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The battle was raging wild all around him. It was sheer and utter chaos as Bilbo searched in vain for any and all members of his company. Alas, all he could see were the fighting bodies of orcs, men, elves and drarrow. He made a herculean effort not to look further down upon the mutilated bodies that littered the ground. More than once he thanked the green lady for the simple golden band resting on his finger which granted him invisibility. War was no place for a hobbit.

Explosions bloomed all around him leaving yawning craters in the sandy dirt. His breath came in short pants as he pulled another injured soldier out of the fray. He quickly examined the open chest wound calculating chances of survival. The prognosis wasn’t good. Didn’t matter, he would try anyway. Opening his med kit he removed the necessary items for disinfection. Thank god the poor bloke was unconscious, this was going to hurt.

He battled his way through the masses, occasionally slashing at orcs, finding the back of their knees to be a weak spot. Most would come crashing down when he did so, bringing their necks to a manageable height. What he was doing brought bile to his mouth, but he paid it no mind. He had to get to Thorin, to Fili, to Kili, to anyone really. He needed them to be safe. After all didn’t he give up his happiness for their safety?

He aimed and fired. There was no way he was letting that man take Sherlock from him. He might not have known him for long; John was nothing if not loyal. It was odd, even after all his medical training and oaths; he never hesitated to take a life. His hands were steady and his breathing calm. There was never any room for regret. Besides, the man was a psychotic serial killer.

Contrary to popular belief, Bilbo had known exactly what he was doing in handing over the Arkenstone to Bard. He had known how mad Thorin would be and he had known he would either be killed or worst. He accepted those consequences, as long as his friends were safe. This was not at all what he had in mind when he thought about safe.

His heart shattered, he had jumped. How could he have jumped? How could he have done this to himself? To John? A sob made its way out of his throat as he rushed to his, now late, best friend. He couldn’t, he simply couldn’t be gone. It was impossible, he was Sherlock Holmes.

Safe was not battling orcs, safe was not killing wargs and safe was most certainly not the blood that would forever stain the plains around the lonely mountains. Safe was not war. Then why the bloody hell had this happened!?

The drill sergeant was bellowing in his face. Spittle flew and smacked his impassive visage, his posture remained rigid. After a time and a damaged ear drum the sergeant moved on to the next recruit and started all over again. Military training was a grueling affair.

Panting in exhaustion, Bilbo stopped his slow advance and leaned on his sword for support. His muscles were crying in agony and his bones ached to their very marrow. He was just so weary.

A sudden pain erupted in the back of his skull. He fell to his knees, unable to stay upright due to the force of the impact. He lifted a hand and gently prodded the back of his head. It came away wet, warm and sticky. He looked at it, to see that it was covered in blood. The world tilted on its axis and just before everything went dark, he realized he remembered everything.

Chapter Text

Waking up after a severe concussion was a rather difficult endeavor. It seemed like consciousness came in stages, much like swimming upwards in a pool of honey. You could see more and more light telling you the surface was getting closer, but you still had to fight for it. It was a long and arduous process and Bilbo came to quite exhausted. Perhaps this fatigue was a normal occurrence upon receiving memories of a past life? Or perhaps it was the result of the small boulder which had made contact with his cranium? Either way, he felt awful. Not only was his head throbbing, but his mind was in utter turmoil trying to reconcile his new memories with his old ones and cope with the virtual personality transplant he had just undergone.

After a moment, his military training kicked in and slammed his emotions shut to better get a read on the situation. He breathed deeply to achieve calm, and then slowly opened his eyes. Cold green eyes swept over the battle field. They took in the blood, the bodies and the destruction with a clinical ease. They finally settled on the far off bustling medical tents. These were a good sign. Orcs didn’t have such things, which indicated the battle had been won by his side. He vaguely wondered why he was still on the battle field before remembering he still wore his ring. He imagined it was a good thing, who knew what kind of reception he would get from the drarrow after what he had done. Not only that, but he was still banished.

None the less, he still made his way to the tents. He had to know about his company. Were they alive, dead, wounded? He knew he would have to leave, but he could not live without knowing, it would gnaw at his insides till the day he died. Though if he got caught, that might be sooner rather than later. He sighed, he had known, but that didn’t make it easier. He had betrayed his One and now he would be forced to live without him for a very long time. It was a little known fact that a hobbits life expectancy would reflect that of his One if said mate was of another species. The green mother was kind to her children and did not wish to anguish the few who were destined for other races. The simple fact of being destined to an inter-species relationship was anguishing enough, as Bilbo had found out. All hobbits wore the name of their intended on their inner left wrists and suffice to say Thorin Okenshield was not a hobbity name. He thanked the Valar he never had the time to tell Thorin or even insinuate that he wanted, no needed, him as more than a friend. If they thought him a traitor before, imagine what they would think about a hobbit who deliberately betrayed his one. Bilbo shuddered.

Enough of this, he was here to check on his friends, ascertain their health, then he was to make his way back to the shire and go back to the way things were. But he couldn’t could he? No, not with his memories as John, he would never be satisfied with a peaceful life in the shire. It mattered very little. He would do one thing at a time and for now that meant entering the tent he had been standing before for the last five minutes.

Still invisible, Bilbo tried to make his entrance as unnoticeable as possible. He should not have bothered as all the occupants of the room were unconscious. The first he saw were Fili and Kili. They were in a very bad way, but after an in depth medical examination, Bilbo determined they would both live. He exhaled in relief. Two down, twelve to go. He walked to the sole other occupant of the tent and choked on a sob, it was Thorin. He was badly injured and there was hardly an inch of him without bandages. Bilbo felt a jolt of panic rise through him before he forced himself to calm down. Panic would not help anyone, hell it might even get him caught. Spying a med kit not far from him, Bilbo went to work on Thorin, in a race against the clock. There was still hope he could live and Bilbo wasn’t going to stop until Thorin was saved or dead. He worked relentlessly for hours on end till finally his patient’s condition was stable and his recovery almost guaranteed.

Bilbo found himself a nice corner on the floor and slept away his exhaustion.

***

The sound of feet woke his up before they even entered the tent. Still invisible, he watched as the rest of his company filled up the tent. The all looked tired and a little battered, but generally healthy. Bilbo had never been more relieved in his life. They were alive, his family was alive! He resisted the urge to throw himself at them and hug the living daylights out of them. They still though he was a traitor. As such he held his piece and observed them hungrily, this would most likely be the last time he saw any of them. Trears grouped in the corner of his eye before he furiously whipped them away. They were safe, the rest didn’t matter. He was paying the price for his actions, but how could he regret them when it worked? How could he regret keeping them alive and safe? His happiness was irrelevant in the grand scheme of things and he accepted that.

He left the tent in the great commotion caused by Oin announcing the King had been magically recalled from the threshold of death by some unknown healer. He knew it was time to leave. He couldn’t stay and watch Thorin wake only for him to look at him with hatred. It would most likely kill him to be thus rejected by his One. It had been torture when Thorin learned about his theft of the Arkenstone, he could not live through that again.

He spotted Gandalf in the distance, but decided against asking him to escort him home. Gandalf would immediately know he was not the same hobbit as yesterday and would ask all sorts of uncomfortable questions. Or perhaps worse, he would try to convince him to stay and wait for Thorin to awaken. No he could not ask Gandalf.

Stealing a pony from the temporary stables he started the long and perilous journey, alone. He sighed, alone was all he would ever be wasn’t it? He had been alone since the death of his parents, even as John he had been alone most of his life, before Sherlock that is. He had thought, many times during this adventure, that with the friendship he had forged and his discovery of his One, that he would never again be alone. He had been naive, he deserved to be alone.

The road home seemed to go ever on and Bilbo looked forward to the skirmishes he had with the passing dark creatures. John had always been somewhat of an adrenaline junky and as he was an expert fighter these fights were almost fun. More than not, Sting was drenched in the blood of some poor unfortunate evil being that thought Bilbo to be an easy prey.

He easily made his way through Mirkwood, finding vindictive pleasure in killing a large number of spiders. He decided to forgo Beorn’s house, not being in the mood for company. He managed to avoid the stone giants and the goblins, though not many were left after the battle of five armies. Again he decided to forgo Rivendell, not wanting to tell anyone the things he had done. He did decide to stop in Trollshaw to pick up a certain long term deposit. He wasn’t going to come back from this adventure empty handed.

On the day he finally reached Bag End he was appalled to see that Lobelia, having declared him dead, was auctioning of his belongings. He sighed again. There ain’t no rest for the wicked it seems.

Chapter Text

The shire was as it had always been. It could have been the morning he left, a hundred years in the past or a hundred years in the future and you could scarcely see the difference. Yet… yet it felt so different, as if something had been irreparably broken or deeply changed. Bilbo, of course, realised it wasn’t the Shire that was different, but himself. Indeed, how could one possibly remain the same after all he had been through, not to mention all his new memories? Gandalf had warned him, but he still had been hesitant to believe him. Even once he knew he would definitely be different, he could never have imagined how much. He sat in his favourite chair, smoking his favourite blend and he looked upon the things that made up Bag End. It had been an awful process getting it all back and he now wondered if it was worth it. Of course these were his parents’ things and of course they were rightfully his, but in the end it was all just stuff. Cutlery couldn’t talk and doilies gave no hugs. It had all seemed so important before he left and it had been, it was all he had. That what it all came down to wasn’t it, that use of the past tense. It had been. It wasn’t anymore and would most likely never be again. The things he treasured, the things that were important to him were many leagues away and he would never see them again.

He sighed.

That all he seemed to do now a days. Try as he might, he could not stop. He had tried keeping himself occupied, he guessed that was the real motivation behind getting all his auctioned belongings back, but nothing held his attention for long. His limp was back, something it had not done since Sherlock’s staged suicide. He knew it was psychosomatic, hell he hadn’t even been shot in this body (and even as John it had been such). He imagined it was his psyche’s way of coping with the loss of his chosen family and more importantly of his One. Being alone all the time was taking its toll on him. He had gotten so used to the lack of privacy and the noise that it made Bag End that much emptier.

He spent his days much like he had before his adventure, reading, writing and tending to his garden with Hamfast. It should be mentioned though that his writing had vastly transformed. Bilbo had taken to writing introductory books about modern medicine and techniques. They were making quite a splash among healers and already many lives had been saved because of them. His publisher’s mail box was constantly flooded with questions regarding his identity. He had been careful not to bring any more attention to himself and wrote under the name John Watson. It wasn’t an outright lie as had been and maybe still was John.

Sometimes when he was very bored (which was very often in the quiet Shire) he took patients and nursed them back to health. He made sure only to ever take hobbits, which would keep his secret. At least from strange folk, hobbits were great gossips. On the plus side, his new competency in the healing arts almost completely re-established his lost respectability. Sadly, Bilbo Baggins cared very little for respectability now-a-days. His only ray of sunshine was his little cousin Frodo and his best friend Samwise. He would often watch the two playful fauntlings to give their parents some time off and he loved it. Never in both his lives had he had children and he was now regretting that fact. Raising younglings was hard but oh so rewarding. It was simply not to be it seemed as his One was male and well probably hated him.

Some days he contemplated adoption, but how could he raise a child when he himself was so emotionally defective? He was never happy anymore and he only ever smiled for the fauntlings and that was rare and mostly faked. He could provide a steady home environment, but he could hardly provide an adequate emotional one. Either way, fauntlings rarely needed adoption and there weren’t any drarrow around.

Still he wondered if having young of his own would make getting out of bed in the morning easier or if they would ease the pull in his heart which demanded he go back to the lonely mountain. He sometimes contemplated at how it was slowly getting stronger, more insistent it seemed. Though most days he simply tried to forget the force slowly tearing him apart. He guessed this was why soul mates only ever parted in death.

While in the Shire, Bilbo decided to keep in shape should anything happen. Most Shirefolk would scoff at the idea of the shire being anything less than safe, but the fell winter had happened once and could happen again very easily. So Bilbo trained himself hard and would often ask passing rangers for help. As such he soon found himself in exemplary shape and his fighting techniques were something to be reckoned with. He became a somewhat well-known curiosity for the rangers. They now came from far and wide to spar with him and all left thoroughly beaten and with a renewed does of modesty. Being beaten up by someone barely reaching your waist was a reality check some desperately needed.

All and all, Bilbo was as content as he could be considering the circumstances. He planned to waste away the rest of his long existence in the Shire away from prying eyes and away from everything he truly loved. He made peace with the idea, or at least he thought he did, but he still woke up feeling empty and his nights were still haunted by faces he would never gaze upon again and voice his ears would never be graced with. But what could one do?

So he did all he could, held his breath and soldiered on through the days. Because wasn’t that what all good soldiers did?

Chapter Text

Green eyes snapped open. They sleepily fumbled across the bedroom to find the grandfather clock or what had awoken them, whichever came first. Eventually they rested on the hands of the clock trying to decipher the time in the room’s dull orange light. 3 o’clock. It was strangely bright for 3 o’clock. As a matter of fact, it was strangely orange for any o’clock let alone 3. Suddenly alert, Bilbo sprung out of his bed and rushed to the window. What he saw there, would be forever seared into his mind.

The whole Shire was alight with orange light, no not light, but fire. Flames danced upon every surface his eyes perceived and the sky reflected the flames colour as far as the eye could see. The fires probably spread till at least Bree to cause such light. It was almost as light as the day outside. The problem was that the flames weren’t the worst thing in the Shire at the moment. No the Shire was filled with orcs and wrags which were decimating those who managed to escape the fires. Thankfully Bag End was too far for the screams to carry, but that didn’t stop Bilbo from seeing at least three hobbits perish before he turned away.

He realised he had little time before they got here. Quickly putting on his sturdiest clothes and the chain mail shirt he had gotten from Thorin so long ago. Had it truly only been a year? Focusing on the task at hand, Bilbo finished dressing and pulled out Sting. He was incredibly happy he had maintained his training, because he was about to need it, big time.

He knew he could not save everyone, hell most were probably already dead, but Frodo’s smial was not very far from his and in an area which would not have been touched by the blaze quite yet. He tried not to think of his beloved Sam whose house was, used to be, in the middle of the raging flames. He stealthily made his way to his cousin Drogo’s house keeping a pointed ear out for any dark creature. He sighed in relief when he saw that the house was intact and the door still on its hinges. There was still hope. He decided to forgo knocking, just in case, and made his way to Drogo and Primula’s bedroom. The door was opened just a crack, so he slowly push it open. The room was empty and the bed unmade, but there was no sign of his cousin. Dread began to fill his stomach. He quietly made his way to Frodo’s room. The door was shut this time, he opened it and walked in, sword ready. Once again the room was empty and the bad unmade. Bilbo sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. He really hoped they got away. He hoped they hadn’t joined the fray, thinking they could help. But Bilbo knew his cousin and Bilbo knew his cousin’s wife and there was no way they didn’t try to help. For the first time, Bilbo hated his cousin and his willingness to help others. They should have taken Frodo and ran at the first sign of trouble.

This of course brought on a more pressing concern. Where was Frodo? Had they brought him with them? By the green lady he hoped not. He had once thought that he had lost everything, but life seemed to always try to prove him wrong by showing him he could always lose more. If he lost Frodo, he didn’t know what he would do and even if he didn’t he wasn’t sure he could cope with having lost Sam.

It was then that Bilbo saw something move in his peripheral vision. His whole body snapped towards the heavy oak wardrobe. Its door was now ajar. Bilbo slowly and cautiously approached it and opened it at a distance via Sting. His heart stopped then restarted twice as fast. Inside the wardrobe was his two fauntlings curled up together trembling. Their eyes were clenched shut and their heads buried into each other’s necks.

"My… my boys! You’re safe! I was so worried."

Stuttered Bilbo. Two stunned faces turned rapidly in his direction and he soon found his arms full of sobbing fauntling and twin cries of "Uncle Bilbo!" They stayed cuddled together for a time when a sudden noise broke Bilbo out of his relieved daze. He needed to get his boys to safety and dispose of the orcs.

"Boys, listen to me, we are going to play a little game, okay?"

"Okay!" intoned the two little ones in tandem. They loved Uncle Bilbo’s games, they were always full of adventures and dragons and dwarves and things.

"You two are adventurers on an epic quest to save an elven princess. As such you need to get to Rivendell to save her from the evil wizard holding her captive there. Now to get to Rivendell what will you use?"

"A pony of course", giggled Frodo. Both boys squealed as Bilbo picked them up and whinnied. The carried them as fast as he could to Bag End’s second wood shed which was quite father in the woods.

"Now, some wargs seemed to have caught your scent, to throw them off, you found this magical cabin which erases scents. But for it to work you have to sit and stay very quiet until I come back to get you. You see I’m your scout and I am going to scout the area and make sure the wargs are fooled by the magic cabin. Okay?"

There was a tacit reply of "yes Uncle Bilbo." Before Frodo’s meek voice rose.

"You’re… you’re coming back right? Mummy and Daddy said they would, but…"

Bilbo’s heart shattered a little more seeing the fauntling so sad. He was still too young to understand death, but he seemed to comprehend that he would not be seeing his parents for a very long time.

"Of course I’m coming back, we have a princess to save!" He smiled at them confidently, which seemed to put them at ease. He closed the door and locked it. The moment the boys couldn’t see him anymore, the smiled slide right off his face. Those orcs were going to pay.

***

He slid in closer to a large group of orcs which were all crowded around Bag End. They seemed to be searching for something. They were grunting and growling in black speech, tossing things every which where. What were they looking for? He wished he had Sherlock’s deductive skills, he would have known in a second what they were looking for. Perhaps it was worth a try? First, they knew where he lived, as Bag End was off the beaten track and you had to know it was there to find it. Second, they knew he had it as this was the only house they had searched. Third, it was something small, as they weren’t looking at big things, but searching every nook and cranny. Fourth, it was important enough to warrant a full fledge attack by a rather large contingent of orcs. The only thing he could come up with was his magical ring, which he wore at all time on a chain around his neck. Why would orcs want it though? While invisibility was a great asset, it was moot without subtlety and quietness, which orcs did not possess. Was it possible there was more to his ring than just its ability to render invisible? At this very moment though, that didn’t matter. What did was avenging his fallen race and annihilating the orcs which had led to its extinction. He had checked on the rest of the Shire while he tracked down the orcs that had remained there. It was barely more than a smoldering pile of burnt houses and corpses. There were no survivors, nor of the hobbit variety or the orc one, for that matter, after he was done.

