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When Tharkun suggested Dain hire a hobbit as their burglar, Dain had scoffed. A hobbit? From what he knew, hobbits were prone to easy lifestyles, rarely moving more than 10 miles away from their homes. They had an unhealthy obsession with gardening, and had no idea how to fight, never learning to use a weapon. They were an altogether soft lot, and a hobbit had no place in a Company of dwarves going on a dangerous journey to reclaim their homeland.

Tharkun had a point though. The scent of a dwarf would be familiar to the wyrm, after so long in Erebor. The hobbits' tendency to stay near home and hearth meant it would be unlikely the dragon knew the scent of a hobbit. Dain would do anything to increase their chances of success. So he grudgingly agreed, and let Gandalf make the arrangements for a hobbit burglar.

"I know just the hobbit for this job..."

 


 

Gandalf hoped Bilbo had not changed overly much from the mischievous lad he had been in his tweens, trailing mud and fireflies home after a long ramble searching for elves. Never so adventurous a hobbit there had been since his dear friend Belladonna Took–coincidentally, Bilbo's mother. Like mother, like son, or so Gandalf hoped.

Perhaps Gandalf should have kept better track of events in the Shire. He might have been less surprised upon his arrival; and more prepared for the fearsome resistance to his idea.

 


 

"...that's what Master Baggins hates!"

Maybe it was the fire, casting strange shadows. The venomous hiss and pop, and the shower of sparks spat as a blackened log broke. Or maybe it was the especially violent clatter of the last plate being neatly stacked. Almost wince-worthy in the possibility of a crack appearing on the expensive china.

Or maybe, it was the soft ringing of a blade being slowly drawn from its sheath.

The Company (one hobbit yet to be determined) froze, and all eyes shot to the source of the sound.

Bilbo smiled sweetly from his seat at the dining table, round cheeks kissed red and gold by the light of the fire. He tilted his head slightly as he observed the tableau in his kitchen, and idly waved one hand at the lot–the hand holding the drawn kitchen knife.

"Would you like dessert? Of course you would, I shouldn't have to ask. Bofur, is it, would you mind getting the cake from the third pantry shelf?"

The tip glinted in the dim light. Bilbo retracted the hand and the knife, absently caressing the sharp edge with one careful thumb. His eyes stared innocently at Bofur–incidentally the one who started 'What Master Baggins Hates'.

BANG!

"Uncle Bilbo! We're back! And we saw Lobelia, the nasty bit–mmph!–"

"–witch! Kili meant witch! Kili, shut up, do you want to be soaped–"

"–mmph!–witch, Lobelia that nasty witch! She said you invited more dwarves over–"

"–but of course you didn't, we're your favourite dwarves, besides Unc–oh."

Two blurs tumbled into the kitchen, and froze, shaping themselves into a fair headed dwarf with a braided moustache and a brown haired dwarf with unruly, unbraided locks. The Company examined the two curiously, but the two never even noticed, eyes instead trained on the kitchen knife in Bilbo's hand.

"Now Uncle–"

"–we've done nothing this time–"

"–promise! Otho's got nothing–"

"–cause we've done nothing–"

"–just put down that knife nice and slowly Uncle–"

"Nephews."

The two immediately quieted, and turned towards the kitchen doorway, where another dwarf stood.

"Bilbo," the dwarf smiled and, to the shock of the other dwarrows in the room, murmured in the dwarven secret language, "beloved."

 


 

"You!" Thorin gasped.

Dark hair, piercing blue eyes, and a noble dignity to his stance, this dwarf was unmistakeable to Thorin. He had only stared admiringly at a portrait of this same face in the halls of Ered Luin for the past few decades, daydreaming of being as strong as him.

"Thorin," the halfling smiled, and stepped forward.

Thorin III Stonehelm, son of Dain, son of Nain, of the Line of Durin, gaped as he watched Thorin II Oakenshield, lauded vanished saviour of the Durin Line during the Battle of Azanulbizar and his own namesake, step forward and rest his forehead gently against the hobbit's.