Chapter 5: Intrigue - Part II
Rating/Warnings: NSFW; angst, political maneuvering
Word Count: 18,665 (49,473 so far)
Disclaimer: If I owned the hobbit, I wouldn't have to write fanfic
Summary: Thorin believes that his nephew betrayed the company in the goblin caves and leaves him there to die; Bilbo will not stand for this.
Chapter 1: Paranoia
Chapter 2: Courage and Despair
Chapter 3: Healing
Chapter 4: Guilt and Dissension
Chapter 5: Intrigue - Part I
Much to his surprise, he does not dream, although perhaps this is not a blessing when it is morning which he fears. Indeed, it seems as though Bilbo has barely closed his eyes before the sun rises and he finds himself staring down the secret tunnel once again. In the light of day, the passage is only slightly more welcoming, for while the sun chases away the darkness, the scent of death remains. Still, Bilbo gave his word and Fíli promises to wait for him at the entrance, so he finds a spark of courage and steps within the stone.
Once he has taken this first step, the second comes easier, and soon the hobbit can no longer see the surface when he looks back whence he came. When the sunlight faces, he slides his ring upon his finger and continues forward, tracing his path with its strange light. The journey seems to take forever, though Bilbo knows that it is only his terror distorting his sense of time. So in truth it has probably been less than an hour by the time he reaches another door.
Here the stench and heat is nearly overpowering, a murky red light seeping through the cracks and it takes all of the hobbit's courage to continue now. Thankfully, despite its long centuries of disuse, this door also opens smoothly and he slides through without a sound.
And then he nearly ruins it by gasping at the sight which meets his eyes.
Bilbo is standing on one edge of an enormous hall, larger than any room that he has ever seen and filled to bursting with a sea of treasure. Coins, jewels, gems and platters are heaped together without rhyme or reason and he knows that with even a fraction of this wealth, the entirely of Hobbiton would never have to work again.
But I am not here for precious metals, the hobbit reminds himself firmly, though he does slip a few coins and a small golden cup into his pocket as proof of what he's found. Then he walks forward, each step an agony as the piles of gold threaten to slide beneath his feet. Whatever pathways used to cross this chamber are now lost beneath the wild spill of treasure and Bilbo is so focused on staying upright that he nearly walks into the monster which he seeks.
For the hobbit crests a mound of gems and then stops short. There is a vast red-golden dragon spread out below him, the drake rumbling like thunder in his dreams. Smaug is half buried in gold and silver, wisps of smoke trailing from his enormous jaws and his sinewy wings folded tight across his back.
Bilbo stumbles back at the sight, before freezing in fear as a mass of coins slides down the pile and tumbles into the dragon’s cheek. Smaug grumbles, fire flaring in his nostrils and the hobbit does not dare to breathe while the creature shifts. One large eye cracks open, golden and slitted like a snake, and for one horrifying moment, Bilbo is sure that the wyrm can see him after all. But then he snorts sleepily, rolling onto his side and resettling his wings, and the rumble of his snoring begins again.
His nerves shaking from the tension, the hobbit relaxes, bringing up one hand to rub his face. That was far too close, he thinks as he begins moving slowly away from the dragon's head, for Bilbo can clearly see that Smaug has no weakness there.
In truth, there does not appear to be a weak point anywhere, every inch of the drake covered in scales and spines and claws. Perhaps his eyes, but he needs only to blink in order to block the strike and an arrow to his wings would infuriate him long before it brings him down. However, while each new failure is discouraging, Bilbo refuses to give up. Fíli and Kíli are counting on him and his father always swore that every wyrm had a weak spot to make up for their arrogance.
So he keeps moving, eyes roaming intently over Smaug's gigantic form and when the hobbit walks around the dragons's tail, he thinks he finally sees it. At first it is nothing more than a pale, white flash in the corner of his eye, but as Bilbo looks closer, a bare patch among the scales comes into focus. Soft and unprotected and right above the monster's heart and the hobbit knows that he has discovered the answer which they seek. He breathes an enormous sigh of relief and then begins the slow trek back to the hidden door. Fíli will want to know what he has found.
As he steps carefully across the treasure, one wary eye locked upon the dragon, Bilbo wonders if he should just give Tauriel his ring and send her in here to kill Smaug in his sleep. Yet while this would probably be safer, something in him balks at the idea and surely the dwarves would object to a fiery corpse within their treasure hall?
So the hobbit will just have to stick to the original plan after all and when he reaches the secret passage, he looks back into the chamber, trying to guess in which direction the dragon will choose to leave. South-west, Bilbo decides eventually, noticing the way that the stones are singed and broken around this entrance, as though Smaug has forced his body through those halls before. I will tell the elves to wait there and hope that luck is on our side.
Then he ducks through the door and pulls it shut behind him, before heading back to the surface. The return trip feels much shorter and the hobbit pauses only to remove his ring before stepping out into the light. As promised, his friend is waiting there and the dwarf turns toward Bilbo with a hopeful look upon his face.
“I found it!” He crows smugly in answer to Fíli unspoken question, throwing himself into the other's arms. Although his friend seems somewhat startled by this greeting, once he registers the hobbit's words, the dwarf returns the hug with equal glee and the two of them dance around in joy.
“You are truly a master burglar to steal the secret of Smaug's weakness beneath his very nose,” Fíli tells him when they finally separate. “And as soon as I contact our elvish friends, we will bring this monster down.”
