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Small, But Fierce

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“Gandalf?” Bilbo’s high voice shook as he wrung his tiny hands nervously. “You can fix this . . Right?”

Only moments ago he was his perfectly (mostly) respectable self at a comfortable middle age of fifty years. Now he was standing in the midst of a bunch of speechless dwarrow as a much less respectable (and very uncomfortable) faunt. At least his clothes seemed to have shrunk with him (thank Yvanna for weird magic), but it didn’t make him any less eager to change back.

Gandalf stroked his beard as he eyed Bilbo in thought (and possibly a hint of amusement). “I’m afraid, my dear boy, that this spell is semi-permanent. There is nothing I can do to reverse it.”

“P-p-p-permanent?!?!” Bilbo shrieked. He swayed on his feet as he put his hand over his mouth, fighting the rising panic welling up in his chest.

“Are you saying he’s stuck like this?!” Thorin stomped up to the wizard.

“I said ’semi’-permanent, as in it is not a spell I can reverse. It should, however, wear off in its own time.”

“Should?!” Thorin and Bilbo spoke at once.

“Well, yes. As I was not the one to cast the spell, it is hard to say just how long it will take. Perhaps if you had better reign over your nephews this mishap would have never happened.” Gandalf challenged the exiled king.

Thorin sent a glare full of promise to his two nephews who cowered at the gaze.

“Until then, it would appear that you have a faunt to take care off.”

“Faunt?! No, no, no, no, no.” Bilbo shook his head vehemently. “I can’t continue the quest like this! I . . I could barely manage it as an adult!”

“I agree. He will only be even more a burden than he was.” Thorin concurred. “Bree is not that far behind us. We will send him back.”

“You will do no such thing!” Gandalf straightened menacingly. “The success of your quest depends on your burglar! If you send him home now, you may as well admit defeat and save yourself the trouble.”

Thorin sent a scathing glare at the wizard, but he simply brushed it off. “The Hobbit will be staying. Besides, I’m sure the spell will wear off by the time we get to the mountain.” Gandalf guessed in that confident tone he usually used when he was spouting hot air.

Bilbo swayed looking far paler than any healthy faunt should. “I . . just . . Nope.” He plopped softly to the earth as he didn’t have far to fall.

He woke up to a comforting floating sensation and a whole lot of noise. A couple of the voices sounded awfully close.

“See what you’ve done?! You’ve scared the poor thing! Bad parenting if I’ve ever seen it!”

“Tha’s right! We won’t be havin’ ye bullyin’ the wee thing!”

“If he was my wee Gimli, I’d have you’re beard for this!”

“Move aside! Let me see ‘im!”

Bilbo finally opened his eyes at the gentle prodding of rough hands. “What?” Oin seemed to be giving him a quick on the spot check up. As he looked around more to figure out what was going on, he realized he was several feet off the ground. He quickly looked at himself and up to find that he was resting in the arms of Dori.

“P-p-put me down!” He squirmed and arched until Dori finally set him on his feet

He looked up at the (really tall) dwarrow and discovered that Bofur, Gloin and Bifur had all taken up defensive stances around him.

“Ye all right there, Bilbo?” Bofur asked kindly.

“Yes. W-what happened?”

“Ye fainted, lad. Did the wizard do it?” Gloin almost growled as if he was just looking for a reason to start a fight.

“W-what? N-no, I . . “

Gandalf’s chuckled cut him off. “Well, it seems like there won’t be any issues after all. Now I suggest we get going. We have already lost time to this little . . accident.”

“Move out!” Thorin barked because it was his job to give the orders around here.

“What?! But-but I can’t ride a pony like this!” Bilbo could feel the panic coming back.

“Sure you can!” Kili walked Myrtle over. “It’s not like you really drove her before. You just rode while she followed, so nothing’s really changed.”

“Th-that’s not what I . .”

Fili picked him up without waiting for him to answer and plopped him on the pony.

Bilbo immediately fell forward and gripped the saddle in a death grip. When Myrtle shifted beneath him, it was the last straw. “Putmedownputmedownputmedown!” He squealed.

Several of the older dwarrow came running, even Thorin arrived looking concerned. “What are you doing?!”

“We were just putting him on a pony!” Kili defended.

“He’s too small for a blasted pony!” Dori rescued the whimpering faunt. “His legs aren’t long enough to grip the saddle properly and it’s too wide for him to sit comfortably!”

“Very well. Hand him here. He can ride with me.”

Every single one of the dwarrow turned on Gandalf with a harsh glare for the suggestion.

“He’ll ride with one of us.” Dori declared.

“We’ll let Bilbo decide who ‘e wants to ride with.” Bofur suggested.

“Well? Who’ll it be, lad. Ye’ll have to ride with someone.” Gloin prompted.

Bilbo looked around at all the expectant gazes, vaguely aware that he was being carried again but too comforted by it to care at the moment. “O-Ori?” Ori was a gentle soul. He would be the safest to ride with . . probably.

Some of the dwarrow grumbled while Ori looked shell-shocked. “I-I’ve never carried a babe before!” He said with a hint of panic.

“I’m not a babe!”

“It’ll be fine.” Dori talked over him. “He’s not so young that he can’t hold on. You just have to support him.” He instructed with a experience of a parent. He had practically raised his brothers single handedly, after all. “Get on your pony and I’ll hand him to you.”

Ori climbed up and Dori set Bilbo in front of him side-saddle style. “Now just put that arm behind him for support and drive with your other one. If he falls asleep, grip him to you just hard enough to keep him from shifting or slipping and you’ll be fine.” Dori instructed.

“I will not fall asleep! I-I am not a faunt! Only my body has changed! I am still very much an adult, thank you very much!” Bilbo protested loudly.

“Of course you are.” Dori patted his head indulgently.

Bilbo huffed and scowled as Dori went back to his pony. He would not be treated like a child just because he looked like one! He was a grown hobbit, for Yavanna’s sake!

He continued to pout and fume as the dwarrow steered their ponies back on the road.

~Thorin~

They continued down the road making decent time, now that they didn’t have to accommodate a halfling that couldn’t drive a pony. Thorin rolled his eyes at the sound of cooing behind him.

“Aww. Look a’ the little fella. He really did fall alsleep.” Bofur loudly whispered.

“He’s so tiny.” Fili gently stroked a tiny hand in awe.

“And so cute! Are all hobbit babes this cute?” Kili asked.

“Aye. He ain’t much bigger than my wee Gimli when he was born.” Gloin reminisced.

“Hobbit children are known for being especially ‘cute’ among the children of the world due to their small size, curly hair and cheerfully energetic dispositions. Bilbo, however, was especially attractive as a child and was the envy of hobbit mothers throughout the Shire.” Gandalf bragged as if he was his own.

“You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” Thorin glared accusingly at the smirking wizard as his dwarrow continued to coo over the hobbit.

“I find it harmless enough.” Gandalf made no effort to hide his smile.

“And will you find it harmless when we encounter orcs on the road?” Thorin questioned harshly. This quest was no place for a child! He would not see a babe harmed on his watch, even if he wasn’t really a babe! He should have insisted they send him back. He rubbed his beard in anxiety over the dangers he was bringing a babe along to encounter.

“Oh, come now. It’s not as if you expected him to be helpful in such a situation. At least now he will be easier to keep on hand. Besides, you may be surprised. Hobbit children are know for their many . . talents. He may prove far more useful than you expect, perhaps even more so than he would be as an adult.” Gandalf murmured the last part to himself.

Thorin glared at the wizard suspiciously. The cooing still hadn’t stopped and it was starting to grate on his nerves. “Enough!” He shouted back at his company.

Bilbo jolted awake at Thorin’s bellow and stared sleepily at the dwarrow in front of him. As one, the dwarrow froze and held their collective breath.

After a few moments, Bilbo’s eyes began to droop again and he fell back to sleep. The majority of the company turned to Thorin with a disapproving glare.

“Are you mad?!” Dori whispered loudly. “Never wake a sleeping babe!”

“Ye’d be better off wakin’ a dragon.” Gloin mumbled knowingly.

Thorin huffed and turned back to the trail feeling thoroughly chastised but needing to save face. “You would do well to follow your own advice and keep quiet.”

The dwarrow fell silent while Gandalf chuckled beside him. He sent the old wizard one more glare for good measure. It was all the blasted wizard’s fault!

~Bilbo~

Bilbo awoke from his amazingly refreshing nap with a yawn and a stretch. Maybe that whole quest thing had been a dream after all. He opened his eyes and was met with a grinning hatted dwarf.

“Mornin’, sleepy head.”

Oh. Bilbo sprang upright with a blush. “I-I am so sorry! I don’t know what came over me.” He turned to Ori.

“It’s okay. You must have needed the rest. . . Don’t worry about it.” Ori added when Bilbo’s alarm didn’t subside.

“I am so sorry. It-it won’t happen again.”

Some of the dwarrow chuckled while the more experienced ones scoffed at the promise.

Bilbo blushed but made it his goal to stay awake for the rest of the day . . which he did. Ori handed the faunt back down to Dori when they stopped for the night and Dori set him down near where the fire was going to be while everyone did their part in making camp.

Once the fire was made, Bombur sat down to work on dinner and surreptitiously keep an eye on the faunt while everyone was busy.

Bilbo twiddled his thumbs feeling even more useless than before. At least as an adult, he could gather sticks for the fire. Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. “C-can I help?” He walked up to Bombur shyly. He hadn’t really talked much with the quiet dwarf before.

Bombur looked at him surprised at first before giving him a smile. “Of course. Do you like cooking?”

“Like it? Hobbits live for food! Though I admit I enjoy eating it more than cooking it.”

“Then you and I have a lot in common. As you can see, I’m quite fond of eating myself.” Bombur chuckled as he rubbed his generous belly.

“You’d make one fine hobbit, Master Bombur.” Bilbo giggled. “A big belly is the sign of a healthy, wealthy hobbit, they say.”

“Just Bombur is fine. And if that’s the case, we must work harder to fatten you up. You could do with a little more plumpness.”

“While I’m like this?! Good luck!” Bilbo laughed. “Faunts are near impossible to fatten up. They burn through energy much too fast. There’s a reason we grow so much food in the Shire: we have to to satisfy our ravenous faunts.”

Bombur laughed along and they chatted while they cooked. Bilbo helped with everything he could, but mostly got stuck with stirring the pot. Dori sat nearby watching approvingly as Bilbo seemed to be enjoying his time with Bombur.

When dinner was finished, Bombur spooned up a large bowl to the brim and sat Bilbo down with it. The bowl was so large that it looked huge on the faunt's lap and some of the dwarrrow snickered at the sight.

“Ye trying to drown our Hobbit, ey Bombur? We might just lose ‘im in the bowl.” Bofur chuckled.

“Aye. There’s no way the lad’s gonna be able to finish tha-“

“That was delicious, Bombur.” Dwalin was cut off as Bilbo brought his bowl back. “You really have a way with spicing up old travel food.” He set his empty bowl down.

The dwarrow gaped at him. Fili picked up the bowl and inspected it as if it might contain a secret compartment that the soup could have vanished into. “Where did he put it all?” He asked in wonder.

“That bowl’s bigger than his head!” Kili exclaimed in disbelief.

There was a murmur of confusion and disbelief in the camp which Bilbo seemed to easily tune out as he tried to put his bedroll together.

Gandalf chuckled at the flabbergasted dwarrow. “Hobbits are only out-eaten by their own children.”

“Was it enough?” Dori asked suddenly alarmed.

“I have no doubt we will know if it wasn’t soon enough.” Gandalf answered ominously.

The group turned their eyes back to their tiny hobbit. Rather than laying it out like a normal bedroll, Bilbo was expertly crafting a small nest perfectly sized for his much smaller body. It would be far more comfortable than trying to fit into a too-large bedroll.

The dwarrow watched in fascination as the faunt made himself ready for bed before curling up and virtually disappearing into his little nest. Some of them turned to Gandalf for an explanation.

Gandalf hummed unconcerned and shrugged. If he knew, he wasn’t planning to answer.

Later that night, Bilbo jerked awake still tucked snugly into his nest. He cautiously stuck his head out. He’d heard something that had woken him from his slumber. He sat as still as possible and listened.

When the sound echoed through the night air again, he jumped out of his nest in near panic. “Wolves?!” His high youthful voice came out shrill.

“Nah. Just orcs.” Fili corrected.

“Far worse than wolves really. They come for you in the night.” Kili added dramatically.

Bilbo looked around quickly, trying to locate Gandalf. Where was that blasted wizard when you needed him?! Bilbo returned his focus to the boys at the sound of a dull ‘thunk.’

“You think it’s funny . . scaring a child with orcs?” Their uncle rebuked harshly.

“I-I’m not a child,” Bilbo interrupted the scolding. “b-but, um, . . do you mind if I sleep with you?” He grabbed his pile of a bed roll and scampered over to where the boys were sitting and resettled it right between them before climbing in and making himself comfortable again. “Thanks. This way whatever comes will have to get you first.”

Kili squawked indignantly as Bilbo covered up and went back to sleep almost instantly, feeling much safer now. Fili chuckled and even Thorin couldn’t suppress a small smirk at the halfling's cheek.

~Thorin~

“Quite strategic for such a little fellow.” Balin chuckled.

“Still not enough to be useful.” Dwalin grumbled. “The wizard is full of it.”

“Would you have us abandon him?” Thorin challenged lowly.

“Nah. I’d see ‘’im back safe in ‘is home.”

“Tharkun has not given us that option.” Thorin growled. “And we can not afford to lose the wizard.” Thorin had never been pleased with the idea of taking the hobbit. But not quite for the same reasons he wanted everyone to believe. He did not wish to drag such a peaceful creature into the dangers they would face. Even if he survived, he would not be the same.

“The blasted wizard will get the hobbit killed!” Dwalin growled. “If ‘e cared so much about ‘im, ‘e wouldn’t have chosen ‘im for such a quest in the first place and would have sent ‘im home in ‘is condition.”

Thorin agreed completely. The problem with wizards is they were to wrapped up in the mine to pay attention to the veins.

The next morning the camp was in an uproar.

“What do you mean you lost the halfling?! He was with you last night!!” Dori screamed at the princes in the midst of it.

“He was!! He was right here between us! But he was gone when we woke up!” Kili squealed in defense.

“Dwalin was on watch this morning! He should have noticed if Bilbo got up!” Fili shifted the blame.

