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Hobbits Make Great Pets

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The nights have been getting longer, the days shorter, and droves of Dwarrow have been returning to the Blue Mountains to wait out winter’s chill in the safety provided by solid stone. While it doesn’t hold a candle to the might of Erebor, it is still better than being exposed to the elements in one of the cities of Man. Thorin will accept all Dwarrow from all walks of life in these times of hardships after the fall of Erebor. Knowing first hand that tragedy can strike swiftly and indiscriminately, he has been ever more diligent in his role as king of these displaced people. Protecting his subjects and leading them through the bitter times has given him purpose since the loss of his home, of his grandfather, his father, brother, brother-in-law, and so, so many more.

With the arrival of winter Durin’s day is also soon approaching. Which is precisely why Thorin has found himself in some Mahal forsaken forest looking for the perfect present to give his nephews this year. Their earliest memories are of lives of poverty, of going to sleep with empty bellies and the stares of pity from the tall folk. Fili, only a few years old at the time of Erebor’s fall, and Kili, borne in the middle of their settling in the Blue Mountains, both boys deserving of so much more than their current fate. Not just because they are of Durin’s line, but because their hearts are pure mithril and they have brought so much light to him and his sister Dis during their darker times.

The two boys have made a special effort recently to show their maturity in hopes for a specific gift this year that they have hinted to for a while now. It pains Thorin’s heart that his sweet, little nephews felt they had to grow up soon, but he is also shamefully glad that they have taken up responsibility. Otherwise, Thorin and Dis wouldn’t have been able to work the long hours that the do. Thorin’s small family may not be barely surviving on scraps and spoiled food anymore, but they are also not living in splendor as befitting the royal family of Durin’s line. Thorin, Dis, and her two boys live in the upper levels of the Blue Mountains. They are certainly not the glamorous royal chambers he himself was borne to, but they have become a home of sorts.

He is always proud of his boys, but recently they have truly stepped up to their positions as leaders of Dwarrow, so he has set about rewarding them with the one thing he knows they will love. Most of the tax money they receive goes back into supporting the community in differing ways so they cannot afford to spend frivolously on non essentials. Therefore, Thorin cannot waste coin on his nephew’s Durin’s day gift. Not that any coin spent on his nephews is a waste. Thorin simply has to think about the wellbeing of all the Dwarrow under his mountain. There is a rustling toward his left and Thorin stretches his senses in hopes that it is evidence of the creature he is after.

… Nothing. Thorin is one of the greatest trackers in the mountain, which is just another reason that he is out searching for that special thing that will fill his nephews with too much joy for them to contain: a Hobbit. Thorin has been in these woods for almost a week and will need to return soon lest he get behind the first snows and risk getting trapped in a storm.

He continues deeper into the trees unaware of the bright forest green eyes following him from a high perch. The young Bilbo Baggins has been watching Thorin go in circles for the past few hours. The natural magics present on the forest that usually keeps unwanted guests from entering the Shire seems to be working double time. The young fauntling has never seen anyone as mixed up and turned around as the Dwarf walking below him. He has circled the same three trees and two hills seven times already, each time from a different angle so it appears from the Dwarf’s perspective to be different trees and hills.

It probably didn’t help that he had been tossing sticks and stones to land just out of Thorin’s sight range, thus providing false leads for him to follow. Everyone knows that Tooks, especially in their youth, are prone to a good prank on the unsuspecting. He had found the dwarf during his early morning explorations and decided to practice his sneaking skills by following closely. So far the fauntling has managed to get close enough to touch a boot, but the subtle motion got the attention of the strange fellow and he almost got caught. Good thing that all Hobbits know how to remain unseen if they so desire.

Bilbo learned early on that most people don’t look up our down when searching and had hightailed it up a tree before the frosty blue eyes of Thorin Oakenshield could spot him. It had become a merry game to Bilbo. Thorin, however has been getting more and more frustrated as he searched for a Hobbit for his nephews. After yet another rustle that turned out to be simply a foraging squirrel Thorin’s resolve finally begins to waver.

He had been searching all day, every day for an entire week now and had not even found any evidence toward a single Hobbit in the area. Thorin had hoped to grab a Hobbit quickly and to be on his way back to the Blue Mountains by now, but every day just rubs his failure into his face more and more. He lets out a deep depressive sigh. Bilbo meanwhile, up above in the trees’ canopy tilts his head at the action. He sees the slump of the dwarf’s shoulders and starts to feel a bit guilty.

The young fauntling had been following Thorin since he had never seen a Dwarf before, and his Tookish side took over after a while. He didn’t intend to cause Thorin to make such a defeated expression. Shoulders set Bilbo determined to make it right. Another rustle and sharp glacial blue eyes look to see a small Hobbit looking at him curiously.

‘Finally’ is all Thorin can think. Finally, Thorin has found a Hobbit. It looks like a young one too. It would make a good companion for his nephews. Thorin subtly shifts his weight as Bilbo looks at him curiously. Quick as a flash Thorin rushes toward the Hobbit, but just as quickly Bilbo jumps back and dodges the Dwarf and rushes back into the underbrush with childish giggles.

Thorin just sits there on his knees after failing to capture the only Hobbit he has seen in this Mahal forsaken forest and feels the darkness spread over his heart. His hands are clenched and white knuckled and his eyes are screwed shut. Failure. That is all he is. It doesn’t matter what he tries he is never good enough. Trying to keep his family fed and happy, his people safe. It is such a simple desire but completely out of Thorin’s reach.

Bilbo watches the gloom settle over the Dwarf with trepidation. He had intended to play a good game of chase since it seemed the stranger wanted to meet a Hobbit. At least that is really the only reason someone would enter the forest, and the looks of the state of Thorin’s cloths revealed he had been in the woods for at least a few days. But then he didn’t chase Bilbo into the brush like he was supposed to, and the small fauntling came back to see why not. He hadn’t meant to make the Dwarf seem so sad.

Thorin slowly opens his clenched eyes to see the little Hobbit peer around a tree and this time the Dwarf holds still. Hope dares to fill his chest at seeing the Hobbit again. His last attempt was an utter failure due to his impatience, and he is not sure how many attempts he might have for this. Thorin remembers his time observing the war rams in his childhood home. The younger ones were always skittish and needed a gentle hand. Slowly, ever so slowly the Dwarf reaches one hand out, palm up and open to show he is no threat.

Bilbo looks first at the open palm and then up into those piercing frost blue eyes. Those eyes are very determined and hold a strong sense of purpose. The fauntling tilts his head in curiosity. Those eyes are filled with much more honest resolve than a simple game of chase would warrant. Understanding hits Bilbo swiftly. This Dwarf must be here to capture one of the Hobbits. His mother had often told him stories of life outside the Shire. That the other free races would often take a Hobbit into their home and raise and provide for them as one would a dog or a cat.

Oh, Bilbo had seen his fair share of outsiders stomping through the trees and underbrush. Most get dangerously lost and end up in the Old Forest, but the little fauntling sometimes managed to lay eyes on them before they get undoubtedly consumed by the darkness there. He has seen their eyes from afar, but clear enough to see the greed that filled them. Bilbo usually only saw greed in the eyes of the outsiders that venture into the forest looking for Hobbits. A powerful greed that rolled off of them in slimey waves.

His mother once told him that outside the shire some folks have made it a business to buy and sell things a Hobbit might need or want and even Hobbits themselves. Some Hobbits have even set out of the Shire with the intent to become part of the trade. The little Bilbo was reassured, however, that money could not trap a Hobbit with an unsavory guardian. That the other free races would rain fire and fury on anyone that mistreats a Hobbit. Or even Mr.Radagast, the wizard that protects the Shire, would personally collect any mistreated Hobbits and punish the offenders.

Bilbo sees no greed in the eyes of the Dwarf, despite his ragged appearance and threadbare clothes that have been patched up more than once. In fact he thinks he sees a bit of desperation and resignation. What for, Bilbo couldn’t even begin to guess. He watches as the Dwarf’s crouch sinks more into a slouch and realizes that he must have been staring for quite a while. Meanwhile, Thorin’s barely present hope begins to dwindle and his shoulders sag as the Hobbit doesn’t make any move toward him and his last rush attempt had resulted in failure.

Thorin begins to think that perhaps it was a useless attempt in the first place. He can barely keep his people fed and warm at the Blue Mountains. There was no way he could provide the proper care for a Hobbit in that situation. Just as Thorin began to pull his hand back and let the feeling of failure consume him his hand is grabbed by the smaller hand of the Hobbit.

He quickly looks up into a smiling face with cute little dimples and the most vibrant green eyes Thorin has ever seen. This is his chance. He slowly brings his other hand up, getting ready to grab the smaller creature close to his body only to be pulled off balance by the surprisingly strong tug of the Hobbit on his hand. Bilbo has already Decided on this Dwarf with the honest blue eyes and the warm calloused hands to be his. Simply looking at Thorin filled the little Hobbit’s chest with a warmth he only felt while pressed between his parents. He is a good judge of character.

Decision made, Bilbo proceeded to drag his new Dwarf by the hand toward his home to inform his parents of his Choice, leaving poor Thorin confused as to why a Hobbit has caught him instead of the other way around. He would also need to get Mr.Radagast to approve of the Choice and assist with the transfer from the Shire to wherever this Dwarf calls home. Well, it doesn’t matter if he approves or not since Bilbo has already Decided.

They walk for quite a while, Thorin only getting stern looks from the Hobbit every time he tried to pull Bilbo back toward the direction they had come from. As they broke the tree line, Thorin couldn’t help but stop and stare at the surrounding green rolling hills. Gentle sunlight bathes the land with a warm glow and bountiful farmland stretches into the distance. The most surprising part to Thorin, though, is the amount of Hobbits that dot the area. There must have been over a thousand just that he could see. No telling how many are simply out of sight or beyond the hillscape that he can see.

Bilbo tugs on the Dwarf’s hand impatiently and frowns at the delay. They continue their way passed fields, hills, and curious Hobbit neighbors that Bilbo knows will be gossiping up a storm as soon as they are out of earshot. He half wonders if word will reach his parents’ smial before he does. Meanwhile, Thorin remains gobsmacked at the prosperity surrounding him. Less than a quarter of the fields that he could see would be enough to feed his people well in the Blue Mountains through the winter.

Thorin crushes that thought before it could grow too big. Everyone knows that Hobbits eat quite a lot despite their smaller size. He thinks for all the Hobbits he couldn’t see, they might just have enough to support themselves during the inhospitable season. Besides, to steal anything from a Hobbit (especially food) is considered the lowest forms of moral depravity across all the free races. Even an elf would be hard pressed if found denying a Hobbit food.

They reach the top of the highest hill to see two adult Hobbits enjoying the sun’s rays on a short bench. Belladonna Baggins née Took looks up from her embroidery to see her only son walking up the path with a Dwarf in tow. Mischief sparkles in her eyes while a sharp smirk curls her lips around a smoking pipe. The Hobbit woman knew a day like this was bound to happen. Her own adventurous streak stoking the fires of her child’s wanderlust.

With all the stories she told her little faunt of life outside the Shire, she is surprised it took this long for him to select his Chosen family. She does so love her husband dearly so slightly nudges him to give him some warning of the approaching adventure. Bungo Baggins opens his eyes from his light doze and removes his own smoking pipe from his mouth to see what his wife wanted to show him.

The sight of his young son with a rather large Dwarf trailing behind him gave him pause. The male Hobbit lets out a long sigh as his wife continued to cackle softly. Bungo knew his son was going to be just as adventurous as his loving wife, if not more. Today seems to be the day to prove all his worries correct. His little Bilbo has Chosen a Dwarf for his family and by the set of the little faunt’s shoulders there is nothing anyone can do to make him change his mind. Stubborn just like his mother, Bungo thinks fondly.

Bilbo and his new addition stop at the gate to Bag End and the faunt looks up happily to his adoring parents. “Hello Mother, Father. I want this one. Make sure he doesn’t wander off while I go pack my things, okay?” Belladonna lets out a hearty laugh, while Bungo nods in resignation. “My little baby has grown up so much,” the only woman in the group lets out, “Get to packing my little love. We’ll make sure nobody else snatches up your new Dwarf.”

Bilbo finally lets go of the hand he had held captive the entire walk and quickly makes his way into his home of almost ten years. Thorin remains completely confused during the strange communication of the creatures. He is unsure as to what exactly is going on. Are these two Hobbits the little one’s parents? The leaders of all the Hobbits? Or did the little one think that these two would be a better pick for Thorin to bring for his nephews.

His confusion is cut through by the sudden bloodlust in the air. He quickly turns toward the female Hobbit and sees her sharp grin. Thorin almost reaches for his sword. To attack a Hobbit is a grave sin, but the truly predatory look on the Hobbit’s face makes Thorin wonder if that rule is not for the sake of the Hobbits but more for self-preservation. Her male companion gently twirling a lock of her hair also looks more sinister than the soothing gesture it usually is.

Before too long, Thorin sees a suspicious figure in a long robe and wide brimmed hat coming up the path from the opposite direction he just came from. The figure walked briskly and carried a twisted, gnarly staff, belying his identity as one of the wizards. Radagast the Brown, the keeper of the Hobbits. It makes sense that he would be here, in the land of Hobbits.

Thorin will have to make a reasonable argument for acquiring one of the Hobbits. Radagast is the protector of the Hobbits and everyone knows not to cross a wizard. Even one as eccentric-looking as Radagast the Brown. With his dirt covered robes, small animals nesting in his sleeves and some bird poop in his hair, he could easily be mistaken as a madman. Thorin will not be deceived by such looks. This man could just as easily strike him down as greet him.

He stands tall, chin up, shoulders back and spine standing straight. Thorin’s regal upbringing aiding in his first impression to the wizard. He can still feel the unnerving eyes of the Hobbits sitting next to him, but doesn’t take his gaze off of the wizard. The two take a moment to stare the other down, taking in all they could while not breaking eye contact. “You made it through the forest.” Radagast’s voice was deep, but a little raspy around the Common vowels.

“I was brought.” Thorin replied, his own voice rougher on the language than his natural Khuzdul. The wizard’s eyebrows rose to his hairline, “Really, now?” They both remain silent for a moment longer. The silent moment is broken by the opening of a green door and the little Bilbo Baggins exiting his smial with a large pack on his back and a face splitting smile. Belladonna looks toward her son, “Did you get all you actually need, or did you just stuff your favorite toys and that one book into a bag?”

The youngest Hobbit looks toward his mother with confusion. He didn’t think he needed much more than that. The female of the group simply laughs again and leads her son back into their home to properly pack away the things he will need. Radagast continues to eye the Dwarf in front of him. In all his years guarding the Shire and Hobbits within, none of the other free races have been able to enter uninvited.

Thorin continues to stand there, tall and proud, despite being unsure as to the situation around him. He came here to bring back a Hobbit for his nephews, and now that he has actually found the land of Hobbits he will not leave without one. “Here for a Hobbit, are you? Oh, of course you are.” Radagast the Brown’s voice rasps out. He eyes the Dwarf again. It isn’t the first time that a Hobbit has Chosen a family, but usually that happens outside the Shire borders and not directly in the heart of it. Thinking about the family that lives in the smial next to him though, he can’t say he is surprised.

Radagast’s eyes sharpen, “Do you have the means to properly care for a Hobbit? Food? Shelter? A warm hearth? An open and loving heart? I do not tolerate the mistreatment of these small and gentle creatures. There is more to them than meets the eye.” His voice trails off at that last ominous statement. Thorin stares straight into those sharp eyes, can feel the power and threat behind those words, “I will give everything that I have to ensure any Hobbit in my home is both happy and healthy.”

There is honesty and determination emanating from the Dwarven king’s eyes and the wizard can easily see it. “Sometimes,” Radagast begins, voice equally cautious and warning, “everything you have still isn’t enough.” He doesn’t mean it as a slight on the scruffy image Thorin presents, though the Dwarf almost takes it as such. It is true though, and the brown wizard doesn’t want to present any illusions. Many a time has Radagast reclaimed one of the small folk from poorer homes that didn’t have enough food or fresh air and sunlight to properly support a Hobbit’s wellbeing. His feelings for the nature-loving Hobbits cannot be described in mere words, so his actions will have to do.

Thorin takes those words in and really absorbs their meaning. His close family certainly is decently cared for. They do not miss meals anymore or face the threat of starvation like their early years of exile, but Thorin could not confidently say that they want for nothing or live an easy life. He does remember the times he and Dis sacrificed their own pitiful scraps so that his nephews Fili and Kili could have even something to fill their stomachs.

“I would sooner starve myself to death than let any under my care go without a single meal. I will fight to my last breath to protect all those dear to me. All the love in my heart belongs to those that allow me to call them ‘family’.” Thorin could feel the finality in his voice settle over his shoulders, giving him strength. As he spoke he felt the truth in his words. The Dwarf’s glacial blue eyes never wavered in their stare at the wizard.

Radagast is slightly impressed with the Dwarf. Not many are able to stare down a wizard, even as eccentric-looking as the Brown. It is easy to make such claims, but holding true to them will prove a much more difficult task. As such the wizard is more than prepared to act should such claims not be carried out.

“Very well.” Radagast relents. Should the Dwarf’s words hold false it wouldn’t be the first time Radagast personally rectified such a mistake. Thorin suppressed an inward sigh as the relief slowly washes over him. He did not expect so much ceremony in acquiring a Hobbit. He had really just expected to lure one out and capture it in a sack of some sort. Thorin actually isn’t too sure how he had planned to capture a wild Hobbit in the forest, but he was sure that he wouldn’t leave without one.

The door to the Hobbit home opens again and this time little Bilbo walks out with a larger pack and Belladonna carrying a cloth covered basket. The youngest Hobbit happily skipped out of his childhood home and toward the Dwarf he had Chosen as his own. They may have only known each other for less than a few hours, but Bilbo is sure of his Choice. The two walk down the path and Bilbo stands next to the Dwarf looking up into his impressive blue eyes. Thorin looks back down at the Hobbit barely reaching his hip.

“His name is Bilbo.” Radagast informs the Dwarf. Thorin looks back to him. “He is a mix breed of Baggins and Took. All of the wild adventurous nature of a Took with the calm poise of a Baggins.” He pauses to glance down and smiles at the young Hobbit. “He may prove to be quite a handful.” Bilbo laughs at the words of the wizard. Oh, yes, he is quite the handful.

“It matters not,” Thorin responds, “He will be loved and cared for in my home.” The tiny Hobbit glances back up to his new Dwarf and smiles brightly.Thorin looks down to the little Hobbit and returns the smile, “I am Thorin Oakenshield, my word is my bond.” Belladonna approaches the two and leans down to talk directly to her only child. “Now my child, do you remember all the rules?” Bilbo looks to his mother with a smile, “Always speak in the Hobbit tongue and never any of the other languages. Never, ever, EVER, let anyone know that Hobbits are a member of the free races. But most importantly, love your family with all your heart.”

Belladonna smiles at her son. The secret of the Hobbits has been well guarded since the beginning. Not even the elves know this, and continue to treat the small folk like the highly intelligent animals they portray themselves as. Hobbits are all about comfort, and what is more comfortable than having all your needs willingly met by others. Hobbits are fed, clothed, housed and protected by the other free races. The other free races are also punished should they allow any harm to befall a Hobbit. It is truly an existence of complete comfort.

The female Hobbit sends a vicious smile up to the Dwarf that is about to take her precious baby for the adventure of a lifetime. She would not begrudge her little one his wild-side, but she certainly will miss him and worry for his safety. If this Dwarf does not keep her little boy healthy and happy not even Radagast could stop her from dishing out due punishment. The respectful wariness in the Dwarf’s demeanor let her know that he could understand her threat.

Belladonna hands the basket over to Thorin and returns to her post by her husband. Bungo merely watching as his son and wife as they went about their business, gives an approving nod to his little boy. The husband and wife duo will certainly miss their bundle of rambunctious energy, but are both proud that he is setting out to see the world for himself.

“Now then, off you go.” Radagast makes a shooing motion with his staff. “You’ve got what you came here for, now back to where you came from and with haste. Hobbits aren’t much for camping for long periods of time at such a young age.” Thorin departed with his new charge only after giving respectful bows to the adult Hobbits and wizard. Little Bilbo following along with a hop in his step and excitement coursing through his veins.

The two travel long into the evening, only stopping for small snacks from the basket in Thorin’s hand or to give the young fauntling some rest. They head toward the Blue Mountains, toward a new home and a new life. The two both hopeful and anxious about the drastic changes their lives will have.

Chapter Text

Thorin had been traveling with the newest addition to his family for quite some time, add to that the time he spent traveling toward the land of Hobbits and the time he spent in that blasted forest, needless to say, the Dwarf was quite tired of travel. He could not express with words the warm feeling that blossomed within as the front gates came into view. It would never quite be home like Erebor was, but his family and close friends were there and that was all he needed. The little Bilbo looked at the approaching mountain in awe. He had never seen the land go that high up or have straight angled rocks and already he could hear the hustle and bustle of the civilization burrowed inside the mighty gates. The journey had been hard on him, being as young as he is and unused to prolonged travel.

A new dilemma is revealed for the exiled King. He had intended the Hobbit, to be a surprise for his nephews. However, rumors travel quickly in such a confined space, especially rumors about their leader. Thorin looks down at the young Hobbit practically vibrating in place with bright green eyes taking in his new surroundings. Bilbo hardly reaches his new Dwarf’s hip, but his large pointy ears, bright golden copper locks and shoeless feet covered with the same curly locks all make him quite noticeable. The fact that the Hobbit is traveling with their leader even more so.

With a little thinking Thorin took his small dagger and re-purposed the sack that had originally been for capturing the Hobbit, cutting it to resemble a cloak of sorts. He placed the burlap over Bilbo’s head and green eyes glanced up at him curiously. Thorin speaks in a low tone to the Hobbit, “Okay, you are supposed to be a secret, so you must walk silently and not allow yourself to be noticed, alright?” There is a moments pause and then Thorin realizes that he is talking to a Hobbit and that the little one couldn’t understand him. With a fortifying breath and a small prayer to Mahal, the Dwarf leads his new charge into the mountain hoping to keep the little one a secret to surprise his nephews.

They approach the mountain gates at a casual pace. Thorin’s hand on the Hobbit’s small shoulder. Bilbo is not sure what the Dwarf had told him earlier, but the presence of the sack over his head and the low tone he used, the Hobbit is sure that he is meant to be quiet and unnoticed. Two things he is quite adept at. Bilbo makes a small note to himself to learn the Dwarrow language as soon as possible. Thorin sees his long-time friend and cousin Dwalin as the main gate guard and relaxes minutely. Dwalin is an honorable Dwarf, keeps his nose out of things that are not his business, but will not rest if he thinks those under his care are in danger. He has been in charge of the guards and security since the passing of both the Dwarrow’s fathers at that terrible battle.

Thorin speed up slightly toward his cousin, trusting that the small Hobbit will follow and keep up. He stops before the royal guard and smiles happily at seeing him after so long, “Dwalin, How goes the mountain?” He feels a slight bump behind him at his sudden stop, the little Hobbit running into him. Dwalin greets him in kind, also having missed his king and cousin. “All is well as could be without her ruler present inside.”

They clasp hands and embrace in a rough hug. Bilbo watches the exchange in curious awe, careful to remain out of direct sight. With Thorin being the first and only Dwarf he had seen in his life he is eager to meet those similar to his Chosen. The little Hobbit sticks his head around the Dwarf to get a better look at his companion. The new Dwarf is quite tall, with a wide and solid build and tattoos covering almost every piece of skin Bilbo could see. He takes a silent step forward to get a better look at the intricate designs and the conversation above him suddenly stops.

Bright emerald green meet dark brown and both Dwarf and Hobbit pause to take in the other. Dwalin raises a thick brow, “I’m surprised that Dis agreed.” There is a telling silence in the air as Bilbo looks back and forth between his two taller companions. Dwalin raises his eyes toward Thorin at the lack of response. The blue-eyed Dwarf is carefully inspecting the sleeve of his travel tunic. “She doesn’t know, does she?” Dwalin more accuses than asks. “She knows I set out to get the boys’ Durin’s day gift.” Thorin defends.

Bilbo isn’t too sure what is being said above him, but the suspicious look on the bald Dwarf’s eyes worries him. He wonders for a moment if this mountain doesn’t allow Hobbits. He then remembers seeing a few heads of curly hair pop in and out of the gate so dismisses the thought. Then he remembers one of his mother’s tips for living outside of the Shire: When in doubt look cute. So he does. Brilliant green orbs begin to shine in the light of the sinking sun toward the tattooed Dwarf as he tilts his head just right and widens his eyes just enough to convey worried confusion and his lip begins a mild tremor. Dwalin didn’t even last a second against the full power of a cute baby Hobbit.

The guard lets out a defeated sigh and reaches back to grab the cookie he had been saving for his next break. It is an open secret that the intimidating Dwarf has a powerful sweet tooth. He hands the baked goodie to the tiny Hobbit. Bilbo’s pouting face immediately brightens at the sight of the offered cookie and takes it with a dimpled smile. Everyone knows that the best way to appease a Hobbit is with food. “All right,” Dwalin growls out, “Go on back home before the whole mountain trips over itself to get a good look at the little thing.”

Thorin turns with a grateful nod to his good friend and heads toward the mountain only checking once that the little Hobbit is following. Bilbo remains hot on his heels for the majority of the walk to the upper levels of the housing sector. The small Hobbit is used to dodging through crowds at the market, but many of the other Dwarrow stop Thorin for greetings and other pleasantries. It is getting more and more difficult for Bilbo to keep just behind the tall Dwarf’s broad back and out of sight. After a few close calls he decides to stick to the shadows at the edge of the pathways instead.

They travel like this for a few minutes. Thorin attempting to quickly disengage his citizens without seeming too rude while thinking the Hobbit remains behind his back and Bilbo twisting and turning around shadows and Dwarf’s in the best game of hide-and-seek he has ever played. This continues until Thorin makes a quick turn down the less populated path toward the royal quarters. The Dwarf turns to check on the Hobbit only to see empty space.

Panic seizes his chest and fear clogs his throat. Such a small Hobbit in a new environment filled with stout Dwarrow could possibly accidentally trample the little thing, or worse turn him in to the Registration Department where all new Dwarrow register themselves, their families and any animals they have brought to the mountain. Thorin has yet to register Bilbo as a member of the Durin family. If the little Hobbit gets brought there he will immediately be sent to the Hobbit shelter and then Thorin will have to go through so much paperwork to adopt him through those channels and probably be late for Durin’s day. Not to mention the extremely invasive questions during the interview and investigation to ensure that his home will be safe for a Hobbit of his age.

A few of the nobles with or without Hobbits of their own will undoubtedly try to influence the process. To have a Hobbit directly related to the Royal Hobbit, because that is what Bilbo will be, will give the idea of closeness to the Royal Family. Thorin doesn’t want to give any of those power hungry fools any notion that they have sway over him. That is another of his reasons to get a wild Hobbit instead of one from those available within the mountain.

His fears abate as the burlap makeshift coat comes into view from a shadow covered corner and Thorin sees those sparkling emerald orbs twinkle with pride and a little hint of mischief. The Dwarf lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “Come here, you.” He grumbles out and the Hobbit skips his way toward Thorin. The two head deeper into the more prominent housing reserved for those of noble birth or great wealth.

They passed only a few guards on their way. All of which gave the covered Hobbit a curious stare, but continued on their way after getting a dismissal from their king. Thorin can see the door of his own home come into view and he is suddenly aware of how weary he is. He is quite used to traveling for long periods of time, but the anxiety that filled his veins the entire time over whether or not he could actually capture a Hobbit on his own tired him out more than usual.

Bilbo on the other hand has been rather excited since entering the mountain. A second wind took over the young hobbit as soon as they entered the large ornate gates and he saw a Dwarrow city for the first time. His mini adventure through the dark alleyways and around large crowds sparked his curious mind and there was more than once he almost lost his Chosen Dwarf during his observations of the new world around him. As they left the area obviously dedicated to wares and goods and toward the more extravagant housing, Bilbo began to suspect that perhaps his Dwarf is an important person. The young Hobbit wont hold that against him. He may be a Hobbit that prefers simpler comforts, but he has already Chosen this Dwarf and nothing will change his mind.

They enter the large door at the end of the hall and Thorin breathes a sigh of relief that neither Dis nor the boys are inside. That gives him a few moments to set up the surprise. An uncharacteristically sly grin spreads across the Dwarf’s lips. He can just imagine the happiness that will fill his nephews at the sight of their new pet. Even Dis should feel some happiness, since Hobbits can be taught basic household chores she will not have to work herself so hard anymore.

As Thorin began to remove his heavier cloaks and travel gear, Bilbo took his chance to explore his new home. It was much smaller than Bag End, but then again many homes are smaller than Bag End. The stone home had a decent sized living room with a wooden table that could possibly fit six ,if they didn’t worry about elbow room, matching chairs and a connected kitchenette that only housed one oven and minimal counter space. Down the only hall had two simple bedrooms to the left and one on the right next to the washroom.

Bilbo had heard about the tragedy of the dragon in Erebor that befell the Dwarrow and exiled them from their homes many decades ago. Despite its sparse furnishings and lack of decorations, the small Hobbit noticed that this is one of the largest homes he has seen since arriving. The Dwarrow of Erebor are still feeling the effects of their lost home even after so much time.

Bilbo heads back from the farthest bedroom and really observes his Dwarf. His clothes, though made of decent material look to have been worn nearly threadbare and sport a few patches. The boots on his feet appear to be held together with thick straps and ties. Though he is large and stout like many of the Dwarrow that Bilbo has seen that day, there is an underlying fatigue borne from too many missed meals, over work and not enough rest. On the surface level this Dwarf cuts an intimidating regal figure, but the image doesn’t hold up to careful scrutiny. It is clear that even though this Dwarf is better off than most inside this mountain, he is still struggling.

A fire lights up within Bilbo. He knows right then and there that he made the right decision to Choose this Dwarf. This Dwarf that is both selfless and strong, yet filled with guilt of things he cannot do, needs a source of unconditional love. The kind of love that asks for nothing in return, the kind that only a Hobbit can provide. Thorin is part of Bilbo’s family now and if there is one thing that Hobbits put above all else it is family.

Bilbo sets off to perform his first, and arguably the most important, duty as family: assuring the others you love them. As soon as Thorin finishes removing his travel gear there is a curly copper covered head rubbing gently against his hip while sparkling green eyes look directly into his. The Dwarf had been slightly concerned that the Hobbit would look at the place and refuse him. After seeing the extravagant home and bountiful lands the young Hobbit grew up in, Thorin almost refused to take him. Guilt ate away at his conscience during most of the trip until he could remind himself that Hobbits are the ones to choose. If Bilbo didn’t want to be there he had every opportunity to leave, but he hasn’t yet and that has to count for something.

“Okay, now, Bilbo,” Thorin begins as he leads the Hobbit deeper into the house, “You can make yourself comfortable in my room until the Dis and the boys return.” He opens the door to his room and leads the small Hobbit inside. There is a small, well-worn single bed, a wardrobe in the corner, and a weapons rack next to a crafting table filled with weapon repair kits. It is certainly humble for a king, but still more than many in the mountain have.

Bilbo looks up at Thorin with a curious tilt to his head and the Dwarf remembers once again that he is speaking to a Hobbit and that said Hobbit cannot understand him. The small Hobbit goes around the room taking a more detailed look at the contents than his earlier glance. He drops his pack next to the wardrobe in a corner but doesn’t unpack just yet.

Thorin simply watches the Hobbit explore the new surroundings. He did notice the little thing run off as soon as they entered the room, but he came back before long so the Dwarf doesn’t think he got a good look at the place. Bilbo finishes his exploration and stands in front of his Dwarf once more, gaze expectant. Thorin, meanwhile considers the best method to keep Bilbo quiet inside the room and out of trouble. He is not sure what trouble a small Hobbit could get into with the limited supplies in his room, but Thorin has lived with his two nephews for a few decades now and knows the kind of trouble young ones can get into even without help.

The solution presented itself as Bilbo releases a powerful, jaw-cracking yawn. Thorin quickly picks the Hobbit up and paces him on his bed. After a few half-hearted attempts on Bilbo’s behalf to get up and follow the Dwarf back out the door only to be placed back into the bed, the Hobbit’s soft breathing filled the room. Thorin quietly closes the door and begins preparing the cover gift. He carefully wraps the two handkerchiefs he had originally gotten in some half-concocted plan to lure a Hobbit toward him in a thick paper and some twine.

No sooner had he finished tying up the last small package, the front door opened revealing a tired-looking Dis. She has barely entered the room and Thorin is already greeting her, his deep voice rumbling out, “Welcome back.” The challenge in her eyes at a possible intruder in her home is quick to be replaced with warmth and happiness after identifying her elder brother standing near the dining table. The two siblings quickly embrace and gently rest their foreheads together. “By Durin you gave me a fright.” Dis’ voice comes out almost a sigh with relief laced with the adrenaline still in her veins.

Thorin’s timber laugh vibrates in his chest, “Which is why I made sure to keep my distance. Any closer and I am sure you would have cut me down suspecting me an assassin. Don’t think I missed the way your hand had already half unsheathed your dagger in a moment.” The Dwarrowdam returned his laugh in kind, “I’m sure I would have only maimed you a little bit before I recognized you, and then stabbed you again for having the audacity to try to sneak up on me.”

The two simply bask in the other’s presence for a long moment before releasing each other. Thorin returns to the table while Dis begins to remove her day wear for her more comfortable house clothes. “You are back earlier than I expected. Did you find what you were looking for?” Dis’ eyes travel to the two poorly wrapped packages on the table. They are rather small and her brother has never been the best at detailed work. That has always been left for her to complete. The proud smile covering Thorin’s features is answer enough, but her brother speaks anyways, “Of course. I am a Dwarf of his word and I said I would get the boys the best Durin’s gift and I have.”

Dis sends her brother a playfully suspicious look, but lets it slide and begins working on dinner. They easily enter a companionable silence like the past few weeks of separation never happened. They enjoy the quiet while it lasts because they know that once Fili and Kili arrive ‘quiet’ will no longer exists.

They can already hear the loud thumping of running feet that can only be achieved by children and the door violently rattles on its frame. There is mild concern on both Dwarrow’s faces but after the door opens to reveal two laughing young dwarrowlings they settle back into their spots. The two boys tumble through the doorway spilling laughter and shoving the other to get through first. The rough housing comes to a pause as Thorin welcomes the two as he did his sister.

Fili and Kili both look up to their uncle sitting casually at the dining table. The silence only lasts a moment then the two boys are clambering over each other toward their uncle and taking at high speeds. Thorin indulges the two boys, now on his lap, with a soft smile. They told him of all the events deemed important by children that he missed since he left. The two boys know their uncle travels outside the mountain for work and to discuss trade between the cities of Man and they always miss him.

As their stories begin to die down, the fair-haired Fili notices the small packages on the table and remembers that his uncle promised to look for Durin’s day gifts during his trip. “Is that what I think it is, Uncle?” His youthful voice draws the attention of his younger brother and soon both boys are bouncing in place with excitement. Thorin chuckled deeply, “Yes, your Durin’s day shall come a bit early this year.” The excited cheers are interrupted by Dis’ stern voice, “After dinner though. Knowing you two, you’ll not want to put whatever it is down as soon as you get it. So go get yourselves cleaned up, eat, and then you can play.”

“Actually,” Thorin cuts in, “this gift should be received before we eat.” Fili and Kili flash him twin looks of overpowering joy and slip off his lap to wait for their presents. Dis gives him another suspicious look, but allows him to pass the presents out before dinner. Thorin hands each nephew a small package, silently pleased with himself for creating such a dramatic reveal situation. During his nephews’ ramblings he noticed the little Hobbit exiting the hallway clinging to the walls. He was worried for a moment that the secret would be revealed early, but Bilbo must have known to keep out of sight since the smallest of the occupants carefully hid himself behind a coat on a hook to observe. The Hobbit remained hidden from the other occupants of the room despite his fuzzy feet sticking out from the bottom of the coat.

The two boys tear at the twine and paper covering what they believe to be their Durin’s day gifts. Thorin had made sure to let the boys know that this year they will get the best gift ever. Dis sees him first. Fili and Kili had their backs to the door with the coat hooks and the two adults were facing it. Little Bilbo’s curiosity won out at the sound of crinkling paper and creeped out of his hiding spot to investigate. The Dwarrowdam’s eyes widen but she manages to hold in any sound of her surprise.

The two boys, more focused on their gifts than their mother, didn’t notice the change in the atmosphere. They do, however pause themselves, as they reveal the contents of their packages only to find one handkerchief each. Their two faces fall for only a moment, then Fili quickly shoves an elbow into his younger brothers side. Both Dwarflings look up with false smiles that don’t reach their eyes and a pang of guilt strikes through Thorin’s heart. Fili and Kili have both come to understand their less than ideal financial situation, that despite being considered ‘royals’ they are part of a working class just like everyone else that escaped Erebor.

“Thank you Uncle Thorin.” the two boys call in unison with their fake smiles plastered on cutting straight through said Dwarf’s heart. Suddenly the handkerchief in Fili’s hand is pulled away and the blonde turns to look at the perpetrator only to gasp at the Hobbit behind him. Bilbo had been watching the exchange behind the two, but couldn’t see the gift in their hands. Once he finally did so, his Hobbit respectability wouldn’t allow him to leave those handkerchiefs so poorly folded. It could ruin the stitching. So he quickly grabbed one and began to properly fold the cloth with nice crisp creases.

Kili, wondering what could cause his brother to make such a sound, turns to look in the same direction and lets out his own gasp. Bilbo finishes folding the first handkerchief and smiles at it proudly. The Hobbit’s green eyes then look up into Kili’s. His eyes flicker between the young Dwarf and the piece of cloth in his hand a few times before Kili slowly starts to hand it to him. Bilbo flashes a dimpled smile and takes the preferred cloth and begins to fold it carefully as he did the first.

The two younger Dwarrow can only stand in stunned silence as the small Hobbit folds the handkerchief slightly differently than the first one and place it in his breast pocket. Bilbo then looks up with a curious tilt of his head to oversee the two little Dwarrow in front of him. They are clearly close family to his chosen Dwarf so are therefore his own family now too. The lady Dwarf, which he cold only tell due to her ample breasts, shares too many similarities with Thorin to be a wife and must be a sister or close cousin. The two younger Dwarrow look similar enough to Thorin to be his children with a blond-haired wife, but the little Bilbo is wise enough to wait to make any conclusions.

The silence is broken by two high pitched squeals of happiness as Fili and Kili both wrap the Hobbit in their arms and bounce and chatter with excitement for their new pet. Thorin looks on at his nephews’ happiness with fondness in his gaze. Unknown to him, Dis looks on the same scene with more trepidation than her usual mirth at her two boys’ antics. They are certainly better off than they had been a few years ago, but she wouldn’t say that they live in splendor.

It takes a lot to properly care for a Hobbit. Currently there are only four personally owned Hobbits in the Blue Mountains, the other dozen or so are communally owned by wealthy guilds more for practicality than just companionship. The Scribe’s guild has a few for general upkeep of the library and records rooms. The Hobbits owned by the Alliance of Animal Guilds all were trained in various parts of animal care. The Blue Mountains is one of the poorer Dwarrow settlements, made up mostly of Erebor’s refugees and others down on their luck.

“Boys” , Dis’ stern voice cuts through the excited babbling of the two Dwarrowlings. They grab their new Hobbit tightly between them as their mother gives the two a stern look and then regards the Hobbit looking up at her curiously. “As much as I know you are excited about you new Hobbit.” Thorin cuts in quietly, “Bilbo.” Dis turns her stern gaze to her brother for a moment then turns back to her boys. “Yes, Bilbo, but it is dinner time right now. So wash up and get to the table.”

The two youngest Dwarrow rush off to the washroom practically dragging Bilbo along in their wake. Thorin lets out a deep chuckle at their enthusiasm, but it doesn’t last long as Dis turns toward him and angrily hisses, “Don’t think this conversations is done, Thorin. This is a big decision that you should have talked to me about first.”

Thorin’s good mood vanishes at the heat from his sister’s harsh words. “I did not see any reason for you to refuse, and still do not. While I admit that we are not currently lavished in riches like in our childhood, neither are we beggars in the streets of Man.” It took most of his control to keep his voice down so as not to alert the two youngest Dwarrow of their disagreements. Before it could get too heated the young trio bounces back from the washroom and Fili and Kili help the small Hobbit up onto a chair.