The dwarf pulls the whistle from his pocket and blows it again, the sound no less painful this second time. But at least the wait is shorter, for only a few minutes pass before the two elves are slipping down the cliff to join them. When they arrive, Bilbo wastes no time in explaining what he found within the dragon's lair, describing the wyrm's weak point and the route he thinks that Smaug will take. The archers listen silently, heads cocked to the side in concentration and only after he has finished do they speak.
“If all is as you say, then we will be able to make this shot easily enough, once the wyrm has spread his wings. However, you would do well to move your people off the mountainside in case the worst should happen and our efforts fail.”
“We could bring everyone inside the passage.” The hobbit offers, for in this barren landscape that is the only place where their company could hide. “After the dragon leaves there will be plenty of space and we might be able to set up an ambush there to attack when he returns.”
“Let us hope it doesn't come to that.” Fíli says, a sentiment with which Bilbo firmly agrees. “But your plan is sound and I can convince the others of its merits easily enough. Most of them will be overjoyed to know that we have a plan at all considering that my uncle appears to be expecting you to steal his treasure out, piece by shining piece.”
Since this would take lifetimes even without the ever present danger of the dragon, the hobbit doesn't know what Thorin could possibly be thinking. Although, the fact that the dwarf is no longer thinking clearly is the heart of this whole mess.
So they promise to give the elves an hour or so to move into position and watch them disappear into the rocks before the pair starts back toward camp. Which is when they round the corner and see Glóin sitting there. At the sight, Bilbo's heart begins to pound with tension, for judging by the grave expression on the dwarf's face, he heard every detail of their plans.
“So you're working with the elves.” He says and Fíli flinches slightly, before squaring his shoulders and meeting the warrior's eyes.
“Yes, I am. Someone had to find a way for this mad quest to succeed since my uncle seems to be resting our hopes on good luck and a prayer. If I had left things up to him we would still be trapped inside the Mirkwood, our dreams rotting within the elf lord's care.” His voice is firm and Bilbo feels a surge of pride in his friend, because this is the bearing of a king.
“All right then.” Glóin gives a measured nod. “While I sympathized with your pain, I could not support you if your only goal was vengeance. But you truly have our best interests in your heart. I will stand with you when you confront your uncle, and if need be, I will fight for you to claim his crown.”
The two dwarves clasp hands as the hobbit watches them in shock, wondering if he will ever understand the motivations of his lover's race. They are so stubborn and unyielding and yet with the right spark, one can change their deepest beliefs faster than an arrow flies. However, while he does not understand it, Bilbo admires the willingness to change. And in truth he much prefers it to the loyalty of hobbits, who will pretend to agree with you on the surface and then stab you in the back.
“Our burglar has returned.” Fíli calls out when they finally near the camp and the two dwarves slip away as the rest of their company surrounds the hobbit. Bilbo shoots his friend a glare for leaving him to face the swarm alone, but the other shrugs without apology. 'I need a distraction,' he mouths over Dwalin's shoulder and so the hobbit sighs and plasters an excited grin across his face.
While he keeps all eyes riveted on him with his descriptions of Smaug's ferocious size and the endless mounds of treasure, Fíli and Glóin move through the crowd, drawing off their allies one by one. They must be explaining the plan, Bilbo decides, for when each dwarf returns they have a new determination in their eyes.
The hobbit manages to draw out the story until Fíli has finished and then he hands the golden cup to Thorin with a flourish. For a moment, the treasure seems to mollify the dwarf lord's displeasure, but when no more is forthcoming, he scowls down at Bilbo in distaste.
“This is it? The wizard promised me a master burglar, Mister Baggins, not some petty thief.”
“Well, excuse me, but in case you weren't listening, there's currently a dragon sitting on your treasure and I rather think that we should deal with that monster first.” The hobbit replies as his annoyance gets the better of him, placing his hands on his hips and matching the dwarf glare for glare. “I will return to the mountain but not to steal your gold back one piece at a time- I'm going to steal out Smaug himself instead.”
“What do you mean by that?” Thorin asks, a hint of interest joining the hungry gleam within his eyes.
Bilbo falters briefly because this isn't how Fíli was going to tell his uncle of their plan, but he's already gone this far and so he decides to risk it. The dwarf is not the type to back down from a challenge, and if the hobbit phrases it right, Thorin shouldn't notice the parts he doesn't say.
“I told you, I'm going to steal the dragon. I will drive him into such a frenzy that he abandons Erebor and then your gold will be free for you to claim. In fact, I will steal the secret of his weakness as well, so that if the wyrm ever returns, you will be able to strike him down. Surely a great and powerful warrior such as yourself can manage that?”
The mocking question enrages the dwarf and as Bilbo hoped, he is far too angry to wonder about the hobbit's sudden burst of arrogance. In fact, Thorin's reaction could not have been more perfect and soon the entire company is standing before the secret passage, waiting for their burglar to sneak inside.
As he takes a breath in preparation, Fíli pats him on the shoulder and wishes him luck, promising that whatever happens, he will ensure that Kíli survives. The hobbit thanks him sincerely, appreciating the reassurance, and then he steps forward to face the dragon once again. This is the end, for better or for worse.
