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All Bilbo needed to do was go in, find the Arken-hmm, Arken… rock? No, no, that didn’t sound quite right. Arken...gem? Jewel? Drat; how was he supposed to find the damn thing if he couldn’t even remember its name! He was tempted to turn back and go ask, maybe get another description of it, especially since the description he actually got was ‘heart of the mountain, you’ll know it when you see it, white.’ Except, Bilbo knew, if he turned around, if he left the mountain, he’d not be venturing in again.

So, once again - go in, find the Arken...stone?, burgle it, give it to Thorin, do not encounter a dragon.

Stepping out into the dragon hoard, Bilbo felt remarkably less confident.

And then, wonder of all wonders, he spotted it - the Arkenpebble? Maybe? Whatever the name, Bilbo had found it, quite easily. Too easily. The hobbit wondered if maybe it was a trap but, close to the exit as he was, Bilbo decided he’d chance it. The hobbit darted forward, scooped it up, and then scurried away. It slipped into his pocket easily, and Bilbo couldn’t wait to show it to Thorin.

-

“What do you mean that’s not it!” Bilbo exclaimed, looking at what was apparently not the Arken-heart of the mountain.

“I mean, it’s not the Arkenstone.” Arkenstone; Bilbo’d been so close.

“It fits your description.” Bilbo pointed out, for it was white, and he’d known it when he’d seen it. He’s not really sure how to classify ‘heart of the mountain,’ but that was Dwarrow territory, not Hobbit.

“It’s white londonite.” Bilbo peered down at it curiously.

“Is it really? Well, I suppose you’d know better than me.” Bilbo shrugged, turned towards the gaping maw of the secret doorway, which still terrified him. There was a dragon, somewhere in its depths, and if Bilbo wasn’t careful they’d all get burnt to a crisp. But, he had a job to do, and it hadn’t been so bad, the first time.

“I’ll go have another look.” He resolved to not come out until he’d found it; he didn’t dawdle on his trip through the darkened corridors, though he wanted to, and all too soon he was back, staring over vast swathes of riches practically beyond his comprehension. Well, no practically about it. If any one asked how much riches and gold the dragon hoard contained, all he’d be able to say is ‘a lot.’ He would have to polish it up a bit of course, for when he told the story. Maybe ask the Dwarrows to describe the hoard, because Hobbits clearly weren’t able to appreciate such a sight.

For, truly, it was just a large pile of shiny metal to him. Oh, shiny metal and some rocks and stones, or course.

One step, two, the third put the cold feel of metal under his feet, the seventh had him at the bottom of the stairs, about to walk out onto nothing but gold, gold, gold when, suddenly, he saw something out the corner of his eyes. He turned to look and, there - the Arkenstone. Bilbo grinned, completely ecstatic with his luck. He moved cautiously towards it, not disturbing the gold anymore than he had to, and picked it up. He retracted his steps, and was soon back in front of the company.

Who frowned at him, and then stone.

“This… isn’t the Arkenstone, by your faces?” He asked, and they all shook their heads. Bilbo cleared his throat awkwardly, placed the stone down, and backed away into the corridor.

The darkness wasn’t too bad, Bilbo decided - certainly a sight better than Thorin Oakenshield glaring at him through the night.

This time Bilbo made it all the way to the top of a mountain of gold before his discerning eye saw another maybe Arkenstone.

Upon revealing it to the company, however, well, apparently not.

A moonstone, apparently.

The next was Beryllonite which, Bofur said, was actually a mineral, and not a gemstone or a crystal at all. What the difference between a gemstone and a crystal was, Bilbo couldn’t say, but he thinks he might be able to see the difference between what he has in his hands now, to what he’s had previously. The mineral one is a bit… rougher? Maybe? Or, perhaps it’s...heavier? No, Bilbo’s not even going to pretend - he can’t tell the difference. At all.

Then a huge hunk of what was apparently White Jade, which had been a pain to haul through the corridors, and had made a dreadful scraping sound against the stone as he moved it. He left just inside inside the entrance, because he’d not get another thing done that night if he had to move it all the way back.