Dis’ eyes told Thorin that it wasn’t over, but she plated out their modest dinner onto one extra setting than she was planning for, careful to put more food onto the plate for Bilbo since Hobbit metabolisms run higher than Dwarrow. Thorin and Dis ate in tense silence with the former answering questions fired off by Fili and Kili. The two boys didn’t notice the tense air and continued to coo and pet the Hobbit placed between them. Bilbo on the other hand, unable to understand the Dwarrow language yet, pays careful attention to the stress and body language between the two adults while engaging the younger two with smiles.

Not being able to contribute to the conversation, Bilbo finished his meal first. He sat at his spot trying to get a feel for the new language around him, not noticing his plate getting refilled by the Dwarrowdam unit he heard the scraping of the spoon on the bottom of the pot. While it could be attributed to the surprise extra member for dinner, Bilbo could tell by the well worn state of practically everything in the house this family barely scrapes by. They are not starving, but certainly not very well fed. He flashes the woman another dimpled smile, one that she returns hesitantly, and digs in to the meal. While not quite to Hobbit standards (but who really can cook like a Hobbit) it was still quite good.

This time though Bilbo made sure to leave a few bites on the plate to signal he didn’t need more. Actually, Bilbo could eat almost twice as much as he just did, but if he is going to live with his new family, he will have to make a few changes. The Hobbit doesn’t mind though, he has made a choice and he doesn’t plan to go back on it any time soon. After the two young boys finished their meals all three were rushed off to bed. They only had one bed for the two boys, but Bilbo was small enough to fit between Fili and Kili with still some room for when they grow.

They might not be the most wealthy of Dwarrow, but Bilbo could tell by the looks they flashed each other and the fact that the younger Dwarrow had better quality clothes and shoes that they were all filled with loving hearts. That is the most important factor to the young Hobbit. Wealth is momentary, gold cannot keep you warm at night or fill your belly with a good meal. It's loving hearts that can drag you out of the darkest depths and Bilbo is sure that he has found the best hearts in the mountain.

Chapter Text

A few hours after Fili, Kili and their newest family member Bilbo were sent off to bed, Thorin and Dis stood across from one another in their small kitchen. Both pairs of shoulders set and faces firm. They took some extra time cleaning up the dishes from dinner and finishing a few chores in order to make sure the young ones were asleep so they will not overhear their approaching heated argument. Heated it shall be, but for reasons unique to each sibling.

Dis feels overbearing concern for the newest addition to their family. Just feeding the little thing will take a large chunk out of their already admittedly modest budget. Not to mention clothes and other Hobbit specific necessities. She is rightfully concerned for the wellbeing of one of the sweetest creatures in all of Middle Earth. It would be an honor to care for one in her home, to have one in her family. Dis, however, is a realist through and through and she isn't completely confident they will be up to the task.

Thorin on the other hand, feels mostly defensive. He had set out for weeks, following rumors and his own tracking expertise, in order to find the land of Hobbits or even just one. The time an energy he spent during those weeks in the forest were absolutely draining. That is not even including the long months before he left, working extra in order to be able to take the personal trip. The only thing that kept the exiled king’s morale from crumbling was the thought of his nephew’s smiles as he shows them the greatest gift he could get them; family. They cannot afford frivolous decorative ornaments. The money could be better spent feeding their people. Thorin didn’t want a repeat of the past few years’ Durins’s days of a modest dinner with good cheer being the only gift present. Acquiring a wild Hobbit was the best he could do with their current situation.

Dis was the first to break the stare down. She hisses out attempting to keep her voice down, “What were you thinking?” Thorin returns with just as much heat and with as quiet a voice as he can, “I was thinking, that Fili and Kili deserve happiness after all we have gone through. What greater happiness is there than between children and a pet?”

“Then get them a dog or a cat or something that doesn’t need the high level of care that a Hobbit does! We are hardly maintaining ourselves as it is.” Dis tries to hold her rage back, but it is a near thing. Thorin, though doesn't catch the unstated fear in his sister’s voice, and instead takes her words as a direct attack on his actions. “They deserve the unconditional loving adoration that only a Hobbit can provide. That is why they are the most coveted animals to have as pets. Loyalty, honor, and a willing heart. He actually grabbed my hand and lead me straight to his home. If anything, I didn’t pick up a Hobbit, that Hobbit picked me.”

Thorin managed to keep his voice from his usual deep commanding tone, but his fist made contact with the table rather violently, letting out a rather loud sound. Both adults hold still in shock for a long moment to see if the children will up. After a few moments and no child enters the room to investigate, the two siblings turn their glares to each other once more. “While that may be, Thorin Oakenshield,” Dis uses one strong finger to poke her brother hard in the chest, “But the instant I think we are depriving him of anything he wants will be the instant I march him straight back to his former home, Durin pride be damned.”

With that final warning Dis stalks toward her own room to get ready for bed, leaving Thorin to absorb her words in silence. Thorin, however, is sure that her threat is unnecessary. Above all else, Hobbits need caring and loving homes. The descendants of Durin may be suffering through some difficult times, but there will always be one thing they will never run low on: love for their family.

While Thorin sat in their small kitchen Dis vented her frustration on pinning her hair so as not to ruin her braids in her sleep. She was so distracted that she didn’t notice the small shadow that entered through her slightly opened door. She lets out a sharp sigh and suddenly her heart is in her throat at the pressure on her thigh. Dis looks down and her panic subsides at the sight of the little Hobbit resting his head against her leg. Soulful green eyes glimmer up into her dark brown ones. Bilbo offers her a shy smile.

He didn’t understand the argument between the two older Dwarrow, but he could hear the fear underlying the lady Dwarf’s voice. She certainly held a deep concern for the little Hobbit despite only knowing him for a few short hours. Bilbo can certainly appreciate that kind of loving heart. The kindness he could see in Thorin’s eyes reflect within Dis’ as well. The little Hobbit is even more sure of his Choice than before.

“Sorry little one, did we wake you?” Dis’ voice was soft as she carded her hand through soft golden-copper curls. Bilbo continues to look at her and his small smile slowly grows as his hair is pet affectionately and he can see the moment his little Hobbit claws sink into her heart. Verdant green eyes soften and Bilbo tries to put as much reassurance as he can into his gaze and rubs his head against Dis’ leg. This family certainly could use a little more love. He lifts his head from the lady Dwarf’s lap and returns to his post between the two smaller Dwarrow for the night.

The small family and their newest addition get varying levels of sleep that night. Surprisingly or not it was the two dwarrowlings that got the least sleep. The two brothers waking up almost every hour to make sure that their little Hobbit was still there and not simply a dream they managed to conjure together. The morning arrived all too soon for most in the Durin household. Bilbo, having only recently left his agrarian homeland, wakes before the rest of his Dwarrow, but is unsure of the time. There is no natural light inside the mountain, just a few lanterns placed strategically to provide just enough light to see in the early morning. He thinks to himself that it will take some time to get used to living inside a mountain.

Bilbo decides to just stay in his spot between the two smaller Dwarrow on the rather lumpy bed. The Hobbit is only a little sore from the new mattress. It wasn’t as comfortable as his bed back at Bag End, but it was significantly better than the hard ground from the previous days during his travel to his new home. After a few moments, Bilbo’s large Hobbit ears pick up some minor shuffling sounds. Dis is already up and preparing herself for the day. Since Thorin had just returned to the mountain the night before, he was taking the extra moments to bask in the warmth and calm that only being close to family can bring.

Dis had just started preparing breakfast for the rest of the small family when she felt a presence to her left. Quick as a flash the Dwarrowdam had a knife and turned to the new presence only to find forest green eyes smiling up at her. Dis tenses her muscles and holds her strike before it gets too close to the small creature. She lets out a heavy sigh, “Oh, Mahal, that is going to take some getting used to.” She reaches out and pets the Hobbit’s soft curls again. A habit she seems to be forming rather quickly. Not that either mind, of course.

Dis returned to the stove top to continue making breakfast with a small observer watching her moves with curious eyes. Just as she was finishing plating the food, the chaotic sounds of two rambunctious children clamoring through the small hall blasted out. Fili and Kili, still in their sleep shirts, charge into the kitchen with twin faces of fear. Dis turns to her children, but before she can ask what has them so scared, Bilbo hops out of his chair and skips toward the two with a Hobbitish call. Immediately the young boys cried out, “Bilbo,” and ran to meet the little Hobbit half way.

“Oh, Bilbo, here you are. For a moment we thought we imagined you.” Kili’s little voice was muffled by the cloth on Bilbo’s shoulder while all three participated in an awkward three-way hug. Bilbo murmurs reassurances to his two boys, having no clue as to what caused their fear and fully aware that they will not understand the words, but hoping his tone is felt. The three snuggle together for a few moments, then Fili maneuvered them until he could put his forehead onto the Hobbit’s. A gesture of familiar intimacy that is new to Bilbo, but he can feel the warmth of it and smiles. Kili, not one to be left out, quickly brings his head into the mix. It is awkward with all three having different heights and the gesture only really meant for two people at a time, but they somehow make it work.

“Okay, okay boys” Dis breaks up the tearful reunion with a few claps of her hands. “Go back and get dressed, then you can have breakfast and get ready for the day.” Fili and Kili look up from their small huddle to their mother, only just now realizing that she was there as well. With the early morning energy that can only come from young children, the two Dwarrowlings dragged their Hobbit companion back to their room to change out of their night clothes. Dis just watches them all go with a fond smile on her lips.

Suddenly, a sharp pain pierces her heart at the thought of separating them if they cannot properly care for Bilbo. They are all already so attached to the little Hobbit. Dis knows it would be for the best for both Bilbo and her boys. The Hobbit deserves proper care, and her boys would forever hate themselves if they were the reason such a sweet creature was in any way sick or injured. The Dwarrowdam promises herself to do all she can to prevent such a fate.

The boys came back, changed and ready for the day. They all started on breakfast with Fili and Kili chattering excitedly to their mother about all the adventures they are going to have with their new Hobbit. Throughout the meal, Dis kept an eye on Bilbo’s plate, ready to refill it as the Hobbit needs. Bilbo, though, could feel her gaze, so he made sure to eat at the same pace as two younger Dwarrow. He knows that Hobbits usually need to eat much more than the other free races, but in his child-like mind he believes he can properly go about on reduced food intake. After all, these Dwarrow that are much larger than him and can do it, so can he.

All three go to put their plates into the sink, but Bilbo’s stomach betrays him at the last moment with a large gurgling noise. The three little ones all look to the Hobbit’s stomach and Dis looks down to them with a stern look. Bilbo’s green eyes lift up to the towering Dwarrowdam and he flinches at the look. She swiftly grabs his plate and spoons another helping of eggs and an extra sausage and marches the small Hobbit back to the table. She stared Bilbo down until he finished his second helping of breakfast while Fili and Kili looks on in confused fear. “Hobbits have quicker metabolisms than us Dwarrow,” Dis begins explaining, “that means they need to eat more than we do to keep up with regular activity and not get sick.” The two Dwarrow children look back to their tiny Hobbit with shock and resolve to keep an eye on him as well.

After Bilbo finished his second plate of breakfast, he quickly rushes to put the plate in the sink in hopes the slightly scary Dwarrowdam wont put more food on it. Said Dwarrowdam gives the Hobbit a calculating look, but allows him to go this time. Fili and Kili each grab one of Bilbo’s hands and go toward the front door to start their day. It is a holiday, so there is no tutors or training for the day. The two are very excited to show their new Hobbit the mountain.

“Wait.” Dis’ voice wasn’t particularly loud, but it was hard enough to stop all three in their tracks. Three pairs of wide eyes look toward the imposing Dwarrowdam with trepidation, unsure of her intentions. “Bilbo just got here yesterday evening. He hasn’t been registered as a member of the Durin house, and his hair is too short for a family braid just yet. Let him wear one of Kili’s coats so he has a symbol at least. But do NOT lose him for even a single second.” Dis’ eyes shift between her two boys, while Bilbo listens intently despite being clueless as to the words exchanged.

“Right now, Bilbo is still considered a wild animal. If he gets separated from you two before we can finish the registration paperwork, he will be put in one of the shelters and there is the possibility that somebody else will adopt him before us.” With that declaration the two Dwarrowlings gasped, “That’s right. So you had better keep a close eye on him.” Fili and Kili nod to their mother, and Bilbo soon joins the nods. Dis smiles at her boys and the cuteness of the Hobbit. “Okay, go. Be careful and make sure to stay together.”

With that the trio ran out of the house. Fili and Kili were excited to show Bilbo around the mountain, and to introduce him to their friends. They started with showing Bilbo the training grounds where they practice weaponry with their Uncle Dwalin, the Scribes’ Guild where they learn reading, writing, and history stuff from their Uncle Balin. Fili and Kili showed their new Hobbit all the places they like to play when their Mom and Uncle Thorin are working late, practically everywhere that two children think would be important.

They had been exploring the different levels of the mountain for a few hours and were currently nibbling on their meat buns for a small snack before they have to return home for a proper lunch. Bilbo was rather excited since during the tour he found out that a few of his Took relatives and even a Baggins Second-Aunt also live inside the mountain. They had all agreed to help him with the Dwarrow language so he can live more comfortably within the mountain. Communication is very important in their positions as friendly household companions. Hobbits need to be aware of their surroundings and conditions. It makes it easier to tell if anyone is beginning to suspect the Hobbits or if their families are in any danger. It is rather surprising the things that people will reveal if they think that non-speaking animals are their only audience.

Just as Bilbo was finishing up his last bun, ( Fili and Kili made sure their little Hobbit got more to eat than them) a trio of adolescent Dwarrow approach the three. They were slightly older than Fili and Kili, but not quite into adulthood yet. The looks on their faces were proud and held a small touch of arrogance. They nearly swaggered their way toward the two younger Dwarrow, completely missing the little Hobbit seated a bit behind his two smaller family members. Bilbo watches them approach with curiosity and caution. He doesn’t get a good feeling about this small group approaching his Dwarrow.

The tallest one with the most beard scruff of the group, obviously the oldest, speaks out first, “Hey there runt, runtling.” His voice is nasally as he referred to the brothers. Fili and Kili did have leaner builds than most Dwarrow their age, mostly due to the lack of food during the wandering years. It is also perfectly reasonable for children to mature at different rates, but insecurities can grow from the smallest of things. The two royal Dwarrowlings frown back to the speaker. “I do not believe we have met before.” Fili tries to use his diplomatic voice that his Uncle Balin taught him, but even he can tell it falls short. The irritation and desire to punch his antagonizer in the face drip from his words.

The leader of the little group’s smirk turns into a full out grin. He wanted to get a rise out of the two and he could clearly see that his words struck something. “The name’s Beir son of Heir. My father’s a brewer. We are just here for the winter and will head back to our home up North.” Arrogance rolling off of his form in waves now. He noticed the worn out quality of the two’s clothes and their smaller statures, but completely missed the symbol of Durin on Fili’s shoulder. Clearly this was a pair feeling the harsh effects of the displacement. His family had trade deals outside of the mountain, so they weren't even at Erebor during the dragon attack and managed to avoid most of the tragedy.

“We are Fili and Kili, sons of Dis, daughter of Thrain, princes of Durin’s line.” Fili recited his introduction exactly as his Uncle Balin taught him. Beir scrunched his nose at the blonde’s formal speech and introduction. His dirt brown eyes give the two boys a long once over. “You don’t look much like princes. Sure you’re not fibbin us to sound more special than you really are?” The older Dwarrow’s lip tilts up into an accusing sneer. Fili and Kili straighten their spines in offense.

They know their family has struggled like the rest of Erebor’s Dwarrow, but they have been raised as sons of Durin and are proud of their heritage. Besides, most of their earnings and work are directly given to the people of the mountain. Before Fili could think about his diplomacy lessons he was taught to deal with any conversation that involves their royal status, Kili quickly rushes out, “We are to princes! Members of the royal family of Erebor!” The smallest Dwarrow of the impromptu gathering scowls up at the tallest.

The eldest’s sneer turns almost gleefully malevolent watching as his taunts rile up the two smaller Dwarrow. “And? Suppose you two are princes of Erebor. What of it?” He makes a very dramatic show of looking around. “We ain’t in Erebor, now are we? So it doesn’t mean anything.” The trio of Dwarrow began to laugh at the eldest’s cruel attempt at a joke.

The eldest throws a few more taunts at the young Fili and Kili, mostly about their ragged appearance. Both of whom try to refute what that can, but the older kids refuse to listen and continue to laugh. Their tempers begin to flare, but when the oldest begins to compare the dark-hired Kili to an elf, that is when Fili pushes him back with a hard shove. It is quite clear that a fight is about to break out between the children and several onlookers just watch in anticipation or concern. Nobody goes to alert a guard about the childish fight, all believing that children will be childish.

All the while, though, Bilbo watched the exchange from the side. The little Hobbit curses his inability to understand the words flying between the young Dwarrow in front of him. The offender is clear. Those muddy brown eyes of the tallest in the group are filled with a nastiness that could rival his more unsavory Baggins relations any time he did something they considered ‘unrespectable’. It was only as a wet sheen entered the eyes of his smallest Dwarf that Bilbo decided to step in regardless of his lack of understanding of the situation. He’ll be fine. Nobody can blame a cute little Hobbit for anything.

“Hello, there.” Bilbo calls out to the antagonizing Dwarrow in his best cheerful Hobbity voice as he takes steps toward them. The tension between the Dwarrow children pops like a soap bubble at the interruption. Bilbo stops in front of the tallest and rakes his eyes over the other’s form, all the while keeping his large fake smile plastered on his cheeks. “Well, what do we have here?” The cruelty in Beir’s voice subsides a little in shock at the sudden appearance of a Hobbit.

Fili and Kili’s faces shift to shocked betrayal, however Beir’s taunts renew with a vigor. “Oh what?” He begins, “Is this your Hobbit?” Bilbo leans his shoulder onto the side of the taller Dwarrow, effectively lulling the boy into a false sense of security. Beir puts his hand onto the Hobbit’s shoulder, “Well, it looks like he likes me more, don’t it?” Green eyes quickly look toward Fili and Kili. The looks on their faces burn Bilbo’s little heart, but he holds strong.

Bier’s cruel grin stretches wider and revealed too much teeth, “Hobbits are such good judges of character and what not, right? Even this little guy can tell you two aren’t much. I suppose I could take him home instead.” Bilbo slowly lifts his foot, unnoticed by anybody and quickly slams his heel onto the top of the cruel Dwarf’s foot. Sturdy leather boots are nothing against Hobbits’ naturally tough feet. Beir screams out at the sudden pain on his tender toes. Bilbo pivots and uses his other foot to brutally kick his Dwarrow’s antagonist right between the legs.

Beir dropped like a bag of stones with a high pitched cry. Bilbo used the distraction and grabbed each of his new little Dwarrow by the hand and began racing through the market level and toward his new home. All three dodged adults, guards, carts, and zipped through small alleys and under bridges. They didn’t slow down until they could see their front door. Still though, Bilbo didn’t let go of his new Dwarrow’s hands. It’s half in apology for pretending to like that terrible Dwarf child, and half in reassurance that the two are still there with him.

The three enter the room tripping over each other and panting heavily from their run. Dis turns to look at her two boys and their Hobbit with a raised brow from her post at the kitchen making lunch. Thorin looks up from the papers he got from the registry earlier that day to look at the three as well. Bilbo skips his way over to the table and climbs on a chair to watch Thorin’s work.

Fili and Kili just stand there stunned for a moment in stunned silence, trying to understand the last few minutes. They had thought their little Hobbit was going to abandon them for a seemingly better Dwarf. Bilbo had cuddled up to the stranger with such a happy face. They were sure the Hobbit liked the taller Dwarf child. The sudden attack against the other’s foot and delicate area shocked everyone in the market to say the least. The little Hobbit’s tiny hands were warm as they clung to Fili’s and Kili’s own hands.

Blue and brown eyes look up into Bilbo’s green orbs. They shine with a very familiar glint of mischief at the dumbfounded faces of the smallest Dwarrow in the room. It is a mischief the two boys are very familiar with and enjoy. Smiles break out on the two’s faces and Kili rushes to the table to take a place beside Bilbo. Fili looks at his brother and then at their Hobbit. Bilbo smiles back at him with an entirely innocent face. The blonde princling could only think that his uncle got them the greatest Hobbit ever.

Chapter Text

The dawn of Bilbo’s second day under the mountain raises. Not that the little Hobbit can tell, still not used to life under rock. His internal clock seems to still be working though as his eyes slowly open before the majority of the house occupants. Hazy green eyes look to the left and right at the two Dwarrow children cuddled up to his sides. Bilbo has always wanted siblings but his parents were content with just him. Now, though he gets to enjoy the familial comfort of not just one, but two brothers.

The door opens and light shines on the Hobbit’s smiling face. Bright forest green eyes look up to the lady of the house. Dis simply smiles back at the cute visage of her two boys and their little Hobbit. She makes a beckoning motion with her hand, intent to let her two sons sleep for a moment longer and prepare for the day with Bilbo. Said Hobbit gains a devious smirk and hops off the shared bed taking the blanket with him as he does.

Fili and Kili are rudely awoken by the cold morning air cruelly assaulting their little bodies and cry out groggily. Bilbo simply looks up to the Dwarrowdam with a perfectly innocent smile. Dis knows the eyes of a trickster and can clearly see that Bilbo is one such trickster. She releases a fond sigh, “All right boys,” Dis doesn’t take her eyes off the little Hobbit standing in front of her. “It’s time to get up and get ready. You had one day off, but now it is back to your studies.”The two boys grumble a bit, but get out of bed anyways. Fili calls for Bilbo and all three move to change out of their night wear for day clothes while Dis goes back to finish making breakfast.

The small family enjoyed their early morning meal in moderate silence. Most of the males were not considered morning people and so were slow to fully awaken. Too soon though, their food was finished and plates ready for washing and the day will wait for no one. The three male Dwarrow slip on their boots and put on coats to battle the chill that has been slowly creeping into the mountain as winter approaches.

Thorin has to turn in the registration paperwork for Bilbo at the Scribes’ guild and Fili and Kili have lessons there with Balin so all four males head out together. The walk is mostly quiet this early in the morning with only a few guards greeting the displaced royals or curious passers by sneaking glances at the little Hobbit following them. They arrive at the rather ornate doors of the Scribes’ guild in short time. Fili and Kili rush in first, closely followed by the little Hobbit. The two Dwarrow children were rather excited to show their new small family member the inside of the large room. Thorin allows them a few moments while he turns in the paperwork to the old glasses-wearing Dwarf at the registrations counter.

The older Dwarf looked up toward the approaching monarch and glanced at the papers in his hand with a raised brow. “I am here to register a new member of of the Durin family.” More than a few eyes snap up at the proclamation, curious as to who managed to get good enough with the royals to become official family. “Ah, yes. Dwalin did mention that you would be down here in a day or so.” The steady form of Balin makes his way toward the desk.

The grey bearded dwarf braces himself for the inevitable political fall out of Thorin acknowledging a child born outside of the mountain. It will be catastrophic. Balin overheard his brother muttering about their king bringing a ‘little one’ into the mountain. He is only a mildly disappointed that Thorin didn’t come to him earlier, but understands that the other has a personal weakness when it comes to family. “So,” Balin continues, voice a bit lower so try to avoid too much gossip spreading, “Where is the little one?”

Thorin looked to his old friend and advisor for many years with a curious tilt to his head. He recognized the straight line in Balin’s shoulders as the one he adopts after Thorin has done something thoughtless or against his advice. “Boys.” Fili and Kili make their way back to their uncle with Bilbo in the middle. Balin visibly relaxes at the sight of the Hobbit and not an unknown Dwarfling between the two princelings. They line up with Bilbo still in the middle and perform a formal bow to their uncle and teacher Balin. Bilbo watches the two boys and then mimics the action. All three children smile at each other with wide grins.

“A Hobbit.” Balin’s voice is only mildly breathless. The trio was certainly an adorable sight to behold. “This is Bilbo.” Thorin introduces. “He is our Durin’s day gift” Kili helpfully adds. “I found him in the forests two weeks travel from here and am registering him to the Durin family today.” The sappy look on Thorin’s face at his nephew’s happiness was contagious as Balin found himself smiling at the younglings as well. “Well I am glad you boys are enjoying your new companion. But keep in mind that while enjoyable a Hobbit is quite the responsibility.”

Shining green eyes looked calculatingly up at the grey-bearded Dwarf. There was a mild tension in his shoulders as he approached, but Thorin had treated him familiarly so Bilbo watched from his place at the other end of the room. They were called over and the little Hobbit got a closer inspection of the new Dwarf. He was broad-shouldered and stout, like most Dwarrow. The long bushy graying beard and almost fluffy eyebrows gives him a friendly grandfatherly look, but Bilbo can see a deep intelligence in those eyes. He reminds the little Hobbit of his own Took grandfather: gentle and friendly with a mind sharper than any blade.

Bilbo notices those wise eyes analyzing him in return and immediately shifts to his curiously cute look. Balin notices the sudden change in the Hobbit’s attitude, and smiles genially back at the small creature. Neither Hobbit nor Dwarf were fooled by the other’s gentle facade, but choose to leave the situation as it is, for now. “He certainly is a cute one though, yes?” Balin looks back to Thorin with his grin still in place. “I’m sure you’ve filled those out properly. This little Bilbo will certainly be an excellent addition to the mountain.”

Thorin smiles back at his most trusted advisor and hands the paperwork to the Dwarf behind the counter. “Since Balin is already here, you boys can start your lesson now.” The dark haired Dwarf smirks as his two nephews groan in unison at the reminder of their lessons. Balin also releases a small chuckle at the two’s antics. They finally relent and begin to walk toward the section of the building reserved for the young royals’ education with their little Hobbit in tow.

“Where do you two think you are taking him?” Thorin refers to the Hobbit following his two nephews. The trio turns at the sound of the elder’s voice. “Over to our studying table?” Fili answers in more of a question. Thorin levels them with a stern look, “No, you are not. He is an animal. He has no need for Maths and History lessons. Besides, Bilbo will be too much of a distraction for you two and you will be unable to properly focus on your lessons.” His tone was strong and left no room for rebuke, but the two princelings attempted to anyway with stuttered words and half formed sentences.

Finally the two give up and turn wide and pleading eyes to their tutor, Balin. Bilbo in the middle, unsure of the situation follows their lead and directs his own shining eyes to the graying Dwarf. Balin smiles indulgently at the overpowering cuteness shining directly at him. “Well it isn’t unheard of that you can teach Hobbits small words and short phrases. In fact the Hobbits of the Scribe’s Guild boast the largest vocabulary in the mountain. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to allow little Bilbo here to stay and hopefully learn a bit as well. And he seems like such a well behaved young one. I’m sure it will all be fine.”

Thorin looks at his friend and advisor. “All right,” He relents, but before the two princes can voice their joy he pins them with a stern look and hard voice, “However, if Bilbo proves to be a distraction for you two or a disturbance in any way, shape, or form, then he will never be allowed to sit in your lessons again. Do you understand?” The two valiantly attempt to keep their excitement in check as they agree to the terms set by their Uncle. “Very well,” Thoirn eases up on his intense tone, “I need to wait for an official update to our family registry. “I will see you three back at the house.”

“Yes, Uncle Thorin.” Fili and Kili respond simultaneously. The two latch onto Bilbo and practically drag him toward the table reserved for their lessons. “That’s a good one you picked up,” Balin states before he follows the trio. “Loyal, a good heart, and quite an intelligent look in his eyes.” Thorin looks at the small Hobbit his two nephews are trying to teach to read and smiles indulgently. “Actually, he is the one that chose me.”

Balin files that statement away for later and makes his way to the table his two princes and their new pet reside. The day is certainly looking to be an exciting one. He calls the three to attention and begins the lessons he had prepared for the day. Fili and Kili only glance at Bilbo a few times during Balin’s lecture, giving him small pets on the head and happy smiles. They do get mildly distracted after one of the Scribe’s Guild’s Hobbits approaches Bilbo and they interact. Even Balin pauses in his lesson to watch the interaction. Hobbits are simply too adorable to ignore.

“Hello there little one. My name is Rosa Baggins. Where did you come from? I haven’t heard about any Hobbit merchants doing business in the mountain.” The female Hobbit quarries gently to the young fauntling. Bilbo replies to the other Hobbit in his most polite voice, “My name is Bilbo Baggins, ma’am, and I just got here from the Shire a few days ago.” Rosa smiles at the polite excitement from the Hobbit in front of her. “My, another Baggins. Good thing too, this place could use a little more Baggins respectability. I am going to assume you do not quite know the language of the Dwarrow nor much about their societal structure and cultural values.”

“You are correct ma’am.” Bilbo responds to the Hobbit lady. The two ignored the stares from the table next to them while they spoke, but Balin quickly brought the boys back to the lesson lest they get too distracted. Rosa sits herself next to the small fauntling and begins a basic lesson on Dwarrow. She begins by explaining that Dwarrow follow a monarchy and that Bilbo has been adopted into the royal family that governs the rest of the Dwarrow in the mountain. She tells of the names of the royals, King Thorin, his sister Princess Dis, the princes Fili and Kili, and their roles. Rosa gives a general description about guild structure and the importance of stone and metal work to Dwarrow.

Rosa also tells him about the Dwarrow of the Blue mountains; the one they currently reside. She describes the struggles they face due to their displacement from Erebor. The desperate survivors were taken advantage of many the other races. Instead of working together to assist the refugee population, most overcharged for goods and services, leaving the Dwarrow in a worse situation after almost every town.

All the while Bilbo looks at the Hobbit lady with wide eyes filled with absolute wonder. The sad fate of the Erebor Dwarrow, now the Dwarrow of the Blue Mountains, nearly made the fauntling cry. Shining wet green eyes hardened with determination as Bilbo swore to himself to smother his new family with as much love as possible. He is now Bilbo Baggins of the royal family of Erebor currently in the Blue Mountains. It is his duty to love and protect his family to the best of his abilities.

Rosa dismissed herself after telling Bilbo the most important things about living in a mountain. She advised him to do the best he can to listen to how the Dwarrow language sounds until the next time they meet and she can start teaching him ‘Khuzdul’, the name of the Dwarrow language. Bilbo relocated himself into the lap of the blonde princeling and proceeds to stare at the notes Fili had made during his lesson. While Bilbo tried to gain a familiarity with the writing system, Fili and Kili couldn’t help cooing over the position change.

The two Dwarflings had been trying to pay attention to their lesson since they wouldn’t be able to bring Bilbo if they didn’t, but it is difficult for ones as young and energetic as them. They nearly spent more energy trying to not pay attention to their Hobbit than trying to pay attention to their lesson. It is quite impossible to ignore the bundle of cute now that he is in Fili’s lap, so Balin relents at least a little. It helps that the two try to re-teach their lesson to the little Hobbit, pointing to words and pronouncing them slowly and explaining different things. Balin allows them some time with an amused smile, since it could be considered as studying for the two young royals.

The elder Dwarf gets the boys’ attention again, “Okay, boys. Bilbo can stay there as long as he doesn’t interrupt and you two stay focused.” He leveled them with a stern look. “We promise,” the two responded with newfound energy. Balin continued his lesson with Bilbo only occasionally switching laps. Fili and Kili would only find themselves staring at their cute little Hobbit a few times. Keeping the humor of the situation, Balin would call on Bilbo to answer one of his questions. Said Hobbit, not understanding what is going on, would call out a random word in the Hobbit language, much to the amusement of all present.

After a short while of this new lesson structure, Balin called for a short break. “You two can take this time to find a short book for reading practice.” Fili and Kili let out exhausted groans while Bilbo looked back and forth between the two. All three younglings get up from their table and enter a big stretch. The two young princes grab one hand each of Bilbo’s and lead him to the shelves of books targeting early readers. Bilbo’s little Baggin’s heart wept with joy at the sheer amount of books held in the stone shelves carved directly into the walls of the building.

Fili and Kili began to strategize with each other to choose a book that doesn’t look to have too many difficult words, while Bilbo found himself wandering the isles of books in wonder. During his wandering he comes across a small nook hidden behind a few shelves. There he finds a Dwarf hunched over a large book resting on an ornate pedestal. Bilbo hides himself behind a shelf corner and begins to look at the books on said shelf.

Bilbo notices that not all the books are in the Dwarrow language and he could possibly read some of them if time permitted. The Hobbit even manages to find one of his favorite books that his mother said was too much bulk to take with him. The muffled sound of paper tearing catches the Hobbit’s attention and he looks again at the Dwarf at the podium. The Dwarf checks over his shoulders a few times and then continues his progress on the page of the book.

Curiosity takes hold and Bilbo carefully makes his way toward the Dwarf and podium. Bright green eyes lay their gaze on the page and it looks like a family tree. As a Hobbit, Bilbo is well acquainted with family trees. The Dwarf is almost done carefully tearing out a page from the rather important-looking book very close to the seems. Bilbo is quite outraged that this Dwarf would be so cruel as to tear a page out of a perfectly innocent book. To make matters worse, the extremely detailed cover of the book implies that it is either the only copy or the official copy of said book.

During Bilbo’s internal outrage the Dwarf had completed his task and folded the removed page into his pocket. Then he pulled a different page out of a different pocket and began to carefully attach it to replace the page he just removed. Bilbo can only stand there stunned as this Dwarf essentially re-writes the book in front of him. The suspicious way the Dwarf keeps checking around during this process leads Bilbo to believe that his actions are not quite legal.

The dwarf, a leather worker by the name of Hessug, works quickly and quietly on replacing the official page with his carefully reconstructed one. He had been waiting for years for that selfish, greedy, old bastard to die. Finally, the wrinkly, old head of the Animals Association, Vamroki, has gotten severely ill and is on his deathbed. Once his death has been finalized, his properties and responsibilities will be distributed to his family. However, since he never married or had children himself, the distribution of such things will go to his closest relatives. Hessug is in no way related to that vile curr, but nobody else knows that. Which is why he is essentially rewriting the family history to place himself just close enough to be considered for a position, but not close enough that some simple research would expose the deception. A rather simple, but crafty plan in Hessug’s mind.

Bilbo really wishes that he could read the writing to understand what the strange Dwarf is trying to change about the book. Until then, he is simply going to have to do his best. Bilbo walks up to the suspicious Dwarf and introduced himself politely in the Hobbit language, fully aware that the other would not understand him. The Dwarf, as expected, startles from his position and frantically looks around for the source of the sound. He visibly relaxes at seeing it was only a tiny Hobbit that managed to sneak up on him. Hessug smiles at the small creature and gives the curly hair a light pat.

Sharp green eyes gaze directly at the pocket containing the original page while Bilbo thinks of a plan to expose the Dwarf before it’s too late. He watches the other make his way around a few shelves and toward the large fireplace at the side of the room. Bilbo knows that once the original page is up in flames, there will be no evidence of the crime. So, he does what he can to stall until his young ten year old mind can come up with a plan: act cute.

Bilbo walks after the Dwarf on silent feet with bright eyes and a wide happy smile. It is at this time that Fili and Kili have finished picking out a book and experienced a mild panic attack as they turned around to find their little Hobbit missing. A quick search in the limited space of the Scribe’s Guild’s library and they found him smiling widely and following a random Dwarf. Fili grabbed his brother and they both dove behind a shelf with a whispered, “this should be good.” Kili looked at his brother curiously, then toward their Hobbit and saw the look on his face familiar to the one as yesterday.

Both boys give each other mischievous grins knowing their Hobbit is up to something and set themselves up to watch the chaos unfold. Balin, at the other side of the room, feels like the boys have spent enough time searching for a book and got up to find them for the rest of their lesson. Instead of the two princelings though, the older Dwarf finds the newest Durin, Bilbo, following some stranger. The bright smile on the Hobbit’s face gives him pause. He has seen that carefully crafted look of innocence on Fili and Kili many times. Usually before all chaos breaks loose.

Hessug notices Balin begin to make his way over toward the fireplace before he could. Panic seizes his heart. He knows it is impossible for anyone to have seen him. Hessug was careful to keep track of the librarians’ and guild members’ schedules for his plan. His eyes quickly scan for a quick escape route and land on bronze curls instead. The little Hobbit was following him with such a bright smile on his face. Hessug relaxes minutely at the sight of the Hobbit. Balin was clearly attempting to intercept the young Hobbit and not Hessug.

Bilbo also notices the graying Dwarf approaching and a plan slowly unfolds in his mind. The little Hobbit clings to Hessug’s leg and makes his own cooing noise effectively stopping the other in his tracks. Balin reaches the two with his usual gentle diplomatic smile, “Well it seems our little Bilbo here has found a new friend. Hello, I’m not sure we have ever been formally introduced. I am Balin son of Fundin.”

“Ah, yes.” Hessug manages to not stutter during his own introduction, “Hessug son of Merrug, at your service. It is an honor to meet the advisor to the king.” He ends with a stiff bow that could hint at his nerves or be a result of the Hobbit attached to his leg. “I’m not sure I’ve seen you much around here. Are you new to the guild, or merely covering new hours?” Balin’s voice remained cordial, but his eyes examined the Dwarf before him shrewdly. Bilbo, meanwhile, continues showering the Dwarf with attention and babbling in is own Hobbit language.

“Uh, neither, I’m afraid.” Hessug flashes an awkward smile. “I was- Uh, I had some time today and thought I would come and see if I could do some light reading.” Balin opens his mouth to question why Hessug was heading toward a reading area without a book in hand, when his eyes land on Bilbo. More specifically, he eyes the large sheet of paper in his hands. Bilbo makes a good show of intensely staring at the page, though it is upside down for effect, lest the others gets suspicious of his intelligence. At least he thinks it is upside down, since he has yet to be exposed to much Kuhzdul writing.

Hessug shifts his own eyes to see what Balin was looking at and his heart shoots up into his throat at the sight. The grey-haired Dwarf releases a customary chuckle at Bilbo’s antics, but his eyes remain sharp at the Hobbit’s behavior. Balin reaches down for the page and notices Hessug make an aborted attempt to do the same. Bilbo releases his own noise of feigned distress to continue his part in this game he knows the graying Dwarf is playing as well.

Balin straightens the page to get a good look at the contents and scans the sheet of family lineage with a careful eye. At first, he doesn’t see anything of note, but he does notice Hessug has begun sweating and his polite smile is getting more and more strained. His eyes shift back to the young Hobbit only to come face to face with a massive pout on Bilbo’s lips, but his green eyes are sparkling with mirth. Balin looks back to the page, but still doesn’t see anything wrong with the unfamiliar lineage. In fact, it looks rather official with the correct signatures in their usual places.

Balin makes no direct reaction to the contents of the page and leans down toward Bilbo with an indulgent smile, but his eyes remain fixed on Hessug’s body language. “Now where did you get this, little one?” He doesn’t really expect much of an answer from the Hobbit, though. Bilbo continues to stare at Balin, having no clue as to what was said, but the Hobbit knows he has the elder Dwarf’s full attention. He ends the stare off by continuing rummaging through Hessug’s pocket and hopes that the elder Dwarf understands his message.

Bilbo surprisingly manages to find another page in the Dwarf’s pocket. He had only seen the replacement of one. The Hobbit takes the page and sits at the two Dwarrow’s feet and repeats his show of pretending to read it. Balin takes that page as well to another noise of protest from Bilbo. The gray-haired Dwarf notices that it is a continuation of the registry already in his hands.

Hessug quickly thinks of a way to leave the situation before his actions are revealed. “Well, hehe. It is getting quite late, and I should be getting home soon. It was, uh, great meeting you and this little Hobbit here.” He tries to move, but Bilbo is sitting directly on his boot looking up at him with a knowing smirk. “Now, wait a minute.” Balin is starting to piece together the evidence, but doesn’t quite know the conclusion. “You clearly were doing a bit of research into this family line. Otherwise you wouldn’t have so perfectly copied it from the official registry.”

Balin continues with his diplomatic smile, “They are very well done I must say. Near exact replicas. The only thing they are missing is the official watermark-” He pauses in his motion of lifting the pages toward the fire as the image of the watermark appears on the pages in his hands. Hessug takes his moment of hesitation to make his escape, but trips over the Hobbit on top of his boot and lands with a heavy thud.

Bilbo, ever the opportunist, falls to the floor and lets out the most heart wrenching cry of pain and summons all his crocodile tears. The noise draws the attention of the rest of the occupants of the room. Balin orders someone to get a guard. He then uses strength that should not be possible in a Dwarf of his size and occupation to lock Hessug in a painful arm hold on the ground long enough for a guard to collect the criminal.

The guild room begins to settle down, but Balin knows that word of this event will spread around the mountain soon enough. His sharp eyes land on the Hobbit that started the ruckus only to see Bilbo between Fili and Kili while all three exchange smiles and affectionate touches. Balin takes a moment to try to remember the last time the two young princes had shared such carefree, joyful and loving faces to anyone outside of their direct family and can’t think of one.

