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I Used to Be

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The quiet way the world whispered at night was something Bilbo had once enjoyed, back in his warm, airy hole in the ground, he'd often opened his windows to hear the chirp of bugs and birds, or the soft voice of the wind whistling through the shire. But out here the world spoke differently. This was not his warm, comfortable homeland, but a place too far, too strange, and too unwelcoming for him to bear.

Bilbo rolled onto his back as another strange noise, likely completely innocuous, jostled him from his sleep for what felt like the hundredth time. He could feel the bags beneath his eyes growing darker and heavier with each passing day they were on the road. Bilbo had started by counting the days, but now they all blurred together. His feet ached in ways they had not since childhood. 

He blinked his dark blue eyes open, peering up at darkened trees blearily. The earliest blue of the rising sun had crept in, making everything around him glow. The nearby fire was still smoldering but just faintly so, and as he sat up he wheezed slightly, aching from all they'd been through only nights ago. It didn't take more than a glance around to see that two members of their company had gone missing. Gandalf and Thorin. 

The sun was rising slowly on the horizon but their leader had done nothing to wake them yet. The past few days he'd roused them early, urged them on, wanting to put distance between his men and those that would seek to ruin them. The Pale Orc. Bilbo shuddered faintly and took a deep, uneasy breath, deciding he would get no more decent rest now. He pushed up from the ground and rolled up his bedding, packing it away once more. A few experimental pokes to the fire later, his ears picked up the crack of twigs far behind him. 

He reached a wary hand toward his sword but reasoned distantly, it must have been Thorin returning from wherever it was the early morning dark had ushered him off to. Bilbo pulled himself away from the warmth radiating from the charred wood and ashes, venturing outward to meet the dark eyed dwarf, wherever he might be. 

Bilbo came upon Thorin just a short few moments later, finding that he was seated against the base of a large tree, one leg sprawled outward, the other bent and pulled close. He was breaking tiny twigs between his fingers and flicking them away, apparently deep in thought. But the moment he heard Bilbo's feet in the brush he looked up.

"Good morning," Bilbo greeted quietly, the words tumbling clumsily fromm his lips but they did not lack warmth or sincerity. Thorin did not return the greeting, but examined the hobbit as if not entirely sure why he stood there. But then Thorin looked away, head turning to look off into the woods ahead, and he gestured toward the soft mossy underbrush at the base of the tree beside him. Have a seat. 

Bilbo wasn't inclined to turn Thorin down. They'd finally begun to really get along. As they damn well should, considering Bilbo had nearly died trying to save Thorin's reckless behind. Bilbo's slightly indignant thought process must have showed on his face as he took his seat, because when Thorin tilted his head to face him again he gave a quiet laugh.

"Is something troubling you?" Thorin asked after Bilbo, slouching down against the tree a bit more comfortably, giving a soft grunt, his hand moving to brush over his side. Still sore. Getting chewed on was not an incident so quickly forgotten. Thorin carried many battle won pains. One more was of hardly any consequence. Bilbo noted the way he held himself, but commented not, on Thorin's discomforts. He would likely not appreciate having such things brought up. 

"Many things trouble me these days," Bilbo confessed to the dwarf with a soft sigh, his head tipping back against the tree. The forest was coming alive as the first purpling rays began to shine, the blue slowly fading. Bilbo looked and realized Thorin had sat himself beneath a gap in the trees big enough to see the sky properly. The clouds looked delicate and puffy against their rapidly changing backdrop. He wondered how intentional that had been, and if he'd been out here long. 

"You were unwise to come, but I will say, with some selfishness, that I am glad you are still here," Thorin was being... cheeky? Bilbo could hear the humor in his tone and he gave a soft laugh, nodding a bit.

"Yes, I expect you are, all things well considered," Bilbo agreed, looking down at the leaves and rocks around them and then finally he met Thorin's gaze. "I used to be quite the adventurer... It seems I've still a bit of that zeal left in me."

Bilbo offered a weary sort of smile and Thorin quirked one thick, dark brow, inclining his head to the hobbit a fraction, their brows near touching. Bilbo was at a loss for whether he should move back or press in. What a strange conflict to have with a dwarf who had not a month prior, thought him useless baggage. 

"Do tell, halfling. I am quite curious what served as adventure for you as a lad," Thorin was teasing, but only just so. When had this sort of soft humour presented itself? Perhaps it was just a sign of comfort. Thorin was still so very stoic, and Bilbo felt as though an invisible wall stood between them, but now, instead of a scowl awaiting him on the other side, a soft, mysterious smile was on display. A welcomed change of pace.

Bilbo leaned his head to the side, resting it against the trunk of the tree, and Thorin seemed to follow suit, the incline of their heads keeping them close. Not uncomfortably so. As Bilbo began to speak, his eyes focusing on Thorin's fingers rather than his face, he seemed to forget the closeness altogether.

"I was a trouble making Hobbit, I suppose. I used to wander into the woods early in the morning and not return home until late at night. Spent days in the trees, drawing things around me, writing what I saw... A ran too quickly, laughed too loudly, brought one too many wild animals home... Always..." Bilbo lifted his head and his nose brushed the end of the dwarfs, causing him to flush slightly. He met Thorin's eyes and they were peering at him with interest, making Bilbo feel exposed. Thorin wasn't backing away, despite the contact.

Then again, neither was he.

"Always?" Thorin inquired quietly, his breath flushing across Bilbo's face, the warm puff of air making the hobbit lean in just a bit closer. It wasn't completely unconscious, he was responding to a gravity that had suddenly presented itself in the now orange morning light pouring down on them through the gap in the trees.

"Always used to run around with a smudge of dirt on my cheek..." Bilbo finished, his statement barely uttered. Thorin's head drew back and he was suddenly inspecting Bilbo  with a critical eye. The switch of gears left Bilbo feeling a bit like he was drowning, but he just waited. Thorin shook his head and tutted slightly, reaching down and pressing his thumb into the ground beside them. He lifted his hand again and slowly leaned closer, holding up his thumb. When it pressed against his cheek, Bilbo nearly gasped. There was soft, gritty, cool, damp dirt on that callous thumb. As Thorin smeared it slightly along the apple of Bilbo's cheek the dwarf was leaning toward him again, their forehead's connecting and the strong hand moving to cup the side of Bilbo's neck.

It was a symbolic and deeply personal gesture, made more intimate by the contact of their brows, and then their noses nestling closer. Bilbo would have asked what Thorin was doing, if he wasn't already completely aware. He wasn't naive, he'd had his fair share of lovers in the past. But a dwarf? A male dwarf no less? He supposed it was more common among their culture than his, but just the same, it was new... It was peculiar. They gravitated together, lips brushing and culture forgotten.

It felt overwhelmingly warm to be kissed again, lips pressing, breathing soft and nasally. Thorin's lips were slightly chapped but softened over time. Bilbo hadn't immediately realized they were kissing, nor did he know who of them it was that closed the small gap, but he wasn't inclined to break away. It lingered for just a few moments, a few long, warm moments that seemed they might lead on to something... only to be interrupted a moment later by the first clatter of their company making breakfast just a small ways away. Bilbo let Thorin go without hesitation or question, watching the dwarf march himself back to camp. Bilbo wasn't too far behind.

He wore the smudge of dirt proudly the rest of the day, and met Thorin the next morning to have it replaced before the suns first light.