbo-”
The King raised a hand to forestall any words from the hobbit, who had just been about to say it was nothing any member of Thorin’s company would not have done and gladly.
“You have asked me to lay that matter to rest, and so I will not speak again of my conduct before the battle,” said Thorin in his calm, regal voice, “But we all know I would not be King under the Mountain if not for your slaying of Azog. He stood above me, Bilbo, I-”
“I remember. Please, Thorin, I-” The battle was the last thing Bilbo wanted to speak of just now.
“Again, something we must endeavour to leave in the past,” Thorin sighed, giving his head a small shake before he spoke again, sounding more like himself this time. “But I will be expected to make you a gift and well- I wished to speak to you of it before presenting it to you at the feast.”
Bilbo sat awkwardly, worrying the hem of his shirt between his fingers, utterly confused. What in Yavanna’s name could this be about?
“As you know, our Dwarven ways often differ much from your own Shire customs and, I would not wish for this gift to mean one thing to every dwarf in the hall and another entirely to you.”
And now Bilbo’s curiosity was piqued, and he sat forwards, leaning towards the King and asking, “However do you mean?”
During their long journey to the lonely Mountain, there had been many evenings spent around small campfires, when the thirteen Dwarves and Bilbo had exchanged stories of their homelands. Bilbo knew they had once discussed yearly festivals and birthdays and how each might be celebrated in the Shire and Erebor, but he could not remember what had been said. Differences there surely would be, but what they would consist of remained a mystery to the hobbit.
“There is something else, also,” Thorin added, clearing his throat. Softly, he said, “I would name you Khuzsh-Khazad, Dwarf-friend, that you may come and go in Erebor just as you please. I know you already do, but that is because we are few here, and all know of your loyalty and courage. I would make the matter official, so that, should you wish to remain- w- when we are more numerous, well-”
Thorin’s voice faltered, and Bilbo made a small noise of encouragement in his throat, looking up at the King from under his lashes. When he first came to Erebor, he had thought he would soon leave but now, he was not so sure and he basked in the knowledge that Thorin wished he might choose to stay.
“Dwarven custom is that those few honoured in this way should receive a gift that- well that the gift should be a statement of the value which the giver places on this friendship.”
Bilbo’s stomach dropped and he had a feeling he knew the answer to his next question before he asked it.
“The monetary value?”
“Indeed,” Thorin dipped his head towards Bilbo, half a nod and half a plea for forgiveness.
How incredibly crass, Bilbo thought, burying his face in his hands to hide the deep flush rising in his cheeks. He had absolutely no wish to be assessed and appraised like a heifer at market in front of Thorin’s entire court and the diplomatic envoys from the other Dwarven clans to boot.
“Is that truly necessary?” he squeaked, not caring that the question came out as a muffled whine.
“Absolutely.” There was a finality to Thorin’s tone that told Bilbo he wouldn’t be getting out of this. “I’m sorry, Bilbo,” he added, tugging gently on one of the Hobbit’s hand until he raised his head again. “If I gave you nothing at all, or presented you with a sub-par gift, I would be making you an insult in front of my court, which I will not do. Our company knows you, and knows that Hobbits care little for treasure, but the rest- I won’t have anyone think that I’m choosing to make a mockery of you, or let them assume you are not valued in Erebor.”
Bilbo sighed deeply, mollified by the anxious look etched onto the King’s sharp features and the warmth of he large hand still holding his. The whole affair was crass in the extreme but Bilbo knew Thorin meant well. Of course, by the reckoning of the Shire, such a rich gift would be incredibly insulting, reducing the interactions between the two parties to a figure to be haggled, almost a bribe. But Bilbo could not bring himself to explain this to Thorin and watch his face fall and his brow crease even further. He gave Thorin’s hand a gentle squeeze. He supposed he could put up with a moment of extreme mortification if the King thought it necessary to his stay in Erebor.
“I don’t suppose you could present me with the mithril shirt again?” Bilbo asked, hopefully. That wouldn’t be quite so humiliating, “Kíli told me it was quite valuable.” Though perhaps mithril was too valuable, Bilbo thought with a jolt of fear. Was the suggestion to forward, he worried, checking the King’s face for his reaction.