Then, his eyes land on Bilbo again and see that he is staring back at him with a considering look. Fili and Kili have settled themselves in front of the hearth and opened the book they were instructed to read, so do not notice the Hobbit-Dwarf stare off. Bilbo ends it by the genuine smile slowly overtaking his face and Balin could tell it was pure adoration. Bilbo has decided that the graying Dwarf is acceptable to be part of his chosen family. He leans heavily against Fili and turns his attention to the two boys as they try to teach Bilbo words from the book in front of them.

Balin takes a moment to fully understand the events that have happened in the last hour. He knows that later as he checks the official registry, he will find two pages without official water marks. They will undoubtedly look similar to the official registry, but have at least one glaring difference involving one Hessug, son of Merrug. It is likely a difference that unless one was looking for it, it would likely be found far too late for it to matter.

Balin also contemplates that if is wasn’t for one small Hobbit, Hessug would have gotten away with it.

It is clear that Bilbo has displayed a deeper intelligence than Balin has seen in other Hobbits and attributes it to his being wild instead of a domesticated one compared to his mountain borne counterparts. Balin considers the other effects such an intelligence in one Hobbit will have. Before he knows it an hour has passed and Fili and Kili’s scheduled reading time has come to an end. They rush to put the book back where the found it and Bilbo makes his way toward Balin. The little Hobbit rubs his head against Balin’s leg and flashes him a bright smile.

Fili and Kili rush through the room and grab Bilbo to leave the Scribe’s Guild as quickly as possible. Balin watches the trio go and feels his heart warm at the sight. Whatever fate may bring, he does know one thing: that Hobbit is both loyal and loving to his family.

Chapter Text

Tableware gently taps the metal plates holding the Durin family’s breakfast as they all eat. Bilbo has been living in the mountain for a little over two weeks and the four have created a new routine to follow. The Hobbit of the family is just finishing his second helping of breakfast while the rest complete their first. It was a valiant battle between Bilbo and Dis on determining how much the smaller should be eating. The Hobbit managed to defeat the infamous Durin stubbornness with dramatic displays of painfully attempting to continue to eat any food after his second plate. He knew he needed more than the average Dwarf to live healthily, but refused to take too much from his new family. Bilbo only won due to his antics getting more and more exaggerated at each of Dis’ attempts to feed him more than two helpings. Hobbit and Dwarf both knew it was an act, but Dis has made it this far in life knowing how to choose her battles. They partially settled with Bilbo getting extra snacks throughout the day.

”All right, boys. Finish up quickly. You have lessons with Dwalin this morning.” Thorin’s rough timber voice interrupts the clatter of the quiet breakfast. The two smallest Durins give little groans of protest, but quickly comply. Their training days with their Uncle Dwalin are currently their least favorite. They have always enjoyed learning weaponry and fighting techniques from their Uncle, but those are the days that Bilbo stays with Dis due to the dangerous nature of their lessons. ”Can we take Bilbo with us this time?” Kili’s voice calls out in a near whine at the thought of being separated from their little Hobbit again.

”You know Bilbo can’t go with you to the training grounds.” Dis’ voice called out from her room while she put on the finishing touches of her outfit for the day. ”It is much too dangerous for a Hobbit his age. He is a curious little thing. All it takes is one small accident, one misstep and Bilbo could get really hurt.” The Dwarrowdam leaves her room, finished preparing her outfit. ”We promise to be extra careful.” is Fili’s input. Bilbo, meanwhile, turns his head back and forth as each of his Dwarrow spoke. He had been working really hard to learn his new family’s language and has had some luck with it. The Hobbit has managed to get a grasp on greetings and a few basics from his lessons in the Scribe’s Guild with ‘Auntie Rosa’, as she demanded he call her. Bilbo has also managed to learn quite a few Dwarven curses and of course the word ‘cute’. So, Bilbo only managed to understand a few snippets of the conversation and can only guess at the rest.

”Your mother is right.” Thorin adds from the table, ”Bilbo is young and energetic, and you two have been known to get a little rowdy during your training lessons.” He levels a hard stare at Fili and Kili. Bilbo furrows his brow in thought. He knows that he goes with the two some days to the Scribe’s Guild and goes with Thorin to a large office room on others or with Dis to several meetings, but doesn’t know where Fili and Kili go on those days. Those days the two come home tired and a bit scuffed up, but the older Dwarrow don’t seem too concerned so Bilbo assumes it is expected. He does, though, want to know what they do exactly to end up that way.

With a little quick thinking, Bilbo enacts a method he has recently developed in order to get his way. The little Hobbit sidles up to Kili and clings to his arm releasing a deep hum and flashing the cutest smile, Kili smiles and hugs him back. Thorin watches the action and purses his lips. It appears that Bilbo is in one of his clingy moods and it will be difficult to safely separate the two without causing a heartbreaking scene of sad Hobbit. The Hobbit has only acted that way just before chaos breaks out or he doesn’t quite want to be separated yet. He releases a sigh, but attempts to free his nephew from Bilbo’s hold.

”Remember what happened just a few days ago with the pastry cart?” Thorin pointedly mentions. Fili and Kili both cringe at the reminder, they had to clean pastry cream and breads for hours and Bilbo needed the longest bath. ”Right.” Thorin can see the memories flashing through his two nephews’ faces. He uses their moments of distraction to gently pull at Bilbo’s hands. ”Now just imagine if such a mess has happened with a weaponry wrack.” The two boys pale with fear at the thought of their little Hobbit under a pile of sharp weapons.

Thorin managed to get Bilbo to release Kili’s shirt, but the Hobbit is quite determined at the moment and quickly turns to latch onto Fili. He flashes shiny green eyes to the older sibling and can see as Fili’s resolve hardens. ”There are stands at the edge of the training grounds he could sit on.” He attempts to bargain with the older Dwarf. ”We will even be extra careful, just like with our lessons with Uncle Balin.”

Thorin considers this while also debating how to get Bilbo off of Fili this time. While it is true that the two boys have been more well behaved and performing better, he is still concerned for the small Hobbit’s safety. Bilbo still looks so small. ”And anyways, I’ve seen Hobbits with daggers in the business district. And this one guard at the station says that he once knew a guy that taught his Took Hobbit five different weapons.”Kili ever eagerly adds to the case. Thorin looks at the two boys and lifts his eyes toward his sister waiting by the door. Her shrug lets him know that it is up to him to decide.

Thoirn’s blue eyes shift down to the Hobbit causing this situation. Bilbo is flashing his bright dimpled smile up directly toward the Dwarf, his hands are firmly locked on Fili’s coat. Thorin releases a heavy sigh of resignation, and Fili and Kili raise their own cheers as they see their uncle give in. ”However.” Thorin’s voice cuts through their cheer. ”If Bilbo gets even a scratch as a result of you two playing around, he will never be allowed back to the training grounds.” Both boys nod with serious faces, trying their best to hold back their excitement at having more days they can spend with their precious Hobbit.

”Very well then. Bilbo can go with you, but the same rules apply as your other lessons. You must not get distracted and still do well in your training.” The two younger Dwarrow can’t hold their excitement much longer at their uncle’s agreement, and both sandwich Bilbo in a hug. ”Okay boys, it's time to go now. I’ll even walk you three to the training grounds.” The sound of Dis’ voice breaks the happy bubble of the trio and they all rush toward the door.

The walk is mostly peaceful, it being much too early for most. Fili and Kili walk with Bilbo in between and chatter about all the fun they will have with their smallest family member. Dis just smiles fondly at her boys. Bilbo has managed to easily fit himself into the Durin family. Since he has been inside the mountain, the small Hobbit has brought more smiles from her brother and children than she had seen in years. Adding Bilbo to the family was definitely a good choice.

They arrive at the training grounds, which is really little more than a rectangle shaped room with one large sand pit in the middle surrounded by a few weapon racks. There is a small armory attached to the side and a few seating stands at the edge. Modest by most standards, but efficient should one ask any of the Durin family. Dwalin, Captain of the King’s Guard, watches as the small family makes their way toward his station.

One bushy brow raises at the sight of the tiny Hobbit following along and looking about curiously. He would only admit if directly asked that he had his doubts about having a personal Hobbit around. Dwalin, however, is not one to question his cousin and King, so kept his thoughts to himself. Now, though, he can see the positive effect the little creature has had on the two boys as well as Thorin and Dis. He is sure that it was a good choice to add the Hobbit to their family.

The trio of younglings rush forward at the sight of the burly guard. Fili and Kili try their best to talk over each other and explain the presence of their Hobbit. During the unintelligible babble, Dis made her way calmly toward the small group of her family. Dwalin shifts his gaze up toward the approaching Dwarrowdam. She nods to her cousin in greeting. ”Morning Dwalin.” Dwalin grunted his greeting in return. ”I bet you are wondering why Bilbo is here.” She barely pauses for a moment, knowing her gruff cousin is a Dwarf of few words.

”Bilbo was in one of his clingy moods and it would be more hassle than it's worth to pry him from the boys, so its was decided he could tag along today.” Now, Dis sends a stern glare down to her two boys causing them both to stand straighter at the look. ”But they will be on their best behavior and not get distracted from their training or else Bilbo will not only not come back to the training grounds, but also lose his Library privileges.” Fili and Kili both nod emphatically and Bilbo follows soon after despite not quite understanding the situation.

Dwalin tries to hold back a smirk at the display, but it quickly vanishes as Dis turns her fierce glare toward him. ”And Bilbo will be safe and return home without a single scratch on him, right?” It is Dwalin’s turn to nod seriously at the Dwarrowdam. Everyone in the mountain knew how ferocious she could be. Dis nods her head at the group in front of her. ”Good. Well, I shall be off now. I have meetings to go to. Have a good day.” With that, she is gone in a twirl of skirts and a gentle wave, leaving the Dwarrow to watch her retreating back.

Dwalin clears his throat, ”Okay, boys start with your warm-ups and stretches.” Fili and Kili move toward their usual spot and Bilbo goes to follow only to be stopped by a hand on his shoulder. ”No. Not you.” The imposing form of Dwalin looms over the Hobbit. ”Dis’ll have my beard… among other things, if anything happens to you. So go sit on the benches.” There is a pause. Bilbo has no idea what the Dwarf just said, so he stands there looking up at him curiously.

After a long moment of silence, Dwalin realizes that Bilbo did not understand him. He is thankful for his beard to hide the blush and points to the observation benches. Bilbo looks in the direction he points, sees the benches and understands what he meant, but is not happy with it. The Hobbit flashes his bright green eyes toward the Dwarf. Bilbo looks to Fili and Kili, both diligently working on their warm-ups, and back to Dwalin. The frowning guard keeps his arm pointing to the side and his face stern. Bilbo decides to bring out his best weapons. Green eyes begin to shimmer with moisture as a small pink lip begins to tremble. Bilbo looks back to his boys and then Dwalin again. He can see the other’s resolve weakening at the sight of a distressed fauntling.

Dwalin shakes his head to reorient his thoughts, ”Nope, not going to happen little one. You are too young to be so close to this kind of weaponry and training gear.” He gently grabs Bilbo’s hand and leads the Hobbit to the observation benches, careful to not look directly at his face. Dwalin sets the Hobbit down on one of the benches, ”Okay, now Sit.” Bilbo does actually know that word, so he sits himself down and is sure to send the biggest angry pout toward the guard.

Dwalin just leaves the Hobbit there with an exasperated shake of his head and starts the lessons with Fili and Kili. Bilbo watches them all from the sidelines, observing their motions and drills. He thinks to himself about the benefits of learning a weapon, or at least gaining some fighting skills. The other guards around the room certainly look strong and able to protect others. Bilbo has seen only a few minor scuffles during his short time in the mountain, but they all had to be broken up by guards. Since all the other races are larger than Hobbits, even after Bilbo grows up he will need some form of tool or training in order to protect his new family.

Bilbo’s green eyes wander around the room taking in all the formations and weaponry as the Dwarrow trained. His mind begins to wander. The mountain itself almost looks like the people dug it out as quickly as they could, without thought of long-term structural support or safely expanding the area. The idea makes sense, considering the state the Erebor refugees must have been in at the time of their arrival.

Bilbo also thinks about the different natures of Dwarrow and Hobbits. Though they both have a love of creation, that love varies in its vary basic form. While Hobbits love the naturally occurring creation that comes with plants and nature, Dwarrow’s love stems from the creation that they make with their own hands out of hard stone and metal. They bend nature to fit their will. Though, Dis did get a small succulent for Bilbo after she noticed him staring out the gate one time he went with her for her rounds. He was glad that Hobbit’s love for greenery was a well known fact among the other free races.

The biggest difference for Bilbo is the idea of a monarchy. Just the thought that someone could have the power to rule over others simply for being born into the right parents baffles the Hobbit. Even though his own Dwarrow family are in fact members of that royalty. Bilbo just shifts his gaze toward Fili and Kili and looks at them fondly. It doesn’t matter to him though, they are his family now and that is all he cares about.

A thought, unbidden, pops into his head. A memory of a conversation with another Hobbit about the monarchy structure and how everyone wants to be in power. He was told that occasionally assassination attempts occur against members of royal families, and even the Durins of the Blue mountains have had their share of attempted murders. Bilbo remembers trying to hold tightly to his Dwarrow for three days after that.

The hours tick by while Bilbo watches his Dwarrow and thinks about his new life. As the time passes, more and more of the other Dwarrow leave for other things while others arrive for their own training. Soon enough it is just Bilbo, his little Dwarrow with a few small groups scattered around the sand pit. Bilbo’s seat is at the very edge of the clearing near the back with a full view of the room. He watches as his two smaller Dwarrow finish up the last of their drills before lunch. The entire time they would send occasional glances, smiles and waves at their observing Hobbit. Dwalin had been mostly amused at their antics, but quickly got them back on track with their training.

Movement at the corner of his eye draws Bilbo’s attention. Curious green eyes shift to the side to see a shadowy figure crouched behind the farthest weapon rack in the back of the room. He only noticed since the shifting shadow is behind the weapon rack closest to his smaller Dwarrow. Bilbo tilts his head curiously as he makes out the shadow to be a rugged Dwarf wearing very dark clothes. There is a niggling feeling in the back of the Hobbit’s mind at the sight of the Dwarf.

Not one to let his curiosity be left unsatisfied, Bilbo checked to make sure his Dwarrow were focused on their task and slowly made his way over to the shadowed Dwarf. Using all his Hobbity stealth, Bilbo manages to get close enough to peer at the Dwarf’s hands to see what he is hunched over doing. The Dwarf has his eyes focused forward intensely on the small group at the edge of the sand pit. The small group of two young princes and the Captain of the Royal guard, Bilbo’s Dwarrow.

A small frown begins to mar the Hobbit’s face. He doesn’t quite know what the contraption on the Dwarf’s arm is, but the pungent smell of the dark liquid on the tip of the sharp pin gives Bilbo a bad feeling. His mother always said if someone feels the need to hide what they are doing, then they are clearly not doing something proper and respectable. So far, that has proven true in both the Shire and the Blue Mountains. Bilbo, still unnoticed by the suspicious Dwarf, or any of the other Dwarrow for that matter, feels a fiery protective force swell in his chest. He will not allow harm to come to his family. Such is the Hobbit way.

Bilbo ducks himself behind the suspicious dwarf after he hears Dwalin tell the two boys to grab a weapon for their final drills before lunch. Fili and Kili scamper their way toward the closest weapon rack, eager to be done and play with Bilbo even for a short while. They are nearly half way there when the hidden Dwarf raises the arm with the concealed crossbow and poisoned darts. He is crouched low, perfectly balanced on the balls of his feet, gaze locked directly on his target. The assassin aims for the unprotected neck of the blonde princeling. He waits a few extra seconds to ensure he strikes true.

The Hobbit stands tall and with a loud yell smashes one large foot into the ribs of the suspicious Dwarf. The assassin turns at the sound, surprised at both the noise and the Hobbit that created it. His moment of surprise allowed the strong kick to his side to knock him into the weapons rack and accidentally release the trigger for the crossbow. The arrow goes flying and lands less than a meter in front of Kili’s boot. Both boys pause at the sudden appearance of the small projectile and Dwalin charges at top speed toward the Dwarf flailing on top of the fallen weapons rack.

The assassin goes to grab one of the fallen weapons near him, but his hand is stomped on by one large Hobbit foot and the sound of broken bones echoes around the room. Failing to re-arm himself, the fallen Dwarf glances up to see what just crushed his arm. Cold and empty green orbs stare down at him in apathy. Before he could truly understand the depth of rage behind those eyes, he saw the Captain of the Guard coming at him at a full charge with a war cry. The Assassin ripped his arm out from under the Hobbit’s foot causing Bilbo to fall back and turned to run to the hidden door at the back corner of the training room. He just gets the door open enough to fit when Dwalin’s large hands grab the assassin and throw him to the ground. They scuffle for a short time and one rough punch from Dwalin knocks the other out immediately.

Meanwhile, Bilbo had made his way over to Fili and Kili once he saw that Dwalin was going after the suspicious Dwarf. It must have been very serious for the burly Dwarf to run so quickly and with such a look of rage. The little Hobbit was rather angry himself after stopping the Dwarf from grabbing a weapon. Bilbo might be angry and not quite understand the entire situation, but now was not the time for that. The Hobbit made his way over to his two boys and grabs one hand each. Fili and Kili are shaken out of their shock by the warmth of Bilbo’s hands in theirs and the reality of the situation crashes down.

The two princelings smother Bilbo in a bone crushing hug as they realize that their little Hobbit was so close to such a dangerous Dwarf. Kili even sniffles a little, prompting Bilbo to rub his head against the younger Dwarf and give him a calming hum. Dwalin makes his way toward the other end of the training room dragging the unconscious would-be assailant by the back of his coat. ”OI!! Get yer asses in gear and grab someone on duty to deal with this chump!! And someone get Balin and Lady Dis in here!” Several of the gawking Dwarrow around the room shook themselves out of their stupor and rushed into action with a few muttered ‘yes sir’s.

After Dwalin finished tying up the assassin, he made his way back to the two young princes and their Hobbit. He took in the way Fili and Kili slightly trembled and his heart broke a little. Those two boys could have lost another family member. That was a dangerous thing for someone to do, much less an untrained Hobbit. Dwalin’s brown eyes shifted to the copper curls of the Hobbit squished between the two royals. It certainly takes a special something to take on an opponent with no certainty of victory. Bilbo is either very brave, or very stupid. Dwalin however, knows the only difference between the two is the success rate.

His eyes narrow while Fili and Kili continue to reassure themselves of Bilbo’s presence and congratulate him on his bravery and how glad they are that he was there. Dwalin’s gaze turns thoughtful. Bilbo’s actions were instinctual and though his technique was rough to put it lightly they were direct enough for good results. It could have just been luck, but Dwalin is pretty sure the Hobbit had some idea on how to subdue the assassin.

He comes to a decision just as Bilbo’s green eyes shift toward his own brown ones. There was a deep intelligence in those eyes as well as a fiery strength. Dwalin will train the Hobbit in combat since it seems like he will fight either way. It would be better anyways. Dwalin and the guards can’t be near the royals all the time. This way, there will be an extra layer of protection for them. Though Dwalin has previously never put much thought into Hobbits as guard animals or even to have much intelligence at all, this one might be an exception.

One raging Dwarrowdam slams her way into the training room with a mighty yell. ”WHERE ARE MY BOYS!!” She then charges directly to the small huddle of princelings and Hobbit and proceeds to fall to her knees and smother them with her own hug. Balin enters after her at a much more sedate pace, but heads toward his brother instead. His aged eyes take quick stock of the burly guard and the tension in his shoulders eases slightly after seeing no injuries. ”So,” the older Dwarf begins, ”What in Mahal’s name happened here?”

Dwalin gives his brother a brief report on the events that had transpired before the other arrived. Balin’s eyes narrowed at the mention of the hidden door at the back of the training room, but otherwise stays stone-faced. Both Dwarrow mentally begin forming plans to prevent events similar to this one in the future. Just beside them, Dis continues to hold her children and Hobbit and check them all over for injuries. During her mothering, Fili and Kili regale her with Bilbo’s bravery of the day. The Dwarrowdam takes a moment to press her head against the Hobbit’s curls and releases a breath, “Good boy.” Bilbo flashes her a dimpled smile actually understanding the words she said.

After the assassin was taken away to a holding cell to prepare for questioning, the training grounds began to return to normal. Dis was already on her way with lunch for her boys and Dwalin, so they set up the food at a table at the side of the room. Dwalin eats in silence while the two youngest Dwarrow continue to regale their mother with the story of Bilbo’s actions. Each telling becoming more outrageous and heroic than the previous. Dis simply takes in all in with the patience only a mother possesses. Bilbo meanwhile eats his lunch while sitting between the young princes letting the chatter flow over him.

They clean up the remains of their lunch and Dis leaves them to return to their training lessons. The adult Dwarrow are rather confident that there would only be one attack for the day, but will remain vigilant just in case. Dwalin calls for Fili and Kili to return to their training spot and get ready for weapon drills. The boys release small complaints at having to return to training and Bilbo turns to head back to his observation benches. They all stop after the Captain of the Guard releases a sharp whistle, ”Bilbo, Come.” The three younglings all turn to look to Dwalin with a confused look. The Dwarf is holding two full sized wooden training swords and a smaller training staff.

The three walk toward their mentor and he passes out the training weapons to Fili and Kili and the stick to Bilbo. ”Alright, standard positions” Dwalin calls out and the two Dwarflings enter the said position and the guard stares Bilbo down until he too shifts into a similar position as the princelings. Fili and Kili share wide grins realizing that their Hobbit will be training with them. Bilbo stares at his long wooden stick with a contemplative look only noticed by Dwalin since he was watching the Hobbit closely. He knows that he had surprise on his side and a little luck dealing with the suspicious Dwarf and that will not always be the case. Bilbo does believe that some actual training in weapons and weapon less fighting styles would be helpful in his duties of protecting his new family.

The Hobbit gives himself a nod and sends a serious look toward his boys’ mentor, now his mentor as well, and Dwalin flashes back a grin with too many teeth. The guard trains them all hard for the few hours they had left. Fili and Kili work extra hard to demonstrate actions for Bilbo and constantly ask Dwalin for clarification and extra explanation for their drills. The guard is rather certain that this was the first lesson the two boys were so focused and motivated. He gives himself a mental pat on the back for allowing Bilbo to join their training sessions.

Chapter Text

Bilbo has been living within Ered Luin for a little over a year and has become rather adept at life inside the mountains. His hair has grown longer than it ever would have in the Shire and he proudly wears his short Durin family braid. With the help from many of his Hobbit friends and distant family also within the mountain as well as his own aptitude for language, Bilbo has gotten very proficient at Khuzdul in that relatively short time. The Hobbit has learned his way in, out, and around the mountain and knows most of the important Dwarrow. Well, what would be important to an eleven year old Hobbit child. Which means that Bilbo knows every Dwarf that will happily give him a snack or a head pat, and which Dwarrow that will try to butter him up for selfish reasons.

The Hobbit was currently exploring the shelves of books in the Scribes Guild while Fili and Kili were on a short break. His wandering brought him to a small nook near the back. There he finds a young ginger-haired dwarf sitting on the floor, hunched over a journal of sorts completely absorbed in his writings. Curious, Bilbo sneaks his way closer to get a better look at the contents of the page. He lets out a surprised gasp of awe at the beautifully written notes and wonderfully sketched book shelf. The young Dwarf releases a full body flinch and a small yelp at the sudden sound breaking his concentration.

Ori, the timid Dwarf that he is, quickly shuts his journal and turns his head toward the sound so quickly he hears a crack in his neck. His speeding heart begins to calm at the sight of the small Hobbit crouching next to him sending him a curious little smile. ”W-well, hello there little one.” Ori’s voice is quiet in the small space as he takes in the form of the Hobbit beside him. ”Do, uh, do you want to see?” He opens his journal again and reveals the page he was working on to the Hobbit. It is always easier to reveal more personal things to the adorable little creatures.

The two sit there and look through Ori’s journal entries. The Dwarf describes his sketches and the notes he took about the places he drew. At one point Bilbo slid himself into Ori’s lap and they continued going through the pages. His curly head fit nicely underneath the other’s chin. The shy Dwarf getting more and more relaxed as they shift through the drawings. Bilbo noticed on the very front page the Dwarf he is currently sitting on signed his name as ‘Ori’. The Dwarf’s clothes were also more rugged than the Hobbit’s own boys’. He also noticed that Ori treated the journal with gentle care. Both signs of someone used to barely getting by.

Ori on the other hand was very excited to have the Hobbit cuddling so close to him. He has always seen the small creatures around whenever he was allowed to explore while his oldest brother Dori worked, but has so far never gotten close enough to touch one. If fact, he is so elated that he fails to notice the Durin braids in Bilbo’s hair. Ori simply assumed the Hobbit to be part of the Scribes Guild’s batch.

The majority of the journal is filled with sketches and descriptions of areas located near the gates of the mountain. One of the poorest areas in Ered Luin. Clearly Ori’s home area due to the amount of pages filled with the rickety wooden houses and market stalls filled with few foods and low quality goods. Bilbo’s heart melts a little at the cheerful enthusiasm Ori has while describing his two older brothers. The young Dwarf clearly has a very kind heart despite the timid nature he showed at the beginning. His love of reading and literature is plainly seen in the careful script in the journal. Bilbo believes he could really enjoy time with this Dwarf.

Ori, still completely oblivious to the fact Bilbo understands every word he says, finishes describing his current sketch and closes the journal again. ”That’s all I have in this one.” The young Dwarf’s voice is respectfully quiet. ”I have others at home. Dori buys me journals or ink or paper whenever we have enough money to spare.” Bilbo already figured he was in a tight financial situation. ”It’s my dream to become a scholar of the Scribes Guild.” The Hobbit already guessed that with the way the Dwarf spoke of literature. Ori slumps a little in his cross legged position, ”I know we don’t have a lot of money and the Guild’s entrance exam can cost quite a lot, but Dori wont let me get a job to help. He is always saying ‘stick to your studies’, or ‘you don’t have to worry about that, you just focus on your craft’.” He lets out a heavy sigh and Bilbo snuggles deeper into Ori’s neck.

Bilbo hears the front door open and the rough stomping and laughter that can only be his two boys. The Hobbit releases a fond yet exasperated sigh at the noise only his small Dwarrow could make. He gets up from his comfortable spot on the Dwarf’s lap. Ori watches the Hobbit stand up with only a little sadness that he didn’t get the courage to pet his soft looking curls, but he did enjoy the time they spent together. Bilbo leans forward and nuzzles his cheek against Ori’s. The Dwarf’s face turns tomato red in embarrassment and he breaks out into a smile, while the Hobbit looks down at him with his own smile.

Bilbo tilts his head and decides that he really likes this little Dwarf. He does his best to take note of Ori’s looks and braids in order to recognize him the next time they meet. Bilbo makes his way back to the table with his boys wearing a very happy face. The Dwarrow at the table all coo at how happy their little Hobbit looks. Kili voices their curiosity, ”What’s got you so happy, Bilbo?” The Hobbit looks back toward the area he met the new little read-headed Dwarf and notices the other has already left. Bilbo’s smile dips into a small frown, and Fili and Kili glance toward the same spot and see nothing. Fili reaches over and pets the Hobbit’s curls, ”Don't worry Bilbo, we will be sure to take you out to play more.” Bilbo just rests his head on his blonde Dwarf’s shoulder.

The day continued on like usual and the boys’ lesson ended without much fanfare. Fili and Kili decide to do a little extra exploring in the time they have left before they have to be home for dinner. The three already mostly know their way around the entire mountain, but there is always something new to discover with their child-like sense of adventure. The three run off out of the Scribe’s Guild with a promise to be back in time for dinner. Balin shakes his head fondly at the trio of younglings as they head out to play.

Fili, Kili and Bilbo first make their way through the food vendor's area where their little Hobbit flashes cute dimpled smiles in exchange for free bits that he shares with the other two. The group manages to gather quite the assortment of snacks and sit at the side to enjoy their spoils. Kili takes a bit bite of a pastry just as Fili points out the perfect opportunity for a classic prank. ”Bilbo, stay here. We’ll be right back after this.” Bilbo just flashes his normal smile at the two and watches as the two sneak off trying to hold in their giggles. Bilbo does enjoy a good prank, but chooses his marks more carefully. The Dwarf that Bilbo notices the boys are targeting is quite the sour noble that has been looking for reasons to be discontent in his position on the advisor’s council.

Just another example of Noble arrogance that other Hobbits in the mountain have told Bilbo about. Demanding more and more power simply due to having been borne to certain parents. Bilbo knows that the prank will take a turn for the worse and his boys will have to make a quick escape from the unsavory Dwarf, so decides to explore a portion of the mountain he hasn’t had much chance to. The lower levels of the mountain, closer to the opening gates of the Dwarrow city, are outside of their usual exploring range. Bilbo quickly glances at his two boys. They are completely engrossed in their task, so the Hobbit walks off.

Not many of the other Dwarrow take much note of him, familiar with his wandering ways. Besides, there are Hobbits that wander around to do the shopping or search for certain things for their families, so Bilbo is not any more of an anomaly than a Hobbit in a mountain already is. It is not a very long walk to make it to the lower levels and Bilbo takes his time to really observe the styles, structures, and quality (or lack thereof) of the area. It is clearly much more impoverished than the areas he frequents. Bilbo also notices that there are no other Hobbits in sight.

He knows that it takes quite a bit of wealth to take care of a Hobbit and that is very telling of the state of the community. Bilbo goes from walking down the main path to sneaking around the side paths in the shadows. It might seem dangerous to creep around in the shadows of such a shady neighborhood, but Bilbo is better at sneaking than any other Dwarf he’s met. It is well known that there are those desperate enough to steal a Hobbit to try and make some money. So, Bilbo makes sure to take extra careful steps and keep his ears open.

His extra vigilance lets him hear something strange, yet also familiar. A voice, a few voices, some muffled sounds and a short yelp make their way down the empty walls. Bilbo, the ever curious fauntling, decides to go and investigate. Wide green eyes peek around a corner and Bilbo sees the same ginger Dwarf he met earlier between the Scribe’s Guild shelves surrounded by three other, slightly larger, Dwarrow. Poor Ori is backed against the wall clutching the same journal they gushed over just a few hours ago tightly to his chest.

One of the aggressors manages to reach in between Ori’s arms and yank the journal out of his grasp. The smallest Dwarf cries out and reaches to try to take it back. Well, he’s not going to just stand by and let his brand new Dwarf get treated in such a manner. Bilbo has had a year of training under Dwalin and a few extra lessons from some Tooks. A couple of scruffy-looking bullies won't stand a chance. Bilbo grabs a long and sturdy stick and makes his way into trouble.

None of the Dwarrow notice the Hobbit’s approach until the tallest is knocked out with a swift blow to the back of the head. He falls to the ground like a sack of stone with a soft thud. The remaining Dwarrow stare at the fallen in shocked silence. Movement catches their attention and all eyes slowly lift up to see a small Hobbit glaring at the other two bullies. Bilbo makes a small and swift movement to the side and slams his stick into the gut of the second Dwarf. He twists and the makeshift weapon finds its way to the groin of the last standing Dwarf, the one holding the journal. The last of Ori’s tormentors falls to the ground with a wheeze.

Ori stands there stunned, staring at his tormentors writhing on the ground in pain and then the Hobbit standing above them. Bilbo drops his trusty stick and grabs the journal with one hand and one of Ori’s hands with the other and makes his way toward a larger street. The two make their way back the way Bilbo had taken. Ori finally snaps out of his daze as he realizes the Hobbit is leading him to the upper levels of town. The ginger Dwarf pulls Bilbo to a stop with a small cry”H-Hold on.” Bilbo turns and looks up and Ori with a curious frown. He takes in the shaking, sweating palm in his hand and the wide eyes of his new Dwarf.

At first Bilbo thinks its because he still has the other’s journal, so he gives it back with a bright and dimpled smile. Ori, still with wide scared eyes, takes the journal back and huffs out a slightly hysterical laugh. Bilbo tilts his head, wondering why his new Dwarf is still nervous. Dwarf and Hobbit stare into each other's eyes for a silent moment. Ori jumps nearly a foot in the air at the sudden call of two voices, ”Bilbo!!”The two turn and see the mischievous princes running from a winded, red-faced, noble with big smiles on their faces. Fili grabs Ori's hand and Kili grabs Bilbo’s and the four younglings take off deeper into the lower levels.

The two princelings lead their captives through paths and over rubbish in order to escape their latest prank victim. Once they were far enough away that they couldn’t hear the outraged cries of a thoroughly pranked noble, they slow their pace and hide in a tight corner. The small group take a moment to catch their breath, Fili and Kili attempting to hold back giggles as well. Ori was the worst off of the four, panting heavily, red-faced, and very confused. The two princes look up at Ori, Ori looks back at the two princes for a long silent moment.

”Hello, we’re Fili,” Begins the blonde, ”And Kili,” Finishes the younger brother. ”At your service” the two bow together and raise with bright expectant smiles on their faces. ”Uh, uh, Ori.” The three Dwarrow stand in their little corner the sound of their heavy breaths the only noise. Ori notices the high quality of their cloths and his eyes shoot up to their heads and he takes in the braids of the two royals. The young scholarly Dwarf instantly returns to his anxious state from before.

Ori jumps again and releases a rather embarrassing squeak as Bilbo sidles closer and cuddles into his side with a dimpled smile. He notices the Durin braid in the Hobbit’s curls too. Fili and Kili watch their Hobbit shower the new Dwarf with attention. The two princes take a moment to wait and see Bilbo’s next move. They have seen this pattern before and wait until Bilbo decides the fate of the new Dwarf. After a few moments and the Hobbit continues to give Ori positive attention, Fili and Kili give each other a knowing look.

Bilbo is an excellent judge of character and has on multiple occasions pointed out nasty folk. The only difficulty they have is that the Hobbit acts the same way toward mean and nice Dwarrow at first. So the family has become accustomed to waiting a few extra moments for Bilbo to determine if he really likes someone or not. The princes look back and see their little Hobbit still happily clinging to the red-headed Dwarf. Meanwhile, Ori continues to stutter with nerves due to being in the presence of royalty and mildly embarrassed about the Hobbit snuggling into his side.

Fili and Kili take the moment to look around and take in their location. Their eyes sweep over rotting wood, broken crates, and rusty pieces of metalwork strewn about. The two look back to each other as they come to the same decision:they were lost. They check in on their Hobbit to see that he is still cuddling close to Ori, but now he has that special twinkle in his eye that he usually sends to his favorite Dwarrow. Fili and Kili send each other a grin.

Suddenly the two have on arm over each of Ori’s shoulders. ”So, Ori you said your name was” Fili began on the new Dwarf’s right. ”Good name, yeah,” Kili added to his left. ”You wouldn’t happen to live nearby would you?” Fili continues. ”You see, we need to lay low for a bit. Just until close to dinner time.” Kili begins to tug Ori out of their small corner. ”It’s just for a few hours, then we will be out of your hair.” The two have mastered talking in parts and effortlessly command the conversation in their favor.

Ori is completely swept away by the two princes’ pace, ”Uh, Yeah, just, uh a-a few blocks that way. Woah-” he points to the left and is nearly dragged down the path by the two. The trio is suddenly stopped by Bilbo as he frowns at Fili and Kili with a grumpy Hobbit face. The Hobbit reaches up and removes the two’s arms from Ori and climbs onto his back instead. Ori quickly grabs Bilbo’s legs to support his weight on his back. The ginger Dwarf freezes while the Hobbit settles on his new perch. Fili and Kili take a step back and take in the image. They knew that Bilbo hated being the smallest around and had taken to climbing on the back or shoulders of others.

”Well, now that Bilbo’s settled,” Fili turns back to the road. ”We can get going then.” Kili finishes and turns as well. Ori stumbles a little with the added weight to his back, but ends up in the front of the group to lead the way, still unsure as to when he had agreed to all this. As they travel, Fili and Kili fill the silence with mindless chatter about everything they could think of. Bilbo stays on Ori’s back and keeps a sharp eye out for any more possible threats to his Dwarrow.

The small group makes it to a ramshackle shack and Ori pauses with uncertainty. He needs to reach into his pocket for his keys, but he isn’t sure if he is allowed to put Bilbo down. Sensing his distress, the Hobbit hops off his perch and settles at his side. Ori nervously fumbles for his keys and ends up dropping one of them. He apologizes with a stutter, but before he could pick it up, Bilbo already has it and smiles up at him reassuringly. Ori takes the key back and his heart slows down slightly at the sight of the Hobbit’s smile.

He uses the two keys to open the lock and turns back with a small smile. ”My brother, Nori, designed the lock. You need both keys at the same time, so it's harder to pick. And since there are two keys, if someone steals one, they still wont get in.” There was a lot of pride in the scholarly Dwarf’s voice as he talked about his brother. The door opens and Ori leads the rest into his small house. His cheeks begin to redden in embarrassment at the lack of… stuff in his home. ”uh, Dori is still working o-over in the Weaver’s Guild rooms, and Nori usually stays out for days at a time, so, uh, we have the place to ourselves.”

Ori watches as the two princes take in his extremely modest home. Bilbo, however has kept his eyes on him the entire time with his dimpled smile. He blushes and turns to the small kitchenette to look for the tea set Dori keeps around for guests. They have never had guests before, but his eldest brother said it's always good to be prepared. Ori opens a cabinet and turns to look at his three guests still standing at the entrance, ”Sorry for the, uh, mess. We haven’t really had guests before, and tomorrow is our shopping day so I don’t really have any snacks to offer.” His voice trails off towards the end.

Ori straightens as he finds the old, copper-colored tea set. He sighs in relief at seeing four cups and grabs the tray. ”That’s all right.” Kili starts making his way further into the one room building. ”Yeah, we have enough tidbits to last us a while. All courtesy of Bilbo, of course.” Fili follows up and enters too. They all pause at the high pitched squeal from the single Hobbit in the room. Three set of eyes quickly flash to the source and Bilbo runs across the floor on quiet feet and slides to a stop next to Ori. Bright green eyes gaze lovingly at the tea pot and tin of tea leaves and he releases a small squeak.

The Dwarrow look to Bilbo and the tea tray back and forth a few moments in concern before Fili and Kili slap a hand on their foreheads as realization hits them at the same time. They have had Bilbo for a year and for some reason they completely forgot the well known fact that Hobbit absolutely love tea. The thought to get him a tea set never occurred to any of the Durins. Bilbo meanwhile continues to smile happily up at Ori and down at the tea set, excited to finally have a good cuppa after going over a year without. He doesn’t begrudge his new family for not providing the warm beverage. Bilbo has spent most of his time adjusting to his new life so he hasn’t found himself missing tea as much as he thought he would. Seeing the tea set in front of him, though, reawakened his desire.

“I can’t believe we forgot for a year.” Kili’s breathless voice breaks the silence and Ori shoots his gaze to the younger prince in hopes he will provide the answer to the Hobbit’s behavior. ”Good thing we met you, or we probably wouldn’t have noticed for longer.” Fili added unhelpfully. Ori is getting more concerned with the bafflement of the two princes in his home while the Hobbit continues to look up at him with expectant happiness. ”What is it!?” Ori’s concern is turning to fearful impatience.

The two princes give each other another look, and Fili finally enlightens their new friend. ”We don't have any tea at our house.” Kili adds in, ”And I don’t think we have taken Bilbo to a place that has tea either.” The Hobbit causing such turmoil just places his hand over one of Ori’s holding the tray and flashes him the brightest green eyes. The ginger Dwarf sets his jaw and turns to the kitchen counter. He tries to recall the process his eldest brother showed him once for how to make a great cuppa. Fili and Kili make their way closer to the other two and observe Ori as he puts water into the kettle and turns on his stove.

The ginger Dwarf turns around and startles at the three sets of eyes focused entirely on him. ”Uh, The water needs to heat.” The princes nod seriously as if Ori just bestowed sage advice to them. ”Then, uh, you put the leaves in… this thing” Ori continues, searches and finds the strainer. He holds it out to the other two Dwarrow and then opens the tea tin. Bilbo watches with a warm heart as his new Dwarf fumbles around with the utensils and Fili and Kili look on like they are in a very important life lesson. They may be a bit clumsy, but they are his and he wouldn’t have them any other way.

After a few more moments of fumbling and pauses, the four are sat down at the small table each with a tea cup and snacks strewn about. Ori looks very proud of himself for his tea making accomplishment. Fili and Kili are looking at their cups as they contemplate the craft that is tea. Bilbo is holding his cup close and inhales the steam coming off the hot liquid. It is just a basic camomile, but after so long without, it smelled like ambrosia to the small Hobbit.

