- *No Site Warnings Apply
- Alternate Universe
Nearly seven months had passed since a company of thirteen Dwarves and a Hobbit managed to take back Erebor, and clean up and reconstruction on the Dwarven city and Dale itself were well under way. That the Elves of Mirkwood were helping in what ways they could and that Thorin was allowing them to help was miraculous, and Bilbo was rather proud of Thorin for it.
Bilbo himself…well, it was fairly miraculous that he was still wandering around the great halls of Erebor himself. Upon waking after being gravely injured on the battlefield, Thorin had immediately rescinded the order of banishment and all but got on his knees and groveled for Bilbo’s forgiveness. Not being one to hold grudges unless one was remotely related to the Sackville-Baggins’ side of the family, Bilbo forgave him willingly and asked for Thorin to forgive his own betrayal, which was given just as willingly.
The company insisted upon Bilbo staying until they were healed, and then they needed him to get a full tour of Erebor, and then it was so late in the year that he’d never get over the mountains, and then the halls leading to the great library of Erebor had been cleared conveniently once spring was near and the snows would be melting, and wouldn’t Bilbo like to see all the ancient tomes of the Dwarves, Elves, and Men located within, and possibly work to help them catalogue the library, since they had no idea what was there?
It didn’t take a particularly bright person to almost immediately see that he was being stalled, and Bilbo was quite bright, thank you very much. But after the journey and everything they’d been through, and the weeks helping the company to heal from their wounds, Bilbo couldn’t quite bring himself to leave, to abandon his new family. There were a few people in the Shire he would miss, but he’d also spied the plans of his Dwarves to build him his own Hobbit hole on the fields just outside the doors, so he could go outside and stay whenever he liked.
So, he’d all but begged Gandalf, who said he had some free time now that the Necromancer was ousted from Dol Goldur, to go and retrieve his things from the Shire, since he was the one who got him caught up in this bloody (both literally and figuratively) mess in the first place. Of course, he didn’t tell his companions that when Gandalf left all those months ago it was for that purpose, taking with him letters and notifications of what Bilbo wished to happen with his belongings in the wizard’s ever-present bag. Bilbo suspected with the new spring he would find Gandalf on their doorstep soon enough.
Living in Erebor wasn’t as stifling as he thought it would have been. It wasn’t that he thought the Dwarves lived in dank, dark, oppressive holes or anything of the sort. He knew they didn’t. But he was a Hobbit, used to the sunshine and greenery that just wasn’t found inside a mountain. But it was easy enough to go out the front doors whenever he wished – always with an escort, though whether they were afraid of a possible attack or him taking off on them as fast as his feet could carry him, arms in the air flailing as he screamed like a wounded Orc, he didn’t know – and it was pleasant enough inside once they’d cleared and opened the air ducts within the Mountain and Smaug’s general stench was cleared out of all but the treasury, which was going to take ages to clean up.
Bilbo could only thank Aulë himself that Smaug had standards and didn’t shit where he slept. That would have been horrific to try and clean up.
Due to Smaug’s size and his desire only for the gold, most of Erebor was left more or less intact. The most damage could be found in the massive entryway into the mountain and the areas that led to the treasure room. Some bridges were damaged and would have to be rebuilt, and the halls that led to several of the richest mines were crushed, but once the caravans from the Blue Mountains arrived, restoration could begin in earnest in many more areas.
As it was, through the winter months, since gold to pay for goods wasn’t a problem and King Bard had brokered deals with the Men of Rohan and Gondor on both kingdom’s behalves, the focus had been on the living areas: cleaning out the rooms of old dust and fabrics worn by time, washing those that could still prove useful, beating out of rugs and the airing of mattresses that managed to survive in the most well-sealed rooms. They removed old canned foods long turned bad and dried out items that once might have been edible out of the kitchens to make room for their winter stores. They managed to get the plumbing and the heating for the mountain in working order before the cold truly hit in earnest, much to Bilbo’s relief. There were still drafts so it wasn’t as warm as it might have been, but as Bilbo found himself in the middle of a pile of Dwarves during the nights more often than not, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.
