- Explicit Sex
- No Beta
- Alternate Universe
- Established Relationship
Two months after the birth of their children, the first of the caravans sent word that they were only two weeks out, having already come through the Gap of Rohan and the Brown Lands, and were currently traveling along the edge of Mirkwood.
Thorin, Fíli, Kíli, and Bombur were all in a state, rushing to ensure the chambers for Dís and the large, expanded chambers for Bombur and his family were ready and fully stocked with the stores from the spring traders, as well as what Bilbo and Bombur had managed to make from the wild fruits and berries that had already ripened from the woods.
Construction was going fully on the king’s chambers. It was located close to the mountain’s surface, and when done, it would contain: several bedrooms; an enormous kitchen with numerous pantries, an extended stove and ovens and at least four cold boxes; a large room that would act as Bilbo’s study, personal library, and crafting room; and a sitting room big enough to hold the entire company, including the family that would be coming to Erebor or would join in the future. Thorin and Bilbo were wise enough to know they’d never be rid of the company and were quite content with it.
It would also house one large main bathing room, as well as two smaller ones. But the part Bilbo was looking most forward to was the enormous balcony being constructed. It would be big enough to house a massive garden, including a small greenhouse, and he had plans to put several picnic tables there so they could enjoy the outdoors without having always to traipse through the Mountain and out the front door. Bilbo was already planning to include fruit trees, a vegetable and fruit garden, and many flowers.
The chambers down the same hall were reserved for the royal family and the rest of the company, all of whom were given essential positions within Erebor, due to their ability to do the jobs they were given and their intense loyalty to Thorin himself. There was no one in the company he wouldn’t trust with his life and the lives of Bilbo and their children.
It would still be quite some time before their chambers were finished, as the construction was sporadic, coming between major reconstructions elsewhere, so they remained in the one they started out in, while the others moved into their permanent homes once they were refurbished. Not that it kept them from making themselves at home in Thorin and Bilbo’s rooms anytime they liked, and something for which Bilbo was grateful, because taking care of three children was exhausting, especially when he had to scramble to make extras of everything for the third child. But as everyone adored the children, he had no end of helpers.
The winter and early spring months and the extra people from Dale had done wonders for Erebor. There were still many problems within that would take years to fix, especially with the destruction Smaug wrought, but for the undamaged areas, everything had been cleaned up and cleaned out. The main dining hall and kitchens were sparkling and clean and now offered food to anyone who wished to eat there, which many Dwarves and Men took advantage of gratefully, as not many were privileged enough to have wonderful cooks such as Bilbo and Bombur among their companions.
All the residences that were accessible were ready for habitation. They’d gone through and saved the few personal items that had survived the century and a half of neglect, for those families who survived and might want them back. With the limited space until other parts were opened up again, they could not afford to leave the rooms for the old families, especially since some of those families had died off or would not rejoin them, content with being in the Iron Hills.
Now eyes had turned to Dale and the assessment of all that needed to be done there. Stone and rubble were in the process of being removed and put aside for reuse, the ruins of buildings that were beyond repair were being torn down, and the buildings that were still mostly intact were in the middle of repairs. Many Dwarves were working with the Men, and Thorin had slated many who were coming from the Blue Mountains to take over there while those working in Dale came back to the Mountain to continue on with the work that had been started during the winter, and thereafter the Dwarves would be rotated out every month.
Bilbo was currently sitting in the main chamber of Bombur’s suite, little Frerin in his arms for his noon feeding, while Marís slept and Frór lay in his basket, chewing on his tiny fist. Bilbo was watching with amusement as Bombur rushed about, moving things here and there, only to move them back again.
“You do realize you have two weeks before they will be here?”
Bombur stopped and stared at him, and then he laughed and sat down after taking Frór in his arms. “I know I do, but it seems like such a short time. I’ve missed them so, and I want everything to be perfect.”
“It is perfect,” Bilbo said, looking around the rooms. All of the furniture had been cleaned, refinished, and reupholstered. There were brand new rugs on the floor. The bedrooms had newly stuffed mattresses and new bedding, and the kitchens were fully stocked with staples and cookware. “They’re just going to be happy that they’re with you again. Word will reach us when they come close to Dale, and we will have meals ready for them.
“You have enough cloth and buttons set aside for Lara and me to make every one of them an entire wardrobe. You have the toys you commissioned from the toymakers, as well as all of those Bofur and Bifur have made to spoil the children. Personal trinkets will come with time, as you purchase or make them. There is nothing to worry about. We’ll do a bit of a once-over right before they’re due. Now, why don’t we take the children outside for a bit and get some fresh air?”
“Sounds like a wonderful idea,” Bombur said. “Do we need to take bottles for the other two?”
Bilbo lifted Frerin to his shoulder and patted his back lightly. “Yes, it would probably be wise. Marís will wake for her feeding soon enough, and Frór’s been chewing on his hand, so he’s almost ready. We can stop by my rooms on the way out, and perhaps pick up some food and a blanket for a little picnic outside?”
“A wonderful idea, Bilbo. I am a bit hungry, now that I think on it,” Bombur said, tucking Frór back into his basket and he lifted both Frór’s and Marís’, while Bilbo took care of Frerin. “We should also take enough for the others. You know half of them will wander down once they hear we’re outside.”
Bilbo smiled at that. He’d been a little afraid of what the Dwarves – those not part of the Company itself – would think of the children, considering they were half-Hobbit, but those in the Mountain had taken to them more or less immediately. The few who were wary of the idea were won over not long after, especially when they got a look at how adorable they were. And by the Valar, did they get a good look, because as soon as Bilbo was able to get up and about, Thorin had presented all three to those in the kingdom, and then spent days after showing them off to everyone he came across.
It really was rather sweet, how proud of and in love with his children Thorin was. Fíli and Kíli were really no better when it came to their cousins. As Bilbo was the same way, he really had no room to tease, but as the rest of the Company did it for him, he was content to sit back and watch.
“Well, I think we’re going to need a bit of help getting out with the children and all that food,” Bilbo said as they left Bombur’s rooms and headed toward his own.
“If I know our little family, there’s a couple of them sniffing around by now,” Bombur said.
Sure enough, Kíli and Bofur were in Bilbo’s kitchen when they arrived, poking about, looking for something to eat. “You have your own kitchen, you know,” Bilbo said to Kíli, watching with amusement as he jumped.
“Aye, but you have better food,” Bofur said, peering under a cloth, grinning when he found some blackberry tarts.
“Hands off,” Bombur said, smacking his brother’s hand with a wooden spoon that had been sitting within reach. “We’re going outside to let Bilbo and the children get some air and sun, and we’re taking a picnic. You two can help carry the food.”
“But I want to carry the babies,” Kíli said, pulling Frór out of his basket and cuddling him close.
Bilbo rolled his eyes and shared amused glances with Bombur and Bofur. “Fine, you can carry Frór and Marís in their baskets,” he said, eying him. “None of this carrying the children in your arms and leaving the rest of us to drag the baskets along with everything else.”
“Fine,” Kíli said with an exasperated sigh, and then he grinned at Bilbo and proceeded to pepper Frór’s face with kisses. His beard, which was finally beginning to grow in a little thicker, tickled the infant’s face, causing him to make faces before Kíli put him back in the basket. Then he bounded back into the kitchen. “What are we taking for lunch? I’m starving.”
Bilbo shook his head and began checking the little ones’ nappies, changing both Frerin and Marís, while the others filled their picnic baskets with food. From behind him, he heard the door open, and the familiar clomp of boots, and he smiled when an arm slid around his waist. “You’re just in time for lunch.”
“Picnic?” Thorin murmured against the nape of his neck.
“Yes. It’s a lovely day today, and I’m feeling the need for some sun,” Bilbo said, tucking the blanket snugly around Marís before turning in Thorin’s arms and stealing a kiss. “Plus, I think Bombur could use a reprieve from fretting about his chambers and the arrival of his family.”
“I don’t think there will be much chance of keeping any of us from fretting, as you say,” Thorin said with a chuckle. “In building a life in Ered Luin, many of us often spent long times away from our families. Now that Erebor is ours again, we have a chance for a permanent residence, where we can reconnect with our families and see them on a daily basis. It’s something many of us have not had since Smaug. I look forward to being able to see my sister every day, as I see my sister-sons now.”
“Do you think she knows of our children yet?” Bilbo asked, as they peered down at Frerin, who was beginning to drift off.
“Perhaps. I know a few have written to the Dwarves on the way, Fíli and Kíli among them. Though what they told her, I know not. But we shall find out soon enough.”
Bombur poked his head out of the kitchen. “The milk is nearly warmed if you wish to come and fill the bottles.”
“Yes, I’ll need to. Frór’s looking rather disgruntled,” Bilbo said, kissing Thorin again before moving away and toward the kitchen.
“Kíli, put the food in the basket, not your mouth,” Bofur said, swatting Kíli’s arse as he passed by.
“But they’re good!” Kíli replied, his mouth full of the chocolate biscuit he’d stolen from the batches Bilbo had made earlier that morning.
Bilbo shook his head and reached for the silver bottles. They were a bit different than the ceramic ones he had seen in the Shire, but the children seemed to have taken to them well enough, and they were a bit easier to clean than the ones they used in the Shire when needed. Wet nurses would have been more ideal, but there weren’t many women-folk in Erebor as of yet and those who were there were quite busy, and he didn’t know most of them well enough to ask. So bottles it was.
He grabbed the metal funnel and poured the warmed milk into each, and then set the funnel in water to soak. Then he screwed on the top and tightly secured the thick material that the infants suckled. “All right, let’s go before Frór and Marís decide to start wailing and wake Frerin.”
The entire group headed out, Kíli and Thorin taking over the children while everyone else dealt with the food. They picked up stragglers along the way, and by the time they exited through the front gates, the entire company was accounted for, as well as Lara and her parents.
Kíli and Thorin fed the two now-crying infants while Bilbo helped everyone set up their picnic. By the time everything was just so, and most were serving themselves, the two Dwarves were burping the little ones.
“So tell me, Fíli, what have you and your brother told your mother about me and the children?” Bilbo asked as he began making plates for the two who had their hands full.
“What makes you think we’ve told her anything?” Fíli asked, his face the picture of innocence.
Bilbo didn’t believe that look for a second. “Because there is no way to stop you from bragging about your cousins to anyone who will listen, or to those who don’t want to,” he replied, grinning at the mock outrage on Fíli’s face.
“I take offense to that! Everyone wants to hear about them!” Fíli said. “And who can blame them? Have you ever seen anything more adorable than those little ones?”
“You are right about that,” Dori said, smiling as he looked at the children. “From their little pointed ears to their little tufts of beard.”
“And from seeing their parents, they’re going to be little heartbreakers when they grow up,” Nori added, winking at Bilbo when he flushed a bit at the compliment.
“That still does not answer my question, Fíli,” Bilbo said, getting the conversation back on track.
“We only told her the barest of facts,” Kíli said when Fíli just grinned. “That Uncle Thorin was in love with and betrothed to a Hobbit, and that said male Hobbit just gave birth to three beautiful children, so she will have a niece and two nephews to dote upon.”
“We have received no letter back as of yet, but as they are so close, Amad may just wait until she gets here to see for herself,” Fíli added, and then he stuffed a slice of roasted venison into his mouth.
