“Feelin’ alright, Bilbo?” called Bofur from across their camp that night. It had been a long day, and Bilbo was clearly bursting at the seams a bit with frustration at the vagaries of life on the road—naturally, Bofur had noticed. And said something.
Because tact was beyond dwarves.
“Oh, yeah,” replied Bilbo, ducking his head down. “Why do you ask?”
“Just that you’re blushing fair to light up the campsite without Bombur even needing to make a fire,” laughed Bofur. “What’s got you so flustered?”
“Dwarves!” replied Bilbo, honest, despite a slightly forced edge to his otherwise light tone. “The whole sodding lot of you!”
“Is that so,” said Thorin, who was suddenly behind Bilbo. His scoffing at all of dwarf-kind seemed a bit less good-natured when the King of Durin’s Folk was present.
“Oh,” said Bilbo eloquently, as shame washed over him. Even more heat flushed over his cheeks and then he really was glowing, and all of dwarf-kind really could sod off for all he cared, sod off and go fight that dragon by themselves. He pulled up the hood that Dwalin had lent him, and hid behind it as best he could for the rest of the night. He hadn’t glowed this much since he was a sensitive faunt, and he wasn’t about to start up again now.
The last thing he expected was Thorin sneaking up on him when he was gathering wood in the forest, but since Bilbo never could predict when Thorin was going to pop up right next to him, he really should have expected it anyway.
“Your majesty,” he exhaled in surprised greeting.
“Master Baggins,” Thorin responded with equal formality.
Bilbo felt a familiar warmth creep over his face, one that Thorin was especially adept at bringing out, simply by virtue of being his blasted, majestic, self-sacrificing self. He made a study of his toes, trying to hide the subtle glow that he knew would be radiating off of him even now.
“Do you need any assistance?” asked Thorin, ever so politely. He seemed to be smirking, and that just made Bilbo glow that much more brightly. Heavens, he didn’t need to be smirked at for his perpetually perceived uselessness by Thorin bloody Oakenshield any more than he already was.
“Fine, thanks,” muttered Bilbo, as he mentally cursed himself for leaving Dwalin’s cloak at the campsite.
“Dwarves have excellent night-vision.”
“I can see just fine, really, thanks ever so much” said Bilbo, desperately turning his head in any direction that wasn’t towards Thorin. Now that Thorin had gone and made him blush, Bilbo was speaking the truth. He was producing quite enough light to see by, radiating so much heat he glowed faintly.
If dwarves really did have excellent night vision, there was no way Thorin hadn’t noticed, but somewhat curiously, he didn’t say anything about it; he just left with a little huff.
Maybe there was hope for dwarves and tact after all.
Bilbo sat by the fire, slowly running a careful finger over his new sword’s sharp edge, and peering at it carefully. Gandalf had said that it would glow blue if orcs were present, and what with the scares they’d just had with the trolls, he kept expecting it to light up at any moment.
“It’s a fine blade, Master Baggins,” said Thorin who, damn it all, had managed to sneak up on him again.
“I wouldn’t know,” said Bilbo, honestly. “But I trust that you know whereof you speak.”
“I think you have something in common with it,” said Thorin, and he sounded uncharacteristically light, almost like he might be… joking?
Bilbo blinked up at him.
“You both glow,” said Thorin, and there was that smirk again. “Except your own glow seems to alert you to the presence of dwarves, rather than orcs.”
No, there was no hope after all.
“How do you think hobbits have maintained their hidden, peaceful society for so long?” retorted Bilbo. “We have our own natural alert system.”
“Is that what it is,” replied Thorin, entirely too mildly. He sat down next to him and then he laid a hand over Bilbo’s, where he gripped his tiny sword with white knuckles. There was no denying that the soft pink glow around Bilbo intensified rather dramatically. “Am I a danger to you then?”
“A menace,” said Bilbo. “A dire threat to every bit of peace and happiness I’d ever hoped to enjoy in the quiet life I had all planned for myself.”
“And yet,” observed Thorin, “you’re still here.”
“I am,” said Bilbo. “Don’t fully understand it myself.”
Thorin stood almost as abruptly as he’d sat, but the smirk was replaced with a soft smile as he gazed down at the softly radiant hobbit.
Thorin studied him for a bit longer, and Bilbo’s glow only intensified under his brilliant, focused gaze, but there was no hiding it now. So he let himself look back at Thorin, and he glowed, and he glowed, and he glowed.
Finally, Thorin spoke. “In case either your face or your sword alerts you to any new dangers, we’ll want you to be able to use it a bit. You’ll practice with Fíli tomorrow.”
With another flash of that soft, real smile, Thorin headed out to check the perimeter of their camp, but Bilbo felt suffused with a gentle light for the rest of the night.