They also packed away, labeled and stored the personal belongings that survived for family members who wished to reclaim those belongings. That was not so pleasant, especially when they went through the rooms of Thorin’s parents and brother, or the rooms of Dwalin and Balin’s parents, who did not make it out of the Mountain. Bilbo had held all three of them as they cried for their families and the life and home that they’d lost.
The beginning of spring saw Bilbo roaming the fields, examining the dirt of the long barren land. Dwalin, Bofur, Nori, and Kíli all trailed behind him, carrying various items he thought he might need, or just because of idle curiosity. He himself wore a gardening belt and the small tools he’d asked Bifur to create for him once the halls to the blacksmith shops had been found to be open and stable.
Bilbo also carried a journal and a sharpened piece of charcoal Ori had loaned him for writing purposes, as carrying an ink bottle and quill just wouldn’t have been practical.
Once he’d stepped out of Erebor, he immediately headed toward the left side of the river, moving away from the mountain a respectable distance, before pulling the trowel from his belt and dropping to his knees. Digging into the dirt, he was delighted to find that a mere two inches down, the barren topsoil gave way to rich earth.
“Hold this,” Bilbo said to Kíli, shoving the journal into his hands. Then he took one of the long metal poles with a bright piece of the worn curtains that had been removed from the rooms attached to it, and stuck it in the hole.
He walked about ten feet to the right and repeated his actions. After doing this several times, Nori finally broke the silence. “What the blazes are you doing, Bilbo?”
Bilbo looked up and grinned at the Dwarf. “I am inspecting the land. Dwalin, if you could, would you use that pickaxe to break up the ground right here?” he asked, motioning to a particular area. While Dwalin did as he asked, Bilbo turned back to Nori. “One of Thorin’s fears was that the lands between Erebor and Dale would be lifeless. With the caravans from the Iron Hills and Ered Luin coming our direction, he was afraid we would not be able to provide ample sustenance for everyone, in spite of Bard securing much seed for grains and vegetables.”
Bilbo motioned for Dwalin to halt and then beckoned the others closer. “See, the top two inches is damaged, from Smaug’s fire and his stomping about, killing everything. But life hasn’t yet left the lands.” He pulled side the damaged pieces of earth to show the rich soil beneath, and he began digging with his trowel until he could lift a generous amount of dirt with his hands.
“See? There are worms and many other living things still underground. If you look around closely, you’ll see little dirt mounds in the hard ground. The worms have been hard at work now that the grounds are no longer frozen, and rain is softening the topsoil. The reason there is no plant life is that the seeds were long burned away by Smaug, and the birds are only just returning to the area.”
Bilbo returned the dirt to its hole and stood. “I told Thorin once it began to thaw, I would test the ground to see if it was living, and to mark out a considerable area for planting should it prove viable. Bifur is creating plows for us, and once we’re assured the lands won’t freeze over again, we’ll begin plowing and planting. We also have fertilizer coming in from the Lake-town farms to help stimulate the land.”
Bilbo sighed. “I do hope Gandalf gets back soon. He was supposed to get several tomes recommended by my gardener for me. I’m no slouch with growing things, but Holman has a green thumb second to none.”
“Wait. Gandalf is returning?” Kíli asked, surprise lacing his words. “Where did he go? He never said when he left what he was going to do.”
Deciding that his little family had been left twisting in the wind for long enough, he said casually, “Oh, he went to pick up the things I wanted from Hobbiton and went about selling Bag End and what was left in it to the Gamgees. I daresay the look on Lobelia’s face when she found out probably curdled the milk of every cow who witnessed it for at least a year.” He didn’t bother hiding the malicious chuckle at the image of Lobelia that popped into his head.
“Your things? Lad, does that mean you’re stayin’ with us?” Bofur asked.