“I can’t account for every wee thing that moves! We’ll be slayed by orcs while I’m accountin’ for ever squirrel and chipmunk that fusses about!” Dwalin defended.

“Surely ‘e wouldn’t wander off on ‘is own?! ‘E’s such a wee thing!” Bofur interjected with worry.

Thorin rubbed at his temple, even without the noise his dwarrow were making the missing halfling was enough to give him a headache. “Enough!! We will split up and search for the halfling!”

The silence only lasted a moment before accusations and insults were being thrown around again. Gandalf sat to the side looking far more amused than he should be, when suddenly a small voice seemed to cut through the bickering.

“What’s all this racket about?”

The dwarrow turned as one at the sound of his childish voice. He had taken his outer jacket off and used it to collect quite an armful of foragable goodies. He stared back at them innocently with a freshly picked mushroom clamped securely in his teeth. “What are you doing?” He asked around his mushroom.

“Us! What are you doing?!” Thorin bellowed. His last nerve was quickly fraying. “You left the camp unattended and unaccounted for! You could have been warg food for all we knew!” He stomped up to the small halfling. “You are never to leave this camp or wander off without and escort! Am I understood?!” Mahal! The halfling was as bad as his nephews!

Bilbo stared up at him with wide eyes as Thorin awaited a response. A few seconds ticked by before he finally got a reaction out of the faunt, though it wasn’t the one he anticipated. Bilbo’s face started to slowly crumble adorably as his eyes started to fill with tears.

Something deep in Thorin started to panic, though he would never show it. He knew that face. That face was a promise of a coming storm. But Thorin was a king! He would not be cowed by a pouty faced child! “No! This is your own fault!”

Suddenly, Bilbo dropped his armful of goodies and the mushroom fell from his mouth as he opened it in a wail. Thorin had to step back from the sheer force of it and was almost trampled by the stampede of dwarrow racing to pacify the poor halfling.

“There, there, little one. Don’t listen to that big, grumpy dwarf.” Dori soothed.

“It’s a'right. See here? I’ll let ye wear me hat.” Bofur bribed.

“Here you go. Can’t loose such a tasty mushroom.” Even Ori chided in as he gathered up the goodies that had fallen.

A few minutes later, a pacified little Bilbo, having completely forgotten about his upset from just a few moments ago, sat surrounded by indulgent, protective dwarrow telling them all about the goodies he had found as he munched away on them.

Thorin groaned inwardly at the looks of disapproval he was receiving from the Fundin brothers. It wasn’t as if he had meant to make the halfling cry. His sights narrowed in on the wizard and he stomped over to him.

“I thought only his body had changed.” He challenged the old man. “Or am I mistaken in believing that that was not the typical reaction of a grown halfling.”

Gandalf’s eyes were lit with a disturbing sparkle of mischief. “I never said any such thing. The body and the mind are not separate units capable of operating independently. If you change one, of course the other will be effected. If you put the mind of a child into the body of an old man, do you think it will be unaffected by its new vessel? Why do you expect this case to be any different?”

Thorin stared at the annoying wizard and his round-about answers. “Being in the body of a child makes him subject to childlike impulses.” Thorin summarized what the wizard could have just said.

“Precisely.”

He rubbed a hand over his face. The halfling the size of a child was bad enough. The halfling acting like a child was another whole mess he didn’t want to have to deal with. “Mahal help us.”

Chapter Text

Bilbo was trying, he really was. He knew the big grumpy dwarf (otherwise known as Thorin Oakenshield) was beyond annoyed at this point. More like ‘one more word and he’ll explode like a thousand volcanoes’ by now, really. But after three days of this, Bilbo was reaching his own boiling point. If he had to take much more of this, he was going to scream like an over boiled tea kettle.

He squirmed in discomfort. He was sitting with Bofur today, having finally escaped Dori for a bit. He decided he liked riding with Bofur, one of the added perks being he got to wear the floppy hat whenever he started getting worked up. It was also good for keeping the rain off since it was nearly as big as he was. He wasn’t sure why wearing the ugly over sized hat appealed to him so much but he got an almost childlike glee out of having it perched on his head . . . or shoulders, whatever.

‘Almost.’ He was not a child. It must have just been from the novelty of it. He squirmed again under Bofur's shared cloak when his belly let out a garbled growl. “I’m hungry!” He moaned. He saw Thorin twitch and just knew there were going to be some veins popping in his forehead. But Bilbo had tried!

“You ate fifteen minutes ago, halfling!” He barked back through the incessant downpour.

“Oi! That’s no way to speak to a child!” Dori rebuked.

“It was just a few berries! I’m hungry again!” Bilbo argued.

“You’ve been eating every fifteen minutes since breakfast!”

“Well, of course, cause it’s just snacks! If it was a full meal I might be able to go a couple of hours! And breakfast was little more than a snack itself because of this blasted rain!

“A couple?! How do you hobbits survive from one meal to the next?!”

“Well, we have more meals than you, now don’t we?” Bilbo sassed back. “This two or three meals a day is ludicrous! What about second breakfast? Elevesies? I’m almost impressed you even have lunch considering you completely ignore tea time and supper!”

“We do eat supper!”

“No! You eat dinner! Supper is between tea time and dinner. Honestly, you dwarrow are so much bigger than us hobbits, how do you survive on eating so little?!”

Thorin was sending him confused and exasperated looks now, his anger derailed by genuine concern. The other dwarrow were reacting similarly, glancing between each other in concern.

Ori trotted up beside Bofur. “How many meals do hobbits eat every day?” He asked amazed.

“Well, like I said, there’s first breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, lunch, tea time, supper and dinner.” Bilbo counted off on his tiny fingers. “Plus, a midnight snack if the mood hits us and there’s always cookies, pies and cakes on hand for snacking faunts.”

The dwarves gaped at him as he counted off, some turning an accusing eye on the wizard. Even Thorin looked disturbed by the information.

“Durin’s beard! We’re starvin’ the wee thing!” Dwalin exclaimed in horror.

Bilbo’s belly growled loudly in agreement and the dwarrow started digging into their pockets and bags looking for anything edible to offer the small hobbit.

A few minutes later he was happily munching away on some nuts, dried fruit, a piece of stale bread and a flower that Bofur had offered. It was surprisingly good, but that could have just been because he was so hungry.

~Thorin~

Thorin sent the wizard and incredulous glare. “It would have been helpful to mention the appetites of hobbits.”

“Hmm? Oh. Bilbo would have been fine. Certainly he would have lost a bit of weight, but nothing too serious, I’m sure.” The wizard answered in that superficially confident tone. The tightness in his eyes, however, suggested that even he wasn't buying his nonsense.

“You forgot didn’t you.” Thorin accused lowly. “Would you have even chosen a hobbit if you had remembered?”

Gandalf scoffed at the question. “A wizard never forgets. And it wasn’t a matter of which race to use. It had to be A hobbit. It had to be Bilbo.”

“Why?”

“There are some things even I cannot see.” The wizard answered mysteriously.

Thorin rolled his eyes at the wizard. Between the hobbit’s constant whining about food, the blasted rain that had been coming down for nearly three days, and the wizard who was always omitting vital information, his last nerve was fraying dangerously. If only it would just stop raining!

It did! Finally! Shortly before they decided to stop for the night, the rain finally ceased. Well, before Thorin decided they were going to stop for the night despite the wizard’s urging for them to move on a little farther because he was leader! Damnit!

Gandalf stormed off and the dwarves went about making camp as usual. Despite the mud and wet branches, they eventually managed to get a fire going big enough for Bombur (and Bilbo) to whip up some stew. The small hobbit was practically bouncing at the promise of a hot meal and Thorin smirked in amusement despite himself.

It quickly fell, though, when he recalled what the hobbit had revealed. They were going to need a lot more food and there was only one more possible stop before they reached the mountains. Thorin would rather shave his beard than ask those tree-shaggers for help. Thorin could take care of his own company (and hobbit). Perhaps he would send the boys out to do some hunting while they were near a forest.

He found a relatively dry place to sit and watch over his company. His nephews were watching over the ponies, otherwise, everyone was in his sight. Another small smirk threatened to appear as he watched the tiny hobbit bustling around trying to help with the stew. He recalled the way the small faunt had sassed at him earlier that day, educating him on the important matter of hobbit meals and his smirk grew.

Mr. Baggins seemed far more confident and adventurous as a child. Sneaking away alone to search for food, talking back to dwarf kings. He had practically demanded to ride with Bofur that morning so he could commandeer the poor dwarf’s hat (though Bofur seemed happy enough to relinquish it). Thorin wondered if all hobbits started out this way or if Bilbo had been different. He also wondered more darkly what could have stripped him of such confidence and replaced it with the insecure and mousy specimen they had found the night they invaded his home.

He was so busy with his thoughts (and stares) that he almost didn’t notice the tiny hobbit making his way towards him, carefully balancing a large (in his hands everything looked large) bowl of stew. Thorin leaned forward to grab it before the small hobbit could trip. “Thank you.” He rumbled. True, he normally didn’t extend verbal thanks to whoever delivered his meal, but, the faunt had looked like he was trying so hard, Thorin figured he deserved some acknowledgement for the deed.

Bilbo repaid him with a brilliant toothy smile and a merry ‘you’re welcome’ before running back to find his own share. Thorin found himself temporarily frozen by the . . . friendly (adorable, it was adorable) display.

Thorin quickly finished his share as did the hobbit who promptly received seconds. It seemed all the other dwarrow, even Bombur, were holding back so the faunt could get more to eat.

Bilbo was just digging into his second bowl when Bofur came bursting into the camp.

“Trolls! They’ve got the princes!”