”So, Ori, what do you do all day?” Kili breaks the silence after he sees Bilbo take his first sip of tea. Both princes are rather curious about the new Dwarf their little Hobbit has taken to cuddling. Ori startles at the sound, remembering he is not the only one in the room. ”oh, uh, we-well not much, I guess. I usually study, or write, or draw.” He trails off, the last word barely audible. Fili flashes their new friend a small smile, ”No need to be so nervous. We are the guests in your home.” The young ginger Dwarf releases a heavy sigh.

All three Dwarrow jump slightly as Bilbo drops a journal between Fili and Kili, opening it up to a page with a brilliantly detailed drawing of the runes on the front gate of the mountain city. The princes admire the drawing for a long moment while Ori just gapes and wonders how Bilbo managed to get the journal and to the other side of the table so quickly without any of them noticing. After a moment, Ori’s embarrassment returns at having others look at his work.

It is so strong, in fact, that Ori forgets his nerves and quickly reaches across the table to take the journal back. Fili and Kili, both from their penchant for pranks and professional training, are quick enough to pull the journal back out of the other’s reach and turn pages to continue appraising the work within the journal. Ori jumps out of his chair and rounds the table, intent on retrieving his journal. Well, Fili and Kili are not ones to give up, so they also step away from the table in order to keep the journal and continue looking through the pages. Ori ends up chasing the two around the room, over the scarce furniture and bumping into walls.

Fili and Kili expertly pass the journal between each other and keep it just out of Ori’s reach while discussing the contents. Fili starts with, ”This is amazing artwork” He passes the journal to Kili that responds ”Excellent penmanship.” Another pass. ”Like you would know, Kee. What with your chicken scratch.” This time the handoff is accompanied by a shove. ”As if you’re one to talk, Fee. Sir can’t tell the difference between a goat and a minecart.” The next throw was deliberately sent toward a head. ”That’s just because your drawing is just as bad as your letters.” Then the two fall to the ground wrestling each other as siblings do after insults reach a certain point.

During the entire chase and exchange, Bilbo sits at the table slowly sipping his tea and enjoying watching his young Dwarrow play with each other. The journal lays open and forgotten next to the two rowdy Dwarrow. Ori rushes to the journal’s rescue. He grabs both princes by the backs of their shirts and tosses them across the small room. Fili and Kili have three full seconds of air time to realize they were just tossed quite easily by their new friend. Ori quickly grabs his journal and holds it close to his chest with a slight pout at its treatment. ”I’ll have you know that this is my personal journal, so please be respectful and treat it with care.”

Fili and Kili sit where they fell stunned for a few moments. Bilbo is near bursting with a wide smile that he has found someone outside the family that can handle his two boys. The Hobbit cheerfully skips toward the ginger Dwarf, and gives him a tight hug nuzzling into his side. The princes gape at Bilbo feeling offended that he chose to reward the other for throwing them around like a sack of stone. The Hobbit just gives them a look and leads Ori back to his place at the table to enjoy their by now cool tea. Fili is the first to get up and back to his spot, Kili soon to follow.

The small group drinks their tea and nibbles on their snacks. The conversation ends up mostly consisting of Fili and Kili chattering away with Ori providing small comments or input occasionally. The tea and snacks are finished off in short time and Bilbo’s internal clock alerts him that it is nearing the time for dinner. Dis should have already started cooking and will be wondering where the boys are soon. Bilbo gets up from his spot, more obviously this time so as to not startle the rest. The Dwarrow all watch as he makes his way to the other side of the table and grab one hand from Fili and Kili. Green eyes look up at blue and brown for a moment. Bilbo then gives a slight tug at the hands he is currently holding signifying them to move.

The princes get up from their chairs still looking at their Hobbit with confusion. Bilbo just smiles at them and then leads the two to the door. ”Okay then. Looks like Bilbo is telling us it’s time to go?” Fili more asks than states. Kili calls out over his shoulder, ”It was nice meeting you! We should do this again sometime, or you could come to our house!” Ori follows them a few steps behind and nods shyly, though he doubts the princes would bother with someone like him more than once. Just before the door could close behind the leaving trio, Bilbo jumps back in to give Ori one last hug. The Hobbit is sure to rub his face into the ginger Dwarf’s side to show how much he cares for his new friend.

Bilbo could see the self deprecating smile revealing exactly how his new Dwarf feels about himself and vows to love and protect him just like his Durins. It doesn’t matter to the Hobbit that Ori is at least two heads taller, most likely several decades older, and clearly much physically stronger. Ori is now one of Bilbo’s Dwarrow and he will perform all of his Hobbit duties to the best of his abilities for his Family.

Chapter Text

The mountain can get quite dark once the sun goes down and most of the furnaces have been banked until work starts the next day. It is nearly black as pitch with only a few candles burning for those few still awake at the late hour. Bilbo, despite being nearly night blind, swiftly makes his way through the lower levels of Ered Luin without difficulty. In the almost half year since meeting his newest Dwarf, Ori, the Hobbit has made it a point to use his expert stealth skills to sneak out and visit. Occasionally, he would bring snacks for the mousy Dwarf, not enough for Dis to take notice and even less after Ori refused to eat too many. He said he simply couldn’t accept so much of someone else’s hard earned food. Bilbo pouted quite a bit after that wishing he could explain to the Dwarf just how significant it is for a Hobbit to offer their food.

Bilbo makes the final turn onto Ori’s street and the rickety two story wooden house comes into view. He sees the candle in the second floor window signaling that the Dwarf is still awake and most likely studying to take the Scribe’s Guild exam. He doesn’t see any other lights or shadows in the house. Bilbo still wonders if Ori really has these two brothers he keeps talking about, or if they were made up in order to not worry the others. Before he gets half way down the path, Bilbo hears some shuffling feet and angry grumbling.

He pauses for a moment to try to figure out where the sound is coming from and hears a soft thump to his left. The unintelligible grumbling continues, but the shuffling feet stop. There must be a Dwarf down the dark path. Bilbo decides to follow the noises using his sneaky Hobbit skills. He might be curious, but he has learned to be cautious during his time in Ered Luin.

Green eyes glance from behind a corner and spot a very ragged Dwarf leaning against a crate with his head lowered. He is grumbling a few curses about the cruelty of fate and despair for his friends. Then he continues on his way, stumbling and grumbling. Bilbo decides to follow him in case the Dwarf may hurt himself, or worse, others. It isn’t very difficult to follow him. The Dwarf walks slowly and stumbles a few times all the while still slurring his words.

Bofur had gone and drunk himself stupid for the third day in a row. The pain of losing so many of his work-mates, his good friends, too much for his heart to bear. The worst part was that he had told the foreman, tried to warn him that the tunnel was losing its structural integrity and could collapse any day. He knew stone better than he knew himself. Instead of heeding his warning, the foreman fired him and spread a rumor that he was losing his sense from cave fumes. So not even his friends believed him when he tried to warn them. Guilt, rather than anger, consumed him. Bofur believing that he should have done more or tried harder to save his friends.

Bilbo takes some time to really observe the Dwarf he is following. He takes in the funny looking floppy hat, the absolutely filthy rags he’s using as cloths that look like they could use a good wash at least a month ago. Bilbo makes his way a little closer to inspect more details. He notices Bofur’s hands are caked in soot and dirt, but there are very interesting calluses on them. Bilbo looks up at the Dwarf. So wrapped up in greif, Bofur doesn’t even notice the Hobbit standing close enough to touch.

Bilbo looks up into the Dwarf’s face. He takes in the rosy cheeks and deep laugh lines along his eyes. This is definitely a face that is more suited toward laughter than the tears currently streaming down his chin. This close, Bilbo can smell the alcohol on Bofur’s breath. He can understand the mumbled words better at the closer distance, ” ‘S’all my fult.” Another stumble. ”I shoulda been thr’. Coulda… coulda done… I dun know… somthn.” He leans against the wall. ”Wha’ the bloody use is Stone Sense iffin’ nobody lizns to ya.” Bilbo sneaks a little closer. It is clear this Dwarf has recently experienced a terrible tragedy.

Bilbo belatedly notices the mattock over the other’s shoulder. The metal end nearly completely hidden under the dirty and unkempt hair and ragged clothing. He adds all the information together and determines correctly that Bofur belonged to the mining crew that was in the cave-in earlier that week. Bilbo’s heart goes out to the Dwarf. His own family has been mourning the deaths of over half the crew that went into that mine. The Dwarf must have lost some close friends to the cave-in. The honest grief in his face breaks Bilbo’s heart and he decides to try to cheer him up.

The Hobbit reaches up and touches Bofur’s elbow to alert him of his presence. He quickly turns around and the Dwarf’s face is the embodiment of sorrow, fear, and slight anger. After not finding any other Dwarrow in the alley, he shifts his gaze downward. Bilbo gives him his best and most soothing, open and welcoming smile. The Dwarf’s face crumbles even more and he painfully drops to his knees. The next thing Bilbo knows Bofur is sobbing into his shoulder. The small Hobbit stands in shock for a few moments and then shakes sense back into himself. Bilbo starts to path Bofur’s back soothingly and gently coos into his hair.

The two slowly sink lower to the ground and end up leaning against the wall of the nearest building. Bofur’s full-bodied sobs shake them both violently in their crouch. Bilbo lets him cry the pain out for a while, but then he gets a small cramp in his side. The Hobbit gently leads Bofur to sit cross legged against the wall and places himself in the other’s lap. A spot Bilbo has found very enjoyable. Bofur cries while holding the small Hobbit in his arms and Bilbo just holds him in return. After a short time, Bofur begins to calm down. The tears are still falling, but his breaths have somewhat evened out.

”I-I jus knew th’ mine waz gunna’ give.” Bofur begins to tell Bilbo his woes. Talking to Hobbits is a common method for Dwarrow in the mountain to deal with their problems. It is a great way for the Dwarrow to unload and they really feel the creatures care without having the fear of someone using their vulnerable states for personal gain. The Hobbits on the other hand do understand their troubles and they all work together to try to help who ever felt pained enough to discuss their problems with a supposed animal. ”Ther; wz a weaknin’ fault near th’ tunnel ruf.” Bofur continues.

”I c-could senz it. The weak’ned st-stone. I’ve got-got Stone Senz, ya know?” Bofur takes a deep breath and his next words are barely a whisper, ”I jus’ knew it waz goin’ to clapse an’ anyone in there wazn't gettin’ out .” More tears fall from the Dwarf’s face. Bilbo just sits there and lets the Dwarf release his stress. Before too long, Bofur starts up again. ”I tred to tell the ‘freman. Tred ta tell ‘im it wazn’t safe.” Another sob shakes the two. ”But ‘e wouldn’t lizzen.” Bilbo tries to rock them both, but struggles with his small size. Bofur seems to catch on though and accepts the gentle motions.

Bofur manages to calm down a bit more and continues, ”I ‘ven tried to warn mah mates, but the freman fired me zayin’ I waz gone on the fooms. Nobody’d lizzen ta me.” He tightens his grip on Bilbo. ”But th’ thing iz… I’m nat really zure they wouldda ‘ave lizzened to me anyways, wha’ with how work is so hard ta find now’days. All of us zimple folk are deaperate for the work.” Bofur paused in his tale. Bilbo brought up a hand to start stroking his hair. Dwarven hair is considered very personal and only close family are allowed to handle it, but that social rule doesn’t really apply to the small folk. He hardly understands the drunken slur, but doesn’t quite care at the moment.

The tender touch seems to calm Bofur down even more. ”An’ now… so many of my friendsz iz gon’. The Iron mine clapsed an’ now the st’blaty of the two emald and near ruby minez iz all in dan’ger.” Bofur’s voice is raspy from all the crying he has done. ”They ‘ave to be zut down or further damage will be done to the mountain.” Bofur thinks about all the Dwarrow that have lost their lives and all the others that will now be out of work. The tears return and Bilbo frowns at how much pain the other is in to cry so much. ”I jus’ keep thinkin’ I should have done zomethin’ more, ya know? If i’dda tried harder, maybe… maybe they wouldn’ta died.” Bofur’s words get clearer as his crying manages to sober the Dwarf slightly.

Bilbo knows that survivor’s guilt is a powerful thing. He isn’t sure he knows how to help that. Bofur suddenly releases a chuckle that sounds more like a wheeze. ”Ya know, my craf’ is actually toy makin’. Nothin’ to do with stone.” He finally makes eye contact with the Hobbit and flashes him a pained smile. ”I love minin’ and all, the feel of stone smooth ‘neath my hands and solid ‘neath my bootz.” There is a sudden small light barely twinkling in Bofur’s brown eyes. ”But toy making and tinkerin’, now that just lights the forge of mah heart to a burnin’ inferno.” His voice is almost reverent as he mentions his Craft.

His slight spark of happiness is swiftly wiped away. ”But… iz not that easy gettin’ by on toy makin’ alone. We Dwarrow don’t have lotza kids even in good times. And it’s not just me. I got a’ older cousin, ‘is name’s Bifur. He’s got this axe in ‘is head. Nobody’d take it out, said its to dangerous. Somethin’ about the metal holding the blood back, I don’t know. Bifur’s not all there most of the time and the headaches can get real bad. He needs all sorts of medicines, but we can only ‘afford a few at a time.”Bofur cuddles closer to the Hobbit in his arms.

”And then there’s mah brother, Bombur. The guy is such a sweetheart and ‘es got his eyes on a lovely little lass. ‘E makes scrap wages at a rundown inn at the Lower Levels as a cook.” Bofur’s eyes get a far away look and a tiny smile plays at the corner of his lips. ”But that’s a’right. I wouldn’t want him anywhere else. Ya see, cooking, baking an’ all that is his Craft. He loves anythin’ and everythin’ to do with food an’ the like.” Bofur releases a heavy sigh and sinks lower to the ground. Bilbo continues to pet the Dwarf, not knowing what else he could do to help calm the other down. ”It warms my heart seein’ at least one of us bein’ able to follow their dream.”

The two sit there in the dark completely silent for a few long moments. ”It’s all just been too much. Too much for one little ol’ me to handle. I just don’ know what to do anymore. I spent the last of my coin gettin’ flat drunk. What’s that say about me?” Bofur huffs out a weak laugh, more of an exhale really. Bilbo just sits and listens to everything Bofur has to say, all the while the gears turning in his head and the foundation of a plan forming. Dwarf and Hobbit continue to sit in silence as Bofur begins to calm down. The presence of the small creature in his arms a soothing balm to his battered soul.

Once it seems like Bofur is fighting falling asleep in the ally, Bilbo shifts his position and leans up to press their foreheads together. The Dwarf’s eyes shift up to look into the calm and loving face of the Hobbit trying to convey that everything will be alright without words. Bofur manages to huff out a more genuine laugh at the softness of the Hobbit’s face. ”Well, at least someone cares for a screw up like me.” Bilbo decides, right then and there, that this Dwarf is too good, too precious, to leave alone. He gently bumps his nose with Bofur’s, bringing another laugh from the pained Dwarf. Bofur gets enough of an energy boost from that small gesture to stand up again.

”Thanks little one, for listenin’ to this poor Dwarf cry.” Bofur pats Bilbo’s head once and turns to head back home still stumbling a bit. He knows he is going to have a headache tomorrow, both from the excessive drinking and crying. Bilbo follows him in the shadows to makes sure he gets home safely. The walk was short and quiet and Bofur stands outside his door for a few moments before he gets the courage to knock. There is some shuffling from inside and the door opens to reveal a very rotund Dwarf with an impressive reddish beard. Bilbo watches the new Dwarf capture Bofur in a powerful hug and turns to make his own way home. All the while plans are forming in the young Hobbit’s mind.

Inside the small, rickety home, Bofur is getting lovingly crushed by his only brother. Bombur is the one crying now. His suffocating fear for the safety of his brother turning into boneless relief. It wouldn’t have been so overpowering if it was just another one of Bofur’s over enthusiastic trips to a tavern. The social Dwarf well known for his drunken overnight stays where ever he ends up passed out. This time, though Bofur had been gone for three days with no word, and his family had been terrified of his possible fate. Bofur just hugs his brother back knowing he is the cause of Bombur’s tears. ”I-I thought you-… I heard about the cave-in and I…” Bombur’s voice is soft but no less emotional.

”Yeah, I’m sorry.” More guilt fills Bofur’s chest making it even harder to breathe. Sound from the other side of the room causes them to break their hug just far enough away to look. Bifur enters the room muttering in ancient Khuzdul. When his eyes land on Bofur, though, they clear up more than the two brothers have seen in a long time. There is still some haze in the injured Dwarf’s eyes, but he clearly recognized the two. Bifur joins the hug and the three just rock and enjoy each other’s presence. The feeling of family warming them up from the inside. The moment ends slowly and Bombur makes a midnight snack with warm milk to help them sleep. Later, Bofur lies on his thin mattress thinking about his brother and cousin and the love they all share. He drifts off to barely there memories of soft copper colored curls and gentle green eyes.

Bilbo had made it all the way to the Upper levels and into his home unnoticed by anyone, not even the guards. It wasn’t their fault though, the royal Hobbit more than adept at sneaking past the rotations. He released a silent yawn as he pads across the main room floor and into his room with Fili and Kili. Bilbo climbs his way onto the bed and slides back between the two boys. The princes barely stir, more than used to Bilbo’s occasional nighttime adventures. The three young boys rearrange themselves slightly and settle into their little cuddle pile for the rest of the night.

The morning arrives with little fanfare. Most of the mountain residents are still grieving the loss of the miners and the fear of lost wealth with the collapse of one mine and the ultimate shutting down of three others. Bofur wakes up with the expected headache but somehow lighter than he has felt in a long time. Bombur left a light breakfast on the table to help with the hang over and left for his early morning shift. Bofur smiles at the show of affection and happily digs in with gusto. He finishes up the meal in short time and sets out to the mining district in hopes of finding a new job. Bofur doubts he will have much luck, but knows he at least has to try.

On the other side of the mountain city, the royals of Durin’s folk are also getting ready for the day, though with less optimism. Thorin solemnly sits at the table reading over the speech he had prepared for the several guilds effected by the cave-in. Bilbo glances at his Dwarf over his shoulder while cleaning dishes. It was another long battle with Dis for him to help with some of the house chores, but he was victorious in the end. Bilbo is only allowed to dry dishes and fold clothes, for now.

All of the other Hobbits around made sure to let him know to slowly start getting more responsibility around the house. That way he can show them his increasing maturity and it opens his family to the idea that he can have more responsibilities. More responsibilities means Bilbo will have more opportunities to help out his family. It is a diplomatic day for the main Durins. They are all dressed in their best with their braids oiled and pinned to perfection. Even Bilbo was dressed in his formalwear and his Durin braid held together with many pins to keep the riotous curls in place.

The tragedy affected more than just the miners. The other citizens of Ered Luin have become restless with the news of closing extra mines due to structural instability of the mining section as a whole. It is the duty of the Durins to calm their fears and act to reestablish what has been lost. They are planning on giving a speech to honor the dead and tell the public that they will be opening a Day Labor program for those that lost their job until they can find something more permanent. Dis checks everyone at the door to make sure they all look their part.

Once everyone is settled, they head out to meet with Balin and the Royal Guard. Everyone is well dressed and well polished for the day. They all march out like an elite parade to the mining district, all with their heads held high and backs straight. They arrive at a temporary stage and file in with Thorin towards the front, Dis behind him to the left and Balin to the right. Dwalin stands off to the side scanning the area for any potential threats. Fili, Kili and Bilbo stood further back almost out of sight of the crowd already forming in front of them. Bofur is in with the rest of the crowd both eager and anxious in the presence of the royals.

Thorin begins his speech. His voice powerful and his bearing regal. Everyone watched with bated breath and held onto every word. Bilbo has heard many of Thorin’s speeches, yet he too is captured with awe every time. This continues on until the speech concludes. The hall is silent for a long moment before it is slowly filled with agreeable muttering. The situation was bad, there was no getting around that. It seemed though that the leaders of Ered Luin has managed to find at least a favorable solution for most.

Most of the audience begins to slowly return to their regular day each a little lighter hearted than when they woke up. The rest stay in the hall to wait for the official that will assist them with signing up for the Day Labor program their King just spoke of, Bofur among them. Bilbo’s eyes roamed the room. Now that their formal duties were completed, him and the boys would be free for the rest of the day. Green eyes land on the sad Dwarf he met last night and immediately sets one of his plans into action.

Bilbo dashes out from behind the line of guards and through the royals. He leaps from the stage and lands in a crouch. Many turn their attention to the small Hobbit as he charges into the crowd with a bright grin. Thorin calls out after him, ”Bilbo Back.” Said Hobbit ignores him in favor of getting to his newest Dwarf. Bofur can only stand in shock as he watches the Hobbit he vaguely remembers cuddling last night charge toward him. Bilbo crashes into his legs, ”Oh, Good. I managed to find you so soon. That makes everything easier.” The rest just watch as the small Hobbit grabs Bofur’s hand and leads him back to the stage with the rest of his Dwarrow. To do what, he hasn’t gotten there yet with his plan.

The crowd of Dwarrow part to make way for the Hobbit-Dwarf pair while the Durins just watch to see what their little Bilbo is up to this time. Once directly in front of the stage, Bilbo proceeds to climb Bofur and settle on his shoulders. Mostly to show his Durins that he likes the Dwarf, but also so he can cuddle up to the floppy hat on his head. Thorin watches the Hobbit’s behavior with a regally raised brow. His ice blue eyes slowly take in the ragged looking Dwarf in front of him. In one swift motion, Thorin steps from the raised stage to the ground without taking his eyes of the other.

”Who might you be?” Thorin asks in his deep, rumbling voice holding no less authority with its quieter volume. He must admit to himself that he is quite curious with Bilbo’s sudden attachment to a seemingly random Dwarf in the crowd. It is, however, well known amongst the Durins that their Hobbit often singles out seemingly random Dwarrow that turn out to be either very shady or very friendly. Only time will tell Thorin which one the Dwarf in front of him is. Bofur stood with his spine ramrod straight and used one hand to hold the Hobbit steady on his shoulders. Nerves begin to choke the hatted Dwarf and he barely manages to choke out his own name.

Thorin furrows his brows slightly as a memory tickles the back of his mind. Before he could chase it down to its source, the Mining Guild’s Iron foreman shoves his way toward the two with a thunderous look on his face. ”Kafim, son of Farim, pleaser to see you again.” He begins and goes to push Bofur away from the King. ”Please do not concern yourself with this one, your Majesty. He’s- ffwwaah.” He gets cut off by a Hobbit kick to the face. ”You had your chance. He’s mine now.” Bilbo uses his higher vantage point to glare down at the foreman.

”Bofur” Thorin mutters quietly trying to recall why the name sounds familiar. ”Please do not concern yourself, your majesty.” Kafim continues as though he wasn’t just face-checked by a Hobbit. ”Bofur here has lost all sense in his head. The fumes in the deep caverns can be a cruel thing. Stone Sense don’t help much after you’ve lost all sense.” Bofur presses his lips into a thin line, Now, see ‘ere-.” He’s interrupted by the foreman harshly pushing his chest. Bilbo again kicks the offending Dwarf being rude to his new Family member.

”Stone Sense.” Thorin’s low rumble causes the others in the small group to turn to him. His face lights up as the memory of the name surfaces. Thorin’s blue eyes focus on Bofur who stiffens at the attention, ”You were the one that sent in the petition to close an Iron Mine at least a month ago. The one that collapsed.” Bofur blushes a little in embarrassment that his little petition had been remembered by someone so important. ”I had forgotten about that in all the grief of the tragedy.” Now his piercing gaze roots the foreman to his spot. ”In fact, now that I do remember, I approached you for consideration of said petition.” Thorin Oakenshield is known for many things. One of which is his glare that could not quite kill a person but powerful enough to make them feel like it. He levels that glare to the foreman now.

Several of the Royal Guard move to block off any escape, but it is not really necessary since Kafim is petrified to his spot. ”I remember now that you assured me the mine was stable enough for a few more decades yet.” Thorin’s voice is more of a growl now. Bofur is infinitely glad that attention is not directed at him. Bilbo, however is paying more attention to the floppy hat in front of him, confident that Thorin can handle the situation to his satisfaction. Kafim tries to stutter out a few excuses, but is cut off by Thorin’s sharp voice, “Dwalin!” The burly Dwarf takes a step forward to stand by his King’s side. ”See to it that this greedy filth is punished for his actions.”

Kafim is grabbed by two of the Guards, one on each arm. The Iron foreman begins to struggle and growls out, ”You can’t do this!! I didn’t do anything!!” Immediately, Thorin grabs the front of his shirt and gets in close to his face. The pure venom in the King’s voice could melt diamond. ”Exactly. Many good Dwarrow died and we lost an important part of our already struggling economy because. You. Did. NOTHING!!” He shoves the Dwarf away from him and the Guards drag Kafim away kicking and yelling. Dwalin follows behind, his own glower in place.

Thorin takes a moment to compose himself. Guilt and grief battling for dominance. Someone had turned in a petition to close that mine and because he chose to trust the word of one over the other lives were lost. Jobs were lost, Dwarrow were injured, and who knows how long it will take to recover physically, emotionally and economically. The crowd begins to dissipate. Gossip already beginning to spread about the revelation. Thorin can only hope that he is not put under too terrible of a light in the aftermath. He knows he can trust Dis and Balin on that front. The two much better at dealing with the public than Thorin.

Bright blue eyes return to Bofur. He is quite distracted trying to hold onto his hat while the Hobbit on his shoulders tries to take it. Once the hatted (for now, if Bilbo has anything to say about it) Dwarf notices his King’s gaze on him once again, he straightens up and his eyes widen. Bilbo successfully manages to capture the hat for himself in his distraction. Thorin inclines his head slightly toward the other Dwarf. ”I apologize for my failure in judgement. I should have followed up on that petition better than I did.” Bofur is already trying to shrug off the apology, but his waving hands almost unbalance the Hobbit on his shoulders, so he stops.

”N-No, ‘S alright, your, uh, your majesty. I wouldn’ta listened to me either, so.” Bofur stops at Thorin’a raised hand. ”No. You are a Dwarf of great note. Stone Sense is a precious gift. One that should not be ignored.” Bofur begins to blush a bit at the praise. “Balin.” The graying Dwarf steps up to be even with his King in a motion similar to his brother earlier. ”I do believe we are now short one foreman. This is Bofur. Make sure he has everything he needs to fill that position.” Balin nods his head to his King and addresses said Dwarf. ”I shall need to get some papers drafted, a contract written up, of course, as well as a few other things for you to sign. Can you meet me in the Scribe’s Offices tomorrow around noon?” Bofur can only nod dumbly still unsure if this is actually happening or if he really has lost his sense on fumes and is dreaming all this. Never in his life did he think he would be speaking to the King, let alone get offered a high position directly from the Dwarf.

He tilts his head up to look at the Hobbit currently smiling smugly down at him. Bilbo knew he was a great Dwarf. One worthy of becoming his Family. He didn’t know about the petition and he still has difficulty understanding the term ‘Stone Sense’, but he must have some sort of ‘Dwarf Sense’ to be able to pick out all the good ones. Bofur is still confused how the Hobbit on his shoulders drew the attention of the King. He knows that Hobbits are well liked and able to understand their situation better than other creatures. Just that doesn’t explain why Thorin would approach. A sharp whistle breaks Bofur out of his musings.

The call from Thorin caused his eyes to widen. ”Bilbo Here.” The Hobbit replaces the floppy hat onto the Dwarf’s head and easily hops off his perch. Bilbo sends one last look to the gobsmacked Dwarf and takes off to follow his Durins. Bofur can only stand there in complete shock as realization hits him like a war hammer.

Last night he cried on and cuddled with the Royal Hobbit.

Chapter Text

It is quite loud in the shopping district of the Upper Levels. Sounds of goods and coin passing hands and the deep rumbling voices as customers and merchants haggled prices. Dis is out shopping in the hectic chaos with her two sons and Bilbo. Despite being called the shopping district, it really is just one long hall lined with wooden stall fronts backed with stone buildings. The small group of Durins have been out running errands for a few hours and Fili and Kili have more than had enough.

Bilbo on the other hand enjoys his little outings with his Family. It gives him a chance to show off his close relationship with his Dwarrow to the other Hobbits. It is a matter of pride to show off how cuddly a Hobbit could get with their Family in public. Dwarrow being less affectionate with an audience than in the home. A low yet jovial voice causes the three Durins to stiffen, the lady of them less so with her years of diplomatic experience, ”Dis, good to see ya, and the boys too.”. Bilbo has lived with his new Family for almost two years now, but he has yet to ever hear that voice and by the looks of it it was more self preservation than any intentional secrecy.

Bilbo turns to see the approaching form of Gloin, a banker. The Hobbit thinks he might have seen the Dwarf before in passing, but nothing of note struck him to behave the way his Durins currently are. Dis, Fili and Kili, though are more than acquainted with Gloin and his mildly annoying habit of sharing each and every notably and trivial thing about his young son Gimli. Gimli is hardly more than a toddler, yet his father manages to sing praise on every little thing. Most Dwarrow love and adore their children, but Gloin regularly goes far beyond the normal scope of praise.

Before he can start on his usual rant about his son, Gloin’s eyes land on Bilbo. The two stare at each other for a few moments and the red haired Dwarf breaks the silence, ”Well, I don’t think I have had the chance to meet with this little one.” Gloin crouches down to be eye level with the Hobbit. ”Oh, but I have heard so much about you. It is a pleasure to finally meet.” Bilbo just tilts his head and accepts the head pat. He has accepted his role as a peacemaker for his Durins to better deal with irritating Dwarrow and sees the situation now as such.

Fili and Kili give each other a look and know they are thinking the same thing. They believe a little payback is in order for all the times they had to stand there listening to the older Dwarf ramble on. The two younger Dwarrow step up to each side of Bilbo. ”Well, you know,” Fili begins and Kili follows up with, ”Bilbo here is better than just your average Hobbit.” The two begin to regale Gloin with all of Bilbo’s skills and talents in their back and forth speech pattern they enjoy so much. They talk about their Hobbit’s adventures and his ability to pick out traitors or friends from a crowd. The two move on to describing Bilbo’s abilities in combat and how he can understand more words than most Hobbits his age. Fili and Kili finish up with the story of how Bilbo bravely fights off assassins and bullies.

Their enthusiastic praise of Bilbo starts to fade as Gloin doesn’t seem to have the desired reaction. In fact, he looks to be enjoying their tales, nodding along and providing appropriate noises at certain times. ”Yes, haha” Gloin begins with a belly laugh, ”That certainly sounds amazing. Your little Bilbo must be an excellent Hobbit among Hobbits, the best even. He can fight so bravely. He must be very smart and have really good eyes.” At the end of his praise, he pokes Bilbo’s nose lightly.

Fili and Kil quickly lose interest in their on the spot prank seeing as it is having no effect on their intended target. Gloin stands back up still chuckling, ”Ya, know. That reminds me of what little Gimli did the other day.” The Durins all straighten at the foreboding words. Fili and Kili take the second Gloin’s attention is on their mother to creep backward and make their escape. Dis’ eyes shift to where her two boys were just a moment ago and thinks to herself that she taught them well. They know when to make a tactical retreat in the face of a powerful enemy.

Bilbo looks back and watches the boys run toward the east side where he knows the War Goats are kept. The three love to play with the younger goats on days off. Just as Fili and Kili make the last turn for their shortcut to the Goat pens they both pause at the strange sight. Two rather suspicious Dwarrow are huddled over a very active sack. The princes glance at each other for a moment then back to the image of what is clearly the scene of a crime. Before they can either get closer to investigate or turn to get a guard, Fili falls unconscious with a pained grunt next to Kili. The younger prince barely has enough time to look at his fallen brother before he too is knocked out and falls to the floor.

In the main hall of the district Dis is still listening to Gloin ramble on and on about the shining wonder that is his little Gimli. Bilbo has by now leaned his head against the Dwarrowdam’s hip while she gently pets his head for comfort. Sometimes she thinks the little Hobbit truly understands her stress. ”My little Gimli might be too young to go with the caravan with me in a few days time, but oh, you should see him with his little wooden axe, a natural I say. And he’s just started leaning his Westron words and braiding.” Gloin has been talking for nearly fifteen minutes and Bilbo starts to wonder if this Dwarf even needs to breathe. Dis simply keeps her pleasant smile and nods where needed.

”Gimli might not be old enough for the big adventures, but he has been quite the little helper with the shopping. In fact he is with my lovely wife, Brundi, right now doing a spectacular job carrying the bags.” Finally the Dwarf pauses long enough to take a deep breath. In the small moment of quiet Bilbo hears some sort of commotion toward the other end of the hall. He turns his head toward the sound and gently pulls on Dis’ coat to get her attention. Gloin and Dis both turn in the direction Bilbo is looking and notice the crowd forming.

The three make their way toward the crowd and noise and find two Dwarrowdam as the cause of the commotion rushing around and calling out the names of their children. One Dwarrowdam looked the typical merchant in the mountain with higher quality yet still dusty clothes and a few jewels in her beard. The other Dwarrowdam is the picture of poise with her elegant braids wrapping around her head and beard adorned with simple yet brilliant beads. Bilbo thinks she wouldn’t look out of place in the courts next to Dis. He still thinks his Dis is much prettier by far, but that isn’t the point at the moment.

”Brundi”, Gloin whispers in horror and rushes toward the two distressed Dwarrowdam with Dis hot on his heels. Bilbo slowly creeps toward the edge of the crowd to begin his own investigation. As soon as her husband is in sight, Brundi’s mask of calm shatters and she falls into Gloin’s arms. ”I can’t find Gimli. He was here one moment and then gone the next. I-I-I don’t know what happened.” The second Dwarrowdam told a similar story to the Lady Dis that was cradling her in comfort. Dis begins shouting orders to the gathering guards.

Bilbo by this point has already climbed on top of one of the stone building for a better view of the area. He first checked the exits of the market district that could be seen from his vantage point. So far there doesn’t look like trouble at those ends so whatever happened the criminals haven’t escaped… hopefully. He takes in the crowd next. Many have crowded around the distressing Dwarrowdam with curiosity while others stayed at their spots turned toward the action obviously speculating and gossiping about the event. Bilbo purses his lips. Dwarrow are just as bad as the Hobbits back in the Shire when it comes to gossip.

Bilbo’s green eyes check over the area again and he notices some shadows moving unnaturally at the edge of the district. The entire shopping district is not used due to the uncertainty of the strength of the outer walls.The Dwarrow have done their best to add extra supports, but most avoid the area anyways from fear that it will collapse any moment. So, if one wanted to hide from public eyes that would be the place to be. Two figures flickered in and out of view along the rundown edge of the cavern. Bilbo just knows the figures must be responsible for the two Dwarrowdams’ distress.

Bilbo watches them travel steadily in one direction and begins to run along the rooftops toward the area they are heading to in an attempt to catch up. He picks up a small sharp piece of discarded metal from a rooftop along the way. He may have had over two years of training with Dwalin, but the Dwarrow still do not trust him with a real weapon. He isn’t even allowed to tote around a wooden one. Even with his training, Bilbo still manages to trip and fall a few times getting scrapes on his elbows and knees. He even drops his sharp metal piece once and in his haste to pick it up again manages to cut his hand a bit.

Still Bilbo pushes through the pain to chase down the criminals with a foreboding feeling in the pit of his stomach. He finally made it to the edge of the buildings after what felt like hours, but was probably only a few minutes. The Hobbit managed to get there before the suspicious figures and worries that they turned a corner away from the cave wall while he was rushing to get to the edge. A wave of relief washes through Bilbo as the two figures came around the edge and he could see them in the dim light of the torch they were carrying.

Bilbo could also see that the two were carrying a rather large trunk between them. It looked like they were having quite the difficulty carrying it; like the items inside were not held down properly and moving about. The two figures, Dwarrow now that Bilbo can see them clearer, meet up with another two Dwarrow. These two have a large burlap sack with them. The sack is clearly holding something alive as it pulses and wiggles in the one Dwarf’s hold.

Bilbo is standing on top of the building closest to them and looks around. There appears to be a few old service tunnels nearby. They are dirty and rusty from disuse, but Bilbo knows that they lead directly to the grand entrance hall. It is a quick and secretive way to get from the High Market district to the front gate. Bilbo narrows his eyes. There is only one type of person that would want to get to the main gate without being seen and that is a thief. By the movement of the sack and the shifting of the trunk despite the other two standing still, Bilbo knows what type of thieves this group is: Kidnappers. Bilbo is a royal Hobbit. Though he still doesn’t see the point of a monarchy, he knows that it is his duty to protect the people of the mountain that his Family rules.

Bilbo focuses back on the group below him. They seem to be arguing about something so he finds a way to climb down while staying in the shadows for a closer look. By the time he has made it to the floor and peeks from behind a shady corner the trunk and bag have been put down and to the side. The side that Bilbo is at. He is also close enough to hear the arguing of the four Dwarrow kidnappers. ”Wha’ the bloody ‘ell were you thinkin’ grabbing two more!!” The tallest one growls at the two that were carrying the trunk. ”Tha’ wasn’t part ‘of the plan, idjiots.” came from his companion. ”An’ now, ‘alf the mountain is lookin’ for us. Cuz’ you two took so long doin’ it.”

The other two try to defend their actions. The one wearing a tattered fur coat starts with, ”The two princes was just standin’ there, beggin’ ta be nabbed.” his companion and the shortest of the group, however was less than enthusiastic, ”I tolja it would be a bad idea.” The fur coated Dwarf looks at him in offended shock, ”Oh, you were all for it.” The first Dwarf cuffs the fur coat Dwarf on the head, ”Shut up. It doesn’t matter now. Wha’ we gotta think now is how to get outta ‘ere.” The shortest removes his battered hat and states, ”Yeah, didn’t know the old tunnels were this bad.” The second one puts in his two copper, ”With all the rubbish and weak support beams the little brats could die ‘fore we get any ransom.” The shortest Dwarf mutters out, ”It woulda been easier if’in we only had two brats to watch.” Which starts another round of arguing between the four with increasing heat.

Bilbo’s blood went ice cold after the one mentions ‘princes’. As far as the Hobbit knew there were only one set of princes in the mountain, his princes. The ice is soon melted with a fiery protective rage. He knows that his Family cares for the general well being of the citizens of the mountain city, but to his very Hobbit core Bilbo knows that his own Family comes above all else. Only fools mess with a Hobbit’s Family. He had managed to sneak closer on silent feet while the group continued to argue. The sack and trunk both getting quieter as time passed. Bilbo really hopes they were just getting tired, not that an injury is causing them to slowly lose consciousness.

The Hobbit quickly makes his way to the sack first, sharp metal shard in hand. He glances up at the arguing Dwarrow. They look to be getting physical soon. Bilbo starts to use the sharp end of the metal piece to saw at the ropes of the sack. The children inside start to squirm again at the motion of their prison. Bilbo tries to shush them without alerting the adult Dwarrow and cut quickly. The Hobbit quickly puts on his most practiced happy and innocent smile as light begins to enter the sack illuminating two toddler Dwarrow.

One of the kidnapped toddlers has a bright shock of red hair that reminds Bilbo of the Dwarf he just met while the other has dark black tresses not uncommon for the Dwarrow of Ered Luin. Just before the two could gather a large breath to start screaming, one Hobbit finger presses against each of their mouths startling them for a moment. The moment was long enough for them to notice that a Hobbit was crouched in front of them, not the scary Dwarrow that grabbed them. Bilbo slowly convinces them to crawl out of the sack while sending occasional glances to the kidnappers to see them pushing and shoving while growling. The fight is intensifying, but they still seem to have the presence of mind to keep their voices down.

Bilbo has one hand from each of the toddlers and quietly leads them back to the shadows he was hiding in earlier. The Hobbit gestured for the two to sit behind a mostly busted crate and gave them an open palm in the typical ‘stay’ gesture hoping they will understand without words. The two Dwarflings have tear stained cheeks but huddle against each other in the darker shadow behind the crate. Bilbo thinks they got the message and slowly goes back to the trunk with a finger on his lips in a ‘shushing’ motion. The Hobbit can only hope the two can stay quiet until he gets his two boys out.

”Okay, boys, it’s your turn now.” Bilbo mutters quietly in a self reassuring manner. He begins to creep out from the small ally toward the trunk again, keeping himself low to the ground. Green eyes shift back and forth to the scuffling Dwarrow and the dirty trunk. Bilbo gently presses his hands against the rough walls of the trunk and starts examining the lock. His large Hobbit ears pick up the whispered back and forth speech pattern of his two boys. Quickly and as quiet as he can Bilbo taps out the secret knock Fili and Kili taught him. The whispering dies down and one of them taps out the answering knock.