When Bilbo reaches the end of the tunnel and slips back into the treasure hall, at first he thinks that nothing has changed. The room still glows with the same fiery hue, tinged scarlet even in the strange light of his ring, and the rumble of the dragon's breaths echoes in his bones. So the burglar creeps forward, not wanting to wake Smaug before he is ready, and then he rounds a pile of shields and freezes beneath one slitted eye.
The drake growls, his nostrils flaring as he scents the air, and ring or no, the hobbit is certain that the beast will find him soon. Find him and devour him before he can complete his mission and he doesn't know how he will salvage this. But then Bilbo has an idea, reaching into his pocket and grabbing one of the coins which he had stolen before throwing it across the room. The gold piece lands with a clatter and the wyrm is on it in an instant, slithering over the treasure with the swiftness of a falcon's strike.
While Smaug is distracted, the hobbit hurries toward the western entrance, looking for a new vantage point from which to taunt the dragon without discovery. I should have learned to throw my voice like uncle Isengrim, he thinks, bemoaning the lack as he hurries toward a pillar across the way. But who knew I'd ever need that skill? Bilbo slides behind the stone just as Smaug roars in fury, the echoing sound filling every inch of space within the hall.
“Well thief! I smell you and I hear your breath. Come help yourself again, there is plenty and to spare!” The dragon hisses, tail lashing as he stalks across his hoarded gold. “I have not smelled your kind before, but no one can steal from me and live.”
The hobbit shivers at the malice in that voice and wonders how Smaug could have noticed the tiny cup he stole. But although his knees are shaking, Bilbo clutches his lover's pendant tightly and finds the strength to speak.
“Are you sure about that, dragon? For this is not the first time I have walked within your mountain and it will not be the last.”
The dragon roars again, charging toward the hobbit's voice, but by the time he reaches the pillar, Bilbo has already snuck away. I'm actually having fun, he realizes, fighting the urge to giggle hysterically as he taunts Smaug repeatedly and leads him in circles around the hall. However, just as he begins to feel confident, the hobbit trips and tumbles, sliding down a mound of treasure to land in a hollow near the center of the room.
Something hard is digging into his back and the fall knocked his breath away, but the burglar does not dare to move. He does not dare to breathe as the dragon slithers near him, one clawed hand landing an inch from his face. Do not notice me, Bilbo prays and the Valar must hear him, for Smaug continues past him without pause. When the wyrm has passed, the hobbit reaches an arm beneath him and pulls out a shining gemstone, one which seems to glow with its own eldritch light.
Then he pushes himself to his feet, shoving the gem into his pocket as an afterthought. While he has done well so far, it is not enough for the dragon to be angry. Smaug needs a reason to leave the Lonely Mountain and the burglar is about to give him that.
“You would have better luck, wyrm, if I were actually a thief. But this is not my purpose here. I am not here to steal your treasure, I am here to take your life.” At these words, the drake bellows with laughter, the scornful rumble of his amusement nearly knocking Bilbo back to his knees.
“You intend to kill me?” The dragon hisses, eyes widening in disbelief. “I am Smaug the Terrible and my armor is tenfold shields. My teeth are swords, my claws spears, each beat of my wings is a hurricane, and my breath is death! Who are you to challenge me?"
“I am the lucky number and he who walks unseen.” The hobbit answers, putting a mocking sing-song into the words. “I am the King-maker and the King-breaker, a friend to princes and a healer of the weak. I am the Ring-winner and the Luck-bearer and an army of my allies now stands before your door.”
“An army?! You are a fool, riddler, for all the power that you claim.” The wyrm snorts dismissively. “I took this mountain over the corpses of two kingdoms and the best they had to offer was no more than dust beneath my feet. Yet now you taunt me with an army, as though such ants could bring me down.”
“Perhaps you are right, dragon, or perhaps this victory you boast of was won through no more than ambush and deceit. Did you find honor in slaughtering women and children or were you simply too much of a coward to face warriors on the field?”
“You dare to call me a coward?! Me?! I will face your army and devour it!” Smaug rises to his full height, an endless mass of ruby scales, and breathes out a wall of flame across the floor. The fire hurtles toward Bilbo, who turns and sprints away in panic, diving behind a wall just as heat licks against his heels. He lays there panting and watches the dragon stalk out of the treasure hall, stone cracking in protest as he forces his body through.
However, while he would love to never move again, the hobbit cannot silence his curiosity and so he drags himself upright once again. Then he chases after the wyrm, following his trail of debris and devastation until Bilbo finds himself upon the western battlements.
Smaug is there, preparing to rain devastation down upon the plain. His claws dig deep into the stone as he rears back on his hind legs, his spread wings like fiery banners in the light, and then he leaps. The drake soars into the air, the rush of wind knocking Bilbo to the stone and for one terrible instant, he thinks the elves have failed them.
But then there is a shriek of agony such as the hobbit has never heard and Smaug falters in the sky. His wings beat once, twice, thrice more before the dragon plummets, trailing flame and blood behind him through the air. Bilbo watches unblinking until the great wyrm lands at the foot of the mountain and with one last cry, his corpse begins to burn. The fire chars him from the inside out until there is nothing left but a hollow shell of scales and bones and even though this is what he wanted, the hobbit has to turn away.
For all his cruelty there was something glorious about the dragon, something wild and beautiful, and now that he is gone, Bilbo wonders if the world is lesser for it. Safer perhaps, but if he has learned anything upon this journey, it is that risk has its rewards.