Bilbo smiled softly at the sound of hope in his voice. “Well, it would be a shame to let those rooms you put together especially for me go to waste. And it wouldn’t do at all to ruin your plots to keep me here in Erebor, since you’d gone to great lengths from the beginning.”
It took him all of two seconds to end up with an armful of overexcited Dwarf. “Truly? You’re staying here with us? You’re not trying to fool us are you, because that would be awful!” Kíli rattled off into his ear.
Laughing, Bilbo returned the hug just as tightly. “No, I’m not trying to fool you. I knew that you were trying to keep me here, and I found that I couldn’t bring myself to leave you, not when all of you managed to survive that blasted battle. I’m entirely too fond of all of you,” he said, pulling back and reaching up to move some of Kíli’s flyaway hair out of his face. “Besides, all of you have ruined me for polite company. My return to the Shire would have been quite scandalous. I’m no longer a respectable Hobbit by Shire standards.”
“More’s the pity for them, but now you’re ours,” Bofur said, shoving Kíli aside and engulfing him in a big hug. “We all like you just the way you are.”
Bilbo chuckled into the shoulder of the Dwarf he considered to be his best friend among the company, smiling wider when Nori and Dwalin clapped him on the back. “Okay, enough of this. We’ve got some work to do here, plotting out some land for immediate plowing. Then I have some longer-term plans I’m going to need some help with.”
“If it will bring a good variety of foods to Erebor and Dale, we are entirely at your service,” Nori said, bowing low. The rest laughed and went back to work, the others with more enthusiasm now that they knew what Bilbo was doing and that they weren’t going to lose their burglar.
A few hours passed, and they managed to plot out several viable sections, Bilbo creating sketches to show how the crops would be planted. They were sitting on the ground, resting while Bilbo explained that he wanted to create a rather large greenhouse for other plants that wouldn’t do well in the colder climate. And it would allow them to grow certain crops during the winter months that wouldn’t do well in the freezing ground.
They were discussing what trees would do well in an orchard close to the Mountain when Thorin, Fíli, Ori and Glóin headed their way, baskets of food in their hands.
“Fíli!” Kíli shouted, jumping up and running over to him. “Bilbo is staying in Erebor! He’s been planning to all along. Gandalf went to fetch his things from the Shire!”
Fíli whooped and shoved his basket into Kíli’s hands, and Bilbo readied himself to be tackled. He was not disappointed and he fell over, hitting the ground with an “oomph” as Fíli landed on him and began peppering his cheeks with little pecks, much like an overgrown puppy.
“Get off me, you menace,” Bilbo said, his laughter and smiles taking the sting from the words. “Is this the way for a Prince of Erebor to act?”
“With family? Yes,” Fíli said, sitting up and helping Bilbo sit up, though he didn’t remove the arm he placed around Bilbo’s shoulders. “You could have told us. We’ve been greatly worried about what to do next to keep your interest.”
“Ah, Fíli, the thirteen of you were more than enough to do that,” Bilbo said, resting against him and smiling up at Thorin, who had an indulgent and happy smile on his face as he placed the basket he held on the ground. “You’re my family now.”
“Good, because I’ve been dying to call you Uncle Bilbo for months,” Kíli said, flopping onto the ground in front of him and resting his head in Bilbo’s lap.
“As long as it isn’t insulting, you can call me whatever you like,” Bilbo murmured as he stroked Kíli’s hair. He smiled as Thorin sat down next to him, close enough that their sides brushed. While Fíli and Kíli did indeed feel like they were his own nephews, his feelings toward Thorin were of a whole other sort that he didn’t want to delve too deeply into for the moment.
“Oh, this means you’ll be here when the caravans from Ered Luin come!” Fíli said, smiling brightly. “You’ll get to meet our mother!”
“I look forward to it,” Bilbo said, smiling softly. He’d met a few Dwarves over his life, though he’d met only one female. It had been a few years since he’d last seen her, but he thought of her fondly. “Now, what did you bring for lunch? I’m famished.”