He started by picking off the farther orcs with a bow and arrow as to not alert those closer to Bag End. After the packed had been culled to a manageable size for hand to hand combat, the real blood bath started. Driven by loss and anger, Bilbo seemed to go berserk. He slashed and slit and cut and severed till there was nothing to destroy anymore. Bilbo stood alone, drenched in the dark blood of foul creatures in front of his destroyed smial. He did not feel his exhaustion or the multiple small cuts that littered his body. He watched impassively as his home slowly turn to ash. It didn’t hurt as much as he thought it would, then again, the only thing that truly mattered now was bundled up in a wood shed five minutes away. By the goddess he needed to clean himself before he went to get the boys or they would faint in fear.

***

The sun shined brightly the next morning straight into Frodo’s shut eyes. The fauntling groaned and tried to pull Sam over him to use as a sun block. This was a normal occurrence that happened at every one of their sleepovers. Good thing Sam slept like a rock. His bedroom door unlocked and he tried to burrow deeper into Sam’s side. Wait, his door didn’t have a lock! Where was he, what happened? Last night’s events came rushing back to him. He and Sam had settled in to sleep after their long day of activities had exhausted them and his parents had arranged with Sam’s to let him sleep here. In the middle of the night though his parents had come in panicked and told them to get into his wardrobe and not come out for anyone except another hobbit. Then they had run out the door in their bedclothes, how odd. That was when the noises started, awful and loud. Then came the screams. Frodo trembled a bit at the thought. After a moment he had heard the front door open, then his parents then his. The foot sounds were that of a hobbit so Frodo had thought it safe to push open the wardrobe a little. It immediately occurred to him that perhaps the creature had disguised its sound, like in Uncle Bilbo’s stories. He had held on tighter to Sam and awaited his fate. But thankfully it had been Uncle Bilbo, here to take them away on an adventure. Which lead him to where he was now.

Uncle Bilbo straightened Sam and Frodo’s clothes before bringing them outside and leading them to a large beast. The two fauntlings stared opened mouthed and finally Sam said in awe:

"Wow! We get a real pony for this adventure!"

Chapter Text

Wet from the stream he had just wadded through in an attempt to wash the blood off, Bilbo went back to town check for survivors (just in case he had missed anything in his post battle adrenaline, it was simply too hard to believe that everyone was gone), supplies and if he was lucky a pony. Ruined houses and small remaining blazes are all that met his gaze. Off to a corner were the scattered remains of the unfortunate few that had survived their encounter with fire, but not with the orcs. He had met some sick individuals in his both his lives, admittedly most were because of Sherlock, but nothing quite topped the sheer brutality of an orc raid. Some of the bodies hadn’t been cut by swords or any other weapon, but literally torn apart by brute force. The sight of all those mutilated corpses would have made most of Middle Earth’s warriors violently sick. But, Bilbo had been in Afghanistan, he had seen children torn apart by bombs and soldiers collecting body parts as trophies.

He solemnly covered the pile with hay and set it alight. It would not do for these remains to be eaten by wild life and he had no time to waste on a proper burial. After searching for some time he found a smial where the food cellar was still largely intact and full. He packed all the food he knew would keep into a saddle bag he had found along the way.

Bilbo then made his way to one of the many farmer’s pony enclosure and hope they had not all escaped. The first few were either empty or completely destroyed. A global trend it would seem, Bilbo thought as he sat down to ponder the situation. He needed a pony, that much was certain. The problem was he was pretty sure the orcs had raided all the other settlements leading up to the Shire. Bilbo pulled at his hair. He took a moment to contemplate how long it had become as he simply hadn't had the heart to cut it. If he was honest with himself, he should have cut it the moment he betrayed Thorin. Wasn’t that what dwarrow did when they were dishonored? Well he knew that to be true with beards, but he had none so his hair should have been the next best thing. He had not done it at the time because he refused to regret saving his friends. But now… now the whole village he had sworn to protect was gone and if his hunch was right, so were all the other hobbit settlements. It was something he would have to verify. Either way, he now found himself dishonoured twice over and without a home for himself or his boys. Resolve now solidifying, he went over to the river’s edge and stared at his reflection for a time. Gathering his hair as it to put a tie in it, he held it slightly away from his head and brought Sting to it. He unclenched his eyes, took one last look at his sleek brown mane and horsey face and… Wait! What?!

He gaped at the reflected face of the chocolate brown pony before finally understanding what he was seeing. There was a pony right next to him. He rushed over to it and positively showered it in affectionate scratches and cuddles. This pony was a gift from the Green Lady. He led it back to his saddle bags and loaded them on, now all he had to do was gather his boys.

He and the pony-with-no-name slowly trotted though the wreckage, the woods and finally reached the cabin. Bilbo’s shoulder’s sagged in relief at seeing it intact. He had been pretty sure they were safe, but when even the Shire could be attacked, was anywhere safe anymore? He unlocked the door and spied his sleepy fauntlings. His… they were his. He felt a bolt of panic hit him and hysterical laughter bubble in his throat. What was he going to do? He wasn’t a fit guardian for fauntlings! He could barely take care of himself some days. STOP! It doesn’t matter how you’ll make it, because you have no choice but to do so, thought Bilbo. He gently shook the boys awake and brought them out to meet the pony-with-no-name. Damn he really needed to name it.

The boys ooh and awed at the pony for a while and during that time, Bilbo made breakfast (most likely second breakfast by now). Simultaneously, he made lists of things and places he needed to go to. First he would need clothes for the boys, as they were still in their nightclothes. Second, he needed to check on the other settlements before finding them a permanent residence somewhere safe. After all, the boys had already been through far more than the average fauntling and that was not a good thing. The only safe place he could think of was Rivendell and he had already sold the boys on the idea, so that was where they would go. Once there he would use its extensive library to research the ring. In the meantime, he would avoid wearing it at all costs. Besides, he could not disappear on his fauntlings as he had on the dwarrow.

***

They had been on the road now for a few days and Bilbo’s suspicions were slowly confirming themselves. The roads were fraught with ash and ruins. Bilbo thanked the Green Lady that Frodo and Sam had never been out of the Shire and did not know what the passing scenery was supposed to look like. He had kept up their game by telling them the evil wizard had turned itself into a dragon and burned the forests that used to be here. Every now and then Bilbo would hide the boys in the crook of trees and cover them with a brown blanket and go gather supplies. They had become excellent at staying quiet and motionless for hours. Bilbo could not be prouder of his boys. They moved father and father away from what had been their home and eventually there were no more traces of ash. Feeling a little safer now that they had left all that destruction behind, Bilbo spent his days telling Frodo and Sam all kinds of stories. As their favourite up to now was the story of the trolls (something to do with the image of Bilbo covered in troll snot appealed to them apparently), he brought them to see the statues of the trolls.

The journey seemed to go ever on, but mostly without a hitch. There was run in with a pack of wargs, but after throwing Frodo and Sam up a tree, Bilbo had made quick work of them. They had had warg meat for a fortnight (as that was all they could carry) and the nights were so much warmer with their warg fur blankets. Bilbo had initially been scared that more orcs would come, but when they had not, he assumed that their commander had thought one detachment would be plenty to take down one hobbit. He would have been more than right, had it been and other hobbit than Bilbo Baggins.

When they finally reached Rivendell, they were dirty, sore and exhausted. Indeed, Bilbo had slept very little during the journey as he had to keep watch and had most of the time forgone caring for himself in favor of his boys. All and all, he thought he might be even gladder to see the last homely home than he had been last time.

Chapter Text

Sindarin is in italics

Pony-needs-a-name happily trotted to the entrance gate of Rivendell, totting his exhausted passengers. This was the farthest he had ever been, but the air was sweet and the grass looked perfect for grazing. The journey had been hard, but he now felt it was coming to a close.

Bilbo swept over the welcome sight of the last homely home as he was greeted by friendly guards. Elves had a long reputation for their cold haughtiness, as such, nothing could prepare Bilbo for the utter loss of it. It would seem that elves had quite the soft spot for children, even the hardest of guards. Much to their apparent dismay, Frodo and Sam developed a sudden shyness in the face of these new and beautiful strangers. The two fauntlings burrowed into Bilbo’s coat and hid their faces. The guards cooed at the sight and Bilbo sighed. The guard who had gone to find Elrond returned with said lord in two, saving Bilbo from the enamoured elves.

"Greetings Bilbo Baggins" Intoned the Lord of Rivendell as he inclined his head in greeting.

"Greetings Lord Elrond, I am sorry I could not send notice of my arrival, but life has been… hectic as of late."

The elf lord’s eyebrows rose at the statement and then ascended even more so when he laid eyes on the huddled fauntlings.

"It is of little consequence, as an elf-friend you are always welcome here master Baggins. I was unaware you had children…" The elf’s last statement sounding more like a polite question than anything else.

"It’s rather recent and the circumstances of their coming into my care are rather unpleasant. In fact the reason for this whole visit is rather unpleasant." Sparing a look at his dirtied and battered appearance and that of his boys. "Though perhaps it would be best discussed after my boys’ needs are seen to, if you could be so kind as to provide us with your hospitality."

"That would indeed be wise and as I have said, you are always welcome here. I will have someone escort you to your chambers and bring warm water and fresh clothes. We shall speak tomorrow after breakfast."

Bilbo suppressed a moan at the idea of a hot bath. He bid his farewell to Lord Elrond and followed another elf to his lodgings. His quarters were comprised of a small sitting room, two adjoining bedrooms and a small water room. He thanked the elves that brought the water and clothes before beginning the adventure that was cleaning his fauntlings. They seemed to have regained some of their playful energy as they ran around the room. He managed to snag both of them and bring them to the water room. Seeing the bath filled with warm water they both settle down marginally. They were both tired of being dirty and after their journey, warm water seemed like a luxury. Bilbo carefully undressed both of them and placed them in the tub. He washed both of them thoroughly but gently, making sure no dirt was left. The younglings quickly became boneless under his ministrations. By the time he was finished, Frodo and Sam were dozing lightly. He lifted them out and dried them expertly before dressing them in large soft elven shirts which would serve as night clothes. He bundled them up in his bed and put their wrag blankets atop the covers. Eventually they would have to get used to sleeping without him, but for now the familiarity of this sleeping arrangement would sooth them. After, Bilbo went back to the water room to wash himself. He did so quickly and efficiently. He then donned a sleeping gown (an elf shirt) and went to curl up around his boys. They snuggled into him and that’s when he heard it. Two words, whispered quietly and in Frodo’s sleep, but they meant the world to Bilbo. Frodo had called him papa Bilbo.

***

Waking up the next morning was a herculean act of auto discipline. Bilbo slowly uncurled from around his boys, careful not to awaken them and went out in search of the kitchens. After reaching his goal, he put together a plate of fruit and breads and brewed himself a nice pot of tea. It seemed like an age and a half since he last had tea. Once it was done, he brought the platter back up to his still dosing fauntlings. Placing it on a table in the sitting area, he went to shake his boys awake. Encouraged by the promise of a large breakfast, Frodo and Sam tumbled to the sitting room and fell upon it. Though neither of them had ever gone hungry on their journey (as opposed to Bilbo who had sacrificed many of his portions to ensure his boys were fed), fresh things like fruits and bread had been very rare. Near the end of breakfast there was a knock on the door. Bilbo opened the door to reveal all three of Elrond’s children. He had met Elladan and Elrohir last time he had visited, but this was his first meeting with Arwen. She seemed like a lovely creature both inside and out. The elves had volunteered to watch Frodo and Sam for the duration of his conversation with Elrond. The elf lord had correctly assumed that this was not a conversation for children. He ushered them in before saying:

"Boys these are Lord Elrond’s children, Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen. Why don’t you introduce yourselves?"

Two little heads peeped up from behind their hiding spots. When they had heard the knock they had immediately sought cover behind their chairs. Feeling the boldest, Sam chimed in with;

"Sam and Frodo at your service!"

Elladan and Elrohir cooed while Arwen hid a giggle in her hand. Bilbo just rolled his eyes at the scene. These elves would most likely let his boys get away with murder.

"Now my little ones, Lord Elrond and I need to have a long and boring talk. But these three have been kind enough to volunteer to play with you while I’m gone. So what do you say? Do you want to have fun with Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen or do you want to come with me to do boring adult things?"

The boys contemplated the elves with a seriousness that was very out of place on their adorable faces. They then turned to convene amongst themselves. With a final decisive nod, Sam, the chosen spokesperson of the day it seemed, replied:

"We believe that would be acceptable."

Bilbo kneeled before them, softly brushing stray locks out of their faces.

"Now be good and don’t hesitate to tell them if anything is wrong. If you need me tell them and they will bring you to me immediately." Here he stared down the three elves before the received nods of understanding. "I’ll try not to be long."

He kissed both their foreheads before leaving them into the, he hoped, safe hand of Elrond’s children.

An elf escorted him to Elrond’s study. He knocked on the door and waited to be granted access. This was going to be a terrible ordeal…

Chapter Text

Bilbo settled himself into and overly large (to him) chair and curled his shaking fingers around the cup of tea Elrond had so generously provided. How did one go about explaining a situation like his? Because he was certain saying: well you see Lord Elrond, orcs attacked the Shire and I’m pretty sure every hobbit except us is deceased. Also, I’m pretty sure you can go ahead and declare hobbits extinct, seeing as the only remaining individuals are males, would go over soooo well. This had to be handled with a bit more finesse than that. Bilbo took a deep breath before throwing himself into it.

"As you have no doubt guessed, this journey was far from social in nature."

Lord Elrond sipped his tea with elven grace after which he replied:

"Indeed, though it is rare for hobbits to travel, it is unheard of of doing so with such young ones. In fact, I believe it hasn’t been done since the wandering days."

"It hasn’t. But this, much like the wandering days, is a dire situation which required such things. You see there has been and attack on the Shire. "

Losing his elven composure, Elrond said in a bewildered tone:

"An attack on the Shire? But the past winter was quite mild, it cannot have been wolves like the fell winter. Who would attack hobbits?"

Bilbo sighed.

"It was orcs…"

"Orcs? Orcs attacked the Shire… Oh dear."

They both sat in silence. The air in the room was thick with sadness. After a time, Lord Elrond spoke once more.

"Is there… Is there anything left?" It was a well-known fact that hobbit could do very little to protect themselves, especially in the face of orcs. An orc raid would have been devastating.

"No", was the only reply he received.

"I will send troops to help the survivors and look after the other settlements…"

Bilbo interrupted him before he could continue. His voice was colder then Elrond had ever heard.

"Don’t bother, when I said no, I meant it. There is nothing left. No survivors and no settlements."

The silence that followed was even heavier than the first one.

"And what of the orcs?"

"They have been dealt with." The glint in Bilbo’s eye telling him exactly who had done the dealing. Taken aback, Elrond simply stared at Bilbo bewildered.

"But how!?"

"You will find, Lord Elrond, that I am a far deadlier hobbit then when I left." Lord Elrond simply continued to gape.

"On that note, I do feel the need to wipe Arda of every orc that inhabits it, well much like those vile things have done to hobbits. I imagine you understand the sentiment. As such, I will be joining your hunting parties whenever they go on small expeditions as I cannot leave Frodo and Sam for too long. "

The Lord of the last homely home did indeed understand the burning hatred that inhabited the hobbit. He felt much the same about his wife’s assailants. But he simply could not allow such a vulnerable creature to put itself in harm’s way.

"I understand that you may have had the ability to take down an orc or two, but I simply cannot in good conscience allow to leave with one of my hunting parties. It’s far too dangerous. Think of your children."

"Then perhaps we should set up a small demonstration? If I can defeat on member of the teams usually sent out, then I shall win the right to accompany them, if I do not, I will forget the idea, no harm done."

Elrond sighed, he knew how determined the hobbit would get. He would most likely sneak out alone if he refused him and that would be far more dangerous.

"If this is the only way you shall abandon this foolish idea, then so be it. I shall tell my men to do no lasting harm and have a healer on hand."

Bilbo answered with a smile that was all teeth.

***

The training grounds were calm and mostly empty at this time of day. Which was nice thought Bilbo, the elves he was about to beat would probably not like for this to get around. It would be like beating his first ranger, their surprise would be intensely hilarious. Elrond looked grave and resigned as he summoned one of the hunting parties. Their faces were priceless when he told them what they would be doing. It was as if he had just asked them to beat up a child. Which, in their defence, he looked like to them. With none of them stepping up to volunteer, Elrond chose the one he knew to be the weakest and told him to get into position. It was with a concerned voice that he told them to begin.

3.5 seconds is the time it took Bilbo to have the elf on his arse with a sword to his neck. The elves looked on, blinking as if their eyes were deceiving them. The beaten elf stared up at Bilbo in utter confusion.

"Do you yield?" Bilbo said in a monotone voice as if all of this bored him terribly. That’s when all hell broke loose.

A high pitched battle roar sounded not too far away. Recognizing the voices as that of his fauntlings, Bilbo broke out into a run towards them. Soon sounds of scuffles and fighting were heard. He had thought they would be safe here. Had an orc followed them? Had be left one alive? How could there be an attack in Rivendell, why weren’t the twins protecting his boys!? That’s when he came onto the scene.

Elladan, Elrohir and Arwen were all staring dumfounded at the portrait before them and Bilbo couldn’t help doing the same. Laughter bubbled up in his throat. There, before him, were his fauntlings viciously attacking a bewildered Gandalf. Sam had one arm the wizard’s neck and the other was busy tugging out his hair, while Frodo Hung from his beard.

"Boys… boys… BOYS!!" Bilbo shouted, he was rewarded by three heads swiveling towards him. "Just what are you doing?" He tried to keep his voice steady and calm as laughter threatened to erupt. He was receiving a certain satisfaction from seeing the wizard like this. Bilbo thought it was only fair after what he had done. His fauntlings ran towards him and hid behind his back.

"Papa Bilbo! It’s the evil dragon-wizard, you have to stop him before he steals princess Arwen!" Exclaimed Sam. Bilbo snorted before kneeling down in front of the boys.

"Boys, that isn’t the evil wizard, that’s Gandalf the gray."

The two fauntlings stared at the newly named wizard in awe.

"Oh he’s the wizard from your quest!! But, what kind of good wizard wears a gray cloak? Shouldn’t he wear white?"

***

Bilbo hummed as he tucked the boys into bed. After their misunderstanding with Gandalf was all cleared up they had hounded the wizard for the rest of the day in hopes of seeing magic. Bilbo was happy they were still safe, he only had so many places he could turn to. He made a note to search for the ring’s significance as soon as possible.

But alas it was not to be. Life moved on at a rapid pace and a routine had set in. Bilbo would go out with the hunting parties every day while Sam and Frodo had their lessons and would come back at night thoroughly exhausted. He would then spend time with the boys, bathe them and send them off to bed. Sometimes they would have nightmares and join Bilbo in his bed. Sleep was a rare luxury when one had two little fauntlings. As it was, it took three months before Bilbo had time to go to the library.

