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First Impressions

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Bilbo Baggins is hardly a morning person. Good god, he's lucky he has the job he does – writing children's books is done best in the afternoon and at sundown, and occasionally late into the night, everybody knows that. It's scientifically proven, even though the children might disagree. When he's not on tour, he barely manages to start his days before lunch.

Which is why today, forced to get up at some ungodly hour for a meeting with his editor, he stumbles down the narrow stairs leading from his bedroom to the rest of his house with the balance of a recently tranquilized animal. The fact that he couldn't be bothered to find his glasses when he got up doesn't really improve his situation. Ah, there they are – abandoned on the kitchen counter, along with last night's cup of tea and a pile of bills he really should pay.

He puts the glasses on as straight as humanly possible in his condition, rubs his forehead in a vain attempt to get rid of the lingering effects of sleep deprivation, and tries to remember what normal people do in the morning. Coffee, yes, that's a viable option. Also the only option that has any chance of making him feel like a person capable of getting out of the house before noon. Put on the news – very quietly – and try to understand the appeal of rising early. Maybe he should write a book about that.

The cat is nowhere to be seen, probably hunting birds in the garden, and it is surprisingly cold, considering it's the middle of June, and if Bilbo could see further than the length of his arm he'd probably notice the green entry door is open just a bit, but no one can blame him for not connecting the dots so early in the morning. Also, no one can blame him for screaming like a little girl when he goes to get the TV remote and notices the man sleeping on the sofa only when he almost trips over his arm hanging to the side.

Bilbo jumps back, somehow managing to keep upright, and the stranger wakes up with a snort, which is promptly followed by a long groan, so pained that some very primal part of Bilbo immediately sympathizes with him.

“Who – who the hell are you?” he exclaims nevertheless, and the man sits up slowly, hands over his face so that all Bilbo can see of it is the tip of a sharp nose and a messy dark beard, and moans: “It's me, relax.”

“Me being who?” Bilbo demands, perhaps a bit shrill. Oh he so should have gotten a gun. All that he wields now is the TV remote, which couldn't do much damage even if he really tried.

Two light blue eyes peer at him through long fingers, and the man lets out something like a short gasp, followed by a stiff: “You're not Dwalin.”

“I'm really not – wait, Dwalin? Fundin? The biker guy next door?”

“Next door,” the stranger repeats faintly, raking his fingers through his impressive mane of wavy black hair, “fuck.”

“Look,” Bilbo says as firmly as he can, “if you don't tell me right now what on earth you're doing here, I will scream.”

Lame. So lame. Is this what getting up early gets you? Bilbo's never doing it again.

“I'd really appreciate it if you didn't,” the guy moans almost sadly, and gets up.

Continues getting up. There's a lot of him. And a lot of that lot is naked, and covered in hair and tattoos. And Bilbo's mouth might hang open, just a tad, because the guy is probably over a foot higher than him, and about a hundred pounds of muscle heavier, too. Oh yes, and wearing nothing but a rather beaten pair of jeans and black boxers peeking up over the hem. Bilbo gulps. It's far too early for this.

“How did you get in here?” he demands in what he hopes to god is a steadfast tone, and the guy stares at him for the longest time, eyes distinctly bloodshot, clearly wrapping his mind around the task of answering one simple question. He looks around the living room before he manages it, and his face twists into a grimace of despair.

“I have no idea. There was... a key? Under the doormat? Dwalin said he'd leave it there... for me...”

“Yeah, I do that too,” Bilbo sighs, making a mental note to never do it again, even if it means pissing off his cousin Primula who's used to coming and going as she pleases, especially when he's gone for a longer period of time... Priorities, Bilbo, priorities. Big burly shirtless priorities.

“Right then,” he clears his throat, trying to forget that he's wearing nothing but his oldest t-shirt and briefs, “Dwalin lives next door. And... god, his front yard looks nothing like mine. Didn't you notice that – I'm sorry, you have to put something on. Right now.”

There's that flicker of confusion again, but then the man hangs his head, looking incredibly bashful, and searches around for whatever he was wearing before he crashed on Bilbo's couch.

“Right, shit, sorry, I...”

“Here,” Bilbo notices the crumpled pile that must be the guy's t-shirt, picking it up and very definitely not noticing that the stranger trails behind him like a big, obedient, attractive puppy.

The tee is, somewhat predictably, an old faded black thing with some obscure band logo on it, and along with the fact that the guy almost oozes shame, it's enough for Bilbo to take pity on him. He really does remind him of a big stray shaggy dog – if big stray shaggy dogs had a distinct air of a somewhat feral sexiness about them, and smelled faintly of alcohol.

“Rough night?” he tilts his head.

“You could say that. Look, I'm really sorry about this. God, to tell you the truth, I was hammered last night, I must have stumbled onto your lawn instead of Dwalin's, and I... Well. A great first impression I'm leaving here, eh? I'll just let myself out – oh, so you do have a cat. Something hissing at me last night wasn't an alcoholic's reverie.”

“Yeah, that's Sting,” Bilbo sighs, reaching down to remove the Russian Blue before it gets too friendly with the guy's bare feet. The fact that they are surprisingly neat and kind of adorable bare feet is swiftly categorized as goddamn stupid, and promptly forgotten.

“Like the singer?”