Bilbo stays quiet in his crouched spot for a few more moments listening to the fighting Dwarrow. They have been at it for a while. They will either continue their fighting until one of them takes it too far and they end up in an all out brawl and completely forgetting their plan (He could only hope) or one of them gets the nerve to act as leader and settle them all down and get back on track… Bilbo really wishes for the former. He took another look at the latch on the trunk. It might have been Dwarven made, but it was mostly wood and not well maintained through the years so the latch was hanging on by will alone. Bilbo quickly brought up his scrap metal and began to lever it between the latch and the trunk’s lid to force the lock off.

Fili and Kili stayed quiet inside the trunk trusting their little Hobbit to somehow take care of things. They have learned that Bilbo always manages to fix things or find the way out of sticky situations. He manages to pry the entire latch off and starts to raise the lid. Green eyes meet blue and brown in excitement and relief, but before the two princes can start to stand and help Bilbo lift the lid off their dirty prison a thick Dwarven boot slams it down. The Hobbit’s eyes widen in shock and sadness at no longer seeing his two boys.

Bilbo looks up into the face of the Dwarf that cut the view and trapped Fili and Kili back in the trunk. It was the tallest Dwarf, the one that he heard speak up first. Said Dwarf was scowling down at the Hobbit, ”Oi! None of that now! Shoo shoo, this ain't concern you.” He flicked his hand in a shooing motion. Bilbo just glared up at the Dwarf. This most certainly does concern him. Those were his boys trapped inside that trunk and he’ll be damned if he just walks away now. It is a Hobbit’s duty to love and protect their Family and right now his Family needs his protection.

Quick as a flash Bilbo stabs his metal shard through the boot of the tall Dwarf and into the soft flesh of his foot to try to remove him from the lid. It works, but now quite like he planed. The boot does leave the lid of the trunk and kick straight out toward the attacker, i.e. Bilbo. The Hobbit gets a solid kick directly to his face causing him to fall back a little while the Dwarf howls with pain. Two of the others try to quiet him down while the fourth reaches for Bilbo. The Hobbit glares defiantly up at his soon-to-be captor. He will fight until the end for his boys.

The sudden flurry of action is halted as a cry on the wind goes up and down in increments as if the source is getting closer and then farther away, but overall increasing in volume. ”GGGGGiiiiimmmmmllllliiiii!!!!!” The dust covered form of Gloin bursts through a bordered alleyway wielding a shop sign like a hammer. His crazed eyes land on the group of Dwarrow and Hobbit. They focus in on the defensive position of the Hobbit. His nose already purpling into a bruise, the small cuts on his hands and knees, and his own clothes dirty from his journey on top of the buildings. Gloin shifts a truly murderous glare to the offending Dwarrow. ”They might be distant, but that’s my kin’s Hobbit you seem to be harassing.”

Bilbo looks him over. The overly chatty Dwarf with all smiles from earlier stands perfectly balanced with his weapon in hand. There is dirt and wood chips littering his once finely pressed clothes. His previously well manicured beard is now matted with sweat and dirt and has lost a few beads. It looks like the Dwarf has been running up and down every hall and checked every building from the center hall to there. Bilbo feels a little awed at the tenacity it would take to go through every nook and cranny in the abandoned section of the cavern in search for his young one.

”I’m in a bit of a hurry on a mission of most importance at the moment. So I'm going to ask you all to just turn yourselves in for mistreatment of a Hobbit and we can all walk away and go back to our lives.” Gloin growls out tightening his grip on the sign post. The four Dwarrow begin to shuffle their feet unsure if they should play along or take down the other Dwarf themselves. The silent stand off is broken by the youngest redhead jumping out of his cover and shouting, ”Da!” All eyes whip to the Dwarfling running to his father.

If they thought his glare was murderous before, Gloin now had the ice cold face of Death itself. ”Well, would you look at that.” His voice was a quiet calm but held an inferno of rage beneath the surface. ”It looks like my mission has come to me.” His eyes shift to the empty sack beside the trunk and Gloin adds up his clues. ”I know I said you could all just turn yourselves in and we could let bygones be bygones,” He pauses and takes a step forward the other Dwarrow take one step back. ”but that was before I found out you were worthless cowards of kidnappers.” another step forward another step back. ”So now it is my honor-bound duty as a father,” Another step and another step, ”And distant kin to that there Hobbit, to serve justly due punishment.”

Gloin is now standing between Bilbo and the kidnappers. ”Gimli, stay with the Hobbit.” The little Dwarfling shuffles his way to Bilbo and settles in the Hobbit’s lap. Bilbo has just enough time to realize that he has never met a Dwarf smaller than himself before and finally understands the effect he has on others in this position. The next moment Bilbo can only sit there in stunned awe as Gloin rains down pure wrath onto the four kidnappers. The pure strength and rage emanating from the Dwarf almost blinded the poor Hobbit.

It was over quicker than it began and four Dwarrow laid on the floor unconscious while Gloin did a complete 180 and was cuddling and crying after being reunited with his son. Bilbo could only sit there trying to match the Dwarf he just saw completely destroy four others with a sign post and the one now cradling the Dwarfling so gently even Bilbo felt soothed just watching it. A soft knocking from the trunk broke the Hobbit’s trance and he rushed over to open the lid to release his own Family. Fili and Kili burst out of the trunk space and tackle their little Hobbit to the ground with fierce hugs. They could honestly say they were more afraid for their smallest Family member than themselves. The two were more than well aware the lengths Bilbo could and would to go for them.

The other kidnapped Dwarfling slowly crept out of his hiding spot only to be scooped up by Gloin and held just as gently as his own son. Both Dwarflings were sobbing from residual fear and blooming relief. Bilbo looks up from under his prince pile at the soft loving eyes Gloin casts to his small charges. He certainly showed that he has lots of love for his kin and a headstrong drive made of mithril to protect them. Bilbo thinks to himself that the other is quite Hobbit-like in that sense. He finally manages to lever himself out from underneath Fili and Kili to approach Gloin.

Bilbo stands next to the red headed Dwarf and gently catches his elbow. Gloin looks down at the Hobbit with a curious gaze. There is no trace of his earlier rage, only the soft happiness at having his child back safe and sound. ”Yes.” Bilbo thinks to himself, ”I can really see this Dwarf as another one of mine.” Fili and Kili step up to each side of their Hobbit. ”Uh-oh, Gloin.” Kili is the one to start this time. ”Looks like Bilbo’s taken a shine to ya.” Fili the ever faithful brother finishes.

Gloin just smiles down at the Hobbit and releases a deep belly laugh. ”Is that so, HA! Well I would be honored to be one of yours.” Yes, he definitely belongs to Bilbo now.

Chapter Text

Darkness has descended over the mountain city of Ered Luin. There are only a few spots of illumination created by the candles of those working late into the night. One of those lights belongs to Thorin in his office in the Royal Hall. The only sound in the room being the soft scratching of his quill on paper and the gentle breathing of Dwarf and Hobbit. Bilbo is sitting in his usual spot on Thorin’s lap during the King’s midnight paperwork run while said Dwarf tries to read the papers around a curly head of hair. Bilbo has grown quite a bit the last few years and no longer fits comfortably under Thorin’s chin. Nobody tells a Hobbit that they can’t sit on someone’s lap though, so Bilbo rests his head on his Dwarf’s shoulder and lets his hair gently brush the other’s ear.

The two had gotten into a sort of routine early on and it has grown into a peaceful ritual that calms Thorin’s soul. He enjoys the quiet soothing presence of the Hobbit resting so near. There is no ulterior motive, no plot to get into his good graces for political favors, just close companionship. Bilbo enjoys the clear evidence that his love is helping his Family. His own heart warms as he feels the tension in Thorin’s body ease in tiny increments the longer the Hobbit cuddles with him in the late nights. Bilbo also uses these late nights to read through the official documents and stay informed of the political and economical situations of Ered Luin. Several times he has worked with the other Hobbits in the mountain to support certain endeavors and assist in projects for the sake of the mountain city.

The quiet peace comes to an end as Thorin shuffles and stacks the last papers in his self assigned ‘completed’ and ‘not completed’ piles. The Dwarf releases a heavy sigh and leans back in his chair. The two simply enjoy each other's presence for a moment longer. Thorin ends it with a gentle tap to the Hobbit’s side and Bilbo slides off his favorite perch. ”You are starting to get too big for that, Bilbo.” Said Hobbit only grunts a noncommittal noise while adorning his large cloak. Thorin's stands and stretches his shoulders and back. He puts on his own cloak and locks the door behind them.

It is a short walk to their personal rooms and since they are already in the Royal Halls they only see a few pairs of guards on their rounds. Just as Thorin opens their door, Bilbo reaches out to grab his hand. Blue meets green for a solid moment and Bilbo smiles at him sheepishly with a little head tilt. Thorin has seen that face before. He knows Bilbo is feeling restless and needs to wander to settle himself. It has happened more so as the Hobbit has gotten older and received more training. Thorin feels like he can trust that Bilbo will be safe. In fact, he is more concerned with any sorry Dwarf that meets his Hobbit in a dark alley. Bilbo has more than proved himself capable of either handling a situation or carefully sneaking his way out of one.

Thorin places his hand on the Hobbit’s curls and bends down to gently tap their foreheads together. ”Alright, but you be careful now. Mahal knows what Dis will do to me if you get even a single scratch.” Bilbo softens his gaze at the sentiment. He really loves his Family. Thorin grumbles out, ”Key”. Bilbo pulls out his copy of the door key on its leather strap around his neck then turns back to the path. The Hobbit rushes off with one last look over his shoulder only to see Thorin still watching as he leaves. Bilbo waves and turns out of sight. Today is one of his visiting days where he checks in on his Family that don’t live in the Royal Halls.

The closest home belongs to Dwalin and Balin. He found out only after meeting Ori the two are brothers and live together. Bilbo pulls his hood to cover more of his face and swiftly heads toward their home on silent feet. He checks the area around their house for any unsavory characters and then checks that their door and windows are locked with no sign of someone trying to get in. Bilbo remembers the first time he noticed scratch marks on the window seam. The next day Dwalin grumbled about unwanted late night visitors and he had a stiff shoulder. The Hobbit vowed to never let that happen again.

So far he has stopped seven nightly attempted attacks on the two’s home alone. Dwalin would occasionally give him suspicious looks after, but had ultimately started teaching Bilbo throwing daggers as a specialization. Oh, did he thrive after that. Bilbo had gotten so good with the weapon that Thorin managed to convince Dis to let him keep two on hand at all times. Even Fili and Kili are still not allowed to carry real weapons outside of the training grounds despite nearly reaching their majority. It was really a necessary concession since Bilbo managed to keep finding himself in dangerous situations with dangerous Dwarrow (and that one time with the Menfolk) that had dangerous weapons themselves.

After checking Dwalin and Balin’s house, Bilbo crossed the halls to get to Gloin’s house. The robust redheaded Dwarf’s home was slightly larger than his Durins’ rooms and had two levels. The bedrooms were on top and the living room and kitchen area were on the bottom. Bilbo began another sweep of the area, but this time found a rather shady figure lurking about. More than used to such things happening, the Hobbit carefully sets about following the figure through the back alleys. Bilbo, quite familiar with the layout of the area, follows steadily at a safe distance.

It is easy at first. The Dwarf’s dusty cloak and pointy hair constantly in view as the other twists and turns around corners. There are a few close calls. Bilbo would check around a corner, only to see the bottom edge of the Dwarf’s cloak turn another, causing the Hobbit to rush in order to catch up. Until suddenly, Bilbo turns a corner and finds nothing. He stands there for a moment wondering what just happened. Hobbits are well known for their abilities in stealth, Bilbo himself excelling at the skill. His sharp ears pick up a sound to the left and he pulls his hood farther down his face and silently charges to catch up to the shady figure.

Nori, the natural thief extraordinaire that he is, of course noticed the little someone trying to follow him as soon as those eyes landed on his back. The sensation of being watched raising the small hairs on neck. The professional thief had to give it to the kid; the other was quiet, near silent, but the intensity of those eyes gave up the game before it could start. Since Nori has such a good heart, he found it in himself to teach the little one a lesson in the dangers of following shady strangers. He makes a few sounds to lead the kid to him and circles around to catch the other from behind.

Bilbo pauses at a corner and carefully checks around the edge only to once again see no cloak, no elaborate hairstyle, nothing out of the ordinary down the back path. His frustration at losing the potential criminal distracts him from said criminal approaching from behind. Nori decides a bit of a scare would be good for the little one and draws one of his daggers out. ”At least the kid thought far enough ahead to wear such an obscuring cloak” the thief thinks to himself. The little one obviously has potential in the field.

Nori, quick as a flash, grabs the small shoulder in front of him and slams the body into the nearby wall while bringing his dagger up to stab next to the other’s head with a fearsome grin on his face. He is nothing if not thorough and scare tactics are no exception. Before the thief’s blade could reach its target, Bilbo quickly lifts his own dagger and intercepts it with a redirecting block Dwalin taught him for opponents larger than himself. It is very useful considering most if not all of Bilbo’s opponents are going to be larger than him. Green eyes glare up into shocked bright brown. Nori was not expecting a Hobbit under the cloak and could not hide his surprise quick enough.

The two stand there locked in a silent stare down while Bilbo holds the thief’s blade to the side. The tension begins to turn from a high charged energy to a mildly awkward encounter. Nori is too dumbfounded to really keep up his act and returns his dagger to its hidden pocket. Bilbo’s anger slowly turns to confusion at the thief. His heart starts to slow down from the adrenalin of the attack as the Dwarf takes a step back and rubs his face with his hands, ”A bloody Hobbit. It was just a little Hobbit.” Nori releases a heavy breath and gives the Hobbit in front of him a good look. It is dark in the back alley, but he can still make out the Family braid on the side of the Hobbit’s head. ”Not just any Hobbit, huh?”

Nori flicks his hands in a dismissing gesture, ”Well, go on shoo. Shouldn’t you be home by this time of night? Dangerous folk wander the shadows this late. Go Home.” Bilbo just gives him an unimpressed look, but turns toward the main path. Nori watches as the Hobbit silently makes his way out of the shadowy alley and into the dimmed light of the street lamps. The thief wonders if the Job he had planned for the night is worth it at this point. A gentle noise brings the thief’s attention back to the Hobbit.

Bilbo just grins smugly over his shoulder as he dangles the lock picks he lifted from Nori in one hand. Said thief quickly pats the pocket he usually keeps the tools in to find it empty. The Hobbit flashes the other a cheeky wink and takes off down the main path in quiet feet. Nori has no choice but to chase after the little thief since that is his favorite set of lock picks. Sure, he has others, but that particular set was hand crafted into shapes of his own design and worked better than any picks he has used before.

The two engage in a near silent game of cat and mouse all over the Upper Levels dodging each other and the occasional guard on patrol. Bilbo was clever and fit into smaller spaces, but Nori has decades of experience over him and the game soon came to an end. The thief managed to corner Bilbo behind a tailor’s and an armory. The two buildings’ waste bins large enough to block passage through the back alley. Bilbo’s quiet giggling also did him no favors during the chase. The Hobbit’s excitement increasing as the game went on.

There is no fun now that Bilbo has been caught by the thief and wears a large pout. Neither of them are out of breath from the chase, but Nori is certainly not amused. The Dwarf holds his upturned palm out for the lock picks as he glares down at the Hobbit. Bilbo sullenly places the tools in the other’s hand. Nori closes his fist, but can only feel five of the seven picks on the ring. He raises an unimpressed brow at the little one and Bilbo releases a reluctant huff and places the remaining two picks in the thief’s hand as well.

Nori now grins down at the creature smugly. ”Better luck next time, kid.” Bilbo being the mature fifteen year old Hobbit that he his proceeds to stick his tongue out at the thief. Nori laughs at the display and ruffles the Hobbit’s curls, ”Tell ya’ what. We ever meet like this again in the shadows of the night, I’ll teach ya’ a trick or two. How's that sound?” Bilbo perks up at the affectionate gesture and the possibilities of becoming a better sneak. At about half way through their little chase he realized that the Dwarf might have been a criminal, but he had a good heart. The thief could have used more violent methods such as using the throwing daggers Bilbo knows he has, but chose not to. Many Dwarrow have had to resort to unsavory methods in order to put food on the table for them and their families in the wake of the dragon’s attack. Most lost themselves to the bitterness, but the one in front of Bilbo managed to hold onto at least some decency. Nori has his brothers to thank for that.

”Alright, come on now. Let’s get you back home.” Nori holds onto Bilbo’s shoulder and leads the way toward the Royal Halls with the Hobbit in tow. They walk quietly the entire way still careful to avoid any guard that might come across them; each for a different reason but both enjoying the atmosphere created by sneaking around. It is nearly morning by the time the two make it to Bilbo’s home. He pulls his key back out and goes to open the door.

Nori ruffles his curls one last time and smiles at the little creature. He has heard a lot about Hobbits in general and this Hobbit in particular. The thief prides himself on his abilities of acquiring both items and information. It seems to him that the Royal Hobbit Bilbo’s mysterious ability to pick out good Dwarrow from bad is a little off. Nori knows that he is no good Dwarrow. A thief? Yes. A liar? Also yes. A cheat? Most definitely. All things that disqualify a good Dwarf. It was nice to have the companionable affection of the Hobbit for the short time he had it.

Bilbo unlocks his front door and steps inside. He looks at Nori and smiles. A gentle noise shakes the Dwarf out of his thoughts. For the second time that night, Bilbo is smiling smugly with the thief’s lock pick set dangling from his fingers. The Hobbit quickly shuts and locks the door before Nori can grab them back. ”You little shi-” Before the thief could finish, a light shines from the side temporarily blinding him. ”Who goes there?” A guard had turned the corner and spotted Nori leaning against the front door of the personal rooms of the Royal Family suspiciously.

Not just any guard either. It was Dwalin, the Captain of the Royal Guard, that spotted the Thief. The only Dwarf to ever get close to actually catching him. Nori did only what comes naturally in such a situation. He ran. Unfortunately, he is less familiar with the Royal Halls than the Upper Levels as a whole and with Dwalin at his heels capture was inevitable. As soon as the guard Captain caught up, he tackled the Thief to the ground and shackled his hands behind his back.

Nori could have slipped the cuffs off in an instant and wiggled his way out of the hold, but that little Hobbit stole his special tools. ”Now what do we have here?” Dwalin growls while hefting Nori to a standing position. ”I’ve finally caught you, you Thieving Rat.” The guard’s voice is particularly vicious after the short chase through the few paths in the Royal Halls. ”Oh, Cap’n. Whatcha doin’ ‘ere this early in the mornin’?” Nori’s voice comes out jovial and chipper. Dwalin growls lowly back, ”I was just goin’ to ask you the same thing.” The grip he has on Nori’s arm is borderline painful, but the thief makes no indication of such. ”Well, I’ll be.” the shackled Dwarf makes a very affronted face, ”Can’t a concerned citizen check on the safety of their local royalty?”

Dwalin slowly brings their faces closer. His voice quiet in the early morning but no less threatening, ”No”. With a strong tug he is leading Nori down the hall. ”Oi, wait just a minute.” The thief tugs half heartedly back knowing he is no match for the other in pure strength. ”You can’t prove nothing about any thieving and I didn’t do nothing wrong here. You can’t just arrest me for standing at a door.” Dwalin barely spares Nori a passing glare. ”Trespassing on private property and attempted breaking and entering of the Royal Rooms.” They turn a corner and Dwalin levels a truly terrifying glare to the thief and growls quietly again, ”Suspected Treason.”

That gives Nori pause. ”Now see here, that’s just bollocks an you know it.” Dwalin has to use a bit more strength to almost drag the thief a the next stretch of hall. ”What else could you have been doing there? I know you’ve got your nose in everyone’s business and hands in everyone’s pockets.” The two turn the last corner to the guard shack and the small cells they have there for processing criminals. ”That don’t mean I was up tah something dastardly.” Nori gives his body one last shake in a half-hearted attempt to break free of the stronger Dwarf’s hold. ”Don't matter.”

The thief sends the guard a truly nasty glare and grumbles near inaudibly, ”Here I thought you were one of the good ones.” To both of their surprise Dwalin responds just as quietly, ”I thought you were too.” The two let the silence wash over them. Neither speaking during the processing or even after Dwalin locks Nori into one of the cells leaving the shackles holding the other Dwarf’s hands behind his back. The Guard Captain knows the Thief can be tricky and will use any advantage to the fullest. It is better to keep them on.

The two stare at each other with blank faces both filled with swirling feelings of anger, pain, and betrayal. Dwalin has picked up the thief on several suspicious charges, but never enough to stick. The Guard used to have a little begrudging respect for the Thief. He has never been involved in the truly unforgivable crimes such as child or drug trafficking. He had never been seen associating with any of the Dark Guild members, notorious for their cold blooded killers. Dwalin had watched the thief passing pilfered produce to the street rats in the Lower Levels. Dwalin thought that Nori had at least some honor despite his chosen occupation.

Nori on the other hand had given the guard Captain his begrudging respect not from what wasn’t seen, but what was. Several times he had seen the Guard break up bar fights and send the fighters back to their homes despite that the protocol for such would be a day in a cell. He has seen the Guard take down his own men for over aggressive arrests and then proceed to fire them on the spot heedless any political backlash he might receive. He has even seen the Guard watch as a child in thread bare clothes steal a piece of food off a vendor’s cart and run off without chasing the small thief for the crime. Nori thought Dwalin had more heart than duty.

Both Dwarrow turn their heads away from the other at the same time. Nori to sit and lean against his cell wall. Dwalin to return to his post next to his King. The bad feelings settle deep in their guts. A terrible misunderstanding tearing into the hearts of the two Dwarrow.

All the while, back in the Royal Rooms, a cranky Hobbit helps with the breakfast dishes. Thorin shoots the small creature a few furtive glances knowing Bilbo must not have gotten any sleep last night. After the third time Bilbo’s hands stopped moving and his head dipped with fatigue, Dis managed to shoo him away from the sink. ”Go back to bed Bilbo if you are feeling that tired.” She sends a suspicious glare toward her brother that is suddenly very engrossed with the intricate buckles of his coat. Bilbo, for his part, sent Dis a sleepy glare. He was not going to be left behind while his Family went out for the day. It is boring in the house alone.

Though he already spent the previous day with Thorin, Bilbo is much too tired to keep up with his boys or even Dis for a day. So, the Hobbit sleepily sidles up to the Dwarven King’s side in his usual morning deceleration of who he is going to follow that day. Fili and Kili grumble little complaints at their uncle getting to hang out with Bilbo for two days, but relent at the cute picture a sleepy Hobbit makes. There is a knock and the door opens to reveal a disgruntled Dwalin. ”Come on, you’re already late.”

Thorin looks at his long time friend and cousin, ”You are usually here earlier for Open Court days.” Dwalin just grunts, but something painful flashes through his eyes just long enough for Bilbo to notice. The sleepiness abates while the Hobbit takes in his burliest Dwarf. The guard’s cloths are slightly dusty and a little rumpled. Bilbo knows Dwalin takes great pride in his position and always arrives early to his duties. The balding Dwarf is nowhere near vain, but always shows up in a clean uniform standing tall. His tardiness, less than perfect uniform and the ever so slight slump of his shoulders lets Bilbo know that something has upset his Dwarrow.

The three step out of the door and head toward the High Meeting rooms. Bilbo keeps his eyes directly on Dwalin letting the Dwarf know in no uncertain ways he knows that something is bothering him. Even Thorin can’t help the occasional glances at the guard in concern. Dwalin finally gave in to the stares just before they left the Royal Halls. ”Finally caught that Thieving Rat that’d been giving me so much trouble.” His voice was dull and flat like he was reciting a report. They continue walking, not breaking stride. Thorin looks at Dwalin’s stone blank profile. ”I would think that you would be happier about such a thing.”

Dwalin just grunts again. They take a few more steps, ”I found ‘em sneakin’ around outside your rooms.” One of Thorin’s brows arcs at the statement. ”That doesn’t sound like the ‘Thieving Rat’ you have spoken of before.” Dwalin’s blank face turns more into a frown at the rowdy crowd forming in front of the Public House doors. ”Turns out I was wrong.” All of the sleepiness left Bilbo’s eyes and his heart kicked up in speed as the stilted conversation flowed between his two Dwarrows.

He has heard Dwalin speak about a ‘Thieving Rat’ enough for the title to be a proper noun at this point and his begrudging respect that the Guard would never admit even under direct orders from his King. The only Dwarf Bilbo saw right outside their rooms was the friendly star-shaped redhead he just met. Connecting the Dwarf he played chase with not even a few hours ago with the one he has heard Dwalin grumble about brings one damning conclusion. Bilbo got his new Dwarf arrested. He knows that he has to make it better somehow. He quietly lifts the cell keys from Dwalin’s belt and heads back the way they came.

It is usually unruly at the beginning of Open Court days. The common folk able to talk about their concerns directly to the King. Each Dwarf thinking their problems are more important than the next, or some saying they arrived before another and therefore are in front in line. Sometimes it settles peacefully once Thorin and Dwalin arrive, but sometimes fights break out and the Guard is forced to make a few arrests to settle the rest of the crowd down. Today seems like it was going to be a difficult one as Dwalin and a few other guards cuff one Butcher Dwarf and a textile merchant Dwarrowdam.

The guard Captain decides to bring them to the Upper Level’s processing cell just to keep up with protocol, but the Dwarf’s heart isn’t really in it. He mostly isn’t in the mood to deal with complaining masses and Thorin accepts it for the excuse it is. Dwalin is quiet the entire walk while his two trouble makers argue back and forth at the unjust way they are being handled. They make it to the small building that acts as a processing center in the Upper Level and Dwalin just makes out the subtle movement of the door closing.

Bilbo makes it inside just before the Guard can see who is entering and looks around. Based on the location of the arrest, the Hobbit thinks his new friend must be here. Sure enough that pointy hair style sticks out from the shadows of the corner of one of the cells. Nori looks up at the sound of the door opening and closing only to see the Hobbit that got him into this mess. ”Oh look here. What yah want kid. I can’t do much bein’ all locked up.” The thief doesn’t even have the energy to be too upset with the small creature. It wasn’t really the Hobbit’s fault anyways. Nori is still feeling too hurt by the mistaken betrayal with Dwalin. Bilbo looks into the cell and his little heart lurches a bit at the sadness in the star-haired Dwarf.

He isn’t sure what he could do to fix the situation, but he is too tired to think of something now. So, Bilbo decides to fix one thing at a time. Nori startles a little at the sound of his cell door unlocking and gapes in shock as the Hobbit opens the door and locks himself inside with him. Bilbo releases a jaw cracking yawn and settles himself into Noris lap. Said Dwarf tries to scoot away, but is trapped by the wall behind him and can do nothing as the Hobbit makes himself comfortable on his outstretched legs. The thief is frozen solid as Bilbo leans his head against the other’s chin and his breaths start to even out.

They aren’t there long as the door opens again to reveal Dwalin and his two new charges. Nori is stuck between wanting to glare at the guard and stutter through an explanation as to why he has the Royal Hobbit on his lap so just gapes with furrowed brows. Dwalin, for his part is too shocked to see Bilbo on the thief’s lap that he doesn’t think about how the Hobbit got inside. ”No!” he ends up growling instead completely forgetting the two arrested for public disruption. ”Bilbo, No! That is a bad Dwarf!” He grabs the cell door and gives it a good shake.

Dwalin had expected it to be unlocked, the first thing his shocked mind could think of was the Thieving Rat somehow escaping only to Hobbit nap Bilbo. It made sense at the time. ”How did you even-!” He reached for the key ring on his belt only to find it missing. A quick look over the notorious Royal Hobbit revealed that he had indeed stolen the keys and now wears the large ring on his wrist like a tacky bracelet. Dwalin growls and sends a dark glare to the Thief currently acting as a cushion for a sleepy Hobbit. ”Oi, Don’t look at me. I didn’t do nothing! I’ve just been sitting here like a good little crook.” He grinned with too much teeth at the last statement.

Dwalin shifts his gaze to the Hobbit, ”Bilbo Come!” said Hobbit just wrinkles his nose and shifts more comfortably. He is much too tired to deal with them right now. Dwalin releases a growl. ”Bilbo you get out of that cell right now!” Bilbo just reaches behind him blindly and grabs a small stone. He opens one eye just enough to see his Guard and with a quick flick of his wrist beams the Dwarf right between the eyes. Nori tries to hold back his laughter but a small snort manages to escape. Bilbo puts his finger over his lips and shushes them both. If he had gotten any rest last night, the Hobbit might have been able to better handle the situation, but as it stands he is just too tired.

The Dwalin and Nori let the awkward silence fill the room. The other two arrested Dwarrow stand silently in the background completely forgotten. Dwalin finally breaks it, ”Bilbo doesn’t get tricked.” Nori grumbles quietly, ”I told yah didn’t do nothin’.” The guard just purses his lips. ”That’s what I’m sayin’. There’s nothing yah could of done to trick the Hobbit into liking you. Trusting you enough to let his guard down.” Dwalin just releases a heavy sigh. ”Come on now, you two.” he grabs the other two hand-cuffed Dwarrow. ”This one’s full, I gotta take you to the Lower processing building” the arrested Dwarf and Dwarrowdam only grumble a little, but still feel too awkward to put up much of a fight after the little scene they witnessed.

Before Dwalin closes the door he glances back to the two inside the cell. Bilbo’s face is slack and peaceful. ”And if this place is empty by the time I get back, well...” He looks down at the Hobbit, his face softening at the small creature. ”Bilbo’s gotten away with much worse I suppose.” With that he closes the door gently and leaves with his two charges to another processing house. Nori just stares at the closed door with his arms still uncomfortably cuffed behind his back and Bilbo on his lap. He looks down to the tiny smirk on the sleepy Hobbit that slowly fades as rest finally takes him.

”You are certainly something, kid.” the thief whispers while he leans back to put less pressure on his shoulders. ”Guess I gotta teach yah more than a few tricks now don’t I.” Bilbo doesn’t respond but Nori smiles down at him anyway. He must agree if anything else, the Hobbit’s got heart, even if his sense is off a bit for getting attached to a criminal like him. It might not be too bad though.

Chapter Text

Bilbo releases a quiet but heavy sigh as he passes one gentle finger down the ridges of his most recent succulent plant. The Durins had taken to getting the Hobbit such a plant every couple of years. It will never satisfy a Hobbit’s need to be surrounded by growing things, but it is just enough to take the edge of longing off his heart. Occasionally, he will lay his desire for plant life on thick with continuous sighs and constantly making sad eyes at everything green and his Dwarrow will arrange some time for him to be out of the mountain and under the sun. It is currently the height of Spring and Bilbo wants to frolic in the grass for lack of a better term. He may already be in his Tweens, but Hobbits will always experience childlike glee in the presence of fresh growth.

Bilbo’s green eyes flash toward Thorin then back to the succulent and releases another sigh. The Dwarf in question just straightens out his reports and continues reading attempting to hide a smile. He is sure the Dwarf understands his wants but is choosing to be ignorant. Bilbo decides to change tactics and turns his attention to Dis. The Dwarrowdam is also working on reports this morning. Like her brother, Dis is fighting her own smile at the obvious actions of their Hobbit. Bilbo leens farther onto the shelf designated for his plants, lets out a long and heavy sigh again, and even sniffles his nose a few times. ”I think Bilbo wants to go outside.” Kili mutters quizzically as if he is puzzling out the greatest mystery of Middle Earth.

It takes all of Bilbo’s effort not to send an unimpressed look toward the young Dwarf lest they start so suspect his real intelligence. Fili had no such reservations, ”Gee, I wonder what gave it away?” The sarcasm went directly over the brunette’s head, ”Well, he keeps lookin’ at his plants. Bilbo only gets all moody like that when he wants to go out of the mountain and play in the grass and stuff.” Kili shoves the last of his breakfast into his mouth and takes his plate to the sink. Fili sends a ‘really?’ look to the two adult Dwarrow that just try even harder to hold in their amusement.

Dis clears her throat, ”I think some outside time can be arranged.” Bilbo sends the Dwarrowdam an unamused glare. As excited as he is to finally get to go outside, he knows they are laughing at the melodrama he has to go to in order to communicate his desires. It is times like these he wishes could just tell them and get what he wants. (And wouldn’t it be funny to see their shocked faces if he ever spoke in clear khuzdul to them, but no the Hobbit’s secret is too important.) ”Yes,” Thorin adds, ”I have some duties near the gate today. We can leave Dwalin in charge of Bilbo for at least a few hours. Let him play around in the grass.” As much as they all love teasing their Hobbit, not one of them would deny the creature any comfort. It also helps that watching a Hobbit enjoy greenery is a very soothing pastime.

Thorin stands up from his chair, ”Alright, Bilbo come on, I’ll take you to the gate and you can play outside the mountain.” Said Hobbit quickly flashes him a smile. The excitement and anticipation of finally going outside winning out over his previous displeasure at the teasing. Bilbo quickly makes his way toward the Dwarf, dimpled smile shining bright. The two adult Dwarrow chuckle. Thorin and Bilbo make their way through Ered Luin with a small guard entourage to the front gate. The Hobbit of the group walks happily with a skip in his step and a bright twinkle in his eyes. The guards of the group can’t help the small smiles on their faces at the prancing creature bouncing in and out of the formation.

The large ornate gate comes into view. Many Dwarrow are milling about either coming or going, but all in a state of hurry. One caravan is returning to the mountain and a different one will be leaving so nearly everyone in the entrance hall is making preparations for one or the other. Thorin is there to help keep the transition smooth and solve any problems that might arise with so many Dwarrow, goods, and coin moving around. Bilbo only has eyes on the brightening skyline he can see through the opening of the gate. Dwalin steps up to meet the group and directly greet the King. It is mostly formality, but it is very important to keep up pretenses.

Bilbo, however, as a Hobbit doesn’t care about formality or the need to present a regal and powerful image to the citizens. He makes his way over to his first Dwarf and proceeds to climb his back. Bilbo has gotten too large to sit on top of other’s shoulders, but he makes due with still climbing onto other’s backs. Thorin, for his part can only purse his lips at the Hobbit’s antics, just knowing this is probably pay back for the teasing earlier. Dwalin despite his usually gruff demeanor and decades of training flashes an amused grin at the sight. The Dwarven King just raises one regal brow, ”He’s your problem today.”

Dwalin’s smirk drops in an instant and Bilbo uses Thorin’s back like a springboard and launches himself toward the Guard Captain. The Dwarf manages to catch him only due to the fact that the Royal Hobbit has performed this stunt before and his reflexes have adapted to match the behaviour. Now it is Thorin’s turn to grin, but since he is a regal Dwarf his smile is small in comparison. ”Now, I have a lot of Kingly things to do today. I trust Bilbo will be safe in your hands for a few hours.” The other guards are trying to hold back their own laughter, a few breaking down into coughing fits at the sight of the burliest, no-nonsense Guard Captain holding a smiling Hobbit to his chest.

Dwalin grumbles as he sets Bilbo onto the ground, but agrees to keep an eye on the creature for the morning. They split up, Thorin to drift among the groups of Dwarrow in the Entrance Hall and Dwalin to the front Guard Station. The guard post is really no more than a raised platform with a long desk for checking in and out Dwarrow that come and go from the mountain. There are no less than ten guards at the gates at this time and Dwalin usually roams at the edges to keep an eye on the flow of Dwarrow and to assist when needed.

Bilbo follows dutifully for a while, but keeps sending pointed looks to the grass line just passed the gate. Dwalin sighs and sends a look to the Hobbit. Bilbo just gazes back imploringly with shining eyes. ”Alright,” The guard relents.”Bilbo!” Said Hobbit stands at attention immediately. ”Form One!” Bilbo draws his two daggers from their sheaths at his hips, stands on the balls of his feet and crosses his arms in front of him slightly away from his body. One dagger points directly down and the other points a little away from his opposite shoulder. Dwalin inspects the Hobbit’s form, ”Form Two!”. Bilbo moves one foot backward and twists his body back a little uncrossing his arms. The back arm hangs relaxed but ready while the front arm is bent toward himself with the blade pointing away from him.

Dwalin sends a smirk to the Hobbit, ”Good. Better than some of these ‘trained’ guards that’s for sure.” Bilbo smiles up at the burley Dwarf and sheaths his weapons. A few of the guards behind them grumble or chuckle depending on the results from their last review from the Guard Captain. ”Go on,” Dwalin shifts his head toward the gate’s opening, ”Go have your fun. Don’t stray too far.” The Hobbit gives him a strong hug, arms barely making it past the other’s shoulders. Dwalin chuckles and watches Bilbo charge out of the gates and into the sunlight.

The Hobbit breathes in the fresh air and a large smile breaks out over face. He immediately goes to his favorite hill and rolls down the side while tufts of grass fly into the air. Bilbo giggles the entire way and just lays in the sunbeam at the bottom of the hill. He soaks in the heat from the rays and just listens to the sounds of the small woods outside Ered Luin. There is birdsong all around and the tittering and chittering from small furry creatures in the trees or hiding in a bush. It is very different from the stone silence inside the Ered Luin. Bilbo has gotten used to the quiet of the mountain city over the years, but he will always enjoy the peace from being surrounded by life.

After a few moments rest under the warming sun, Bilbo sat himself up and took in the greenery. The springs have been starting sooner the past few years resulting in shorter winters to the Hobbit’s joy. He certainly enjoys the fresh growing grass and flowers over the cold snows of winter. Quite a few flowers have already bloomed in a variety of vibrant colors.

Bilbo remembers the first time he made flower crowns for his Durins. Poor Kili and Fili nearly had panic attacks as they noticed the flowers wilting the next day. The two tried to hide the floral arrangements from the Hobbit and used copper wires to support the stems in an attempt to save the gift from being destroyed. When the two finally gave up and revealed the dying flowers to their Hobbit near tears, Bilbo could only hug his two boys in a tight embrace in the face of their efforts to preserve the flowers. The Hobbit went out the next day to have the flowers carefully pressed, with the copper wires and all. He returned the pressed flower crowns to the boys and a few tears were shed. The gift remains on a memory shelf in their room.

Bilbo smiles as the memory washes over him and he feels like making the flower crowns again. So, he goes about gathering the necessary supplies while softly humming an old tune he remembers from the Shire. Bilbo weaves the flowers around and around each other occasionally shifting his position on the grass as the sun continues to raise and move the shadows. He is half way through Thorin’s crown when he notices he is out of flowers and materials. With a small frown Bilbo glances around, but he has already gotten all the good flowers in the area.

He glances back toward the gate. Bilbo is still near enough to be able to make out the shapes of the different Dwarrow and doesn’t see either Thorin or Dwalin drifting about looking for him. Besides, they know that it just takes a loud and sharp whistle and Bilbo will come straight back. So he goes out a little farther in order to search for some more flowers. He already finished Fili’s, Kili’s and Dis’. It is part of his Hobbity duties to make a brightly colored flower crown for his Dwarrow King and then guilt him into wearing it. Especially since Bilbo knows the Dwarf has a very important meeting in the afternoon. The Hobbit sighs as he kneels to pick a few bright blue flowers for the crown. It is a lot of work being a pet.

He has gathered just about enough materials to finish the final flower crown, when a different kind of rustling catches his attention. Since that fateful night in the dark, Bilbo has met up with Nori several times to train his sneaking skills under the professional thief’s tutelage. The two most important lessons he has learned is to pick up a sound that doesn’t quite fit and to feel eyes on him. The sound caught his attention. Now that he is focusing, Bilbo can feel a pair of eyes on him from one of the bushes nearby.

He keeps his eyes on the flowers in his hand and continues to arrange the plant material in his arms. Bilbo naturally turns his body just shy of the direction the feeling of those eyes is coming from. He can just make out a pair of crazed hazel eyes surrounded by a mess of salt and pepper hair in the shadows of a nearby bush. There is also some large piece of metal in his hear too large to be a bead. Bilbo could also see that the Dwarf (His size and stocky build are clear even hidden in the bush as he is) is crouched in an attack ready position and gripping a decent sized branch. He can’t see the hand holding the branch, but what he can see of the piece of wood is moving too unnaturally to still be attached to a tree. The hand Bilbo can see peeking out of the shrubbery is dirty and cracked; evidence toward long and hard work and/or poverty.

At their current distance, the Dwarf would be able catch or incapacitate him before Bilbo could safely get away or pull his weapons to properly defend. He can feel the Dwarf shift slightly forward ands the other’s muscles tense in preparation. Bilbo shifts again, bringing himself in line with the Dwarf and putting his hands closer to the daggers at his legs. He might not be able to put up a proper defense, but if the Hobbit can get under the Dwarf’s guard and deal a strike to the center mass, he might be able to get away with few injuries to himself.