And he would have eaten you and all of your friends without a second thought, the hobbit reminds himself, brushing aside that odd twinge of sympathy. Then he removes his ring and walks back the way he came, entering the treasure hall to find his companions staring at the mounds of gold in awe.
“Bilbo! You're alive!” Fíli cries out and runs over, throwing an arm across the hobbit's shoulders. “When I didn't see you, I worried that Smaug had killed you after all.”
“No, he did not manage that.” Bilbo replies, patting the other on the back. “In fact, the great and terrible dragon is now nothing more than bones and ashes on the wind”
“Truly?” The young dwarf asks, his smile somehow growing brighter and when the hobbit nods, it is as though an enormous weight has been lifted from his back. “Thank the Valar, even if Thranduil's share of treasure may be larger than I thought. And now that the wyrm is dead, I suppose it is time to deal with my uncle.”
Fíli sighs heavily, obviously dreading the confrontation, but he knows what he must do. So the dwarf signals to his allies that it is time and then stands forth to speak.
“Our quest is now over and Erebor belongs to the line of Durin once again. However, while I offer you my congratulations, there are matters which we must discuss.” He announces to his uncle, voice carrying across the room, and yet Thorin hardly reacts at all.
“Not now, Fíli.” The dwarf tells his nephew, waving one hand at him dismissively, before kneeling down to search amongst the treasure at his feet. “I must find the Arkenstone before the beast returns.”
“The Arkens- Damn it, Thorin, Smaug is dead, so you will listen to what I have to say.” Fíli says, irritation lacing in his words as he tries once more to draw his uncle's eye. “The fate of our kingdom is more important than any bit of treasure in this hall.”
“I said not now!” Thorin roars, making the rest of the company step back in surprise “There could be an army of goblins on our doorstep and it would not matter until the Arkenstone rests in my hands.”
The faces of those listening twist in disgust and watching them, Bilbo thinks that the dwarf lord just lost any chance he had of retaining his crown. Indeed, the longer the argument continues without Thorin even agreeing to hear his nephew's case, the darker Fíli's expression grows and the hobbit begins to wonder if this will end in bloodshed after all. As he watches, he sticks his hand in his pocket to fiddle with his ring, and when his fingers touch something larger, Bilbo remembers the gemstone that he found.
When he removes it from his coat and its silver glow shines forth, a sudden silence descends on the chamber as the entire company turns to him and stares. A silence which is broken by Thorin's gleeful shout.
“You found it!” He cries, rushing over to the hobbit and grabbing the gemstone from his hands.
“I- what?” Bilbo asks, mouth hanging open in shock at the joyful expression on the dwarf lord's face.
“You found the Heart of the Mountain.” Thorin says, as if that were an explanation, and cradles the jewel gently to his chest. “This is the greatest treasure of my people, so if it is in my power, I will grant you anything you ask.”
The hobbit looks to his companions for advice, but most of them seem as flabbergasted as he feels and even Fíli just shrugs when he meets Bilbo's eyes. So he turns back to the dwarf and asks for the one thing that is his heart's desire.
“All right then. I would like you to give Kíli back his name and honor, for he has never been a traitor to you or your kin.”
However, the instant that the hobbit speaks his nephew's name, Thorin's face shifts from happiness to fury and only Dwalin's quick hands stop his lunge. “You dare!” The dwarf roars, fighting like a rabid animal against the other's hold. “You would side with that betrayer over me! You are all in this together, plotting to steal my kingdom and my gold and you will feel my vengeance.”
The hobbit does not respond for he is mesmerized by the crazed look on Thorin's face and he only comes back to himself when Fíli blocks his view.
“Uncle, stop this madness.” The young dwarf pleads. “Bilbo is no more a traitor than my brother and it is only your own fear which makes you think otherwise. Let us help you so that you may return to your sense and be an honorable leader once again.”
“Never! I am king, nephew, and I do not need you to tell me what is right. If you do not strike the halfling down this instant, then I will banish you to meet your brother's fate. I will banish all who try to take my throne.”
“Then you leave me no choice.” Fíli replies. “While I had hoped you would see reason once the dragon was no more, your madness and paranoia are rooted too deep. Therefore, Thorin Oakenshield, I declare you unfit to rule the Sigin-tarâg and I offer myself as King Under the Mountain in your stead. Who will ally their hammers with my claim?”
For a moment no one moves, Thorin giving an inarticulate roar of hatred and yanking against Dwalin's hands once more. But then Nori steps forward to stand at the young dwarf's side and the rest of the company follows one by one until only Óin and Balin now remain.
“Do you stand with my uncle, then?” Fíli asks the two old dwarves when they show no sign of moving and yet both of them slowly shake their heads.
“No. I stand with neither.” Óin declare, the white-haired dwarf nodding his agreement. “I have watched you and Bilbo in your plotting and I believe my brother when he says that you will be a worthy king. But while I will not stop you, I cannot support you in the attempt. I am a healer before everything, and so I will not choose a side.”
“Thank you for your honesty,” The young dwarf says and he truly seems to mean it. “I admire your loyalty even as I must choose a greater duty to fulfill and I hope that you will find me worthy of your service someday. Now, uncle, will you submit to our judgment and give me your allegiance? I truly do not wish to cast you aside.”