It was but only a week later when the caravans came up the riverside from Dale. Fíli and Kíli had all but dragged Bilbo out the front gates in their excitement to introduce him to their mother, though he was attempting to come along willingly enough, if not fast enough for the two. He stood at the front of the crowd alongside Thorin and his nephews, smiling when he caught sight of Gandalf toward the front of the arriving group, sitting atop a large wagon.
What was a most pleasant surprise was seeing the one Dwarf who held a dear place in his heart sitting atop another wagon. She led the way toward the Mountain, her wagon right next to Gandalf’s, and before she came to a stop, Bilbo was already running towards her.
“Auntie Dís! Auntie Dís! I was hoping you’d be a part of the caravan!” He grinned as she stopped the wagon, hopped off, and pulled him up into a great hug, lifting him right off his feet and swinging him around.
“By Mahal! Little Bilbo Baggins! What in the world are you doing here in Erebor, when you should be snugly nestled back in Bag End?” she asked as she put him down and looked at him kindly, her hands stroking over his hair, clearly inspecting him for anything troublesome.
“Well, it seems a rather conniving wizard pressed me into the service of thirteen rather crazy Dwarves with a death wish,” Bilbo said, eying Gandalf slyly, who returned the look with an unrepentant smile of his own. “Good thing, too. Otherwise they’d have been a very unlucky group and King Thorin here would have surely been an early-evening snack for a Warg some months ago. I live here now.”
The two turned to look at Thorin, who was wearing a completely gobsmacked expression, looking between the two as if he couldn’t believe his eyes. Fíli and Kíli fared no better.
“Wha-? But… How?” Thorin asked, as if unable to complete a single thought.
“My brother is normally brighter and better spoken than this,” Dís said, shaking her head, as she tried to hide her smile.
“Thorin’s your brother?” Bilbo said, his own mouth dropping open briefly before snapping shut. “Wait. Fee and Kee… These rascals are your sons, aren’t they?” Bilbo had only ever known them by their nicknames their mother always used, and he felt kind of stupid for not putting it together, even though Fíli and Kíli never told him their mother’s name.
“Fíli and Kíli, yes. Well, boys, are you going to greet your mother or are you going to stand there catching flies?” she asked, smiling when they broke out of their stupor and rushed forward to engulf her in their biggest and best hugs, peppering her face with kisses and then burying their faces into her great mane of dark hair.
“Mother! I am so happy you’re here,” Fíli murmured, his voice breaking a little.
Bilbo smiled softly as he watched the reunion, his heart warming to know that his family had grown by one more. He reached out and rubbed Kíli’s back when he heard him sniffling and saw his shoulders shaking slightly, obviously relieved that his mother was back with them and safe. He knew that Kíli was only a few years over his age of majority, still quite young by Dwarf standards, and this was likely the longest he’d ever been away from her. Add in the several close calls on his life, as well as those of his brother and uncle, and Bilbo knew seeing her was a relief. If he’d seen his own mother after such an adventure, he’d be crying into her hair too. As it was, he was half-tempted to join them now.
Thorin came up next to them and smiled at his sister, though he glanced at Bilbo curiously. “Sister, how in the world do you know our esteemed burglar well enough for him to call you ‘Auntie Dís’?”
“Ah, well that’s a long story, one that can wait, I think, until we get everyone settled. It will be dark in a few hours, and I’d dearly love a bath,” Dís said, letting her boys go to pull her brother into a hug, smacking him in the back of the head for good measure.
“What was that for?” Thorin asked as he hugged her back.
“Gandalf told me you’d almost died several times on this quest,” Dís said, pulling back and glaring at him. “And that you nearly did yourself and your company in for that blasted rock of Grandfather’s. You’re lucky I’m too tired to box your ears.”
Dís kissed her brother on each cheek and then guided him around her, shoving him toward the others who were gathering to greet their king. “Go on and welcome everyone while the boys help me start getting my things inside. No need to stand on ceremony tonight. I daresay we’re going to have a job of it getting everyone inside before nightfall as it is.”
