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Please Tread Lightly When Surrounded By Young Hobbits

Chapter Text

There were a lot of things that worried Bilbo. They were the usual things an about-to-get-married Hobbit would worry about: whether there'd be enough cake for the wedding, whether he'd get along with his yet unmet sister-in-law, whether he'd make a good royal consort... Alright, Bilbo had a few more worries than the average Hobbit groom.

And at the moment, the chief of these worries was the Hobbit delegation that was about to arrive.

Well, 'delegation' is perhaps too soft a word. It seemed as though half the Shire had decided to see for themselves what this 'Lonely Mountain' was all about, as well as why their own Mr. Baggins was supposed to be marrying a Dwarven king. Luckily, this was the more adventurous half (though that's perhaps not saying much); Bilbo was reasonably certain that the Tooks, the Brandybucks, and the rest of those brave enough to come would get along swell with their 'in-laws'.

No, what Bilbo was worried about specifically wasn't the adult Hobbits. It was the children.

It wasn't that he didn't trust Thorin and the rest; he did. With his life even! He just... didn't exactly trust them with the lives of tiny, oh-so-easily breakable Hobbit children.

So far, the youngest Dwarf Bilbo had seen was Gloin's son, Gimli; the lad was supposedly the Hobbit's equivalent of a tween and he looked as tough as... a very tough thing. Bilbo had almost fainted when, upon seeing the arrival of their young friend, Fili had given a loud war-whoop and thrown a rock at Gimli's head. Alright, so Gimli had been wearing a helmet, and it hadn't been a very large stone, and apparently it was all some sort of inside joke. But still.

Bilbo had wasted no time in telling the Dwarves that throwing rocks at young Hobbits' heads would be unacceptable behaviour, and in general, just to Tread With Care. (Literally. He had had a nightmare yesterday about Bifur not looking where he was going and thus accidentally sending a baby Hobbit flying all the way accross the room with a kick.) And no matter how much Bilbo explained and warned and no matter how fervently the Dwarves promised him they'd be as gentle as with their own children (More gentle, please! said Bilbo after witnessing the Rock Throwing Incident), he knew wouldn't be able to sleep peacefully until the Shire-folk were either settled in, or had run back to the Shire.

So all in all, it was with quite a large amount of trepidation that Bilbo waited for the Hobbits to arrive. To smoothen matters, to calm his nerves, and to get Hobbits (especially Hobbitlings) acquainted with the concept of Dwarves, he had decided to ride out to meet them a little way from the slowly rebuilding Dale. With him rode Kili (as a representative of the Dwarven king and Bilbo's soon-to-be-husband's side of the family), Dwalin (as a representative of Thorin's most trusted warriors and thus the Dwarves' willingness to defend their new allies), and Ori (as a representative of the Least Scary Dwarves Bilbo could find).

Glancing at his companions, Bilbo nearly groaned. Kili was impatiently bouncing up and down on his horse, looking thrilled at the prospect of getting more family. Ori was fidgeting nervously, though perhaps there was a glimmer of excitement in his eyes (fighting in a huge battle and coming out alive tended to boost one's confidence). Dwalin just looked imposing.

Bilbo opened his mouth to tell one of them (all of them?) to try to look... nicer, when suddenly, just coming up from around the bend, he saw them.

In caravans and wagons and ponies the Hobbit expedition came. Hobbits mostly do not travel at all, and when they do, they do not travel lightly. Now Bilbo had a completely new reason to groan (was that a chair?!), and he sneaked a half-embarrassed look to his side. But Kili, if possible, looked even more excited, Ori seemed intrigued, and Dwalin... continued to look scary.

And then they were there. The whole Hobbit procession came to a stop, slowly and not all at the same time. Bilbo heard a lot of yells along the lines of:

"What's going on?"
"Mama, is this a potty break?"
"I can't believe it, it's Mad Consort Baggins himself come to welcome us!"