“NEVER!” Thorin roars again, elbowing Dwalin in the side and slipping from his hold. “I will see you burn for this.” He swears before fleeing into one of the doorways, Arkenstone still clutched tight in his grasp.
By the time his companions come to their senses and follow him, the dwarf has locked himself inside one of the Erebor's old storerooms. So they plead and threaten and try to break down the door, but none of it is any use and eventually Fíli orders them to stop. At this point night has fallen, so their new king leaves Glóin standing guard and tells the others to get some sleep; they will need their rest in the days to come.
Certainly Bilbo is about to fall asleep on his feet and once the company has scattered, Fíli takes him by the arm. “Come on, my dear hobbit.” The dwarf says, leading him to one of the kingdom's many abandoned rooms before bidding him goodnight and if the bed is dusty, the hobbit is far too tired to care.
He sleeps deeply and wakes early, wandering into the kitchen in search of a bite to eat. However, despite the unpleasant hour, Fíli is already there, poring over a map with Nori and Dwalin. He greets Bilbo with a smile and invites him over to help them with their plans. They are organizing the work that must be completed, beginning with the need to clear the gate, followed by the creation of a record of all the damage that was done.
All told the hobbit finds it rather overwhelming, because just one of these tasks could keep them busy for years. However, Fíli hopes that once the gate is passable, their allies will be willing to help. “If nothing else, Dáin should jump at the chance to be owed a favor and Thranduil will probably want to count his gold himself.”
So after a quick breakfast, they begin and although it takes all morning, the gates of Erebor soon stand open once again. Not that there's anything left to shut, Bilbo reflects, for what was once an impregnable fortress is rather less so now.
However, this is a matter for another day, because when last rock is finally cleared, the hobbit's keen eyes pick out riders on the plain. Two small parties, one of elves and one of men, and Fíli quickly grabs a crown off the treasure pile before walking out to greet them cordially.
“King Thranduil and the Master of Laketown, I was not expecting you quite so soon. Welcome to the Lonely Mountain.” The dwarf begins and before long the three rulers are ensconced in bargaining. While Bilbo does tune out slightly during the more flowery diplomatic phrases, he pays enough attention to notice when the politeness turns to threats. It seems that while Thranduil is perfectly happy to claim his share of treasure and return to the Mirkwood, the men of Laketown are not so easily appeased. In fact, the Master wants an equal portion in repayment for the pain that Smaug caused his people and the hobbit can almost hear Fíli's teeth begin to grind.
When the dwarf refuses him, and rightly so, the man counters with threat of invasion and while the elf king looks rather disgusted with this turn, he does not speak out.
Probably wants to see what Fíli's made of, Bilbo thinks, noticing the way that Thranduil's watching him. And with three nations so close, I can understand why he doesn't wish to alienate one of their kings. It's like when the Proudfoots and the Sackvilles were feuding over their petunias and refused to sell their produce to anyone on the other side. But at least those two families were roughly equal, while we have only fourteen and one of them quite mad. That's no fair way to bargain.
Indeed Fíli hardly has a leg to stand on and the hobbit begin to worry that all their work will come to naught when the dwarf loses his temper and tries to cut the human down. But then Bilbo sees Bard the Bowman standing at his Master's back and a solution comes to him as he remembers their conversations.
“Of course we're not going to give you a share of our treasure simply for showing up when all the work is done.” The burglar cuts in as his king draws breath for what will probably be a splendid insult. “But as we're all friends here, I'm sure that we can work something out.”
'Friends?' Fíli whispers incredulously as everyone turns to stare at the hobbit in surprise. 'Speak for yourself.'
But Bilbo just winks and meets the Master's gaze with a sugary sweet smile. “After all, what could be a greater show of goodwill than to help restore the city of Dale to its former glory, since those men are the ones who first felt the dragon's fury. Of course, considering the amount of time and resources this restoration will require, you couldn't possibly ask for any more from us without seeming quite ungrateful. Could you?”
Now is the man's turn to splutter and warmth fills the hobbit when he catches both Fíli and Thranduil hiding their amusement from the corner of his eye. The Master opens his mouth, probably to curse him violently judging by the color of his face, but before he can, Bard speaks up.
“You would truly do this?” He asks, voice soft with wonder, and as the other man's jaw snaps shut, Bilbo has to resist the urge to cackle. I've got you now, he crows, knowing that he has just offered Bard his greatest dream and blocked the Master's greed in one fell swoop. While rebuilding Dale will cost the dwarves in time and labor, the price will be less than an equal share of the gold within the mountain, and it will gain them far more in trade and diplomacy. Besides, Bilbo likes the bowman and why should only the dwarves of Erebor get to reclaim their home?
Fíli is quick to second the hobbit's offer and with this deal made, the Master of Laketown almost seems to shrink as Bard steps forward to fill his place. Watching the much more friendly discussion which follows, the hobbit decides that his work is done for now and heads back into the mountain to deal with other things. If his king needs him again, he won't be hard to find, but until then there is plenty to be done and Bombur mentioned lunch some time ago.
Over the next few days, Bilbo's life falls into a comfortable routine. In the mornings, he helps various members of his company with their record-keeping, updating their maps for damage or listing the supplies they need. If Fíli requires him, the hobbit joins the new king in his meetings, but now that the Master has been dealt with, those times are few and far between.