Around what could conceivably be called a small pillar of white jade, which Bilbo still thinks looks large and majestic enough to have been the heart of the mountain, a small collection of white gems grew.

“Prehnite.” Bofur called out, barely glancing away from the campfire the Dwarrows had set up when it had become astoundingly clear that it was going to take a while. Bilbo carelessly dropped it on the ground with the others, and walked back to the gold.

“Diamond.”

“Cassiterite.”

“Kyanite.”

“Oligoclase.”

“That’s another diamond.”

“Danburite.”

“That’s a pearl necklace, Bilbo, are you even trying?” Bilbo scowled at Kili, who then tried to look innocent.

“White jasper.”

“Howlite.”

“White Aventurine.”

“Milk Quartz.”

“White Azeztulite, which is actually another type of quartz, and…” Bofurs cheerful voice follows him down the corridor.

“Jeremejevite.”

“Bless you.” Bilbo replies, putting down the clearish looking precious thing, not even stopping, just turning on his heel and heading back into the corridor.

“Oh, hey, Alexandrite!” Fili says, which is not at all what Bilbo wants to hear, so he throws it at the blond's head. The ‘ow’ that echos down the corridor after him helps him to lift his spirits, a little.

The sky’s beginning to lighten when they stop him.

“We’ve got time, lad.” Balin says to him, and Bilbo almost collapses by what remains of the fire. The whole group’s tense, on edge, and it’s only after the sun’s up that they relax, and Bilbo realises that they were worried about the door closing once the night was over. He’s glad that they like him enough to make sure he’s not trapped forever inside a mountain with a dragon. And, with that though, he goes to sleep.

He wakes up just as the sun’s setting, and after a bowl of soup, is promptly sent back into the mountain.

“Now, Bilbo,” Gloin calls out to him before he steps in, “don’t forget, the Arkenstone is a white gem,” he chortles, eyes flickering to the large pile of white gems and crystals and minerals just inside the corridor, and Bilbo makes a very rude gesture at him, before he disappears back into the depths of the mountain.

-

Analcime, Albite, Orthoclase, Cleavelandite, Anglesite, Datolite, Forsterite, Hambergite, Kaliborite - almost a dozen trips in and out of the treasure pile on the second night before he hears a repeat. He’s been trying not to grab things that look the same as what he’s already picked up, but they all look the same.

How are there that many different white gem type things?

At sunrise, they usher him back towards his corner of ground, and everyone's spirits are dampened.

At sunset, they feed him, wish him luck, and send him back off. He’s not sure why they all seem to be under the impression that burglary needs to happen at night, but if it means he’s not spending all of his time in that damned mountain, he’s happy for it.

But, maybe there is something to stealing at night, and that’s why Lobelia’s never been successful in her teatime attempts to make off with his cutlery.

-

“You’ve found it!” Dori half shouted, almost startling Bilbo into dropping the- the Arkenstone!

Bilbo looks at the rock in his hands (which looks no different to the others, he’s 100% sure, there’s nothing about it to recommend it as the heart of the mountain, the thing he’s been looking for, but if they say it’s it, sure, why not - not like he expected something more, doesn’t matter, it’s finished) and feels a relieved smile settling over his face.

“Really?”

“No, that’s Euclase.” Dori laughs, and all the dwarves join in, and keep laughing long after Dori’s laughter has trailed off, because Bilbo’s staring at him. Not glaring, or scowling, just staring - face completely blank. Then, with precise deliberation, Bilbo hefts the stone over the edge of their encampment. The vague threat of ‘you’re next if you don’t quit it’ probably doesn’t get through considering Dori’s one of, if not the, strongest dwarf of their company, and Bilbo’s still, well, Bilbo. But the older dwarf looks like he feels bad for the jest, and Bilbo supposes that’s enough.

That, and some chili in his breakfast next time Bilbo can manage it.

Or maybe his tea.

