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A Spot of Tea

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The shopkeeper gave Thorin Oakenshield a dubious look as he walked through the door, and Thorin could hardly blame her:  an armor-clad, rather shaggy dwarf was woefully out of place in this room full of floral upholstery and white lace.  But Bilbo had been so delighted at the sight of a Laketown tea room that he had insisted Thorin come along, and considering the hobbit had saved his life two or three times now Thorin felt the least he could do was drink some stewed leaf juice with him.

Gingerly, he took a seat on a delicate white-painted chair covered with a rose-patterned cushion, and watched Bilbo enthuse over the floral centerpiece, the doilies, the fluted stained-glass lamps.  A waitress in a starched white apron came over, and she and Bilbo had an animated discussion as to which tea was superior as Thorin tried his level best not to stand out too much.

From the looks he was getting from other customers, he was failing miserably at that.

It was…interesting to see the burglar in something like his natural habitat, he thought, watching Bilbo chatter about aroma and nose with the smiling waitress.  He looked comfortable and happy, something Thorin had rarely seen him look over their travels.

It suited him.

“And you, Master Dwarf?”  The waitress’s voice broke into his thoughts, and Thorin snapped out of his reverie.  ”What would you like?”

“I’ll…have what he’s having,” Thorin said, pointing at Bilbo.

“Oh, that’s an excellent choice!” Bilbo beamed, just as if Thorin had made an informed decision.  He looked around the sunny little room, interlacing his fingers on the table.  ”This is such a pleasant place,” he said.  ”It feels rather like home.  Although everything’s too big, of course,” he added with a wry look at Thorin.  He picked up the teacup in front of him.  ”Look at this, what an exquisite pattern.”

Thorin picked up his own cup—far too dainty for his wide hands—and peered at the little purple and yellow flowers twining around it.  ”Pretty,” he agreed.

“Violets, my favorite,” Bilbo sighed, putting it back on the saucer with a tiny click.

Dwarvish drinking cups were generally made of metal and wood;  Thorin’s hands felt clumsy and awkward on the satiny china.  Bilbo was talking about different kinds of sugars and something called clotted cream, his voice happy.  Thorin watched him, absorbed in his own world of flowers and tea and doilies.  A month ago he would have dismissed such things as frivolous fripperies.  A month ago, before he had seen this fussy little hobbit hold off a warg, fight a giant spider, rescue him and his men from the deep dungeons of Mirkwood.

Soon enough, their teacups were full of steaming brown liquid.  Bilbo inhaled the steam rapturously, and Thorin followed suit, surreptitiously watching Bilbo’s face to make sure he was doing it right as he cautiously lifted the cup.

The tea was light and sweet, with a slight hint of bitterness beneath.  ”It’s good,” he said, somewhat surprised.

Bilbo sighed happily.  ”It is, isn’t it?”  He smiled at Thorin, and Thorin looked down at his teacup, took another quick sip.  ”Thank you for sharing this with me.  It’s a shame to drink tea alone, and as much as I  like them, the other dwarves, well…”

The image broke into Thorin’s head unbidden:  thirteen dwarves in the cozy little tea house, juggling sugar cubes, guzzling tea and belching.  He snorted with sudden laughter, choking slightly on his tea, and heard  Bilbo join in.

Everyone in the tea room was looking at them, but Thorin Oakenshield couldn’t possibly have cared less.