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Nine Lives, Four Paws, Two Ears, One Bilbo - Or: It Started With A Cup Of Tea

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“It'll be very good for you, and most amusing for me."

Those were the words that heralded Bilbo Baggins’ transformation into a cat. If he had known that his mother’s old friend was an actual Wizard (as opposed to thinking that his mother had always called him a wizard because he always seemed to show up and get things done just when he was really needed) it was possible that Bilbo would have rephrased a few things he’d said shortly before being turned into a cat.

When Gandalf had said that Bilbo needed to stop secluding himself from the rest of the world, and accused him of treating himself like a pampered house cat, perhaps Bilbo shouldn’t have said that he saw no problem with such an existence.

He also probably shouldn’t have told Gandalf that someone who had worn the same hat for at least the last thirty odd years (a hat which clearly had seen better days) should not throw stones at someone who appreciated the comfort and familiarity of a routine.

But Bilbo hadn't known. And now it was much to late to ask to rephrase certain things.

Somewhat in shock (and who could blame him) Bilbo looked up at Gandalf; whose head seemed to be a considerable longer distance away from the floor than usual, and meowed.

The meow shocked him almost as much as the feeling of shrinking and changing had.

“Yes, this will do quite nicely,” Gandalf murmured. “Don’t worry, Bilbo my lad, it’s only temporary. And I’ll inform someone to come and collect you, and make all the necessary arrangements, don’t worry about that either. I’ll see you in a month’s time, and then we might discuss if you’d like to stay like this or if you have perhaps grown to see my point.”

Bilbo meowed again and tried to walk after Gandalf as he moved towards the door, but having four legs instead of two posed somewhat of a challenge, not to mention that having a tail was awfully confusing, and before Bilbo had sorted himself out Gandalf had collected his hat (and the grey old thing really had seen better days) and was closing the door behind himself.

Disgruntled Bilbo plopped his furry little behind down on the carpet and glared up at the door knob.

He’d not even thanked-

The door opened

“Oh, and thank you for the tea.”

The door closed again, well before Bilbo had had a chance to follow.

Well, bugger.

-

It was several hours before anyone showed up, which meant that there was plenty of time for Bilbo to think about what exactly had just happened. But not quite enough time for him to think of a way to undo it.

When the door finally opened he was at least sensible enough to not rush out and immediately get hit by a car. (Not that the car part had ever been part of a plan, but the rushing out bit might have been….)

Yes, he’d thought about escaping (escaping from his own house, what a marvellous situation to find oneself in…) and go about tracking down Gandalf, but Bilbo really didn’t rate his chance of success very high. No one ever found Gandalf unless he wanted to be found, Belladonna used to say, and now with the knowledge that Gandalf apparently could do magic Bilbo was very much inclined to believe his mother.

Also, he really didn’t want to end up like a stray on the streets. He’d probably not last even a week seeing how he really seemed to be a rather small cat. Not a kitten, but you’d be able to fit about three of him on a regular sized kitchen chair. One of the wild dogs would probably eat him whole and that would be that.

No. He would save running away as a plan just in case the person Gandalf would send turned out to be a horrible and cruel one. But surely he or she wouldn’t be, because the point of this had been for him to be a pampered house cat, yes?

Bilbo curled up into a somewhat anxious ball when he heard someone put a key into the front door (and where had Gandalf gotten the key from anyway? Was he a pickpocket on top of being a Wizard?) and observed the person entering with a fair bit of suspicion in his hazel eyes.

The person was a tall dark-haired man, with an equally dark beard, wearing a very grumpy expression and Bilbo shrank back against the wall. The slight movement was enough to draw the man’s attention, but Bilbo’s nerves were slightly settled when the man’s face softened and he crouched down to make himself appear smaller (didn’t really work though, he still seemed massive compared to Bilbo).

“Looks more like a kitten to me,” he murmured, and Bilbo’s tail bristled. He wasn’t a kitten, thank you very much. He wasn’t even a cat. He opened his mouth to tell the rude stranger exactly that, but what came out was of course only more meows, if very disgruntled sounding ones.