Thorin was up and running before he could even be angry about the situation. He would have plenty of time for that later and he fully intended to take it out on his nephews. The dwarrow charge into the forest with Bofur as their guide.

~~~~~

Thorin was fuming. Oh, he was simmering pool of suppressed anger right about now (and no, that was not his normal state whatever his sister may say!). Not only had his nephews gotten caught trying to steal back the ponies, (which they wouldn’t have lost in the first place had they been watching them properly!) after Thorin and the rest of the company had charged the trolls and surprised them into dropping the boys, Kili had managed to get himself caught (again!) and was used as leverage to get the rest of the dwarrow to drop their weapons!

So, now, half of them were tied to a spit over a fire while the rest of them sat around in stinky sacks waiting until it was their turn. Oh yes, Thorin was angry. And, when they got out of this (because he was not dying here), he was going to send those boys right back to their mother!

Someone squirmed next to him and elbowed his head. “Watch it!” He growled, turning on the offender.

“It’s not my fault! We need to get out of these sacks!” Dori defended.

Thorin wasn’t listening. He was staring a Dori with a sinking feeling in his stomach. “Dori. I thought you stayed back with B- . . the halfling.”

Dori’s eyes widened and he turned an accusing look at Bombur. “I though Bombur had stayed with him!”

Now Bombur’s eyes widened, casting panicked glances between Thorin and Dori. “Ori was sitting with him.” He yelped.

“Don’t you pin this on Ori!”

“Durin’s beard! Is anyone with the halfling?!” Thorin shouted at them, their situation momentarily forgotten.

The dwarrow erupted in a cacophony of accusations and excuses. It seemed no one had thought to stay with the faunt and Thorin rolled his eyes with a growl and slammed his head back on whatever hapless victim happened to be situated behind him in frustration.

“Oi! Me nose rag’s gone!” The sneezy troll suddenly declared, but Thorin didn’t pay much attention to it. He needed to figure out a way out of this so he could find the hobbit and punish his nephews . . Oh, and reclaim Erabor too.

“Hush up! Yous probly jus’ dropped i’.” The gruff troll, the one that wasn’t currently cooking dwarrow replied.

“I’s no’ here. I jus’ had i’!” The troll looked around his feet and started to look through the camp. He stopped and cast an accusing glare at the other troll. “Yous stole me nose rag!”

“Wha’?!” The other troll looked confused. “No, I di’n’t! Wha’ would I wan’ yer silly nose rag for?”

“Then wa’s i' doin’ in yer pocke'?” The sneezy troll accused with a point.

“I don’ have yer stinkin’-“ He reached into his pocket. “Huh? How’d tha’ ge' there?”

“Yous stole it! Tha’s how!” Sneezy accused and took a swing at gruff troll.

Thorin was paying attention now, as a spat broke out between the trolls. This might be the opportunity they needed. He started squirming in his sack with renewed purpose.

The gruff troll stood up to meet his challenger but promptly tripped and fell over the log he had been sitting on with a startled yell. Thorin thought he heard a giggle, but he must have been hearing things.

“Yous tied ma fee’ together!” The gruff troll accused the sneezy one, kicking off the mess of ropes and vines that had managed to get tangled around his feet.

“No, I di’n’t! Yous stole me nose rag!”

“Shut it! Both of ya! Someone’s takin’ as fools, they is.” The cook revealed as he cast a suspicious eye around the camp.

“Wha’? Is there more o’ them?” The gruff one wondered.

“Don’ know. Best check the bags. Make sure none go’ out.” The cook advised as he continued to turn the spit.

There was a giggle. Thorin was sure he heard it this time. He twisted towards the small clearing besides the fire and his heart stopped at what he saw.

“Are you really gonna eat them?” Bilbo asked the trolls innocently, rocking on the balls of his feet with his hands clasped behind his back.

“Wha’s tha’?” The cooking troll eyed the little halfling.

“I’ve never had dwarf myself. But I image they don’t taste very good unless cooked just right, you know? Very tough, dwarf.” Bilbo continued with a grin.

“I’s tiny. Looks like a rabbit.” The sneezy troll speculated.

‘I am not a rabbit! I-I’m a-“ He faltered before standing up straighter and proud. “I’m a faunt!”

“What are you doing!” Thorin hissed at him.

The little hobbit just waved him off.

“I’s not a rabbit. I’s a li'le ferret!” The gruff troll accused. “Did ya tie my fee' together?” He growled.

“Ferret?!” Bilbo squawked “It serves you right! Taking my dwarrow! I bet you wouldn’t even share. I’m hungry too!”

“You eat dwarf?” The cook wondered.

“Sure! If it’s cooked right. We faunts will eat just about anything if it’s cooked right. But your doing it wrong so it won’t come out very good. You’re not using spices or anything!”

“Tell me more 'bout these ‘spices.’” The cooking troll seemed interested.

“Don’ listen to ‘im. 'e’s just trying to distract us.” Gruff glared at the little hobbit.

“Wow! Maybe you are smarter than you look, which isn’t too hard, I guess, because you don’t look smart, like, at all, stupid is more like it really!” Bilbo blurted unrepentently.

“I’ll show ya stupid ya li'le ferret!” Gruff went to grab him but Bilbo skittered away like a squirrel.

The dwarrow were shouting now. Screaming at the hobbit to run away, be quite, or hide. They too started yelling taunts at the trolls to distract them, but the trolls seemed more intent on the one they hadn’t caught yet.

Gruff and Sneezy started chasing the tiny faunt, Bilbo ran for the tree line, weaving in and out of it and practically disappearing on a regular basis. His giggles seemed to echo around the camp.

“Where is ‘e?!” Gruff screamed in anger as he was led around on a futile chase.

There was a whistle. “Over here! You may be smarter than you look, but it seems your wits are as slow as you are!” Bilbo taunted them from his perch on top the the pen where the ponies were being held (a good thirty feet from where the trolls had been looking for him).

“Grab ‘im!” Gruff yelled to cook but by the time Cook had turned to grab him, Bilbo was skittering off again amidst the trolls' campsite. He seemed to disappear again and the trolls were tearing apart their own things trying to find him.

Thorin was stuck between impressed and horrified. Facing off against three trolls was not a task any child should attempt, even if he was doing a marvelous job of it (and wasn't really a child). He startled when suddenly the faunt landed on his chest, having climbed over the others to get to him. Thorin glanced back at the enraged trolls before staring at the small hobbit currently sitting on his chest.

“Hi!” Bilbo cheerfully greeted with a huge grin and pulled out a dagger (that looked suspiciously like one of Fili’s) and started sawing at the cord tying the sack around Thorin’s neck.

The cord snapped and Bilbo tugged it open while Thorin pulled his arm out. Bilbo glanced back at the trolls before shuffling onto his feet in a crouch. He shoved the knife into Thorin’s free hand, but before he could bolt Thorin grabbed him.

“That’s enough! You’ve done enough! Get somewhere safe!” Thorin ordered.

“No way!” Bilbo shook him off. “I’m having too much fun.” He whispered back, his eyes sparkled with mischief and excitement.

Thorin grunted when Bilbo used his chest as a launching pad just as the gruff troll spotted him.

“Oi! Come back ‘ere ya li’le ferret!”

Bilbo took off with an excited giggle. But the trolls were learning. They split up and surrounded him.

Bilbo skid to a stop, fear flickering in his eyes and he stared up at the massive trolls. Just one touch and they would crush him.

The dwarrow shouted at him to run, but there was a troll on every side. They would surely catch him if he tried to make a run for it.

“Got ya now, ya li’le ferret!” Gruff slammed his hand down on the faunt, intent on killing the annoyance instead of capturing it. The dwarrow screamed curses and taunts at the foul trolls, mortified that their hobbit was dead. Some were already sobbing.

“Did ya ge’ i'?” Cook wondered, since Gruff had yet to lift his hand.

“The only thing you’ll be getting is a good dose of sunlight!” A new voice range out. There was a boom and a blast of light and the trolls had barely even responded before they turned to stone, Gruff’s big hand still firmly pressed against the ground.

The dwarrow were shouting at the wizard, trying to explain that Bilbo needed help. Thorin had thrown off his sack by now and helped a few more get loose before shoving the dagger into someone’s else’s hand to finish the job.

He ran for the trolls, grabbing one of Dwalin axes from the pile of their stuff the trolls had looted on his way. He swung the ax with all his might, adding the force to the momentum of his charge for the trolls. It hit with a clang, chipping off a small piece of the stone statue’s arm.

He was soon joined by Dwalin and Bifur as the three of them slowly chipped away at the massive stone arm, desperately hoping their hobbit had managed to survive somehow and dreading what they might find.

“What in middle earth are you doing?! They aren’t going to get any more dead then they are now.” Gandalf chided them.

“Bilbo’s under there! They caught ‘im just before ya got ‘ere.” Bofur explained through his tears, he was wringing his poor hat beyond recognition.

“Are you sure?” Gandalf asked, concerned. “Move aside!” Thorin and Bifur barely got out of the way in time as the wizard marched forward and struck the stone arm with his staff. There was a boom and the stone cracked and crumbled clean through. “Move it aside quickly it it will crush whatever might be left of him!”

Several more dwarrow raced forward to help move the large stone hand, keeping it as far off the ground as they could as they moved it. Bofur and Dori raced to the site as soon as the hand started to move. But there was no hobbit, not even the small broken remains of one, just a small bright red jacket.

“It’s ‘is wee jacket.” Bofur fingered the material looking around as if the hobbit might have burrowed into the ground at the last minute.

“But were’s the hobbit?!” Dori was not much relieved. The dwarrow started glancing around and calling for the faunt.

Gandalf heaved a relieved (and exasperated) sigh. “He must have dodged at the last moment using his jacket as a distraction. He is likely hiding nearby.”

“Find him!” Thorin ordered and the dwarrow jumped into action, splitting up to search every nook and cranny.

“It will be difficult to find him if he does not wish to be found.” Gandalf cautioned.

“The trolls are dead. Why doesn’t he come out on his own?” Thorin asked, hiding his concerned for the small faunt with annoyance.

“He has just stared down three trolls . . . and almost died. He is just a faunt, now. He might have thought it fun at first, but I assure you his mature mind is very aware of just how close a brush he just had with death. He is likely scared and shaken. We must find him before he goes into shock.”

“We will find him.” Thorin sighed as he turned to join the search.

Chapter Text

Thorin trudged into the trees. Most of his company were searching the troll camp and the tree line for the little faunt, but few had come into the woods this far. He wasn’t entirely sure why he had, accept that he figured a frightened child would run first and hide second. Thorin doubted Bilbo would hide close by if he was that scared.

He walked as quietly as he could through the underbrush, keeping his eyes and ears open. If Gandalf was right about the hobbit’s hiding abilities, they could be searching all day. He froze suddenly in mid-step. He had heard something. He looked around moving as little as possible to not make any noisy and possibly miss the sound again.

There it was again. It was just the barest hint of a short hiss, like a gasp or . . or a sniffle. He scanned the immediate area. The tree branches were all too high, the faunt couldn’t have climbed a tree unless he really was part squirrel. There were some bushes nearby, but they looked rough and thorny. They wouldn’t be a child’s first choice.

He heard the sound again and he took a soft step towards where it seemed to be coming from. He let his eyes wander the ground. The faunt was so small, he could easily disappear under a tree root, an old log, or even into a rabbit hole. A rabbit hole! Just there at the base of the tree directly in front of Thorin now was a hollowed out recess that looked perfect for a rabbit or other small animal den.

He approached it as quietly as he could, grateful for once to have left the majority of his armor and weapons behind. He knelt down by the tree, careful not to stand directly in front of the hole. He leaned down and peered in. Wide, scared eyes stared back at him but the hobbit didn’t make a sound. “Found you.” Thorin rumbled quietly.

“It’s alright. The trolls are dead. You did well. You’re safe now.” Thorin cooed as he slowly reached in for the faunt. Bilbo pressed farther into the hole, curling up into a tight defensive ball. But the hole wasn’t that deep and Thorin still easily reached him. He tried tugging him out gently, but the stubborn hobbit wedged himself into his hiding spot even tighter.

Thorin sighed, resigned that he was going to have to lay down and use both hands to grab the faunt. “You’re safe. I will not hurt you. You must come out so we can check you for injuries.” Thorin tried to comfort the faunt. He really was like a scared rabbit.

Thorin finally managed to wiggle his fingers around Bilbo’s tiny waist and slowly and carefully pulled him out of his hiding spot, the small hobbit resisting the whole way. As soon as he had the faunt free, he scooped him up in one arm as he got himself up with the other.

Bilbo immediately snuggled into his arm and chest, tucking himself tightly against him. He was shaking and fresh tears were streaking his face as he rested his ear against Thorin’s chest.

Thorin shushed him and rubbed little circles into his back (the best he could do with such large hands on the tiny faunt’s back) and started heading back towards the troll camp. Bilbo hiccuped against his chest, but seemed to be gradually relaxing under Thorin’s comforting caresses.

When Thorin stepped into camp, it was Ori who first noticed the small faunt in his arms. Ori shouted in joy as he rushed over, followed by a crowed of near rejoicing dwarrow hot on his heels.

The dwarrow crowded around Thorin, expressing their concern for the faunt’s health, their joy in his survival and their admiration of how well he had handled the trolls. Bilbo tucked in tighter to Thorin’s chest.

Dori pushed his way to the front and reached out to take the faunt (being the self-proclaimed caretaker that he was). “Alright, come now. You gave us a fright but I think it’d be best to let Oin have a look at you and make sure there’s nothing to worry about.”

“No!” Bilbo squawked and grabbed Thorin’s tunic in a death grip as Dori’s hands wrapped around his middle and started to gently pry him off. “No!” Bilbo demanded again when Dori tried to shush him with reassurances.

“That’s enough!” Thorin wasn’t having it. If the halfling felt safer with him, then with him he would stay. “Oin!” He called the old healer over. “I did not see any injuries, but he’s been curled up like this since I found him.” He offered when Oin pushed his way closer, the other dwarrow finally giving them more space.

“Ya hurt anywhere, lad?” Oin asked as he gently pried one arm free to get a better look at the hobbit’s front.

“No!” Bilbo replied, but Thorin couldn’t tell if he was answering the question or objecting to being pried off his perch. “Stop! I’m fine!” He finally answered when Oin kept disturbing him.

Oin huffed. “I don’t see anything. Be sure to tell us if something starts hurtin’, laddie.”

Bilbo grumbled something unintelligible and settled back into Thorin’s chest.

Thorin fought back a smirk of amusement (and satisfaction) and directed his attention to giving orders instead. “Bombur, Bofur, and Bifur, go back to our camp and collect whatever was left behind last night. Ori, Nori, and Dori, search the troll camp for our things and grab everything of value. Fili, Kili, retrieve the ponies and don’t lose them this time! Where is that blasted wizard!?”

“Right here, Master Oakenshield. I see you have found our faunt.” Gandalf’s eyes sparkled with mischief as he assessed the small hobbit tucked snugly in Thorin’s arm.

“No thanks to you. Where were you just now?”

The wizard made a sound of offence but answered the question. “Someone needed to find the troll hoard. I was sure you dwarves could handle finding the hobbit.”

“Troll hoard?” Dwalin asked gruffly, but his gaze was amused as he eyed his king and their hobbit.

“Yes. They would need a place to hide during the day. I say, you did a marvelous job distracting them Bilbo, my boy.” Gandalf praised.

Thorin felt the hobbit shudder at the reminder and sent the wizard a glare.

Gandalf ignored it. “If you are ready, I will show you the horde.”