He walked through the dusty isles in search of a volume on magical jewellery. He would start large then narrow it down. It took him a few hours to track down a promising volume. What he found there was rather disquieting. He had been carrying the one ring of Sauron. He had been carrying and using the one ring of Sauron for almost two years. Yavanna’s tits, why did these things always happen to him?

***

Many, many miles away, deep in the lonely mountain, a raven flew to a perch in a rather lavish study. This wasn’t just any raven arriving in any study. No this was the King’s personal raven arriving in his study. And tonight, the Raven brought grave news. Indeed, he had been sent with a formal letter of apology for one Bilbo Baggins of the Shire. Only, there was no Shire, not anymore. It had been burned to the ground, no survivors remained. The king dropped his head into his hands and wept bitterly for his fallen friend.

Chapter Text

As Bilbo lay in bed that night, his unseeing eyes were fixed on the ceiling of his room. Behind those hazy green eyes, his brain was working furiously, making and discarding plans. He needed to destroy the ring. He needed to destroy the ring, but no ordinary means could do so. It was just his luck that the ring had to be cast into the pits from whence it came. Which happened to be mount Doom… in Mordor. As such, his mind was trying to figure out exactly how he was going to pull off such a thing. After all, one did not simply walk into Mordor, skip through the marshes and saunter up mount Doom. Not to mention the fact that orcs undoubtedly knew he had the ring. How exactly that had happened, he could only guess, but seeing as how only Gollum knew he even had the blasted ring he was heavily leaning towards that venue. Another problem came in the form of trust. Just who could he trust with such sensitive information? He remembered how the white council had tried to stop them from leaving Rivendell in his adventure with the dwarrow. Bilbo was also unsure who could resist the ring’s tempting whispers. Why he himself had been caught by them and would no doubt still be ensnared had his life as John not come back to him. Hobbits were supposed to be a staunch race, untouched by such evil things. He knew the race of men was out of the question, especially after the whole Isildur debacle. He scoffed at the mere thought of dwarrow, their lust for gold was so known they had made an ailment out of it. He was unsure about elves, they had after all accepted the rings of power Sauron had made, which led him to think they were not as immune as they looked. It all came back to the fact that he would most likely have to do this alone.

Back to the starting point of his thought loop, Bilbo made another plan which was immediately discarded. Clearly he was thinking about this the wrong way. Perhaps it was time to let the Captain shine, that part of himself had always been logical, efficient and brutal. Which admittedly was what he needed to be right now. So he closed his eyes and he let himself fall into well learned patterns and motions, activating parts of his personality he had left unused or dormant. His eyes snapped open, their usual welcoming green cooling to a frostier, steelier tint. A smirk spread across his lips, now this is what he was talking about. Indeed, the efficient Captain had come up with a plausible plan. There were, of course, many details to plan, letters to send contingency plans to build. Giving up on sleep for the night, Bilbo told himself he would sleep when he was dead, which by how his life was going lately might be sooner rather than later.

***

Ahh, nothing quite like a night of planning and plotting. Bilbo stared into his tea groggily the morning after. The boys were happily eating their breakfast and chatting up star struck elves, as if nothing had happened. And to them, nothing had. They had already met with this aspect of Bilbo’s personality while they were traveling. They didn’t like it much, as they thought he never smiled when he was like this, but they understood, on some instinctive level, that it was necessary. A few of the more observant elves glanced at Bilbo worried. His eyes seemed so cold and his entire demeanor was colder than usual.

Days passed, Bilbo remaining cold and the elves getting used to his new demeanor. He still went on raid to kill orcs and there was no longer an elf in Rivendell who doubted his prowess. Especially after winning that archery tournament against the last homely home’s finest. Occasionally, he would act as a field medic to his brothers in arms, something that prompted Elrond to ask him to volunteer in the halls of healing. Bilbo did so without much prompting and was soon recognized as an excellent healer to everyone’s surprise (safe Bilbo’s of course).

It was a few weeks later, that a response missive reached Bilbo telling him his plan was approved by his allies. He now had much to plan, he was going to Mordor after all.

***

The weight of his grief and guilt had pushed the king under the mounting to throw himself into the affairs of his kingdom. He was overworking himself, though most could not see it. His dear ones could and it worried them greatly, but what could they do? They too were feeling the grief and guilt of their hobbit’s passing. They had all hoped to make amends and perhaps convince the little fellow to come back to them. They had all been looking forward to having him with them in the mountain. And though they all had loved their hobbit friend, it seemed that Thorin was the one taking it the hardest. Indeed, he had thrown himself into bettering his kingdom in ways they knew the hobbit would have adored. Gardens had been built, everything was rendered spotless, every dwarrow under the mountain was fed, and most important of all, Thorin had mended their relations with both men and elves. The new king had not stopped at the people of Mirkwood either, no he had been mending their relations with all elves. In fact, Thorin had personally been corresponding with Lord Elrond and had even gone as far as to arrange a diplomatic visit. The whole company would be heading to Rivendell soon as a gesture of sincerity and reparation for their atrocious behavior at their last visit. As a whole, the company was dreading the visit as boring and tedious, but they all understood why it was necessary. But honestly, what could possibly go wrong with a simple diplomatic visit?

Leagues away, Lord Elrond wondered if he was doing the right thing in keep the news of the dwarrow’s arrival from Bilbo. He had never seen the hobbit mad, and was in no hurry to do so considering how deadly the small being turned out to be. Deep inside, he knew that if he got the hobbit mad, there would be no place anywhere in middle earth that could protect him from the wrath of Bilbo Baggins.

Chapter Text

Bilbo was irritated all week for he knew that while his plan was a good one, it had some monumental flaws. But even with all its flaws, he knew it was the easiest and least likely to fail. This knowledge, of course, did not stop him from worrying. He wasn’t particularly worried for himself, he was weary anyways. But if he failed the consequences would be great. Not only that, but no one would even know what was coming or how it came to be. That was the greatest pitfall of not trusting anyone with his quest. If he failed, no one would take his place and the ring would be lost again, and perhaps found by more unsavory characters than hobbits, men, dwarrow or elves. Indeed, if the orcs were on the hunt, it meant that somewhere, someone, knew he had the ring. He tried to suppress the guilt of knowing he had brought on the annihilation of his own people. He did not like to think of it. Logically, he knew that he was not the one to kill all those hobbits, but sentiment was rarely, if ever, rational. Pushing back his guilt, Bilbo focused on making sure the boys would be well taken care of for the length of his departure, be that a few weeks, as he had planned, or forever, if things went wrong. He had decided on letting Elrond and his children take care of them seeing as the Lord already had an adopted son of another race. It had been a distinctly odd conversation…

««««««Flashback »»»»»»

"Elrond, might I ask for but a moment of your time?" Bilbo’s words seemed to startle the elf out of whatever contemplative haze he was in. The Lord gracefully turned to face the smaller being and for a fraction of a second, Bilbo thought he saw a sliver of fear in the elf’s gaze. Dismissing it as a trick of the light, the hobbit came back to the matter at hand.

"What ails you my friend?"

"I need to depart for a few weeks on a small errand, I was simply wondering if your children, and perhaps yourself could be available to mind Frodo and Sam." Bilbo repressed a chuckle at the idea that going to Mordor to destroy the one ring was a small errand. He had never known he had such a gift for understatement. Elrond looked at him incredulously; he knew Bilbo detested being separated from his fauntlings.

"What small errand is so important that it can separate you from your young ones? May it not wait?"

"Do you truly believe I would willingly leave my fauntlings alone if it could wait?"

"Perhaps another could go in your stead? I have many skilled warriors at my disposal…"

"I am afraid, dear friend, that this is something that only I must do."

"Then let me put together a company for you, you need not go alone."

"I’ve had enough of companies to last me two lifetimes, either way they would all be ill suited for my purpose. "

"If that is what you wish…"

"It is"

Bilbo’s tone left no room for arguments. They stared at the other while silence reigned. Finally, Elrond relented and said:

"If that is so, my children and I would be honored to tend to your fauntling for the duration of your absence."

"I thank you, my friend, this means much"

The hobbit attempted a sincere smile before turning to leave. He stilled at the door before throwing over his shoulder:

"It is possible that the duration of my absence becomes indefinite, if that is the case I would implore you to take my boys as your own…"

And with those words Bilbo stepped through the door leaving a flabbergasted Elrond in his wake.

««««««End of Flashback »»»»»»

The rest of his time was passed in a flurry of preparations. Many an elf wondered aloud what he was doing and where he was going. Some were far more insistent than others and tried to needle the truth out of him at every turn. But Bilbo hadn’t lived with Sherlock Holmes without picking up a few tricks about distractions. When they would become too irritating, Bilbo would simply tell them the truth. The issue was that the truth was so absurd they paid it no mind and looked for other explanations, thus bringing their attention away from the truth. Indeed, a sarcastic reply of: I’m preparing to fly to Mordor on the back of the eagles of Manwe to destroy the one ring, shut up even the nosiest of elves.

Here he was, saying goodbye to his beloved fauntlings. He gently kissed their foreheads and told them to be good for the elves and a reminder that he would be finishing his latest story when he got back. He made his way into the woods surrounding Rivendell, he was to meet up with the eagles. He made sure to lose the guards Elrond had secretly (or so he thought) sent to protect him early on. He did not want them to see him leave and connect his sarcastic comments with the truth. He arrived at the clearing he and the eagles had agreed upon. True to their word, they had sent him an eagle wiling to bring him to Mordor. Afraid his letter would be intercepted, Bilbo never explicitly said why he wanted to go to such a place, the fact that the eagles still sent one of their own was a show of how much they valued Bilbo’s word. He quickly explained the situation to his new travel companion. The eagle’s eyes shone with grim understanding. Before he knew it, he had loaded his supplies unto the eagle and they were off.

The flight was easy enough, they were flying too high and too fast for anything to reach them. Bilbo learned how to deal with being almost perpetually cold and how to sleep atop an eagle. On the few occasions they did stop, Bilbo kept watch while the eagle slept. As they approached the mountain, their stops became less frequent as the number of orcs multiplied. It became increasingly difficult to find a resting place that was not positively crawling with them. When they did stop, the eagle would manage a few hours of rest before he woke up to the sound of orcs being slaughtered. At first the eagle had worried about his small companion. He had remembered the brave but inexperienced hobbit who had tried to fight off the pale orc. It seems only his bravery had remained as the creature he was traveling with was a seasoned warrior. He sometimes wondered had it had happened, but now a days his brain was too exhausted to do much. The important thing was that he trusted his comrade to defend him.

There came a day where flying was simply too risky. They were getting very close. This fact prompted Bilbo to start looking for shelter for his avian companion. That day he found a small cave on the side of Mount Doom, to which he steered the eagle. He explained that he would sneak his way up the rest of the mountain, drop the ring and in the resulting confusion, make his way back down to the cave. The eagle nodded his ascent with worried eyes and let the hobbit finish the quest that would decide the fate of Middle Earth.

Most of the climb was easy sailing, the mountain did not seem to foster as many orcs as the valleys around it. The few he did encounter were dispatched with great ease. The element of surprise truly was a wonderful thing. The only problem was that there was something following him. It was silent, frightfully so and it somehow reminded him of goblins for some odd reason. It kept its distances, so Bilbo never felt the need to actively seek it out, but he kept it monitored. It would invariably strike and he would be ready. Climbing mountains was exhausting, why hadn’t anyone ever told him that? His whole body felt like lead and he was sticky with all kinds of unmentionable fluids. So unsanitary.

He could see the summit and estimated he would be there in a few minutes. That’s when he heard it. A rock shifted, feet clambered on the pebbled slopes and raspy breathing. It came to him suddenly why the creature reminded him of goblins, it didn’t. It reminded him of Goblintown. His mysterious stalker was Gollum. How the little wretch had known where and how to find him he would never know.

Deciding he would deal with him after the ring, Bilbo did a mad dash towards the summit. It took less time than he had thought and in no time flat he was staring down into the fiery pits of Mount Doom. A noise sounded almost right behind him and he pivoted quickly sword ready. He had underestimated Gollum’s speed, for at the end of his sword stood the twisted creature. His eyes were crazed and his teeth barred. Whatever humanity had been within him was gone, he was completely rabid. Whatever it had been before, it was too far gone to be redeemable. Gandalf was a bloody tosser if he thought he was going to spare the creature again, especially after he had sold out the Shire. Bilbo carefully removed the ring from his inner coat pocket. He saw how the creature’s eyes immediately zoned onto the object. He now had a plan.

"Gollum… Gollum, do you want the ring, do you want your precious back?"

Gollum’s eyes briefly focused on Bilbo before returning to the ring. He then nodded vigorously. Bilbo twirled the ring in his hands, trying to ignore the sweet promises it whispered desperately. The more he touched and stroked the ring, the more Gollum became agitated. Bilbo slowly moved the hand that held the ring away from his body and towards the pit. Slowly but surely he enticed Gollum over to the ledge. He played with the ring for a few moments, pretending to let down his guard and sword. As he predicted, Gollum chose that moment to strike. He lunged at the ring and Bilbo let him take it with no resistance. Gollum was allowed one moment of triumph before his momentum pulled him over the ledge and into fiery death. Bilbo peered in dispassionately. Gollum was dead before he even made contact with the lava, the sheer heat of it having mostly disintegrated his body. Bilbo sighed in relief, it was done. He had almost single handily saved Middle Earth. It seemed like an empty victory. Because even with all he had done, he still had no chance to be happy. His mind flashed back to the ring’s promises, sweet impossible promises. He turned away from the pit, utterly drained intending to find his eagle and get back to his fauntlings. Suddenly, the ground shook beneath his feet, enough to throw him to the ground.

It took him but a moment to understand what was happening. Mount Doom was erupting. Mahal’s saggy ball sac! Why did everything have to happen to him!?

Chapter Text

The ground trembled under his feet as he tried to gain footing. Everything was utter chaos. Smoke started billowing from the summit and began to permeate the air. Bilbo tore off a large piece of his undershirt to mask his face. He was running. Occasionally he had to scramble out of the way of large boulders that were making their way down the mountain. He needed to find the cave, he needed to find it quickly. The problem was that more and more orcs seemed to be swarming the mountain. He fought his way through all the while hoping his eagle companion was safe. He thanked the Green Lady for adrenaline, for that was all that was keeping him together at this point. He danced though countless orcs, severing, slicing and beheading as he went. It was an impressive deadly ballet.

There were too many, at this rate he would never reach the cave, he only hoped the eagle had gotten away. If he was going to die, at least he had done so saving the world. Also, by no means would he simply lie back and think of London while he was murdered. Oh no, Captain Watson was going down with a bang. He would fight till the end and hopefully kill loads of these bastards along the way. With a roar and renewed vigor, Bilbo began his last suicide run. He lost count of just how many orcs he killed, how many heads rolled or even how many throats he had torn out. His body felt numb and his mind was in overdrive. Suddenly, a large boulder took out a good number of orcs on his left. This didn’t seem all that odd at first, as boulders had been tumbling down Mount Doom for a while now. The thing was that this boulder was going the wrong way, it came from down hill. An ear piercing screech told him all he needed to know, his eagle was here. A boulder hit the orcs on his right and before he could even register it, he was in the air.

Regaining his bearings in the comrade’s claws, Bilbo liberated the bow he carried on his back and started shoot the orc archers. Arrows pelted them, and while most missed, some did hit the eagle. Bilbo did his best to take out as many as he could, but he only had so many arrows. As such, it was almost a relief when Mount Doom finally blew. Smoke filled the air and rocks seemed to fall from the sky. It all made for quite a turbulent flight and Bilbo held on for dear life. The sky was dark and one could scarcely see their own hand with how thick the smoke was. The eagle ducked and dived against things Bilbo could not see. His eyes were burning and his lungs felt little better. It was like slow suffocation. The doctor in Bilbo clinically accessed this as smoke inhalation. Coughing he yelled to the eagle that they had to get out of the smoke or they would perish. The creature seemed to have heard him as he pumped his wings vigorously. They were ascending in altitude in an attempt to be on top of the smoke. Finally the smoke thinned and finally broke completely. Looking down, the smoke created what seemed like a surface. It gave the illusion that they weren’t quite as high as he knew they had to be. Indeed, the air was thin and Bilbo felt as if he was only breathing with one lung. He hoped they didn’t have to stay up this high for too long, lest he get altitude sickness. He breathed slowly, trying and succeeding to lower his heart rate. He needed to reduce his need for air.

Bilbo was shook out of his meditative haze when he felt his companion start his descent. He opened his eyes and was pleasantly surprised that the only smoke he could see was far away in the horizon. It made him wonder just how long he was out. The eagle found a nice clearing and landed. The poor creature looked exhausted and Bilbo immediately told him to rest. The eagle had no strength to do anything but and Bilbo, after checking the perimeter, went out to find herbs and water to heal his brother in arms. He knew for a fact that the eagle had taken a few arrows and most likely a few rocks as well. He returned to the clearing and got to work. First he cleaned out the wounds, next he checked for poison, of which he found small traces. He brought out the kinsfoil he had found and began draining the poison. After he was done, he felt up the prone body for any broken bones. He sighed in relief as he found none. He puttered about, healing all the injuries he could. Finally after he had done all he could do, he kept watch over his friend’s body. Friend… What an odd concept friendship was. He had never had a conversation with the eagle, hell he didn’t even know his name, but he would die protecting him all the same. He only hoped this friend would make it through, he had lost too many friends, too many good soldiers.

After many hours of, thankfully, uninterrupted sleep, the eagle was ready to take to the air again. Days passed much in the same fashion after that. They would fly until the eagle was exhausted, find a place to land, Bilbo would tend to it as best as he could while the eagle slept. The fact of the matter was, the eagle wasn’t getting any better and they both knew it. It is a terrible thing, watching someone you care for slowly dwindle away. Through it all Bilbo remained strong and calmed and comforted the eagle when needed. The hobbit could not bring himself to show how much this hurt, the knowledge of one’s own imminent demises was heavy enough without adding the suffering of those who had to watch.

The end, poetically enough came where it had all began. The eagle felt his strength was waning and rushed to the nearest clearing, which happened to be the one he had met the hobbit at all those weeks ago. His strength finally failed him and all he could do was try to soften the crash landing. He felt Bilbo move off his back gently and come pet the soft feathers of his face. The eagle’s eyes filled with tears of pain and sorrow. The hobbit did his very best to comfort his friend and ease his passing. The eagle could not understand what he had done to gain this level of care from Bilbo. The hobbit was treating him with all the softness of a nest mate. Perhaps after all they had been through they were? Yes, Bilbo was most certainly worthy of being his nest mate. The eagle let out a soft trill and Bilbo locked eyes with him. Within those few minutes, an understanding was passed between small hobbit and giant eagle. They may be different, but their emotions were the same and the simple barriers of race meant nothing in the face of kinship. For a brief moment, a connection was made, a connection that helped all eagles communicate together through their minds. In that very small moment, only three words were said: You are worthy. But a few seconds later, the light dulled in the eagle’s large eyes and his body went limp. A pained noise escaped Bilbo and he buried himself in his friend’s feathers.