Bilbo walked over to Thorin and Kíli and waited for them to lay the children back in their baskets before handing over the plates he’d made for them.
“Before I forget,” Balin said to Bilbo, settling down on one side of Frerin’s basket with his food, “Nali wanted me to tell you that the farmers said the first of the carrot crops are ready to harvest, as are the next tomato crops. They look to have done very well and they wanted to thank you for all the help and advice you had for getting the grounds ready.”
“If there is one thing we Hobbits are good at, it’s growing things,” Bilbo replied.
“Also, the cherry, peach, and citrus trees have been picked from the orchards further south, and they’ll be sending your orders up directly,” Balin said.
“Mmm, cherry pie,” Bilbo murmured as he finished loading his own plate and then settled between Thorin and Kíli.
“I would be very happy for a mixed berry cobbler myself,” Thorin said, smiling when Bilbo side-eyed him.
“If that’s your subtle way of asking me to make one for you… It just might work, because that’s sounding really good right about now,” Bilbo said, ignoring the laughter around him as he leaned over and kissed Thorin’s cheek.
Dwalin looked between the two happy parents and down at the children. “You do realize when Lady Dís gets here, she’ll likely take over any and all wedding plans. And I hope you’ve set a date because she will be right furious if you haven’t.”
“It’s set for the first of September, which will satisfy her need for a date as well as give her time to fuss over the wedding plans,” Thorin replied.
“And as long as I don’t get the sense beaten out of me or fall unconscious due to one too many head butts – yes, Kíli and Fíli, I am looking at you two – I don’t particularly care what she plans. She can plan to her heart’s content. I have my hands full with these three.”
Then Bilbo winced. “Ugh, which reminds me, I need to go and rinse the bottles before the milk sets in them.”
“I’ll go and do that, Bilbo,” Ori said, jumping up, taking the bottles, and running toward the river before Bilbo could even think to protest.
Bilbo just watched him, amused. The Dwarves really didn’t like it when he got anywhere near the river. Perhaps he shouldn’t have told them about his difficult time on the barrels. Or that he was a very poor swimmer.
Or that Hobbits had a propensity to drown in fast moving waters. Or any waters over a foot or so deep.
Lara looked at him curiously. “Do Hobbits use bottles much in the Shire?” She had taken a keen interest in his homeland, having never ventured to that part of the world. In fact, being around Fíli’s age, she hadn’t been much of anywhere before, Erebor being her first big trip, and was curious about their journey and the lands they’d passed through.
Shaking his head, Bilbo swallowed his food. “No, not usually, though we do have them in cases of emergencies. There are many Hobbit lads and lasses who partly earn their living being wet nurses for those who have twins, or triplets in the rare times it happens, or for those who have children very close together. But alas, the males of your people do not lactate, and there are few women, and –”
Bilbo frowned at the disgruntled look on Lara’s face and the amusement on Dala’s. “What?”
“And you didn’t think to ask me?” Lara said, glaring at him.
“Well, yes, but you have a prominent position as the head of the Clothworking Guild, and I know you’re very busy,” Bilbo said, intending to continue with his reasons he hadn’t asked, but Lara cut him off.
“And I end up spending most of my time in your bloody room working, and it hardly takes any time or energy to produce milk on my part.” Lara huffed, and then looked at Óin. “Could you prepare the herbs I need to ingest to start the process?”
“Of course, my lady,” Óin said, bowing his head at her and then smirking at Bilbo. He’d tried to press Bilbo into asking her in the first place.
“All right, well, thank you,” Bilbo said, elbowing Thorin when he laughed at him.
At that, Lara smiled and then leaned against Fíli, who nuzzled against her courtship braid.
Bilbo glanced at Kíli, who wore a similar braid in his hair, as did Fíli and Bofur. “So, have you two told your mother that you are courting?”
“No,” both said at the same time.
“We thought the shocking revelations about Uncle Thorin and you were all that her poor heart could handle at once,” Kíli continued.
“That, and we wanted to see her face when she made the discovery,” Fíli added, chuckling when Lara tugged on his braids.
Bilbo lifted a hand to his own braid, one that represented their betrothal, which had been in his hair long enough that he often forgot it was there unless Thorin was rebraiding it. Thorin also wore a similar braid in his hair, but it often got lost to sight amongst his thick mane.
“At least we have no worries that Lady Dís will disapprove,” Balin said, smiling at their two intendeds, who looked a bit worried.
“Aye, that’s true,” Dwalin said. “Likely as not, it will be her sons who will earn her disapproval.”
“Amad is quite proud of us!” Fíli said in outrage.
“Then you went and sneaked away to go on this quest with me, leaving only a note behind,” Thorin reminded them. “Had I not found that out in Lake-town, I would have sent you back directly to face Dís’ wrath.”
“She would have forbidden us to go otherwise,” Kíli muttered as he leaned into Bofur.
“She may not have liked it, but she would have let you go,” Dwalin said. “You are both adults and more than old enough to make that decision on your own. But you crept away and did not let her say goodbye. How would she have felt, if Master Baggins hadn’t been here to save your sorry arses, and you’d died?”
“I know, I know!” Fíli said with a groan, flopping onto his back.
“Well, the main thing is that neither of you did, no matter how close it may have been, and neither of you will ever do something so stupid again, right?” Bilbo said, smiling when the two nodded in earnest. “Very well, then. I am certain we can deflect her wrath with the babies until she calms.”
They were mostly quiet as the last of them finished their food, and then Bilbo looked to Glóin, who was eying the baskets as if trying to decide which child he was going to pick up. “I bet you will be quite excited to have Gimli and Aldís back with you.”
Deciding on Marís, who was also the only one awake (though that hardly stopped any of the Dwarves), Glóin tucked his ample beard into his shirt and picked her up out of her basket, cuddling her close.”Aye, that I will. Aldís will love the little ones here. I daresay you’ll end up with far more helpers than you will ever need. And my Gimli is quite old enough now to choose his apprenticeship, once he gets here.”
“Any ideas on what he’ll choose?” Bilbo asked, handing his plate over to Bombur, who set it with the other now empty plates. They still had the tarts and biscuits to dive into, but at the moment, they were all content to sit around, talk, and enjoy themselves.
“No idea, truly. He seems to have a bit of interest in several areas. He may take a bit of time and visit with each of the Guilds he’s interested in before choosing.”
“He has time. He is but sixty and won’t be pressured to choose until he’s closer to seventy,” Thorin said as he pulled Bilbo close, draping an arm around his shoulder, his hand close enough to his ear to deftly run his fingers over the shell of it.
Bilbo moaned softly and melted into Thorin, closing his eyes and his attention drifting away from the conversation for a few minutes, until he heard Nori calling his name.
“Yes?” he asked, opening his eyes. “Oh!” he said when he saw the plate with the tart and the biscuits on it. “Thank you.”
“I wouldn’t have interrupted since you seemed to be enjoying yourself, but I thought you might like these before everyone else eats them all,” he said, winking again at Bilbo.
Bilbo flushed and bit into his tart, as the others chuckled and worked on eating their own. He hadn’t noticed that they’d been passing out the desserts, or that Ori had indeed returned from his short walk to the river to clean the bottles.
Soon enough, most everyone had to return to their appointed tasks, though Kíli and Lara escorted Bilbo and the children back to their chambers.
When they were inside, Bilbo turned and looked at them both. “I have a favor to ask.”
Kíli smiled at him. “You only have to ask, Uncle.”
“Can you take the children for the evening, after dinner? I’ll come and get them later, but I’d like a little time alone with Thorin,” Bilbo said, grinning when Kíli went a little green.
“Aye, we’ll all four take them off your hands for as long as you like, so long as you never tell me just what it is you and Uncle are doing in here while you’re alone,” Kíli said. “I prefer to stay ignorant.”
Bilbo’s grin grew wicked. “Why Kíli, how do you think Thorin and I ended up with three babies in the first place? Talking by the fire late at night?”
“Ugh. I try not to think about it…at all,” Kíli said, making gagging faces. “How would you like to be picturing what Bofur and I get up to?”
Bilbo tilted his head and looked up toward the ceiling and pretended to think about it. “I’m quite all right with it actually. Quite a lovely scene when I think about it.”
“Ack! Stop thinking about me like that!” Kíli said, making a face as he slumped onto the sofa. “You are an evil uncle. I don’t know why I ever liked you.”
Chuckling, Bilbo leaned over and kissed Kíli’s forehead. “I am only teasing you, and you love me for my cooking among many other reasons. I prefer not to imagine it any more than you do, though I do not doubt you two will have quite the fun time together when courtship allows. Now, if you are done with your squeamishness, be a good cousin and see if Frerin needs a change, while Lara and I check the others.”
After dinner, Bilbo watched as everyone made their excuses and exited in record time, with the exception of Fíli and Kíli, who were in the bedroom with the children.
“Well, that was unexpected. I was planning on speaking to Balin about a few issues,” Thorin said, frowning at the door.
“All right, we are off to my rooms,” Fíli said as he came out of the bedroom, two baskets in hand. Kíli followed with the third infant and another basket full of supplies they would need, which Bilbo had packed for them earlier.
“You remember how to heat the bottles?” Bilbo asked, double checking, though he knew well they were quite capable.
Kíli rolled his eyes. “Aye, Uncle, we have done it for you several times. You know where to find us.”
“Have fun!” Fíli said as the two traipsed out the door.
“We just don’t want to hear about it!” Kíli called out as he closed the door behind him.
Thorin looked even more confused. “Where are they going with our children?”
Bilbo laughed and climbed into Thorin’s lap. “They are taking them to Fíli’s room for a few hours, so you and I can have some time for ourselves, without interruptions,” he said, sliding his arms around Thorin’s neck and pulling him in for a long, slow kiss, moaning when he opened his mouth slightly and Thorin deepened the kiss, their tongues sliding together, tasting one another.
“Mmm,” Thorin hummed when they finally parted. “It has been some time since we have had time with no interruptions.”
“It truly has. I thought we’d start with a nice, long bath, and then we can get in our bed and you can take me the way you did the first time we were together.”
Thorin chuckled as he rested their foreheads together. “We did manage to make Dwalin blush that night. I did not think it possible for him to do so any longer.”
Snorting, Bilbo replied, “If he had knocked instead of simply barging in, he wouldn’t have seen anything to make him blush like that.” He slipped off Thorin’s lap and held out his hand. “Bath, now, because I plan on exhausting you before we have to gather our children.”
“As you wish,” he said, leaning forward to kiss him again before getting up and leading the way to the bathing room.
Bilbo turned on the water and dropped in bath salts, allowing the tub to fill while the two took their time divesting each other of their layers, occasionally kissing bared skin. Once the tub was filled, Bilbo turned off the water and the two slid into the water, and he slipped in front of Thorin, sighing softly as he leaned back against him.
Thorin wrapped his arms around Bilbo’s body and closed his eyes, relaxing in the hot water. They hadn’t had a chance to do this since… They’d never done this. The one thing Bilbo had been adamant about during his pregnancy was that baths could be potentially harmful to the child inside him if he soaked in waters that were too hot. And the hot springs did run quite hot in Erebor.