Just as Bilbo himself shifts his weight for a charge, the Dwarf in the bush releases a deafening war cry and bursts from the bush. The smaller Hobbit has just enough time to pull his dagger free of its sheath and lean foreword to watch as the Dwarf flies right over him. It is then that Bilbo can hear the snarling of a wolf behind him. He turns around in time to see the Dwarf swing the branch into the open maw of the beast. Sharp bloody teeth bite down on the wood splintering the end of the branch.

Bilbo had fallen to his backside as he turned to follow the path of the Dwarf and now sits frozen and can only watch the scene as it happens. Bifur, the well seasoned warrior that he is, has no such limitations and continues his attack on the wolf. The Dwarf yells and screams profanities to keep the beasts attention on himself and not the Hobbit behind him. He swings the branch wildly like a club only for the wolf to duck the weapon and charge in from below. Bifur pulls the branch so the wolf only bites the other end of the branch and not the meaty flesh of the Dwarf’s arm. With the animal’s teeth occupied with the branch, Bifur can get a quick grip on its upper and lower jaws.

He uses all his strength to pull the two parts of the skull apart and doesn’t stop until he hears the resonating crunch that means they’ve broken. Bifur throws the lifeless wolf across the clearing and it lands with a soft thump. Unfortunately the Battle Haze has already taken over, so the Dwarf grabs his makeshift weapon and with another war cry charges foreword. He makes it there before the corpse has even bounced and proceeds to smash its head while yelling in Ancient Khuzdul. Blood splatters all over Bifur’s front and some of it manages to splash on to his face before the branch finally shatters into unusable pieces.

There is silence in the clearing now. Bilbo can only stare wide-eyed at the back of the Dwarf. After a few moments, he shifts to stand up and Bifur whips around toward the sound. Those hazy crazed eyes lock onto the Hobbit on the ground and the Dwarf smoothly stalks toward him. Bilbo can’t manage to get his feet under him and ends up scooting backward to keep his distance from the Dwarf. There is no way the Hobbit would stand a chance in a fight against that. He has seen Battle Hazes before and knows that it is difficult to differentiate between ally and enemy in such a state. Right now it looks like the Dwarf has identified the Hobbit as an enemy.

Bilbo backs up until a tree stops his path and Bifur continues to make his way closer. He dropped his dagger during his scurry backwards and fear claws at the Hobbit’s throat so painfully he doesn’t even remember he has a second one. Bifur reaches the little Hobbit and stands directly in front of him. The towering form of the Dwarf blocking out the sun and shadowing Bilbo in darkness. Bifur slowly crouches down until he is eye level with the Hobbit. His hazel eyes boring directly into the other’s green. Bifur slowly reaches out and all Bilbo can do is close his eyes, lift his arms to cover his head and wait.

… and wait

… and wait

After nothing happening for a few moments, Bilbo risks looking out from behind his arms. He finds the Dwarf that had just brutally murdered the wolf rolling in the nearby grass with a flower stem sticking out from between his lips. Bifur, after coming out of his Battle Haze, had wanted to make sure the small creature was okay. He made it all the way to the Hobbit before a bright flower caught his attention and he had to see if it tasted as good as it looked. The disappointment at the bland taste of the plant knocked Bifur over and he found the grass much more comfortable than his boots so decided to roll.

Bilbo just watches the Dwarf roll in the soft grass around the tree and pick an occasional flower to munch on only to look at it in disappointment and then continue to eat it anyways. His heart has nearly calmed down from the adrenaline of almost getting attacked and can really take in the Dwarf in front of him. The piece of metal in his hair is actually an ax embedded into his skull. It must be causing a lot of pain and other mental issues since Bilbo hasn’t heard the Dwarf say a single word in Khuzdul. Instead the other has been using an ancient form of Khuzdul that the Hobbit could only pick out a few words. The other’s clothes were dirty, well worn, and had more than a few patches. His hands were large and covered in calluses, but were gentle as they pet a fuzzy caterpillar on the latest treat the Dwarf picked.

Bifur, for his part, has completely forgotten about the Hobbit and the wolf he just killed. He is much more interested in the slowly crawling line on his flower. The Dwarf takes a moment to wonder if the line is actually fuzzy or if his eyes are crossed and blurring the image. Something else fuzzy at the corner of his eye catches the Dwarf’s attention. Bifur stares at the unmoving body of the ferociously killed wolf at the other end of the small clearing. He doesn’t remember killing the wolf himself so in his addled mind the Dwarf believes that there must be a terrifying creature in the woods killing innocent animals. With the fresh blood pooling below the corpse he determines that it must be close.

The warrior in Bifur rears its head and he carefully scans his surroundings for signs of the aggressor. Sharp hazel eyes land on Bilbo and dread fills in the Dwarf’s stomach. Bifur can only think that such a small creature couldn’t possibly survive an attack from what ever killed the wolf. Bilbo watches the Dwarf stare at him with wide eyes and thinks that perhaps another wolf was behind him. The Hobbit turned to look but saw nothing. He couldn’t help but think that it didn’t matter if he didn’t see anything since he couldn’t sense the previous wolf. Bilbo slowly gets up anyways and makes his way to his dropped dagger.

Bifur watches the Hobbit arm himself with the small blade and worries that the little one might actually try to fight whatever got the upper hand of the wolf. The Dwarf could only watch as Bilbo pulled out his other dagger and readied himself for an attack. Bifur grumbled a few more words that Bilbo didn’t understand. The Dwarf was beginning to panic now. He believes a terrifying creature could be stalking them and he isn’t sure if he can protect the Hobbit from it. Unsure of what else to do, Bifur grabs the small creature and hefts him to sit on his shoulder.

Bilbo lets out an undignified yelp and getting Hobbit-handled and lugged around. Before he could voice any protest he noticed how high up he was. It has been much too long for the Hobbit to feel the thrill of being the tallest around. The Dwarf hefted him around as if he weighed less than a loaf of bread. Bilbo is not sure where they are going, but he doesn’t mind the method of transportation. Bifur quickly makes his way to the gate of Ered Luin. He is sure that the small creature on his shoulder would be safe inside the mountain with the other guards.

Dwalin, meanwhile, had been working diligently checking in and out Dwarrow from the mountain for hours. He would occasionally glance out the gates to keep an eye on Bilbo, but the rapid exchange of the caravans overwhelmed even him. The activity at the gate has died down quite a bit now that it is nearing lunch time, and he knows that Bilbo will be back for the meal. Dwalin sets down his stack of inventory papers and looks back out of the gates. The tree line looks calm for the most part, but a rather tall shadow bounces strangely in the greenery to his left.

The Guard Captain raises from his seat and steps forward. The shadow is getting larger and the sporadic light beams show that part of the figure is a Dwarf. It gets even closer and Dwalin can make out… A stone lodges itself into the pit of his stomach as the image of Bilbo on the Dwarf’s shoulder comes into view. ”What has that Hobbit gotten himself into this time?” He grumbles just as Thorin stepped up next to him. The alert position of the Guard Captain alerting the King that trouble could be coming. Thorin quickly scans the tree line and also sees his Hobbit on the shoulder of a charging Dwarf.

Both Dwarrow put their hands over their weapons, not drawing yet, but ready. Bifur breaks through the tree line at a dead sprint only carefully enough to not dislodge his smaller passenger. He looks up and sees the two warriors at the entrance in wary stances. The mind addled Dwarf can only suspect that they are already aware of the danger in the forest and are standing prepared to assist. Bifur changes his course slightly to directly meet the two standby warriors. Dwalin and Thorin brace themselves for the possible attack and to deal with Bilbo as a hostage in this situation.

Tensions raise the closer the two duos get together. It finally crests as Bifur slides to a stop and Bilbo uses their momentum to launch himself at his two Dwarrow with a large and bright smile. ”Catch me!!” Dwalin and Thorin rush to catch the Hobbit projectile and fumble between them. They manage to slide Bilbo to the ground and all three turn to the other Dwarf that had been shouting and gesturing trying to communicate the danger he believes they just escaped from. Dwalin and Thorin shift Bilbo behind them as they try to understand the mad ramblings of the Dwarf Bilbo managed to find in the woods. The Guard manages to catch a few of the Iglishmek signs: ‘danger’, ‘escape’, ‘tiny’, ‘protect’.

Thorin chances a glance at the Hobbit and dreads the look in those green eyes. Bilbo is staring up at the new Dwarf with bright and shining eyes of admiration. Thorin releases a heavy sigh causing Dwalin to look back at the two. The Dwarven King looks back at Bifur with assessing eyes. He takes in the dirty, patched-up clothes, the cracked and calloused hands, but his eyes zero in on the ax handle at the others head. Thorin vaguely remembers hearing about a Dwarf with such an injury many decades ago, but didn’t think the other continued to live.

Dwalin also notices the look in Bilbo’s eyes and carefully resigns himself to the crazy about to happen. At the rate it’s been going he will be completely bald in only a few decades. ”Attention!” the voice of the Guard Captain halted all of Bifur’s movements and he set himself into military attention. That managed to calm down the permanently injured Dwarf and allow the other two to know he has a warriors training. Bilbo only gets more starry eyed at the display. Even with such an obvious mental handicap the Dwarf has a natural instinct to protect others and remove the weak (Bilbo reluctantly grumbles the term to himself. But the fact remains he would have been wolf lunch if not for the Dwarf) from a perceived dangerous situation.

That kind of naturally caring heart, that can shine even through such confusion is certainly very rare. It also helps that the other Dwarf has no qualms with letting Bilbo ride on his shoulders. That is also a plus.

Just as the situation began calming down and the other Dwarven observers went back to their work. Bofur, the friendly miner from a few years back, makes his way through the crowd. ”S’cuse me. Sorry.” the voice of the current Iron Foreman raises above the natural din of Dwarrow at work. He finally reaches them mostly out of breath and addresses the Dwarf still in attention. ”Bifur, been lookin’ all over for yah.” Thorin turns to the Iron Foreman, ”You know this fellow?” Bofur turns to the King and startles, just noticing who exactly is with his cousin. ”Uh, ye-yeah. I mean, Uh, Yes sir. This here’s ma cousin Bifur. He’s a bit messed in the head, but he’s never hurt no one that didn’t deserve it, I swear.” He nervously swallows, tries to brush the dust off his coat and turns to Dwalin. ”I dunno what he did this time, but I swear he didn’t mean no harm.”

Thorin raises a hand toward the panicking Dwarf, ”There has been no harm caused. It seems as though Bilbo has taken a shine to your cousin Bifur here.” He then gestures to the said Hobbit and Dwarf in turn. ”He, uh, he has?” Bofur stutters out and looks down at Bilbo. Bilbo, though doesn’t much care about the conversation. He is more interested in the fact that he is almost positive Bifur hasn’t even blinked since assuming his military attention stance. ”Well, now that you have found your missing kinsman, I think we can make our way to the Foreman's meeting.” Thorin turns to lead the way, but he slows and looks at his chaos inducing Hobbit with a flat look. ”It doesn’t seem as though Bilbo is going to let Bifur out of his sight, so we might as well include him with our meeting.”

Bofur makes a choking noise, ”Oh, you don't have to do that, sir, uh, your majesty. I can take Bifur home real quick and be back in time-” Thorin cuts him off with another raised hand and a small shake of his head, ”Nonsense. It will be much easier on yourself and Bilbo to simply allow your cousin to come. You said for yourself that he is a good Dwarf. Besides, you know how Bilbo gets when he makes a new… friend.” Said Hobbit currently has a frown and his arms raised in the universal ‘pick me up’ pose, but Bifur stays at attention. ”At Ease!!” Dwalin’s voice again breaks through the Dwarf’s haze and he looks down at the Hobbit.

Bifur giggles and coos a little at the smaller creature thinking him a younger child than Bilbo truly is. He takes the hint quickly and lifts the Hobbit onto his shoulder. Hobbit and Dwarf both wear pleased grins and Thorin is beginning to suspect the real reason Bilbo has gotten attached to him to begin with. All matters settled, Thorin, Bofur, Bifur and his passenger Bilbo make their way to the Meeting Halls. The only issue they face is the Hobbit remembering the flower crowns he left in the clearing of the woods. Bilbo releases a sigh and tries to think of a different way to embarrass his Dwarrow.

Chapter Text

Bilbo stands near the open gate of Ered Luin with four other Hobbits and watches as the first few flakes of snow make their way down from dark over-swollen clouds. It was a very hot summer that stayed long passed the time fall was supposed to arrive. The sun has been shining longer and hotter for the past few years. Bilbo can sense it; all the Hobbits can. Nature is trying to correct itself. They can see it in the thick frost already covering the nearby grass and the sharp chill in the air. This winter will be longer and colder than any Hobbit in the mountain has ever seen before.

”Bilbo.”

Every Hobbit standing at the gate turns at the call of Thorin Oakenshield. The Dwarf stands still, momentarily stunned by the blank faces all staring at him. Bilbo tries for a smile at the admittedly silly look on his Dwarf’s face, but a sudden chilly wind reminds him of the winter brewing just outside. The Hobbit makes his way toward Thorin slowly. The Dwarven King smiles softly, ”I know, Bilbo. Winter will be here soon and we will have to close the gate to keep out the cold. Don’t worry though, the winters have been short lately, you will be able to bask in the sunlight and breathe in the fresh air sooner than you think.”

Bilbo could only press himself closer to the warmth of his Dwarf. Not for the first time he wished he could just tell them about the danger sitting just under their noses. The Hobbit’s Secret is too great though to even let the most trusted individuals know. Knowledge like that could very well turn the world on its head. No doubt all Hobbits will be kicked from their Chosen Families as the lie (misunderstanding that Hobbits never bothered to correct) would be perceived as a betrayal, or worse. That would just be the beginning. Certainly, many from all over Middle Earth would start to chase down and persecute the small folk. The entire reason the deception began was because Hobbits were no fighters…

Bilbo’s melancholic thoughts were halted as Thorin’s large, warm, calloused hand gently cards through his free curls and he playfully tugs on his Family braid. The Hobbit gives him a small smile in return. ”Come on now. Dis and the boys will be waiting for us. Balin and Dwalin will also be meeting us for dinner tonight. I know you like them too.” Bilbo’s smile grows ever so slightly. He really loves his family so much. That is why it is going to be so painful for what he is going to have to do. All the Hobbits have been talking, planning, and making preparations. (Tonight is the night.)

Thorin and Bilbo turn to make their way back to the Royal Halls. The rest of the Hobbits also scatter back toward their own homes. The walk is silent. The two have always enjoyed quiet company. It wasn’t awkward, tense, or uncomfortable in any way. Bilbo takes the time to soak in the presence of the Dwarf beside him. The one to bring him to the mountain city Ered Luin; the one that set out and found him, the one that introduced him to so much love and began it all. (Bilbo’s heart stabs with pain.)

They make it all the way to their home without a word. The two can already hear the rambunctious clamoring of Fili and Kili interspersed with Dis’ scolding tone. The sound of a happy family fills Bilbo’s ears, his happy family. Thorin opens the door and the sounds get louder no longer being muffled by the thick stone. They walk in and are greeted by the house’s occupants. Smiles are freely shared and gentle touches are passed. After a short time, Balin and Dwalin make their way through the door. Both in more casual clothes than Bilbo usually sees them wearing. They brought cookies from Bilbo’s favorite bakery. (It is going to be painful for everyone.)

The food is good, the company merry. Bilbo makes sure to only eat as much as usual. He takes extra care to really look at the members of his Family at the table. While Bilbo himself has gone from early childhood to the peak of adolescence since entering the mountain, his Family hasn’t grown much. He knew Dwarrow had longer lifespans than Hobbits, but to see it is another thing. Fili and Kili were well into their adolescence when they met and have still yet to reach maturity. The adult Dwarrow are still in their primes, middle aged at most but no less capable. All of them relatively ageless like the stone they are known for.

Bilbo looks to Dwalin. The Dwarf’s hair was thinning at the top. No doubt due to all the stress he and the two princes create on a daily basis. He might as well start shaving the top at that point. The Dwarf would have more room for tattoos that way. Dwalin has always been a pillar of strength and support. The burly Dwarf both powerful and gentle, and always able to tell when to use each. He certainly has a few rough edges but also a soft heart to even it out.

Green eyes shift to Balin. It seems Bilbo has a habit with stress induced hair alterations with Dwarrow as the wizened Dwarf has been going from a graceful grey to a soft fluffy white since they met. There are certainly a lot more wrinkles than others Balin’s age. Bilbo feels strangely proud of that fact. He has managed to chisel evidence of his love into the enduring stone of his Dwarrow. Balin has always been an ear to listen and ready with a piece of advice no matter the time of day. The scholarly Dwarf has a silver tongue and a quick wit to put any uppity noble in their place.

A noise at the other end of the table draws Bilbo’s attention. Fili and Kili are using cutlery and vegetables to re-enact a spar they had recently. Both determined to explain why they themselves had the advantage and not the other. Bilbo has gotten in and out of so much trouble with the two. Fili’s lighter colors the perfect compliment to Kili’s darker shades. The older had taken to dual wielding swords while the younger took to archery. Short and long rage. The two fit together nearly perfectly with just enough room between them for Bilbo.

Dis, the ferocious Dwarrowdam that she is, ends their antics before they can escalate too far with only a raised brow. She sits elegantly at their small dinner table and calmly explains rather easy ways to destroy both parts of the spar. Bilbo’s personal duals with the Lady Dis over house chores have continued through the years. Neither one quite winning. They both gave as good as they got and many compromises were made. Dis has been another supporting figure, both personal and political. The term ‘mother-bear’ is an understatement with the Dwarrowdam.

Finally, Bilbo looks toward Thorin. The regal Dwarf not quite smiling, but still visibly amused for those that know to look. Bilbo has seen Thorin work himself to the bone nearly every day for his people, just to wake up early and do it all over again. The Dwarf had become very stern shouldering the burden of the displaced Ereborians after his Father’s disappearance. His heart had nearly closed completely from the cruel and unfair treatment from every Man village that turned them down aide or cheated them and even the Dwarrow that took advantage of the refugees of Erebor. Now, though, Bilbo can see the laugh lines forming at the corner of the bluest eyes the Hobbit has ever seen.

Tiredness starts to set in as full bellies and warm hearts melt away the strain of the day. Bilbo’s Family sits happily content and he takes the time to burn their images into his mind; their love into his heart.

Dwalin and Balin leave with leftovers and the three youngest clean the dishes. The remaining adult Dwarrow read through a few documents at the now cleaned table. A perfectly domestic air fills the Durin’s house. It is calm and comfortable.

Fili and Kili give two jaw cracking yawns and make their way to bed. Bilbo stays up and watches Thorin and Dis just a little longer. Less than an hour passes and the Hobbit retreats to the room he shares with the two princes and slides between them with perfect ease. Bilbo lies there awake and just listens to the night noises of his home. He focuses on the soft breathing of his two beside him, imprinting the sound into his mind. Almost an hour later, he can hear the soft treads of Thorin and Dis finally going to bed themselves. Still, Bilbo waits. He waits and listens and really soaks in the feeling of Family that permeates the rooms like freshly baked goodies.

The time draws near and Bilbo can no longer stall. He slides out from his spot between his boys and silently grabs his warmest cloak. After putting on the garment he opens the door, but can’t help one last look at the two. The sudden removal of the extra warmth wakes Kili and he looks around and sees Bilbo in the dim light of the doorway. ”Oh, hey Bilbo. Goin’ out I see. Just make sure you stay safe, okay.” The Hobbit feels a sharp stab of pain in his heart and quietly closes the door while Kili makes himself comfortable again.

It is with a heavy heart that Bilbo walks out of the Durin house. The door closes with a quiet click and he locks the door. The tumblers set with a sense of finality. Bilbo leans his head against the door and closes his eyes. He knows he has to go, but it hurts so much. Finally he drags himself away and down the hall. He has to meet with the rest before its time. Bilbo sneaks through the Upper Levels and sits on a rooftop for a long moment. He watches as Gloin happily cradles his son and recites grand tales of warriors to the small child. The red-haired Dwarf remains oblivious of the sad green eyes taking in his fatherly duties of soothing a frightened Gimly after a nightmare.

All too soon, Bilbo is off again. Now on his way to the Lower Levels the Hobbit remains undetected by any guards or wandering Dwarrow. He sees a few of the other Hobbits making rounds like himself. They give each other somber greetings and continue on their way. Bilbo makes it to Bofur’s humble abode. His new position as the Iron Foreman payed better than as a miner, but the kind Dwarf uses most of his pay to take care of his brother and cousin. Any extra is given away to those in need. They managed to move to slightly better lodgings, but still remained in the Lower Levels of the mountain. Bilbo sat with his back against the front door and just listens to the shuffling inside the room. Bifur must have been having trouble sleeping that night. Bofur, the loving Dwarf that he is, is also staying up with the injured warrior so the other won’t be alone in the dark.

Bilbo can’t hold it in any longer and one tear slides down his cheek. He sits for a moment longer, takes a fortifying breath, and stands up. The Hobbit makes his way to the other side of the Hall. More Hobbits are out and about in these halls, all making their way to the gate. Ori’s home is locked down better than a bank safe, but Bilbo still checks to makes sure everything is secure. He can just see the young ginger curled up under the blanket the Hobbit made with liberal assistance from its current occupant. Bilbo doesn’t stay long, the pain and sorrow begin to overwhelm him.

Finally, Bilbo makes his way to the gate. Most of the other Hobbits have already made their way to the meeting point in the shadows behind the warehouse nearest the entrance of the mountain. A few nods of greeting are passed at his arrival but silence reigns over the group. The final stragglers make it to the meeting point in short order and the Hobbits wait. A rustling of cloth deeper in the shadows catches everyone's attention. All eyes land on the star-haired figure that stands gobsmacked staring at them in turn. Nori could feel some unexplainable shift in the atmosphere in the mountain and followed it to this spot. He normally would never give away his position like this, but seeing what looks like every Hobbit of Ered Luin standing in a warehouse shadow was too shocking and broke the thief’s professionalism.

A few of the Hobbits start to shift their weight. It is almost time, but they seem to have been discovered. Their plan is too important to let fail. Bilbo makes his way through the crowd. Nori somehow feels more shock at seeing his favorite Hobbit in the group. The Dwarf’s eyes are round as saucers and his mouth hangs open. Bilbo just smiles sadly at his sneaky Dwarf. He approaches Nori slowly and stops within reaching distance. The two just stare at each other for a long moment. Green eyes filled with pain and sadness while hazel-grey just look confused. Bilbo slowly reaches out and places something in the other’s hand.

Nori looks down and sees a set of lock picks. Not just any picks. The special lock picks Nori designed and crafted himself. The very same lock picks Bilbo lifted from the thief the day they met. The two had been lifting the small thin pieces of metal back and forth whenever the chance arrived. Nori just stares at the lock picks in his hand shaking his head in short bursts. Bilbo gently touches the other’s cheek and guides their foreheads together. Nori’s wide eyes bore into Bilbo’s green as the Hobbit softly presses their noses together as well.

Dwarrow touch foreheads as a gesture of love and camaraderie while Hobbits brush noses as a familial gesture. Using both, Bilbo hopes to convey all his love for the Dwarf. Nori’s heart gives a little twinge at the gentleness of the touches. ”It’s time to go. The guards are rotating.” A Hobbit whispers nearly silently behind them. All too soon, Bilbo pulls back. His eyes are wet with unshed tears and his watery smile shakes. Nori’s wide eyes flick up to the three guards walking down the main path right by the large group of Hobbits hiding just in the shadows. The guards didn’t even notice them. Nori could alert them. One sound from him and whatever is going on with the Hobbits won’t happen.

Before he could make a decision, Bilbo takes his hand again. The Hobbit’s pained smile has dropped. Bilbo slowly shakes his head in a small plea. Nori can only stand there in confusion and watch as all of the Hobbits of Ered Luin silently slip out of the mountain and into the darkness of night. Bilbo is the last one out and he turns his gaze over his shoulder to the Dwarf for one last look then turns to follow the rest.

The Hobbits only brought the bare minimum in coats to keep themselves warm. Any blankets were left behind for their Dwarrow families. They traveled long into the night and only slowed down to forage after the sun began peaking over the horizon. The Hobbits also didn’t bring any food for their trip, it will be needed more in the mountain for the coming months. The one fortunate part about the weather meant that late blooming nuts and berries were kept well preserved under the snow and frost. They collected everything they could find in case the Shire fields suffered too much from the dry summer. It took a little over two weeks due to the snow and their foraging, but the Ered Luin Hobbits made it back to the Shire. Every one of them laden with edible roots, berries and other forest consumables.

During the small Hobbit migration, the Blue Mountains was consumed with a fearful bewilderment. The Dwarrow all filled with a desperate panic at the sudden disappearance of the Hobbits. There are many arguments, accusations thrown around, and quite a few physical altercations. The guards and Royals had their hands full trying to calm the public while still making preparations for the winter. All the while Kili becomes withdrawn with unjustified guilt. He had seen Bilbo walk out that night and did nothing to stop him. It doesn’t matter that he had no idea of the collective actions of the Hobbits; he still feels responsible.

Eventually, it is agreed to split all volunteers into groups to search the surrounding areas for their small missing family members. The search goes on for nearly a week. The groups of Dwarrow would return long after the sun went down with large sacks of nuts and berries that they knew the little folk began expressing a desire for in the last days, but sadly no Hobbits. All the while the clouds began to gather and the weather got colder. A dangerous storm was approaching Ered Luin.

It was with a heavy heart that Thorin finally calls for the gates to be sealed for the winter. The temperatures dropped lower than they thought it would, much quicker than they expected. They needed to close the gates to protect the Dwarrow inside. Nearly every citizen still inside Ered Luin was there as the last straggling search parties made their ways back inside. All eyes watched as the large ornate gates slowly swung closed. Many began to shed tears as their hope for the return of their small family members shatters. Quite a few of the guards had to restrain Dwarrow attempting to go out and continue searching or stop the gates no one was really sure which.

The Durins stood tall as they watched the gates close. Their faces different degrees of practiced neutrality. The adults had almost perfect stone expressions, while the two younger Durins’ lips gave a few twitches occasionally. The gates finally closed with a resounding thud of finality. More Dwarrow broke down and cried as the sound. Many just stood there and stared at the closed gates for a long time. Hours passed before any of them decided to slowly make their way back home. Winter has begun and there is no longer anything they can do for their missing Hobbits. The Durin’s are the last to leave. Balin and Dwalin standing just behind the Royals in a silent vigil. The pain in their own hearts eclipsing all thought. It was quiet in Ered Luin for a very long time.

Chapter Text

The winter storm hit hard and it hit long. The Dwarrow could hear the raging winds even through the thick stone. Many could only fear for the safety of the Hobbits out in the terrible weather. It has been weeks and the first storm is still raging outside the Blue Mountains. After the first month and it doesn’t seem like the weather will calm down, many decided to begin rationing their food. Several Dwarrow even wasted away before an official warning was made to carefully portion food as the winter was not calming. Another month and the emergency stores were passed out by need. Even those ran out. Spirits were low and continued to drop as the winter raged on outside.

The Dwarrow of Ered Luin began suspecting the Hobbits knew they would be unable to properly care for the little creatures. They didn’t seem to even be able to care for themselves. The food is running low as the winter drags on and many painfully admit to themselves that they are selfishly glad the Hobbits left. They would have long run out of food if they also had to support the small folk that lived with them.

The Hobbits did know. They did know that their disproportionate appetite would undoubtedly starve their own families. All the Hobbits west of the Misty Mountains made their way back to the Shire before the harshest of the winter storms could hit. Many of them made it back to their homeland, some didn’t. The ones that did make it brought with them all the edibles they could find during their journey. The Shire itself did have a reduced crop yield that year due to the dryness of the summer so the extra food was split among them.

The first winter storm hit only a few days after Bilbo was reunited with his parents at Bag End. The reunion was happy despite the circumstances. As the storm arrived every Hobbit barricaded their doors and did their best to keep fires going through the night and the raging winds. Not all families had sturdy homes to keep the cold out and many passed in the night due to an extinguished fire while the inhabitants slept. The ones that could still move gathered their food and blankets and headed to the main smials. The added bodies helped to heat the rooms and the families supported each other as they could.

Bilbo’s own little family was fortunate enough to have a very insulated home. As the kind hearted Bagginses they were, they had opened their home to the Gamgees that had a house less defended against the cold. Bilbo kept the fauntlings entertained with stories of his time with Dwarrow and the children in turn reported everything to him that children believed to be rather important. This went on for weeks. The winter’s chill not seeming to relent, and in fact get rather worse.

They have managed to stay mostly fed by both rationing and the extra food they managed to scavenge. Several times Bilbo and his mother Belladonna braved the winter snow to check on neighbors only to find corpses. Ever the practical Hobbits, they grabbed what food they could to bring back and even one time brought back the young twins Lily and Bluebell. Their parents’ cold bodies left behind. They received word of the Brandywine river freezing over just a week before the little Hamfast Gamgee comes down with a terrible fever.

There was much arguing, but finally they could wait no more. Bilbo and Belladonna gear up in their warmest coats to make a trek all the way to the Tookborough Hills where the closest healer lives. The paths are covered with snow and ice. It makes travel difficult, but the two Hobbits continue regardless. It is as they crest the final hill and their destination is in sight that they hear a blood curdling sound that stops them in their tracks.

The sound of howling wolves echoes through the rolling hills of the Shire. Bilbo quickly reaches towards his thighs only to remember that he left his blades at Bag End as they would have only been unnecessary weight. Now they would be very necessary. The two Hobbits increase their pace in hopes to make it to the large smial before the predators do. The snow proves to be a terrible hindrance as Belladonna trips on a hidden obstacle. Bilbo pulls her up and digs out the broken fence post that tripped her. ”Go!” The younger calls out, ”Ham needs that healer!”

Broken piece of wood freed from its frozen prison, Bilbo tests its balance. ”And just where do you think you’re going?” Belladonna doesn’t quite like the sharp look in her son’s eyes. ”I have spent the last few years training with battle hardened warriors. I am younger, faster, stronger and have at least some skill in wielding a weapon.” Bilbo speaks quickly and bends down to pick up the stone he could see in the hole he dug for his makeshift weapon. Belladonna scoffs quite offended, ”Your mother is no feeble old woman!” The younger Hobbit grabs his mother in a gentle yet firm hold. ”Please, Mother!! I swear to you I will make it back to Bag End! Now go!” He gives her a slight shove and bolts across the field.

Bilbo makes it to the edge of the tree line before he spots the first wolf. He can see the fresh blood dripping from its sharp jaws and prays to Yavanna that it is from a rabbit or some other small animal and not a Hobbit. The wolf’s eyes are focused forward in the direction Bilbo was heading. Before the Hobbit could dare to think it was preparing to hunt his mother, Bilbo threw the stone in his hand with all his might. It sings through the air and the wolf turns just in time to watch the stone stab directly into its eye.

The beast howls in pain and charges in Bilbo’s direction. The Hobbit dives into the nearby bushes and the hunt is on. The two dance around trees, bushes, large rocks and slippery puddles. Bilbo’s training mostly focused on bipedal opponents, but he did manage to convince his Dwarrow to take him on a hunting trip after his encounter with his first wolf. Just as the beast managed to turn sharply and opens its jaws in an attack toward the Hobbit’s throat, Bilbo lifted his piece of wood into that open mouth just as he saw Bifur do on the day they met.

Just like the last time, the wolf clamped down on the wood and gave Bilbo time to increase the distance between them. Not for the first time, the Hobbit wished he had his weapons with him. The wish didn’t last long as a fiery pain exploded on Bilbo’s back. He falls to the ground and turns to see a second and third wolf begin to circle him. Bilbo curses in the Hobbit and Dwarvish tongues. The warm blood dyes the pure white snow a gruesome red. Dark spots dance around his vision, but it is still clear enough for Bilbo to see the first wolf approach him. Its left eye closed as a testament to the Hobbit’s aim. The darkness begins to spread and Bilbo thinks he hears the singing of a stone in flight before he closes his eyes and passes out.

***

Bilbo opens his eyes to a blurry whiteness. The first thing he can think is that it doesn’t look like the gardens of Yavanna, but it is certainly much warmer than his spot of death. The second thing he can think is how disappointed he is with himself that the last thing he did was break a promise to his mother. Before the tears could spill from his eyes, Bilbo could hear a small child gasp and then tiny feet pattering down a wooden hall. That gives him pause and he takes a moment to blink the blurriness from his vision. The whiteness was just his bed linens it seems. Bilbo grunts with pain as he tries to get up, but his back blossoms with a painful fury and he falls back to the bed. Donnamira Took makes her way into the room and tuts around him.

Bilbo manages to grunt through the pain, ”Ham, is Hamfast okay? Did Mother get to you in time?” The Took woman hushes him and stiffly checks the bandages across her nephew’s back. ”Yes yes yes, dear. Your little Hamfast is right as rain. Can’t really get the little one to sit still now.” There was something in the way she spoke and the way she wouldn’t quite meet Bilbo’s eyes that worried him. ”W-Wait,” The Hobbit woman’s hazel eyes flicked to his for no more than a second and flicked back to mindlessly securing the bandages. ”How, how did I get here?”

Donnamira pulls a little too tightly on a bandage causing Bilbo to hiss in pain. ”Sorry, dear, sorry. One of your Took uncles picked your sorry self up and brought you here. One from that mountain city you used to live in. A right mess you were, I’ll say. I show up here expecting only a sick child and then I set up to stitch yourself up. A right mess this all is, I’ll say.”” She doesn’t say anything after that and still doesn’t look Bilbo in the eye. ”Well,” Bilbo’s voice shakes, dozens of red flags sticking up in his mind. ”Go ahead and let her in now, I suppose.”

The elder Hobbit just hums in feigned confusion. ”My Mother. I guess she will want to give me a right earful for the stunt I pulled.” Donnamira pauses in her actions. Her voice is dull and soft. ”She… she isn’t here. She’s gone.” Pain begins to prickle behind Bilbo’s eyes. ”What do you mean gone? Has she gone back to Tuckborough? Do we need to go get her?” His voice gets weaker with each question until the last is barely a whisper. The Took woman steps back from the bed eyes filled with unshed tears. ”Don’t play daft, boy. You know exactly what gone means. Vana knows it has been happening too much recently.”

Before he could think better of it, Bilbo bursts out of the bed and rushes into the living room. He can’t hear the calling of his name over the blood rushing through his ears. The young Hobbit slams into the doorway and stares into the living room. The Gamgees are all huddled to the side away from the window and their whispering stops. He doesn’t notice though, his eyes landing on his father sitting in his armchair facing the fire. Bilbo slowly makes his way toward Bungo. When he reaches the older Hobbit, his heart stops. The empty look in those red and swollen eyes are more proof than a corpse could be that his mother is well and truly gone.

Bilbo falls to his knees and lets out a painful keen as tears stream down his face. Donnamira leads the Gamgees out of the room to give the two some privacy. Bilbo’s wails of grief are cut short as a wolf’s howl pierces the air. Green eyes look out the window and see a large wolf with an injured left eye. Blood coats the animal’s muzzle. Bilbo doesn’t register getting up. He doesn’t realize his own actions until he is armed with his daggers at his legs and his throwing knives are in their pockets on his Dwarvish coat gifted to him by his Durins. The cold air of winter billows his cloak behind him but he only feels the red hot rage in his blood.

Bilbo steps out of Bag End with only the thought of vengeance on his mind. The fight is a blur. There were at least a dozen of the beasts prowling around Hobbiton, but centered around Bag End itself. Bilbo took down the wolves one by one. Throwing knives finding their way deeply embedded into yellow eyes and daggers slitting furry throats. Bilbo only came back to himself (out of his own Battle Haze) as the final wolf fell, dead. The wolf with the injured left eye. Now that he was closer, he could tell the injury was much worse than he last saw it. A small smile graces his lips at the thought that his mother must have done that.

Bilbo is panting heavily. He is covered in blood, much of it his own. Exhaustion pulls at his limbs and the Hobbit falls onto his back in the snow. Now that the adrenaline of the fight is gone he can take stock of his own injuries. The cold snow actually feels rather nice against his heated skin. For just a moment, Bilbo thinks it wouldn’t be too bad to stay there in the snow. But no, his mother would scold his ear off and then drag him back to the land of the living. So with all the will he can muster, Bilbo picks himself up and returns to Bag End.

The door is locked, undoubtedly to keep out any opportunistic wolves. But there are no more wolves nearby, Bilbo killed them all. He knocks on the door and notices that some of the paint has chipped. Perhaps he should have it painted once Spring arrives. Green. His mother loves- … loved green. It is the color of their eyes, the color of fresh growing things. Bilbo can hear some shuffling inside the smial and the door opens to reveal Donnamira wielding a frying pan. She drops the pan and stares in shock. Bilbo isn’t sure what she sees first, the blood, the injuries, or the empty look in his own eyes, but she hurriedly ushers him inside and gets to work on his wounds.

Bilbo sits in a daze and doesn’t even flinch at the sting the healing ointments have on his open cuts and bruises. He slowly looks around the room while Donnamira wraps him up in gauze and bandages. Bilbo never really noticed how big Bag End looks. The Home slowly shifting into just a house now that the woman that filled it with life has no life of her own.

The sun poked its rays through the dark clouds the very next day. The heat melting some of the snow and giving hope that the hateful winter will be over yet. Bilbo doesn’t know wether to laugh or sneer now that his mother didn’t even get to see the sun before she died. The sun may have finally shone, but the ground still stayed frozen for a good few weeks. Other wolves came. Bilbo, the Bounders and a few other formally trained Hobbits were sent to deal with them. Sometimes they made it, sometimes they didn’t.

Once the ground finally did thaw, the first set if business they dealt with, was burying the dead. It was a painful and slow going task as it seemed everybody had somebody to mourn. Some succumb to their despair and Bilbo becomes the Master of Bag End at the age of 22. In the end they couldn't dig proper graves for every one and settled on one mass grave. It was unofficially decided to plant sunflowers and forget-me-nots. The first to give the dead the sun they lost over the cold months, and the latter as a promise. A promise to never forget the ones that eternally sleep beneath the ground and to never allow the tragedy to happen again.

The Hobbits with Chosen Families stayed just long enough to help with turning the fields and getting the first plantings done and help to bar up homes for better security. They pack what food they can, mostly from the pantries of the dead as they wont be in need of it. The cruel winter’s chill kept most of the foodstuffs somewhat fresh or otherwise preserved. The Hobbits packed up and all headed to their Chosen Homes on the same day. They were both eager and nervous to return to their Chosen. Eager to be reunited with loved ones and nervous that their loved ones would also be gone.

Bilbo and the other Hobbits of Ered Luin arrive not even after a week of travel. The smallfolk able to travel easily on their hardy feet and walking long into the night. A scout of some sort must have noticed their approach as they could all hear the excited hustle and bustle of the mountain city long before they arrived. Once the Hobbit herd neared the entrance gates, chaos broke out. Dwarrow and Hobbits alike rush out to meet with their respected Family. It is painful for all involved as voices shout out names and pet names as they search within the crowd for ones not there.

Bilbo also partakes in the reunion crowd. Charging full speed after seeing the blonde and brunette combination that he has been watching learn and grow, side by side for over a decade. The Royal Hobbit nearly tackles the two princes to the ground with the force of the hug. The three youngest members embrace in their perfected awkward tri-hug as tears begin to stream down their cheeks. Dis is not far behind, placing her hand into Bilbo’s soft curls and shedding a few tears herself. Bilbo suddenly pulls back just enough to look around and fear dropped his gut for a solid moment before he saw his stoic Kingly Dwarf standing just beside his sister. Not even the battle hardened heart of the Dwarrow King was safe from the relief at sight of his missing Hobbit. He gazes on his whole Family with unshed tears.

Bilbo tucks his head back into his boys’ shoulders. He is so thankful he didn’t lose any. The Royal Hobbit knows he will have to take the time to find the others, check to see that they are at least alive. Especially Ori, Bofur, Bifur, not to mention Nori with his penchant to wander dark and cold alleys. They all lived in the Lower Levels, more exposed to the cold and poorer on top of that. That can hold off for later though. Bilbo can find them all later alive or otherwise (pleasedon’tbedeadpleasedon’tbedead). For now, he simply wants to hold onto what he hasn’t lost. That is enough for him, for now.

48 Hobbits left Ered Luin before the winter began. 36 came back after spring arrived. 7 left once more after finding no reason to stay. That winter was later known to be the coldest and longest on record for many civilizations. It came to be called many names, but to the Hobbits it will always be called the Fell Winter.