How could he be gone? They had survived so many things together… And did those words mean. What had the eagle tried to tell him with the last of his strength? He felt the body under him shift and for a fraction of a second he felt hope. He backed away from the body only to realize it was not moving, but shrinking. He watched in horrified fascination as the body shrunk and realised so odd light. Eventually the body became little bigger than his hand and the light so bright he could not even make out its shape any longer. After a moment the light dulled till it was naught but the sun’s reflection on a metallic surface. Bilbo cautiously approached the object. It was a feather, a single silvery feather. Bilbo bent down and carefully took it into his hands. It was solid, as if made of real metal, but as light as a feather should be. Also, is he wasn’t mistaken, it was made of mithril. As if an instinct, Bilbo immediately knew that this was his friend’s way of expressing his kinship to Bilbo. Looking at the gift, Bilbo decided he would wear it with pride. With steady hands, he separated a section of his hair, braided it and tied the feather to it. As such, the mithril feather rested on the left side of his head, resting atop his hair.

He would no longer think of shearing his locks. He had more than made up for his dishonour. He was worthy. He had lost all right to happiness, but he would no longer be dishonoured. He was worthy.

Chapter Text

The trek back to Rivendell was longer than he remembered it being, but then again he hadn’t been half dead the last time. His movements were slow and heavy and he felt like he was dragging his own dead carcass. He was very relieved when he finally reached the gates to the last homely home. The two usually stoic guards could not help but gape at the sight before them. A small bloodied and blackened figure was slowly trudging towards them. In their surprise they did not even spare a thought to helping the poor creature and just watched incredulously as it limped passed them. What in the world was it and what in the Valar had happened? They stared at each other in utter confusion before one of them ran after the figure. By this time, Bilbo was already well on his way to his chambers. Finally catching up, the guard identified the half dead creature as a hobbit (the feet were indeed a large give-away). Knowing there was only one adult hobbit left in existence, the guard identified the hobbit before him as their resident hobbit. It would seem that he was back from his quest. The guard barely spared a thought to what kind of endeavor leaves a hobbit in such a state and proceeded to escort the hobbit to his chambers. The guard would have preferred to bring him to the halls of healing, but the hobbit was obviously of mind to go to his rooms. He, like all the guards, knew it was pointless to keep this hobbit from doing the things he wanted. As such, the guard preferred to assure Bilbo safely made it to his rooms than the hobbit try to get there covertly.

Once they had arrived the guard opened the door for Bilbo and guided him over to the bed. The hobbit snuggled into the sheets and was promptly lost to the world. The guard checked Bilbo over for any life threatening injuries and found that most of the blood that coated the small being was not his. Indeed, the hobbit only had minor scrapes and scratches, but nothing that could not wait until the hobbit was awake. Finally, having assured himself that the hobbit was fine albeit horrendously dirty, the elf scurried off to announce the return of their hobbit.

Not long after the guard’s departure, two mischievous fauntlings decided to play a game of hide and seek with their minders. Without telling said minders, of course. They snuck through Rivendell with the intention of hiding under their beds, but upon arrival something stopped them dead. The door to Bilbo’s bedroom was ajar and they knew it had been closed since his departure. Could it be that their papa was back? They rushed to the bedroom and flung the door open. The resulting scream of finding their precious papa bloodied and unresponsive, was heard throughout Rivendell. It prompted Arwen and the twins, who had been searching for the two little ones, to break into a run and Lord Elrond to make a mad dash to the hobbit’s chambers. The four were greeted to the sight of two sobbing fauntlings gripping a half awake confused Bilbo. The three youngest cooed at the adorable sight and the eldest hid a smile.

"I see that you have returned my friend, I must say that this was not the reunion I was planning."

Bilbo looked at Lord Elrond who cringed at how dirty and worn the hobbit was.

"I must say that this was not the reunion I had planned either. Now boys, I know you are worried, but I assure you I am only quite tired and dirty. There is no need to worry, after a good night’s sleep and a long bath, or six, I will be good as new. "

The fauntlings rested their skeptical gazes on their papa as if to determine if he was truly intact. After a time, they looked at each other and reached a mutual understanding.

"You may go back to sleep, but we are staying here to guard you! We let you leave once and that was our mistake, we are never letting you go again."

Frodo finished his sentence with a glare at the room’s occupants as if daring them to disagree. Sam, ever loyal, also glared. Bilbo thought his little fauntlings looked quite like angry kittens and had to muffle a chuckle.

"You may stay as long as you need my little ones, as long as I am allowed to sleep." As he finished, he opened his arms in an inviting manner. The little ones did not need to be told twice and curled up on his sides, effectively trapping him on the bed. Bilbo chuckled, nodded to Lord Elrond and settled back down to sleep. The elven Lord spared a smile at the hobbit pile before going back to his planning. Indeed, rooms needed to be cleaned and feast prepared, the envoy from Erebor was due any moment now.

Bilbo slumbered for the rest of the day and a good part of the night. He woke up in the wee hours of the morning feeling better than he had since he left Rivendell. He gently untangled himself from the bundle of limbs he was trapped by and made his way to the water room. He smiled as he looked at the bath that an elf servant had thought to fill. The water had yet to completely lose its warmth, so Bilbo settled in. He was used to bathing in frigid rivers anyway. He made sure to place he feather in a secure place before attacking the bird’s nest that he had in lieu of hair. Curly hair was dreadful. Soon enough, the water and dark with filth and Bilbo as clean as he could get with it. He put a towel around himself and spied his reflection in the looking glass. It struck him how different he looked, yet the same. His hair was as long and curly as ever, his complexion a little darker, but his eyes were changed. The green seemed duller, grayer, colder. His eyes reflected the sights they had beheld and the evil they had seen. He was not the hobbit he once was and could not bring himself to regret this change, not after all it had brought him. He slowly brushed his hair and rebraided the feather into it. He would have to send word to the eagles, it was cruel to make them wait for a nest mate that would never come home. He put a sleeping tunic on and returned to his room where he protectively curled around his boys. They were all he had. He tried to convince himself they were all he wanted, but his heart seemed to resist that notion. His left wrist, where the name of his beloved was branded, itched. He ignored it, Thorin was in Erebor and the fact that his mark was acting up was a figment of his exhausted mind. Simple wishful thinking, because Thorin could not be close enough to trigger his mark… Could he?

With that last thought, Bilbo let sleep claim him once more.

Chapter Text

Bilbo woke the next morning feeling positively lovely. He was clean, he was rested, he had his fauntlings and Middle Earth was no longer threatened with total destruction by an ancient dark lord and his minions. Life was good. He gently prodded his sleepy fauntlings out of bed, got them dressed and brought them down to the kitchens for breakfast. As they both hung to Bilbo like limpets, he allowed them to eat on his knees and then carried them both to their morning classes. He promised at least ten times that he would be back with them for their mid-morning break then left his two agitated younglings with their teacher. He almost felt bad for the poor elf, almost. He went about his business, unpacking his pack (which had surprisingly survived this adventure) and taking another bath, this one very hot. He had offhandedly noticed that the elves seemed far more agitated than normal. It was barely noticeable, practically impossible in fact, but living with the world’s only consulting detective did have some perks. As such, Bilbo was able to pick up on the subtle signs of agitation the elves portrayed. He wondered what had them in such a tizzy, but dismissed it as being none of his concern. After all, he trusted Elrond to alert him to anything important. The elf knew by now not to keep such things from him. Looking at the sun’s position, Bilbo determined it was time to gather his boys and made his was to their class room.

***

The dwarrow arrived so late in Rivendell that it had become early. They were quietly greeted by guards and Lord Elrond himself before being ushered into rooms. The accommodations were lavish and Thorin could not help but wonder why they hadn’t been given these rooms the last time. He let it go, it would not do to dwell on these things. They were here to forge an alliance, mend bridges, make up for the damage done (and pay for the things that had mysteriously disappeared last time… really Nori!?) and discuss the disturbance in Mordor. That last one truly baffled the king under the mountain. While they were making their way here a raven had come to them proclaiming he had seen Mount Doom erupting (from many leagues away of course, apparently the smoke could be seen from quite far away). He did not know if this was a good omen or a terrible one. Hopefully it was simply some natural occurring phenomenon and not sign of renewed activity in that region of Middle Earth, as he doubted the lands could survive another war against Sauron. His people were only just putting the battle of five armies behind them. But those were thoughts for another time, it was time to retire. He donned his sleep clothes and was both surprised and pleased to note that the bad was dwarf sized. He lifted the covers and slid in, relishing the softness of the mattress. He scratched his beard and once again reveled in how long it had grown. Inevitably, his thoughts turned to his burglar as he wondered how long his hair would be if he were still among the living. There was scarcely a day that would go by without him thinking of his dear friend. He often wondered at the depth of his grief concerning the small creature. He had eventually admitted to himself that he had wanted the hobbit as more than a friend for a long time. In fact from the moment he had seen him, which to Thorin explained his sudden hatred of their burglar. Having never loved in such a manner, the only passion he knew was hatred, so he wrote off his new feelings as such. He had been a fool.

Falling asleep, Thorin thought he must be the only dwarf in history stupid enough to mistake the call of his One for hatred.

Morning came far too quickly and any chance of slumber fled with the rising sun. Sighing and rubbing his tired eyes, Thorin made himself presentable for the Lord of Rivendell. He let the rest of his company enjoy their rest, waking only Balin and Dwalin for the meetings. The talks were long and arduous, but ultimately satisfying. Indeed, debts were paid (how had Nori managed to take so much), apologies made and tentative agreements drafted. They broke up mid-morning to resume their talks the next day.

The king under the mountain ambled through the elven settlement secretly lost. He had been walking in circles for the last twenty minutes, but his pride could not bare to ask an elf for directions. Thus, he remained majestically lost. That’s when he came upon them.

He could not believe his eyes, there, before him stood to baby hobbits. How had they come to be there? Were there anymore? Was Bilbo… Without thought he rushed towards them.

Frodo and Sam, seeing a mountain of muscle and hair rushing towards them, emitted a scared whimper and tried to escape.

Thorin ran after them like a dwarf possessed, he had to know. He had to know if his beloved hobbit was alive. Suddenly his world erupted in pain and before he could register anything, he was slammed into a wall.

***

Bilbo leisurely made his way to his little one’s classroom when he heard it. It was a small broken sound of fear, one only a fauntling could make. Something or someone was distressing his fauntlings. He sprinted towards the sound and saw a dwarf chasing his fauntlings , his eyes widened. Approaching the larger figure, Bilbo drew back his arm and solidly socked the dwarf across his jaw, stunning him momentarily. The smaller being then proceeded to grab the dwarf collar and slam him against a nearby wall. Then and only then did Bilbo see the dwarfs face.

"Thorin?"

The dwarf in his hands seemed equally stunned, but what part of that could be attributed to Bilbo’s assault he did not know. They stared at each other for a long time, unable to reconcile what their senses were telling them with what their minds were saying. Finally it was Sam and Frodo that broke the silence with a confused and terrified whimper of "Papa?"

Bilbo instantly snapped back to reality. This dwarf no longer meant anything to him (he ignored his throbbing wrist that begged to differ). This dwarf had frightened his fauntlings, that was unacceptable. Without warning, Bilbo slammed Thorin back into the wall with increased force.

"If you ever frighten my fauntlings again, I swear, king or not, that I will skin you and make you into shoes, which I will not wear because I’m a bloody hobbit!"

With that, Bilbo dropped the king under the mountain, scooped up his little ones and left without a second glance. Thorin remained on the floor stunned, what had just happened? And what in Mahal's name was a fauntling?

Chapter Text

To say that Bilbo was angry would be a gross understatement. The hobbit was absolutely furious and desired nothing less than to tear Elrond a new one, a distinctively large and painful new one. The problem was that, at present, he could not. Indeed, he had his arms quite full of terrified fauntling. Why oh why did the dwarrow have to show up? He was only just coming to terms with living without them and with one look, his hard earned resolve blew away like leaves in a hurricane. He absently wondered if the others were here as well, with his luck most likely. He was not ready for this, maybe in a few years he could have gazed upon their faces and not have to fight against himself not to throw himself at their feet and bag for forgiveness. It had taken so much energy to not claim his ones lips after the he had struck him. How could such contrary emotions live within him? He pushed his door open and brought his still shaking fauntlings to his room where he sat them on his bed. For the next hour he proceeded to coo and comfort them all the while trying to justify the dwarf kings actions. He did not care if they forgave Thorin or not, he simply did not want them to be afraid of every dwarrow they would encounter. And if his gut feeling proved true that would be a good number in the next few days.

He put them down for a nap before walking to what he perceived as his doom. He was going to see the dwarrow sooner or later in Rivendell, and he preferred it to be on his terms. Indeed, he was the one to hold the cards this time, he had control over almost every variable and the advantage of being on his home turf. Adrenaline and battle instincts were still high from his little escapade to Mordor and his actions would no doubt reflect that.

He grinned to himself, after he was done with this little dwarrow infestation, he had himself an Elven Lord to roast.

***

Thorin stayed were Bilbo had left him for quite some time. His mind simply couldn’t comprehend what had happened, emotions whirled within him. Bilbo was alive, he was living in Rivendell, he was safe and he was unharmed. Another thought came unbidden, he was beautiful. He had always admired Bilbo, but this was something else. His body was toned, his skin enticingly tanned and his posture confident. His face was fierce and determined, but as delicate and sharp as always. His eyes burned with a fire seldom seen in any, much less a hobbit. And his hair… Oh his hair. It was everything Thorin had ever dreamed about. The sun had shone on his One’s (there was no denying it now) flaxen hair and reflected on some sort of mithril object braided therein. His long mane gleamed like gold and silver and enticed him more than all the treasure in Erebor ever had. He wanted, no needed the hobbit by his side and resolved not to return to Erebor without having secured him as his consort. Unfortunately, something broke his fanciful thoughts of the future, the small ones had called him papa. Bilbo had sons. Thorin was old enough to know that one did not beget such beings by oneself. Bilbo had given himself to another. Dreams of a future with Bilbo always at his side shattered and Thorin ignored the tears that gathered in his eyes. It would seem that his happiness was not meant to be.

***

Lord Elrond hid in an alcove the moment he saw Bilbo turn the corner. The hobbit looked beyond furious and he knew he was to blame. Why ever did he think inviting the dwarrow was a good idea?

***

The captain slowly stalked his pray from afar, assessing in the same sweep their number and locations. He knew he could get fairly close before any of them even realised he was there. His suspicions were proven true and the whole company was present. He stealthily made his way closer to the group. He examined their moods and their body language. They were weary, most likely from their travels. But something told him it was more than that, they seemed sadder than he remembered them, which made no sense. They had their mountain back, they were meant to be happy and safe. Yet they were not. The looked tired to their very core and it had nothing to do with physical fatigue. If he did not know any better, he would have said they were mourning. But that could not be, who could they all be mourning so deeply? He crept closer to hear what they were saying.

"Our little burglar used to love it here. Remember when we first came how much awe was in his face?"

Bofur’s voice had scarcely changed in their time apart and it soothed something in Bilbo to know that not everything was different. He held no ill will towards the hat wearing dwarf, quite the contrary, Bofur had always been great to him.

"Aye, our hobbit even managed to slip away the first night to visit the gardens. I never even would have realised if I wasn’t standing guard. That, honestly, should have rung alarm bells. I was simply too set on underestimating him. "

Here Balin’s voice trailed off as he looked in the distance. It seemed his dwarrow (no, not his anymore) were reminiscing about him. They seemed surprisingly fond, perhaps they had forgiven him for his actions? Then again, they did not know he had committed them against his One. Bilbo was quite certain this apparent fondness would evaporate once they got a hold of that little fact. Ones were sacred for dwarrow and betraying one was the highest felony.

"Don’t beat yourself up brother, we all underestimated the small one, even after he saved us time and again. Anyway, it hardly matters now does it?"

Dwalin’s brass tones chimed clearly across the room, regret permeated his voice.

"Aye Brother, he is gone, but it is hard for my old heart not to consider the what ifs."

Gone? The dwarrow thought he was dead? Perhaps they had been informed of the attack on the Shire and had once again underestimated him. Then again, they would have been right to do so. Without his life as John he never would have survived it.

"I’m with master Balin on this one. Sometimes when I am in my shop I cannot help but wonder what Bilbo would look like drinking tea there. What would his favourite tea be? Would be recommend any blends to me? Help me bake the treats?"

Dori let out a wistful sigh. Ori came over to his brother and patted his shoulder in sympathy.

"You are not the only one, every time I pick up a Sindarin book in the library, I wish our burglar was there to translate it with me, my elvish was never any good. I sometimes wonder if we could have gotten permission to teach him our language, he would have loved that."

"Indeed he would have. I mean you saw how fast he was able to pick up signing to communicate with Bifur? I would not even be surprised if he had already acquired a good grasp on Khuzdûl. I could have used his help in the kitchen, none of the arriving dwarrow understands me and my methods like Bilbo did."

Bombur and Bilbo had indeed developed a staunch friendship over food which had only grown with Bilbo efforts at communicating with his brother. The hidden hobbit only smirked at the mention of the secret dwarven language. Dwarrow were forbidden from teaching it, but no one had ever told Bilbo he could not learn it on his own. As such, he had developed a rudimentary grasp on it and could follow most conversations.

"He was ever the sneaky one our little burglar, I would have liked to have him in my spy network. I could have taught him all kinds of things. "

The company’s thief wore his usual smirk, but it was lacking. It was but a shell of the thing it was before, still there and complete, but empty.

"He could have helped me gather the herbs I need. I must also say that some of the hobbit remedies he shared with me are rather efficient. I would have loved to pick his brains for more."

Oin’s voice was of course the loudest due to his low hearing. His brother Gloin patted him on the shoulder.

"I would have loved to present him to my wife and lad. They’ve heard so much about each other that it seems odd they will never meet."

Bilbo was stunned in his hideout. He had no idea his friends had missed him so. He was not sure on his course of action now. Were they only fond of him because he was gone? It was a known fact that no one speaks ill of the dead. He gazed upon two huddled figures. His boys, Fili and Kili, had not spoken with the others. They seemed unable to even utter a word as they held onto each other for dear life. This reminiscing was just too painful for them. They had loved Bilbo as much as they loved their uncle and to lose him had been a hard blow.