-

If Bilbo hears one more ‘diamond’ or ‘quartz’ or ‘Bilbo, that’s a piece of masonry - it’s literally a rock,’ he’s going to stab someone, preferably the closest dwarf - and if that dwarf happens to be the scowling King under the Mountain who loiters closer to the doorway then anyone else, pacing and scowling and being a general menace, well, Bilbo certainly won’t complain.

So it’s with great relief that he finally, finally, sees it. A stone so pretty, so magnificent, that it can’t be anything but the Arkenstone. It’s different enough to the other stones that Bilbo knows he’s not carried one out before, different enough that Bilbo knows it’s different. He fairly runs back through the corridors, almost trips on the over large pile of white rocks, and declares, quite proudly,

“I’ve found it!” His confidence makes them look up, and he grins at them, proudly showing off the Arkenstone, which he’s finally found, after three blasted nights of looking.

“That, Master Baggins,” Bilbo almost deflates at Thorins very, very annoyed, practically angry, voice. Thorin’s scowling at him, but as that’s not exactly a new phenomena, Bilbo scowls back.

“Is an-” Bilbo cuts him off, because however annoyed Thorin is, he’s not the one who’s been searching through miles of gold for a whitish looking rock. Do you even know how hard it is to walk on gold? Very!

“Arkenstone. It’s an Arkenstone, the Arkenstone, if you will.” Thorins scowl deepens.

“Opal. It’s an opal.” He grits out, and Bilbo looks it over, considering.

“Nope, pretty sure it’s the Arkenstone.” Bilbo says, nodding at the opal.

“I’m quite sure it’s not.” Thorin says forcefully, and Bilbo, in an agreeable, polite tone that signifies to everyone he’s about three seconds from shouting at them, says,

“Arkenstone. Ta. Da.” He wiggles the rock, and it catches the light nicely.

“It’s quite pretty, I can see why you wanted it.”

“Bilbo. I know what the Arkenstone looks like. That is not the heart of the mountain; it’s an opal.”

“Well, do you think you could give it a bit of a better look? Maybe it is the heart of the mountain, only you’re too busy scowling at me so you can’t see that!” Bilbo half shouts as he waves the opal around, and Thorin storms forward. A few months ago, at the start of their journey, Bilbo probably would’ve scampered back; he’s had months and months to get used to Thorin and his temper tantrums, however, so he only glares harder.

The dwarf makes a large production of looking at the opal, snatching it from Bilbos hands to turn it over in his, raising it to his eye level, and then walking back towards the fire. Bilbo follows hesitantly, because as much as he’d insisted Thorin take a better look, he is aware that he knows nothing at all about rocks and gems and jewels and even less about the Arkenstone, and Thorin’s likely right about the stone.

Thorin hands it to Dwalin, who makes a large show of looking it over, who then hands it to Balin, who does the same. It goes around the entire circle and, to Bilbos credit, it only takes him until Gloin, who’d received the stone from Balin, passes it to Oin, to realise he’s being made fun of. He probably should’ve known when Thorin handed it off in the first place, but every dwarf had looked remarkably serious about it. Which should’ve been the first sign, really. For all that they have remarkably good poker faces, Bilbo’s never seen all of them serious at the one time without some sort of external threat.

Then Kili licks it, still with a serious face, and Bombur asks him what it feels like on his palette, and Bilbo’s about to start throwing things at them. Probably white rocks, since he’s got an abundance of them, now. By the time it’s done a full round of the circle, and is back in Thorins hand, the poor thing’s been sniffed, bitten at, tapped lightly on the ground, held up to the fire, been put into the fire, and disappeared into Filis shirt for a few minutes, for reasons Bilbo cannot even begin to imagine, other than making fun of him.

Thorin holds it up to the moonlight, squints at it, and then turns back to Bilbo. His scowl is gone, replaced by what could almost be a blank face, except that his beard doesn’t quite cover the way the corners of his lips are curled into an amused little smile, and it really shouldn’t be so damned attractive.

“After a thorough examination,” Kili’s snickering, now, and Bofur’s chuckling, “this is decidedly an opal. A very nice, very large one, granted, but, still, not the Arkenstone.” They’re all laughing, now, and Bilbo can’t help his exasperated smile.