Bilbo chuckled at the disgruntled glare Thorin aimed in his sister’s direction. “Oh, I am so glad you’re here, Auntie Dís,” he said, hugging her once more for good measure. “We’ve got so much to talk about!”
“Aye, that we do, young man,” Dís said. “But first, off with you. I believe Gandalf is waiting for you. I assume that’s your wagon he’s driving.”
“Yes, it is,” Bilbo said, running around the horses to greet Gandalf. “Thank you so much for bringing my things. I hope they didn’t cause you too much trouble when you went to get them.”
“I had no trouble at all, Bilbo,” Gandalf replied as he stepped off the wagon and stretched his legs. “Though I imagine you would have loved the look on Lobelia’s face when she saw the Gamgees moving their things into Bag End. And when she discovered that they were able to purchase Bag End at such a steal of a price…well, her face turned a shade of red I thought entirely impossible without one’s head exploding.”
Bilbo laughed loudly. “Oh, I do wish I’d been able to see it.” He wandered around to the back of the wagon and began untying one side of the covering. “Were you able to get the books Holman recommended?”
“Yes, they’re all there, as well as all the belongings you wished for. The Gamgees also sent many jars of preserves and vegetables, as well as some Old Wineyard and Old Toby. They also sent many seed packages. A friend of mine was kind enough to drive in a second wagon of your things, because they sent so much in thanks for allowing them to purchase Bag End and its contents so cheaply.” He motioned over to the wagon next to them, which had been driven by a young man with a friendly smile. Bilbo thought he might be one of those Rangers he’d heard about in Bree.
Bilbo smiled fondly at the thought of his friends. “Well they deserve it, and I know they’ll take good care of it. Hamfast will be marrying soon, and he’ll be having a family of his own someday. He’ll need his own place to start the family he wants. I have no use for it, as I won’t be going back.”
“I told you before you left, that you would be changed at the end of your journey,” Gandalf said as he pulled the cover back, revealing most of his things, including his father’s chair.
“You also couldn’t guarantee I would make it back,” Bilbo replied, chuckling to himself. “You were right on both counts. Still, I can’t say I’m truly bothered by it.” He glanced over at Fíli and Kíli, who were pulling a crate off their mother’s wagon, while Dís herself pulled gathered several bags in her hands. “I have a family now. I didn’t realize before, just how lonely I was.”
“You don’t have to be anymore,” Gandalf murmured, reaching out to squeeze Bilbo’s shoulder gently. “Come now. Dís is right about the time. Let’s get everything to your room, and we can talk later.
Dís had indeed been right about the length of time it took to get everyone inside and settled. It was late into the night before everyone had been escorted to their temporary rooms and everything was inside, their horses guided to the paddocks they’d finished building a few days before.
By the time they were done, everyone seemed to have enough strength to eat a quick meal and then fall into bed. The ridiculously large suite Thorin had insisted upon giving Bilbo had two guest rooms, so after telling Gandalf and the Ranger, Taran, to make themselves at home, he’d slipped into his most comfortable pajamas and curled up in bed under his favorite blanket from home.
The next morning, Bilbo awoke to a rather loud and most certainly obnoxious banging on the door. Knowing exactly who it was, he slid off the bed and wandered toward the sitting area, waving off Gandalf and Taran, who had peeked out their respective doors curiously. “It’s just those idiot nephews of mine.” In just a week, he’d become quite used to referring to them as such. It helped that they called him Uncle Bilbo at every turn, an endearment that did funny things to Thorin’s expression, though when Bilbo asked him if it bothered him that his nephews addressed him as such, Thorin had told him he had no issue.
“What?” he snapped as he yanked open the door. His eyes widened when he saw not only the cheeky little brats he knew would be there, grinning like a couple of fools, but also Dís and Thorin, who looked amused by his appearance. “Oh, um…” He rubbed his hands self-consciously through his hair, trying to ignore that he wasn’t wearing a robe. “Please, come in.”