Indeed, the dwarf and Bard get along like bread and butter and their greatest disagreements so far have been when they simply dream too big. Neither likes to recognize the limitations of their resources, but Thranduil's pessimistic streak keeps their heads out of the clouds.
The elf has actually been surprisingly helpful, trading the dwarves supplies in exchange for assistance with the transport of his treasure and offering the use of his messenger birds until those of Erebor return. Fíli uses the latter to contact Dáin and his mother, telling them of what transpired and asking for whatever aid they could provide. He is counting on his kin in the Iron Hills to make the Lonely Mountain habitable before the winter, since the dwarves of Ered Luin are months away and even with a veritable army of elves and men camped upon his doorstep, there is too much to be done.
In truth, most of the elves are busy loading Thranduil's gold into wagons and the men are clearing moss and debris from the ruins of Dale. The city is in surprisingly good shape considering how many years have passed, but Smaug's onslaught destroyed little of the stonework and so the bones of its beauty yet remain. While it is unlikely that Dale will be restored before the first snow falls, Bard doesn't seem to care and Bilbo is often struck by the feeling of hope which now permeates the air.
Where this land had once been covered with a pall of death and despair, there is a spark of life emerging. The hobbit can see it in the smiles of the men who arrive each morning to aid his companions and in the songs of those elves working to turn the desolation of the plain back into shrubs and flowers.
The only sour note in this music is Thorin, for the dwarf still refuses to leave his room and mutters dark imprecations against any who come near. Even Fíli gets no reaction beyond cursing and eventually he decides to simply leave his uncle be. Perhaps time will help him come to his senses and if not, surely Dís will be able to make her brother see the light.
So life goes on, until one morning while Bilbo is helping Bombur catalog the kitchen stores, Nori calls out: “Rider at the gate. Rider at the g- Is that a bear?!”
A wild joy fills him when he hears this cry and the hobbit sprints for the entrance, hoping that his instincts are right. Kíli, Kíli, Kíli, thrums in his mind, the word beating to the rhythm of his heart and driving him on faster. Then Bilbo slides into the gate hall and sees his dwarf, hugging Fíli tightly, and he nearly falls to his knees.
“Kíli!” The cry rips out of his throat almost involuntarily and when his love meets his gaze with a brilliant smile, everyone else disappears. They collide together moments later and when the dwarf's arms surround him, Bilbo has come home.
“Valar, but I've missed you.” Kíli mutters into his hair and the hobbit squeezes him tight, before raising his head to kiss the other on the lips. The action causes a wave of whispering in those looking on, but it is worth the comments to see the startled delight on his dwarf's face. And when they break apart, Bilbo sneaks a glance around them, some of his tension disappearing at the smiles he sees there. Indeed, Fíli is practically beaming and while a few of the men do look disgruntled, none of them dares to speak beneath Beorn's watchful gaze.
However, most of his attention is still riveted on his lover and the hobbit looks Kíli over for injuries and marks each change he sees. Truthfully, the dwarf looks leagues better, even if he is still on the skinny side, and the knot of worry in Bilbo's heart finally begins to ease.
So he wraps his arm around Kíli's waist and turns to greet the skin-changer, pleased to see his friend again after all this time. Beorn seems pleased to see him as well, reaching down to shake the hobbit's hand, but then his smile disappears.
“I wish I were only here to return your dwarf to you, little one, but I am afraid that there is much darker news to tell. We came to warn you that there is an army marching on you from the Misty Mountains, an army of orcs and goblins.” The skin-changer tells them and when Bilbo turns to Kíli with wide eyes, the dwarf gives a rough nod.
“It is true, though I wish it were not so. Their numbers are uncountable and their leader is the pale orc whom I thought was dead.” He confirms and in the next instant, Fíli is shouting for a messenger. Then the dwarf leads them into the tent which has become Thranduil's command post and when the other lords have gathered, he asks his brother to repeat his words. So Beorn and Kíli tell their story, painting a picture of an army such as has not been witnessed in an age and when they finish, their listeners are mute with horror.
Except the Master of Laketown, who simply looks at them and sneers. “And why should we believe what these scruffy fellows have to say? They probably stumbled over a half dozen goblins in a drunken stupor and miscounted in their terror.”
The skin-changer growls at the insult but before he can speak, Fíli words slices through the tent. “One of those scruffy fellows is owed a debt by the House of Durin and the other is my brother, so you would do well to treat them with respect.”
His voice is quiet, but icy as death, and the Master goes white beneath his glare. The man shrinks back into his seat and the dwarf turns that cold gaze on the rest of his fellow kings. “If no one else wishes to impugn my families honor, perhaps we can turn to planning our defense. Dáin's most recent message stated that he and his people should arrive tomorrow but they will not be prepared for battle and even with their number we are severely outmatched.”
From there the discussion turns to military strategy and deployment, all of which might as well be gibberish for all the sense it makes. Bilbo catches enough to know that while the goblins are not due to arrive for a few days, no one is very optimistic about their chances, and his arm tightens around Kíli in distress.
The thought of losing his dwarf in battle is unthinkable, and yet the hobbit knows that he cannot ask him not to fight. All he can do is offer his own services as a healer and hope that none of his friends receive injuries too great for him to mend. At least Kíli will be with the archers, but Fíli and the rest of the company will stand in the thick of the fighting and it is far too easy to imagine a swarm of goblins hacking the dwarves down.