“Fine. Put it on the pile with the rest, I’ll go have another look.” Their uproarious laughter follows him a little bit down the dark corridor, but Thorins quietly amused smile keeps him company as he scales the golden mountains of a dragons hoard.

When Bilbo comes back out, with what is apparently yet another diamond, the opal isn’t on the pile. Instead, they’ve made a pedestal for it out of the rocks on the ledge, right near the fire. It does look quite pretty, with the firelight catching on it, but pretty does not an Arkenstone make, he’s all too aware.

“Bilbo, look!” Fili grins at him, and Bilbo’s instantly wary. Amused, but still wary.

“It’s the Arkenopal!” The prince is lucky Bilbo’s already put the diamond down, or he’d get a second rock to the head. The other dwarves are laughing again, and it’s good to see them in high spirits, even if he’s about to shove Nori’s ‘garden of ArkenQuartz’ up his behind. There’s nothing accidental about his tripping over the gathering of quartz (all of which are apparently the same stone, and different from all the other ones when they all look the same which makes no sense to Bilbo, but he’s long since stopped trying to reason with dwarves), no matter what he says.

When he goes to sleep again that night, or, that morning, really, the Arkenopal is still in its place, and he looks at it semi-fondly before he falls asleep.

He’d much prefer if he never saw another white looking stone again, of course, but if he has to see more of them, he’d like it if they looked like the Arkenopal.

-

The next night, the fourth night, Bilbo has zero fear of entering the mountain. A considerable amount of annoyance, yes, but no fear.

So, of course, it’s on this night that Bilbo plants a foot in an unsteady pile of gold, slips, and rolls half way down a gold mountain, descent stopped by something hard, and warm. When he tilts his head back to see what he’s rolled again, a giant eye flicks open, and Bilbo feels his heart stop in his chest. There’s a small voice telling him to put the ring on, disappear and run and hide, but it’s too late for that, so he tries to look harmless and not worth eating, instead.

“Well, well, what do we have here?” Smaug rumbles, shifts, and when the gold finally settles, and Smaug is peering down at him, Bilbo sees more white stones. Ones he’s never seen before, and all his fear evaporates into annoyance and outrage, because one of those white things is bigger than he is, and there’s no way he’s going to haul it out for the company's perusal, only for them to tell him that it’s not the Arkenstone.

“Right, you’re a dragon, yes?” He says brusquely, hoping that maybe if he speaks fast enough, and gives Smaug barely a chance to respond, then maybe it’ll be just like an encounter with his great Aunt.

“Clearly.” The dragon replies, examining Bilbo like he’s a bug.

“And dragons are knowledgably about these sorts of things, I suppose?” Bilbo asks, gesturing to the gems and gold and riches surrounding them. Smaug narrows his eyes and, oh, look, Bilbo can feel that fear again.

“...You are a queer little creature, aren’t you? Yes, I am knowledgeable about… these sorts of things.” Smaug mocks him, and Bilbo swallows around the lump in his throat.

“And you can tell the difference between all of these stones?”

“It’s obvious.”

“So you could point out the Arkenstone, maybe? Please?” Bilbo’s started the sentence out so strong, but ended it with a nervous squeak, and Smaugs entire face contorted into what was, possibly, a look of astounded shock.

“It’s right in front of you.” Smaug points out, curiously, and that would be helpful if there weren’t twenty damn whitish rocks in his sight.

“Yes, well, they all look the bloody same, to me.” Bilbo snaps, irate.

And then Smaug does something completely unexpected, and laughs.

-

“So what you’re saying is,” Thorin grits out, glaring up at Gandalf, who finally arrived at the mountain - late, as usual, no matter what he says about the punctuality of wizards.

“Hobbits literally cannot tell apart different gems and jewels.” The rest of the company looks mildly surprised at this information, but not as surprised as they would’ve been, had this information not come after days of Bilbo dropping anything that might fit the broad description at their feet. The Arkenopal still sits on its pedestal, after all, and the pile of precious, white gems and crystals and rocks is starting to impede Bilbos ability to get in and out of the doorway.