Upon seeing such pain etched upon their faces, Bilbo could not simply leave them like this. He remembered what Sherlock’s faked death had done to him and he could not bare the thought of inflicting such pain unto his friends. With that last thought, he stepped into the light.

Chapter Text

What does one say to a dead person who comes back from the dead? An odd question certainly, but one that was more or less gracing the minds of every dwarrow in the room. Bilbo was dead… right? It was perhaps time to revise that certain truth, for right before them stood their hobbit. They could not even propose the conjecture of him being a ghost because he had changed. His hair was longer, his skin was darker and he had gained mass to the point where he now looked healthy. Evidently their hobbit was alive. The question now was how. How had Bilbo survived what had been described to them as a massive orc raid? Jumping to the easiest conclusion, they concluded he had most likely been in Rivendell this whole time. Because honestly the hobbit was a complete mess with a sword… or any other weapon.

THUD!

Well, this was somewhat poetic, thought Bilbo. Bofur had fainted. In the poor dwarf’s favour, the others did not seem to be fairing so well either. Dwarrow kind, much like the stone from whence it came, changed slowly. The sudden shock of their friend’s survival was rather brutal to them. Looking at their flummoxed faces, Bilbo swallowed a chuckle and proceeded further into the room.

"Is anyone going to be attending Bofur or shall we all just leave him on the floor?"

Bilbo’s inquiry seemed to jolt them out of their stupor and Oin sprung to action.

"It’s just chock, we all just got a nasty bout of it, ey laddies?"

Most of the others just nodded dazedly while Fili and Kili emitted confused but accenting whimpers. Their poor young minds having a difficult time processing what their senses were telling them. Finally after endless staring the boys’ bodies and brains made contact and before and anyone knew it, Bilbo was swarmed with princes. The dam broke and soon the hobbit was for all intents and purposes buried under a dwarven mountain. This one, of course, was by no means a lonely mountain and rather reminded Bilbo of their first night together. Slowly and by use of excessive proximity, the dwarrow got over their shock at seeing their burglar alive once more.

"Lad, we’re so happy you’re alive, when we heard what had happened we were sure we had lost you forever!"

Gloin, it seems, was the first to regain enough motor skills to enable speech. He was then followed by the ever eloquent Balin.

"Indeed, this is quite a relief but now we shall have to cancel the memorial being built in your honour. What a shame… Have you seen Thorin yet? I’m sure he would appreciate the knowledge of your perpetuated existence."

Bilbo froze up, as if someone had dumped a particularly cold bucket of water over his head. The light smile that had adorned his face slipped away and Balin knew that his King had once again blundered. Of course, not everyone was as quick to catch Bilbo’s cues and Fili and Kili spoke for the first time since the return of their burglar.

"Oh this is so great! He can finally stop mopping around and you can help mum keep him in line!"

Kili, always the extravert, had begun their little question parade. Bilbo watched the two with detached amusement; it was as if he had never left. He also wondered what had given them the idea that he would be coming back with them.

"You are just going to love each other and she wanted to meet you so badly too! She’ll be ecstatic that she can."

It was Fili’s turn now. It was odd how they would always ask so many questions but never wait for the answer.

"So what have you been doing since you left us? How did you end up in Rivendell? Were you on your way back to us?"

Deciding to put a stop to the never ending flow of questions, Bilbo spoke.

"Boys, I did see your uncle, it was not a pleasant encounter…"

The boys groaned in unison. The rest of the company seemed exasperated, but altogether unsurprised. This was a regular occurrence after all. Scanning the room with his peripheral vision, Bilbo saw a strange movement near the door. Someone was eavesdropping.

"What did he do now?!"

"I swear to Mahal if he drove you away I am never forgiving him."

The sounds of various exclamations along those lines filled the room.

"He threatened my fauntlings."

The cold statement, though not loud, cut through the room. Confusion was apparent on more than one face. Ever the curious scholar, it was young Ori who asked the question.

"Bilbo, what is a fauntling?"

Much to the increased confusion of the dwarrow, Bilbo turned towards the door and said.

"Boys, I know you’re there you can come out."

The assembled dwarrow were starting to think that perhaps their precious burglar was a few gems short of a mine cart. There was no one on the other side of the door, they would have known. To their utter amazement, the door cracked open and two small figures entered the room. Bilbo scooped them up and rested each on one of his hips. He turned back to the dwarrow.

"These are my fauntlings."

"Are those… are those baby hobbits?"

Fili practically choked the words out.

"Yes, fauntling is what hobbits call their young."

The dwarrow stared open mouthed at the little hobbit family trying to come to terms with the fact that hobbits apparently came in smaller and cuter packages than their burglar. They also tried to assimilate the fact that Bilbo had children. What did this mean for their king? Did he ever stand a chance? None of the dwarrow asked after the mother, knowing it was likely they had lost her in the raid if she was not here. They did not want to bring up bad memories. Bilbo turned his attention back to his fauntlings and spoke to them in a gentle tone they had never heard from the hobbit. If they thought he was attractive before, his present actions made him infinitely more so. Every dwarrow had a soft spot for mothering types, it was a highly sought out quality in partners.

"Now boys, what did papa say about eavesdropping?"

Was Bilbo going to scold the baby hobbits? The dwarrow look on, unable to comprehend the concept of scolding such adorable creatures.

"Not to do it on you and not to get caught?"

The little ones looked at their papa in askance.

"Indeed, you should not touch anything that could have direct repercussion in the room you are observing, lest you give yourself away. Ok dears?"

The dwarrow looked on incredulously (though Nori’s seemed to be tinged with approval). What was their hobbit teaching his children?

Chapter Text

The rest of the day had gone by rather quickly, and, to Bilbo’s relief, Thorin had yet to reappear. The hobbit was astounded at how easy it was to be with his friends again. Even after all his changes, and he could tell they had noticed by some of the looks he would receive, it was as if he had never left. He invited them to have supper in his chambers knowing they would only cause trouble for the elves and that none of them seemed keen on letting him go. All the dwarrow had taken a shining to his little ones and Bilbo would be surprised if his fauntlings had even spent a minute on the ground since they met. After their meal Bilbo put his dozing little ones to bed, much to the dwarrow’s dismay, and they all settled in for pipes and ale. A content silence draped itself over the room’s occupants. Bofur wandered over to Bilbo and sat next to him by the fire.

"Do they miss her, their mum?"

The hat wearing dwarf asked gently, his voice full of sympathy. It was not something he wanted to bring up just yet. Bilbo had quite evidently lost someone very dear to him, it explained why he was so cold now.

"They don’t really remember them, it’s rather sad…"

Bilbo sighed and Bofur sported an incredulous look. Had he heard correctly? Them as in plural, as in more than one?

"Them? You mean they have different mothers?"

Bofur could not believe his ears, he did not know much about hobbits, but having two wives was something he had not expected. Here he had thought that their little burglar preferred his own gender.

"But of course, they don’t look much like each other. Frodo was an only child because his mother was quite young, but Sam had two sisters…"

Here Bilbo trailed off finally spotting his companions bewildered expression.

"So… that’s normal then, for hobbits to have two…"

Bilbo, oblivious to what Bofur was thinking, imagined he was speaking about Sam’s sisters. He had heard that dwarven fertility was low and the number of girls even lower. As such he decided to give Bofur a class in hobbit fertility.

"Most families have four, but some less and some more. You know my mother was one of fifteen. But her family is more an exception than a rule. It is socially acceptable to only have as many as you can afford."

Bofur paled and started looking faint. Bilbo went forward to check on his friend, perhaps his fainting from earlier was a symptom of some underlying illness. He spared a look at the other dwarrow in the room and they all seemed utterly shocked. He had known that dwarven fertility was low, but this was a bit much.

"…Four? Fifteen? Afford? I don’t, I can’t…"

For the second time that day Bofur fainted.

***

After Bilbo had inspected Bofur and ascertained it was only shock (what about, Bilbo had no idea) he decided to call it a night. The dwarrow left in a daze. They had learned much tonight and realised they all needed to know more about the people their hobbit had belonged to. It was easy sometimes to forget he was a different species all together, but moments like these brought it into sharp contrast. To be able to mate with so many, did hobbits even have ones? Well it now explained why Bilbo smial had been so big. Did Thorin ever stand a chance? They were all fairly sure their burglar was his One, but what if it didn’t work both ways. Evidently it did not, seeing as how Bilbo had married twice and had four babies. How would they tell Thorin? Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad, Thorin already knew about the fauntlings. Perhaps it was best not to mention it at all to him. Yes that seemed like the best course of action. Dwarrow weren’t a cowardly race by any means, but none of them was quite keen on telling their moody king… So none of them would. With these last thoughts, all the dwarrow went to bed hoping tomorrow would be a less shocking day.

Honestly they should know by now not to jinx it.

***

Eventually, thorin recovered from the shock of seeing his Bilbo alive but unattainable. As long as his precious One was happy, Thorin could do nothing. If he was happy with someone else then so be it. This though did not stop the King under the mountain from wanting the hobbit in his life. They had gotten off to a rocky second start and Thorin knew he should not have assaulted the little ones so, but Thorin was willing to make it up to them. He would have to do it quickly, for the gray wizard was coming and Thorin very much wanted to avoid his ire. Indeed, the wizard would be arriving shortly, he apparently had a few theories as to what was happening in Mordor. Thorin saw most of Rivendell that day, though not by choice, he got terribly lost. He had to admit it was a beautiful place, calm and peaceful. If he ever did make up with Bilbo, would it be fair of him to ask him to leave this safe haven, would it be fair to uproot the little ones which had already lost so much? The king did not know and told himself to dwell on these things if they ever became an issue. The way things were now it never would be.

By the time Thorin returned, all the dwarrow were already fast asleep. He set himself down to do the same. Tomorrow would be a better day.

***

It was a beautiful morning in Rivendell, or it would have been for Lord Elrond if his head wasn’t itching so. He had not been awake for more than a few seconds and it was almost unbearable. What had happened last night? He remembered retiring and a peaceful sleep, more peaceful than usual in fact. He got out of bed and sought out the mirror in his water room. He stared horrified at his reflection for a good while. All his hair was braided into hundreds of small braids. This of course was not even the worst part. Oh no. At the end of some of those braids were beads, but not just any beads. He had been alive long enough to recognize them for what they were even if the people who the belonged to were very secretive. They were courting beads, highly specific courting beads. Courting beads which wore the sigils of each of the dwarrow Rivendell was now hosting. He tried to undo the mass of braids, but it was to no avail, they had been made by fingers far small and far cleverer than his. He had no illusions as to who had done this, not many were capable of such things and only one of them was in Rivendell right now. He had known there would be repercussions. He had known to fear the hobbit. He should have listened to himself.

Now, he had to see about finding something to hide his hair with, a hat perhaps?

Chapter Text

As was his habit, Bilbo rose early that morning to join a hunting party. He had lived for so long on adrenaline that even though he was only just back, he craved his daily fix. The killings were rather good and as always, Bilbo ranked first place both in the number of kills and the showmanship of them. It had become a sort of game between him and his comrades to kill orcs as spectacularly as they could. It was only normal, killing orcs had long since become far too easy for most of them with their long life spans. As for Bilbo, well he just had plain skill. Regardless of his skill level, the lone hobbit of their party was very creative, a lifetime of Sherlock would do that to a person. As it were he won on most days and would constantly astound his compatriots. Their hunt finished a little later than usual as Bilbo had been in stunning form that day (Indeed his most creative kill involved three cabbages, a shin bone and a bouquet of petunias). The hobbit groaned to himself knowing the boys, without him to wake them up, would skip out on their first lesson. Elves could not be trusted to wake fauntlings, he absently wondered if they even attended their tutoring during his absence.

They made their way back without any obstacles until they reached Rivendell. The horses and pony pranced through the main gate only to be stopped by frantic dwarrow and a hat clad Elrond. Bilbo smirked inwardly. He idly wondered what the dwarrow wanted, but shrugged and decided to dismount and lead his pony to the stables so he could go wake his little ones. The dwarrow were probably peeved they hadn’t been told there was a hunting party. If dwarrow liked one thing it was to kill orcs. The moment he set foot on the ground he was swarmed by dwarrow.

"Bilbo are you alright?!!"

Thorin was upon him, frantically feeling him in a manner made to detect injuries.

"Why did you let them bring you?!!!"

Bofur was the next one to shove himself into his field of vision, worry clouding his expression.

"Why would you do such a dangerous thing?"

Fili and Kili were near hysterical in their questioning, their gazes filled with blind panic. The rest of the company was close at hand and just as stifling. Bilbo sent a bewildered look to Lord Elrond who just looked confused. Bilbo met his sword fellows’ eyes and was rather displeased to note that they were finding quite amusing. Their leader smirked and Bilbo knew things were about to get interesting.

"Why ever would accompanying a hunting party be considered dangerous for Bilbo Baggins?"

The dwarrow gaped at the elf they thought was stupid to even ask that question. Balin decided he would need to defuse the situation before Thorin decided to declare war on the elves for endangering their hobbit.

"Well, perhaps we have been misled, but elvish hunting parties fight orcs, do they not?"

"They do…"

The elf tried to keep his smirk to a minimal level lest he give himself away. These dwarrow would learn not to underestimate the hobbit and he would have the distinct pleasure of watching them do so.

"Well you see, Master Elf, Bilbo is perhaps not the most… skilled fighter. As such fighting orcs is very dangerous for him. He isn’t made like a dwarf, hard and tough, he is soft and delicate, he must be protected at all costs."

Bilbo’s party went red and most had to bite their lips or turn away. The hobbit, delicate? They were talking about the same Bilbo Baggins, weren’t they? The leader threw Bilbo a teasing look and the hobbit groaned. He was never going to live this down. The leader could not help but add to Balin’s embarrassing speech.

"You are right Master dwarf he is rather delicate, one might go so far as to call him fragile. Yes, I can see it now, Bilbo Baggins the delicate flower of Rivendell…"

To Bilbo this was far too much. The nerve, comparing his to a flower, he was a captain for Yavanna’s sake!

"Ok ok , you’ve had your fun. Which, I inform you, you will pay for… Dearly. "

The leader immediately lost his smirk and paled. The hobbit had a sadistic streak a league wide. Bilbo turned to the dwarrow and said:

"I thank you for your concern, but it is unnecessary. I do realize that when I left the lonely mountains I was not a skilled fighter. I assure you it is something I saw to in our time apart. As such, I regularly join hunting parties and kill my fair share of orcs."

The dwarrow, still unaware of Bilbo’s impressive improvement in the combat arts were still very skeptical. Of course it had to be Thorin that said it.

"Bilbo, even if you are marginally better than you were, it is too dangerous for a creature like you to do such things. You should leave it to those who are properly trained for these things."

The King under the mountain had not said these things to be insulting, he was sincere in his desire to protect the one he love. Nonetheless, Bilbo was angry, Bilbo was absolutely seething. The elves flinched remembering the fate of those who, in the past, had said such things to the hobbit. Wanting to avert the eminent massacre that Bilbo was about to go on the leader spoke.

"Well it seems you have nothing but faith in your burglar… If you think him so weak, why not prove to him why this is dangerous. Perhaps in the form of a friendly spar? You can go as easy as you want with him, you know let him down easy."

Only Bilbo, who knew these elves, understood where this was going. They wanted him to wipe the floor with them and, right now, Bilbo seemed rather inclined to do so. He was still going to make his party leader pay for his comments, he was having far too much fun with this. Thorin thought hard about the proposition, he did not want to hurt Bilbo, but he had to show the hobbit that what he was doing was foolish. He had to keep his hobbit safe from harm, even if that meant bruising his One’s ego badly. Bilbo would forgive him in time and would be alive to do so.

"I will agree to this, but on two conditions. One, we will be using wooden training swords and two, if I am victorious Bilbo will stop accompanying your hunting parties."

Bilbo rolled his eyes at the statement. As if the dwarrow could stop him from going in hunting parties. They were only here for a diplomatic visit, they would be leaving soon and would have no way of knowing what he was or wasn’t doing. He ignored the pang in his heart when he thought of them leaving.

"That seems agreeable to me. It is settled then, at mid-day in the training grounds. I shall see you then, for now I must go wake my fauntlings. I fear they are missing their classes again."

With that Bilbo turned on his heel and left, behind him were worried dwarrow and smug elves.

***

The training grounds were packed with elves when mid-day came upon them. Funnily enough, none of them were there to train. For the tournament, as they were calling it, they had chosen a sparing area surrounded by stone gradations which acted like bleachers. The dwarrow, still oblivious to the fact they were going to be losing thought this was all quite cruel. Why were there so many elves here to watch a novice get beaten by a dwarf? Did they find entertainment in the subjugation of the weak? Nori had not even bothered setting up a betting pool as no one thought Bilbo had any real chance.

Bilbo was already there when the dwarrow arrived, he was off to the side trying out the different wooden swords. He knew that he would win his first match against Thorin because he had the element of surprise. Hell it hardly mattered what kind of sword he chose for the first one. It was for the second (or third one, depending how slow Thorin was on the uptake) when Thorin would go all out.

To Bilbo’s dismay, the king under the mountain had opted out of fighting him for fear of injuring him and had assigned Bofur to the task.

The king under the mountain let his company get seated and grabbed the first sword on the rack and handed it to Bofur. The hat wearing dwarf sent Bilbo a grin and got into position in the center of the area. This of course peeved Bilbo just a tad, he could at least have pretended to take this seriously. Oh well, he would get what was coming to him.

Bilbo joined Bofur in center field and slipped into his fighting stance. The dwarf looked mildly impressed at his form. A bell rang clearly across the whole arena and everyone immediately quieted down. Another clear ring marked the beginning of the spar.

Bofur had scarcely had time to blink when there was a sudden pain in his wrist and a falling sensation. His bottom hit the floor and he felt two pieces of wood at his neck. It took him a moment to realise that Bilbo was holding both their swords at his neck. The bell rang again. Bofur was incredulous. Not only had Bilbo managed to disarm him, but he had also thrown him down. The toymaker had not even managed a hit!

"Perhaps you weren’t ready? Would you like another go?"

Bofur stared up at Bilbo uncomprehending, but eventually nodded. The next round was not much better, Bofur managed to block one hit before receiving a rather nasty wack on the head. The hat wearing dwarf admitted defeat and went back to the company. The elves looked on in amusement. Nori was starting to regret not having set up that betting pool. Seeing that Bilbo was much better than expected they sent Dwalin next.

