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Shield Me

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He stinks of troll snot and his body won’t stop trembling. A low, quiet sort of trembling as the stone remains stare down at the company, but a trembling nonetheless. The fear has entered his bones and takes up residence there, tunneling inside him.

Doing the best he can to hide it, Bilbo assists the dwarves out of their sacks. His hands do not noticeably shake, that particular motion evidently reserved for his heart. When he loosens the drawstring from about Thorin’s neck and shoulders, the dwarf king barely acknowledges him, staring stonily at the firepit where Gandalf has stomped out the flames. One dwarf at a time, the wizard frees the spit of its wriggling burden.

The burlap falls to the floor of the clearing and Thorin steps out of the sack, his back turned toward to Bilbo, his shoulders an impassible barrier.

Bilbo attempts to speak and promptly swallows his own tongue. The aborted “Th-” must sound enough like Thorin’s name to draw his attention. It certainly draws his gaze, his disgruntlement, his ire. Beneath this weight, Bilbo stands as tall as he can, which isn’t very tall at all.

“What have you to say, halfling?”

Bilbo swallows. He lifts his chin and holds his hands behind his back, lest he wring them in plain sight. “Thank you.”

Thorin stares at him blankly.

“I said, thank you,” Bilbo repeats, uncertain as to whether his voice had worked the first time.

“I heard you.”

Bilbo does not shift foot to foot. He knows he doesn’t, because he thinks about it very strongly.

“Adopting your plan was a matter of buying time, nothing more.”

Though the dismissal stings, the incomprehension hits harder. “Right,” Bilbo says. “Yes. Sorry. Of course. Let me just—right.” He slips away with as much dignity as he can muster and does not think at all about being held high, high above the ground. He does not think of troll fists wrapped about his wrists and ankles. Not now, not when he can still feel them pulling.