Bilbo refused to chance it, even when adding cold water, so Thorin would aid him in pouring water over him while he washed thoroughly. After the children were born, they were always in the tub with them or were nearby and they had to rush, and this was the first real opportunity they’d had to be alone and relax for as long as they wanted.
They sat there for at least half an hour before Bilbo finally slid around and moved to straddle Thorin’s lap, and he began removing the braids from Thorin’s hair. When he was done, he ran his fingers through the hair on Thorin’s chin. “Your beard is growing out well. It’ll be long enough to braid properly soon.”
“I used to before the dragon came,” Thorin said, sighing softly and closing his eyes as Bilbo leaned forward and kissed the bare skin of his throat, just below his beard line.
Bilbo mouthed his way to the skin just below Thorin’s left ear, to the spot where Thorin was particularly sensitive, and he sucked and nipped at the skin until there was a small mark, and Thorin was steadily moaning and rubbing his now-hard cock against Bilbo’s arse.
Satisfied with the mark he’d made, he slid off Thorin’s lap, ignoring his protests, and grabbed the bottle of shampoo. “Scoot forward, so I can scrub your hair.”
Thorin did as he asked, ducking himself completely under the water as he slid forward. Bilbo was in place on the bench that lined the tub and smiled to himself as Thorin surfaced and moved back, just enough that his back touched Bilbo’s legs.
Bilbo poured shampoo into his hand and then spread it over both before he reached out, starting with Thorin’s hair near the scalp, massaging as he worked it into a lather, adding a trickle of water now and again. He chuckled silently as a deep, low rumble erupted from Thorin, almost like the purr of a cat. “Enjoying this?”
Tilting his head back, Thorin stared at him with hooded eyes. “You know I am. I always enjoy it when you wash my hair. The last time anyone did this for me when I wasn’t injured was my own mother when I was a babe.”
“Not even those casual lovers of yours back in Ered Luin or wherever got the privilege?” he asked. He knew Thorin had had a few lovers before him, but that it had been some time since he’d taken one, at least a hundred years. Bilbo himself hadn’t gone for very long, it having only been a couple of years, and he couldn’t imagine going that long with only just his hand, in spite of it not being exactly respectable behavior at his age to take on the occasional casual lover.
“No. The care for a Dwarf’s hair is the purview of family, friends so close they may as well be family, and our Ones,” Thorin replied as Bilbo poured more shampoo into his hand and began working his way down Thorin’s long mane.
Bilbo frowned as he worked his hands through Thorin’s hair. “Fíli and Kíli let me help them with their hair almost from the beginning.”
Thorin was quiet for a few moments and then he sighed. “They knew from the moment I did that you were my One. So did Dwalin and Balin, because they were the ones who knew me best. The others figured it out fairly quickly, which is why no one commented when they began asking you for help.”
Snorting, Bilbo flicked Thorin’s ear. “So you knew I was your One the moment you saw me and you still behaved abysmally? I thought you hated me for a good part of the trip, you know,” Bilbo said. “I really was going to leave that night in the cave. You really hurt me.”
Tilting his head back, Thorin looked up at him. “I know, and I am deeply sorry for it. I was a stubborn fool, as my sister loves to remind me. Forgive me?”
Bilbo chuckled and leaned down to kiss the tip of Thorin’s nose. “Of course I do. You think I would have been here otherwise, letting you lot fret over me while I was pregnant and allowing the others steal my children if I hadn’t already?
“Besides, Fíli and Kíli took me aside after the Eagles dropped us off and we camped at the bottom of the Carrock, and they explained how horrible and awkward you could be with other people, especially those you care about. And then they enlightened me on how to read you when you say certain things, in order to find out what you really mean.”
Thorin snorted. “Of course they would meddle. But as it helped get us to where we are now, I will not chastise them for sticking their noses where it does not belong.”
“They mean well, and as you said, it got us here. I don’t know that we would be if they hadn’t. I’d probably still think you barely tolerated me.” Bilbo patted the back of his head. “Up now. Let me finish with your hair.”
Before Thorin did so, he said, “In case there is any doubt, I love you. I could never and would never love anyone the way I love you.”
Bilbo smiled down at him. “I know. And I love you.”
Smiling softly, Thorin raised his head again, and Bilbo finished lathering his hair all the way down to its tips. Then he slid his soapy hands down Thorin’s jaw and scrubbed at Thorin’s beard, using his nails to scratch lightly at the skin below, and was awarded that purr-like rumble.
Reaching for the pitcher on the side of the tub, he filled it with water and washed the shampoo out of Thorin’s hair and beard. Then he reached for the soap and washcloth, and began washing his future husband – he still had a difficult time believing that he had this beautiful Dwarf in his life for as long as they lived, in spite of everything they shared now – from head to toe.
As soon as he was done with Thorin’s chest and back, he moved around so that he could reach the rest of his body. He grinned when Thorin growled as the washcloth wrapped around his erection and Bilbo stroked a few times, before abandoning it to wash his legs.
When he was done, Thorin pulled him close and repaid him in kind, taking his own turn to tease him mercilessly, stroking his cock and fingering his hole.
Once he was rinsed off, the two got out of the tub and dried each other off. Bilbo took some time with Thorin’s hair, untangling it and combing through the very light oil mixture the Dwarves used to soften their hair. He patted Thorin’s hair down again to make sure it was as dry as it could be, and then he pulled Thorin into the bedroom.
“Are you certain you’ve taken the appropriate precautions?” Thorin asked as he lifted Bilbo onto the bed. In the last couple of months, their lives had been so hectic with the preparations for the new arrivals, trade agreements, and three newborns that most of the time, they fell into bed exhausted, trading no more than kisses and pleasuring each other with their hands and occasionally mouths if they managed to not fall asleep directly.
“Yes, I drink the herbal tea when I am supposed to,” Bilbo said, tugging Thorin until he was hovering over him. “I told you, I do not wish to become pregnant again for a few years if I can prevent it.” He tugged on Thorin some more until he lowered himself to lie on top of him.
“I do not think I could handle three infants and you with child,” Thorin replied, and he kissed Bilbo gently. “My weight is not hurting you, is it?”
“Never does,” Bilbo murmured, wrapping his legs around Thorin’s hips and lifting his own, humming happily when their cocks slid together. “I want you. Been far too long, and let me tell you, next time I’m with child, I’m going to be much more irritable if you don’t make love to me like I want. I let you get away with your worry about harming me this last time, but next time, you will feel my wrath. Hobbits do have a certain time of their pregnancy where we’re rather…needy.”
“You never said anything,” Thorin said as he nuzzled behind Bilbo’s ear.
Bilbo snorted. “I decided not to and simply took care of myself those months, because every time I even hinted about sex, you looked like a rabbit who hopped out of a bush only to find itself faced with a pack of starving Wargs.”
Thorin’s laugh sent puffs of air across his skin, tickling his neck. “Was I really that bad?”
“In a word? Yes.” Bilbo laughed as Thorin gently bit down on his neck. “I did miss that part of our relationship when I was pregnant, but I understood why you were so worried after awhile. Hopefully after witnessing a normal Hobbit pregnancy, you will be far more at ease during my second.”
“I will do better next time,” Thorin promised.
“Well, that’s then, and this is now, and I want a good and thorough fucking,” Bilbo said, thrusting up against Thorin again.
Groaning, Thorin bit down on his neck, harder this time. “Your language has become atrocious since you became a companion to Dwarves.”
“If it offends, I can always go with the children back to the Shire for more genteel companions,” Bilbo replied lightly, laughing when Thorin growled and thrust down hard.
“Do not even jest about something like that,” Thorin said, moving so that their foreheads rested together. “I could not bear it to be away from you or the children like that.”
Bilbo smiled softly and reached up to stroke his face. “We will never leave you, Thorin. We are yours, and you are ours. I could not bear to be parted from you in such a way. I know not what I would have done if you had sent me away after the Battle.”
“I could have no sooner sent you away than I could have cut off my own head,” Thorin murmured and took his mouth in a deep, passionate kiss that had Bilbo moaning and digging his nails into Thorin’s back, trying to pull him closer.
“Oil. Beside table,” he panted as soon as Thorin released him.
Thorin slid off Bilbo briefly and half dove for the oil in his eagerness, which had Bilbo grinning like a fool. The grin only left his mouth when Thorin had coated his fingers, slid one finger inside him, and pressed that little spot that made his spine tingle and his toes curl.
“Oh, that feels so good,” Bilbo said, pushing down on Thorin’s finger. “More.”
Thorin slid a second finger into him, and then a third, pressing into that spot until Bilbo was a writhing mass of need.
“Slick yourself up.” As soon as Thorin’s fingers slipped out of his arse, he turned over and scrambled to his knees, crawling forward so he could lift up and grab the top of the headboard. He spread his legs wide and looked over his shoulder, smiling at the heated, hungry look on Thorin’s face. “Please, love, I’m ready for you.”
Growling, Thorin moved close enough to plaster himself against Bilbo’s back and he shifted enough so he could push inside him in one slow, steady thrust.
“You don’t have to be so gentle. You know I like it when you lose control,” Bilbo said, his voice thick with desire as he pushed back against him as best he could. In this position, he was mostly resting on Thorin’s thighs, his knees barely touching the bed beneath. He was at Thorin’s mercy, which was right where he wanted to be.
Thorin panted as he held Bilbo’s hips still, and he rested his head against Bilbo’s shoulder. “I do, but if you don’t give me a moment, I fear it might be over far too soon for the both of us.”
Bilbo chuckled and clenched around Thorin’s cock, eliciting a strangled moan. “Oh, sorry.”
“As if I would ever believe that was an accident,” Thorin murmured, squeezing Bilbo’s hips. “If you want that good fucking you’re begging for, you need to give me a moment.”
Deciding to be good, because he wanted Thorin to take him long and hard, Bilbo leaned forward slightly and rested his head on the wood of the large, carved headboard, taking a deep breath as he relaxed around Thorin.
Thorin began to move after several moments, slow and deep, and Bilbo moaned again, trying his best not to just shove back against him. “Harder, Thorin.”
“So impatient,” Thorin replied, bending his head to nip at Bilbo’s shoulder as he thrust in harder, shifting slightly to change his angle.
“Oh, there!” Bilbo said, using the headboard as leverage as he shoved himself back with his arms, and he clenched his hole around Thorin’s cock, knowing it would get him going. “Harder!”
Growling, Thorin grabbed hold of Bilbo’s hips and slammed into him over and over again, his cock a constant friction against that one spot inside him, his sac smacking lewdly against Bilbo’s body, and it was all Bilbo could do to keep himself from colliding face first with the headboard. And he loved every minute of it.
“Thorin, please,” Bilbo begged after some time, his entire body shaking with the need to come, which he had been denying himself for the last several minutes. “Please…”
Thorin squeezed his hands around his hips. “Whenever you need to, âzyungel,” Thorin panted against his ear, his tongue flicking out to lick the shell of his ear.
When Thorin bit down on the tip, Bilbo cried out loudly and came all over the headboard, without so much as a touch to his cock, and he went limp as Thorin pulled out of him. The heady feeling drifting through his body had him in a daze, and it took him a few moments to notice that Thorin had turned him around and had him lying back on the bed.