After the previous display, Dwalin took the whole thing far more seriously than Bofur and took his time to choose his weapon. He seemed rather impressed with Bilbo and eager to test their burglar’s skills. He got into position and the first bell went, followed by the second. To everyone’s surprise and amazement, Bilbo threw away his sword and lunged at Dwalin. Using his momentum, Bilbo got close to the dwarf, grabbed his sword hand and flipped the warrior onto his back. Stunned, Dwalin did not have time to move before Bilbo hit him in the stomach, cutting off his breathing and making him lose his grip on his sword. The hobbit picked it up and held it to the warrior’s neck. Lying on his back on the ground, looking up at the slight figure that had just beaten the air out of him, Dwalin could not help but laugh. The whole situation was so absurd. One thing was quite clear to him, going out on hunting expeditions to fight orcs was not dangerous for Bilbo Baggins. It was dangerous for the orcs. How the little soft thing had grown so skilled was a mystery, but he was one of the best opponents Dwalin had ever faced.

Still chuckling, Dwalin got up pat Bilbo on the back and knocked their foreheads together.

"You’re a worthy opponent lad, I’ll look forward to sparing with you in the future."

Bilbo beamed at him and Dwalin rejoined the company on the sidelines. The only thing now was to send their best fighter, Thorin.

Chapter Text

The elves were ecstatic, some of them had worried Bilbo would go easy on them because of past friendship, but it seemed to be quite the opposite. The warrior hobbit was truly trouncing the dwarrow and they were doing nothing about it. The next match promised to be interesting.

With the company, bets were being made. Of course, most of them bet that Thorin would win, he was a skilled warrior tested by time. Even if Bilbo had gotten lucky and defeated Dwalin, he would stand no chance against Thorin. Surprisingly, to the dwarrow, Dwalin bet that Bilbo would be the one winning. They had all stared at him as if he had a second head when he declared it, but most brushed it off as wanting to get on Bilbo’s good side. Dwalin only smirked. The king under the mountain silently watched as his company made bets on the following match. He was absolutely furious that Dwalin had let Bilbo win. He did not want to fight his precious little One, what if he hurt him? He no longer had a choice, he needed to beat him so that he could stop putting himself in danger. With purpose he glided towards the combat area. He chose his weapon with more care than he had chosen Bofur’s, but with too little care to truly be taking this seriously. Bilbo’s gaze hardened.

"Bilbo, I will give you one last chance, there is no shame in forfeiting at the level which you are at."

The attending elves winced, either this dwarf was extremely stupid or suicidal… most likely both. Everyone knew not to make Bilbo angry, some had learned that lesson harder than others.

Bilbo glared at Thorin then turned to the mediator of their match.

"Ring the bell"

Thorin look at Bilbo incredulously, the hobbit could not seriously be doing this? He once again tried to give him a way out.

"Bilbo are you sure this is…"

"RING THE BLOODY BELL!!"

The first bell rang and silence reigned, Bilbo turned his complete focus on his opponent. Thorin’s eyes widened. This was not the soft gentle hobbit he had called a grocer. No this was someone else, something else. The being in front of him looked like a warrior of old. Cold, strong and merciless. The gaze on him was utterly devoid of emotion, dead almost. For once in his life Thorin felt fear before a battle. What had happened to his Bilbo?

The second bell went. They circled each other like two predator assessing one another. Bilbo’s face spread into a feral smile. Thorin’s thoughts backtracked, no this was predator against pray and for some reason he felt as though he wasn’t the predator this time. Bilbo lunged and their wooden swords clashed. Thorin returned the blow which Bilbo blocked with ease. More and more rapidly they exchanged blows. The rhythm was almost unsustainable for Thorin, Bilbo was quick, too quick for him. Beads of sweat began pearling on his forehead and his arms were starting to tremble. Of course it was barely apparent to anyone but Bilbo. On the other hand, Bilbo looked as fresh as a spring flower, meeting every one of his blows with laughable ease. The hobbit’s feral smile grew and he raised an eyebrow at Thorin. It was in that moment that the king under the mountain realised that Bilbo was just playing with him. Much like he had done, Bilbo was showing him that he was not taking this match seriously. Red hot rage flooded Thorin’s veins. How dare that hobbit!? Thorin was a king! A warrior king who had fought and survived a dragon, the battle of Moria and the battle of five armies! With renewed energy, Thorin began reigning harder and harder blows on the other. The small being only looked increasingly bored, as if Thorin’s onslaught was nothing. The king’s rage increased and finally, Thorin hit a particularly hard blow. Upon impact, Bilbo’s wooden sword shattered into hundreds of wooden fragments. Thinking his victory was assured, Thorin prepared himself to hit his final blow. Where was Bilbo? He had been right in front of him naught but a second ago.

There was a small noise behind him. Thorin turned on his heels, but found himself unable to do so. The momentum of his turn was not lost however, as it brought him crashing to the floor. Sprawled stomach to the ground Thorin tried to figure out what happened. That’s when he saw them. They were two pieces of wood, formerly part of Bilbo’s sword. They had been planted through his coat and into the floor between cobblestones, effectively binding his coat to the ground. There was a sudden pain in his sword hand and his head snapped back to his front. Bilbo was stepping on his hand and had effectively wrangled his sword from him. The hobbit held the king’s neck at sword point and forced him to meet his eyes. Meeting eyes and holding the kings gaze Bilbo loudly pronounced:

"I win"

He then dropped the sword and turned heel.

The elves positively exploded with cheer. One could always count on Bilbo for a good show. The captain of his hunting party came over and clapped him on the shoulder.

"That was brilliant Bilbo! It went exactly like you said it would! The sword shattered and everything, it was great!"

"Wait, you knew that was going to happened? You planned all of that?"

Thorin could simply not believe what he was hearing, how could Bilbo have planned all this. The hobbit glanced at him from over his shoulder his lips quirked in a small smile.

"But of course."

With that he kept walking, telling the flabbergasted company he would see them at the next meal in passing.

***

Shadowfax trotted through the gates of Rivendell carrying his favourite wizard. They had just returned from the Evil Place and the poor horse was looking forward to some rest and relaxation. He had to admit that the roads were much safer now, be wondered why that was. Little did he know that his rider was having similar thoughts. The roads were almost safe and he had gotten word that the darkness in Mirkwood seemed to be receding, revealing the Greenwood it had once been. They still did not know the cause of this. Gandalf hoped it was a good thing rather than a bad one. But with all the things that had happened lately what with the necromancer and all, he dared not hope.

Well at least the elves and dwarrow were mending bridges, this way they could brave the coming darkness together. He rather like the thought of all races banding together to push the darkness forever out of Middle Earth. He should look into that.

Enjoying the calm of the last homely home, Gandalf almost missed his old friend’s arrival. But he had not, though Elrond hoped he would.

"My dear friend how are you! I say, what ever happened to your head?!"

Elrond’s face adopted a look of displeasure and said:

"Nothing that concerns you, do come in. The dwarrow have already arrived."

The gray wizard eyed the elven Lord’s hat, but let it go for now. There would be plenty of time to find out later. What was magic for after all?

Chapter Text

Bilbo strolled through the halls of the last homely home with a smirk on his face. He could not believe how good it felt to finally stick it to the dwarrow. He hoped most of them lost their money, it would serve them right. They had always underestimated them and in the end, only Dwalin seemed to have learned. The closer he came to his lodgings, the more somber he became. He was finally going to write his letter to the eagles. It felt cheap to him that he could not tell them in person. He remembered doing so in his life as John, going to his fallen comrades’ homes and announcing their deaths to their families. It was an awful thing, at the time he had hoped he would never have to do it again, but now he wished he had the luxury of being able to deliver the news in person. For now a letter would have to do, but maybe, sometime in the future he would go deliver the feather to them in person. It was theirs at the end of the day, much like a body, it should be returned to them so that they may give it a proper burial. Did eagles bury their dead? Bilbo did not know.

Him a long time to write a letter he was satisfied with, but eventually he sent it off and hoped for the best.

***

Thorin could not help but gape at the hobbit’s back. How could he have lost to him? Losing to a hobbit was shameful, he did not deserve to be king. How could he return to his people after being disgraced thus?

"Ahh don’t be so hard on yourself! No one has ever won against the great master Baggins. In fact, none of us even put money on anyone winning, we put money on how much time people can stay in the ring with him. Absolutely brutal that one…"

It was the elf that had started this whole debacle. He seemed rather apologetic, but Thorin had a hard time trusting the creature that had put him into this predicament.

"You mean to say that he has beaten all the elves?"

"He trounced even Glorfindel. Do you really think we let him come with us on hunting trips for no reason? He has got to have the highest kill count among us, hell we had to stop keeping track because he was killing faster that we could count. I reckon he has to be the best fighter in Middle Earth, I’ve never, in all my years, seen anything like him."

Thorin could do nothing but gape at the elf. What had happened to his Bilbo? How had he gotten so good in so little time? He had to admit though, he did feel better about himself knowing that even the best elves had been beaten by Bilbo.

"Come with us, we shall feast together to forget the bruises and I will tell you about Bilbo’s exploits. Your company is also welcome."

At that moment, Thorin thought that was a stellar idea. He had come to Rivendell to mend bridges and create new relations. Perhaps it was time to start actually trying. Besides, he wanted to hear about his one. Maybe he should look into joining the morning hunting party to see his one at work? This new side of Bilbo was definitely intriguing.

***

The elves and dwarrow ate drank and were generally merry. Most of them could scarcely believe what their hobbit had been up to. Was it even the same creature? They all remembered the delicate fussy hobbit that left its home in a fancy waistcoat and mourned his handkerchief. When had he gone from the squeamish thing that cared for doilies to this instrument of war?

"Well I think our first mistake is only remembering him as the fussy hobbit who left bag end. By the end of our quest he was no longer the same creature, he was already different."

For once, it was not Balin who was speaking sense into them but his brother Dwalin. What was Middle Earth coming to?

"You’re right, the lad was quite different by the end of it, but we kept treating him as though he was the same. He saved us so many times and we still kept underestimating him."

It was Gloin who said that little tidbit and the rest of them simply contemplated his words.

"And he’s lost so much, is it really so surprising that he isn’t the same anymore? Were any of you the same after Smaug took the mountain? Bilbo has just lost everything he ever had. He lost bag end, he lost the shire, he lost his friends, his family, his wives, his other fauntlings…"

It was already too late when Ori realized he had let the cat out of the bag.

"His wives… his other fauntlings… What exactly do you know that I do not Ori?"

The King’s voice was low and deadly. Ori gulped, he was really in for it now.

"Well… you see… apparently in hobbit culture it’s common to have more than one wife and well Bilbo lost the two he had when the Shire was attacked. He also lost his two daughters, Sam’s sisters…"

Thorin was devastated. Not only did Bilbo get married, but he did so twice, he built a family twice. Was there even any hope for him? Were hobbits even attracted to the same gender or was it frowned upon like it was with men?

Thorin’s depressed inner monologue was rudely interrupted by raucous laughter. The elf was laughing at them. Why was the elf laughing at them? Did he think Thorin’s pain was funny?

"Peace my friend, I do not laugh at your pain. I simply find hilarity in the misunderstanding I see going on here. Master Baggins never married, his fauntlings are adopted, not that he does not love them as if they were his own. In fact, if not for blood, those faunts are completely his. Also young master dwarf, I do not know where you obtained your information, but hobbits are highly monogamous creatures. They love only once, they even have a name for that individual. The call them their one, I believe dwarrow have a similar concept if I am not mistaken?"

"We we do… But Bilbo was the one who told us about hobbits having more than one spouse. He told us his mother was one of fifteen"

Ori stuttered his response, he was still shaken up from being on the receiving end of his King’s ire.

"Are you certain you were both talking about the same thing? I know that Bilbo’s mother was one of the fifteen children Old Took had. Perhaps he was only referring to hobbit fertility."

"Well that is possible, it would make more sense."

While the other dwarrow chatted up the elf, Thorin released the breath he had been holding. He still had a chance, his one was untouched, attainable. His heart swelled and his mind began to formulate plans to ensnare his elusive hobbit. Bilbo would be a worthy consort, anyone who doubted it would taste his fierce blade. If dwarrow respected one thing, it was skill in battle.

Thorin had a chance and there was no way he was going to waste it.

***

Elrond was finding that his halls were suspiciously empty, where were all his men? He needed to call a council. The wizard was getting ready to brief them of the Mordor situation and he could not find his men nor Bilbo. He could faintly hear sounds of some sort of celebration, but he wrote them off as being the dwarrow. As time went on, he finally made his way towards the noise. To his surprise, he found his men and the dwarrow in the midst of a celebration together. It was an odd sight, but a welcome one. Perhaps there was hope for relations between their races. Closing the door softly behind himself he decided perhaps it would be best to postpone the meeting till tomorrow morning. Loud cheering could be heard as another round of ale was distributed around the room. Perhaps tomorrow afternoon, Lord Elrond amended in his mind.

The wizard could wait one more night.

Chapter Text

Gandalf could indeed wait one night and upon hearing that the elves and dwarrow were making such headway, he was delighted to do so. After a light meal, the gray wizard decided he wanted to visit his favourite hobbit, well hobbits now. He was quite fond of the little ones. He made his way up to Bilbo’s chambers only to find a somber hobbit and sleeping fauntlings. He should have known the small ones would be asleep, it was quite late, but he had expected to see Bilbo in better spirits. Well better was relative now a days for Bilbo Baggins. Gandalf had given up on ever seeing his little friend happy again, that part of Bilbo seemed to have burned with the Shire, but he did not expect his former travel companion to be so blue.

"Bilbo my dear, what ever is the matter?"

"I’ve lost someone Gandalf…"

Gandalf wanted to smack himself, of course his little friend was feeling down. How could he be so insensitive, Bilbo was one of the last hobbits.

"I know my dear boy, you have lost your whole people…"

"No Gandalf, I’ve lost someone else. A dear friend, though we have never shared words or embraced, he was dear to me nonetheless."

That gave Gandalf a pause, when and where had this happened? He had heard that Bilbo had gone on some sort of mission while he was out, but he did not think enough time had passed for something so grave to have happened. How does one go about making friends without ever having talked to them? It was all very confusing to the old wizard.

"How… When did this happen?"

"It’s a bit of a long story, but I imagine it will answer a few of your questions."

Here the hobbit hesitated, how does one start telling a story such as his?

"Do go on dear boy."

Well, Bilbo thought, perhaps the beginning was best.

"I… I found something in Goblintown. I know I came up with some bullshit excuse about me finding my courage there, but I acquired something in Goblintown, something evil. I could not tell you at the time, I imagine I was already under its spell. It was a simple golden band, a ring. It looked harmless, until one put it on. It granted me invisibility and you can imagine how useful I thought that would be, so I kept it. It got us out of countless jams, but the more I wore it, the more on edge it put me. There was something inexplicably wrong with it."

Here, Bilbo made the snap descision that he would not tell Gandalf about remembering his previous life. The wizard could accept many things, but Bilbo did not want to push it. He needed the wizard to believe the rest of his story, which was already pretty unbelievable.

"After my banishment, I decided it would be best for everyone if I just disappeared. I was going to live out the rest of my days comfortably in my smial as I had always intended. But there was always something unrestful in the back of my mind, some niggling thought that something was afoot. That’s why I continued my training. I enlisted the local rangers to teach me all they knew and I became a proficient fighter, as you well know. That’s when the orcs came. It’s so rare that orcs ever show up in the Shire and in so many numbers was unheard of. I was immediately suspicious. What could they possibly want? The only one who ever left the Shire was me and the only thing of real importance I had brought back was the ring. It was only when I was safe in Rivendell that I would find out the true nature of the thing I carried."

By now, Gandalf was beginning to have a rather clear idea of what exactly Bilbo had found in Goblintown. He wondered where exactly this story was heading, but simply encouraged Bilbo to keep telling him.

"It was the One Ring Gandalf. I carried Sauron’s One Ring for almost two years. So I sat there in Elrond’s library and said to myself: Well this is the situation, now unfuck yourself. Now, the Ring’s influence stretches far and wide and as such I did not know who I could trust. Establishing trust is a long and arduous process, so I decided to forgo it. I trusted no one. "

"Bilbo my dear, surely you could trust me? I understand not trusting the dwarrow, but… Have I ever given you reason not to trust me?"

"Of course I trust you Gandalf, but what if you could not resist the Ring, what if you fell? What could I, a simple hobbit do against a wizard? It’s not that I don’t trust you, for I do with my very life. It’s just that I am no match for a wizard, it was just a risk I could not take. This is not just my life we are discussing, this is the fate of Middle Earth."

This seemed to appease Gandalf. Indeed, he knew that for all their power, wizards were not incorruptible. Had he himself not pondered on the growing darkness behind Saruman’s gaze the last time they conversed?

"Not knowing who to turn to, I called upon the eagles of manwe. They did not hesitate to send me one of their own and together we journeyed to Mordor."

"Bilbo, tell me you did not…"

The gray wizard seemed horrified at the very idea of a creature so small and fragile going to Mordor.

"I could, but I would be lying. I cast the wretched this to the fiery depths from whence it was forged. The Ring is no more Gandalf, Sauron is dead. "

For a time nothing was said and all Gandalf could do was gape at the hobbit. The small creature had almost singlehandedly saved Middle Earth. Out of the corner of his eye, Gandalf saw a silvery glint. He had noticed when he first started talking to the hobbit and a metallic object now adorned his hair, but he had never stopped to contemplate what it was. This day had not finished delivering shocks to him it seemed.

"That feather, the eagle he…"

"He did not make it. This is what became of his body. I was planning on returning it to his nest mates in person. It seemed cheap somehow to send it along with the letter explaining what we had done and how he had perished."

"You cannot return it! That would be akin to rejecting his sacrifice. If he gave it to you, you must wear it with great pride. The eagle has declared you his kin, his nest mate. It is the greatest honour that anyone can be granted from the eagles. In essence, he has given you a family."

Bilbo was stunned, the eagle had declared him kin, he had given him a family, maybe even a home. The hobbit did not even know how to react to such a gift. One thing was sure, he would wear the feather with pride.

The wizard and the hobbit sat in silence for a long time, each contemplating the day’s discoveries. No more words were exchanged that night, save for parting formalities, they both had much to think about.

Chapter Text

That night, elves, dwarrow and hobbits slept soundly within the confines of the last homely home. It was a ground breaking moment, a tipping point in interracial relations and no one was awake to witness it. There are many moments in history that come unannounced and that go unperceived, that doesn’t change their importance. So they slept the night away, peaceful in the knowledge that they were among allies and perhaps even friends.

Morning came as it always did, projecting light into the eyes of the severely hung over. Both elf and dwarf shifted in an attempt to escape the luminous attack on their eyes. An exercise in futility. Bilbo rose as per usual, rousing his fauntlings as he went. His little ones did not have lessons this morning and no patrols were scheduled, they had the whole day to themselves. He had planned a picnic, but with the arrival of the dwarrow he would most likely have to pack some extra… a lot of extra. While he may still be furious with Thorin, he had dearly missed the company and had no plans to push them away. They had forgiven him and that was enough for Bilbo. The fact of the matter was that they would most likely hate him when they discovered that he was capable of betraying his one thus. Those things were apparently unheard of in dwarven culture.