“Come here, Bilbo,” the man called, stretching out one hand with the palm up. Bilbo sniffed and stayed right where he was. He wasn’t a dog either. Although…

The man-turned-cat quickly reconsidered, well, not the dog part. But if he needed someone to take care of him until this wore off, because it had to wear off, then perhaps it would be better not to get on that someone’s bad side. And this person did have nice eyes, kind ones, even if he had seemed rather grumpy at first.

And there was also one other reason as to why Bilbo didn’t want the man to leave him. If he left it was quite possible that no one else would stop by to notice that there was now a cat living by himself in a house where there had so far only been a man living.

It was possible that it would take more than a month for someone to notice that Bilbo was missing.

And it was that realisation that led Bilbo to trot up to the man’s hand, and which also alerted him to how Gandalf might have had a point about not secluding himself so much from the rest of the world. But surely he could have made this point without turning him into a cat. If Bilbo had already figured it out, then surely a bit more tea and conversation would have helped more than getting fur would?

“Very careless of your owner to just leave you like this,” the man muttered as he scooped Bilbo up with big, warm hands. Being scooped was a new experience and Bilbo was not surprised that his stomach fluttered somewhat when he was settled against a firm chest, one big hand still supporting him.

Without meaning to his claws had made an appearance, and Bilbo winced and quickly tried to pull them away from the man’s shirt. It was a spectacular failure and all he succeeded with was to pull at the shirt and make it flap in a fairly deranged manner.

“Kitten,” the man muttered darkly, but big fingers gently helped Bilbo get his claws out of the shirt so he could retract them, and Bilbo decided to overlook the kitten comment for now.

The man-turned-cat looked up into pale blue eyes and tried to communicate how he wasn’t actually a cat and how Gandalf was a big, grey trickster and how this was completely insane.

When two fingers scritched behind his ears Bilbo sighed and accepted that turning into a cat had apparently not given him telepathic abilities. And then he startled himself quite badly by beginning to purr.

-

Getting stuffed into a cat carrier and loaded into a car was a horrible and deeply upsetting experience and Bilbo tucked himself into a corner of the carrier and tried to put his paws into his ears. The car was just so loud. Not just the engine, but also the sound from the tires against the ground and the wind outside and the radio and everything.

When the noise finally stopped all Bilbo could do was to let out a truly pitiful meow and hope that someone would kill him before he had to do that again. Then the carrier was lifted and Bilbo curled himself up even tighter because as it was being carried it swayed a little and he could feel himself beginning to get sea sick.

By some miracle he managed not to throw up, and soon enough the carrier was set back down on solid, blessedly solid and quiet, ground again. Bilbo meowed, just to prove to himself that he was alive as much as anything else.

“Thorin what have you done to the poor thing?” came a female voice.

“I’ve not done anything,” the man who had collected him; Thorin said defensively. “I think he’s not used to travelling.”

The latch on the cage was undone and the flap was opened, Bilbo tried to move even further into the corner because he really didn’t want anyone touching him at the moment or there might still be an accident.

A pair of pale blue eyes, though not the same as before, peered in at him and then widened in surprise.

“He’s just a kitten! Of course he’s not used to-“

“Gandalf said he was fully grown.” Bilbo did not appreciate the sceptical tone of voice that was said in. “I- ow.”

“Serves you right,” the woman said and there was a second dull slap of someone’s palm smacking the back of someone’s head. “He seems terrified.”

Well, it wasn’t everyday someone turned you into a cat. Never mind the other stuff.

“He didn’t like the car. But what was I supposed to do? His owner lived across the bloody town.”

The woman ignored him. “Poor darling, first you’re left alone, and then this brute comes and snatches you up and into the monstrosity he calls a car-“

“There’s nothing wrong with my car.”

“But don’t worry, you’ll like it here. And we’ll leave you alone until you feel like coming out. Thorin, go and open a can of tuna. He’s probably hungry as well. I’ll get one of the toys Gandalf left.”

Toys? Oh dear lord. Bilbo put both his front paws over his tiny, furry face.