He smiled up at Thorin and spread his legs again, while his arms wrapped around Thorin’s neck. “In me, love. I know you haven’t spent yourself, and I want you in me.”
“I only wanted to make you more comfortable,” Thorin said, lifting his legs to settle around his upper waist, and he slid back inside. “I am not nearly done with you yet.”
Bilbo sighed and smacked Thorin’s naked arse. They’d been in bed for over two hours, and both were utterly spent. Bilbo himself was pleasantly sore and he was certain he looked debauched, with his hair all mussed, marks scattered across his neck and chest, and his lips slightly swollen and red from all the kisses they’d exchanged in the last hour. “We need to go and bring home our children. Get up and get dressed.”
Groaning, Thorin rolled over onto his back. “I cannot. You’ve killed me.”
“How unfortunate. Of course, your sudden demise might send Fíli to an early grave from sheer terror at the thought of being king, which means we’ll be left with King Kíli of Erebor,” Bilbo said, sliding off the bed and going to search for his nightclothes.
Thorin burst into laughter at that. “While I think he could be passable if he bothered to apply himself, I don’t know that there would be enough Dwarves in Erebor to rule over once most flee in terror.”
Bilbo chuckled. “As you said, he could surprise everyone and make a fine King, if he applied himself, but he refuses to do more than he has to. He doesn’t want the throne. Neither does Fíli, though he was willing enough to do it because he loves you and wants to make you proud.”
“At least he can be happy now,” Thorin said as he finally pushed himself up, wincing. “I think I pulled something.”
Snickering, Bilbo slid into his pajama bottoms and slipped into his burgundy evening robe. Then he held out pajama bottoms for Thorin. “If you’re still damaged in the morning, you can go down and see Óin for one of his ointments.”
“Yes, but then he’d want to know what I did, and how do I possibly explain I pulled a muscle in my back while fucking you into the headboard?”
Bilbo looked at him innocently. “By saying ‘Óin, I need liniment because I fucked my One into the headboard last night as he demanded, and he broke me.’”
Thorin snorted as he shoved his legs into the pajamas and pulled them up. “Yes, because that’s not embarrassing.”
“Tell him you made me come twice, one of those times by your cock alone. He’ll be so busy marveling over your prowess that he won’t bother mocking you for getting old,” Bilbo said, smiling brightly when Thorin glared at him.
“I’ll have you know I have a good amount of years left in me, and he’s much older than I am,” Thorin said, taking his blue evening robe from Bilbo and slipping it on. “I am nowhere near old.”
“If you say so,” Bilbo said, patting his arm in a placating manner and then dashing from the room, laughing.
Thorin caught up with him at the door, spinning him around and lifting him up, pushing him against the cool wood as he took his mouth in a hard, passionate kiss. When they parted, he said, “I would show you just how not old I am, but while I can go for good length at one time, I’ve never had a short rest period between bouts of lovemaking. It will be a few hours yet before I can prove my point.”
“That’s good, because I think coming again would be a little painful at the moment,” Bilbo said, leaning forward and kissing his nose. “Let’s go get our little ones, and then we can get them ready for bed and curl up together.”
“I love the sound of that,” Thorin said, leaning forward to kiss him again once more, before letting him slide down onto his feet again. Then Thorin rubbed his back and winced. “Perhaps I am getting old.”
Bilbo laughed and pulled open the door, and the two walked down the hallway, hand in hand. They met up with Dwalin around the corner.
“Everything all right?” asked Thorin as they all stopped.
“Aye, there are guards around the perimeter, and another set are scheduled to relieve them in five hours.” Then he grinned at the two. “I take it you had a pleasant evening?”
A smile spread across Bilbo’s face. “Do you remember that night you walked in on us at Beorn’s?”
Dwalin huffed and his cheeks colored a bit. “Aye, it’s burned into my mind for the rest of my days.”
“Well, imagine that, but in our bedroom instead, and you have a fairly good image of how our night went.”
Dwalin flushed bright red at that and snorted. “You are an evil, evil Hobbit, Master Baggins.”
“I do try,” Bilbo said airily as he continued down the hallway. “Pleasant dreams!”
Thorin chuckled as he caught up. “That was truly inspired,” he said, wrapping his arm around Bilbo’s shoulders.
“Well, if he would get off his arse and court Nori like we both know he wants to, he wouldn’t have to live vicariously through us,” Bilbo said, shaking his head. “Nori has made it clear more than a few times that he would be receptive to Dwalin’s attentions. He would resort to pulling Dwalin’s braids if Dwalin had any.”
“I have no idea what is making him drag his feet,” Thorin admitted. “He won’t confide in me. Nor his brother. I did ask Balin.”
“Children, perhaps?” Bilbo asked. “You know how he loves being around ours. Both of them do.”
Thorin shook his head. “No, I asked him that, and he said he would be quite content in helping us raise ours, as we plan on having several more and we’re going to need all the help we can get.”
“Nori’s age, then? He’s what, seventy years older than Nori?”
“Closer to eighty, I believe. It’s a thought. I will ask him, though I don’t know why it would be an issue. It’s not an issue between you and I.”
“No, but with our comparable life spans and taking into account you should live for at least another century unless you do something stupid, neither of us would outlive the other for long,” Bilbo pointed out. “With Nori, he could leave him to live out many years with a broken heart. And we both know that underneath all those tattoos, muscles and gruffness is a soft ball of fluff and feelings. He would be leery of hurting Nori in such a way.”
“I’ll speak to him about it,” Thorin said. “If he and Nori are each other’s Ones, the way you are mine, it is likely Nori would follow him soon after.”
Bilbo cleared his throat. “Find out if it’s the age thing, and then I’ll speak to him about it. You approach these things something akin to an oliphaunt traipsing about a marketplace full of delicate china.”
“I’d argue that, but my sister would agree with you immediately, and she is seldom wrong when it comes to me,” Thorin said, slowing as they reached Fíli’s door. “I’ll begin prodding him tomorrow, though it may take a few tries to get him to reveal what troubles him.”
“If you can’t get it out of him by the time your sister arrives, I’ll recruit her and we’ll get to the bottom of it,” Bilbo replied, reaching up and knocking on Fíli’s door.
“Dwalin is right,” Thorin said with a grin. “You really are evil.”
“As I said, I do try.”
A raven had been sent from Dale the moment the caravans could be seen in the distance, and Bilbo and Bombur, with the help of Bofur and Ori, were creating feasts in two different chambers, while Fíli and Kíli were utilized in the transport of food from one to the other. Bilbo and Bombur had agreed to make certain foods with enough for everyone at both tables.
Óin, Glóin, and his family would be joining Bombur, Bofur, and Bifur and their family, while Dwalin, Balin, Dori, Ori, and Nori, joined the others in Bilbo’s room. After dinner, Fíli and Kíli had plans to introduce their intendeds to their mother, which should make for fine entertainment, according to Thorin.
Bilbo had just sent platters of his honey-lemon chicken with Kíli and Ori to Bombur’s chambers and was placing his own on the dining table when Lara came rushing in with her mother, bringing the infants with them. “The caravans have arrived. Thorin is down at the gates, waiting to greet the princess as we speak,” she said, placing the baskets on the table with care.
Lara, and to his surprise Dala, had both volunteered to be wet nurses for his children, and they had taken them to care for them for the day, so that Bilbo could concentrate on cooking and keeping his nerve-wracked Dwarves in line.
“Are they sleeping?” Bilbo asked as he rushed over to the kitchen and brought the last of his desserts to the side table.
“Frór and Marís are. Frerin, however, has just woken from his nap,” Dala said, picking the boy up from his basket and cuddling him close. “I will get him changed.”
Bilbo nodded. “Thank you. There are sets of clothing for each of them on the bed. Lara, if you could take the other two into the bedroom? I’ll be right there,” he said, checking to make sure nothing was forgotten and he hadn’t foolishly left something on the stove or in the oven to burn.
Once that was done, he headed toward the bedroom, stopping when the door opened and Fíli and Kíli came tumbling in. “Your mother has just arrived. Go and make yourselves presentable. You both look like you stuck your heads into a windstorm.”
“Yes, Uncle,” Fíli said, clapping his hand to his braids and wincing at what he found there. Kíli laughed at his brother and followed him out, and Bilbo continued to the bedroom, where he found Lara changing a now-awakened Marís.
“Here, let me finish up here. You two may as well make yourselves scarce before the princess shows up. I’m entirely certain you don’t want to be there when the boys announce their courtships. Might put you off joining the family,” he said, pulling Frór out of his basket and quickly changing his nappy and his clothes into the ones Thorin had insisted upon having made for the children’s presentation to their aunt.
“If being around your Dwarves daily for months hasn’t done it, I doubt anything could,” Lara said dryly. “But yes, I do not want to present myself to my future mother-in-law looking like this. I have spit-up on my skirt, for Mahal’s sake.”
“The children should be good for feeding until sometime after dinner. Come and get us if we are not here by the time they’re ready.”
Bilbo laughed at Lara’s predicament and shooed them away. “I will. There’s two baskets of goodies by the door for supper. Be sure to share with Marin.”
“If we can drag him out of the treasury,” Dala said, shaking her head as she headed out of the room after depositing Frerin into the large cradle. “He’s determined to get through the entire thing before the year is out.”
The cleaning of the gold and jewels in the treasury was taking far longer than they thought it was going to take, because the further down they went, the filthier the treasure was, and the harder to clean. And some of it was actually melted into the floor because of Smaug’s body heat and random bursts of flame from his mouth, no doubt, what with him laying on it for so long, and it had to be chiseled off the stone, cleaned, remelted, and remade into coins before it could be counted.
“Well, good luck to him!” Bilbo called out as he finished up with Frór, and then quickly got himself cleaned up and dressed as well.
Though he had tried not to show it, he was a bundle of nerves himself. He was about to meet one of the people dearest to his intended, and he truly had no idea how Dís would feel about him.
The sight of the Lonely Mountain was a balm for not only Dís’ soul, but for those who had been born here, who had fled that fateful day so long ago. There was a level of excitement that had risen quickly when they came upon the shores of the Long Lake, and it had only grown the closer they got to their home.
Those who hadn’t been born in Erebor were eager to set eyes upon a place they’d only heard about in stories, a place of grandeur and beauty and plenty, a place where empty bellies and scrounging to make ends meet was never the norm.
Dís herself was mostly anticipating seeing her children and brother once more.
Finding out her two little fools had gone off without even telling her, except in a note, had her both furious and terrified from the moment she had returned home and discovered they’d left. It wasn’t that they’d chosen to go, or that she thought Thorin wouldn’t do his best to ensure that they stayed alive, if it was within his power. It was the way they had gone about it.
It hurt her, knowing that all she had left of her family was gone, her babies were gone away on a quest that could easily claim their lives, and she had not been able to give them so much as a proper hug and kiss goodbye. When she discovered that they had indeed lived and were housed safely in Erebor and awaiting her arrival in the early summer, she had dropped to her knees and thanked Mahal for his mercy.
It also meant she could kill them herself. She spent hours birthing them into this world. It was only fair that she herself should be the one to take them right back out of it, not some blasted Orc or Warg.