With the help of Sam and Frodo, Bilbo spent the morning preparing a grand picnic for the afternoon. It was odd to see Rivendell so empty, but by the looks of things there had been a grand celebration last night. He hoped the dwarrow had behaved themselves, he wasn’t ready to say goodbye. The hobbit’s stomach lurched at the thought: he would have to say goodbye. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but the dwarrow had a mountain to run and they would not be staying in Rivendell indefinitely. They would go back to their blasted mountain, they would go where he could not follow. The banishment had yet to be lifted, perhaps they hadn’t really forgiven him? Maybe they were only pretending for the sake of their relationship with the elves. The makings of misery started gnawning at his soul and once again the Captain slammed his emotions shut. It was useless to dwell on such things. He would enjoy their presence while he could and deal with what was left of his heart when they left.

Little did Bilbo know that he had been forgiven for so long that the dwarrow did not even consider his banishment valid. He was a hero of Erebor, of course he was always welcome within their halls. Anyway, it was known among dwarrow that the things one said while in the hold of gold sickness held no legal value. Thorin was not the first to have done something stupid while gold sick and he would most certainly not be the last.

***

It was nearing mid-day when the population of Rivendell started awaking. The dwarrow slowly filtered down to the kitchen where they found their favourite hobbits surrounded by baskets of food.

"What’s all this then laddies?"

Ever the quick one, Balin was the first to find his words.

"Well, it’s me and the boys’ day off, so we were going to enjoy a picnic by the fountains. We were wondering if you would like to join us? I made my special hangover brew."

If the dwarrow weren’t already won over by the promise of food, which they were, they would have jumped at any mention of Bilbo’s hangover cure. The man was a genius with herbs, his brew would make a hangover disappear before you even reached the bottom of your cup.

Not even taking the time to grace the hobbit with a verbal answer, the baskets were scooped up by eager dwarrow and Bofur managed a: "Well what are we waiting for, lead on."

The walk was pleasant, though every dwarrow felt the distance between their leader and their former burglar. The hangover cure, as always, worked its magic quickly and effectively. As such, the dwarrow were running at full efficiency, which pleased Sam and Frodo. Indeed, the fauntlings were have a ball getting thrown from dwarf to dwarf and climbing all over them. Bilbo only smiled on fondly. Here were his favourite people in all of Middle Earth getting along as if they had always known each other. It made the knowledge that they would have to be separated all that much more bitter. Soon they arrived at the grand fountains of Rivendell. Bilbo leisurly set up the spread under the bewildered gazes of the dwarrow. There was a lot of food, it must have taken hours to prepare. Everything looked delicious and the dwarrow were suddenly reminded of how hungry they were.

Bilbo told them to dig in and not a moment was wasted. The taste of the first bite touched their tongues and not for the first time did many think on how lucky Thorin was. Not only was his one attractive and motherly, but he was an amazing cook as well. Truly, Bilbo would be the best consort Erebor had ever seen. Oblivious to the thoughts he was generating, Bilbo sat Sam and Frodo on his lap and proceeded to make plates for them. The assembled dwarrow almost melted at the display. Thorin, not unaware of his companions was trying very hard to resist the urge to loudly proclaim the hobbit as his. He resisted only because he knew it would push Bilbo further away.

This of course did not mean he would not try to woo his hobbit. The king under the mountain rose and prowled towards his oblivious hobbit. His new seat was close, but not too close. The other dwarrow hid smirks, it seems as though their King had begun his hunt.

"Bilbo, I wanted to apologize to you and the little ones for my horrid behavior. I just… I thought I would never see you again and when I saw the fauntlings I had hope for the first time in months. I fear that I have overreacted again… Forgive me?"

Bilbo repressed a shiver at Thorin’s voice. Never had the King spoken to him in such a tone. His voice was low and deep, it held a sensual quality that Bilbo did not know the King possessed. How could he deny Thorin anything when he employed that tone? Never had anyone’s voice affected him so much.

"I understand Thorin, but if you ever lay a hand on my fauntlings again there won’t be enough of you left to have a proper burial. Am I understood?"

Cold green eyes met icy blue and for a moment everything in the world was fine. Sadly, it was but for a moment.

"I understand perfectly. Now perhaps you could present the little ones to me? They seem to know everyone else already."

While talking, Thorin made a motion towards the two fauntlings that had been looking at him curiously since he came over. They reconized him as the crazed creature that had assaulted them not to long ago. He seemed better, less insane. Anyway, if their father was talking to him he couldn’t be that bad.

"Of course, how remiss of me! Thorin, this is Frodo Baggins and this is Samwise Gamgee. Boys this is Thorin son of Thrain, King under the mountain."

One would have thought that such a title would have rendered children shy, but Sam and Frodo seemed unaffected by his status.

"He has pretty hair."

Was all that was said before the boys climbed into his lap to pet his hair. Thorin, though surprised, took it all in stride. His eyes were soft and his touch gentle as he minded the boys. Bilbo was reminded that he had raised Fili and Kili. Bilbo thought that if he had ovaries they would be exploding right now. Thorin made quite the sight with his arms full of fauntlings. Bilbo hoped Thorin would find himself a nice dam to settle down with because he would make a great father. That thought hurt viciously because he wanted Thorin to be the father of his fauntlings. He had to stop thinking about such things or he would drive himself insane.

They enjoyed the rest of the afternoon, secretly basking in eachother’s company. It was almost supper time when Gandalf found them. The faunts had tired themselves out and were napping of the King uunder the mountain, while he chatted quietly with Bilbo. The rest of the company could be found here and there smoking or involved in conversations of their own.

"Ah there you are my dears, I just need to inform you that the council will be held tonight after supper. Bilbo, I hope I can count on you to relate what you told me last night. It will certainly take care of the meeting quickly."

Bilbo simply nodded to Gandalf while Thorin look on in confusion.

"What do you mean Gandalf? How could Bilbo shorten the meeting?"

"Well Bilbo knows all about the Mordor situation…"

"How, how could he know all about the Mordor situation?"

"Well he was in Mordor when it happened…"

"YOU WERE WHAT??!!!"

Chapter Text

"I was in Mordor when it happened, really Thorin you heard what Gandalf said, there’s no need to shout…"

No need to shout, was the hobbit out of his mind? He beloved had gone to Mordor for Mahal knows what reason and now he had the gall to act like it was no big deal?

"No need to shout? You were in Mordor when it exploded and you think there’s no need to shout?! What were you doing in that foul place to begin with? Were you trying to get revenge on the orcs for what they had done to your home? Bilbo… there is nothing but ruin if you follow that path…"

The hobbit snorted loudly. Who knew Thorin could be such a comedian, thought Bilbo, who does he think he is speaking of revenge. He walked up to the dwarf king and got into his space, poking his chest to make his points.

"Oh yes because Thorin - I’ll rush at Azog to avenge the death of my family - Oakenshield is so well versed in refraining from taking revenge. That isn’t even why I did it. Do you think that I would risk myself thus, when I have faunts to take care of? Going to Mordor was not something I did lightly. "

By the time he was finished, Bilbo was panting in anger. Why couldn’t he just understand? Seeing the hobbit’s frustration, Thorin decided he wasn’t helping himself, or anyone for that matter, by using this approach. Softly grabbing the hand that was still jabbing his chest, he gently covered it with his own. Stunned by the dwarf’s sudden softness, Bilbo could do nothing but stare as Thorin reached out his other hand to tip his chin. Looking at him in the eyes, the king finally spoke.

"What was it then… What was so important that you had to go on what seems to any sane person like a suicide mission. Please make me understand…"

All his words and all his eloquent sass leaked out of his mind as if it were a sieve. Never had Thorin been so gentle with him. It set something off deep within him, a sort of profound longing or a chronic ache for which you know the remedy but do not possess. Bilbo had heard of it, once upon a time. It was in the happier days of his childhood, where stories of Ones had fascinated him. Back then he had never for a second doubted he would be blessed with a soulmate. Everyone was. He imagined that this was why the story of Ivy intrigued him so. It was an old tale, one quite forgotten but time and hobbits, which was unfortunate for it could have saved many lives. Ivy was a young hobbit lass that had found her One among the race of men. Afraid of what her neighbours would say (hobbits never changed did they?), she never told a soul, not even her beloved. She could not however, bring herself to live without him. As such she would go into town every day to see him. She, of course, did this covertly, pretending to shop or selling vegetables for her various neighbours. But fate is always lurking around soulmates and the two eventually struck up a rather solid friendship. Ivy thought that she had everything she could ever hope for, indeed, she dared not pray for more, lest she lose what she had. It was a day much like any other, when a rich merchant came to town. He was searching for able bodied men for hire. Ivy’s one put in his name and was immediately hired as he was an honest and hardworking man. This was a great opportunity to rise above the harsh life that he had been confined to, for the money promised was enough to lead a comfortable existence from there on in. Elated, the man rushed back to Ivy to tell her the news. Shattered, but unable to show it, lest she ruin his joy, Ivy pretended to be overjoyed for her one. And that’s when he did it. He embraced her heartily as a goodbye.

Little did he know he had set off the Longing. It was rare for hobbit soulmates to know each other but not bond as such, they were not adapted to do so. Their souls outright craved their other half, but they could not miss what they never had. The hug though, contained just enough emotion to make Ivy’s soul aware her soulmate was close and untethered to it. She would have been fine albeit empty if not for that hug. That simple embrace wrecked her because her soul now longed for its other half. The Longing, she described was a deep and painful ache in the marrow of her bones, that grew increasingly unbearable. The story went on to slowly describe her slow degradation and finally her death at her own hands. The most awful thing about the whole tale was that it finishes with Ivy’s one coming back from his travels with the money he’s made. He seeks out his friend with the intention of finally revealing his feelings to her now that he is well off enough to be considered and adequate suitor only to find that she is no more. He gives his money away for it no longer means anything to him and two days later his corpse is fished out of the Brandywire.

The ache slowly invades his body and permeates every inch of his being. It’s like being shot all over again. Not knowing how to handle the influx of new painful sensations, Bilbo starts to panic. Not wanting to lose face in front of the company and desiring nothing more than to hide away from the world permanently, Bilbo rips himself out of Thorin’s arms and makes a break for the door.

Hobbits were not made to live alongside their soulmates without claiming them as such. Bilbo knew this, but he had thought that after their hug on the carrock that Ivy’s story had been just that, a story. Well Bilbo would be paying the price for not heading the cautionary tale, paying with his life it would seem… But perhaps, if death was the only alternative he could take his chance and reveal himself to Thorin? After all he did not have all that much to lose anymore.

Oh my poor, poor fauntlings, I didn’t mean to leave you all alone so soon… I’m so very sorry.

Chapter Text

By the time Bilbo managed to put a decent face on, supper had come and gone and the time for the council was upon him. Though his whole body ached fiercely and his joints were stiff and throbbing, Bilbo was first and foremost a solider. Even when he had been shot he still dragged himself back to base without a word of complaint. Much like then, Bilbo walked with a brave face but on the inside he was miserable. Long forgotten animal instincts made him want to hide himself away and curl up into a ball till he passed. But this hobbit was stronger than mere base instincts and so he walked. Upon arrival he thanked the Valar that everyone was already seated and that the dwarrow were unable to question him. Nonetheless, he felt Thorin’s stare from across the room. It burned.

The sun dial indicated the appropriate hour and the council began. Elrond rose up gracefully from his seat and addressed the assembled council.

"Races of Middle Earth, we are gathered here this evening to discuss the recent happenings in Mordor and the actions we will take. To begin, does anyone have any information pertaining to the recent happenings in those black lands? As of yet we know only that mount Doom has erupted and that orc numbers around our borders are on the decline."

The council members looked at each other, trying to discern who held the information they so desperately sought. Surely someone knew something. The silence was growing tenser, still no one spoke. Bilbo’s mind scrambled to find an adequate way to bring up his participation. Would anyone even believe him? Those who had witnessed his prowess would most likely have no trouble at all, but the others? Those who hailed from distant parts and had never even laid eyes upon one of his kind? They should count themselves lucky; as such a sight was now rare indeed. The hobbit just kept drawing blanks, pain was no good for one’s thought process. Giving an explanation was not like continuing to fight after being wounded, there was no adrenaline, no ingrained movements. At last, Gandalf decided to give his little friend a push in the right direction.

"I believe my dear hobbit friend has the answers we are seeking… "

Elrond’s eyebrows rose.

"Master Baggins, is this true, do you possess some knowledge about the events we are discussing?"

The assembled members looked at the odd little creature in curiosity and disbelief.

"I do not possess some knowledge, my Lord, I possess all the knowledge there is to have about the subject."

Elrond’s eyebrows rose impossibly higher as he wondered if the little creature would ever cease to amaze him.

"Than by all means, master hobbit, proceed."

"Our story begins some time ago, while I still travelled with the King under the mountain’s company on their quest to take back Erebor from the claws of the mighty drake Smaug. We were making our way across the Misty Mountains when we fell prey to goblins. In the fray I was separated from the company. I attempted to follow after them, but was attack by a lone goblin. The creature threw itself at my person with enough strength to knock me down. Alas, I was standing on the edge of a suspended platform and we both fell into the deep. I survived, mostly unscathed, but my assailant did not."

The dwarrow paid close attention to Bilbo’s story as they had never known what exactly had happened to Bilbo while they spoke to the Goblin King. Thorin felt pained that he had accused the hobbit of leaving, when all the while he had also been fighting for his life.

"Within the depths of this Mahal forsaken mountain, I found a ring that would later shape much of my life. It was a simple thing, completely unadorned and of gleaming gold. I did not pay it much attention at the time. I simply say its glimmer in the dark and pocketed it. "

Bilbo left out his meeting with Gollum as he did not wish to be judged for his actions and his inaction in terminating the creature. He also did not wish to reveal the ring’s ability to render him invisible. Mostly because he did not want everyone to know that his success in Thorin’s quest could solely be attributed to it. Partly because he did not want anyone to understand just how much the ring had ensnared him with its powers and promises.

"After much walking and many dead ends, I finally found an exit. I did not think much about the ring for the remainder of my travels, or even back home. Nonetheless, the times my mind did remember it, it always struck me as odd. It gave off an air, I simply cannot adequately describe it. It was simply too perfect. There was no tool marks, no scratches, no signs of tarnish, though it had been lying in rumble for quite some time. In brief it unnerved me. More so than the ring unnerved me, was I unnerved by the fact that a simple piece of jewelry possessed the ability to unnerve me. There was no doubt in my mind that it was not a simple ring, it had to be something more. Still, I pushed it from my mind, I had other things to attend to. It was only when I arrived to Rivendell and noticed I still had it in my possession, which was odd seeing as I had scarcely any time to save anything, that I decided to get to the bottom of its mystery. It took me a few days, but I eventually encountered the information I was searching for. A book about the rings of power. "

A few gasps were heard, for at this point some were starting to put together the pieces Bilbo was slowly making available.

"One I had that book, it did not take me long to understand just what I had in my possession. I had found the One Ring."

The council members shifted in their chairs, one question on all their minds. What had this creature done with the One Ring and where was it now?

"You didn’t! Bilbo please tell me you didn’t!"

The shout had come from the captain of Bilbo’s hunting squad. He was the first to have put two and two together and remember the sarcastic answer the hobbit would give to those who asked where he was going.

"Now, now, my dear, story time isn’t over yet, don’t go spoiling the ending for the others."

The captain paled, the hobbit really had… Oh dear.

"I found all the material I could about the thing and came to a decision. The ring was evil and needed to be destroyed. The sooner the better. I knew that the dark forces were gathering their strength and woe be Middle Earth if the Ring be reunited with its old master, its only master. No it had to go. Of course, to make a hard task even harder, the Ring had to die in the very place that had given birth to it… Mount Doom. And so, my task was set, I needed to find a way into Mordor to destroy Sauron’s One Ring. Charming realisation to start your day with, I assure you. Now to put you in context, during my time with the company of Erebor, we had been aided by the great eagles of Manwee. I felt that with their help I could accomplish this mission quickly and effectively, thus I wrote to them. They were prompt in answering and sent an eagle to assist me. Together, me and my eagle companion flew to Mordor and disposed of the ring. I came back unscathed, but my companion succumbed to the wounds he had acquired during our departure from Mount Doom. Now to cover all our bases: the Ring was destroyed, which caused Mount Doom to erupt and conveniently eradicate a large number of orcs. Are there any questions?"

The council just sat flabbergasted, staring at the creature that had apparently saved them all.

Chapter Text

No one moved, how could they? They minds were in the process of reformatting to accept the information that had just been imputed into them. Never in their wildest dreams had this even been a possibility. By default, their first reaction was one of disbelief, but no matter how improbable it seemed, this explanation… well explained everything. Their minds produced questions and the story rose up to answer them. It had to be real, but it seemed so impossible. Eventually, through sheer mental refusal, they settled for the idea that the trip had most likely been devoid of danger and that the eagle did most of it. How else would the hobbit have remain unscathed while the great creature perished. There were, of course, amongst the council those that knew Bilbo personally and those were the ones who had very little trouble believing Bilbo capable of such feats. In the end, the all concluded that the ring was destroyed and all that was left to do was exterminate the remaining orcs to wipe Middle Earth of the darkness once and for all. No one could deny that the air felt lighter and the lingering fear in their hearts slowly melted away in the sun. It was a fear they had not even know they possessed, it had slowly and inexorably creeped its way into their hearts and they only felt it now by its absence. Icy fear dissolved and souls warmed by the midday sun, all the assembled races felt that these events needed to be celebrated.

Ever the gracious host, Lord Elrond suggested that all parties stay a few more days and that a celebration be held. No one opposed the motion and a day was chosen in three days. The council dispersed to send off letters to their respective dwellings, this was good news indeed and it deserved to be spread to the far corners of the land.

Ecstatic, but also extremely shocked at what their hobbit had been up to, the dwarrow tried to catch their little burglar before he left. Alas, living up to his reputation once more, the small creature had managed to slip away in the rush of preparations. Thorin growled under his breath, why must his One always run. Was he not tired? Did he not long for Thorin as he longed for him? He must, Thorin assured himself, he must as he is mine and if he does not he will soon. Little did the dwarf King know that his beloved longed for him so much that it was slowly destroying him.