Chapter Text

Dis smiles smugly to herself while preparing dinner for her family. Thorin has sent her a few curious glances out of the corner of his eye while pretending to review his reports. ”You seem to be in a rather good mood today.” The head of the Durins carefully noted as nonchalantly as he could. The boss of the Durins replied happily as she stirred a stew, ”Because, dear brother mine, I have solved the core cause of a few issues.”

It was quiet as Thorin waited for her to elaborate. Once it was clear nothing else was forthcoming he spoke up. ”Which would be?” The Kind couldn’t remember her establishing any acts or programs within the mountain. Dis removed the ladle and began gathering bowls. ”You know how Fili and Kili have been sliding on their studies and their training hasn’t been going too well?” She continued after a nod from Thorin. ”Well just this morning I heard Kili fall out of their bed and I noticed something. Their bed was okay for just the two of them, but now with Bilbo in the middle and all three of them growing like weeds there isn't that much room anymore.”

The Dawarrowdam turned to her brother and placed the bowls on the table none too gently. ”So! I got Fili and Kili each their own beds and I got Bilbo a large and extra soft cushion that Hobbits seem to love. Now all three can get a good night’s rest and deal with the day with the energy they need.” Dis looks at her brother with that smug look of accomplishment still on her face. Thorin thinks back to his nephews’ performance the last few weeks. Even Fili was distracted and a bit irritable during the few times he took the blonde with him on rounds. This seems to be a great solution to a problem Thorin didn’t realize was occurring.

Just then the door opened with less vigor than is regular for the youngest Durins and they tumble their way inside. Even Bilbo was sluggish despite the clear smell of food wafting through the room. The trio sit in their places with a tired sigh. They certainly look more roughed up than usual. Dwalin had run them rather hard that day due to their lack luster attempts during their training. The evidence of their lack of proper rest is evident now that Thorin knows to look for it.

Dinner is a mostly quiet affair. Fili and Kili only responding in short answers and even Bilbo ate without his usual gusto. Dis, more worried now about her boys than smug with her plan, suggests they go to bed early today. ”After all, you boys have been working pretty hard lately. And I have a surprise for you in your room.” That managed to perk the three up. The thought of a surprise gave them the energy to get up and check it out.

They got there at the same time and saw the two beds against separate walls. Fili and Kili excitedly run to a bed each. The two were feeling rather crowded in the single mattress they were using, especially with Bilbo between them. It is a child’s right of passage to have their own bed. The Hobbit just stood there and looked between the two beds and occasionally glanced at the admittedly soft and warm looking cushion. Bilbo just stood in the middle of the room and slowly the excitement died down.

Dis and Thorin had followed and now stood at the door watching the predicament unfold. Bilbo has only ever slept with Fili and Kili since arriving. Now though, he will have to choose one to sleep with. Dis rushes in and kneels next to the cushion thinking he didn’t see it. ”See here Bilbo?” She pats the soft material a few times. ”You can sleep in this warm cushion, lots of Hobbits love it. I put it in the middle so you still have Fili and Kili at your sides.” With the small size of the room, it was true. The two princes were barely three Hobbit steps away from either side.

That wasn’t the point though. Bilbo has become quite accustomed to the warmth and unique smell of his two boys in sleep. He has tried taking nights with his other two Durins, but it just isn't the same. Bilbo walks over to the cushion and lays down. Everyone stares at the slow movements of the Hobbit as he tosses and turns and finally settles facing the wall. The atmosphere grows strained in the following silence.

Dis stands up slowly and makes her way to the door. ”Well, it’s getting late… and you all have been rather tired lately. So you can go to sleep now. I’ll see you in the morning.” The two adult Dwarrow close the door and head out to their own rooms. Thorin rests his hand on his sister’s shoulder. ”It is just something new to them. I’m sure they will get used to it soon and then appreciate the gift you have given them.” Dis looks back at him. The disappointment on her face clear.

Thorin places his forehead against hers. ”It will be alright. It is a wonderful gift.” Dis stares into her brother’s eyes and a small smile tries to fit onto her face. She leans into the gentle touch. ”Good night brother.” The two retreat to their rooms to sleep. None of the Durins get much rest that night.

The morning comes all to quickly in the Royal Rooms. Dis wakes up like normal and begins preparing they boys’ favorites for breakfast as an unspoken apology. Bilbo is the first to leave their shared room. The little Hobbit rubs his eyes as he finds his way to his seat. Dis turns around just as Bilbo lowers his hands and she spots the dark circles under his eyes. The little one didn’t get a wink of sleep and the Dwarrowdam’s heart is crushed.

She is sure to serve an extra portion to the little Hobbit. Bilbo stares blankly at the food and slowly nibbles on it. Thorin is the next one awake and stretches his arms over his head as he sits at his own spot for breakfast. He looks over to the Hobbit pushing his food around the plate. The tense atmosphere seems to have festered the entire night. Dis sets the rest of the plates down for herself, Thorin and the yet awoken Fili and Kili. It remains quiet other than the tapping of tableware on plates.

Fili and Kili leave their room together like usual, but there is a sluggish air around them. The two have matching sleepless dark circles on their eyes as they trudge their way toward the table. They fall into a graceless heap on their chairs and eat without tasting anything, too tired to really focus. Dis clenches her jaw with heartache. Her gift wasn’t supposed to make the situation worse. Now her younglings are suffering more and it is all her fault.

Breakfast continues in tense silence, but as the young trio go to wash their dishes in the sink Dis speaks up. ”That’s alright boys, I can take care of it for today. You have lessons with Balin all day.” Fili and Kili let out twin groans. Their exhaustion from last night not helped at all despite having brand new beds and soft and warm blankets. The two don’t make any protest though as they head out to for their lessons with Bilbo following like usual. Thorin also gets up for his own duties that day.

He turns back after he notices Dis not following along, ”Are you not coming? Don’t you have that mediation between the weavers and textile merchants today?” The Dwarrowdam has a determined look in her eyes and stands with her spine completely straight and shoulders held back. ”That is in the afternoon. Right now I have some very important business to take care of.” With a swirl of her skirts she strides further into the rooms. Thorin just smirks slightly and goes off for his own daily duties.

Later that evening, Fili and Kili arrived back to the Royal Rooms late with Bilbo on their heels. Thorin and Dis are already halfway through dinner and watch the trio stumble their way to their seats. Thorin looks at the three, ”Why are you so late?” it is more gruff than intended but the unintentional sting goes unnoticed. ”Balin kept us after since we were falling asleep during the lesson.” Fili reported just before stuffing his mouth with a forkful of food. ”Yeah, we weren’t allowed to leave before we could recite three stupid passages from a book from memory. It’s a good thing Bilbo was there or we would have been even more miserable.” Kili finished with an affectionate pat to the said Hobbits curls.

”Well, that is okay then. I know you two have been tired lately.” Dis’ voice is carefully optimistic. The two young princes murmur affirmatives through the food in their mouths. Silence reigns again until everyone has finished eating. Fili and Kili are nearly falling into their plates and Bilbo isn’t much better. Dis has had enough. Her own careful optimism turning into anxiety, she decides to just get it over with quickly, like fixing a dislocated joint.

”Boys, you should just go to bed if you are that tired.” her voice came out stern and the three younglings stiffened their shoulders at the sound. The two adults noticed their obvious strain, but Dis stayed strong, ”Go on, the three of you, to bed. Bilbo Bed.” The trio reluctantly followed their orders with slow steps. They all stop in their tracks as they look into their room. Fili and Kili rush in while dragging Bilbo. Thorin leans back in his seat to look into their room from his spot. He can’t see much, but he does notice that the new bed on at least one side is no longer there.

”What did you do?” Thorin at least has enough tact to speak quietly. Dis relaxes at the happy sounds her little ones make, ”Just a little rearranging of furniture really.” Inside the princes room the two new beds have been pushed together with extra pillows sealing the seam between mattresses. Now Fili and Kili have room to sleep properly and Bilbo can still fit right between the two. In fact the three had barely landed on the super mattress before instantly falling asleep.

Dis and Thorin had moved to the doorway to watch the three younglings just like last night. The two have soft smiles as they watch the younglings finally getting a good night’s rest.

Chapter Text

It is dark and quiet. The only sound the whisper of cloth as Bilbo made his way through the Lower Levels. He is on his way to Ori’s little home. There are no words to describe how relieved the Hobbit was after finding all his Family if not at their best, at the very least alive. It has already been three years since that terrible Winter, and the inhabitants of the mountain are still feeling its effects. A dark depressive cloud hangs over the shabbier of the houses. Dwarrow were made to endure, but even their legendary characteristic could not withstand the harshness of the Fell Winter. Bilbo shakes his head to dislodge the memories, the fear. That is in the past, he can only focus on the present for now.

The ramshackle house of the Ri’s comes into view and Bilbo can’t help but smile. As much as he loves his two boys, they can be a bit of a handful. He enjoys his quiet time with Ori during late nights. Bilbo makes one trip around the small building to check all the safety traps. After finding nothing out of sorts, the Hobbit climbers up to the second story window where he knows Ori is studying. It is finally almost time for him to take his entrance exams for the Scribes’ Guild. Bilbo wishes the best for the little ginger-haired Dwarf. He has certainly tried the best and put in the most hard work.

The Hobbit reaches the window on the far side of the room and silently picks the intricate lock to get in. Ori is too focused on his work to notice the soft whisper as Bilbo opens the window and enters the room. He quietly makes his way over to the little scribe. In one quick motion the Hobbit placed his arms around his little Scribe’s shoulders in a strong hug. It had the desired effect of startling poor Ori so hard he actually fell out of his chair.

Bilbo couldn't help the laughter bubbling in his chest. Ori looks up at the laughing Hobbit from his spot on the floor and then frowns. ”That wasn’t very nice.” but then can’t help but smile himself at the amused Hobbit. ”Okay, Okay, You got me.” Ori mutters while he rights his chair and goes to give the little Hobbit a hug. He is used to the little creature’s pranks and knows they are harmless. Bilbo hugs back and then smiles brightly at the ginger Dwarf. He pulls out his small snacks and sets them on the table. Ori looks down at them and feels warmth spread in his chest. ”You know you don’t have to, but thanks anyways.” He pets the Hobbit’s curls.

The two nibble on a few of the snacks and Ori returns to his studies while Bilbo picks up the knitting he usually leaves under the table and sits on the extra chair. It is quiet for a while, the only sound the clicking of knitting needles and the scratch of the quill. Unknown to them, just outside of the quaint little house a dark-clad figure skulks just in the shadows. Nori had spent the last few months liberating the wealthy of their much too heavy purses and now needs to lay low for a while. Where better to hide from the balding Guard Captain than with his two super strengthened brothers.

The Thief makes his way around the building to check his safety traps. Before he resets the last one, a shifting shadow flutters out of the corner of his eye. Nori quickly glances toward the window to the room he knows his younger brother uses for late night studying. The shadows move again in the room. The Thief knows his brother stays up very late for his studying and is usually almost motionless while bent over his papers, therefore, the moving shadows must not be Ori. Panic seizes the star-haired Dwarf’s chest, but he doesn’t let it show on his face. Too much time spent around unsavory characters that would take advantage of any emotion has made him a Master of his facial expressions.

He can’t go inside his usual way since the window is in plain view of the room, he would be seen. The front door is also out. Nori made sure it creaks on purpose to alert the occupants of the room of a newcomer. It was helpful for possible intruders as well as to give Nori a heads up should Dori arrive earlier than he thought. Now though it is a hindrance on his way to his brother. The Thief makes his way up the side of the building. He looks through the window, but its position prevents him from seeing the corner with Ori’s work table. Nori’s own idea to prevent any suspicious characters from peeking in working against him. The irony does not escape him.

He quickly scurries to the roof and his own hidden little entrance there. It was originally created to be a quick escape from Dori, but it works just as well as an entrance. Nori quickly slipped in quiet as a mouse. A mouse, however, still makes the slightest of sounds. Slight sounds that Bilbo could hear with his large and sensitive ears. The Hobbit has been to the rickety home many times and he knows for a fact that mice are not an issue here. Bilbo makes no outward moves that he is aware of whomever is in the ceiling, but the rhythmic click-clack of his knitting needles slowly down considerably.

Nori nudges the panel to the room open a small crack. He couldn’t see the entirety of the room, but he could tell that someone was sitting in the chair behind Ori. Ice settles into the pit of the Thief’s stomach. Bilbo, meanwhile notices in his peripheral vision that a section of the ceiling has moved and he could feel a gaze. The two stealthy creatures could sense the others’ presence, but couldn’t make out any specific identities. They are both, unknown to the other, worried about the safety of the third occupant in the room. Ori, however, is oblivious to the increasing tensions crackling behind him.

By some silent signal, both Nori and Bilbo burst into action. The professional Thief dropped from his hiding place and threw one of his daggers at the chair behind his brother, while the Hobbit expertly threw one of his (extremely sharp in case of this very occasion) knitting needles to the hole in the ceiling. Nori turned his body mid-air to dodge the needle and Bilbo shoulder-rolled toward Ori in order to avoid the dagger while also placing himself between the young Dwarf and the perceived threat. The star-haired Dwarf landed on the bed and charged with another dagger drawn and the Hobbit unsheathed one of his own. The two blades clashed creating some sparks and they were in a deadlock. Finally, the Dwarf and Hobbit were able to get a good look at the other and paused with surprise. Nori mutters in surprise, ”Bilbo?”

Ori during the ten seconds it took for the altercation to take place was startled out of his chair a second time that night. He manages to right himself and take in the sudden intruder, ”Nori?” Said Dwarf looks up from the Hobbit to his younger brother in mild shock, ”Ori!”. Bilbo, now very much relieved that it wasn’t some unsavory character breaking into his little Dwarf’s house, smiles up at his favorite sneaky Dwarf. The Hobbit then tilts his head and frowns in confusion, ”Sneaky Dwarf”. The two Dwarrow are startled from their stare down, having forgotten the other. They both call out, ”Bilbo!”. Ori in reprimand for attacking his brother, and Nori in exasperation that the Hobbit would sneak into his home.

The two Dwarrow look back to each other and again speak at the same time, ”You know Bilbo?”. Said Hobbit cannot hold back the wide smile on his face. He had been worried about the two individually. So far, he had seen nothing to indicate they had family other than himself. Now, not only does he find out that they do have family, he also already has them in his own Family. Bilbo just smiles and thinks to himself that it must be a small mountain. Nori gets on the aggressive first, ”What is the Royal Hobbit doin’ in ‘ere? On the Lower Levels? In this ‘ouse?!”. Ori, the timid Dwarf that he is responds more defensively than he usually would, ”It’s not like I brought him here! He comes in all on his own.”

The Thief purses his lips at that. ”You expect me to believe that this ‘ere Hobbit managed to get passed all my traps and locks without me even knowing about it?” Although, now that Nori says it out loud, it does sort of make sense, considering he has been showing the little creature a thing or two about sneaking for a few years now. ”Well, that’s what happens, even when all three of them visit.” was Ori’s reply. Nori lifts his hands to shoulder height in a ‘stop’ gesture, “Wait wait wait. Who are ‘all three’? Who else has been here without me knowin’?”

Before the younger Dwarf could reply, the front door slams open with a growled cry of ”Nori” from the oldest Ri brother. Dori was on his way home after another long day of unpaid overtime at the weaver’s guild when he heard the commotion coming from Ori’s room. He knows that his middle brother only comes home when trouble is hot on his heels and it occasionally ends up with the eldest Ri having to throw the ‘trouble’ a few meters down the way. Of course he loves his brother unconditionally, but with Ori’s exams just around the corner, they couldn’t afford that kind of ‘trouble’. Dori storms into his home with his middle brother’s name on his lips.

The two younger Ri’s scramble to the top of the stairs to see Dori’s stubborn face and arms crossed over his powerful chest standing in the open doorway. Ori, feeling like he dodged a sword strike smiles at his eldest brother, “Welcome back Dori.” The eldest’s anger seeps out at the sight of the youngest’s smile. He closes the door much gentler than he opened it, ”Yes, I’m home. Thank you Ori.” His eyes sharpen and glare at the star-haired Dwarf, ”And you. How long will you be staying this time? A day? A week? And am I going to have to bail you out of the prison again?” Dori walks over to the kitchen table and stands there.

Nori narrows his eyes at his older brother and makes his way down the stairs. Ori follows reluctantly dreading another argument between the two. Bilbo stands in the room forgotten for a moment, but happy that it seems like his two have yet another person in their family. He follows after a few minutes, but makes sure to keep quiet. The three Ri’s are in the kitchen standing around the only table. Their attention is focused on each other so none notice the Hobbit’s descent. ”I’m just saying,” continues Dori, ”That all of that is simply a bad influence on Ori, and he certainly doesn’t need the extra stress right now.”

Nori scoffs, ”What ‘influence’? Influencin’ him ta’ be able to protect ‘imself from the nasty sort that live around these parts?” It is Dori’s turn to scoff now, ”There are guards that make rounds through here, or if not there are always a few posted at the gates. There is no reason for you to leave those horrid daggers of yours around the house!” The Thief glares at his older brother, ”I wouldn’t leave something like that here!” Dori’s arms cross against his chest again, ”Then how come i’m always finding those dreaded things all around the house?! Huh?” Nori grits his teeth, ”Well they ain't mine!” Dori scowls, ”Why should I believe that!?”

Ori breaks into the argument, ”They aren’t Nori’s!” The two older Ri’s look to the youngest. It is deathly silent in the Ri house. Even Bilbo keeps himself quiet finding his heart rate speeding with the intensity between the two. If he didn’t know any better, he would swear they were somehow related to Durin’s line. He wants to stop the fight, but knows that this is a good time to understand the dynamics between the brothers. Dori stutters for a second, ”W-Well then whose are they?” Nori squints his eyes to the youngest Ri, ”Wait… is this related to ‘those three’?” This catches Dori’s attention, ”Ori, what does he mean by that? Are there Dwarrow bullying you again? I told you to let me know if something like that happens.” Ori straightens up at that and is quick to defend his friends, ”Fili and Kili aren’t like that!! They are good friends!!”

There is another silence broken by Dori’s cautious even voice, ”Fili and Kili? As in the princes, Fili and Kili sons of Dis, daughter of Thror?” Ori knows he let out a pretty big secret of his. He wasn’t sure how his brothers would react to his friendship with the two princes so he’s kept it to himself for the years. The youngest Ri just nods silently. It is quiet for another moment, and Nori is the one to break it. ”You expect us to believe you’re friends with Durins?” Dori’s hackles raise at the accusation. ”And why does that seem so impossible? Ori is a good lad and they would be lucky to have him as a friend.” Nori tilts his head condescendingly ”As if those ‘respectible’ Durins would bother with their dirty little secret.” Dori growls ”There is nothing ‘dirty’ about us.”

Before the argument could devolve any further, Bilbo gently places the tea set on the kitchen table, ”Okay, I think that is enough arguing for now. Let’s just calm down with a nice cuppa.” The three Ri’s all jump at the sudden interruption by the Hobbit. Three pairs of eyes land on Bilbo and he just happily smiles up at them, ”We will have to wait a little while for the water to heat.” he looks back to the stovetop and the others follow his gaze to the teapot. Dori looks back to Bilbo, ”Nori, what have you done?” Said Dwarf’s eyes shoot back to his older brother, ”What?! You think I stole ‘im?” The silver haired Dwarf’s wide eyes lift to Nori, ”Well how else did he get here?!”

The pot on the stove whistles to signal the water is done and Bilbo goes over to fix up the tea. He is stopped by Dori’s scandalized cry, ”And the guest is making the tea?!” He quickly guides Bilbo to one of the chairs and sets about making the tea himself. Nori tries to use this chance to slip out, but pauses at Dori’s stern tone, ”Don’t you dare think we are done talking about this, Nori. You sit yourself down at that table and share this tea with our guest.” Nori grumbles ,”He’s just a Hobbit, we don’t need to do all this ceremony.” Dori finishes up and brings the teapot to the table, ”He is a Hobbit, and Hobbits love tea. Now. Sit.Down.” The stair-haired Dwarf complies with the direct order.

Bilbo just sits patiently and waits for the new Dwarf to pour out the tea into the separate cups. The Hobbit grabs his own cup and deeply inhales the flowery fragrance of the tea. He tilts his head a bit. Bilbo is sure it is the same tea he usually uses at the Ri house, but somehow it seems more fragrant than usual. ”Elbows off the table.” Dori returns from the kitchen with a small plate of tea snacks that Bilbo is very sure weren’t there before. Nori sighs obnoxiously, but removes his elbows from the table. The eldest Ri places a tea snack onto four smaller plates and hands one to each person at the table before seating himself. Bilbo slowly partakes in the tea and snacks while the Ri’s calmly converse about the Hobbit.

Ori tells the story of how he met Bilbo in the library and then later when he was saved from bullies and met with the two princes. He generalizes the time since then with a simple ‘we’ve been friends ever since’. The two other Ri’s look to Nori and he gives an embellished version of how he met the Hobbit (leaving out the trip to the processing cells of course). He also skims over the lessons he has been teaching Bilbo in lock picking, pickpocketing and sneaking. Dori grumbles that those are no lessons to be teaching anyone, much less such a high standing Hobbit. Nori grumbles back with little heat, ”Oh, shove off it. He likes them. There’s no ‘arm in teachin’ a Hobbit a bag ‘o tricks. Besides,” he looks to the Hobbit in question, ”the little thing can be rather nasty all on ‘is own.” obviously referring to their first meeting.

Bilbo, however has completely missed the entire conversation. The tea and small snack he had gotten were simply divine. He has no idea how the simple fare manages to be both soothing and tasty, but it has him thoroughly enraptured. The Hobbit is confused and awestruck at the same time. He hasn’t had such an excellent cup of tea outside the Shire ever. Bilbo looks up to Dori to see concern in the other’s eyes, but doesn’t notice that the other two are also looking at him strangely. The Hobbit’s eyes are shining brightly with excitement. He does believe that he has found himself a new tea partner.

”Bilbo?” Ori’s soft voice just manages to grab the Hobbit’s attention. The caution and concern there makes Bilbo realize that there was probably conversation directly toward him and he hasn’t responded to anything for at least half an hour. He places a gentle hand on top of the youngest Dwarf’s and simply smiles at him. Bilbo then gets up from his chair leaving the tea cup and snack plate. He would offer to do the washing up, but knows that Dori is much to respectable to allow a guest to do such a thing. His little Hobbit heart warms at the Hobbit-like behavior. The three Dwarrow follow Bilbo to the front door warily. It was already late at Bilbo’s arrival and now even more so after the strange meeting/reunion they experienced.

He stopped at the front door and turned to the Dwarrow. They all had strange looks on their faces, but Bilbo really should be getting back to his Durins now. He reaches up for Ori’s cheek and slowly brings their foreheads together in a gentle knock surprising all three. Bilbo then turns to Nori expectantly and the other grumbles, but complies and the two also gently knock foreheads. The the surprise of all three, Bilbo finally turns to Dori and reaches up in the same way. Ori and Nori they could understand, as they were already acquainted with the Hobbit, but he had just met Dori. Bilbo holds that pose stubbornly until Dori relents and lets the Hobbit press their foreheads together.

With his goodbyes in place, Bilbo exits through the door and returns to his Durins, another Dwarf added to his growing Family. The Ri house is silent after the door closes. All three Ris swept away by the Hobbit’s pace. Especially Dori, he has seen Hobbits around before, but never has one taken to him, so quickly as well. He shakes of the strangeness and speaks lowly to his middle brother, ”It is good to see you again… unharmed as well.” Nori just grumbles, uncomfortable with the talk of personal feelings, ”Yeah, thanks… Good to see you too.” They all continue to stand by the front door for another few moments. Ori breaks the silence, ”You know he’s going to be back, right? That look… He has plans.” Nori shakes his head in exasperation, ”Yeah, I know. I’ve seen it before.”

Dori looks to his two brothers in confusion as they walk back up the stairs too tired from the day to stay up much longer. Ori takes a little pity on his eldest brother, but is also too tired to go into a full explanation of Bilbo’s more mischievous character traits. ”Don’t worry about it too much Dori. Just know that Bilbo likes you and you’ll probably be seeing him around more often.” Cryptic message delivered, the youngest Ri closed the door to his room and crawled into bed. Dori stood there for a few moments more now entirely confused about the situation. Nori can’t help but chuckle at his brother’s expense, ”It’s not too bad bein’ a Hobbit’s favorite, you’ll see.” The eldest Ri just shakes his head and makes his own way to bed. A suspicious feeling that life is about to get much worse, and much better at the same time.

The next day started with little fanfare in the house of Ri. Dori woke at his usual early hour long before the sun. He went down the rickety stairs and began to prepare breakfast and lunch for himself and his two brothers. Though Nori gets on his nerves on the best of days, the silver-haired Dwarf still loves his middle brother dearly. Ori is the second one down, more than used to the early hours Dori keeps. The youngest Ri sits his sleepy self down at the table and produces a jaw cracking yawn. Three plates are placed on the table and Dori and Ori begin to eat. It is quiet as usual, neither Ri much of a talker in the mornings, but there is a mild tension in the air due to Nori’s presence upstairs.

The oldest and youngest Ris finish their meals before Nori even wakes up. To avoid any early morning arguments, Dori grabs his lunch and small pack of tools and leaves for the weavers guild. He doesn't forget to give Ori a goodbye hug before he leaves and reminds the younger to take his lunch. The walk to the guild hall is near silent. Most other Dwarrow still in bed or slowly preparing for the day ahead. Dori has time to think about the crazy night he had just a few hours ago. There was a Hobbit in his home, not just any Hobbit, but the Royal Hobbit at that.

Apparently, the Royal Hobbit was well acquainted with his home.. and Ori… and Nori. Oh, Mahal he hopes Nori isn’t teaching the little thing anything too terrible. Thoughts of the tiny Hobbit (his brothers had called him Bilbo) getting into street fights and sneaking his way into gang headquarters fill Dori’s head and make his heart race. Bilbo is also friends with Ori though, so that should help. The silver-haired Dwarf knows his youngest brother has a good head on his shoulders. He still worries, but most of the immediate fears have abated for now.

It will have to do, as the door to Dori’s work room comes into view. Dori, though not officially credentialed (as that takes money. Money that could be better spend on Ori’s education) is one of the best tailors in the entire guild and has earned his own workroom. His title is Seamster’s Assistant but he completes many projects on his own. However, since he doesn’t have official credentials, he can be worked ‘as the teaching supervisor sees fit’. The rule was established to allow apprentices to explore different aspects of their craft. Currently, it is being used to work Dori longer hours than any other in the guild and for less pay. He can’t file complaints since he is not officially part of the guild and it would only end up with his unemployment. So the silver-haired Dwarf straightens his spine, holds his head up high and does everything that everyone ‘requests’ of him beyond expectations. That is his pride.

The day goes about normally. Dori has too much to do to worry about Nori or the Royal Hobbit visiting his home. As the day goes on a few of the higher ups give him more work to do with nearly impossible deadlines, but Dori does it. His lunch is cut short when one of the supervisors enters his work room and assigns him to assist a seamstress with a large order that is due soon. Dori reluctantly packs away the other half of his small meal and goes to the room where he is needed. It turns out to be nearly the entire Silks staff in one of the open halls all working on a ridiculously large order of delicate dresses and impractical cloaks. Dori makes no comments, just walks over to a station and starts working.

The hours tick by and everyone working on the terribly large order has sweaty brows and dozens of holes in their fingertips from clothing pins. Dori finishes one of the cloaks as the grand clock strikes Four. As the last reverberating toll rings through the Weaver’s guild, the doors to the hall open up and let in the bright light of the general halls. The guild had gotten dimmer since there were no extra hands to rebank the fires. Everyone turns to look at the doors and who could possibly be entering with such a dramatic fashion. As the Dwarrows eyes’ adjust to the increased light they notice a rather short figure making its way deeper into the Guild Hall.

Bilbo just couldn’t get the taste of the tea he had the night before. It was subtle and sharp, fragrant and soft, and everything a cup of tea should be. He found that couldn’t go without that amazing brew for too long. Being the problem solver that he is, Bilbo set out to fix his lack-of-tea problem. It was nearing 4 o’clock, the perfect tea time. He remembered that Ori mentioned his eldest brother was a tailor of sorts so that was where he looked first. The room looked to be brimming with activity, only stopped by his sudden entrance. All the better for Bilbo. With all the Dwarrow paused he could search for his new Chosen easier.

The Hobbit’s green eyes light up as he saw the silver-haired Ri and he quickly made his way directly over. Every Dwarrow in the Guild Hall watched the Hobbit as he traveled to the other end of the hall. Bilbo stopped directly in front of Dori and smiled up brightly up to the Dwarf. The guild is so silent a pin dropping could be heard all around. Dori is not sure what to do, so just looks back at the Hobbit. Bilbo lifts the case in his arms up to the eldest Ri. It is a travel tea set made for him one year by his two princes. It is not very fancy but it gets the job done.

Before Dori could reach for the case being offered to him, one of the Supervisors approaches and glares at the silverette. ”What is this, Dori? There is work to be done! You have no time to be convoluting with other’s Hobbits. And don’t try to tell me he is yours. I know you could never afford a Hobbit in centuries.” The supervisors words were hard and brokered no argument. Dori hesitated in his reach for the case. Bilbo turned his head to look the other Dwarf up and down. He could see nothing important about the other so returned a happier gaze to Dori excited for tea-time. The eldest Ri looked conflicted shifting his gaze between the Hobbit and the Supervisor.

The Supervisor, irritated at being ignored grabbed Dori’s arm and tugged harshly, ”Come on now, we haven’t got all day. Those dresses aren’t going to make themselves!” They don’t get far though, the deadpan voice of the Hobbit stopping them in their tracks, ”Excuse you. That’s mine.” Bilbo reached out and pulled his Dwarf back closer to himself. It wasn’t the Hobbits strength that shifted Dori back to his side, it was the pure authority in his tone. A few of the others in the Guild Hall began shifting at the voice of the Hobbit. Bilbo lifts a hand to adjust his curls. His Durin braid falls to the front for everyone to see. There are whispers passing through the hall now. All wondering why is the Royal Hobbit there, in the Weaver’s Guild Hall.

Bilbo pays them no mind, however, keeping his eyes on the rude Dwarf that was trying to take away his new Chosen. With just a look, the Hobbit could already tell the one before him is a nasty Dwarf filled with greed and willing to step on others for his own goals. He has seen a lot of that being close to the Durins. So, Bilbo straightens his spine, lets his eyelids fall half closed, tilts his head upward and to the side releasing a breath of air from his nose letting all in the vicinity know that the Dwarf in front of him has been Snubbed. The gossip mill really starts turning then. The supervisor just stands there in shock at getting snubbed by, not just a Hobbit, but the Royal Hobbit. It is practically an unofficial banishment.

Bilbo returns his smile to Dori, completely ignoring the fact that he has very nearly ruined the life of a Dwarf he has only known for less than a minute. The Hobbit gently leads the shocked silver-haired Dwarf to a hearth and sets up the travel tea set. Bilbo looks up to Dori with excited expectant eyes. Said Dwarf simply begins the motions of preparing the pot of tea while the other Dwarrow in the Guild Hall return to their work. Though everyone knows that they are only half paying attention to what they are doing and half watching the Dwarf-Hobbit pair as they enjoy a relaxing cup of afternoon tea. Bilbo sips his tea with pleasure and nibbles on the snacks he brought. Dori slowly does the same. After the tea and snacks had been finished, Bilbo packs away his travel tea set and gives the eldest Ri a good bye hug.

He gives one last wave on his way out the door, leaving an entire guild to pounce on Dori to find out what exactly just happened. The sudden onset of so many Dwarrow managed to snap the silver-haired Dwarf out of his shock. ”Okay, there is no time for idle gossip! Questions must wait until we finish this order or we’ll be up all night! Now back to work all of us!” There is a lot of dissatisfied grumbling, but every one complies and they all work for several hours more. They manage to finish the order after another four hours and by then everyone is too tired to satisfy their curiosity. Dori also is much too tired to go back to his own work and so sets out to return home. He receives a few pleasant ‘good byes’ on his way out from more folk than usual, but doesn’t think much of it.

There is a sinking feeling in the pit of Dori’s stomach that that little show with Bilbo will not be the last.

Chapter Text

It's the third time that Dis catches Bilbo spacing out that the Dwarrowdam approaches the Hobbit. Green eyes flash up to her Durin blue as the Dwarrowdam places her palm on Bilbo’s forehead to test his temperature. He pulls back from her hand and continues eating despite his lack of appetite. ”Has Bilbo been acting okay at your lessons?” Dis directs her question to her two boys that are currently stuffing their faces with eggs and potatoes. They both look up at her then shift their gazes to Bilbo who uses the chance to smile at them happily.

”Not really.” Fili starts off then finishes his food while Kili speaks his piece. ”Yeah, He's been pretty normal if a bit spacey. But that could mean he is planning something. You know how he gets.” The two take their plates to the kitchen sink and clean up their breakfast while Bilbo follows them like usual. Normally, feeling as tired as he currently is, Bilbo would follow Thorin for the day. However, the Hobbit has been spending weeks trying to convince Dwalin to let him learn the Sickle-chain and he doesn't want to give the Dwarf any reason to rethink his choice. So, Bilbo follows his two boys to the training fields for morning practice.

Their progress to the training hall is slow, as Bilbo takes a few wrong turns in his daze. Fili and Kili are less sure of their earlier statements brushing of their Hobbit’s behavior. The trio finally make it to the training grounds, late, to the disgruntlement of the Guard Captain. He took one look at the three as they entered the room and immediately identified the reason for their tardiness. Bilbo’s feet barely lift from the ground for each step he takes. Dwalin’s shrewd eyes take in the Hobbit’s blank stare, shallow breathing, and the small beads of sweat on his forehead. Bilbo is in no condition to be out training, but they both know the Hobbit has a stubborn streak that could put a Durin to shame.

Fili and Kili send worried glances to their little Hobbit standing between them, while Bilbo uses every fiber of control he has left to stand straight at attention. ”You’re late.” Was all Dwalin grumbled to them. Fili offers a lazy shrug, ”Sorry about that, Kili over here couldn’t find his hair ties and turned our room upside down looking for them.” Kili looked toward his brother in offense, he had actually managed to find his hair ties earlier than usual that day. It took an extra second, but the younger Durin caught on to the play. ”That’s really nice, coming from the guy trying to flirt with the Dwarrowdam at the meat bun booth.”

The two trade a few barbs and playful shoves in their attempts to distract Dwalin from Bilbo’s condition. It didn’t quite have the intended effect and only served to annoy the Guard. ”All right, that’s enough out of you two! Get your gear and start your warm-ups.” The loud sound of Dwalin’s voice startled Bilbo out of his daze and the three rushed over to prepare for their training. The Guard Captain released a frustrated sigh as he watched Bilbo run off for their gear. He had intended to hold the Hobbit back for a while to check on him, but if the little creature can run off like that, then it must not be too serious.

They started their warm-ups and continued onto basic stances and parries. Dwalin approaches Bilbo with a meter-long rope tied to a metal bar about the length of the Hobbit’s forearm. Bilbo looks to the rope and back up to Dwalin. The Guard was unsure of how to teach the small creature such a complicated weapon. Daggers and swords are easy, he simply has to act out the motions until the Hobbit tries to copy and correct from there. The Sickle-chain takes a delicate hand and a natural ‘sense’ for the force it takes to accurately direct the opposite end of the weapon. This was the best that Dwalin could think of. He will let Bilbo play around with the rope and weight to get experience with the maneuverability. Dwalin stared at Bilbo while the Hobbit shifted his gaze between Dwarf and the item in his hand.

Dwalin makes a show of swinging an imaginary weapon around in different directions. Bilbo got the general idea of the exercise, but always ready for a prank no matter his own physical state, he tilts his head toward the tall Dwarf. Dwalin sighs and tries a few more times swinging his hands, arms and even trying to move Bilbo’s hands in swaying motions to move the practice weapon. The Hobbit’s twitching lips gave away his little trick and Dwalin ruffles the other’s hair roughly. Dwalin figures that if Bilbo is well enough for his usual tricks he is well enough for practice and leaves him to it after watching the Hobbit swing the rope a few times.

The training day continues like usual. Dwalin works Fili and Kili hard. They practice drills and run laps for a few hours before Dwalin let them have a short break. The two princes fall to the ground where they stood and pant heavily. The Guard Captain chuckled at the two’s antics and turns to check on Bilbo. The Hobbit is usually fine training by himself and he didn’t have anything dangerous to work with, so Dwalin left him to his training.

The guard turns his gaze to where he left the Hobbit only to find the small creature just staring at the ground. There are a few dips in the soft sand around him revealing that Bilbo had been working with the new weapon for a short while at least. Dwalin calls for the Hobbit with a sharp whistle like always, but Bilbo doesn’t respond right away. The Guard Captain calls out again, ”Bilbo”. That got the Hobbit’s attention and he rushed over to the small group.

Once there, he looks up to the elder Dwarf with glassy eyes for instruction. Dwalin grunts, ”Okay, break over.” he pauses for the twin groans of displeasure. ”Now Kili, you’re first. Grab two of the metal training swords. You lot will spar for a while and then we will call it a day.” The youngest Durin does as instructed with an extra hop in his step at the prospect of finishing soon. It is still early, so Kili’s head is filled with possible pranks they could play on unsuspecting citizens. He is so absorbed with his mischievous plots that he doesn’t notice the particularly sharp chip along one of the blades.

Kili makes his way back to the training area. Dwalin tilts his head toward the Hobbit. ”You and Bilbo will go first, then Fili versus Bilbo. You two have been working on physical drills while he was only working on technical ones. He wont be tired yet.” With a nod Kili hands Bilbo one of the swords and the two get into basic stances. They circle around each other for a few moments and dash in and out as their swords clash. This goes on for a short while and Bilbo begins to tire and sweat. Dwalin calls the spar to a stop and looks the Hobbit over a few times. He is clearly more exhausted than he is letting on, but is too stubborn to call it quits. Dwalin decides to make the second spar shorter to let the Hobbit leave early and rest.

”Okay, Fili. You’re up. Just some basics.” The two young princes trade places. Kili on the sidelines, Fili in the small make-shift ring with the chipped practice sword. The two face each other. Bilbo valiantly trying to even his breathing and Fili tensing his muscles in preparation. They charge forward at the same time, but when their swords clash the weakness in the chipped blade gives out and the upper part of it was sent flying, leaving a wickedly sharp edge behind. Bilbo hadn’t put enough strength into his swing so Fili’s blade continued its descent toward his shoulder. Between one moment and the next Bilbo ends up face down on the ground and doesn’t move. Fili stares down at the small Hobbit. ”BILBO!!” Dwalin’s loud cry catches the attention of the rest of the guard. All eyes turn to the Guard Captain as Dwalin rushes toward the fallen Hobbit. Dwalin skids to a stop on his knees and sand goes flying.

He carefully turns Bilbo to his back and takes in the dark red spot blossoming on his shoulder. He checks the Hobbit’s breathing and pulse. Both are weak, ”Fili! Kili! You two hurry ahead and tell the healers to prepare a room! Go!” The two princes take one last look at their little Hobbit, the fear evident on their faces, but quickly get up to comply. Dwalin carefully lifts Bilbo into his arms and rushes after the two boys. Occasionally, the Hobbit’s eyes would open only to close again after a short moment.

It feels like an eternity before Dwalin finally arrives at the healing wing of the Royal Halls. He gently places Bilbo on an examination table. The Hobbit barely even moved. Dwalin looks around the room, ”Where’s Oin!? Shouldn’t he be here already?” Said Dwarf enters from a different door, ”I’m here, I’m here. Quit your yapping and let me do my work.” The nearly deaf Dwarven healer approaches the table holding the Hobbit. He pokes and prods the creature and uses a few tools to examine him.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Royal Halls in the area reserved for meetings between nobles and guild masters, Thorin sits and listens as patiently as he can to a a guild foreman laying out all the reasons why his guild should receive more funding than any other guild. The Dwarven King was very near silencing the rather annoying Dwarf and his weak reasoning when a messenger hastily enters the room. All eyes go to the messenger while the Guild Foreman keeps talking, but even his attention is on the new comer. The messenger quickly mutters into Thorin's ear and the King can feel his blood turn to ice.

Thorin stands up from his chair so quickly it falls to the ground with a loud clatter, ”Balin, with me.” The ill concealed panic on the King’s face was all the incentive the advisor needed. With a hand signal a small group of guards follow the two royals as they rush to the healing wing. The news that Bilbo is receiving emergency treatment there spurring them to hurry.