She had received several missives while on the road, the ravens finding them easily enough, as they had sent word of the route they planned to take. Both Fíli and Kíli had written and told her, in surprisingly little detail, of the battle and their wounds, and how Thorin’s Halfling from the Shire, that little, peaceful land along the East Road, had taken good care of all of them.
They also mentioned something about this little Halfling and Thorin having three children, but that was preposterous and she was entirely certain they were having a healthy dose of fun at her expense. Her conviction that it was a jest wavered a bit when others received word of the king’s progeny, but she also would not put it past her sons to involve the others who had traveled with them in their pranks.
As they passed by the ruins of Dale, which were being worked on by a variety of Dwarves, Men, and Elves, the Dwarves there cheered and waved at them from where they toiled in the rebuilding of the great stone houses. Others still seemed to be building new farmhouses and animal pens on both sides of the river, away from the city itself. Others still were beginning construction on stone streets several rangar from the banks of the river on the side nearest Mirkwood, roads that would eventually lead up to Erebor itself, the old ones having long broken down and vanished.
When they finally reached the front gates of Erebor, the first person she spotted in the throng of Dwarves awaiting their arrival was her brother. Thorin stood there, beautiful and regal in his royal robes and his crown, one made of mithril and sapphires, and much more delicate than the thick, heavy one their grandfather once wore. But it was comely with his coloring and quite befitting.
It eased her heart to see that his face was full and healthy, and his eyes shone with love and happiness at seeing his people finally come home. He looked well, and that was all she could ask for.
“Sister!” he called out, rushing toward her as her wagon came to a stop.
She jumped off in time to be swept up in his warm, tight embrace, crying silently into his hair as relief in being home and relief in knowing that her family was indeed safe and sound mingled in her heart and mind.
After a few minutes of simply holding him, she pulled back and took a good look at him, hands sliding up his arms to cup his face. “You look better than you have in some time, Thorin. I trust the winter treated you well.”
“That, and I have an intended that presides over our food stores and our food-trade treaties with an iron fist, even while eight months heavy with child,” Thorin said, chuckling. “With him and Bombur in charge, no one went without plenty since the battle. I’ve also made him ambassador to the Elves.”
Dís’ eyebrows shot up. “So it is true then? The Halfling bore your child?”
“Children,” Thorin said, puffing up proudly. “Three of them, to be exact.”
“The prettiest little babes you will ever lay your eyes upon,” Dwalin said, coming over with Balin. He leaned down to embrace Dís and kissed her on the cheek. “The entire kingdom is half in love with them already, and they are but a few months old.”
“Sweet Mahal, I thought Fíli and Kíli were pulling my leg,” Dís said, looking at her brother in wonder. “And he did well with the carrying?”
“He did it with a great amount of ease and an endless sea of patience,” Balin said, taking his turn to greet the princess as his brother did. “The Dwarves around him, however, went into a tizzy if he so much as stumped is toe or drew short of breath. Myself included, I am ashamed to say.”
“I still maintain that climbing up on top of high objects and crawling about on piles of gold were highly unnecessary occurrences,” Thorin muttered, pouting though his eyes twinkled.
Balin just shook his head. “Come. You must be exhausted, and I know that your boys long to see you. They’ve been helping Bilbo and Bombur put together quite the feasts for everyone’s arrival, hence why they are not here to greet you. We’ll see that all the belongings in your carts are taken to your chambers.”
“Yes,” Thorin said, taking her arm in his and guiding her inside, “you must come and meet my Bilbo, and Frór, Marís, and Frerin. The boys are likely in our chambers as we speak.”
Dís stopped short in surprise, tears filling her eyes. “You named them after our brother and mother?”
Thorin nodded. “And our great-uncle. They have their private names as well, which I will tell you later on. Bilbo has a bit of a difficult time with proper pronunciation, but Balin has been helping him when they have the chance to do lessons. No one outside the Company or our family has heard them.”
Dís nodded as they continued through the main hall and started up the stairs. “As it should be, especially with Erebor still somewhat unstable. Have there been any Orc attacks since the battle?”
Thorin shook his head. “No, but Legolas has journeyed here a few times to alert us to increased Orc activity within Mirkwood. I do not think we will be lucky for all that much longer. Time will tell, and we maintain the perimeter and have shored ourselves up as well as could be expected in such a short time. The main gates were the first things that were replaced in Erebor after the battle.”
“Well, we have brought many warriors with us, and another two caravans should have already left Ered Luin by now. The last and largest caravan should be leaving there within the month. I daresay by winter, we will have more than enough Dwarves to fight back a considerable army.
“I think the key question is, do we have the support of the Elves if an Orc army were to descend upon Erebor?” Dís asked as they turned into one of the residential halls. “They have proven themselves untrustworthy before.”
“Yes, but it seems that Hobbits have the uncanny ability to turn Elves into piles of besotted mush,” Thorin said, chuckling. “Thranduil and his son, the Legolas I mentioned, are enamored with both Bilbo and the children. The other Elves are just as bad. Thranduil himself was quite courteous when he visited about two months ago, and as much as I dislike the weed-eater, he is a fierce protector of Bilbo and the children. While he might not care for us, with them here, I doubt he would leave them here to perish. Legolas certainly wouldn’t, regardless of what his father may think.”
“That, at the very least, is good news,” Dís said, her small smile turning beaming when she saw two familiar Dwarves running down the hall. She moved away from Thorin and held out her arms.
“Amad!” Fíli and Kíli shouted as they ran into her full force, nearly knocking her down, the only thing saving them all from a tumble was Thorin steadying his sister from behind. The two boys sobbed into their mother’s hair as they embraced her, while she herself peppered kisses to the sides of their heads.
“My boys,” she sighed softly, after holding them tightly for many long minutes, while Thorin moved off to the side and leaned up against the wall, watching them all fondly. “Let me have a good look at you.”
The two backed up and stood up straight, wiping their faces.
Dís looked them over. Like Thorin, they were alive, healthy, well-cared for, and beautiful. She nodded. “Well, your near-death experience doesn’t seem to have done you any lasting damage, with the exception of a scar here and there,” she said, stepping forward and whacking both upside the head.
As the two rubbed their heads and whined, she pointed at them. “If you two ever pull something like that again, I will not hesitate to whip the hides right off you! Leaving me a note, telling me you’re going on a quest that could very well and almost did take your lives, and not allowing me to say goodbye? You two couldn’t have hurt me more if you tried!”
At that Kíli burst into tears again and lunged at his mother. “I’m sorry, Amad,” he sobbed into her hair. “We didn’t mean to hurt you!”
“We were afraid you would not let us go with Uncle Thorin,” Fíli said, looking stricken as he embraced his mother as well, though he was better able to keep his emotions in check, but not by much. “We are sorry.”
Sighing, Dís kissed both her boys and petted their heads gently. “What’s done is done, and you are forgiven, since you managed to get out of it all relatively unscathed, after you healed. But so help me if you ever pull something like this again…”
“We won’t!” Kíli said, peppering his mother’s cheek with kisses.
“Nay, we won’t,” Fíli said, doing the same to the other cheek.
Chuckling, Dís pushed them away slightly and shook her head. “Enough. Now, I want to meet this Bilbo Baggins and my nephews and niece.”
Fíli and Kíli led the way, arm in arm, and Thorin slung his arm around Dís’ shoulders while she wrapped an arm around her brother’s waist. “I did not find out they did not tell you until Lake-town,” he murmured as the boys rushed ahead and opened the door.
“I thought as much. You would not have allowed them to get away with that behavior if you had known from the outset,” Dís said, patting Thorin’s side. “Now, show me these children and this intended of yours.”
Thorin and Dís walked inside, and she smiled at the homey feel of the main chamber. It was bright, warm, and cheerful. Many framed sketches adorned the walls, and she recognized many of the faces on display. Over the backs of the sofas were beautifully quilted blankets, both boasting a variety of colors. Several pretty woven rugs adorned the floor, and much of the furniture looked to be newly refurbished, all the wood refinished and shining and the sofas and chairs reupholstered in a soft, beautiful dark blue.
No one was in sight, but laughter could be heard from a room off to the side, and moments later, her sons and the Halfling stepped out of the room, each holding a tiny babe.
“Bilbo, I would like you to meet my sister, Dís,” Thorin said, moving them forward. “Dís, this is my intended, Bilbo Baggins.”
Bilbo bowed slightly, mindful of the wiggling child in his arms. “At your service, Lady Dís.”
Dís smiled at him. “None of that Lady business,” she said, striding up and kissing his cheek. “Welcome to the family.”
She looked down at the child in his arms, sighing softly at the little girl who looked back at her while she chewed on her tiny fist. “She’s beautiful,” Dís murmured, reaching out to stroke her cheek. “May I?”
“Of course!” Bilbo said, handing Marís over to her, smiling as Dís moved to the sofa to sit down with her niece, while the two boys sat by her side.
Dís sighed softly as she peered down at the little blonde beauty. “She has Amad’s coloring. And yours, Bilbo.”
“It’s similar to mine when I was a babe more so than now,” Bilbo said, sitting down in one of the chairs. “I darkened a bit as I grew older, according to what my mother told me.”
“When I saw her, I changed my mind immediately for her public name,” Thorin told his sister as he moved to stand behind her. “I couldn’t resist naming her after our mother, and Bilbo agreed once I told him about her.”
Dís nodded, feeling a little choked up. “She would have loved that.” Then she peered over at the babes in her sons’ arms. “These two definitely have your coloring and features. Which one is which?”
Fíli tilted the child in his arms up a little for a better view. “This is Frerin.”
Kíli did the same. “And this is Frór.”
Dís sighed happily at the sight of so many infants at one time. “Thorin, you have outdone yourself. Both you and Bilbo should be very proud. Now, which one can I steal?”
Thorin laughed and leaned over, kissing her cheek. “You can steal them whenever you wish, so long as you eventually bring them back. Bilbo and I both agreed on that.”
Bilbo nodded. “They get stolen by all our companions at one time or another. Dori just loves to dote upon them every chance he gets. I think he misses when Ori was a little tyke and he had someone to care for.”
“Perhaps now that Erebor will be settled, Dori will find a nice Dwarrowdam to settle down with and have a child of his own,” Dís said, rocking the child in her arms. “He’s a stunning looking Dwarf, and I know a few available women who are willing to marry and bear children. They were all eying him before he went on this quest. And now that he has quite a bit of gold as well as his pretty face…”
Thorin shook his head. “I will leave matchmaking to you, namadith,” he replied, patting her arm. “Now, where are the others who are eating with us? I’m starving, and I’m certain Dís is in need of food.”
The door behind him opened just then and Dori, Nori, and Ori came half-tumbling in. “Honey, we’re home!” Nori called out, making a beeline for Fíli and plucking Frerin out of his arms. “Lady Dís, it is lovely to see you again.”
“Nori,” Dís said, chuckling at the glare on Fíli’s face. “I am glad to see you’re well.”
Dori came up behind Kíli and took Frór from him. “Lady Dís, always a pleasure. How was the travel from Ered Luin?”
“Long and tiring, but well. We did not encounter any trouble, and I hope that the other caravans do as well as we did,” she replied.
“Come,” Bilbo said, standing up and motioning them toward the table. “We can start in on the food. Dwalin and Balin should be up soon, I should think.”