“I tried to keep the boys from dragging us here, but they insisted that you would be awake by now,” Dís said, glaring at them with disapproval, but the slight twitch at the corner of her mouth gave her true feelings away.
Bilbo sighed and closed the door behind the four of them. “I would have been, but with everything yesterday and not falling into bed until late, I was hoping to sleep in a bit. Should have known better,” he said, eying the boys, who had flopped down in nearby chairs. “Allow me to get ready and perhaps we can go down for breakfast.”
“Good, because none of us have managed to get the story about how you know my sister out of her,” Thorin called out.
Bilbo waved at him dismissively as he strode toward his bedroom. “Yes, yes, I’m certain she’s having much entertainment at your expense, but you can wait until I put on some bloody clothes.” He was only in there long enough to grab some garments – the ones some of the Dwarves had created and gifted to him, since it was still quite cool and the clothes were much warmer than the ones Gandalf had brought with him – and walked back out to head toward the bathing room. “Kíli! Fíli! Keep your noses out of those packages!” he snapped when he saw them trying to peek into various boxes and bags.
“But we want to see what’s in them, Uncle!” Kíli half-whined, pouting at him and turning those big, sad, pathetically cute eyes in his direction.
“Ah, then later this evening, you can come and help me to unpack. Until then, leave them alone. I don’t want a mess before I manage to see what was sent besides what I requested. Now shoo!” he said, smacking Fíli in the rear with his tunic and playfully threatening Kíli with it. The two brothers backed away, hands up and laughing, and they headed back to their respective seats.
Satisfied they would behave, he went into the bathing room and went about his morning ablutions, albeit much more quickly than he usually bothered with. When he came back out, he stopped short and then burst into laughter.
In the small amount of time he’d been away from the room, Kíli had done something to warrant Thorin sitting atop of him, effectively pinning him to the floor with his left hand and his right assaulting Kíli’s sides, while Kíli laughed and screeched and flailed. Fíli had his arms around Thorin’s neck and was attempting…well, Bilbo wasn’t sure exactly what it was he was attempting, but it certainly wasn’t working. Dís was looking up at the ceiling, as if it would give her the answers on how to deal with the idiot males in her life.
Gandalf and Taran were leaning against the wall between their two rooms, watching the whole thing with amusement.
“You know what? I don’t want to know,” Bilbo said, shaking his head at the three. He walked over to them and held his hand out to help Thorin up. “Since you four made me get up early, it’s up to you to feed me.”
“And we can’t have our Hobbit in a state of starvation, can we?” Thorin said lightly, taking Bilbo’s hand and standing, careful not to step on Kíli as he did.
“That wouldn’t be my preference, no,” Bilbo said, smiling up at him. They’d all done more than enough of that while on the journey to the Mountain to last Bilbo for a lifetime.
Thorin, with some reluctance Bilbo thought, dropped his hand and then used it to guide him to the door, and Bilbo noticed that Dís was looking at them rather curiously. He dismissed it though, and chattered at Thorin about his plans for the day. In a couple of weeks, the ground would be ready for breaking, and he would have the entire field area thoroughly planned out. Holman had gone above and beyond, sending him not only books, but every kind of seed imaginable, for flowers, vegetables, roots, herbs, and medicinal plants. He’d also sent two journals thick with his own notes, tips for growing and tending the soil, and what kind of fertilizers to use to ensure the biggest and best crops. At least, that was what the letter he’d sent implied, and Bilbo had flipped through the journals last night briefly.
Once they finally settled down in the main halls for breakfast, Thorin at one end with Fíli and Kíli to his left, and Dís and Bilbo at his right, with the rest of the company sitting along with them, Thorin voiced his question again. “I want to know why you call my sister ‘Auntie’. How is it she knows you well enough for you to call her by such a name? I ask you, since she is being very stubborn, and as your King, I demand to know!”
Dís and Bilbo looked up from where they were filling their plates, turning their heads and raising their eyebrows in such an identical way that Thorin had no doubt the young Hobbit had adopted it from his sister at a very young age.