At that one, Bilbo resolutely nudged his horse forward, determined not to look at his companions (especially at the wildly cackling Kili). As he neared, he slid off his horse. Around him, his companions did the same, as did the leaders of the Hobbit expedition. Bilbo nodded at Gandalf with a smile, grateful that the Wizard had kept his kin safe on the long journey. He opened his mouth to express his thanks properly-- and was nearly bowled over by his aunt, Mirabella Took.

As the youngest daughter of the Old Took, she was probably supposed to be the head of this expedition and was there to feel out possible diplomatic relations. One glance at the wide grin splitting her face, and Bilbo was comforted to know it was so much more than that. (In the past years, he had not been that close to any of his family, preferring the company of books, but he still fondly remembered traipsing around the Shire with Mirabella Took in search of Elves.)

"Our own dear Mad Royal Consort Bilbo Baggins!" she said, pulling away from him. "And this must be a new cousin?"

With bright, excited eyes she took in Kili. In return, he offered her a small bow, taking the advantage of his face being hidden to attempt to stifle his laughter. Bilbo was pretty sure the prince didn't fool her in the slightest.

Still, they moved on without incident, and the Hobbits, the Dwarves, and the Wizard were able to exchange more formal pleasantries. Inside, Bilbo was fidgeting a little; he had forgotten that when Hobbits stopped their travels, they Stopped. He could already hear murmurs from the wagons about what a wonderful place for a picnic this was. Thus, Bilbo cleared his throat to speak...

And was interrupted once again.

"Mama, are these Them?" came a little voice from inside the closest wagon.

Bilbo tried hurriedly to recall the name that voice belonged to, as a little head, crowned with copper curls, popped out.

"Yes, Primula," said Miranda. "Come and meet your new cousins." (Hobbits have difficulty grasping the concept that not all other races are as intricately related as Hobbits are; so if Kili was considered a cousin, Miranda reckoned, the other Dwarves should be too.)

And there it was, the moment of truth. Bilbo held his breath, as the tiny girl jumped down from the wagon and trotted over to them. When she reached her mother’s skirts, she stopped, looking up, up, up at the Dwarves. Primula barely reached Dwalin’s waist, although she was almost a tween.

Trying not to move overly much and thus give himself away, Bilbo nudged Ori to the front. The point of this little welcome party was to get the tiniest of his relatives acquainted with the Dwarves, and Ori was the best Dwarf to start with. He was sweet; already his face was splitting into a wide, silly grin.

Finally, Primula made up her mind. “I like him,” she said, pointing.

At Dwalin.

Bilbo and Miranda blinked. As one, their heads swung between the tiny Hobbit girl and the tall Dwarven warrior. Even Gandalf looked slightly flummoxed. Of all the things Bilbo had expected (screaming and crying, a crush on Kili, a cuddle with Ori), this was... just not it. Beside him, however, both Kili and Ori nodded sagely; both appeared to have anticipated this event.

"He was always great with me," said Ori.

"Mr. Dwalin was my hero as a Dwarveling," added Kili.

Meanwhile, Primula had trotted over to Dwalin. She reached up her arms, a silent plea to be lifted. Without hesitation, Dwalin reached down. Softly, gently, as though she was more precious than the Arkenstone itself, he raised her to lean against his chest in his strong, strong arms. Finally eye to eye, the child and the guard stared at each other, evaluating. Everything went still (even the whispers for Food! from the caravan quieted).

Then, Primula broke the moment and tugged lightly at Dwalin's beard. In response, he swung her even further up, settling her on his broad shoulders. She clung to his armor and his braids, looking as though she had always belonged there and would be perfectly content to stay for ages yet. Although her tiny hands and firm grip were surely uncomfortable, Dwalin didn't move their positioning a single inch.

They stayed like this, tiny scrap of a Hobbit and gigantic Dwarf, for the rest of the journey and as the Hobbits arrived in Erebor.