***

Bilbo collapsed on his bed gripping his chest in an attempt to abate the pain he felt therein. It was no use. Hands scratched desperately at the skin above his heart, he bled. Anything, he thought, he would do anything for the pain to stop. He needed his one, he needed him soon. Slapping himself roughly, he took charge of his emotions. It would not do for his fauntlings to find him like this. He may be dying, but that was no excuse to worry his little ones. The hobbit snorted, finding some hilarity in that statement. He was dying. He needed to prepare, for even though he had decided to try with Thorin, he did not expect much from that venue. He needed to make sure his little ones would be well taken care of. He needed to write a will and letters for his fauntlings for when they were old enough to understand the mistakes he had made. Simple pieces of paper were pale substitutes as opposed to flesh and warmth, but it was all he could do.

It took a few hours, countless pieces of parchment and a good amount of ink, but now his affairs were in order. He passed an ink stained hand through his out of control hair and sighed. He felt like weeping, but abstained knowing it would do very little. He rose from his seat, patted down his rumpled clothes and left his chambers. He had fauntlings to fetch. As always, his little ones were excited to see him. He lifted little Frodo into his arms and took Sam’s hand. Knowing his little ones would be hungry at this time, they always were they are growing hobbits, he brought them to the kitchens. Upon arrival, he saw how busy they were and he remembered the upcoming celebrations. Shrugging, he grabbed the ingredients he needed and left. He would make their food in his rooms. Back in their lodgings, Bilbo started a fire and began preparing the ingredients for a simple stew. It was only when he had finished putting everything in the pot and covered it that a knock sounded at the door.

Bilbo felt and most likely looked like absolute dragon dung and did not want to answer the door. He cursed himself for being so polite as he walked to the door. He cracked it open and looked at who was on the other side. Surprise oh surprise, it was his, no, the dwarrow. The small group was headed by Fili and Kili who were trying to get in via a pitiful puppy dog look. They should really give it up, he was raising fauntlings, nothing was cuter than fauntlings. He sighed and let them in anyway. The company filed in with Thorin closing the march. When he walked passed Bilbo, he seemed closer than the others, but a hair’s breathe away. It drove the hobbit’s senses mad. Bilbo’s body felt like a live wire and he could feel Thorin’s warmth permeating his body and for but a moment, all was right in the world. The painful cold that had seated itself in his marrow fled and was replaced by glorious heat. The hobbit almost purred in pleasure. Then, as Thorin moved passed the hobbit, it all went away and the frost slammed back into him. Had he been a weaker hobbit, hell any other hobbit, Bilbo would have whimpered at the loss. As it was, he was a tough one and refused to show weakness in front of those he had fought so hard to be acknowledged by. He would not be seen as weak, not now, not ever. He should have known that the dwarrow cared for him and would not have thought any less of him for showing some weakness.

The meal was a boisterous affair, as it always was with dwarrow, but Bilbo did not mind. This felt like home to him. He had missed these moments so much in the Shire and even in Rivendell, elves were always so calm. Family was an odd thing, something Bilbo, both in this life and the last, had not much dwelled upon. For even though he was cold to the bone and half in the grave already and even though he knew nothing would make it go away save mating, somehow he still felt as though the frost abated slightly.

Chapter Text

The preparations for the celebration were mostly completed, which was undoubtedly a good thing, seeing as they were to be held that very night. I was amusing to the dwarrow to see the elves so flustered as they ran, though they imagined the elves would call it a brisk walk, to and fro trying to make sure everything was completed. At the same time, they could not fully indulge in this amusing sight for they were worried about their hobbit. Bilbo, as good as he was at hiding the things that ailed him, had gotten to the point where others were starting to notice. And for all the rumours that dwarrow had the observational skills of stones, they knew Bilbo and they knew this wasn’t normal. Of course, none of them could pinpoint exactly what was wrong with their hobbit, but there were certainly moments where his behavior struck them as odd. Aside from those moments it was hard to tell anything was wrong with the little creature. He let them spend time with him and the little ones, trained, went out hunting, all normal behavior. But still the company worried, Thorin most of all. Just what was going on with his little hobbit?

***

The party was going strong, and it had been for quite some time. His fauntlings were safely in bed and Bilbo could say without a shadow of a doubt that he was completely inebriated. He hadn’t really planned on drinking so much, but a mix of the desire to self-medicate and normal party rowdy hobbit behavior had insured that he was quite pissed. Not only had he managed to out drink all the elves, which was a common enough happening, but he had also out drunk all the dwarrow. He had spent the night with Fili, Kili and Bofur, knowing they would be the most fun. He, of course subtly, and sometimes not subtly at all because subtlety is unknown to those who drink copiously, observed Thorin all night. They really had to talk, they were both overdue for a long conversation about what they both desired. Had he not been so addled, he would have known it was a terrible idea to be drunk during that conversation, but alas. As he was, he thought that it was a wonderful idea to have that conversation immediately.

He walked up to his One and practically plastered himself to his front, all the while requesting a moment of his time. At least that’s what it sounded to Bilbo, Thorin though heard some sort of indistinct mumblings and decided the hobbit had had enough and that he would escort him to his rooms. Thinking Thorin had understood what he said he let himself be led away by the dwarf. The exited the main room and slowly and stumblingly (on Bilbo’s part) made their way to Bilbo’s chambers. They were in an empty hallway when Bilbo determined they had gone far enough. He wanted to explain Ivy’s story and its significance, he wanted to tell Thorin how much he loved him, he wanted to tell him that he was his One. His lips did not seem to want to cooperate, so he did what his drunken mind viewed as the next best thing. With surprising force he shoved Thorin into the wall and proceeded to assault his lips.

It was everything he had hoped for and more, the pain was gone and all that was left was completion. The hobbit could scarcely remember feeling so whole in his entire life. It took a few moments for his alcohol addled mind to comprehend that something was terribly wrong. Indeed, Thorin had not moved or reciprocated. Did the dwarf not love him? Bilbo ended the kiss and looked his One in the eyes, what he saw there terrified him beyond belief. The normally warm blue eyes were colder than ice and fury could be found within their depths. Suddenly frightened of the dwarf in a way he had never been before, Bilbo backed away.

"How dare you."

The dwarf did not shout, he spoke slow and low and for some reason that seemed infinitely more terrifying to Bilbo.

"How dare you, you sad excuse for a Burglar. How dare you sully me with your advances? I’m insulted you think so lowly of me as to believe I would ever love a common grocer of all things. We are not even of the same species, do you take me for some perverted deviant who would lay with a kind other than mine own? Your hairless body repulses me."

Throughout the speech, Bilbo slowly backed away from the furious being, hoping to escape his wrath. One foot, then the other, when suddenly there was no more ground to greet his feet. Bilbo fell, but managed to grip the ledge, saving himself. Throin leisurely walked towards the ledge and looked down at Bilbo. He would not be helping him. Soon the strain became too much and they both knew it. As parting words, all the King under the mountain said was:

"May you depart with no friendship of mine Bilbo Baggins."

With those words, Bilbo’s fingers failed and he fell.

Bilbo gasped as his sheets pooled around him. He panted and gripped the blankets around him in an attempt to ground himself. His skin was slick with sweat and it felt like his heart would leap out of his chest.

A nightmare, it had only been a nightmare. For only his mind could come up with such cruel images. His rational mind knew Thorin would not kill him for loving him, reject him, maybe, but not kill. But fear is so rarely a rational thing.

The hobbit looked at his window to assess the time, he still had a few hours before the party and he sighed. He should start getting ready, he looked a right mess. A bath would do him some good, perhaps the hot water could warm him and wash again the agony left by his nightmare. He called for water and readied his bathing supplies and his party clothes. The bath did a sufficient job of making him presentable but utterly failed to warm him. He needed to speak with Thorin. He had decided that tonight would be the night, it couldn’t wait anymore, he could feel his life slowly slipping away.

He donned his clothes and put his little one to bed. It was show time.

***

The party was in full swing, people of all races were enjoying themselves, merry making and mingling. It truly was an unprecedented event. Never had all Middle Earth been so united. The band belted out one merry tune after the other and all were in good cheer. Good food and drink were offered and accepted profusely. It was a celebration to be remembered.

Bilbo was lurking. There was no other word for it. He hid behind pillars and drapes watching the merry gathering. Early in the night he had been accosted so many times it made his head spin. Everyone wanted a piece of the hobbit who had saved Middle Earth. So Bilbo had taken to lurking to find his mark. All he wanted to do was find Thorin and tell him the truth. The problem was, he could not spot the dwarf anywhere.

Unbeknownst to Bilbo, the king under the mountain was also searching, but he was having more luck. For most of the night, he had not seen hide or hair of his hobbit, but finally a glint of silver and gold that he had come to associated to Bilbo, glinted in the corner of his eye. He turned towards it and stared incredulously. Was his beloved hiding behind draperies? He pushed that thought away for later, for now he had a hobbit to catch. He made his way through the crowd to the particular drape he had seen Bilbo behind. He lifted in and slipped in behind Bilbo.

The small creature seemed to be avidly searching the crowd for someone and did not immediately notice his presence.

"Who are you searching for little one, perhaps I may be of assistance?"

The low baritone crashed over Bilbo and he jumped. He slowly turned to Thorin and met his gaze. It was smoldering and Bilbo shivered.

"I’m not searching for anyone, at least not anymore."

The dwarf King raised an eyebrow at that and a slow, pleased smile spread across his face. He took a step forward, now completely invading Bilbo’s personal space. The hobbit could only revel in the amount of heat he generated.

"And why were you seeking my person?"

His nerves flared and his heart beat loud. He could not help but remember his dream. He shook his head, he needed to do this. Well go on private, spit it out!

"Well you see… It goes like this… I needed to tell you… What I mean to say is… Oh fuck it! Thorin you’re my One and I need you, hell I need you now."

No sooner had the words escaped his mouth did he find them replaced by something else. Something warm and bearded: Thorin’s mouth. Bilbo felt himself being slammed into the wall and Thorin deepened the kiss. Be it not said that this aggression was not reciprocated, Bilbo gave as good as he got. The kissed much like they fought, aggressively, intensely and passionately. For all that dwarven bodies were made of stone, their souls must surely be made of the hottest of fires. Their mouths remained locked in combat until their bodies cried for air. The separated and for a time all they did was pant. Finally Thorin spoke.

"You are my One, and I think that little demonstration showed just how much I need you as well."

Chapter Text

The wall dug against his back while the dwarf king was plastered against his front. His wrists were held on either side of his head by large callused hands. The only thing his senses could register was Thorin, and it was glorious. Bilbo closed his eyes and simply basked in the other’s presence, for once in his lives, everything was fine, more than fine in fact. Tongues intertwined in a slow battle for dominance they both knew Thorin would win. But it was not the destination that mattered, but the journey there and for now they were both fully enjoying this adventure. Thorin’s thumb slid across his mark and felt the hobbit shudder against him. What an odd place to be sensitive. The dwarf did the motion again and was gifted with another full body shudder from his beloved. Curious, Thorin brought the wrist to his lips and gave a tentative nibble. Bilbo’s face immediately flushed and his head fell back. A low moan filled their shared space.

Intrigued by the reaction he was garnering from his hobbit, the King under the mountain spared a look to his beloved’s wrist. Thorin gaped at the exposed expanse of skin. There, in plain sight, was his name, inked into the skin as if it were a tattoo. But he could not fathom Bilbo doing such a thing.

"Why is my name on your wrist?"

The smaller creature opened his glazed eyes and gazed at his wrist in confusion. Fighting through the haze, Bilbo tried to remember what exactly Thorin was referring to.

It hit him like a lightning bolt: his Mark. Taking a deep breath, Bilbo gathered himself to explain.

"Hobbits are all born with the name of their intended on their skin, their Ones as you dwarrow call them. We keep them covered as it is very improper to have them out in public."

Thorin stared completely flabbergasted at the almost dwarvish writing adorning Bilbo skin.

"So all this time… You knew? Why did you not come to me little one?"

The hobbit gave his King a disbelieving look.

"When hobbits meet their mark, they know instantly. Never would a hobbit have treated me as callously as you had when we first met if I were their mark. I was certain you could not feel it and consequently that I was not your mark. It’s happened before, you know, non-mutual marks, it always ends in tragedy. "

The king’s face paled as he took in his hobbit’s explanation, he would forever regret how he had treated his little one at the beginning of their quest, even more so now. Mahal! What torture he had inflicted on his hobbit. No use thinking about it now, it was the past and Thorin would try his damnest for it to never be their future.

"I’m sorry Bilbo, it is not so for us dwarrow, not all of us know immediately. I must also admit it took me an embarrassing amount of time to realize and come to terms with the fact that you should have been mine. I know I’ve hurt you, and I know it will most likely happen again, but know that I will love and cherish you always. If you will let me, I would like to escort you and your faunts to Erebor where I have every intention of making you my consort. I would love nothing more than for you to rule by my side and be my voice of reason. I would call you and your boys mine with no hesitation. "

Bilbo was speechless, this was so much more than he had ever hoped. Soon wonder turned to fear, could he rule? He knew how to lead, he had done so for many years as a commanding officer, but could he really run a kingdom? Was his heart large enough to fit all his subjects, could he truly do this? For he knew that though he loved Thorin, he did not come alone. Truly loving a king meant loving his kingdom as well. All he could do was try, Thorin was worth at least that much.

"I believe I would be amenable to that, but I will be honest, I’m not sure I am fit to rule Thorin, I’m not like you, hell I’m not even a dwarf. I don’t think a non-dwarf consort would be well received."

The expression of joy on Thorin’s face could light up Erebor to the deepest mines with how bright it was.

"I’m not saying it will be easy, and I’m not saying everyone will accept you right from the start, but I believe your are more than capable of proving yourself worthy. The fact that you are my One will be enough for some, your skills as a warrior will convince most, but your skills as a mother will convince all of them. As a race with rare births, there is very little more respected than those with strong maternal qualities. Some will even say that you are the perfect Queen to my King."

At Thorin’s roguish smile, Bilbo gave him a little shove.

"Oh haha, very droll…"

"Would you not like it, Queen Bilbo, orc destroyer, Goblin bane, King tamer and the fiercest mother under the mountain? Dressed in the finest clothes, circlet upon your curls, you would inspire such love and such fear in my people… Oh how I have dreamed."

Bilbo blushed at the passionate words of his King. Did Thorin really see him as such? Like some sort of mythical being always thought beyond reach till one day it falls from the heavens into his arms? Bilbo turned away to hide his ever growing flush, jumping to attention when a mischievous mouth nipped his pink ear. He gazed at Thorin’s blissful face.

The dwarf king caught his wrists and once more stared down at his name in awe. Bilbo looked at his king bemused.

"Is this going to be a thing for you?"

Thorin grinned as he brought the wrist to his mouth and gave it an experimental nibble, all the while never breaking eye contact. Bilbo gave a shuddering moan as he jerked against the dwarf plastered to his front. The hobbit drew a shaky breath.

"Yeah, this is going to be a thing for you."

Chapter Text

"So what exactly are we going to tell the others? "

Thorin stared at his hobbit in a daze.

"What do you mean my treasure? "

"Well I’m not stupid enough to think they don’t know that you are completely gone over me, they probably have a whole betting pool going. What I mean is, how do we suddenly announce that we basically are betrothed and that we’ll be heading back to the mountain shortly. "

The dwarf king simply snorted, reaffirmed his hold on both sides of Bilbo’s head, looking at him straight in the eyes.

"well you see little one, there this little thing called: I’m the king and I do what I want. So we shall simply tell them and it will happen. Besides, they want nothing more than to head back mountain side with you and the faunts in tow, I doubt we shall hear a single protest. "

The oldest hobbit in existence simply rolled his eyes at his beloved and said,

"If you ever pull that I’m the king bullshit on me, you will find yourself on your ass quicker than you can say right to reign. And you now know that’s far from an empty threat. Also I am of a respectable height, you lot are all freakishly tall, you should be ashamed. "

Thorin smirked and crowded the hobbit against the wall, using his height to tower over the hobbit.

"And this is why you will be the perfect queen, you’re both unafraid and capable of putting me on my ass. You have leverage to keep me from doing rash and ill thought out plans. "

"Goodness know I’ll need it back home, well come now, we have friends to boss around and bags to pack. "

The dwarven leader preened at having Bilbo refer to Erebor as home, truly a dream come true.

"Well then my dear, come along."

Bilbo smiled up at his king and they both walked out from behind the curtain.

***

The road to Erebor was long and arduous, but nothing compared to Bilbo’s last two treks. The faunts greatly enjoyed the travelling now that it was relatively safe. Every now and then they would run into little patches of left over goblins or orcs, but they were quickly and quietly disposed of. There was even a notable occasion in which Bilbo employed a strip of lace, a pine cone and a handkerchief to bring down five orcs, but that is a story for another time. Upon arrival, the party was assaulted, for lack of a better word, by lady Dis. She and Bilbo were quick friends, much to the company’s despair. Other than having to quickly hide and dismantle the memorial in Bilbo’s honour without his knowledge, their arrival was perfect.

Most dwarrow, unsurprisingly, melted at the sight of Frodo and Sam, which had as of late become a common sight in the halls of Erebor. They were treated as princes by all. Or at least by most. There were of course some nobles that had a hard time accepting Bilbo and the faunts. Mostly they didn’t like the idea of a non-dwarf being betrothed to their King. This all stopped when they either heard or saw his prowess in battle. After a few very public honour duels, no one had a problem with Bilbo anymore.

The wedding was a beautiful spring affair in honour of Bilbo’s heritage. There were flowers everywhere, whether of organic or mineral origin, it was the perfect mix of cultures. All of middle earth’s rulers, regardless of race were invited and the wedding would later be remembered as an occasion that had furthered interspecies relations more than any other that century.

Bilbo never did end up telling Thorin or anyone for that matter, about his old life. Some things were better left in the past, he was who he was and Thorin loved him for him. He never lied and sometimes told stories of his old life, but how does one broach such a subject? He didn’t keep anymore secrets from his husband and as such had terribly surprised him on their wedding night with his rather extensive and… dirty khuzdul vocabulary. Needless to say the king of dwarrow was rather pleased.

Together, Bilbo and Thorin brought about an age of prosperity, but not only for the kingdom, but all of its inhabitants. Relations with Greenwood had been going uphill ever since Thandruil stepped down to let his son rule. If improved relations had any link to Erebor red headed bearded diplomat, well no one said a word. Even the Shire, which had been drenched in blood and burned to tar, eventually recovered. It was lush and green when Bilbo and his boys, now no longer faunts, went to pay tribute to the dead. Where once the great party tree stood, a small sapling now grew. It echoed of laughter and light. Many years from that moment, it would be discovered than a new kind of Ent was sprouting in the Shire. One that gave life to the hobbit in a new form, they would become a long lived and prosperous race. But that is either here nor there. Back in Erebor, life went on as usual, not to say that the king and his consort never fought. They did on occasion, most of which ending with Thorin’s face in the dirt, but they always reconciled. It was a good life.

Fin