“Well, she’ll have to tell you, because I was quite the little Hobbit toddler when I first met her, and don’t truly remember it,” Bilbo said, reaching for some bacon and eggs.
Dís chuckled as she ran her fingers through Bilbo’s soft curls. “It was back, oh, close to fifty years ago. I along with several others were headed to towns of Men to sell our wares and do some work in exchange for goods for the coming winter. You remember; you were watching the boys at that time, you and Dwalin and Balin. It was during the fall. We had stopped on the East Road, trying to decide whether or not we wanted to stop in the Shire’s towns first, to see if we could sell to some folks there. Even then we’d heard about their uncanny knack for growing things.
“Well, out of nowhere, this tiny little bundle of energy comes flying out of the tall grass and practically lands in my lap. Instead of being scared by a bunch of strangers who had to look quite odd to him, what with him being so young, and I found out later he was but three years, he started chattering at us nonstop, asking about a million questions,” Dís said, smiling indulgently at Bilbo when he blushed.
“Then this rather lovely young lass comes flying out of the grass shortly after, stopping short when she sees her young boy sitting in Lorin’s lap. Now, for those of you who never met Lorin or were too young to remember, he was one of our fiercest warriors, and had traveled with us for our protection. He had many tattoos, scars on his face, and was missing two fingers on his left hand. Little Bilbo here thought he was the greatest person ever.”
Dís sighed, her eyes going distant as she remembered that day long ago. “Well, this lad’s mother comes up to us and bows low, and introduces herself as Belladonna Took Baggins, and her young boy as her son, Bilbo. And then she apologizes for Bilbo interrupting them, as he’d slipped her grasp during their walk and dashed away as fast as his little feet could carry him.”
“I always was a troublesome little boy, or so Mum would say,” Bilbo said, grinning unrepentantly. “An adventurous sort. Everyone always thought Dad would stamp it out of me, but I daresay he encouraged me even more than Mum did.”
“Yes, well, people seemed to forget that he had the mettle to wed a Took. Should have told them something about dear Bungo. Not too bright, some of those Hobbits,” Dís said, and Bilbo snorted his agreement.
“Well, she and Bilbo sat there with us for a time, and when we explained our predicament to her, she immediately invited us into Hobbiton, which is the central township of the Shire, and was not far away from where we were on the East Road. She kindly gave us an escort, and invited Lorin and myself, as well as a few others, to stay with her while we set up in the marketplace, while other families on The Hill took in the rest of us. She and Bungo helped smooth the way with some of the more wary Hobbits and we not only sold all of our goods, but found enough work to ensure we’d have enough food and other supplies for the winter months. During that time, Bella and I became quite good friends, and I lost my heart to this little boy here. When our group was slated to go out every couple of years, we’d always head to the Shire. Kept it to ourselves, though, because they really are a sweet, kind, gentle people, and some of the groups were rather rough and troublesome.”
Dís leaned over and pressed a kiss to Bilbo’s head. “Besides, I didn’t want this one to grow close to any Dwarves but us. I was rather selfish of his attentions when we were able to return, because he was such a sweet and adorable little boy. Still am, but I suppose I can be persuaded to share him with his Company, since they saw fit to see him through such a dangerous journey without much in the way of damage.”
Leaning into her slightly, Bilbo sighed. “Your visits were a balm to my soul after Dad and then Mum died. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d been left completely alone all those years.”
“If you’d been younger, I would have taken you with me. Still would have if you’d have asked,” Dís replied.
“If I’d have known it was an option, I would have jumped at the chance,” Bilbo said with a laugh. “But what’s done is done, and we’re here now.”
“Aye, that we are.”
Fíli was frowning at his mother, as were Kíli and Thorin. “Why did you never speak of him to us? Or take us? We would have loved to have met him before.”