“They will be,” Thorin said. “They were simply leaving instructions for Dís’ belongings and our Company’s own things before heading up.”
Dís stood and walked over to the table, reluctant to give up the child in her arms. She’d always desired more children, but the difficulties of her sons’ pregnancies plus the two miscarriages had put her off trying anymore. That her brother’s intended had not had the difficulties she and most women of their race had was a relief.
“Here, let me hold her while you plate up,” Bilbo said, taking his daughter from Dís, waiting patiently as Dís served herself from many of the delightful dishes that were spread across the table.
“They said you and Bombur were cooking dinner, but he failed to mention it would be a feast such as this,” Dís said, a bit disgruntled that there was more food she wanted to try than there was room on the rather large plate.
Bilbo laughed. “Well, normally it’s not nearly as elaborate, but there is always plenty to go around.” When she was done, he handed the child back and went to sit next to Thorin, since Ori was helping Dori and Nori with their own troubles serving themselves while holding an infant.
Dís bit into the chicken first, it being one of her favorite meat, and she moaned at the burst of flavor on her tongue. The meat was cooked perfectly and the combination of honey, lemon, and spices was a delight. “This is wonderful!”
Bilbo flushed slightly at her enthusiasm. “Thank you,” he mumbled, helping himself to a chicken breast, preferring white meat himself, and placing two thighs on Thorin’s plate, since he preferred dark, and he wasn’t quite able to reach the chicken. “Thorin told me you had a love for chicken, and I thought you could use a bit of pampering after that long trip. I know all too well what it’s like to travel so far and have to rely on what rations you can take and hunting.”
“Well, my stomach and I thank you for it,” Dís said, bouncing Marís slightly and smiling as she took hold of one of her braids.
“Already started without us, I see,” Dwalin said as he and Balin came inside, closing the door behind them.
“Always,” Fíli said through a mouth full of roast beef.
“Drag your feet, and you lose out on the best spoils,” Kíli added, reaching for another chicken leg.
Dwalin rolled his eyes and sat down next to Nori, leaning over to coo at Frerin, who bopped him in the nose with his fist in his excitement. “We got everything sorted,” he told Thorin and Dís. “They’ll be taking the Company’s belongings and placing them in my and Balin’s chambers since we’re rarely there except to sleep, and we can go separate them tomorrow.”
Thorin nodded. “Are the guards and those who volunteered getting everyone where they need to go?”
“Aye,” Balin confirmed as he began filling his plate. “Everyone is being accounted for, rooms are being assigned, and people are being escorted to the dining halls for a meal before being taken up to their chambers, with word that tomorrow you will be greeting them and will have assignments for everyone once they’re settled in.”
Then he sighed. “And those of the old Councils who are still with us are already whining and demanding to see you so they can get their old positions back.”
Thorin snorted and rolled his eyes. “Most of those were my father’s counselors, and going back to the old way of doing things is not the way I wish to go with the new kingdom, especially when they were too cowardly to help reclaim Erebor in the first place. They were greedy young sods who are now greedy old sods, and I refuse to allow us to get to a point where another dragon awakens and comes down to reign terror upon our heads.”
“You are perfectly welcome to tell them that. Tomorrow,” Bilbo said, patting his hand, where it clenched around his fork. “Until then, we are going to enjoy your sister’s return, celebrate the safe journey of your people, and watch our family make fools of themselves.”
“Who’s making fools of themselves?” Kíli asked, and Bilbo pointedly looked down towards Nori, who was making faces at Frerin and looking delighted when he received a smile in return. “Oh. Well, that’s normal.”
Nori didn’t hesitate in flipping Kíli off, much to everyone’s amusement, and the next twenty minutes were devoted to the meal Bilbo and Bombur made, tossing food back and forth as it was called for, or passing bowls and platters of items that couldn’t be thrown…or shouldn’t be, if one did not want to face the wrath of their Hobbit. And during that time they made occasional idle chitchat of nothing of real consequence.
When they finally got to desserts, more meaningful conversation started up again. Dís turned to her brother. “This area is not the royal wing of Erebor. I would have expected that we would be housed there.”
Thorin nodded. “When we arrived, the hallway leading to many of the residences, including the Royal Halls, were blocked by much stone. It took a few months to remove all of it and check the areas for structural damage. Once they were deemed safe, cleaning and renovating commenced.
“Most of our companions now reside in the royal halls, as do your sons. Bilbo and I are still here because I had some of the chambers closest to the outer part of the Mountain completely redone to accommodate the large family we wish to have, and to create a large balcony for Bilbo’s gardens and his and the children’s need for sunlight. They are not completed yet, as much work has needed to be done elsewhere, including the renovations of Bombur’s suite to accommodate his large family.”
“Well, many of those who came with us who were not greedy sods from the old councils are engineers and builders, as well as miners and many guild representatives who wanted to get here early to capture a prized slot within the Guild hierarchies.” Dís grinned. “It should be fun watching the fallout and fighting that will come with the new politics.”
Thorin snorted as he sat back, having just finished gobbling down a large portion of mixed berry cobbler, and was contemplating getting another serving before it was gone. “There are some Guilds that need leaders, but several of them have already been filled by my Company members or those who came from the Iron Hills during the battle and decided to stay.”
“Yes, we have a lovely young Dwarrowdam who has taken leadership of the Clothworking Guild,” Bilbo mentioned, looking pointedly at Fíli when he blushed. “She was of great help during my pregnancy, helping me to sew the little ones’ clothing even while working on her own commissions. She and her mother also help me with the feeding of the children, as they offered themselves up as wet nurses.”
“She sounds like a remarkable young woman,” Dís said, eying her eldest son with curiosity as he flushed even more but managed to look rather proud nonetheless. “All right, what am I missing, pundurith? And don’t think I missed the courtship braid in your hair. I’ve been waiting since I saw you and your brother in the hallways for you two to tell me who it is that captured your hearts.”
Fíli flushed and fingered his braid. “I didn’t think when I redid the braids,” he murmured and then sighed. “The Dwarrowdam that Bilbo speaks of, Lara… She and I began courtship a month before Bilbo gave birth to the babes.”
“And why is she not here?” Dís asked.
“I wanted to tell you first, in case you were angry that I did not mention it in my letters, and I did not want her to witness your wrath,” Fíli said, smirking at his mother when she glared.
“Yes, and since the whole lot of us haven’t managed to send her running and screaming in the other direction, we wanted to make sure that your reaction wasn’t the straw that broke the oliphaunt’s back,” Kíli replied, squeaking when Dís flicked his ear.
“You two are something else.” Dís sighed. “I can hardly disapprove of anyone who has managed to stick with you for months and not have need of an Elven mind healer.” Then she turned to her youngest. “And who, pray tell, are you courting, zundushith? And why are they not here?”
“Bofur,” Kíli said, beaming at his mother. “And he’s currently having dinner and doting over his own nieces and nephews.”
“They’ll both be arriving in a little while,” Bilbo said, smiling at the two boys. “Along with Lara’s parents. Their chambers are in the next hall over, so it won’t take long.”
Dís nodded. “Sound like fine matches if I do say so myself. Are you doing your courting the proper way?”
“Yes, Amad,” both said at the same time, prompting Dís to roll her eyes. Then she turned her gaze to Thorin. “And you? I take it you’ve set a date for your own wedding.”
“The first day of September,” Thorin said as his desire for another helping of cobbler won and he began filling his bowl. “And no, we have not made plans, since I knew full well you would discard them and do as you please.”
Dís had to smile at that. “You know me so well, brother.” She looked at Bilbo. “And you are fine with that?”
“All I ask for is that flowers be present in the decorations. Like I told the others, as long as I don’t get bruised, beaten, or knocked unconscious by head butts, I’ll go along with anything,” Bilbo said. “Saves me from trying to have to do that, juggle the food-trade agreements and keeping track of our food stores, deal with the Elves, and raise three children at the same time. I don’t have time really to coordinate a royal wedding.
“And I wouldn’t know the first thing about a Dwarvish wedding at any rate, since all the books on that are in Khuzdul, and I’ve only managed to find time for a few lessons as it is. My pronunciation is atrocious, as I’m sure Balin and Thorin can tell you.”
“You’ll get better, once you have time to practice,” Balin told him, smiling at him reassuringly. “Which we will be doing soon, because the wedding vows will be in Khuzdul, and you will have to say them.”
“Terrific,” Bilbo sighed. “Make up a schedule that’s good for you, Balin, and I’ll work around it, and see if I can’t set up a schedule for the children to be with others so we can concentrate. It never goes well when we have our lessons and the children are there.”
Balin laughed. “No, it truly doesn’t.” He looked at Dís. “We spend entirely too much time playing with the little ones to get anything accomplished.”
Dís laughed at that. “Be sure to put me on that schedule,” she said, holding Marís higher and kissing her soft little cheek. “All right, one of you switch with me. I would like to bond with my nephews as well,” she said, looking between Dori and Nori.
“Here, I’ll take the little one,” Nori said, coming around the table and placing Frerin into Dís’ free arm and taking Marís. “Hello, Muhudel. Were you a good girl for Lara and Dala today?”
Dís bit back a chuckle as Nori walked away. He was as bad as she remembered a young Dori being with her sons. It really was adorable. Then she looked down at Frerin and smiled. “Hello, sweetheart. You look just like your daddy.”
Frerin smiled up at her and flailed his little arms, attempting to lift his head up.
Bilbo laughed. “You can hold him up to your chest. They’re all lifting their heads now and looking about, and they’re also trying to push themselves up a bit when they’re on their little tummies. They’re right on track according to Hobbit standards.”
“They are doing well, indeed,” Dori replied with a nod. “Going to be right strong little ones. Usually it takes Dwarf-babes longer to do what they are already doing. Ori didn’t smile or focus nearly so well until midway through his fourth month, and he couldn’t hold his head up as well as they can until the end of his fourth month. ‘Twas about standard for a Dwarfling, I was told.”
“It is. It was the same with both Fíli and Kíli,” Dís said, moving her hair behind her shoulders and smiling at Fíli when he got up and tied it back with a tie from his pocket. Then she lifted Frerin to her chest and looked down at him as he pushed himself back slightly and looked up at her, his little head wobbling a bit from the effort. “Hello there. I’m your Auntie Dís.”
“His name is Ghivashel, as he was our first to come into this world,” Thorin said as he watched her with a warm, happy expression on his face. “As Nori spoke earlier, Marís’ true name is Muhudel. And Frór’s is our little Gimlilukhud. No one outside of our Company and family have heard their names, save Lara and her family.”
“As they’re helping me to feed the little ones, and Fíli is all but wed to Lara, I think it was rather appropriate,” Bilbo added, taking Thorin’s hand and lifting it to his lips.
“Ghivashel,” she murmured, smiling down at him as he tucked his head against her body and let loose a cooing sigh. “An appropriate name if I’ve ever heard one. You named them well, Ughvashâ. Amad and Adad would be proud.”
Thorin smiled softly. “I think so.” He pushed back is now-empty bowl and sighed, patting his stomach. Then he lifted Bilbo’s hand and returned the kiss. “You and Bombur have outdone yourselves, âzyungel. You’re spoiling us.”