-

True to her word, the woman and Thorin left him alone after placing something porcelain sounding and very delicious smelling outside next to the carrier, and after considering his circumstances for a while Bilbo did decide to go out. He couldn’t very well spend a month in a cat carrier now, could he.

Leaving the carrier meant finding that he was actually in a hallway, albeit a very, very big one. Or was this just a case of being smaller again? Bilbo wasn’t entirely sure. But there seemed to be an inordinate amount of boots and coats and things everywhere. And it smelled big, somehow.

He wasn’t really hungry since his stomach still seemed to think that the floor might at any second start rolling again, but he sniffed at the tuna that had been left for him and noted that it seemed to smell a lot nicer than it usually did. Realising that he was thirsty he did drink some of the water left for him, or, tried to anyway.

Putting his mouth into the bowl earned him nothing but water up his nose, and the tongue thing was a lot trickier than cats had made it seem.

After having, more or less, sated his thirst, Bilbo didn’t really know what to do. All the doors he could see were closed, and, oh no.

Heart sinking Bilbo walked up to the litter box. He’d forgotten about this part of being a cat. Was it possible to ignore certain bodily functions for a month? Bilbo was inclined to vote yes on general principle.

Gandalf was so going to get a taste of Bilbo’s claws if he would happen upon him before the month was up.

It occurred to Bilbo that he was perhaps taking being turned into a cat a little too calmly. But he wasn’t really sure what the appropriate reaction should be. It wasn’t like anything like this had happened to him before. And he did consider himself to be a sensible person. (Here Bilbo ignored how he’d spent almost twenty minutes of the time before Thorin had shown up beneath the couch, hyperventilating.)

He just had to make the best of the situation, and hope that Gandalf hadn’t been lying about the one month thing.

-

When one of the doors opened again Bilbo had curled himself up on top of the carrier, tail tucked neatly around his paws.

It was fairly interesting to have a tail if Bilbo was honest about it. He almost liked it. It was rather like having someone around even when he was alone. Someone who liked to cuddle.

“Hey, baby,” the woman from before said warmly, opening the door completely when she saw that he’d left the carrier. A scoff came from behind her.

“Gandalf said that his name was Bilbo.”

Bilbo felt his ears twitch at the sound of his name in that smooth, dark voice. It was a rather nice voice. That was all. Bilbo felt inclined to blame his new ears. While they were not a new experience in the same way tail was, they might as well have been considering how different they were from what he was used to. He could hear everything.

At least it was nice to know that all new audible experiences wouldn’t be horrible, like the car had been.

“And your name is Thorin, and not ‘giant arse’, but see if I care.”

They both stopped a respectable distance away from Bilbo and the woman crouched down. “Wanna come and say hi, pretty baby?"

On general principle Bilbo promised to never talk like that to another animal, ever.

“Dís,” the man protested, obviously agreeing with Bilbo.

“Shush, you scared him, you don’t get to have an opinion.”

I didn’t scare him, the car scared him.”

So these two had to either be married or they were brother and sister. Considering how they both had dark hair, pale blue eyes and were both tall and broad-shouldered the latter seemed more likely. Well, that or they were more than a bit narcissistic.

When the woman pulled out a toy mouse and dangled it playfully in front of her Bilbo couldn’t help but to look at the man, Thorin, in a pleading manner. Was she really serious?

“Mworw,” Bilbo said, trying to convey something like ‘thanks but no thanks’.

“There is ham in the kitchen,” Thorin said drily. “If you’d care to join us.”

Ham? Bilbo’s ears twitched again. He still wasn’t hungry, but he did want to get out of the hallway, and away from that creepy looking mouse. And it couldn’t hurt to check out the ham. For future reference.

He got to his feet, all four of them, and managed to jump down from the carrier without making a fool of himself. (Bilbo had already learnt that the bit about a cat always landing on their feet was a damned lie.)

As he trotted up to Thorin he could feel his tail perking up more and more until it was a happy exclamation mark.

“Meow?” Bilbo asked, meaning, ‘okay, now what?’ But which Thorin apparently interpreted as ‘please carry me’ going by how Bilbo suddenly found himself in a much elevated position.