“Aye, but you were with Thorin, learning how to be little princelings, your time full with your studies, and the roads were too dangerous to take such small Dwarflings if the need were not dire. You had your uncle, Dwalin, and Balin to care for you. As to why I never spoke of him… I know you too well. If you’d known there was another I looked upon as kin to me, you would have set out immediately to find him and inflict your persons upon him. I shudder to think what would have happened to you two by yourselves with no idea of where you were going.”
“Hey! We managed to find the Shire and Bag End quite well,” Fíli protested, glaring playfully at his mother.
“Aye. It was Uncle Thorin who got lost twice in Hobbiton, and there was a mark upon the door to guide him,” Kíli told her, throwing said uncle an unrepentant grin when Thorin glared at him.
Dís laughed deeply and then leaned over to whisper at Bilbo, loud enough for everyone save Óin to hear, “Thorin always did find maps and following directions a challenge.”
“I can banish you, dear sister,” Thorin muttered.
“And he’s rather good at it, too,” Bofur piped up helpfully. “Banished our little burglar after he gave the Arkenstone to King Bard and King Thranduil to save our sorry selves from the gold sickness. Nasty business that was. Bad enough on its own, but with Smaug’s influence still strong, it was quite horrible.”
“You banished Bilbo?!” Dís yelled, leveling a fierce glare at her brother, while Fíli and Kíli slunk down in their chairs, having been recipients of their mother’s tongue lashings often enough to know when to get out of the line of fire.
“I took it back!” Thorin protested, having been a recipient of Dís’ wrath more than once himself. “And apologized profusely, begging for forgiveness! And did you not see the rooms I gave him, and we made sure he had everything he could possibly need, including access to all the gold he might ever need!”
Dís’ look ensured he knew they’d be having words later, and then she turned back to Bilbo, much to everyone else’s relief. “So tell me… Who got Bag End? Hopefully not that awful Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. Nasty, mean little lass. Never did like her.”
Bilbo chuckled and began to relay what he’d done and everything that Gandalf had told him about the confrontation with his relatives.
Several hours later, Dís and Bilbo found themselves alone in his rooms, doing inventory of some of the boxes that had been sent to him. They were writing down the different types of seeds he had received from Holman and the Gamgees, so that he could begin his plans for their crops and their smaller gardens. He had the perfect place for an herb garden, which Dís had said she’d help with.
Dís glanced over at him. “My brother watches you a great deal.”
Flushing, Bilbo replied, “We are very close. It comes with saving each other’s lives and living in such close quarters for months.”
“This is very true, but you know what I speak of,” Dís said, clucking her tongue and raising her eyebrows when he looked at her.
He sighed and sat back, setting his quill in its holder. “I confess I am quite fond of him. I am not entirely sure how he feels about me, but as he is King, it is up to him to make the first advance in a courtship. At least that’s what I read on a book on Dwarven culture that I found in the library. As he has not done so, I do not believe he is quite ready.”
“I am not sure why. I see the affection he has for you written all over his face. As for the difference in aging between you two, I fear it won’t be a problem. Already my brother shows the first signs of advancing age. I do not believe he will live more than fifty years more. Which puts him on par with the age you would reach.”
Dís smiled sadly. “While he had a good life during his childhood, as did I and our brother, Frerin, adulthood has been quite difficult and full of hardship. It will take its toll on his life, I believe, as will restoring and ruling Erebor. And I fear dark times for Middle-Earth aren’t quite over. But, I think, a life with you would be good for him. He has heirs. Fíli will take the throne when Thorin thinks he is ready for it. My boys are quite beautiful and will find love soon enough. The young Dwarf lass Fíli had taken a shine to was one of those who came in the first caravan, so perhaps it will happen sooner rather than later.”
Bilbo smiled. “I would see Fíli and Kíli happy, and would love to see their little Dwarflings underfoot. I am not worried about Thorin. When he is ready, he will begin. Until then, he is quite attentive as a friend, and I am content to simply live life here with my family.”
Dís hugged him to her. “I am truly glad you are here, Bilbo Baggins.”
“As am I, Auntie Dís.”