“Yes, that is what I just said.” Regardless of how unsurprised Thorin is, he still has the overwhelming urge to strangle the wizard.

“So the burglar you procured for us, the one whom I hired to steal the Arkenstone, can’t identify it from any other jewel inside the mountain.”

“That does seem to be the case, yes.” The wizard smiles at him, looking for all the world like a simple minded fool, and it’s only due to Dwalins quick reflexes that Thorin doesn’t throw himself at the wizard.

-

It takes a while for Smaug to stop laughing.

“How amusing. A burglar who can’t identify what he’s meant to steal.” Bilbo chokes on nothing, and stumbles over his words to try and deny that he’s here to steal anything, but Smaug cuts him off.

“Don’t be dull, of course you’re hear to steal something - the Arkenstone, even if you hadn’t said it, I can smell Dwarf all over you - I’ll even let you take it; if you guess which one it is.” Bilbo blinks, ignoring that Smaug knows the company is there and trying to gauge if the dragon’s telling the truth, before looking down at the gathered stones and realising that Smaug must be telling the truth - for the challenge is almost insurmountable.

“Can I… investigate them, first? You know, have a look, a feel - maybe a taste?” He asks, not sure if he’s joking, because if it’d help him figure out which stone is the stone he needs, he’d lick it, regardless of how long it’s been under a dragon, or what it tasted like.

“I will allow it, little thief. Take your time. No rush. Your dwarves will still be there for me to eat, after.”

Right, no pressure.

-

“Anyway, I must say I rather hadn’t expected you to stay out of the mountain. You are horrid at following orders, Thorin Oakenshield.” Gandalf says, and Thorin tries hard to keep things civil, for all that he wants to run the wizard through with his sword.

“The plan,” Thorin says, because he’s not following Gandalfs orders, he’s following the plan, “was always to retrieve the Arkenstone and send for the armies to battle Smaug, should he still dwell inside. I cannot muster them without it, and will not endanger the lives of my company attempting to battle him with naught but the fourteen of us.”

“Very sensible.” Gandalf says, eyes suspicious; Thorin takes offense to that, actually. He’s a very sensible dwarf, no matter what wizards or sisters or friends say.

“In any case, it’s for the best. Now, when Bilbo comes back, we can plan out how to move forward.”

“We cannot move forward until we have the Arkenstone.” Thorin grumbles, and sees the company eyeing off all the false Arkenstones Bilbo’s brought out, and wondering at how long it’s going to take until they get the real thing. Faced with possible weeks camped out on the inhospitable ledge, the hobbits inability suddenly seems a lot less amusing.

“Perhaps not.” Gandalf muses, with a sly little smile in the corner of his mouth, and Thorin needs to move away from the cryptic wizard before he attempts to run him through. See, look how sensible he can be! He moves to the other side of the fire, and doesn’t attempt to maim the wizard.

-

Bilbo’s quite sure he’s been staring at what are possibly similar copies of the same stone for hours. He’s no closer to identifying the Arkenstone, if it’s even one of the ones he’s looking at, than he was when he started.

“And you’re sure it’s one of these stones?” He asks, again, and Smaug rolls his eyes. He’s gone back to lounging on a pile of gold, and snaps his teeth every time Bilbo even thinks about getting too annoyed to fear him.

“Certain, little thief.”

“But how do you know?”

“I gouged it from the throne myself. Besides, I know every piece in my hoard. From the Arkenstone somewhere in front of you, to the smallest cup, to the largest emerald, to the pile of precious gems you’ve already collected, to the opal outside of the mountain.” Bilbo freezes, heart pounding, and Smaug laughs again. The sound is much more sinister now, and it was already terrifying.

“Oh yes, I know all about that. You’re not a particularly good thief, are you?” It takes a few moments for Bilbo to be able to reply, to be able to do anything but breathe shallowly and panic, but eventually he manages, and goes back to rubbing his hands over one of the white rocks. He thinks maybe this one is a definite no, but still isn’t quite sure.