“He’s not scared,” Thorin said smugly to Dís, who huffed and reached out a hand for Bilbo to smell.

At least that’s what he imagined that he was supposed to do since she didn’t try and touch him, but her hand hovered just by his head. Without really meaning to Bilbo turned his head to look up at Thorin again. Was he really meant to smell the hand?

“And apparently he likes me better,” Thorin continued, and now the smugness practically oozed out of him.

This time when the same fingers as before came up to scratch his ear Bilbo was at least prepared for the purring to start.

-

The next couple of days were… interesting.

The less said about the litter box the better. And the same regarding the toys that Dís kept trying to tempt him with (though the good thing to come out of that was that both she and Thorin admitted that he probably wasn’t a kitten after all).

Thorin and Dís were indeed siblings, and living together with them in the house were also a veritable crowd of other people. They ranged from Dís’ husband and children to other family members to other people who didn’t seem to be married, nor related, to anyone but who nevertheless appeared to live there. At least from time to time. It was lucky the house was big.

Only twice during the introductions (which weren’t actual introductions of course since everyone seemed to think that he was a cat that belonged to a friend of Gandalf’s, and you didn’t introduce yourself to the cat so it took ages for Bilbo to connect faces to the right names) did Bilbo get a bit apprehensive.

The first time was when Dís children appeared, because children and cats could very well end with tails being pulled and Bilbo would not be in favour of such a thing, not at all.

Thankfully, the boys were a bit… unruly, yes, but not cruel, and after Dís had made them wash their sticky little hands they were also excellent petters. And they sneaked him treats whenever they could. Very nice boys to sum it up.

The second time was when a… well, he was either a colleague of Thorin’s or a cousin, or both, Bilbo was still trying to work out the details, but anyway, his name was Dwalin, and when he’d come into the living room and seen Bilbo lying on the couch the man-turned-cat had perhaps meeped a little in nervousness because Dwalin had been wearing a truly fierce-looking scowl.

Something about him screamed predator! to the part of Bilbo’s brain that should have been a cat but had apparently had turned into something like a sheep instead, and Bilbo curled himself up tightly to try and look small and unthreatening. (Not that he knew how to go about making himself look big and dangerous, but still.)

The big man took a seat on the couch next to Bilbo, he turned his head, looked down on him, and said:

“What a pretty kitty you are.”

Then he reached out a truly massive hand and very gently scratched Bilbo beneath the chin.

About twenty minutes later when Thorin walked in to find them Bilbo was lying in Dwalin’s lap, purring like a race car because Dwalin’s hands were big enough to pet his entire belly all at once and it was lovely.

“Guess who he likes best now,” Dwalin said smugly, and Bilbo noted that down as a point into the ‘relative’ column because being smug did seem to be a family trait.

-

If anyone would have asked, Bilbo’s favourite was actually Thorin.

Despite calling him a kitten and such at the beginning, Bilbo had quickly begun to think that Thorin somehow knew that he wasn’t really a cat. He certainly treated him as someone a lot more intelligent than a cat, both carrying on conversations and expecting Bilbo to understand when he told him to go into the kitchen and other little things like that.

Fine, so Thorin probably considered him an unusually clever cat, but from that it should have been easy to transition into ‘enchanted human’, right? Bilbo certainly thought so. But the problem seemed to be that Thorin just wasn’t all that... bright at times.

This was also a potential family trait.

Naturally, one of the first things Bilbo had tried to do after he’d realised that no one in the house was about to do something horrible like eat cats for breakfast, was to try and tell them that he wasn’t actually a cat. (Perhaps he should have tried to do this already before making sure that he wasn’t about to get eaten, because if they were cat eaters then they wouldn’t really want him, but well, hindsight was always 20/20.)

He couldn’t write (thumbs was really something you missed when you didn’t have them), no one had been kind enough to leave a game of Scrabble lying around, and the attempt to steal a string and then try and arrange it into letters had been horribly frustrating and he’d not gotten beyond a B for Bilbo before Dís had swooped in and reclaimed the string, scolding him that he wasn’t allowed to eat it because that just wasn’t good for little cat bellies. She’d given him some salmon instead and that had only cheered him up somewhat.