He wasn’t ready. He had gone long enough without his armor and weapons. He felt almost naked from their absence. “Let me collect my things first.”

Gandalf nodded and Thorin wandered over to the pile of his armor and weapons that had been set aside for him. He looked at the pile then down to the faunt in his arm. This could be difficult.

“Y-you can p-put me down now.” Bilbo sniffled softly. He had mostly relaxedl and was simply resting against Thorin’s chest.

“Are you sure?”

Bilbo nodded into his chest, but showed no initiative to get down. Still, when Thorin gently lowered the faunt, he let go willingly and let the dwarf set him down. He didn’t go far, almost clinging to Thorin’s pant leg as the dwarf king put on his armor and re-strapped his weapons.

“Balin!” Thorin called over as he tightened his last strap. “Stay with the halfling.” He ordered as he and several of the others followed Gandalf away to the troll hoard.

“Why don’t we find ye something ta eat?” He heard Balin ask the faunt as he left the clearing. Good. If anything could distract the hobbit, it would be food.

They raided the troll hoard, Gloin and Oin burying the gold for future collection. Thorin acquired a nice new sword (albeit grudgingly when he found out it was elvish), but otherwise there was little on interest for him.

He left the cave first, wondering how the hobbit was doing, when Gandalf walked up holding out a dagger.

“For Bilbo.” The wizard clarified.

Thorin looked at the dagger. Sure, it might be a decent sword size for a full grown hobbit. But a faunt? “It’s bigger than he is.” He commented unimpressed.

Gandalf huffed as if Thorin was being even more hard-headed than usual. “He will not always be a faunt. Eventually the spell will wear off and he will need a weapon. You can hold on to it for him until then.”

Thorin finally took the blade. “Why don’t you hold it for him?”

“I am not always available. It is better if you carry it.”

Thorin sent him a glare at the reminder. The wizard never seemed to be around when they needed him. “Fine.”

They trudged back to the trolls’ campsite. The Urs were back, having collected whatever had been left at their campsite and the Ri’s had everything packed and waiting to be loaded onto the ponies. Bombur was passing out a dry breakfast.

Almost as soon as he had made it into the clearing, Bilbo made a beeline straight for him. Only Thorin wasn’t expecting what came out of his mouth.

“I am so sorry.” The faunt gushed, wringing his hands nervously. “I-I saw you all get caught and-and I was just trying to help. I-I think I got carried away.” Bilbo admitted softly and paled slightly. “I-I’m sorry. I should have listened when you told me to stop.” His head lowered in shame like a scolded child.

Thorin had wanted to scold him, but he figured the halfling had suffered enough for his actions (besides he was unbelievably cute when he was contrite). “You should have listened, for your own safety’s sake. . . but you bought us time and . . saved our lives in the end. We might not still be here if you hadn’t done what you did.” He praised hesitantly. It wasn’t something he did often.

Bilbo stared up at him with wide (adorable) green eyes. “You aren’t . . angry?”

“I am not pleased that you disobeyed orders.” Thorin clarified. “But I am grateful for your quick thinking and courage.”

Bilbo looked at him confused. “I-I don’t think courage had anything to do with it. It-it was like a game . . until it wasn’t.” He swallowed thickly and paled again.

“But you got the job done, never-the-less. . . and you are safe.” Thorin added with a soft rumble when Bilbo still looked disturbed by the memory.

Bilbo’s eyes shot back to his and he went from a sickly pale to a red hot flush. “I-I’m s-sorry about that t-too!”

Thorin raised a brow at the reaction as Bilbo fidgeted, gaze shifting to avoid keeping eye contact with the dwarf.

“A-about the . . . after.” The faunt clarified. “I-I don’t know what came over me.”

Thorin fought down a smirk. This must be ‘adult’ Bilbo talking about his ‘faunt’ reactions.

“Think nothing of it. I was glad to assist.” Thorin reassured.

The tiniest smirk escaped his control and Bilbo flushed even harder, quickly finding somewhere else to be as he quietly excused himself.

Thorin watched the faunt scurry away before turning his attention to a far less pleasant task. He needed to talk with his nephews.

‘Talk’ was a lose description of what he did, considering he spent most of the talk dressing down the two trouble makers and looking for an excuse not to send them back to their mother.

By the time he was out of steam, the boys looked thoroughly chastised, even going so far as to promise the would never mess up again. Thorin rolled his eyes at the promises. As if it were possible. But they were contrite and seemed genuinely disturbed that they were ultimately the ones who had caused the faunt to be put in so much danger.

The promises may have been a bit over the top, but they were clearly repentant of their mistake. With a final huff he gave them another chance and waved them away before his better judgement caught up and changed his mind. They scampered off quickly at the warning.

He rubbed a hand over his face, already weary of the day that had only started. It couldn’t possibly get worse though, right? His eyes wondered back to the faunt tiredly. Intellectually, he knew the halfling was an adult. But Bilbo looked (and often acted) so much like a child, it was hard to think of him as one. He instinctively sought the faunt out regularly to check on him.

He was suddenly glad he did when Bilbo, squatting low to the ground and munching away on some kind of nuts, jolted up to attention with wide eyes and an ear cocked to the wind.

“Something’s coming!” Before the words had fully left the hobbit's mouth, Thorin was bounding towards the faunt, unsheathing his sword dangerously as he went. Moments later, a strange sled pulled by . . giant rabbits launched into the clearing.

The dwarves responded quickly, all poised to retaliate at the stranger. That is, until Gandalf stepped forward and announced he knew the strange looking wizard. He dwarrow relaxed (somewhat) as the two wizards went to talk about . . wizard-y things. Thorin sheathed his sword with a huff. What more could happen today?

“That’s quite a fashion statement yer makin’? I’m sure it’d be all the rage in Erid Luin.” Dwalin teased as he walked over.

Thorin sent him a mild glare of confusion. “What are you talking about?”

“Ye’ve got a new decoration on yer boot.” Dwalin pointed at Thorin’s feet with a smirk.

Thorin looked down, suspecting some kind of prank. Wide green eyes stared back up sheepishly.

“S-sorry.” The faunt stuttered out with a small nervous smile. He was sitting on the toe of Thorin’s boot, his arms and legs wrapped firmly around the ankle and leg of it.

Thorin raised a brow. “That is not the safest place for you.” He lifted his foot when the hobbit made no move to get off. He couldn’t even tell the faunt was sitting there, he was so light. In fact, Thorin was pretty sure his boot weighed more than the small halfling.

“It was the closest.” Bilbo clung all the tighter from the movement.

Thorin huffed a small laugh and set his foot back down, trusting that the faunt would let go when he was ready. After a couple minutes of enduring the other dwarrow cooing and fussing over them, Bilbo seemed to have had enough as he slipped off and escaped, his face a burning red of embarrassment.

A couple minutes later and Thorin’s eyes were scanning for the faunt again, finding him cautiously feeding long grasses to a giant rabbit. Again Thorin was struck with the familiarities between hobbits and rabbits and he chuckled softly.

Dwalin heard and raised a brow at him.

“It’s nothing.” Thorin dismissed, but Dwalin had traced the direction of his gaze and found the halfling. Dwalin smirked.

“Ye seem ta have accepted him a bit.”

Thorin defaulted into a scowl, but couldn’t help but glance back to check on the hobbit once again. “He’s just a child.”

“Aye, but not really. He’s gonna change back eventually.”

“That doesn’t change the fact that he’s a child now.” Thorin insisted. Bilbo may have an adult mind (most of the time) but he was still very much a child, not just in body as his most recent actions had proved.

“Thorin is right. His size and vulnerability makes him a child whether he likes it or not.” Balin contributed, having overheard their conversation.

“Ye think he knows?” Dwalin wondered out loud stroking his beard.

“Knows what?” Thorin asked in confusion.

“That having a child’s body is makin’ ‘im act like one.” Dwalin clarified.

Thorin almost retorted but paused. Did he? “He has seemed . . confused . . by his own actions.”

“Aye.” Balin agreed. “I suspect the wizard hasn’t bothered to tell him. He was awfully embarrassed and confused about his behavior from last night and this morning.”

Thorin cursed and rubbed a hand over his face. Forget Gandalf the Wanderer, He was Gandalf the half-job. The dwarrow were going to have to clean up his mess . . again! (And yes, Thorin blamed the wizard for the troll fiasco. He should have never left!)

“Someone will need to tell him. His situation is stressful enough without wondering why he can’t control himself.” Balin advised wisely.

“Aye, but who will tell ‘im?” Dwalin asked.

“We will tell him together, if necessary.” Thorin rumbled tiredly. He turned to scan for the faunt again, but couldn’t find him. He turned more fully to look around, panic already budding in his belly. He relaxed with a sigh when he finally spotted the small halfling near the edge of the clearing. He seemed to be looking for more treats for the rabbits.

Mahal, the halfling was going to be the end of him one way or another. He rubbed a hand over his face . . again. If he didn’t die protecting the wee thing he was going to have a heart-attack just trying to keep track of him. Fortunately, several dwarrow seemed to be hovering nearby, discreetly keeping an eye on the easily lost faunt.

Thorin watched wondering how long it could take to pick a few grasses, when he noticed the hobbit wasn’t moving. He seemed almost frozen, staring into the trees where he squatted.

Thorin immediately tensed and started cautiously making his way towards the faunt. He had only made it two steps before Bilbo bolted back into the clearing. A warg jumped out from the trees right on his heels, it’s giant jaw snapping down at the tiny faunt.

It’s massive teeth missed Bilbo just barely, but managed to catch on his little red jacket instead. The Bilbo was yanked into the air with a terrified shriek as the warg made ready to shake his catch. There was no way the hobbit would survive such a thrashing.

Thorin hesitated in horror before he managed to make his feet work again, but it was too late, there was no way he would make it in time. Good thing he wasn’t the only one who was paying attention.

Bifur was the first to respond. He slammed his spear like blade into the Warg’s side. The warg swung its head back in pain releasing its catch in the process and flinging the faunt up into the air. Then Bofur was there. As soon as the warg dropped it’s head to retaliate, the blunt side of Bofur’s pickax came down on its head with a sickening crunch.

The warg was down and the tiny hobbit was rapidly heading that way as he hurtled through the air. It was quick footed Nori who caught him. Skidding across the ground to reach him in time, he snatched the hobbit out of the air only moments before he hit the ground.

Thorin shouted a warning that sent everyone into a flurry before quickly making his way to check on the hobbit. Bilbo lay in Nori’s big hands, eyes wide and panting and tense as a board.

The wizards came back and Gandalf proceeded to let into Thorin for something or other. Thorin wasn’t listening. They needed to get the ponies and get the faunt out of there before the rest of the wargs and orcs caught up.

“Get the ponies!” He ordered over the wizard’s ignored rebukes.

“The ponies are gone!” Ori supplied.

Thorin groaned inwardly. Perfect. What else could go wrong today? They were going to have to run from orcs on wargs.

“I’ll lead them away!” The strange wizard offered. At least that was something. Maybe this wizard would prove more useful than the other had so far.

The wizard and his rabbit pulled sled disappeared into the woods. “Let’s move!” Thorin and Gandalf led them out in a different direction. Thorin glanced back to make sure the hobbit was secured. The faunt was still with Nori, wide-eyed and wrapped around the dwarf’s arm like a vice.

With a frantic grab for what little supplies they hand left, they ran. Thorin just hoped the day didn’t get any worse.

Chapter Text

They breached the forest line at a run with Gandalf and Thorin in the lead. Sticking to the road would leave them too vulnerable and easily spotted so they detoured off into the rocky hill country.

They weaved around great boulders and hills, trying to stay out of sight of the orcs and Wargs giving chase to the strange wizard as he zigzagged around to keep them busy. They paused behind a boulder and Thorin glanced back to check on the faunt again. Still safely tucked in Nori’s arm.

He turned back to the wizard. Gandalf had taken over the lead at some point and seemed to be leading them on as much of a wild goose chase as the other wizard was leading the orcs on. “Where are you taking us?” He grunted out in agitation. He didn’t trust the wizard.

His suspicions were only confirmed when the wizard didn’t answer, instead ushering them out for another frantic race to the next boulder to hide behind. They came to a stop once again, leaning into the rock as they caught their breaths for the next run. As usual, Thorin’s gaze sought out the halfling, his constant need to make sure the faunt was safe a nagging instinct he couldn’t ignore.

He found him, still wrapped around Nori’s arm, but he wasn’t tucked in any more. He was staring up at the boulder, eyes-wide and jaw slack. The dwarrow were much slower to notice as an orc scout crept over their boulder, the company stopping even their breathing to avoid detection.

Thorin signaled to his nephew. They needed to take it out before it could call for the others. He glanced back at the hobbit as Kili got ready to make his shot. Bilbo was shaking as he stared up into the maw of the warg. The warg’s claw scraped against the rock, knocking some stones loose and the hobbit gasped.

Kili swept out to make his shot, but the warg was coming down on them with a growl before he could release his arrow. Dwalin’s war hammer came down on the warg as Nori dodged out of the way, swiftly breaking its neck. The orc stumbled off its mount and lifted a crude horn to its lips to alert the others.

The horn sounded for a fraction of a second before Dori removed the orcs head with a swift swing of his sword. They all froze, waiting to see if the others had heard, and their fears were confirmed when a responding horn sounded over the rocky plain.

They bolted over the terrain, stealth no longer a concern and they simply fought to stay ahead of their pursuers. The wargs quickly caught up and were on their heels in no time. Kili ran nearly backwards as he twisted around taking shot after shot.

“Dori!” Nori shouted when he noticed that Ori was farther back in their line. Dori met his eyes and, before anyone could protest (especially Bilbo) the faunt was flying through the air with a squeal.

Dori snatched him out of the air with out even missing a step and Nori turned his attention to taking out some of their enemies with his throwing daggers.

They continued to run, Nori and Kili picking off the closest wargs. One of the wargs got past them though and zeroed in on Dori. In true predator fashion, it was aiming for the the smallest member of the group.

Dori screamed ahead at Bofur and the faunt was airborne before Bofur could even turn to the sound of his name. Bilbo screamed as he hurtled through the air but was caught expertly by the miner.

By now they were nearly surrounded and were forced to a halt to defend themselves. The bloody wizard was missing again as they turned to retaliate. The wargs instantly targeted Bofur and his tiny charge.

Dwalin and Bifur raced to his aid but the wargs were too close for comfort.

“Bofur!” Fili shouted, signaling he was open for a pass.

“No, no, no, no!” Bilbo squealed as Bofur sent him once again soaring through the air. He landed harmlessly in Fili’s arms, who immediately took off running as two more wargs came running at him.

“This way you fools!” Gandalf popped up from under a boulder and bellowed at them.

“Get the halfling underground! Go, go!” Thorin shouted at the rest of his company as some scramble for the opening and others fended of their enemies.

Fili made a dash for the cavern, hobbit in hand, but a warg had caught up, its giant snout snapping at him. It missed but it’s momentem caused it to ram into the dwarf sending him sprawling to the ground. Bilbo landed ahead of him, rolling before he came to a stop on his belly.

The warg ignored Fili and stalked towards the terrified little hobbit. Bilbo stared back at it, frozen on his hands and knees. Dwalin threw himself at the warg in a rage, hacking at it with his dual axes.