“I once stole dwarves from the Elvenking.” He defends, idly, and Smaug perks up.

“Really? I should rather like to hear of that.” After a moment, Bilbo starts his tale, all the while wondering if licking it does, actually, help determine anything or if Kili was just teasing him.

Perhaps if he put it in his shirt for a while….?

-

The sky’s slowly lightening when they all realise they haven’t seen Bilbo for hours, since before Gandalf arrived.

And that’s when the infuriating Wizard tells them to stay put, and wanders into the mountain that Thorin still hasn’t set foot in.

Collectively, the company decides to give them til mid morning before they go after them.

Thorin’s sure that Ori’s going to record this entire debarcle (seeing as it’s his job as company scribe, and he can actually do his job, unlike certain members of the company) and therefore Thorin can use it to prove that he can be sensible next time Dis tells him he’s incapable.

-

Bilbo’s never been so offended in all his life. He’d been telling yet another story, as requested, and that damn dragon had nodded off! And now Bilbo’s glaring at him, and he still doesn’t know which stone is the right one!

It’s then, before Bilbos annoyance can get the better of him, thus before he starts throwing the annoying rocks at the annoying dragon, that Gandalf arrives.

Bilbo pushes himself to his feet, too annoyed now to feel any fear, especially not when Smaug isn’t awake to gnash his teeth and remind him.

“Right, Gandalf. Good to see you. Great timing. You deal with this mess.” He takes two steps towards where he can see the tunnel he’s been using, over a pile of gold or seven, before spinning back around, taking off his coat, and piling the stones he’d been perusing onto it to carry out to the dwarves. Except for the few exceedingly large ones; those he leaves. He’s sure they would’ve told him if what he was looking for was that big, and if not it’s their own damn fault.

“Oh, and Bard was right, he’s missing a scale.” Bilbo nods his head to where the dragons reclined position on the gold has revealed the gap in the dragons formidable defences, gathers his jacket, and marches right out of the dragon hoard.

Really, falling asleep in the middle of a story.

It’s the utter height of rudeness, and Bilbo will not stand for it.

-

Fili’s staring at the Arkenopal when Bilbo emerges.

“But has anyone else seen the Arkenstone? I mean, they’ll all know it’s an opal, of course, but Bilbo’s right, it really is a pretty one. Maybe if we tell them it’s the Arkenstone…” He trails off, squinting and tilting his head as if that’ll help camouflage the opal as something more, and Dwalin cuffs him over the back of the head.

They all look up when Bilbo emerges, tired and with a pile of white rocks in his jacket, and utterly indignant.

“Bilbo!” Thorin half shouts as he jumps to his feet, and the rest of the company follows suit.

“We getting worried.” Dori says, and Bilbo gives them a tired smile.

“I’m alright. Annoyed, but fine.”

“Aye, we see that. Still no luck?” Dwalin asks, and Bilbo scowls down at the rocks in his jacket. They were supremely heavy to carry all the way here, and from the lack of reactions, none of them are what he’s looking for. Of course Smaug was lying; damned, rude dragon.

“That, and Smaug is unbearably rude.”

Every dwarf on the ledge freezes, and Bilbo takes a seat around the burnt out fire, by the Arkenopal, actually, and picks up the first of the rocks.

“Chalcedony.” Bofur mutters automatically, looking a bit shocked, and Bilbo tosses it back on the pile and summarily gives up on looking for the Arkenstone. He knows it’s in his contract, but it’s truly gotten to the point of ridiculousness now. He’ll have to ask Balin if there’s some sort of clause that could allow him to exit the contract gracefully; he simply cannot fulfil his duties, though not for lack of trying.

Bilbo reclines himself back on the rock, and it’s as if that simple movement is what jumpstarts the dwarves back to life.

“Smaug!?” Thorin roars, and then they’re all crowding around Bilbo, with the slightest gap for the Arkenopal and the small pile of rocks Bilbo never wants to see again, but will have to go through if he wants his jacket back. They bombard him with questions, but talk over him before he can do more than open his mouth.

