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For what seemed like the hundredth time (and quite possible was), the burglar stumbled over a rock. Balin simply extended a hand to help Bilbo up and they continued. Other than a few eye rolls, none of the dwarves seemed to mind; it wasn’t like it held up the company. No dwarf minded, that is, except Thorin.

The King snorted and muttered something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like. “Useless hobbit.”

Balin, Dwalin, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Ori, Dori, Nori, Gloin, and Oin paid no heed; they were used to their King’s irascible demeanor. Bilbo, if possible, looked more miserable than he had been already (for it was raining out and none of the company was in what could be considered a good mood). Fili and Kili, however, in their places at the back of the line, exchanged wry grins.

“There he goes again.” Fili sighed. “I do wonder how long he’ll keep denying it.”

“Yes.” Kili agreed. “It is getting a bit old; I wish they’d just get on with it.”

“What was it Uncle always used to tell us? Insulting a lass means that one’s in love with her? I see no reason why it shouldn’t be the same between Uncle Thorin and Master Baggins.”

“Yes, yes.” Kili shook his head, a look of mock sorrow on his face. “ But, of course he’d never take his own advice. I fear Uncle is only delaying the inevitable by refusing to give in to his feelings.”

“True.” Fili nodded. “The outcome of this is certain. By the end of the trip we will have a new member of the family.”

“Of course. But one thing isn’t certain.”

“And what’s that?”

“Do we call Bilbo Aunt or Uncle?”