“Bilbo!” Thorin called breaking the faunt out of his trance. Thorin was still guarding their retreat and couldn’t go to him.

Bilbo popped up and raced towards his next source of safety and almost didn’t make it as yet another warg charged for him, missing him by a hair and skidding past fruitlessly.

Bilbo squealed in terror and ducked as the warg slid past but didn’t stop running until he was scooped up by Thorin’s strong arm. Dwalin raced over to help defend the exit as several more dwarrow disappeared down the hole.

Finally it was just Thorin, Dwalin and Kili, who lagged behind as he continued to make shot after shot. When he was close enough, Thorin grabbed him and shoved the faunt into his arms before pushing him down the hole. With one more defensive swing, Thorin and Dwalin slid down together just as a horn blast sounded over the plain.

There was thundering and shrieks and howls before everything went quiet. Thorin looked over his company. Everyone seemed to be present and in one piece. He heaved a sigh of relief. Somehow they had managed to make it out of that mess alive. His eyes shot to Kili where he knew the halfling should be and sighed a second sigh of relief on seeing the small faunt clinging to his nephew’s front with a death grip.

He was shaking and his eyes were frozen in a wide stare at nothing as he clung to the dwarf. Thorin wondered if he was finally going into shock. He wasn’t the only one concerned though. Surprisingly, it was Dwalin who stepped up to comfort the poor faunt.

“Ye did a good job.” The warrior ruffled the tiny head of curls. “Yer Okay. Ye’ll be okay.” He said with uncharacteristic softness.

Bilbo blinked and slowly turned his head to the gruff dwarf. He released his hold on Kili just enough to hold pleading arms to the older warrior.

Dwalin’s eyes widened in surprise but he gently scooped up the faunt none-the-less. Bilbo tucked into his shoulder, snuggling into Dwalin’s fur, as the big dwarf gently rubbed at his back.

Seeing the faunt was fine (shaken, but fine) the dwarrow started pushing their way through the narrow cavern.

~Bilbo~

Bilbo heaved a shaky sigh as he let himself soak up the comfort. Intellectually, he knew that the situation was awkward and inappropriate (for an adult hobbit anyway) but he was just so raw emotionally that he could’t bring himself to care. It was just like what happened after the trolls when Thorin found him.

He knew he was acting childish. He could regard his behavior logically and understood that he was behaving like a child. But he couldn’t control it! He had known better than to prank the trolls, to play with them like it was some great game. He knew it was dangerous. That’s why he had been so shaken afterward, because he knew it was dangerous but he couldn’t help himself. And it kept happening!

It happened again when the warg scout had showed up (even when the strange wizard came bursting out of the woods). It’s like his adult mind was shutting off and he going into some kind of survival mode every time something stressful or scary happens. But that wasn’t even the worse part.

The worse part was this. He sniffled into Dwalin’s shoulder. He was thinking clearly again, he knew he was an adult and didn’t need to be coddled just because he was scared, but he couldn’t help but grab at that comfort like it was a lifeline. He had barely talked to Dwalin before yet here he was nuzzling into his furs with a big hand rubbing at his back.

It was embarrassing . . and he knew he would be mortified later. But right now his body was aching for the comfort. Oh, he knew what it was. Shock could be fatal to faunts and fauntlings. Their little bodies already functioned at a rapid pace, a traumatic event could send their systems into overdrive and literally burn them out. Hyper vital functions as an result of traumatic experience or intense fright occasionally leading to death: shock sickness.

Bilbo was suffering from mild SS and he was instinctively seeking comfort for relief. After all, shock sickness was only fatal if left untreated too long. Yes, he knew what was happening. He just couldn’t figure out why it was happening. Sure, he was in a faunt’s body, but he wasn’t a faunt. He shouldn’t be getting overwhelmed so easily. He shouldn't be acting like a child when he knew better. And it was frustrating because he couldn’t help it!

He heaved another big sigh into the dwarf’s shoulder and Dwalin gently patted his back. He was so tired all of a sudden. None of them had gotten any sleep last night and he hadn’t even had a chance for a nap. He stifled a yawn in Dwalin’s fur and his body relaxed. A small nap couldn’t hurt, right?

~Thorin~

They trudged through the narrow cavern, some parts so narrow they had to push and pull Bombur just to get him through.

Thorin brought up the rear since Dwalin was carrying the faunt. It also gave him the perfect cover for keeping an eye on the little one. The hobbit’s curls bounced to the dwarfs gait from where his head lay resting on Dwalin’s shoulder. A tiny hand that had once had the warrior’s fur tight in it's grip now lay limp and open.

He had stopped fidgeting some time ago and Thorin knew he must be exhausted but he couldn’t help but be concerned by the faunts stillness after watching him almost become warg chow so many times.

“How is he?” He rumbled lowly trying to be discreet but the sound echoed off the stone walls making it far more obvious.

“Not movin’. Must have fallen asleep.” Dwalin answered, less concerned with privacy than his king.

“What?! Are you sure?!” The wizard, a few dwarrow ahead of them, suddenly spun around to ask.

“Pretty sure. Why else would ‘e go so limp.” Dwalin retorted in irritation.

“Is he breathing?!” The wizard asked. The file of dwarrow slowed to a stop at the ominous question.

“What do you mean ‘is he breathing’?!” Thorin demanded, a bud of panic blossoming at the wizard’s strange questions.

Gandalf was already making his way back to them in a hurry, bunting irritated dwarrow out of his way with his staff. “Move aside you confounded dwarves!”

As soon as he was with in reach his hand shout out to the faunt, first checking for breath before searching for a pulse with one long finger. He must not have found what he wanted because he huffed in irritation and set his staff against the cavern wall. “Give him to me.” He ordered.

Dwalin leaned the shoulder bearing the faunt away and eyed the wizard suspiciously. “Why?”

“Save me from the stubbornness of dwarves! If you do not give him to me, you may lose him for good!” The wizard reprimanded.

“Dwalin!” Thorin ordered with growing panic.

“Aye!” The warrior carefully handed over the limp halfling.

The faunt looked even tinier and more fragile in the wizard’s long hands, being easily supported by just one. Bilbo’s limbs hung loosely as Gandalf held him in his hands. After several more attempts to discern a heartbeat, breathing, or any other sign of life he huffed a small curse under his breath.

The dwarrow were all watching (at least the ones in sight of the spectacle) with growing dread and concern. “What’s wrong with him?!” Thorin thundered at the wizard.

“Not now master dwarf!” Gandalf lay the faunt over one hand and started prodding him with the other. “Bilbo, my boy. I need you to wake up now.” He patted at tiny cheeks. “Come on now, don’t be stubborn. . . You’re tougher than this.” He murmured at the end.

The dwarrow watched with growing concern as the wizard became rougher with the tiny faunt, shaking him and prodding him with increasing force.

“Tharkun!” Thorin had had enough. He wouldn’t stand and watch a child be handled in such a way and Dwalin wasn’t far behind him.

Before he could physically interfere. Bilbo finally responded, but only to squeeze his eyes shut harder and wail in a high pitched shriek of protest as he weekly swatted the wizard’s hand way.

Gandalf heaved a sigh of relief as the faunt continued to wail and scream in irritation as he drowsily tried to twist out of the wizard’s hands.

“Give ‘im to me!” Dwalin growled as he snatched back the aggravated faunt.

“Tharkun! What was the meaning of this nonsense!” Thorin demanded to know. He had been terrified that the faunt was dead thanks to the wizard’s misleading questions and actions.

Gandalf heaved another sigh. “Faunts are so small, it can be difficult to detect their life signs, especially in sleep. I had to be sure he wasn’t in shock.”

“Of course, he in shock! He was nearly eaten by wargs . . several times!”

“The ‘shock’ I am speaking of is not what you refer to as shock though it is similar. Shock sickness is a condition that faunts suffer from when subjected to intense stress or fear. It can be fatal if left untreated.” The wizard informed.

“Fatal?!” Several of the dwarrow echoed with alarm.

Thorin needed a moment to let his (now justified panic) recede some. “This is the ‘shock’ you spoke of after the trolls?”

Gandalf nodded and started pushing the dwarrow forward again as he spoke. “From heart rate to metabolism, even to mental processing, everything about faunts functions at a much higher rate than in other people. Even adult hobbits’ systems run much faster than the other races, as can be seen by their appetites, but faunts even more so.”

“When faunts are stressed or frightened, adrenaline rushes into their systems forcing their bodies to function at breakneck speeds. It is very useful in life and death situations as it enhances their senses, heightens their instincts and quickens their reaction times. But it can also be very harmful. Once worked up, faunts have a difficult time calming on their own. If left untreated their small bodies will literally work themselves to death. They go into a form of sensory overload and their hearts race until they practically burst from the effort.”

“Tremors is the first sign of the sickness, followed by drowsiness as their bodies start to wear out. Next is loss of consciousness at which the chances of recovery dramatically drop, followed by seizures and, finally, death.” Gandalf concluded with a meaningful glance back at the dwarf king. “That is the ‘shock’ I speak of.”

“Are ye saying the quest could kill ‘im even if it doesn’t kill ‘im?!” Dwalin shouted angrily, the faunt once again resting limply against his shoulder. Some of the other dwarrow angrily adding their agreement.

Gandalf tutted. “Shock sickness is a common condition. Most every faunt suffers from it at least once, but it is only fatal in left untreated, as I said. As long as you keep an eye on him, he should be fine. Besides, you speak as if he will be a faunt for the rest of the quest.” Gandalf chuckled.

“You speak as if he won’t.” Thorin accused and sent the faunt a concerned glance.

“I’m sure he will change back sooner rather than later.” The wizard superficially reassured.

Thorin just glared at him. As if the wizard could be trusted. “And how do we treat it?”

“You’ve been doing a marvelous job of it so far. You simply need to help him calm down, comfort him, make him feel safe. The adrenaline will ease out of his system and it will slow to its usual speed.”

“Then why did you think he might be . . dying.” Cause that’s clearly what the wizard had been concerned about. “If we were already handling it.”

Gandalf shrugged. “He hasn’t been with you very long. And, considering the way your company had been treating him before his little mishap, I had no way to be sure that he would find such comfort and feeling of safety with any of you dwarrow.

Thorin winced in guilt at the jab. It was true that none of them had been treating him very well before he changed, Thorin the worst of them all. The instant change of the company’s attitude toward him must have been disorienting and confusing. Belittling him one moment and coddling him the next. Even Thorin’s attitude had done a one-eighty. Only outwardly really, as he had always been concerned for the halfling's safety, which is why he had not received him so well. Part of Thorin was hoping the halfling would give up and go back home where it was safe. Unfortunately, the rest of the company had noted his disapproval toward Mr. Baggins and emulated it in their own ways.

“You should have informed us of this sooner. He could have progressed into the later stages and we wouldn’t have known how to help him.” Thorin rebuked, the force of it faltering under his own guilt.

“Hmm. If I had known you’d be so concerned, I probably would have.”

“He’s a child. Of course we’re concerned.” Thorin retorted in offense.

“But he’s not a real child, is he? And he won’t be staying one. No reason to treat him like one, really.” The wizard hummed.

Thorin knew Gandalf was taking a jab at him, implying that the dwarrow would cease to care as soon as Bilbo changed back. He might be right about some of them, but Thorin doubted he would ever be able to look at the hobbit again, regardless of his form, without that need to protect and provide creeping up on him.

Still, Thorin stayed silent, not comfortable with revealing the depth of his own growing attachment to the halfling. Instead he sent the wizard an unheeded glare and called the procession to a stop for a short rest.

The dwarrow came to a stop gladly, most leaning against the cavern wall or slipping down to sit on the floor. What was left of their dry rations and water were passed around to help them recover their strength.

Dwalin and Thorin leaned into the wall as they rested. Dwalin was doing his best to eat and drink with one hand so as to not let the faunt slip off his shoulder. Thorin finished his share quickly.

“What me to take him?” Thorin nodded toward the halfling. “So you can eat.”

Dwalin looked at him and a teasing grin broke out over his face. “I knew ye was jealous.”

“I am not jealous.” Thorin denied.

“Sure, ye ain’t.”

“Fine. Eat with one hand for all care, but don’t ask me for help.” Thorin shot back in annoyance. He was not ‘jealous!’ He was just . . looking out for a friend.

Dwalin chuckled at him but still didn’t hand over the faunt.

Thorin called an end to their rest and pushed the dwarrow forward again. If it was the best way to cover his disappointment, that was nobody’s business but his own, though Dwalin’s snicker suggested he wasn’t fooled in the least.

Chapter Text

After several hours of making their way through the cavern, the way finally opened up to the outside. The dwarrow filed out with exclamations of relief as they finally stepped free of the crude narrow tunnel.

That is until they realized just where they were. Thorin glared down at the elven house with a growl and sent the wizard an accusing glare. “You brought us to the elves!”

“I brought you to where you could find aid!” Gandalf retorted. “Or would you have the hobbit go without food and much needed rest?”

Thorin glared harder. What a manipulative ploy! But it worked. The halfling needed some time to rest and the company had lost most of their provisions. Still, it rankled him to seek any kind of help from elves.

With an irritated growl, he began to lead the way down to the elven house. The other dwarrow followed with minimal grumbling. The faunt’s needs were a priority, after all.

“Well, look who finally decided to wake up.” Bofur announced cheerfully from behind Dwalin as Bilbo’s head began to slowly ease up as he looked around with drowsie eyes.

Thorin gradually slowed down to let others pass until he was abreast with the warrior.

“Whe’ are we?” The sleepy little hobbit slurred.

“We’re goin’ ta see the elves.” Bofur helpfully supplied.

“Elves?!” Bilbo popped up wide awake.

“Ye don’t have ta be so happy ‘bout it.” Dwalin grumbled even as he steadied the faunt against him.

“I-I’ve always wanted to meet an elf.” The faunt admitted sheepishly.

Some of the dwarrow grumbled at the admission. There was nothing special about those pointy-eared leaf-eaters!

“And so you shall, my boy.” Gandalf assured over the grumbling.

Bilbo’s responding cherubic smile quieted the grumpy dwarrow and even Thorin felt a bit pleased with himself for going along with the wizard. Surely a few days suffering the elves was worth such pure happiness for the halfling.

Bilbo began to stutter apologies to the warrior dwarf carrying him and protests about said carrying continuing, but Dwalin wasn’t about to put him down until they were on even ground.

Bilbo’s protests finally died and he surrendered to the situation, his bright red flush never fully receding the whole time. Only when they made it to the gate and crossed the narrow bridge (which Bilbo as more than happy to be carried over) did the big warrior finally consent to putting the hobbit on his own two feet.

~Bilbo~

The dwarrow came to a stop in some sort of receiving court where they were promptly greeted by several elves. The dwarrow readied their weapons as a tall dark haired elf wearing a silver circlet greeted them on the steps of the home.

There were words exchanged, but Bilbo wasn’t really paying attention. He squirmed and wiggled through the stout legs of the dwarrow as he made his way to the front so he could actually see the elves that were to be their hosts. Fortunately, the dwarrow were too preoccupied to notice his escape from their defensive circle.