Bilbo would have tried something to do with Morse code, but he only knew S O S and when he’d tried meowing that people had indeed paid attention to him, but instead of realising that he was actually a man trapped in the shape of a cat, everyone had thought that he’d been sick, or hurt somehow. (Not from understanding that he was doing the international signal of distress, no, but apparently yowling was what cats did when they weren’t happy, go figure.)

Thorin had just been about to call the vet when Bilbo realised that the S O S was not going to work and turned the next meow into a deep sigh. He started purring when Thorin scooped him up, but to be entirely honest, most of what Thorin did made Bilbo begin to purr.

It was perhaps not entirely out of the question that he’d developed a rather inconvenient crush on the man.

It was entirely Thorin’s own fault. Not only did he walk around without a shirt a lot (Bilbo was only human- well, okay, so that didn’t really apply anymore, but still) he also talked to Bilbo about anything and everything and the man exposed by those conversations was really someone Bilbo liked. Someone he wanted to get to know even better.

It made him feel very guilty though, both the accidental (and not so accidental) ogling, and how Thorin shared things with him which he clearly wouldn’t have confided to anyone he’d just met if he’d thought that they truly understood what he was saying.

Things like how he wasn’t sure he liked his job but how he didn’t feel like he could quit since so many people depended on him. How he wanted to travel and see more of the world. How he felt lonely sometimes, despite never really being alone.

The guilt eventually got bad enough for Bilbo to try and avoid Thorin, but that only made him feel more guilty for depriving Thorin of his confidant, especially since he could smell the sadness coming from him when Bilbo hurriedly left a room when he entered. Eventually he gave up and with an exasperated huff set about finding Thorin in the truly ridiculously big house.

He discovered him in the upstairs study, one of Bilbo’s favourite rooms in the house while at the same time being the most frustrating one because he couldn’t read any of the books there. But they all smelled brilliant.

On silent paws Bilbo trotted into the room and hesitantly stretched up to place his front paws on Thorin’s knees, to see if he would still be welcome.

“Hello, little one,” Thorin said with a sigh, leaning down to rub behind Bilbo’s ears with two fingers. “Thought you’d gotten tired of me.”

‘I’m sorry,’ Bilbo tried to say, but of course what came out was just a slightly sad meow. He jumped up, and tucked himself between the book Thorin had been reading and the man’s stomach and allowed the purr to start rumbling through his body. (As if he had a choice.)

If you could just be a little less handsome and a little less, you, then we wouldn’t have this problem, he thought.

Because while Thorin would be completely out of his league had they both been human, it was doubly awkward considering how Bilbo was now a cat.

But despite it being awkward he wanted to be able to give Thorin what little he could. And it did seem as if Thorin enjoyed his company, and the petting. And their… talks, even if they were mostly one sided.

Though it really would help if Thorin didn’t sleep naked. This Bilbo had realised the first time he’d fallen asleep in Thorin’s bedroom and woken up the next morning to the sight of a very, very naked Thorin wandering sleepily across the room towards the bathroom.

Bilbo had ended up beneath a blanket, his treacherous whatever purring like mad. (No seriously, he had no clue what made the purring happen, did cats have a specific organ to provide it or what?)

-

No matter how strange it might sound, Bilbo soon found himself slipping into a new routine, and before he knew it, it was only a few days to go before the month would be over.

“I’m really going to miss you when you have to go back,” Thorin murmured one night as he was stroking the flat of his hand over Bilbo’s back with hypnotising regularity.

“Mrmph,” Bilbo purred dreamily, trying to flatten himself out so that there would be more of him for Thorin to pet, and that’s when the meaning of Thorin’s words sank in.

Go back. As in turning back, even if Thorin didn’t know it.

He’d never see any of them again, because he could hardly invite himself back for tea and just casually let it slip that 'oh, by the way, I was the cat that stayed with you for almost a month, hello'.