It will be my vision come to life, a field of blood and slaughter, Bilbo thinks, a sick feeling in his stomach and even after the meeting breaks up, he cannot shake the horror.
“Are you all right?” Kíli asks him, brown eyes filled with worry and the hobbit wishes that he could offer some reassurance. But there is none to give. So it is a melancholy pair who finds themselves a corner and curls up together, Bilbo telling his dwarf of everything that happened while he was gone. The story takes hours and by the time he finishes, Kíli is watching him both with admiration and with fear at how casually he risked himself.
“I know I've told you this before, but you are amazing. Though I wish you would not put so little value on your life. Magic ring or no, you are not expendable to me.” The dwarf whispers and at these words, the hobbit simply has to kiss him again. There is nothing sweeter than seeing the love in Kíli's eyes and with all his heart, he wishes this moment would never have to end.
Bilbo presses closer, the other's lips soft and warm, and heat builds beneath his skin until he feels a familiar knot of panic growing in his chest. Before he can stop himself, the hobbit jerks back and while Kíli releases him immediately, the dwarf cannot hide the flash of disappointment in his eyes. Disappointment which is mirrored by Bilbo's own. This is ridiculous. I faced down a dragon, an enraged dwarf lord and the Master of Laketown, I am not going to let a little thing like joining frighten me.
So the hobbit stands, taking Kíli's hand and leading him toward the stairs. “Come on, I have something to show you.” He tells the dwarf, pausing to point out the various chambers as they pass by, before coming to a halt at the entrance to his room.
“Welcome to my humble abode. It's not much but at least it isn't covered in dust anymore.” Bilbo says, pushing open the door and ushering Kíli inside with a cheerful wave of his arm.
“So this is nice and all, but what exactly are we doing here?” The dwarf asks in bemusement, wandering deeper into the room and as he nears the bed, the hobbit pounces. He lands heavily in his lover's arms and the two of them topple over onto the blankets, Bilbo grinning down triumphantly when he ends up on top.
“At the moment, I'm kissing you.” The hobbit tells his dwarf and then proceeds to do just that. At first their kisses are chaste, but even the light touch of Kíli's hands upon his waist starts a slow burn beneath his skin. While Bilbo's nerves have not disappeared, this time he forces himself to press closer instead of running and to his delight, his panic cannot stand against the lust.
What was I so afraid of? He wonders, reveling in the pleasure that sings through his body and his heart. So when Kíli forgets his restraint and traces the edge of Bilbo's lips, the hobbit opens for him eagerly, wrapping one arm around his neck to pull him down. All he can feel is the heat of his lover's body, the dwarf's tongue claiming the inside of his mouth and oh he wants. He wants everything, rocking down into Kíli before he can better of it and both of them groan hungrily when their swelling lengths collide.
The dwarf's choked gasp makes Bilbo feel invincible and he moves again, grinding his ass into that burning line of heat until Kíli is shaking beneath his hands. Then it is his turn to moan as his lover flips them and the dwarf's weight presses him down into the bed. He is solid and strong and the hobbit cannot stand it, reaching out to try and find his mouth again. However, while Kíli's eyes are dark with desire, the dwarf refuses to be moved.
“Are you sure about this? If we go much farther, I will not have the self-control to stop.” He says, gaze filled with concern and the hobbit cannot stop his impatient groan.
“I haven't seen you in a month, both of us could be dead in a few days, and you're asking if I'm sure? I thought I was supposed to be the nervous virgin?” Bilbo asks, an exasperated edge to his voice as he tries to wriggle closer.
“Well when you put it like that, how can I refuse?” Kíli replies, a grin spreading slowly across his face. “I just wanted to ensure that we are not doing something you'll regret.”
“While I appreciate the thought, I promise you, my only regret will be that we didn't do this sooner. Now stop talking and get on with it.” The hobbit demands, grinding up against his lover's thigh. At this the dwarf's hesitation finally disappears and he kisses him firmly, while deft fingers begin to make short work of their clothes.
Faster than he can blink, there is nothing but skin beneath Bilbo's hands and he traces the smooth line of Kíli's shoulders with delight. He has never been this close to anyone and the hobbit thinks that he could spends hours mapping his lover's form.
Though this is nice too, he decides as the dwarf kisses down his neck, his tongue leaving a trail of heat in it's wake. Kíli slides lower, pausing to lick one of Bilbo's nipples, and he smirks at the hobbit's startled moan. He wraps his lips around the small nub and sucks until his lover is panting and begging beneath him, then moves on to lathe the other one as well. Finally the dwarf does something with his tongue that makes Bilbo nearly scream, his nails digging hard into Kíli's shoulders. It is too much, pleasure whiting out his mind and then a firm tugs on his balls brings him back down to earth.
“Not yet darling,” His lover whispers in response to the hobbit's frustrated groan and then continues his way down the other's body. Kíli moves slowly, mapping every inch of Bilbo's skin which he can reach and nipping lightly at the spots that make him shiver. Then he is nuzzling into his lover's groin and the heat of his breath is a caress along the hobbit's aching cock .
Kíli pauses there, looking up at the other with teasing eyes and just when Bilbo is sure that he cannot take it anymore, the dwarf swallows his length down. This time he does scream, back arching off the bed and he can feel himself coming apart as he thrusts into that wet heat.