He poked his head out through the final pair of legs between him and freedom when he heard a name he recognized. “Elrond?!” He chirped, as he slipped through the final barrier.

The dwarrow called for him and Thorin even made to grab for him as he ran past toward the elf, but he was too excited to care and just dodged out of the way. He stopped in front of the (very, very tall) surprised elf and gazed up in awe.

Bilbo shook himself from his daze and cleared his throat. “Lord Elrond.” He stepped back a step to bow. “I-it’s such an honor to meet you. My mother told me so many stories about you . . a-and Rivendell.” He stuttered feeling sheepish and embarrassed at his outburst.

“Indeed?” Eldrond responded with surprise and no small amount of confusion. “And is she aware of your absence? Imladris is no small journey from the Shire for a hobbit.”

“Ah, no. She-she, um, she passed away . . some time ago. I was only in my tweens, but I remember her stories about you.”

“Tweens? You look to be barely of ten years. It makes one wonder what a group of dwarrow are doing with a hobbit faunt.” He raised a brow.

“We didn’t steal ‘im!” “It’s the Wizard’s fault!” He wasn’t a wee faunt when he joined us!” The dwarrow shouted protests over each other at the accusation.

“Oh! No, no!” Bilbo easily spoke over them. “I-I’m a grown hobbit, I just look like a faunt, you see. No thanks to a certain wizard and his unattended staff.” Bilbo grumbled at the end and sent the wizard a disgruntled look.

Elrond's brows shot up and he sent the wizard an incredulous look.

“It’s a harmless spell.” Gandalf tried to defend.

“It ain’t harmless when there’s Warg’s tryin’ to eat ‘im!” Dwalin retorted with agreements from several others.

“It will wear off eventually.”

“So you keep saying and yet here he is . . still a faunt!” Thorin argued.

“Dwarves are prone to overreacting when children are involved.” Gandalf waved away the accusations, effectively infuriating the dwarrow further.

Elrond looked nearly as fed up with the wizard’s flippant responses as the dwarrow.

Suddenly there was a ferocious growl from their midst and the dwarrow all gripped their weapons looking around for the threat. It sounded again and they all turned towards the source.

Bilbo fidgeted, wringing his hands. His face was bright red in his embarrassments. “I-I-I am so sorry. H-how terribly rude of me.” He murmured only for his stomach to growl aggressively again, brightening his blush.

Elrond’s surprise melted into amusement and he spoke down to the small hobbit in elvish.

Bilbo perked up but the dwarrow were furious. “What’s he saying?!” “It’s not Bilbo’s fault he eats so much!” “Is he insulting our hobbit?!”

Bilbo stared at them, both mortified and embarrassed by their reaction. Elrond wore a barely there smirk of amusement and, what Bilbo was sure was mischievousness. Huh. Maybe elves could be playful too.

“He is not offering you or the hobbit insult, Master Gloin! He is offering you-“

“Food!” Bilbo interrupted the wizard enthusiastically. Eyes wide and bright at the mere thought of it.

Once again all eyes were aimed at him and he fidgeted nervously. Elrond and Gandalf looked pleasantly surprised though the dwarrow looked almost insulted.

“You know sindarin, little one?” Elrond asked looking impressed.

Bilbo ignored the ‘little one’ bit. After all, this was Elrond! He could deal with it. “M-my mother taught me a little, yes. B-but I’m pretty sure I could recognize ‘food’ in any language.” He smiled playfully. “Even orc! Though I’m not sure even I would want to try whatever it is that they consider food.” He crunched his nose in distaste.

Elrond laughed. A real laugh and even the dwarves were surprised. (Elves didn’t laugh. Emotion was beneath the tree-shaggers. Every dwarf knew it.)

“Then come, my hungry little friend, and I will feed you and your dwarrow.” Elrond gestured to the hobbit to walk with him and Bilbo eagerly accepted.

The dwarrow were left with no choice but to follow, grumbling and complaining the whole way about hobbit stealing leaf-eaters. The few times he looked back as he ran beside the elf (despite Elrond slowed paced in consideration of the faunt) he was sure Thorin was trying to ignite the elf with the sheer force of his glare. Bilbo couldn’t help the giggle that escaped him at the sight.

They were dropped off at a nice suite with at least half a dozen bedrooms, a common area, several wash rooms, and an open balcony overlooking some gardens. It was really quite nice and Bilbo would have been all over it if it weren’t for the insistent nagging of his stomach.

The dwarrow dropped their bags and were about to head back out to find the food. Gandalf had already disappeared somewhere with their host.

“What are you doing?” Bilbo stared back at them as they began to file out.

“Going to dinner. Isn’t that what you want?” Fili answered in slight confusion. They probably expected the hobbit to be way ahead of them by now.

“With those hands?!”

“What’s wrong with our hands.” Kili wondered staring at his own, several others joining him in the inspection of their own.

“Their filthy!” Bilbo looked at them incredulously. You-you can’t just go to a dinner as a guest and not wash up first. Look at you! We’ve been running around, fighting orcs and w-wargs.” He shuddered. “The best way to prove you’re barbaric and uncivilized is to show up to dinner without bothering to wash up first!” Bilbo lectured them passionately. “It’s not proper!”

“They’re elves. They probably ain’t even gonna have real food.” Dwalin argued while others grumbled.

“That’s not the point!”

“It’s just elves, Bilbo.” Bofur shrugged.

Bilbo looked them all over. Not a single one of them looked like they were going to give in. Bilbo stood up straight (all sixteen inches of him) and yanked his jacket smooth. Bilbo could play that game. He was not going to let these stubborn dwarrow embarrass him in front of his child-hood idol. “Fine, you go ahead but I’m not going until I’m properly prepared, which means washed hands, washed face . . You know what? I think I’ll just go take a bath.” He said and he turned towards one of the wash rooms. “I hope the tubs aren’t too deep, you know, since I can’t swim. I'm sure they had the foresight to install some faunt sized steps!” He shouted over his shoulder as he disappeared into the wash room.

He listened smugly as heavy boots raced after him and several dwarrow proceeded to try to convince him that clean hands and faces should be enough and that the elves would understand if he wasn’t perfectly clean.

He turned to them with big wet eyes. “You too?” He whimpered.

The dwarrow were quick to agree (completely helpless to his big pleading eyes) and, by the time they were finally leaving for dinner, even Thorin and big gruff Dwalin had clean hands and faces.

Bilbo cheerfully trotted along beside the king as they headed for dinner feeling rather smug and accomplished. Thorin was still scowling though. Bilbo tugged on his pant leg to get his attention. When Thorin glanced down, Bilbo gave him a wide sweet smile as thanks. Thorin’s brows furrowed a little more and he looked away, but his scowled eased into something more benign and Bilbo smiled to himself at his further success.

~Thorin~

Thorin did his best to maintain a disgruntled scowl, but it was difficult with such an adorably cheerful faunt practically skipping beside him. The wee thing was practically vibrating with excitement. Thorin just hoped it was more for the food than the elves. Ah, perfect. That was just the thought he needed to get his scowl back in place.

They arrived at the large dining room that had been prepared for them and Thorin and Bilbo were ushered to Lord Elrond’s table in places of honor.

Bilbo vehemently refused any help to get into his chair and he climbed up into the giant seat. He sat but the top of his head didn't even reach the table top.

“My apologies. It seems we’ve had an oversight.” Lord Elrond apologized seriously while several others (primarily the dwarrow) snickered and smirked at his plight.

“Why don’t ya just sit on the table, lad?” Oin suggested but was immediately shot down.

“Absolutely not!”

“You could just sit on Uncle’s lap. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.” Kili offered.

“N-no thank you!” Bilbo stuttered with a flush before the dwarf king could confirm or deny it (to Thorin’s disappointment). He stood up in the chair and looked it over before turning to the elven Lord. “Mother once told me you had a marvelous library.” He smiled. Filled with . . thick books.”

Elrond chuckled. “Fetch the hobbit some reading material.” He ordered and several elves left to do just that.

A little while later, Bilbo was finally sitting at the table properly, perched upon several big books and the food was brought out. Thorin stifled a smirk at the sight and fought to maintain his scowl (or at least a neutral expression, for Mahal’s sake!) at the sight of the tiny hobbit sitting on a pile of books just to reach the table.

His amusement was easily doused though, at the sight of their ‘dinner.’ Bowl after bowl of salad, nothing but green in sight. His look of disgust was no longer being forced. Dwalin was right. Perhaps Thorin should have been a little more . . diplomatic upon their arrival (not that he would ever admit it out loud).

He glanced at the halfling who was happily shoveling the leafy greens into his mouth and looked away with a resigned sigh. At least the faunt would be well fed. He pushed the vibrant leaves around with his fork almost hoping that some meat would magically appear underneath one. He had more dignity than to grumble and complain like the rest of his company who seemed dangerously close to turning their ‘dinner’ into a food fight. Probably just to get back at the elves.

He heard a small noise by his side and turned to see the halfling staring at him, glancing from his untouched salad and back. The faunt looked around finally noticing the disgruntled state of their company before swallowing and slightly pushing away his plate.

Thorin’s brow furrowed. There was no reason for the halfling to go without just because they didn’t care for the fare.

Before he could say so, the faunt cleared his throat, gaining the attention of Gandalf and Elrond who had been speaking quietly together.

“This salad is delicious, Lord Elrond. Mother told me many things about elves but she never mention how energy efficient they were.” Bilbo started conversationally and took another small bite.

“Energy efficient? I’m not sure I know what you speak of.”

“Are you not? You must be to be able to live on just salad alone. Hobbits eat at least seven meals a day, you know. Big meals with succulent meats, hearty breads, fresh greens too, of course, and always a mouth-watering treat for desert.” The halfling cheerfully informed.

“I have heard of the appetites of hobbits.” Just then Bilbo’s stomach rumbled again as if he hadn’t even touched the food yet and he blushed bashfully. “Perhaps I should send for something a little heartier to be provided for you.” Lord Elrond pondered in concern

“Oh, no no! That would be terribly rude of me to-to accept something more than what has been offered to everyone. How terrible of me, I didn’t mean to imply that the salad was insufficient. It really is wonderful. Very tasty. I-I shall simply have to eat more of it.” The faunt rushed to reassure to Thorin’s disbelief. The elf had just offered him real food and he was turning it down?!

Bilbo’s belly growled again even as he shoved another bite into his mouth and Thorin’s look of concern almost mirrored the elf’s.

Elrond discreetly called another elf over before sending him away and turned to continue his conversation with Gandalf who didn’t look nearly as concerned as he should.

Thorin watched the faunt as he unrepentantly shoveled forkfuls of salad into his mouth as fast as he could chew it. He suspected the salad really wasn’t going to cut it for the small faunt. Even if he managed to fill his belly, it wasn’t going to last very long.

It was unacceptable. It was one thing to deprive the dwarrow of a good meal. They were hardy beings and could get by with fewer and smaller meals if necessary. But the faunt had a metabolism out of this world and he could not. Thorin cleared his throat, about to demand that something more filling be brought out for the hobbit, when another procession of elves filed into the room carrying more platters and plates of food than Thorin cared to count.

The dwarrow cheered and started piling their plates as soon as the food hit the tables. Several platters were placed at Elrond’s table, practically right in front of the hobbit (and subsequently Thorin) and Bilbo chirped in delight.

“My goodness!” Bilbo chirped as Thorin helped load up his plate (Bilbo reluctantly letting him). “This is amazing! Mother never mention you had such a sense of humor!” Bilbo giggled playfully. “I bet all that salad was just the appetizer and you just wanted us to think that there wasn’t going to be anything else. How fun! Hobbits love a good prank.” Bilbo smiled cheerfully before starting in on his roast meat and glazed vegetables.

“Yes, well, I couldn’t let such a rare guest go hungry, now could I.” Was Elrond’s only reply. Thorin could swear the elf almost looked sheepish. Gandalf was wearing an unconcealed look of amusement.

Thorin loaded up his own plate, his own stomach growling at the promise of ‘real food.’ This was a meal he could enjoy and, by the uncivilized (and likely very improper) sounds his company were making, he was pretty sure they agreed.

He glanced over to see if the halfling needed anything, but Bilbo was watching the dwarrow at the other table. He turned back and met Thorin’s curious gaze.

The little hobbit gave him the biggest and most mischievous looking grin he had ever seen and winked before turning back to his food.

Thorin’s eyes widened in disbelief. The halfling, no, Mr. Baggins had just played an elf lord . . flawlessly. And had done so in such a polite and complimentary manner. Even Thorin hadn’t caught on until just now. But Mr. Baggins could have already gotten the food. The elf had offered.

Thorin glanced back at his company and a smirk grew on his face. Mr. Baggins didn’t do it for himself. He had seemed perfectly content until he had seen that the dwarrow were not. He had played the elf for the dwarrow’s sake.

Thorin turned back to his food, his mood lifted despite himself. Perhaps having the halfling around would proved beneficial after all. He tuned into Gandalf and Elrond’s conversation about the state of various regions of middle-earth and even contributed to it here and there, much to Elrond’s surprise. Thorin was actually feeling . . . amiable, thanks to a little trickster of a hobbit.

“So, tell me. What could have possibly drawn out a hobbit on such a long journey away from the Shire? Surely not just visiting with elves could drive a hobbit so far.” Elrond’s began conversationally as he reigned the faunt into conversation.

“As tempting as that is, I lay all blame on meddling wizards!” Bilbo answered. “Who show up on my doorstep with a pack of dwarrow who proceed to devour my pantry and destroy my plumbing!”

Gandalf spluttered at the accusations. “And how came you to decide to join said pack of dwarrow?” Elrond chuckled.

“Well, I have always wanted to go on an adventure.” Bilbo admitted and regaled the elf with his adventures so far.

Chapter Text

Despite his assurances that salad would have been enough, Bilbo easily devoured half of what had been set before them all by himself, much to Elrond’s amusement and Thorin’s disbelief. It seemed like he spent more time refilling Mr. Baggin’s plate than eating from his own.

By the time dessert was served (and yes, the elf wasn’t about to insult the hobbit by not serving a tasty after sweet) the faunt had slowed down enough to actually savor the sugary treat.

The company were in high spirits, their bellies full with good food and drink which, of course, meant that music was in order. Not that calm and boring stuff that the elves called music, but ‘real’ music, the kind with a bouncy beat that’s meant for dancing.

As if out of nowhere, several of the dwarrow pulled out instruments and began to play. Bofur was the first to pop up and belt out a cheerful (slightly course) song. The tune was nice but the content was a little, well, Thorin suspected the elves would enjoy it more if they didn’t listen too hard.

He rolled his eyes at their antics but didn’t interfere. At least there wasn’t food flying everywhere and Bofur wasn’t using the table as a dance floor . . . though the second could still possibly happen.

Bilbo perked up immediately at the lively music and was soon laughing and clapping along as Bofur, then Fili and Kili (who did decide to dance on the table) sang and danced away. Every once in a while, Thorin would catch a scandalized gasp from the hobbit (more often on the particularly raunchy songs) but it would almost immediately be followed by a wicked little giggle.