“Sometimes,” Bilbo agrees, “sometimes because he likes to literally stab people to death. You're lucky, he likes you.”

You're lucky, he likes you. What is this, a B class flick starring the doe-eyed Goslings of their world? Bilbo wouldn't kick the Goslings of their world out of bed – it occurs to him that under better circumstances, he'd probably make a dedicated effort to actually invite this one into it. The stranger chuckles, and Bilbo feels a blush creeping into his cheeks. Good god, is this what people do before nine AM?

“I can at least offer you a glass of water,” Bilbo notes, to steer the conversation somewhere, instead of the two of them just awkwardly standing around, “coffee maybe? Unless you're lying and actually planning to rob me, in which case I'll, uh... make nice for a while until I attempt to hit you over the head with a skillet.”

No wonder he's been single for so long. He has the romantic conversational skills of a hardboiled egg. But the man actually laughs, again. Extremely hungover, clearly.

“Yeah, I won't be robbing you any time soon,” he replies in that very deep, slightly ragged voice that Bilbo's body immediately files as 'oh yeah, this would definitely work, look into it' material, “too much tequila in me for that. And hitting me over the head might actually improve things.”

He burps, at the mention of the alcohol no doubt, attempts to cover his mouth far too late, and grants Bilbo yet another apologetic grin. Sting purrs as if in agreement with Bilbo's brain slowly succumbing to that frankly radiant sight.

“Sorry. A glass of water would be amazing. I'll be out of your way then.”

“Right. ...Alright. Just a sec.”

Bilbo drops Sting to his feet rather unceremoniously, and scours his cupboards for a mug for himself, and a glass for...

“What's your name again?”

“Oh – I'm Thorin.”

And I'm also standing unnecessarily close to you, because apparently I've a habit of following complete strangers around at a very close range, startling them and watching them get all flushed and awkward. Also, I smell good even after spending the night in a bar.

“Oh, uh, it's – it's very nice to meet you, then,” Bilbo babbles, “I'm Bilbo.”

Could have added an 'at your service' and it would be like the beginning of a porno movie.

“Here,” he says to distract himself from that particular train of thought, and hands the guy... Thorin, his glass of water, then, to refrain from watching him drink it in long thirsty gulps, “you know Dwalin will probably be at the farmer's market this time of the day, right?”

Thorin chokes on his water, and it ends up dripping down his chin.

“He'll be where?” he half-snickers, half-coughs, wiping at his mouth with the back of his hand.

“The farmer's market, downtown,” Bilbo explains helpfully, “Wednesdays and Sundays, too early for any self-respecting person to be awake if you ask me, but Dwalin says it has its charms. Brings me vegetables sometimes, too.”

“Oh, he brings you vegetables, does he,” Thorin chuckles, and his face is quickly spreading into a grin that clearly suggests Dwalin will be the target of some mockery about his passion for ecologically handled foodstuff later on.

“Yep. Anyway, he's probably not around. Just so you know.”

“Lovely,” Thorin grumbles, “should've known.”

“The key will probably still be there, you know. Under the doormat, that is.”

Thorin peers at him with his glass still pressed to his lips – ah, the details the sleep-deprived mind notices – and he looks strangely thoughtful for a moment.

“Right, yeah,” he says then, as if only waking up just now, “that's true. I'll get going, then. Raid his fridge, rather than yours. Sorry to have been a bother, I'm not – I don't actually do this, you know.”

“Do what? Get epically drunk and invite yourself into stranger's houses?”

There's that broad grin again, like an unexpected ray of sunshine bursting out of the clouds that are the guy's rather sharp features. He must have an intensely intimidating resting face.


“Well, I feel special.”

That is rewarded with even more laughter, and Bilbo is beginning to wonder if it's all just some trick, a really... weird dream he's having right before his alarm actually goes off and he has to wake up for real, into a world not containing handsome strangers miraculously appearing on his couch.

“Look, as far as first impressions go,” he clears his throat, “I was going to make some coffee and scrambled eggs anyway. Offering you some is just good manners, I suppose.”

And apparently, in Thorin's case having a hideous hangover means that everything is worth a hearty laugh.

“You know, I'd have considered it good manners if you did try to hit me over the head with a skillet. Right now, you're just being overly accommodating, while I'm just glad I can stand somewhat upright, and haven't puked on your cat yet.”

It's Bilbo's turn to burst into laughter, a rather unwitting snort – the heat in his cheeks is there to stay now, it seems. Who is this guy? He looks demolished enough, and yet he's talking so sharp Bilbo actually has to make an effort to keep up – which is saying something.

“Right,” he decides, “so how about that overly accommodating breakfast, then? How do you take your coffee?”


Surprisingly sweet, it turns out. Thorin is the first guy in a long line who doesn't make fun of him for what he does (“Are you kidding? I've got two nephews, nine and six, they love your stuff!”). He eats about twice of Bilbo's portion of eggs, promises to teach him how to properly make a poached egg, and forgets his shoes on the way out. That takes Bilbo about ten minutes to figure out.

Standing at his neighbor Dwalin's door, holding a pair of faded blue sneakers and a copy of The Tale Of The Sleeping Dragon for Thorin's nephews he managed to sign in a hurry and not spill coffee on, Bilbo decides that whatever first impression they've left upon each other, he's not going to let it be their last one.