He’d never see Thorin again. Unless he turned really pathetic and figured out where they all lived and started stalking them.

Internally giggling in a slightly hysterical manner Bilbo wondered if Gandalf would consider that a better use of his days compared to sitting inside and reading.

“Hey,” Thorin asked softly. “What’s wrong?”

Startled Bilbo blinked up at Thorin.

“You’ve stopped purring,” Thorin added.

Oh, blast. Bilbo tried to think purring thoughts but it didn’t work. Also, that right there was why this crush wouldn’t go away. Thorin seemed genuinely concerned about him, about a cat. He rather endearingly asked a question as if he truly expected to get a reply. And he had the prettiest bluest eyes Bilbo had ever seen.

Okay, so the last bit might not have been quite as objectively relevant as the first two. But still.

To never see Thorin again…

“Mrow,” Bilbo said with a morose sigh. Suddenly he felt a renewed urge to get his claws into Gandalf. And his stupid hat.

-

It had been the 21st of March when he’d had tea with Gandalf and on the morning of the 21st of April Bilbo woke in a horrible mood, ignored all such words as propriety and common decency and jumped into bed with Thorin to curl up in the crook where his neck and shoulder met.

While settling there Bilbo discovered that cats could purr when they were sad as well. It was not quite the same sound, but hopefully Thorin wouldn't know the difference.

Gandalf would undoubtedly arrive during the day and then-

“Good morning,” Thorin said, his voice huskier than normal from just having woken up and Bilbo curled himself up a little tighter still. And then there’d be no more mornings like this, ever again.

Bilbo rubbed his cheek against Thorin’s beard and sighed. And then he made a series protesting merp as Thorin moved him to lie on his chest.

“You’ve been-“

Thorin didn’t get any further than that before he suddenly had a once again human-shaped Bilbo lying on his chest. Quite luckily Bilbo wasn’t all that big even as a human, so Thorin wasn’t crushed.

Quite unluckily… yes, we’ll go with unluckily, Bilbo was very aware that Thorin slept naked, and he also had a deep suspicion that when Gandalf had transformed him, it had left a pile of clothes on the floor. A quick glance at himself confirmed that, yes, he was quite naked indeed.

But when Bilbo tried to move away Thorin’s arms came up to prevent that.

“You- where is my kitten?”

“I’m not a kitten,” Bilbo said, and oh it was such a relief to finally get to actually say it.

“Well, obviously,” Thorin said, eyes narrowing. “Where’s Bilbo?”

“I’m Bilbo.”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“Bilbo is a cat.”

“No. I was a cat. But I was a human first. Then Gandalf turned me into a cat. It’s all Gandalf’s fault really.” Bilbo nodded encouragingly and tried to wriggle away from Thorin. He only succeeded in rubbing himself against Thorin and stopped, a flush rising to his cheeks.

“Could you please let me go?”

“Where is my kitten?”

“I was your kitten! Only, I wasn’t a kitten.” Bilbo licked his lips. “Please, can we just, not talk like this?”

A knock came on the door and before either of them had a chance to answer Dís popped her head in.

“So Gandalf is here to pick up Bilbo, is he- Oh I’m so sorry!” Dís exclaimed, her mouth turning into a shocked O. “Thorin I didn’t know you had company. Hi!” She waved at Bilbo. “I’m his sister, Dís, and I expect to see you both at breakfast. Bye!”

“You’re my kitten?” Thorin asked when they were alone again.

“I’ve never been a kitten,” Bilbo said tiredly.

“You’re Bilbo?”

“Yes. Bilbo Baggins. Nice to, erm, meet you?”

“And it’s Gandalf’s fault you were a, kitt-cat?”

“Yes," Bilbo replied with remarkable patience for someone who had just been called a Kit Kat. Even if it hadn't been intentional.

“Oh.”

Bilbo sighed. “I promise that neither of us are crazy. Gandalf might be, but regardless of that he appears to be a Wizard and-“

“I knew Gandalf was a Wizard.”

Bilbo blinked down on Thorin. “You did?”

The door opened again, and Dís’ head appeared. “You like toast, right?”