An angry, pained roar that shakes the entire mountain shuts their mouths, shocks them silent, and Bilbo can finally reply.

“Yes Smaug, yes that Smaug, what other one would I be talking about Kili? Yes he’s huge, and rude, he didn’t eat me, he’s not dead, there’s a missing scale on his breast, his breath is terrible, yes I assume Gandalf’s still down there, and hearing him laugh is the most terrifying thing that’s ever happened to me.”

“You made Smaug laugh?” Ori asks, into the stunned silence, and Bilbo nods.

“He found it ridiculously amusing that I couldn’t identify the Arkenstone.” Which started a new roar of protest, the main theme of which came down to ‘you told him of our quest?’ In the time it took for Bilbo to explain everything to a group of anxious and angry and nervous dwarrow, no more noises came from the mountain and, just as Bilbo finishes explaining, Gandalf strolls out of the secret door.

“Smaug is taken care of.” He announces, and hold up his palm, upon which a dragon the size of a kitten is curled. It looks like a miniature Smaug, with his red scales and yellow eyes and… it takes Bilbo a minute, takes all of them a minute in fact, before they realise that… it is Smaug. Gandalf… shrunk Smaug.

The resulting hubub is enough that Bilbo’s seriously thinking of shoving rocks in his ears to drown it out.

-

It doesn’t take long before the dwarrows abandon the ledge and head into the mountain, and then it’s just Bilbo, Gandalf and tiny, tiny Smaug left on the ledge. A few of them tripped over the pile of white stones in their haste to enter the mountain after the wizard told them he’d lifted the dragon curse over the hoard. Bilbo starts rolling the rocks off his coat, and arranges them around the Arkenopal. Gandalf is having a leisurely smoke, whilst Smaug grumbles and curses them in his now comically deep voice. It’s a bit cute, actually. Bilbo wonders if he can claim tiny Smaug as a part of his fourteenth.

“You know, Gandalf, I do believe Thorin is right about one, no, two things.” Bilbo says, causing Gandalfs eyebrow to raise, and the dragon to cease his verbal skewering of them; clearly it’s a momentous occasion when Bilbo Baggins thinks Thorin Oakenshield is right, if even a dragon (regardless of size) sees fit to shut his mouth in order to hear.

“Is that so?” Bilbo hmms his agreement, looking at the last rock sitting on his jacket. It’s quite shiny, maybe a bit sparkly, and Bilbo thinks that it’s maybe a … diamond? Or is it more like the… dan… something; he’s sure all the dwarves who are probably currently swimming through gold would know, but he’s not about to venture down there just to ask them. He’s spent enough time amongst that gold for now, searching for the Arkenstone, and he’s in no hurry to head back for more.

“Yes. First, you must be daft to pick just about the only burglar in the world who can’t differentiate between gems and rocks and crystals and whatever other things there are.” Gandalf chortles, as Bilbo picks up the shiny rock, and decides that it’s a tad too pretty to go with the others on the bottom on the pile, and so he makes room on top of the pedestal. The Arkenopal can surely share, he thinks, and when he’s sure neither of them will fall off, he settles back down.

There, two pretty mathoms, surrounded by far, far too many slightly less pretty mathoms.

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that, Bilbo my boy, but I will concede it’s a matter of opinion. Besides, it stopped the Company from entering the mountain while Smaugs curse was still in place.” He’s still chuckling, looking particularly amused. Smaug, who’s lounging in a patch of sun, looking especially like a cat, with the way his body’s contorted, wings stretched out behind him to soak up the sun, also looks amused.

“What’s the second thing, little thief?” Smaug prompts, and Bilbo does his valiant best to ignore the nickname now that he is, in fact, the bigger one.

“Some stones are rather pretty. I think I’ll keep these two, as a part of my share.” He decides, gesturing to the rocks on top of the pedestal. Smaug roars with laughter for some reason probably only dragons can comprehend, and it’s much, much more adorable now he’s a more manageable size. Gandalf is back to chuckling again, and even his smoke rings look jaunty. Bilbo ignores them both, and stretches out beside Smaug for a nap in the sun.