In the Upper Levels, Dis is doing her usual rounds checking in on the merchants and their trades both inside and outside of the mountain. She is stopped on her way to another meeting by a messenger. ”My Lady Dis.” the messenger is mostly out of breath, ”It’s Bilbo. He’s being treated for wounds in the healing wing. He has fallen unconscious and hasn’t woken up.” Dis’ heart drops to her stomach at the other’s words. It takes her a few moments to gather her bearings and instruct her attending aide to cancel the rest of her meetings for the day and apologize to anyone inconvenienced. She then gracefully rushes to the healing wing in the Royal Halls.

Dis is the last of the main Durin line to arrive at the healing wing. She sees the rest of her family waiting outside all staring intently at one of the doors. Balin notices her first and approaches. He speaks quietly to the Dwarrowdam, ”We were kicked out after the seventh time Thorin asked if Bilbo was going to be okay.” The two turn to the rest of the Durins and Dis notices Fili’s wide eyes have dropped to the ground.

Without looking, Dwalin places a comforting hand on the young prince’s shoulder. ”It was just a scratch lad. Besides, the little one is a Durin. There is no way he will let a little wound like that keep him down.” Fili shudders trying to hold back a sob. His voice is barely a whisper, ”But… there was so much blood… and-and he didn’t get back up.” Kili leans onto his brother’s other shoulder. He was there and watched as his brother’s blade sliced into the Hobbit’s arm and Bilbo fell to the ground. He was also the one to grab the faulty sword. Guilt runs deep in the two princes.

Dwalin gives a reassuring squeeze, ”It was an accident. They happen all the time.” The guard’s voice was low and sounded a little flat even to himself. Silence reigns over the waiting Dwarrow for along moment. The sound of the door opening startles everyone in the hall and they stand. They all look to Oin with one question on their minds. The healer looks at them all and stops them before they could all start up, ”The cut on his arm was hardly enough to warrant such concern. Stitched that up real quick.” Fili’s shoulders visibly relax. Oin continues, however, ”The real concern is the temperature he has. Now, I don’t treat Hobbits that often, but even I know that a creature shouldn’t be that hot.”

The relief felt among the Dwarrow instantly turns back into anxiety. ”He has a fever?” Dis fills with guilt at the information. She had brushed off her concern for Bilbo believing him to be sturdy like all Dwarrow. However, Bilbo is not a Dwarf, he is a Hobbit. It feels like the Durins are just learning that despite living with the little creature for almost two decades. Oin casts his gaze toward the Dwarrowdam, ”Yes, seems like it. By the state the Hobbit’s in, he’s been feverish for a while now. I’m not sure how well he can fight it.” All the Dwarrow that had been waiting in the hall of the healing wing flood with guilt. Their little Hobbit has been ill for Mahal knows how long and none of them noticed.

Tears begin to fall down the two youngest Durins’ cheeks. As the ones that spend the most time with Bilbo they feel extremely responsible for the Hobbit’s current state. Thorin squares his shoulders, ”Well, what can we do to help?” His voice was strong, but his eyes were shiny with unshed tears. The healer turns his gaze toward the Dwarven King and sighs, ”Not much. Just the usual: light foods and lots of water. I don’t know much about Hobbits to risk a tincture or other remedy I usually use on Dwarrow. Now if you’ll excuse me, there are other patients that I can do things for.” The tension increases as the others watch Oin walk away to see to his other patients.

Balin, Dwalin, Thorin, Dis, Fili and Kili all discuss a schedule for them to keep; to make sure Bilbo is never alone while the Hobbit heals. After a tentative agreement was reached, Fili and Kili stayed with Bilbo while the adults all went to deal with official duties and make arrangements for however long it took for Bilbo to get better. (Any other option is unthinkable). The sickroom is quiet, almost silent. Fili and Kili trade off wiping Bilbo’s brow with a cool cloth and trying to get food or water into the Hobbit. Their eyes never leave their little friend. An unspoken fear in the air that if they look away Bilbo will somehow be gone.

The mountain gets quieter as the day goes on and word of the state of the Royal Hobbit spreads. Most, if not all, have at least heard stories of the rambunctious Hobbit and his mischievous adventures in Ered Luin. Eventually, the news spreads to each member of Bilbo’s Chosen Family. They each fret in their own way during the times they aren’t by his side.

Thorin buries himself in his work. Fili and Kili both focus on their lessons and training and their pranks have been all but forgotten. Dis meets with dignitaries and sets up development programs. Dwalin has been increasing the Guards’ training. Balin nearly sleeps in the library with all the reading and research he has been doing. Ori has been sketching and knitting until his hands cramp. Bofur has taken up his mattock again and started mining during his free time. Gloin triple checks his balance books and holds his wife and son tightly before bed. Nori sneaks through the shadier parts of the mountain city causing havoc as he sees fit. Bifur has taken to wandering the halls at night with no particular destination in mind and often in a daze. Dori finds himself fixing an extra cup of tea every night just to stare at the cup before retiring for bed… Oin… Oin spends all his free time reading through every medical text he can get his hands on trying to find something- anything that can help reduce a Hobbit’s fever or cure HObbit illnesses.

The days pass achingly slowly. The entire mountain moves as though through molasses. A dark cloud hangs over the Dwarrow and Hobbits in Ered Luin. Everyone is filled with anxiety and concern for the young Bilbo. The small Hobbit always bouncing around with life and mischief now laying with a death-like stillness that doesn’t belong on him.

Bilbo is almost never alone in his sick-room. Occasionally though, Oin would see fit to shoo what ever Family member was being too overbearing for the small Hobbit. Bilbo has been in and out of consciousness for the few days he’s been confined to the room. Each time he notices a different Dwarrow. He is even convinced that Nori managed to pay him a visit a few times. Most of the time though, Bilbo lays there in a feverish haze.

Currently, Oin is the only one besides Bilbo in the room. The Hobbit’s green eyes shift around the room lazily. Once again, he finds himself stuck in a situation that could have been solved easily if he could just talk to the old healer or anyone really. Hobbits don’t get sick very often, but when they do it is usually rather severe. Bilbo wishes he could just tell him the mixture of herbs that never fail to reduce a Hobbit’s dangerously high fever. They are not very rare, but don’t have the same effect on Dwarrow so most healers don’t carry them. They are simple herbs, easy to find. Bilbo thinks the names of the herbs in his mind as sleep slowly claims him.

Oin has always been a superstitious Dwarf. So when a spirit whispers on the wind, he will listen. It is difficult. His hearing has been degrading for the last few years, but Oin refuses to use the hearing trumpet Gloin keeps trying to force on him. The healer listens carefully and tries to identify the source of the whispering. He could hear snippets of a few familiar plants, mostly weeds and a few herbs. Oin looks around the room, but all he can see is the Hobbit. The healer looks down at the small creature. ‘Could the whisper have come from Bilbo?’ Oin thinks to himself and then shakes the notion away.

The healer writes down a list and readies his gear. It is a long shot, but he has no other ideas. Oin has always followed the portents and now will be no exemption. He leaves the room just as Thorin was about to enter. The Dwarven King takes in the state of the other. Oin just glances at him with an unimpressed raised brow. ”Keep an eye on him for awhile, yeah? Try to get some water in him.” the healer walks off with no other words. He has a Hobbit to care for and by Mahal he will not rest until he has exhausted every idea imaginable.

Oin spends the rest of the day and long into the night searching for the plants that he thought he heard the spirits whisper to him in the healing wing. He trudges his way back through the mountain carrying the small collection of plants. Oin spends the rest of the night preparing the plants he collected for an herbal tea. He is not sure if this will work, but he is all out of ideas. Bilbo has been feverish for too long and his temperature has been steadily increasing each day.

As the healer slowly tries to force the undoubtedly bitter concoction down the Hobbit’s throat, Thorin wakes from his impromptu nap next to Bilbo’s bed. His Durin blue eyes look to the work table, ”I haven’t seen you use those before.” Oin massages Bilbo’s throat to get him to swallow, ”That’s because I have never used them before.” He steps back and watches the Hobbit for any immediate reactions. Thorin straightens at the answer. ”Is this some new remedy you have come up with?”

Oin goes back to his work table to clean up the remains of the plants after seeing no immediate threat to the Hobbit’s life. ”Nope. Most of this stuff is just weeds from around the mountain.” There is a long silence as Thorin waits for further explanation. After it becomes apparent that there will be none, he speaks up, ”Then where did this idea come from?” Oin closes the last box and turns to the Dwarven King standing tall, ”I heard the spirits whisper it to me.”

There is another silence that hangs heavy in the room. Thorin stands up quickly and growls at the healer, ”You gave Bilbo a random assortment of weeds for no other reason than you might have ‘heard’ it!?” Oin straightens his spine and stares Thorin in the eyes. ”It was the spirits Thorin. I heard the names of these plants. It was no coincidence that they could all be found near the mountain. There was no one else in the room other than me and Bilbo. What? Do you think the Hobbit spoke in clear Kuhzdul to tell me what plants to get?” Oin scoffs at his last question.

Thorin narrows his eyes and clenches his fists, ”For your sake, this had better work.” With a swirl of his coats, the King charges out of the sick-room. Dis watches her brother leave the healing wing on her way to check on Bilbo. His face is one of frustration and not sorrow or anger so her sudden fear that Bilbo passed in the night quickly vanishes. She continues her way to the Hobbit’s room with a brisk pace. Oin leaves as she gets to the door and Dis notices the dark circles under the healer’s eyes and the dirt over his hands.

The Durin princess smiles gently, ”Another late night? Thank you for your hard work, Oin.” The healer gives her a half-hearted greeting and continue on his way. Oin put on a strong front in front of Thorin, but even he is not sure of the concoction he gave the Hobbit. At this point in time though, there are no other options.

To the relief of the majority of the mountain, Bilbo recovered quickly after Oin’s remedy. The Hobbit currently sits between two ‘totally-not-crying’ princes on his sick bed with his other two Durins, Dis and Thorin, sitting nearby. Oin walks by to give Bilbo a final check to make sure the Hobbit is healthy. Dis places a hand on the healer’s shoulder, ”Thank you Oin. I am saddened to say that I very nearly gave up hope. Ered Luin is lucky to have a healer such as yourself.” Oin gives a respectful bow to the Lady Dis, ”I am humbled by your praise my Lady. But the credit does not go to me alone. Our prayers to Mahal were heard and answered. The solution was given to me by the whispers of the spirits on the wind. I was alone with Bilbo in this very room when they spoke to me.”

Bilbo’s heart drops to his stomach. It is only due to the years he has spent training with Nori that he managed to hide his shock at Oin’s words. ”Well,” Dis glances back to her boys, Whatever it was, I am glad we had you around.” Bilbo can’t hear the rest of their conversation over the blood rushing through his ears. He vaguely remembers thinking of the herbal remedy that has fixed Hobbit fevers and illnesses since before the founding of the Shire. Bilbo must have spoken them out loud in his fevered state. It is apparent though that the Dwarf that heard him speak believes it to have been the work of spirits and not the Hobbit himself.

Bilbo feels like he might have just used up all the luck in his life. He glances toward the healer and notices the exhaustion lines around his eyes and the relieved slope of his shoulders. Bilbo takes a moment to appreciate all the hard work the Dwarf must have gone through to help him. The Hobbit hides a smile in Fili’s shoulder as he pulls the two boys closer to himself. It might not be too bad. Bilbo is sure that Oin must be a good Dwarf. Green meets grey over the prince’s shoulder. Bilbo can see the happiness and pride in the healer’s eyes. The Hobbit can tell that Oin is very happy for his recovery. Bilbo can just feel it; the healer is definitely a good Dwarf.

Chapter Text

A cool crisp wind blows through the open gates of Ered Luin. Bilbo pulls his newest knit scarf (made by Ori of course) up over his nose. He hasn’t particularly liked the cold since that terribly dreadful winter and appreciates the gift. The Lower Levels suffer the worst of the cold at these times, but Bilbo is on a personal mission.

His birthday is in just a few weeks time. This birthday is much more important than all his previous birthdays. Soon, Bilbo will be turning thirty-three. He will be a proper adult. Such an important occasion deserves the best gifts to give to his Family. Bilbo has already gotten a good pair of Knuckle Dusters for Dwalin. A sturdy slingshot for Ori. Some fancy quill pens for Balin. A pair of warm fingerless gloves for Bofur. A sturdy ear-trumpet for Oin. A potted plant for Bifur. A beautifully carved comb for Gloin. A shiny new tea set for Dori. The Master Key to all the cells in Ered Luin for Nori. And of course a set of wooden family beads for Thorin, Fili, Kili, and Dis.

Now that he has the perfect gifts for his Family, he just has to get the perfect menu for the party. Of course, he could just make all the food himself. That would take much too long though,. Despite having lived with Dwarrow for so long, Bilbo still hasn’t gotten the hang of making Dwarvish dishes. Without Dis there to help him, his attempts always turn out either dry as sand or thick as clay. So, he needs a good Dwarf cook to help him. Bilbo would never ask one of his party guests to help, that would be the epitome of unrespectability.

He knows exactly who to get to help him. There is a quaint little inn down in the Lower Levels that has the absolute best dishes that Bilbo has ever tasted. Obviously his Family only deserves the best, therefore he needs the best Dwarf cook. Bilbo enters the rather run down inn and sits in his usual spot. By now the servers have gotten over their awe of him being the Royal Hobbit and have started to simply accept his presence there as normal. That didn’t stop them from putting up a sign stating he approves of the inn’s food. Hobbits are the most renowned cuisine connoisseurs in all of Middle Earth.

Bilbo’s usual seat is directly next to the kitchen door so he can check the different dishes that come out and select which one he wants that day. He sits there and graciously accepts the coos and adoration from his many admirers with the patience only a Hobbit possesses after decades of playing his part. Each time a server exits the kitchen, they show the dish to Bilbo and he either nods his head yes or shakes his head no depending on whether or not he wants to try it.

After nearly thirty minutes of Bilbo refusing every dish, he starts to get rather concerned. The Hobbit has become very familiar with Dwarvish cuisine despite not being able to cook it very well and he has noticed a disheartening trend today. Every dish going through the kitchen doors has just seemed… off. In fact it appears that most of the other customers have noticed as well. The plates going back into the kitchen have food left over or are only half eaten. This confuses Bilbo since this establishment has never had an off day in the twenty two years he has lived in Ered Luin.

In the kitchen the rotund Dwarven cook, Bombur, is an absolute wreck. His braids are frayed, there are dark circles around his eyes, and his movements are jerky and sluggish at the same time. He is extremely distressed. That much is clear to anyone that even glances in his direction. Bombur had gotten into a rather terrible argument with the ever cheerful yet spit-fire Dwarrowdam he has been courting over three years, Kefi. The worst part is that even after going at it for over an hour and Kefi storming out in a huff, Bombur still has no idea what it is he did.

He has wracked his brain for days trying to remember anything that could have set the usually cheery Dwarrowdam off. The round Dwarf lets out another heartbroken sigh. With the way things are currently going, it almost looks likely that Kefi will call the courtship off. Bombur turns around to plate another dish that he can tell is just passing for food and startles so hard that he almost drops the pan. Bilbo had snuck into the kitchen a while ago to see the reason behind the less than excellently crafted meals.

Hobbit and Dwarf stare at each other for a long moment. Bilbo had never been into the kitchen or back rooms before, there had never been a need until now. The smaller of the two is the first to break the silence, ”What seems to be the matter, Food-Maker? You look distressed.” Bombur just looks at the Hobbit. ”Uh… Hello.” his voice is naturally soft, but is more so now in his shock at the sudden Hobbit in the kitchen. He has known about Bilbo since the first day the small creature showed up and simply adored the inn’s food. In fact, the cook even received a raise due to the added business the Hobbit brought in by loving Bombur’s cooking.

Silence reigns in the kitchen again. Even the main room seems to be holding its breath for the encounter currently happening in the kitchen. Bilbo, with all the diplomatic grace of a raging bull, walks up to the pan to look at its contents and proceeds to throw the abomination into the garbage. Bombur stares at the Hobbit completely speechless. Bilbo gives a small apology to Yavanna for wasting food, but it had to be done.

The Hobbit then turns to the sink to wash his hands. Bilbo grabs a spare apron and looks at Bombur, ”Well, since you are clearly unable to. I guess I will have make the food for you until you are over whatever it is. Just think of it as a ‘thank you’ for all the tasty meals you have made for me.” The small creature then walks to a workstation and begins to chop vegetables. ”Do try to get over it soon. I’m rather rubbish at Dwarven food.”

The action manages to startle Bombur out of his shock and he rushes toward the Hobbit. With an urgency in his soft voice the Dwarf begins correcting Bilbo’s posture and grips. ”Here, the cutting goes smother if you hold them like this.” This goes on for a few vegetables and then some meat cuts and Bilbo can feel himself cutting more efficiently and with a better flow than he ever has before. The small creature flashes a bright dimpled smile up to the Dwarf.

He has been cooking for decades, yet with just a few adjustments his technique has significantly improved. Bilbo can see now, how the change in his posture and grip allow him to cut the ingredients to better suit Dwarven cuisine. Unlike Hobbits and their deep love for produce, Dwarrow focus more on meat based dishes. Bilbo has struggled to wrap his mind around the differences between the two races and their subsequent food styles. Now, though, the Hobbit knows he will have less problems while trying to make Dwarven cuisine.

Bombur and Bilbo continue to work in tandem on the rest of the orders with the rotund ginger altering the Hobbits actions occasionally. Swapping out spices, reducing or increasing sizes of certain ingredients, and even demonstrating techniques. The day seems to fly by as the two continue to cook meal after meal. By the end, Bombur even had a shy smile that lifted much of the stress he had been feeling.

As the last plate was washed and Bombur locks the door for the night, Bilbo looks over his favorite Food-Maker. Despite the small smile lifting of his spirits, the ginger Dwarf still has an underlying heaviness to the slope of his shoulders. Curious green eyes take in Bombur’s slight slouch and he comes to a decision. Bilbo will take no less than the best for his Family, so he will have to help settle this issue.

Bombur gives the Royal Hobbit a polite goodbye and began to walk away only to be stopped by Bilbo’s gentle hand. The Hobbit places his hand in the crook of the other’s arm and leans his head against Bombur’s shoulder perfectly content. The shy Dwarf stutters a few times at the blatant show of affection from the Hobbit. He tries to gently remove the small creature from his arm, but meets just enough resistance to discourage his actions.

With a heavy sigh Bombur starts making his way reluctantly to his house where he knows an angry Kefi has already arrived and probably been stewing in her anger for a few hours. Bilbo happily takes in the vaguely familiar surroundings while they travel through the Lower Levels. Bombur keeps trying to convince the Hobbit to go to his own home to no avail. Finally, the slightly less shabby looking house comes into view.

Bombur makes one last vain attempt to get Bilbo to go on his own way, but the Hobbit simply smiles back. With yet another heavy sigh, the Dwarf unlocks the front door and slowly peeks inside. Kefi is sitting at the table looking over a few building plans as she hears the door open. She doesn’t look up at the sound. Bilbo can almost see the tension in the air, it is so thick. He thinks to make a tactical retreat, but he really does need a proper cook for his party.

The door shuts behind the two new occupants and the added shuffle off feet did catch Kefi’s attention. She lifts her hazel eyes from her work and takes in the Hobbit standing next to the rotund Dwarf. Her sharp eyes take in the small creature’s well-made clothes and the Durin braid in his hair. The Dwarrowdam lifts one delicate eye brow and addresses the cook, ”Do you really think that bringing a Hobbit here would make up for exactly what you have done?”

Bombur stutters a bit, ”Wh-what are you talking about?” his voice shakes with his nerves and confusion. Kefi stands quickly from her seat and she narrows her eyes. ”Oh, don’t play dumb with me Bombur. I found those designs you thought were so cleverly hidden!” She stomps over to the round ginger Dwarf and jabs her finger into the male’s chest. Bilbo takes a few steps back to stay out of the way. ”If you think that you can just drag me along with this courting business for years just to come up with that!”

Bilbo watches from the sidelines finally understanding the cause of his favorite Food-Maker’s stress. Despite his many years in Ered Luin, the Hobbit still doesn't understand the intricacies of women. He watches the fight as it continues. Bombur takes a step back at the assault and seems to sag further than he had all day. Bilbo hears the round Dwarf sniffle, ”I-I… I thought you would like it.” Bombur spoke so gently it was almost a whisper.

This seems to anger the Dwarrowdam further. ”Like it? LIKE IT?!” Kefi is fuming. ”You thought I would LIKE to be strung along and used for cheap labor?! Is that why you started this courtship?! Because I am Contractor?! So I could remodel your kitchen!?” Bombur shrinks further into himself and looks to the floor. ”It… it was supposed to be a proposal.” Kefi straightens her spine, ”How is that supposed to be a proposal!?”

Bombur glances up through his lashes to the fierce Dwarrowdam that holds his heart. His voice is soft and broken as he replies, ”I thought that… you could make a kitchen… and I could use it to make you the most delicious meals for the rest of our lives…” The room becomes silent as Kefi slowly processes Bombur’s words. Bilbo smiles as the fiery Dwarrowdam begins to blush all the way to the roots of her hair due to her misunderstanding. The Hobbit sneaks his way out of the room silently seeing that his work there is finished.

The days seemed to fly by as Bilbo started his party preparations in earnest. His first step was to make sure everyone's calendars were marked with the special day and time. It was difficult for those that don’t usually bother with calendars, like Nori, Dwalin and surprisingly Oin. Despite his cranky no-nonsense demeanor the healer always gave Bilbo a chaotic organized feeling. The most difficult part was trying to take time with Bombur to select the dishes he wants for the party. Bilbo still gets frustrated with the lack of communication with his Dwarrow, but usually quickly gets over it.

Finally, the day arrives and Bilbo wakes bright and early. He is the first one awake and out of the bed that morning. The Hobbit starts making a large breakfast for his main Durins. He happily hums a Shire tune and plates the food as each Dwarf sits in their usual seat. ”Bilbo seems to be in an excellent mood this morning.” Thorin comments after a while. Fili looks up from his breakfast, ”He probably has something planned.” Kili also looks up, ”Probably some big prank, knowing Bilbo.”

Dis gathers her plate and fork and heads to the sink, ”Well, whatever it is, you boys make sure that he’s back before dinner.” She then gestures to the calendar to the side of the room. The current date circled in red. ”You don’t want to be late.” The two young princes look to the calendar. ”Yeah, what exactly is happening today again?” Kili asks after a moment. Dis and Thorin both look to the calendar and think in silence. Bilbo opens the door just before Dwalin can knock. ”I’m sure I’ll remember at some point today.” Dis waves off the confusion with a gentle flick of her hands. ”We have things to do, so we might as well get started.”

Bilbo waved them all good bye and made his way casually through the halls. It is his birthday and the Hobbit is quite excited for the party he has planned. He has gone through a lot of trouble to organize this party and now he gets to see it all fall into place. Bilbo takes his time going around the mountain, taking in the sights before he has to start collecting his Dwarrow for the party. He has lived in Ered Luin over twenty years. There have been a few frustrating times, sometimes he wished things were a little different, and he holds a few painful memories, but overall Bilbo has been happy. He knows that he will never regret his decision to reach out his hand to the wayward Thorin all those years ago.

The lunch rush at the inn Bombur works slowly trickles out while Bilbo makes his way in. The rotund Dwarf steps out of the kitchen rather confused after his boss told him that he could start his requested half-day off. Bombur doesn’t remember requesting any time off. ”I’m here to pick you up, Food-Maker” The cook startles at the sudden sound. Bilbo looks up at him barely able to contain his excitement. Bombur just looks down curiously at the Hobbit’s outstretched hand. He releases a sigh, now quite used to the Hobbit’s stubbornness. The two walk all the way to the Upper Levels taking the Main Street forcing Bombur to endure the curious stares of from nearly every Dwarrow and Hobbit along the way.

The poor Dwarf’s face is as red as his beard by the time the two get to the Grand Feast Hall. Bombur’s jaw drops at the ornate venue and he can only gape as Bilbo leads him to the attached kitchen. The Dwarven cook had never seen such a well stocked kitchen with such well maintained equipment. He almost cries a tear of joy at the beauty of it all. Bombur is brought out of his shock at the sound of Bilbo bringing ingredients out to the counters and starting meal prep. His experience kicks in and soon the two Foodies are cooking in tandem like they have been for the last two weeks.

This lasts a few hours until Bilbo looks up to the clock. It is nearly time for him to pick up the others. The Hobbit checks to make sure Bombur is in a cooking zone and sneaks out the door. Bilbo makes his way back to the Lower Levels to pick up the farthest of his Dwarrow. Most of the shops are closing down for the night, but many faces turn to the Royal Hobbit as he makes his way proudly to the home of the Ri’s. The other Dwarrow and the few Hobbits about can feel there is something significant going on.

Bilbo stands tall at the front door and knocks. He can hear his Ris arguing about something or the other and a smile starts to form on the Hobbit’s lips. The door suddenly opens to Ori with a strained polite smile. The young ginger looks to Bilbo with shock, not expecting to see the Hobbit at his front door. Bilbo’s smile stretches wider, his dimples prominent on his cheeks. The Hobbit grabs Ori’s hand and gently pulls him outside. He looks inside the room, Dori and Nori are both looking at him with curiosity. Bilbo takes a few steps and looks back with a clear indication he wants them to follow.

Soon, Bilbo has three Dwarrow in tow. Nori and Dori shift their eyes back and forth clearly uncomfortable with the stares they are receiving from the Dwarrow they pass by. Ori, quite used to the eyes burning into his sides from the adventures Fili and Kili often dragged him on walks calmly next to Bilbo. Occasionally the Hobbit has to send a fierce look to the Thief as he tries to sneak off.

They make it to another home in the Lower Levels. The stares of random Dwarrow haven’t left the small group. Bilbo turns and gives them an open palm in a clear ‘stay here’ signal. With an extra hard look at Nori, the Hobbit turns to the new door and knocks. There is some shuffling inside and then the door opens to Bifur this time. The injured Dwarf stares down at the small creature for a moment and then heads back into the house. The Ris watch just to the side. They send each other curious looks, but none of them understand what exactly is going on. A few moments later Bifur returns dragging Bofur behind him.

Bilbo smiles and turns to lead the way again. The Dwarrow continue to follow with the added two. Once Bofur manages to right himself and walk on his own power he looks to the unfamiliar others in the group. ”Well, ‘ello there. Name’s Bofur, this here is ma cousin Bifur. Nice ta me’tcha.” The genial Dwarf stretches his hand out to the Ris with a face splitting smile. Dori accepts the handshake and introduces himself and his brothers. ”Well now that that’s all done with,” Bofur turns back to the front to see Bilbo keeping half an eye on them and still guiding the way. ”Any idea where we all’re goin’?” the question is met with negative head shakes.

”Oh well,” Bofur’s smile returns full force as the gates to the Upper Levels come into view, ”I’m sure we’ll figure it out eventually.” Bilbo smiles as he listens to his Dwarrow already getting along. The guards at the gate stand at attention to the group of five Dwarrow lead by the Royal Hobbit. The Dwarrow all become rather nervous under their stares, Nori especially. Bilbo simply smiles at them, gives a general wave to the others following him and continues walking through without a pause.

The five Dwarrow following Bilbo are allowed to pass, but they still feel rather nervous about the situation. They all followed Bilbo because they trust the Hobbit, but now a few of them are starting to reconsider. If they didn’t wholeheartedly believe it was Bilbo that added the notice on their calendars (Bofur and Bifur didn’t even own a calendar before then) then they wouldn’t have even left their homes. The stares of the shopkeepers and evening shoppers burns holes into the group.

The Dwarrow and Hobbit come across yet another home and Bilbo repeats his open palm gesture and hard stare at Nori and Bifur as well and goes to knock on the door. There are some heavy footsteps and Goin opens the door. He is holding Gimli in one arm and looks down to the Hobbit. In a hearty voice the newest ginger Dwarf exclaims, ”Well, if it isn’t Bilbo!! You here to play with my boy Gimli again?” He glances up at the group behind the Hobbit. ”What’s this now? Did you bring friends to play too? Huh?” Bilbo is usually patient with the rather loud Dwarf, but decides to cut him off before he could really get going. After all, they have a party to get to. Not that any of the Dwarrow know that.

Bilbo tilts his head and tugs on Gloin’s sleeve clearly indicating that he follow. The ginger Dwarf stares at the Hobbit for a few moments before understanding finally kicks in. Gloin heads back into his house and practically everyone in a five block radius can hear him yell out to the nearly deaf Dwarf, ”OI! OIN, HOBBIT’S HERE TO PICK US UP” there is some shuffling and some yelling and finally, Goin and Oin exit the building.

Bilbo smiles and takes the lead again. Bofur begins the introductions, albeit slightly more nervous than last time. Gloin on the other hand, has absolutely no problems with introducing himself and Oin the others. The group continue their path through the Upper Levels. Each one putting their complete trust in the small Hobbit leading them. Soon, they came upon yet another house. Bilbo repeats his gesture from the last two times and went up to the door.

Another knock, more shuffles, and the door opens to Balin’s curiously raised brow. Shrewd grey eyes glance to the group behind the Hobbit, ”Well hello there Bilbo. I wasn’t quite expecting you.” Bilbo pointedly looks behind the Dwarf. ”Yes, yes.” Balin smiles down to the creature, ”I’ll go get Dwalin.” The graying Dwarf re-enters the room and a few seconds later comes back with his brother in tow. Bilbo reaches out and gently tugs both Dwarrow’s sleeves, obviously declaring they should follow too.

The two exit their home and Dwalin’s face turns into a scowl as his eyes land on Nori. Said Thief mutters warningly to the Hobbit, ”Bilbo”. Bilbo turns to Dwalin with a stern stare of his own and stands between the two. The stare off lasts for only a few moments, before the guard captain relents. Bilbo’s face immediately blossoms back into its previous smile as he turns to lead the way once more. The Hobbit thinks they probably look rather silly. A small herd of Dwarrow from all walks of life lead by a tiny Hobbit down the main path. It is important though. It is a statement.

At last they come across the Royal Halls. Dwalin hardly notices with how hard he has been staring at Nori, just daring the sneaky Thief to try something. Balin, however is beginning to suspect that more is going on than he realizes. They make it to the Royal Rooms and this time Bilbo doesn't bother telling them all to stay put. Instead he simply walks straight inside. In the living room, Dis is trying in vain to tame Kili’s mess of tangles into presentable braids for the event circled on their calendar that she still cannot remember. Thorin and Fili sit at the table having already been subjected to Dis’ ministrations.

”Ah, Bilbo.” The Dwarrowdam says as she notices the Hobbit, ”Good you’re here. I was just about to send one of the boys out to find you.” She finally decides to be finished with her youngest son’s hair and pats the boy’s head. Kili retreats to the table with the other two wounded Durins. Dis turns and notices Bilbo in his Ready-To-Go pose. ”Well, I suppose at least one of us know what this all is about.” Dis sighs. Fili takes this time to chime in, ”See, I told you he had something planned.” Kili takes a moment for his two coppers, ”Should of known Bilbo was up to something big. He’d been too quiet these past few weeks.”

”Well then, Bilbo.” Thorin stands from his place at the table. ”Since you know what this is all about, lead the way.” The Hobbit smiles at his Durins. His loving Family. They have done so much for him. Most things, they will never understand. Bilbo is the first out the door, already leading the rest of the group farther down the Halls.

The main Durins were equally surprised as the rest of the group to see each other. ”Dwalin,” Thorin greets quietly, ”Any idea what this is all about?” Said guard finally realizes where they were all at and acknowledges his king, ”Not the slightest, but knowing Bilbo it could equally be as pleasant as it is catastrophic.” Thorin nods his head, more than acquainted with the Hobbit’s brand of mischief. The almost complete set of Dwarrow follow their mutual Hobbit down the Hall.

The Dwarrow slowly begin to start up general conversations. It begins rather awkward as most have just met and most of those that had met before were under rather strained circumstances. Fili and Kili have no qualms catching up with Ori. The latter pointedly looking at his two brothers as if to say I-Told-You-So. Nori and Dwalin pick up a banter over the former’s Sticky-Fingers and where he should keep them with the occasional input from Dori. Bofur tries to help Oin and Bifur communicate something about medicinal herbs that help relieve pain while Gloin just watches with a large grin and a few good natured chuckles.

Eventually though, they all make it to the Grand Feast Hall and Bilbo leads them inside. Within the hall Bombur is just placing the last dish onto the large over full long table. The cook, who had just been wiping his brow from a job well done, looks up to see his audience and startles so hard his feet leave the ground. ”Bombur!” Bofur exclaims from the back of the group. ”So this is where you’ve been. Bifur ‘n I were just starting to worry before Bilbo ‘ere picked us up for… well whatever this is. You would’na ‘appen to know, whouldja?”

The ginger cook just shakes his head in embarrassment while the arriving Dwarrow all glance around looking for clues as to why Bilbo brought them here. The cause of everyone’s confusion just walks over to the table and sets up the plates. It is an awkward five whole minutes where the only sound in the grand hall was that of plates, cups and tableware. Once finished, Bilbo turns to his Dwarrow expectantly. Kili, who usually states the obvious leans forward with narrowed eyes, ”I think he wants us to eat.” Fili leans forward slightly as well, ”For once brother, I think you have said something not stupid.” The two make their way to the table bickering as usual.

At the sight of Bilbo’s happy approval, slowly the others make their way to the table as well. The conversations start up again much easier this time. The addition of food and drink and the less confusion all around helping that matter. They still don’t know what brought this sudden party on, but all are equally willing to partake. Bilbo roams around making sure cups and plates stay full occasionally nuzzling a Dwarf in his happiness. He will admit to himself he was a little worried about how they all would get along with each other. The Hobbit soon realized his worry was for naught as he really had picked some special Dwarrow.

There is laughter and cheer and merry making all around. Even the more shy and withdrawn Dwarrow become comfortable enough to join in on the fun. During the height of the party, Bilbo begins to pass out his presents. Each Dwarf thanks him as they receive either a neatly wrapped box or a colorful bag. Bilbo takes his own seat at the edge of the table to watch the happy faces of his Dwarrow as they open their gifts. The Hobbit can feel the love swell in his heart at their happiness.

The sounds of the party come to a sudden halt as Balin’s sharp eyes take in one specific part that all the gifts share. Realization hits the elderly Dwarf like a war hammer and he he drops his wine glass over the table spilling its contents over food and others. The other Dwarrow clamor to clean up the spill, several look to Balin to see what has the advisor looking so pale. Balin could only stare in shock at the small wooden brooch carved to look like the roots of a sprouting acorn. A brooch that every Dwarrow present received along with their individual gifts. ”It’s a Unity” The silver-haired advisor whispers.

Only those close enough to hear pause in their actions and look to Balin, confusion written on their faces. The elderly advisor begins to tremble slightly, but his voice is calm and loud enough for the others to hear as he repeats. ”It is a Unity. A ceremony that a Hobbit performs to claim someone as their own. They are bound with a symbol of unity.” All the Dwarrow look down to the brooch in Balin’s hand and the matching ones attached to their gifts and turn to Bilbo sitting in his chair smiling like he has no care in the world with the matching brooch pinned proudly to his shirt.

Balin continues, voice reverent as the weight of the situation finally sinks in, ”This ceremony has only happened a handful of times in all recorded histories. When one becomes true Hobbit-Family.” The room is filled with silence. The Dwarrow staring at the Hobbit and realizing exactly what just happened. That they have just been bestowed the highest honor of the small creatures. That despite their faults, their stations, and their perceived weaknesses that little Hobbit sitting there sipping his drink loves them all as his closest Family.

”Awwww, Let’s Hear It For Bilbo!!” Bofur shouts over the roaring silence raising his cup. Cheers ring out in the Feast Hall and the party continues. Each Dwarrow wears their pin proudly in their own unique ways. They show off their gifts to each other and exclaim how smart Bilbo must be to have known to get it.

Bilbo returns to the fray. He passes gentle headbutts, big hugs and soft nuzzles. The Dwarrow all return his shows of love. The Hobbit thinks to himself that he certainly has found himself a wonderful Family. The best even. They are old and young, rich and poor, honest and cunning, and Bilbo wouldn’t have them any other way. They are all filled with Loyalty, Honor, and Willing Hearts.

They are all Family.

Chapter Text

Bilbo takes a sip of his tea while listening to Fili and Kili banter back and forth. Dis sips on her own tea next the the Hobbit. It is a rare rest day for the Durins as they prepare for the return of Thorin from his journey out for any possible areas willing to open their gates for seasonal Dwarven work. He takes a long trip every few years to attempt to negotiate deals for Ered Luin crafters to work or sell their wares, but usually has little to no luck.

The Durins that remained in Ered Luin have all been working hard to keep the mountain running in the absence of their King. ”Okay, boys, you’ve had your fun. You may not have any lessons today, but that doesn’t mean you are completely free.” The two rambunctious princes halt in their actions. Despite having reached their majority for a few decades now, the two are still as wild as they were as Dwarflings. Speaking a ‘yes mum’ at the same time, Fili and Kili put their plates in the sink and begin to wash up.

Bilbo watches his two boys play with the water and suds more than actually cleaning anything and smiles. He has those boys to thank for still being rather fit as he fast approaches middle age; for a Hobbit that is. Being dragged around by the duo for their antics has kept him fit and spry. Bilbo’s 50th birthday is just around the corner. He doesn’t have anything grand planned like his coming of age day, but he wouldn’t be a proper respectable Baggins without some form of celebration. He has a few ideas in mind, but there is still some time yet.

Dis releases a fond yet exasperated sigh at her boys’ antics. Bilbo gently pats the Dwarrowdam’s hand and gets up from the table. The Hobbit affectionately smacks the two over the head and with sheepish smiles Fili and Kili properly do the washing. Dis brings the tea cups to the sink as well. ”When you two are done with this you are free until noon. That is when Thorin should be arriving back to Ered Luin.” The two boys give matching ‘whoops’ of joy and make their way to the front door.

Bilbo can’t help but continue smiling at his precious family. He too is excited for the return of Thorin. He never feels quite settles unless his entire Family is in the mountain. Fili and Kili are playfully shoving each other while they put their boots on for a few hours of play. Bilbo pats Dis’ shoulder and goes to follow his boys. Though the Hobbit’s family has gotten rather large, there is a soft spot in his heart for his two boys. Despite the young princes both being taller than Bilbo, the Hobbit will always feel a special connection to the two.

The three rush out the door with all the youthful grace of excited children. Dis shakes her head fondly at their departure. She admits to having been skeptical at first, and even rather concerned a few times, but has never regretted taking the chance and accepting the little one into her family. It certainly has been a very loving and happy life since Bilbo arrived in the mountain.

Fili, Kili and Bilbo all head to the Scribe’s guild where they know Ori is probably hard at work. The princes are firm believers of taking frequent breaks, especially for boring tasks like anything to do in a library. After a few hours of bothering the poor scribe in his apprenticeship, Balin finally chased the trio out. The two princes and Hobbit make their way slowly through the markets. After a few well-timed pranks and well deserved snacks, the trio are picked up by Dis and an unamused Dwalin and Balin. Soon, the Durins are all making their way to the gates, excited to welcome their King and kin home.

Meanwhile, a few kilometers from the entrance to Ered Luin, Thorin slowly makes his way down the well worn path. His last stop before he was to return to Ered Luin was a small Mannish town called Bree. There, he had the most peculiar meeting. After another day of failed negotiations, Thorin had set himself to brood relax alone at the inn.

There he was eating a modest dinner near the corner of the small inn, when a grey-cloaked figure approached him. Thorin, being exactly who he was, was already prepared for a possible attack. When the stranger simply sat down and smiled at him, the Dwarven King thought to give him a chance. After the stranger revealed himself to be Tharkun, the grey wizard, Thorin knew to give him his attention.

What followed could only be described as a carefully played conversation filled with supposes and perhapses and not a single statement made too definitively. If Thorin weren’t the King he was and gone through such troubled times, he surely would have put his complete trust in the Grey Wizard. As it stands, though he still holds his suspicions, he cannot ignore the possibilities behind the other’s words.

Thorin now approaches the Gates of Ered Luin, a map sitting heavily inside his coat pocket and tentative hope in his heart. Standing there, just beyond the tree line stands his Family. Dis who has been his stalwart support through the years. Fili and Kili that have brought a lightness to even his darkest of times. Dwalin who has protected him on the battlefield, and Balin who has done the same in the courts of nobles. Finally, there stands Bilbo. The Hobbit that has done more for Ered Luin, the Dwarrow of the mountain, and for Thorin himself, than he could ever imagine.

Bright green eyes land on the King and the Hobbit’s face lights up with a wide smile. The tiny hope in his chest blossoms and a warmth fills his heart as a tiny smile forms on Thorin’s face. He can do this. His people, his family, deserve better. Thorin’s resolve hardens stronger than Mithril.

It is time to reclaim Erebor.