“I can't... I... fuck... Kíli!” The hobbit gasps out, not sure whether he's pleading for relief, or for more. With every slow slide of his lover's mouth, pleasure coils higher within him and then the dwarf slides one slick finger deep inside. It burns slightly but that hint of pain is lost beneath the desire and Bilbo barely has time to wonder what the other is doing before Kíli presses something within him that makes his body sing.
“Kíli!” The hobbit shouts, tossing his head as pleasure washes over him and when his lover hums around his cock, he cannot hold on anymore. Bilbo comes, seed spilling into the dwarf's mouth as sparks shoot behind his eyes and then he slumps down on the bed.
“That was... oh my lord.” The hobbit mutters dazedly when he can make his mouth form words again. He feels blissed out, every nerve humming contentedly, and he could die happy right now.
“So you enjoyed yourself then?” Kíli asks smugly, sliding back up his body for another kiss.
“You blew my mind.” Bilbo assures, fascinated by the tast of himself on his lover's tongue. By this point, he is near to falling asleep and he might have drifted off if the dwarf hadn't shifted, brushing his length against the hobbit's leg. “You didn't... Did I do something wrong?” He asks, distress replacing his contentment as he realizes that Kíli is still hard.
“Bilbo, no, you were wonderful.” His lover tells him earnestly. “It's just... it's your first time so you don't need to worry about it. I like giving you pleasure and I'll take care of myself while you rest.”
“Oh that is just... No you will not.” The hobbit replies firmly. “You are not going to be sacrificing yourself on my account, because I want to make you happy too. I want us to do everything, so come over here and show me the way for two males to join.”
The old Bilbo would have died before saying something so forward, but at the moment he far too exasperated to care, and it's hard to be embarrassed when Kíli is looking at him like that. He was too busy having his mind blown to notice it before, but now it is impossible to miss the desire and adoration glowing in his dwarf's eyes. And he wants to keep that feeling so he means every word he says, because if this is going to work then both of them will have to be able to ask for what they want.
Still Kíli hesitates and when the hobbit raises an eyebrow in question, he mumbles. “I want to do everything with you as well, I promise. But I don't want to hurt you and you're so tight, I'm afraid I might not be able to help it. Even with stretching, the first time is always somewhat painful and you can't afford to be limping when the battle comes.”
“Well then we'll work our way up to that, assuming we survive, and you can show me something else for now.” Bilbo tells his lover, refusing to be swayed. “I may not be very experienced, but if nothing else, I know how to use my hands.”
The dwarf's whole face brightens then, his worries cast aside as though taking their love one step at a time had simply never occurred to him, and perhaps it hadn't, for he is young yet and dwarves always seem to be charging into things full tilt.
“All right then. You have a deal.” His lover promises, gathering the hobbit into his arms. Bilbo comes easily, still nearly boneless from their earlier activities, and he shifts onto his knees at Kíli's urging. His lover must be near to bursting by now, his cock heavy and flushed dark, but he is still gentle as he nudges the other's legs apart.
Then he drapes himself across the hobbit's back and Bilbo has to groan at the feel of the dwarf's length burning a line against his thigh. Although he wouldn't have thought it possible, his own cock gives a valiant twitch when Kíli shifts against him, one arm wrapping around his lover's chest and pulling him in tighter.
“Squeeze your legs together for me, love.” The dwarf whispers against his ear. “Just like that.” His encouragement trails off into a moan as the hobbit does what he asks, cradling the other's shaft. Bilbo feels positively indecent, sinful and wild, and yet the thought no longer scares him as it once did.
Rather Kíli's groans fill him with pride as his lover begins thrusting slowly, his cock rubbing slickly between the hobbits's thighs. Each stroke is a smooth slide of heated skin, and when he shifts his angle, the tip of the dwarf's length presses into a spot behind Bilbo's balls that drives him mad. Soon he is hard again, brought to a frenzy by the feel of Kíli surrounding him and he starts to push back into his lover's thrusts.
Now the dwarf is panting against his neck, moaning a litany of broken Khuzdul into his skin, and Bilbo is lost to pleasure with him. So they rut together, slick and filthy, until the hobbit cannot think for the burning in his veins.
Then Kíli's hand is on him, palm hot against his cock, and there is nothing else important in his world. Nothing but his lover, his mouth, his skin, his touch, and Bilbo is spilling over the dwarf's fingers with a cry. He throws his head back, limbs clenching as he shudders and it is Kíli's turn to scream. His lover muffles his shout against the hobbit's shoulder and thrusts forward once more, his seed painting Bilbo's thighs.
They collapse onto the bed together in a sprawling tangle of sweaty limbs and for a long moment, neither of them moves. But then the hobbit's nose begins to itch and the dwarf is rather heavy, so with a groan Kíli rolls off onto his back. He leans over the edge and swipes his tunic from the floor, using it to clean them roughly, before plastering himself against Bilbo's side.
“Don't wake me 'til the morning.” The dwarf murmurs, settling his face into the crook of the hobbit's neck with a happy sigh. Kíli is asleep between one breath and the next and Bilbo turns his head to press a fond kiss into his lover's hair.
There is no way I'm letting either of us die, the hobbit promises himself as he drifts off into dreams. Whatever comes, we will make it through somehow.
Chapter 6: Truth and Insanity