“It is valuable enough for sure,” exclaimed Thorin, “but the mithril is yours. I have already given it and too many know of it, it will not do. I have already chosen the gift I will make you, but I wanted to explain it to you first.”
Thorin still looked troubled, so Bilbo shifted in his seat and brought his other hand to clasp at Thorin’s too.
“You know I have no need for gold or jewels, but I will gladly accept what you think is fitting,” Bilbo said, pushing his uneasy thoughts on rich gifts aside and smiling at Thorin. “And I want to thank you, really, for not making it a surprise.”
Thorin let out a long, ragged breath, and reached out a hand behind Bilbo’s neck, to bring their foreheads together in the traditional dwarven greeting. There was, mercifully, no head-banging. Bilbo smiled fondly, remembering how strange the custom had seemed to him that night in Bag-End, when he’d first seen the dwarves of Thorin’s company smashing their thick, stubborn dwarven skulls together.
Bilbo lifted his eyes to Thorin’s and suddenly became very, very aware of his nose almost brushing against the King’s. Thorin’s bright blue gaze held him in place as he took in the King’s slightly parted lips and his clean, musky smell so different than what it had been on the road. Bilbo could feel the flush in his cheeks and he had long stopped trying to convince himself that roaring fire in the hearth nearby was responsible for it. Yet there was an answering blush on Thorin’s own cheeks, and perhaps it did not come from the fire either.
There was a noise, somewhere outside, and Bilbo could not have said whether it was of footsteps or laughter or something else, but it rang loud in their ears as if it had been the booming of great drums, and they both sprang apart all at once, clearing their throats noisily.
Bilbo stood, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his trousers, and thinking he really, really should go change before the banquet. But before Bilbo could speak of leaving, Thorin rose also. The King went to the large desk on the other side of the room, mumbling and clearing his throat again as he went.
He sat at the desk and beckoned Bilbo to come to him.
“Once, on our journey, you told the Company of birthdays in the Shire,” Thorin said softly, and Bilbo nodded.
“I remember saying something of them,” he said, finding it difficult to keep his tone light. Bilbo knew that there had been a discussion, but he had no recollection of what he’d actually said. Did Thorin remember the whole conversation? Bilbo hadn’t even thought the King was listening to the evening chatter at the time, he contributed so little.
“I knew from what you said then, you would not care for a costly gift. And so I thought if I must present you with a Dwarven gift that would mean little to you, then I could also give you-” Thorin paused and breathed deeply, “You said in the Shire people make gifts for their… friends and relations. More personal gifts?”
Bilbo nodded, a bubble of excited hope rising in his chest. Did Thorin-
“I took the liberty- I made-” Thorin’s voice caught in his throat at that word, and he fell silent, depositing a small package on the desk between them and pushing it towards Bilbo. “I hope you do not mind that I am giving it to you now, I- I cannot give you this at the banquet.”
“Why ever not?” asked Bilbo, his eyes snapping from the parcel to Thorin. There had been something in the King’s voice just now, a hint of- it hadn’t been mirth, although there’d been the barest trace of a chuckle. Disbelief maybe, like he couldn’t fathom speaking the sentence aloud.
“Oh, it’s nothing, nothing at all,” said Thorin, all too quickly, waving his hand dismissively and reddening even more.
“Thorin,” said Bilbo, maintaining a level, calm voice even as his mind raced. What in the name of Yavanna was this about. “Tell me why you can’t give this to me at the banquet.”
Thorin swore softly in Khuzdul, then sighed and ran a hand over his face, looking frustrated and embarrassed.
“There is more than one word for gift in Khuzdul,” he started, “There are offerings, meant for Kings, dignitaries, heroes, anyone who has done a great service might receive such an offering, and it conveys the respect and affection of a people, or a family, or a settlement. The gift I am to present you with at the feast, it is understood to be a gift from Erebor, not from myself. That is the more common kind of gift.”
“And this is from you, not Erebor,” Bilbo whispered, gesturing at the parcel on the desk. It was not a question.
“It is. This is another kind of gift because I made it. I know it is normal for Hobbits to make things for others, but for Dwarves, we do not- well making something for someone else, with your own hands, it is something of great import. The crafting of objects, particularly adornments, it is sacred to us.”