“I enjoy spoiling all of you,” Bilbo said, sighing happily. Then he frowned at the leftovers and the dishes. “Now the real fun begins.”
Dori snorted and slid his chair back. “You let Ori, Nori, and I worry about that, Bilbo,” he said, walking over and depositing Frór into his arms, while Balin made the universal “gimme” sign to Nori, who deposited Marís onto his lap. “You’ve done more than enough today, and it’s the least we can do.”
“I’ll help,” Dwalin offered, getting up and beginning to clear the table along with the others.
The rest of them got up and headed to the seating area in front of the fireplace and Bilbo motioned for Thorin to spread out the quilts onto the floor. Then he deposited Frór onto it, letting him practice pushing himself up a bit while he lay down next to his son, on his stomach.
Dís smiled at Bilbo. “Do you always get on the floor with them like that?”
“When he’s alone, I do. He doesn’t like it unless he can see someone else. When the other children are down here, he’s fine, until he gets tired of doing it.”
“Then he gets very loud,” Kíli said, flopping down onto the floor next to Bilbo and brushing his finger against Frór’s slightly pointed ear.
“No louder than you were at that age,” Thorin said, poking Kíli’s bottom with his boot. “He’s just a little more emphatic about what he doesn’t like than you were.”
Dís sighed. “Yes, Kíli was rather undemanding and sweet when he was that age. And then he hit his eighth month, and it all went downhill from there.” She smiled at her youngest when he glared at her.
Kíli huffed and kissed the top of Frór’s head. “Pay them no mind, Gimlilukhud, and don’t you listen to a word they say about me. I’ll teach you everything I know, and you’ll be the best little prince ever.”
“Mahal save us all,” Thorin groaned, slumping in his chair, chuckling when Kíli’s boot connected with his thigh.
Fíli snickered and walked over to Kíli, kicking him lightly on the calf. “We should go and see if Lara and Bofur are ready. Frerin looks like he’s ready to wind up for his next feeding, and you know when one is ready, the other two aren’t far behind.”
Nodding, Kíli took the hand up his brother offered and then punched Fíli in the arm as soon as he steadied himself on his feet, before shoving Fíli toward the door.
The two left bickering, much to the amusement of their mother, who watched them with fondness as they shut the door behind them. “I am glad they did not change as much as I feared.”
Thorin chuckled and shook his head. “They are much the same as they ever were. A bit less naïve about the world and what’s in it, and a little more mature when in the company of others that are not our family and close friends, but they are still themselves.”
“And the line of succession?” Dís asked as she lifted Frerin and rubbed her nose against his.
“Fíli was more than happy to relinquish any claim on the throne to Ghivashel. You know as well as I do that though he was willing enough to do it, he never truly wanted the throne. He has promised to act in Ghivashel’s stead until he is old enough and prepared to take the position for himself.”
“He’s also agreed to continue his studies, in case something should happen to Thorin, so he could guide Frerin through his own studies, and Fíli would take the throne until he’s ready,” Bilbo said, running his hand lightly over Frór’s back. “And he and Kíli have both promised to help guide all our little ones in growing into their positions as princes and princesses of Erebor.”
“To which again I say, Mahal help us all,” Thorin said, grinning when Bilbo glared at him.
“Quit picking on them. They’re both barely adults as it is, and they’re doing quite well for two who did not grow up in the same environment your majestic, royal self grew up in. Now behave, before I come over there and flick that big nose of yours.”
Laughing, Thorin held up his hands in surrender, and then he turned to Balin. “In the morning, send word out to everyone who arrived to be in the dining halls at midday. I will address the newcomers from there. Also, we need to make a list of those who are capable of working in Dale, and make up the rotation and assign wages to each of them according to the job.”
“Aye, I will begin those in the morning,” Balin said as he passed Marís to Dwalin, who had finished in the kitchen and was now poking him in the side for his turn. “You, however, will have to deal with the whiners.”
Thorin rolled his eyes. “Can’t we just shove them off the side of one of the broken passages and be done with it?”
Dwalin chuckled as he tickled at Marís’ belly, making her smile. “I think your subjects would frown upon that. None of them would want to do the cleanup.”
“You’re probably right. Would make me feel better, however.” Then he leaned down and picked up Frór as he began fussing and nuzzled at his son’s thick curls, inhaling his sweet scent. “I make no promises, however, if they make one remark concerning the lineage of my children.”
“In that case, I would say they’d be over the broken railings before you could get near them,” Dwalin replied, his expression growing dark. “There is no one that has been here since the battle who would tolerate it, much less any of our Company.”
Bilbo shook his head as he stood up and folded up the quilts. “Bloodthirsty Dwarves, the lot of you. Take off their heads, gut them, throw them to their deaths. You just don’t know how to do punishment properly.”
“Oh, and what’s proper Hobbit punishment?” Thorin asked, raising his eyebrows, not entirely certain he wanted to know.
Bilbo grinned wickedly. “There are many ways to make a person miserable without ever drawing blood.”
Dwalin looked at him warily. “That sounds ominous. At least you can see violence coming.”
Laughing, Bilbo draped the quilts over the top of one of the empty chairs. “Don’t get on my bad side, and you’ll never have to find out,” he said, patting Dwalin on the shoulder before heading toward the kitchen.
“At any rate, my children are the children of the King of Erebor, and they have as much blood of the line of Durin as they would if I had married some Dwarrowdam. They will also ensure that our line will continue on, as it is quite possible at least a few of them will have Bilbo’s ability and ease of having children,” Thorin said. “If they do not like it, they do not have to stay here. They’re more than welcome to go to the Iron Hills or back to Ered Luin.”
Dís nodded and smiled. “As you will.”
Thorin snorted. “I know you, sister. You are thinking of all the pleasure you’ll have knocking heads together when someone says or does something foolish.”
“I take my entertainment where I can find it,” Dís said, laughing when Nori unceremoniously shoved Bilbo out of the kitchen.
Bilbo huffed and shook his head. “Stubborn Dwarves.”
“Stubborn Hobbits, you mean,” Balin corrected, shaking his head. “You know they’ll simply shoo you out, and yet, every time this happens, you inevitably try to worm your way in at least three times.”
Bilbo rolled his eyes and slid into Thorin’s lap when he beckoned him over. Then he huffed. “I wasn’t trying to help. I was simply seeing how much longer they would be, so they could join us.”
There was a round of placating and sarcastic “Mmm-hmms” and he rolled his eyes and took his son from Thorin’s other arm. “They are all mean, sweetling. Don’t you grow up to be mean to your papa like they are.”
Frór cooed at him and smacked him in the nose.
Thorin chuckled. “Already such a little Dwarfling.”
Bilbo snorted. “Don’t I know it. Seriously, there is no one that can doubt their parentage after looking at them and spending five minutes with them awake. They’re just like you.”
Kissing the tip of Bilbo’s pointy ear, he murmured against it, “They’re much like you as well. They’ve got your cute little ears, and Marís as of late has begun giving me that expression of yours, the one you give me when you can’t believe I’ve done something incredibly stupid or incorrigible, and they have that thick hair on their feet that you have, and they definitely share your love of sunlight.”
Balin turned to Dís, who was rocking a fussy and snuffling Frerin. “Daily treks outside for picnic lunches have become quite normal for us, and in the last week, others have begun taking their lunches outside as well.”
Dwalin chuckled. “Yesterday some of my toughest warriors came out, picnic basket and quilted blanket in hand, and settled down right next to us, and then they stole the children from us and proceeded to make themselves look ridiculous.”
“As someone who makes himself look ridiculous on a daily basis when around the children, you’re one to talk,” Thorin commented, grinning when one of his dearest friends casually sent him a vulgar hand gesture.
At that moment, Frerin released a loud wail. “Oh, I think someone is hungry,” Dís said, maneuvering so she could check Frerin’s nappy. “And wet.”
Bilbo nodded and slid off Thorin’s lap. “Come, they’ll all need checking and changing into their nightclothes.”
Dwalin gamely handed over Marís to Dís and she followed Bilbo to the bedroom. At a glance, she discovered the large cradle next to the bed on the side closest to the fireplace.
“I think they should have made the cradle a little larger,” she said dryly. It could fit a full-grown Dwarf inside.
Bilbo chuckled. “We had a much smaller one, but when we had three instead of the one…well, we had one commissioned that could fit all three into it, so that they would not sleep alone, and that’s what we were presented with.”
“You do not sleep with the children, then,” she said, though her tone held no censure. While she was able to do so with hers, three were a bit much, and they were now in a much safer place than she and her husband had been when Fíli and Kíli were born. Here in Erebor, there was not that fear of someone or something harming them.
“Nay, mostly because Thorin is terrified he’ll accidentally suffocate them,” Bilbo said as he brought out their nappies and nightclothes. “Unlike while we were traveling, he’s a very sound sleeper here. And he tends to sprawl a bit, so I thought it best to have it this way, especially after the one night we did try it. He spent the entire night awake, and he was very cranky the next day.”
“I can well imagine. He was a right terror when we were younger and he did not get enough sleep. He mellowed with age, but I never want to deal with him when he hasn’t gotten enough sleep.” She took the clothing Bilbo offered her and got to work on changing a now very angry Frerin.
“Yes, well, it helps to explain why His Royal Pain-in-the-Arse was so much more grumpy during our travels,” Bilbo replied lightly as he began to strip Frór down efficiently.
“These are lovely clothes,” Dís said as she put aside the little tunic Frerin had been wearing.
“Aye, they are. Thorin had them commissioned from Lara, for your return. He wanted them to look their very best, and she is very good at her chosen craft.”
“And she’s head of the Clothworking Guild, you say?” Dís asked, wanting to know a bit about the woman who had her eldest all atwitter.
“Yes. She and her parents came with the army from the Iron Hills to help aid with any healing that needed to be done, and they stayed on when her father, Marin, was given the position of Treasurer, and Dala, Lara’s mother, was also given a position in the treasury. Lara took one in the treasury as well, because there was no Guild for her craft yet, and she wanted to stay with her parents.
“I met Lara when Marin sent her with me to do some shopping at the marketplace that sprung up outside the doors, and that’s where I discovered her craft. I told Thorin, who made her the Head of the Clothworking Guild, mostly I think to please me because I liked her, but she’s proven to be a Master of her craft, and she has had many commissions. I daresay she will be glad when she has more Guild members so she can ease up a bit on the work.”
“And how did she and my son come together?” Dís asked.
Bilbo eyed her shrewdly, knowing exactly what she was doing, but he humored her. “Though she had her Guild, the Crafting Halls were inaccessible due to damage to the entrances, so she would come and do her work in my chambers, keeping me company and aiding me with my own sewing when I needed a bit of help. Our little family took turns keeping me company, but when Fíli began taking a shine to her, he volunteered more than most, much to everyone’s amusement, because he was fooling no one.”
Bilbo chuckled. “I daresay I was happy when he was my companion for the day, because he paid so much attention to Lara that I was able to get up and move about and do things that most of the others would shoo me away from. I was the most well-rested, toasty and stuffed pregnant Hobbit you will have ever met, I swear.”
He finished with Frór and moved on to Marís. “She spends much time here still, though the Crafting Halls are now opened again, helping me with the feedings and just to have company while she works.”