Thorin hid a smirk behind his cup. Perhaps hobbit propriety only ran so deep. Still, Thorin found himself tempted to put an end to the raunchy songs. It was hard to see Mr. Baggins as anything other than a child, even if his clearly mature sense of humor spoke otherwise.

He didn’t, the singing and dancing continued and Bilbo clapped along, bouncing on his pile of books. Fortunately, Lord Elrond didn’t seem the least bit disturbed by the cheerful (if a bit raunchy) display and even Gandalf hummed along at times.

Thorin lifted his cup to his lips just as Bofur was beginning what must be the fifth or sixth song, when he barely heard a soft thunk over the merrymaking. He glanced down in curious confusion and found the faunt bent and sprawled over the table.

Thorin immediately began to panic (on the inside). Had they not fully treated the shock? He gently patted the tiny faunt’s back. “Mr. Baggins?”

Gandalf chuckled, though Elrond was alert in his chair, similarly concerned.

“I was wondering when he would reach his limit.” The wizard chuckled, reaching over to gently rearrange the hobbit’s head so his face wasn’t smushed into the table.

“What do you mean? You were expecting this? Is he alright?” Thorin’s inner panic surfaced just a bit.

“Master dwarf, several days with very little sleep may not seem like much for a dwarf, and is indeed very little to an elf, but even a man would lag after such and a hobbit? Even a full grown hobbit would be hard pressed to manage to function normally. A faunt?” Gandalf shook his head. “I’m more surprised that he held out this long. At his current age, he should be sleeping full nights and sneaking in a nap or two during the day. That he stayed awake this long is quite remarkable actually.” He ended with a puff on his pipe.

“He must be exhausted.” Elrond commented. “I could have him taken back to your chambers.” He offered as he waved over another elf.

Thorin immediately bristled. No elf was walking off with his-their halfling and especially not when said halfling was so completely defenseless. “That won’t be necessary. It is time my company retired for the night anyway.” As gently as he would a newborn babe, he lifted the hobbit (making sure to support his tiny head) off the table until he could lean him back into his arm and scoop him carefully away from the books and table.

Elrond nodded, an undeniable hint of amusement at watching the hardened warrior dwarf handle the faunt so carefully. “Very well, I hope your rooms will service you well.”

“They will suffice.” Thorin admitted and cast a glance at the sleeping faunt in his arm. He looked angelic in his sleep, his tiny mouth hanging open just slightly to form a small elliptical ‘o.’ “Thank you.” He grunted at the elf. Whether for the rooms or the dinner or both, the elf would have to figure it out. It was hard enough to push the words out, he wasn’t about to elaborate.

Elrond nodded with a barely there smirk, seemingly understanding Thorin’s intent and meaning. Thorin was grateful on the halfling’s behalf, not his own. Thorin signaled to Balin and Dwalin, who had been watching since Thorin had stood from his chair, and they began to herd the dwarrow back to their rooms.

Thorin went ahead, not wanting to risk waking the faunt with all the dwarrow racket, and surprisingly managed to find their rooms again just fine, though he didn’t remember it being quite so far a walk from dinner. See, he wasn’t that directionally challenged, he thought smugly to himself and entered the shared common room . . . where the rest of the company were already bedding down.

“Go for a walk, did ye?” Dwalin teased as he closed the door behind him.

Thorin sent him a glare. “I did.” He agreed to save face, though several still snickered at his expense.

“Over here, Uncle!” Kili gestured him over to a spot in the room where they had set up their (and his) bed rolls. “We got him a little nest ready while you were, uh, walking.” Fili explained.

“A nest?” He ignored the ‘walking’ comment.

“Bed burrow? Do ya think they have a name for it?”

Thorin chuckled but realized that he was going to have to let go of the faunt to put him down. He wasn’t particularly fond of that idea. But he didn’t really have an excuse not to put him down either.

He sighed as he knelt to deposit the sleeping faunt into the ‘nest.' “Bring my sleeping roll over here.” He ordered and he carefully slipped the halfling in and tucked him in. His nephews shot each other looks but did as they were told and Thorin situated his bedroll right next to the halfling’s little nest (bed-burrow), his nephews taking up on the other side.

The dwarrow settled in, tired from their recent adventures and bellies full. They fell quickly asleep, most still wearing their armor and keeping a weapon nearby.

The next morning the dwarrow stirred slowly, not needing to get up early to continue on their way. Some even made grateful use of the bathing chambers, most notably Dori, who then proceeded to wrangle his brother’s in for a proper washing.

By noon, everyone was up and enjoying the large lunch that had been delivered from the elven kitchens . . everyone but one small hobbit.

“Where’s Bilbo?” Bofur was the first to take notice.

“He's still resting.” Thorin supplied from his place at the head of the table. He had been hyper aware of the halfling’s absence all morning and had managed to discreetly check on the faunt on a regular basis.

“Is he okay?” Dori asked, several others looking invested in the question.

“The wizard suggested that he would be asleep for some time.”

“Aye, but the wizard don’t pay no mind 'til he thinks the wee thing is dyin’.” Gloin grumped.

“We will continue to keep an eye on him.” Thorin didn’t particularly want any help with it, but he didn’t need his company panicking either. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t concerned as well.

“Don’t you think he would have woken up by now, you know to eat or even relieve himself?” Kili wondered.

“Aye, after watching him eat, I can image him not needing to eat right away, but surely he’d have to pee, at least.” Fili added.

As if on cue a small head popped up out of the bed-burrow catching several of the dwarrow’s attention. The faunt sleepily tried to free himself from his nest, only to trip and fall with a soft ‘oof.’

Thorin pushed his chair away to go help, but Dori was already halfway there. The dwarrow watched curiously as the faunt wandered around for a few second as if still asleep before starting to undo his pants near some kind of elvish couch.

Thorin’s eyes widened as he realized what the halfling was getting ready to do and shouted a likely unintelligible command at Dori who was already standing over the faunt.

Dori seemed to notice at the same time and quickly scooped up the faunt and bolted for the washroom urgently rambling a variety of phrases like ‘hold it,’ ‘not here,’ and ‘almost there!’

The dwarrow waited in silence until Dori returned carrying a limp faunt In his arms which he promptly resettled into the small nest. “We made it.” He announced as he headed back to his spot at the table.

There was a collective sigh of relief as the company went back to enjoying their lunch.

“You don’t think he might have . . . in the night. . .” Kili trailed off after several moments of silence.

“It’s just elvish furniture. It’s probably an improvement.” Nori shrugged him off.

“What if it wasn’t elvish furniture?” Fili slowly added.

The dwarrow around the table paused in reflection, some discretely sniffing at their clothes (or their neighbor’s clothes).

“Surely, someone would have noticed if ‘e got up in the night . . . Right?” Bofur sounded like he might be trying to convince himself.

Some of the dwarrow quickly agreed, likely not wanting to consider the alternative, and slowly they returned to their lunch. Thorin hid a smirk behind his cup. Actually, Mr. Baggins had gotten up in the night, but Thorin had noticed, having spent his night watching over the defenseless babe rather than sleeping himself, and had made sure to direct the halfling to the toilet (or rather carry him there much like Dori had just done, though a bit quieter).

They passed the day in their chambers, taking advantage of the bathing facilities, resting, and assessing their supplies. If none of them were particularly eager to leave while the faunt was practically comatose, well, few would have been willing to admit it. Thorin and Dwalin in particular seemed to hover around the tiny nest and Dori was casting almost constant glances towards it. Even Oin wandered over to make sure the wee hobbit was still breathing every now and then.

Finally, just before dinner (as expected of hobbit timing) there was movement from inside the little nest. Bilbo kicked off his blankets as he stretched with a whine before collapsing back into his bed. Nearly every dwarrow had stopped what they were doing to watch in relief as he blinked a few times up at the ceiling. He sat up suddenly, his unruly curls even more riotous than usual. “Will we be eating soon?”

The dwarrow chuckled. Of course the first thing a hobbit thinks of is his stomach.

“What?” Bilbo asked slightly annoyed by the question. “What time is it?”

“I imagine that the elves will be fetching us for dinner any time now.” Balin supplied.

“Dinner? What about breakfasts?”

“Ya slept through tha’.” Dwalin informed.

“What? Both of them?! And-and lunch? Tea time?” Bilbo listed off in growing disbelief.

“Aye.” Oin went over to poke and prod at the halfling. “Ye slept nearly twenty-four hours.”

Bilbo’s tiny jaw dropped and he was momentarily too stunned to swat the dwarf’s hand away. “But-but we’ll be eating soon, right?”

Before anyone could reassure the distressed faunt, there was a knock at the door.

“That would be our hosts.” Balin announced as he went to answer the door.

“What?! No! I-I’m not ready!” Bilbo scrambled out of his nest and bolted for the washroom.

The dwarrow snickered at him (though Dori followed him in to supervise) and filed out to wait for him in the hall. A couple minutes later he dashed out behind them still straitening his jacket (which he had slept in much to his distaste) and trying to wrangle his curls into something less . . wild looking.

Thorin waited until the halfling had made it up to the front by his side before following their hosts to dinner. Dinner with the elves went much more smoothly this time. Meats and dishes of every kind were set out before them from the very beginning and Bilbo was ecstatic about every new dish he tried.

There was much chatter among the dwarrow and Thorin was able to further discuss with the elven lord what supplies they would be needing when they left.

“Gandalf informed me that you have a map that may have a hidden message. Text that I may be able to help you with.” Elrond changed the direction of their conversation.

“Of course he did.” Thorin glared at the wizard.

“I can meet with you tomorrow to take a look at it if you so desire.”

“Oh! I love maps!” Bilbo chirped up before Thorin could refuse. “Especially old ones. I feel like every map tells a story about the place it depicts. My father used to collect maps. Of course, he never left the Shire so his collection wasn’t really all that impressive compared to what you must have in your libraries, but it was the biggest collection in the Shire. We spent many evenings studying his maps. I’m afraid that’s about as far as his adventurous spirit went though.”

“Surely your mother coaxed him out from time to time. She was quite the adventurer for a hobbit.” Elrond chuckle.

“Not really. The most she could talk him into was an impromptu picnic. He was a Baggins through and through, steady, proper, and academic at most. He wasn’t even much of a gardener really. Spent most his time with his books, maps, or a good pipe.”

“It is unfortunate. It would have been an honor to meet him. Your mother was a great delight to have here.”

“Oh and she absolutely loved it here as well. I think if it weren’t for me and Father she might have come back. I know she wanted to eventually. She just . . didn’t get the chance.” Bilbo fiddled with his food, the memories hindering his appetite.

“I am sorry to hear of their deaths. It seems they passed away young, for hobbits.” Elrond posed his question indirectly.

“Yes, well, the Fell Winter took many from us before their time.” Bilbo murmured turning his attention back to his food. Thorin could tell he didn’t want to continue the conversation and wondered just how bad the Fell Winter could have been for the halflings. They seemed to be so carefree at first glance.

Elrond must have also read the halfling’s cues as he turned back to Thorin. “So, tomorrow afternoon?”

Thorin was about to decline but caught big green eyes staring at him almost pleadingly at the edge of his vision.

“Very well.” He sighed, unable to disappoint such hopeful eyes even if they were only in his peripheral vision.

Gandalf 's smirk and hid a chuckle at Bilbo’s bright victorious smile and even Elrond’s eyes sparkled with amusement. Thorin groaned inwardly and took a swig of his wine. The halfling was a manipulative menace and knowing it didn’t even make it any easier to resist.

Bilbo didn’t pass out at the dinner table this time (though he did apologize profusely for doing so the night before) and skipped along happily beside the king as they made their way back to their chambers for the night.

They were almost back to their rooms when the faunt made a noise of exclamation and turned aside to engage an elf that they happen to be passing by. “Um, hello. I was just wondering who I might ask to acquire a-a large pot from the kitchens.” He chirped up at the surprised (and slightly awestruck) elf.

“Was dinner not to your liking? Did you not get enough to eat?” She asked down at him in concern, bending nearly double so she wasn’t towering over him quite so much.

Thorin (and pretty much the entire company) stopped to see what the halfling’s detour was about.

“Oh, no, no! Dinner was delicious and I’m quite satisfied. It-it’s just. . “ He bit his tiny lip. “Hobbits don’t swim, you see.”

The elf (and dwarrow) stared in confusion.

“A-and the elven baths are wonderful, but a bit . . deep.” He continued with a blush when she didn’t clue in.

“I-I was wondering if I could get something more my size.” He revealed with a resigned sigh.

The elf’s eyes widened in understanding and she nodded. “Yes, of course. I will go see for you and bring it to your chambers.” She whispered in a belated attempt to spare his dignity.

He thanked her and returned to his spot by Thorin’s side, still sporting a bright flush.

“Looks like we’ll be cooking halfling tonight!” Kili teased as they continued to their rooms. “Shall we start a fire to get your pot nice and simmering?” Several of the dwarrow snickered.

Bilbo huffed in annoyance. “I prefer not to be cooked in my own bath water, thank you very much! And I am not a ‘halfling!’ I am half of nothing, Master Kili! I am one whole hobbit!”

“I didn’t mean nothing buy it.” Kili murmured chastised.

“Is ‘halfling’ and offensive term to hobbits?” Balin wondered from behind Thorin.

“Of course it is! It implies that we are ‘half a man’ simply because we’re shorter than one. Dwarrow aren’t much taller. How would you like to be called ‘almost-men?’”

“Dwarrow are different then men.” Thorin growled.

“Well, so are hobbits!”

There was a murmuring among the dwarrow as they approached the door to their rooms. Thorin had never considered that the term ’halfling’ was offensive. It was the usual term used, outside of hobbits themselves anyway.

He opened the door to let the faunt go first. “Our apologies. We meant no offense.”

“Didn’t you?” Bilbo stopped to look up at him but continued on without elaborating.

The half-hobbit was partly right. The term was condescending by nature and only made more so by the dismissive tone it was often said with. Thorin lowered his head slightly in recognition and followed the faunt in.

A little while later, the elf returned bearing a large pot that looked just the right size for the tiny faunt, though her eyes widened incredulously when he reached to take the big pot off her hands. It wasn’t until Dori stepped forward to grab it that she released it. Bilbo grumbled but followed the dwarf into one of the wash rooms.

A few minutes later, there was a good deal of scandalized squawking before Dori begrudgingly left to let the hobbit bathe himself. He stopped and huffed outside the door as if the faunt was being especially difficult. “He could still drown in that massive pot!” He defended himself. “If I don’t hear you every couple minutes, I’m coming in there after you!” He shouted back into the washroom.

“You will do no such thing!” Bilbo squealed back.

Dori crossed his arms stubbornly and the others snickered. Thorin chuckled softly as he continued to strategize how he was going to justify sleeping near the faunt again tonight now that the hobbit was aware of the situation. He could always just blame his nephews.

Chapter Text

About twenty minutes later, the hobbit re-emerged from the wash room. He was dressed in only his pants, shirt and suspenders and dragging a massive towel behind him as he continued to dry his hair. He whistled happily and made it half way back to his nest before he stopped and slowly looked around.