“Because Mahal is a smith, who crafts all living things in his forge,” Bilbo said, with a rush of understanding.
“You have been reading of our beliefs?” Thorin looked taken aback.
“Oh, I’m very sorry,” squeaked Bilbo, “I do hope it’s isn’t bad that I did? You know I’m a curious Hobbit, and Ori has provided me with so much reading material-”
“It is not a problem at all, and you are correct. That is why our crafts are so important to us. We know well the value of things well made, and we customarily sell our wares. To give something to someone which you made by hand, it’s rare.” Thorin took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and said, very quietly, “It is normally reserved for courting gifts.”
Bilbo’s mouth fell open and he looked at Thorin in bewilderment. What did he mean by telling Bilbo about this custom before giving him his gift? But wait, Bilbo had pushed for Thorin to explain. Thorin had merely meant to give him the gift, not to tell him of the courting tradition. And he said, he made it specifically because Hobbits make their gifts, which is true enough, and not at all a mark of courting.
The small package lay between them on the desk and Bilbo made no move towards it. The silence stretched taught between them, heavy with the creases appearing on Thorin’s brow and the shock still painted on Bilbo’s face.
“I did not realise there was such a custom among Dwarves,” Bilbo said faintly. He was babbling again, and he did not care. He had babbled his way out trickier situations. “The closest we have in the Shire would be giving another flowers to wear on their person.”
Thorin nodded but his expression was still one of concern.
“Please, do not worry. I can- I can understand why you would not want your court to think that- well- a courting gift- and to a Hobbit-” Bilbo faltered, gesturing feebly at himself and the parcel between them.
Thorin’s worried expression shifted to shocked disbelief.
“No!” He exclaimed, drawing himself up to his full and considerable height, “I am not ashamed of your friendship, Bilbo Baggins of the Shire. You are a member of my company and an honoured guest under my mountain. You are a hero, tried in battle and found worthy. They call you King-Saviour and Azog-Slayer, did you know?” Thorin did not wait for Bilbo’s response. “Were I to make you a courting gift, I can assure you no dwarf would object, not one who wanted to keep their he-”
Thorin cut himself short, and Bilbo found he could do nothing but stare at the King under the Mountain and remember to breathe. Thorin had not, in fact, made any objection to the idea that he might want to court Bilbo.
“I didn’t not wish to make you an object of gossip for an entire hall of dwarves,” Thorin explained, in more measured tones.
“Yes, quite right,” Bilbo said, absent-mindedly, reaching for the wrapped gift at last. “It would be mortifying to be the only one not to know something like that.”
Thorin opened his mouth to speak, but said nothing as Bilbo lifted the small wrapped parcel to him, and started working at the knot of string that held it together.
“You had the wrapper painted?” Bilbo asked faintly as he discarded the colourful paper to uncover a layer of protective cloth.
“Hmm? Ori,” was all that Thorin said, his gaze focusing on Bilbo’s face.
“Oh, Thorin!” Bilbo breathed in reverent tones on seeing the wide wrist cuff, made of some kind of silvery metal; more than one kind of metal, it seemed, as there were three or more complementing shades of darker and lighter silver. He lifted it with one hand to examine it up close and saw that there was an intricate pattern of leaves and flowers worked into it, shining bright in the firelight. He had never seen anything quite so delicate worked from metal in his life.
“Thorin, it’s beautiful,” Bilbo said, feeling the tip of his ears grow warm.
“You- you like it?” Thorin asked, his voice coming from up close. Bilbo’s eyes snapped up to stare at the Dwarf, taken aback by the raw edge of vulnerability to his words.
“Of course, I love it,” Bilbo beamed, grabbing a handful of Thorin’s shirt without thinking and bringing their foreheads together again. “Thorin, it’s gorgeous, it’s- it’s- When did you even have time to make this?”
A wide, wonderful smile spread slowly on Thorin’s lips.
“I told you Dwarves take their craft seriously, Master Baggins,” he said softly, with more than a hint of pride to his tone, “I’ve been going to the Forges every day since Óin cleared me for walking.”
“Even when you were on crutches?” asked Bilbo, allowing a few inches of distance between their faces so he could glare at Thorin, “What if there’d been an accident? What if something had happened and you couldn’t get away?”