A commotion at the door interrupted their conversation as Fíli and Kíli tried to come through at once, and Dís and Bilbo shared a commiserating look. “One at a time. I know the both of you are brighter than this.” Dís huffed, eying them with an exasperated expression on her face.
“I don’t know… Four ponies got stolen by a Mountain Troll right from under their noses, and they didn’t notice until they took a count of them,” Bilbo said.
Dís shook her head. “I don’t want to know. Truly.”
Fíli and Kíli both ignored them, coming over to look at the children. “What are you two doing? Sticking pins in them?” Fíli asked as he reached over and picked up Marís, who had added her cries to her brother’s.
“No, they are simply hungry,” Bilbo replied calmly as he finished with Frór, who was about to wind himself up into a wail. “Are Dala and Lara here?”
“They’re in the living room. Which one is yours this time around?” Kíli asked as he looked over Bilbo’s shoulder.
“Frerin, so if you would be so kind as to take these two to the others,” he said, handing Frór off to Kíli, and then taking Frerin from Dís’ arms. “It’s all right, sweetness. Papa’s gonna feed you.”
He wandered back out into the living room, where Fíli and Kíli were handing off the other two to the women, and Bilbo sat in Thorin’s lap once again and began unfastening his shirt. Using wet nurses had the benefit of not taking the chance of the babies becoming ill from bad milk or bottles that did not get quite clean enough, but Thorin missed feeding his children, and so when he was around, Bilbo often sat in his lap while he nursed their child. He also made Thorin get up for the one feeding in the middle of the night that they still used bottles for, so Lara and Dala wouldn’t have to traipse the halls in their nightgowns.
“Come on, love…there you go,” he murmured, smiling when Frerin stopped crying and latched onto him. The sounds of the other two quieted as they latched on to their respective wet nurses.
“I would introduce you to Lara, but I think it would be a bit awkward at the moment,” Fíli said, giving his mother a cheeky grin from his position on the sofa arm, next to Lara.
Dís rolled her eyes. “Nonsense. Lara, it is a pleasure to meet you, though my son has hardly taken the time to tell me about you.” She leveled a glare at Fíli, who grinned unrepentantly. “I commend you on taking up the challenge that is my son.”
Fíli frowned. “I think I should be offended by that.”
“Ah, then you aren’t as dull as I thought. Good,” Dís replied, smirking when her son pouted. “And I also commend you on helping with my brother’s children.”
“Thank you, and I am quite honored to meet you as well.” Lara glanced over at Bilbo. “I would have begun helping your brother sooner, had they asked me for their aid. It has been not yet a fortnight since I discovered that Bilbo would have preferred wet nurses to bottles.”
Sighing, Bilbo glared at her. “We’ve been through all that, and I apologized for foolishly believing you were too busy to be bothered.”
Lara gave him a sweet smile that he didn’t buy for a second and then she turned to her parents. “This is my mother, Dala, and my father, Marin.”
Marin got up, since Dala had her hands full, and bowed. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Your Highness.”
“And you, Marin and Dala. “You have raised a beautiful daughter.”
“Thank you,” Dala replied, blushing slightly under the intense gaze of the princess. “We were surprised but pleased when Fíli asked for permission to commence the courtship between them.”
“My son has chosen well, I believe.” Then she turned to Bofur. “So, I hear you captured my youngest’s heart, Bofur.”
Bofur smiled and bowed at her. “As much as he captured mine, Your Highness. It was quite unexpected, but a very much welcome development.”
“Well, it’s good to know my son will have someone to live life with that has some common sense,” Dís said, ignoring Kíli’s indignant squawk. “And please, you’re family all but for the ceremony. Stop with the ‘Your Highness’ nonsense and call me by my name.” She looked over at Lara and her parents. “And that goes for you three, as well.”
“I do try my best. And if that is what you wish, Dís, then I will do so gladly,” Bofur said as he wrapped an arm around Kíli’s waist and kissed his temple.
Nori, Dori, and Ori came out of the kitchen, hands full with tea trays. They maneuvered through everyone, careful not to drop anything, and set them on the center table. “Thought everyone might like a spot of tea to help settle down,” Dori said as he began pouring himself a cup.
“Oh, I see the little ones are feeding,” Nori said, leaning over a bit to peer at Frerin, smiling softly.
Bilbo chuckled as he glanced towards Ori. Sure enough, the young man was beet red and pointedly not looking at the two women.
While everyone else had become used to having the women nursing around them, Ori was one of the youngest, and he’d never seen a mother nurse before, much less women he did not know well. The older members of their Company had witnessed it many a time, as Dwarf women were not shy, and the exile made even the smallest amount of prudishness impractical. So they weren’t bothered by it.
Fíli and Kíli, while they had not seen mothers nurse before, were not bothered by it at all. In the first few days after the children’s births, they had questioned Bilbo exhaustively while watched with fascination as he fed his children.
Ori, though he was used to being around Bilbo while he nursed, was still not used to seeing Lara and Dala, though the fact that he had not yet made his excuses and fled the room (even if he looked like he wanted to desperately) meant he was making progress. And if Dís had her way with Dori’s love life, he may have to get used to it sooner rather than later.
Bilbo, taking pity on the boy, said, “Ori, why don’t you go up to your rooms and fetch some parchment and writing implements? Since we’re all here, we might as well get a head start with making lists of what we need to accomplish this week, now that the first caravans are here.”
“We have par–” Thorin started but stopped suddenly and grunted as Bilbo’s elbow lodged into his side. “Excellent idea.”
Giving Bilbo a grateful smile, Ori nodded and headed out of the room.
“Ouch,” Thorin said, hissing as he rubbed his side.
“You know how he is about seeing them nurse. He’s a very shy and sweet young man, and I’m not going to make him stay if it makes him uncomfortable,” Bilbo said, glaring at him, though he kissed his cheek directly after. “He will eventually become used to it, but it’s only been a little under two weeks since they started helping me, and he needs more time than you lot.”
Thorin held his hands up in a placating gesture. “I did not say a word.”
“See that you don’t.”
Dís laughed as she took a seat next to Balin. “My, my, brother, you did choose very well. I like him very much. He’s good for you and will keep you in line and on your toes, I’d wager.”
Thorin snorted at that. “You have no idea.”
“It’s a good thing you did not allow your father’s old council to talk you into marrying that mouse they were pushing upon you several years ago,” Dís said with a sniff. “I don’t think I could have found it within myself to even be civil to the creature.”
Thorin glared at her. “Sister, that is unkind.”
“What else would you have me describe her as? She was very un-Dwarf-like, for all she looked like one of us. She would have cracked under the strength of your personality within months after your marriage with her lack of a spine, and where would you be now?” she asked, glaring right back.
“She fled in fear every time your nephews came near, and she did nothing but cower and simper when I asked her the most rudimentary of questions. Where in the world did they find her, I would like to know?”
“She was the daughter of one of them, I believe,” Kíli piped up. “At least, that’s what I heard when I asked around.”
“Aye, I heard the same thing,” Fíli said as he tugged on one of his braids. “She’s a most excellent sculptor, from what I saw of her work, but I also heard that she was very shy, and her father was a most strict and sometimes violent man. I never did figure out which of them was her father.”
Thorin rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Draupnir is her father.”
“And the one who is most vocal about you reinstating them onto the council,” Balin said.
Thorin looked at Fíli. “Do you think he abused his daughter?”
“I cannot say so with any certainty. I can only tell you the rumors I heard, but after you turned her down, I do know she was not seen for a week, and when she did come back to work, a friend of mine who worked with her said she had several bruises and cuts that were difficult for her to hide,” Fíli told him.
“When he confronted her about them, she said that she took a tumble down a rocky hill, and would say nothing against her father, and he could not prove otherwise. He said she nearly fainted from hysteria when he merely mentioned he might go to you with his suspicions, which is why we did not tell you. If we could not prove it, your probing may have ended up making things worse at the time, if indeed she was not telling the truth.”
Thorin nodded and turned to Nori. “You and I will come up with a plan. I will not have someone like that within our halls, and I will not allow one of my subjects to continue to be abused so, if that is the case. I need to know for certain.”
Nori nodded. “Those whom I worked with in Ered Luin should have come with the first caravan. I will speak with them about the positions we discussed.”
“In light of that knowledge, perhaps I was too unkind,” Dís admitted, “but I stand by my position that you would have broken her with your personality in no time at all. If this is indeed the case, if she chose to marry at all, it would need to be to someone kind and gentle, who would pose no threat at all.”
Bilbo shifted Frerin to his other side and sighed. “It happens rarely in the Shire, but it has happened, that we had someone who would hit their wives and children. When we find them, we banish them from our lands, and they know if they return, they will be imprisoned for life in the building we created for just such purposes. So far, we’ve never had to use it, though we have banished once in my lifetime.”
“We banish them as well, but first we mark them in such a way that all Dwarves will know of their crime and danger to their own society,” Thorin said. “Long ago we realized that those who behave in such a manner do not reform their ways, and if given a chance, will go to another kingdom and build another family, and repeat their offense.”
“How do you mark them?” Bilbo asked.
“Their forehead and hands are branded with a small but obvious mark after they are sedated. Then they are thrown from the realm with a week’s supply of food, a few of their belongings, and some medication so their wounds will not become infected.”
“It is more than they deserve, for what amounts to years of terror, fear, and pain their families have to go through,” Balin said, his eyes dark with temper.
“Look on the bright side,” Dwalin said. “Some of them are foolish enough to try and sneak in to retrieve their families and force them to come with them, and then we get to beat them senseless and they get the choice of imprisonment for life down in the dungeons of Erebor, or a merciful, quick death.”
“Come, let us speak of more pleasant topics,” Bilbo said, nudging Thorin lightly. “You can plot the rightful destruction of an evil fool tomorrow all you wish. We are supposed to be celebrating your sister’s return.”
“You are right, âzyungel,” Thorin said, kissing the back of his head. “Let us find a more pleasant thread of conversation.”
Dís’ eyes lit up and she leaned forward, her piercing gaze focusing in on Lara. “So tell me, young lady, is my son treating you properly? He isn’t making inappropriate advances I should know about, is he? He hasn’t been trying to get up your skirt?”
“Amad!” Fíli shrieked, flailing about in surprise and falling off the sofa with two loud thumps and a low groan of pain.
Dís grinned and shifted her attention to Bofur, but before she could say a word, Kíli shouted, “I’ve been a perfect gentleman! No inappropriateness going on here!”
Fíli groaned again as he got up, rubbing the back of his head with one hand and his backside with the other. “Why don’t you yell at Uncle? His courtship was highly inappropriate if you want to get technical about Dwarvish customs.”
“Because he is not my son, and he is my elder and my king. He can do as he bloody well pleases. In addition, he is betrothed to someone who is not of our culture, so allowances can be made,” Dís replied, and she pointed at her sons. “You two, however, had better have proper Dwarvish courtships, or you will feel my wrath. Am I understood?”
“Yes, Amad,” the two said in unison, and she sat back, satisfied, as Bilbo grinned and Lara leaned her face into her mother’s arm, her shoulders shaking hard from laughter.
Oh, yes, Bilbo thought, Lara and Dís would get along just fine.
Life in Erebor had certainly become much more interesting, and Bilbo hadn’t thought that was possible.