Thorin chuckled, “I wasn’t working the forges themselves, I just used one of the workbenches. This is precision work, not hammering at a greatsword. It was quite safe.”
“Good,” Bilbo breathed out, conscious of Thorin’s hand on his arm and the King’s overall proximity.
Bilbo’s gaze dipped back down and his breath caught in his throat as Thorin took the cuff from him and wordlessly slid it on the Hobbit’s wrist. Bilbo stared at his own arm, completely unable to process anything, save for the fact that Thorin’s hand still rested there, a mere inch away from the silver cuff.
Thorin gave him jewellery. Thorin made him jewellery. Even in the Shire, such a gift would make good gossip, and with flowers worked into the design, well- But no. Bilbo forced himself to exhale slowly, reminded his racing heart that he had only just now told Thorin of the significance of flowers to Hobbits. The King could not possibly have known. He had just made something beautiful for Bilbo because he knew Bilbo would like it. Of course Bilbo liked it, how could anyone not appreciate the gorgeous workmansh-
Snatches of their earlier conversation clicked into place in Bilbo’s mind and the realisation hit him.
Even if Thorin had given him the cuff now, in private, there would still be gossip. There couldn’t not be gossip. The cuff was too striking, any dwarf under the mountain would know it for a work of mastery. And surely, sooner or later, someone would ask where Bilbo had gotten it.
Had Bilbo not prevailed upon Thorin to tell him of Dwarven courtship gifts, surely Bilbo would have told anyone who asked that the gift came from Thorin — and then there would be gossip. And now that he knew, Bilbo might refuse to share the origin of the gift — but then there would be even more gossip.
Glancing once more at Thorin, with his dark beard, his flushed cheeks and his piercing blue eyes, Bilbo gathered his courage. He had an idea, and it might be a terrible idea, but then again, it might work, and if it did…
Taking a deep breath, Bilbo carefully removed the cuff from his wrist. Thorin stepped back and away from him and Bilbo could feel the cold by his side where the dwarf had been. This idea of yours had better work, Bilbo Baggins, he chided himself as he set about wrapping the cuff again in the protective cloth and in that colourful paper Ori had painted.
“You will not wear it,” Thorin asked harshly, and Bilbo wanted to gather him in his arms and soothe the hurt and betrayal from his voice.
“I will wear it, and gladly,” said Bilbo, his voice letting nothing slip of the tumultuous beating of his heart. He tied the string around the parcel with a small bow, pushed it across the desk to where Thorin had retreated, and made his great leap. “If you will- If you’d like to give it to me again at the banquet, I will wear it then.”
“At the banquet?” Thorin asked, the question coming out in a rush.
“At the banquet,” Bilbo said, looking up at the King shyly, and seeing hope in Thorin’s eyes. “For every Dwarf under your mountain to see.”
A bark of ecstatic laughter escaped Thorin’s lips and he was at Bilbo’s side again in an instant, gathered him up in a happy embrace. For the third time in under an hour, their foreheads were touching, but this time Bilbo delighted in brushing his nose against Thorin’s. The King closed the distance between them to press a gentle, reverent kiss on Bilbo’s lips. Bilbo smiled against Thorin’s mouth and snaked his arms around the dwarf’s neck.
“Oh good,” breathed Bilbo when they broke the kiss, still holding each other close, “I was worried you would think me a tad forward.”
Bilbo felt Thorin’s quiet laughter rumbling through his broad chest where he and Bilbo touched, and the hobbit knew then and there he wanted that feeling every day of the rest of his life.
“Well, now I have two gifts to present to you in front of a crowd,” Thorin said, smirking at Bilbo sudden groan of embarrassment. There was a reason even small presents were given in private in the Shire.
“And a Dwarven courtship will involve many more gifts of course,” Thorin teased into Bilbo’s hair, before he continued, more seriously, “I shall have to make beads and clasps to braid into your hair, of course.”
“Yes, please,” Bilbo agreed contentedly, snuggling his head in the crook of Thorin’s neck. “And I shall, of course, have to make you a flower crown.”
Thorin looked horrified and Bilbo pressed his advantage, “Hobbit courtship rituals must be obs-”
But then the King under the Mountain was kissing him again, and Bilbo Baggins quite forgot the rest of what he was going to say.