“What are you doing?” He asked the room full of dwarrow.

In hindsight, they should have recognized the question from the hand washing incident.

“We’re getting ready for bed. We can’t all sleep all day you know.” Kili teased as he re-situated his bed roll.

“Yes, I see that.” The faunt replied unimpressed. “Why here, exactly?”

“Don’t see how it’s any different from anywhere else.” Fili answered.

“Uh, huh.” Bilbo glanced around again. “And what’s wrong with the beds?”

“Elf beds.” Dwalin grunted like a curse.

“Which means that they are big and likely very comfortable.” Bilbo nodded.

“And stink like elves.” Gloin added.

Bilbo stared at the dwarrow around him in disbelief. “We’ve been on the road for days, without beds and will be on the road for even longer without beds and you won’t sleep in perfectly good beds because they might stink like elves?!”

Some of the dwarrow had enough sense to look sheepish at the accusation, but the rest remained stubbornly determined.

Bilbo shook his head. “Well, what if I want to sleep in one?”

“In an elvish bed?” Dwalin asked incredulously.

“Off the floor! And so what if it’s elvish. The floor your sleeping on now is elvish, and the food you’re eating, and baths you’re using, even the toilet! If you’re going to refuse something just cause it’s elvish then maybe you should all go sleep on the cliff side!” The hobbit ranted at them.

“You are welcome to use a bed, if you wish.” Thorin tried to pacify the faunt. “Though it it better if we stay together.” Thorin didn't want the faunt to sleep away from the rest of them, but he didn’t think refusing him would turn out well either.

“Stay together?! There’s only seven rooms! You’d have to pair up at the very least anyway, so no one would be alone and you would all get to sleep on soft beds, and spite them in the process!” Bilbo flapped his arms in exasperation.

“Wait a minute. How does sleepin’ in their beds spite them. Don’t it just look like we’re acceptin' defeat?” Bofur questioned, intrigued.

“Amateurs.” Bilbo scoffed. “Every hobbit knows that when an enemy presents you a high quality gift, they're just trying to show you up. The best way to get under someone’s skin is to take their insults and ill-intended gifts with a smile and actually benefit from them. Why, imagine I had the finest pie pan crafted for Lobelia to flaunt my wealth and then she turned around and used it to make an award winning pie for the harvest festival! I'd be furious!”

The dwarrow stared at him as they tried to decipher the meaning of pie pans, harvest festivals and someone names Lobelia. There was a soft murmur as some of them tried to work it out.

“So, yer saying the best way to insult them is to sleep in their beds?” Nori spoke up to clarify for them all.

“And eat their food, and wash in their baths. They may smell like elf now, but they’ll be smelling like dwarf when you leave.” Bilbo added with a wicked grin.

The murmuring continued and there seemed to be some kind of debate going on between several of the dwarrow. Suddenly Fili and Kili hopped up, abandoning their bed rolls, and ran to one of the bedroom doors. “We call this one!” They announced before disappearing into the room.

With that the race was on and dwarrow were scrambling to claim (or defile, Thorin wasn’t entirely sure which) the remaining bedrooms. Soon all the rooms, save one, were claimed, his company having left the largest room for their king. He and Bilbo were the only ones left in the common room.

Bilbo stared up at him with a smug, unrepentant grin. Thorin wasn’t sure he hadn’t just made all that up just to get the dwarrow to do what he wanted.

Thorin crosses his arms and stared down at the tiny hobbit. “I didn’t realize hobbits were so manipulative in their nature.”

“I have no idea what you talking about?” Bilbo denied a little too sweetly to be innocent.

Thorin huffed to hide his smirk. “And where will you sleep now?”

“Hmm. Well, I really don’t want to sleep alone.” The faunt admitted, solidifying Thorin’s suspicions. “I suppose I’ll see if Fili and Kili would share with me for the night.”

Thorin nodded, doing his best to hide his disappointment, not that he had any reason to believe that the hobbit would choose to share with him. “I’m sure they won’t mind.” He walked the faunt over to open the door and let him in.

He closed it on his nephews cheering at getting to keep the faunt for the night, before heading to the last room that had clearly been reserved for him.

He quickly readied for bed and climbed into the over sized bed. It was comfy, but strangely lonely . . not something Thorin as used to feeling. He lay there awake for some time, fighting his instinct to go check on the faunt, until he finally drifted into a doze.

He jolted awake but wasn’t sure why. He reached for the dagger under his pillow. He wouldn’t have woken for no reason. He listened for a few moments before he heard a soft tapping that could be coming from the door. He rolled out of bed and stalked over to the door, opening it slowly and cautiously.

He looked around but didn’t see anyone, glancing down when he felt something tug at his pant leg. Bilbo stared up at him with sleepy eyes.

“Kili pushed me off the bed.” The faunt offered as explanation.

Thorin opened the door farther and gestured the hobbit in. “Are you Alright?” It would be quite a fall for someone Mr. Baggins’ size.

“I’ll probably have a bruise.” Bilbo wandered in drowsily and Thorin shut the door.

There was a carved wooden box at the end of the bed, likely for holding spare linens, that the hobbit was currently trying to climb in order to reach the bed.

Thorin huffed and snatched up the faunt, who was too tired to protest beyond a disgruntled grunt, and deposited him on the bed.

Thorin carefully climbed back into bed, being mindful of the faunt’s location, and resettled so he wouldn’t be moving when the hobbit settled.

Bilbo crawled up until he was laying beside the king’s shoulder, not touching, but within reach. He ignored the pillow, stuffing the edge of the blanket under his head instead, curled up and quickly fell asleep.

Thorin watched until he was sure the faunt was out before he let his own eyes start to droop. Sleep came easier now that he had the tiny hobbit nearby.

The next morning he woke early, as was his habit. He blinked up at the ceiling, taking a moment to remember where he was. He turned his head, remembering that the faunt had joined him at some point in the night, but Mr. Baggins wasn’t there.

He reached up to yank the blankets off but poked something soft on his chest, it making a soft grunt at the force. He stared down at a tiny head of curls. Bilbo was splayed across his chest on his belly, still snoring softly. Thorin relaxed back into the bed with a relieved sigh and wondered how the hobbit had manage to scramble on top of him without his noticing.

Not that he minded. It was the safest place the hobbit could be. But he needed to get up soon. He couldn’t make a habit of sleeping in. He waited for several more minutes to see if the faunt would stir before gently rolling over and sliding the faunt back onto the bed on his back. He pulled a blanket up over him before rolling out of bed to get ready for the day.

~Bilbo~

Bilbo stretched with a groan as he started to wake up. He stared up at the ceiling drowsily. He sat up in alarm before he remembered what had happened and why he was in a different room. The first half of the night had been rough . . and painful, though the second half of his night had been far more restful.

Fili and Kili were two dangerous dwarrow to sleep with. Fili had nearly crushed him and Kili had successfully managed to shove him clean off the bed. He lifted his shirt to check for bruises. And there it was, a big black and blue right there on his hip. Well, it could have been a lot worse if he hadn’t grabbed the blankets on the way down. Still, he wouldn’t be sharing sleeping space with those two again.

He lay back down only to pop right back up when the smell of breakfast reached his nose. He scrambled to the side of the bed and carefully slid down the blankets before running for the door. He made a small pleased noise when he found that Thorin had left it just a crack so he could get out on his own.

He made a beeline for the table only to change course halfway there. Washroom first, he needed to pee and wash up.

“Hey, Bilbo, we thought we lost you!” One of the young dwarrow called after him as he headed for the wash room. “Where ya goin’? The food’s over here!” Bofur called after him.

A couple of minutes later, Bilbo came bolting out of the washroom. He struggled for a few seconds as he tried to climb up on the bench until Bifur reached down and pulled him up by the arm. “Thank you.” He chirped as he tried to see over the table to grab some breakfast.

“Just put ‘im all the way, Bifur. Won’t get any food that way.” Bofur chuckled at the faunt's attempts.

Ignoring Bilbo’s protests, Bifur lifted him one more time and deposited him on the table top.

Bilbo grumbled a thank you But was quickly distracted from the improperness of it all with the promise of food. Soon he was sitting cross legged over a plate that could easily hold him and munching away on eggs, bacon and biscuits.

“Where’d you go last night, Bilbo? We though we’d lost you again.” Fili asked again once the hobbit was situated.

“You did! After you tried to crush me and pushed me off the bed.” Bilbo sent the boys a half-hearted glare.

Several of the older dwarrow were outraged by the news and scolded the young princes. They squawked using ignorance as their defense.

“It’s no excuse. He’ll not be sleeping with you two again.” Dori declared with finality.

“Did ye get hurt, lad?” Oin directed at the faunt as he shoveled the last of his breakfast into his mouth.

“Got a bruise, but I’ll be fine.” Bilbo responded dismissively as he wiped his plate clean with a piece of biscuit before popping it in his mouth.

Several of the dwarrow’s eyes widen in concern, including the king’s, but Bilbo didn’t notice.

“I best take a look at ye then.” Oin grunted as he got up.

Bilbo’s head popped up. He was paying attention now. “Oh, that won’t be necessary.”

“Yer hurt, lad. It’s best I take a look at it.”

“I-it’s just a bruise.” He tried to reassure glancing around for an escape route.

“Still, better to be safe than sorry. Come ‘ere. I won’t hurt ye.” Oin reached for him and Bilbo bolted, running straight for the edge of the table. He swiftly slid off to dangle off the side before dropping but never made it to the floor. He was snatched out of the air with a yelp as two big hands wrapped around him.

“Ow! Ow! Ow!” He squealed and Thorin rushed to set him down. As soon as his feet hit the floor he took off again.

“You little!” Thorin growled after him and suddenly the company was on a wild faunt chase.

Bilbo sprinted around easily dodging them and slipping under furniture to get away in a pinch. He giggled as he once again dodged Bofur and Bifur and slipped away out of their reach. But he must have gotten careless because suddenly a pair of big hands came out of nowhere and snatched him up.

Bilbo squealed feigning pain again but his captor didn’t let go this time. “Don’t think I’ll fall for the same trick twice.” Thorin held up the struggling faunt.

Bilbo scowled at the king with a pouty lip. “I don’t need to be checked on. I’m fine!”

Despite Bilbo's efforts, the king managed to maintain a stern, disapproving face as the hobbit pouted up at him. “Oin. You can look him over in my room.”

Bilbo crosses his arms and scowled as he was carried away. He was still like that as he sat on the bed and waited for the healer dwarf to catch up.

“Take your shirt off, lad.” Oin ordered as he walked over.

Bilbo jutted his chin defiantly and didn’t move.

“Do as he says or I will do it for you.” Thorin amended.

Bilbo stared up at him. He didn’t think the dwarf king really would . . but he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t either.

When he took too long to respond, Thorin started to reach for him.

“Alright! Alright! I’ll do it myself!” He squawked and slipped his suspenders off so he could pull off his shirt. He didn’t tell them where he was bruised though. He wasn’t going to to any more than he had to.

Oin stood him up and looked him over before noticing the edge of a bruise that traveled under the hobbit’s britches.

“I’ll need ye to remove yer britches, lad.”

Bilbo gaped at him incredulously. “No!”

“I'll hold him down.” Thorin didn’t even give him a chance. The king grabbed him, gently but firmly and laid him down on his stomach, keeping a hand on his back to keep him there. Bilbo screamed protests and curses at them as Oin pulled down his pants just far enough to check the bruise.

Bilbo jolted with a wince when Oin poked at his hip and finally gave up fighting. He whimpered when big, rough fingers gently rubbed a salve over the bruise.

“I don’t like the looks of it, but it ain’t serious. Ye got any others?”

Bilbo shook his head, having gone limp under Thorin’s hold.

“We’ll keep putting salve on it and it should clear up soon enough. No more sleeping with the princes.” Oin prescribed as he redressed the faunt.

Bilbo ignored him. It’s not like he didn’t already know that. He was sore and humiliated and not very happy with the dwarrow right now.

Thorin tried to sit him up, but he remained stubbornly limp and fell back into the bed on his back.

Thorin raised a brow at him. “So I guess you don’t want to get your shirt back on.”

Bilbo turned his head away with a pout, blatantly ignoring the king.

“Shall I dress you like a babe, then?”

Bilbo huffed in irritation but sat up and snatched the shirt away. “I could’ve taken care of myself!” He slipped his shirt back on and re-secured his suspenders.

“You are weakened and vulnerable, whether you like it or not. We only wish to protect you and take care of you while you are vulnerable.”

“You didn’t seem to care before I changed!” Bilbo snapped. It’s not like they had any reason to care before. They only cared now because they thought of him as a child. It made him more upset to think about and he stubbornly crossed his arms and ignored the king.

“That was our mistake.” Thorin rumbled and turned to leave the hobbit in peace for a while. “You shouldn’t push yourself until your bruise starts to fade.” He said as he slipped out of the room, leaving the door open just a crack.

Bilbo continued to fume for a few more minutes before he started to cool off and began to feel bad about the trouble he had given them all. He really was acting childish and he didn’t even have the excuse of stress this time. He would have to apologize . . again. He sighed and fell back onto the bed.

The bed was so comfy, it was like laying on a cloud. He relaxed and his eyes began to droop. Before he knew it he had drifted off to sleep.

~Thorin~

Thorin was not happy. The first thing he did after leaving the hobbit to pout was hunt his nephews down. He dragged them into their room and gave them (another) lecture about responsibility and being more aware of the faunt’s safety.

To their credit, they were already looking rather upset by the idea of causing the faunt actual harm even before he let into them. He wasn't as hard on them as he wanted to be. He had already been concerned by the faunt being injured, but he hadn’t expected to see him so thin. There was no plumpness left on him. He didn’t look like he was starving, and the past several meals had probably helped greatly, but he didn’t look like he could afford to lose any weight.

Oin had also been concerned, sending Thorin a glance over the faunt, and was likely already informing the rest of the company of Bilbo’s increased dietary needs. Tharkun had mentioned a faunt’s rapid metabolism, but he hadn’t really taken it to heart until now. The hobbit couldn’t afford to be missing meals . . any meals. He would have to talk to an elf about getting Bilbo’s regular seven meals provided for as long as they were here.

He sat on the balcony for a smoke as his own aggravation died down and eventually tapped his pipe clean before heading back in. He was greeted with an anxious and fretting company. “What’s wrong?” He asked with foreboding. Only the faunt made them fret like this.

“Bilbo hasn’t come out yet. Was he . . angry when ye left?” Balin informed.

Thorin didn’t even bother respond. He marched straight for his room, ignoring their concerned inquiries. He burst into his room, breaking into a run at the sight of the faunt lying limp on the bed. Perhaps he was more hurt than they had thought!

He gently shook the tiny hobbit awake who blinked up at him sleepily.

“Is it time to eat?” Bilbo slurred sleepily.

Thorin huffed a relieved sigh. “It’s always time to eat for you hobbits.”

“Oh . . then which meal time is it?” The hobbit asked as he pushed himself up to sitting.

Thorin glanced out his window. “It’s nearly eleven, I’d say.” He estimated.

“Elevensies, then.” Bilbo nodded. “Good, I was getting hungry again.”

Thorin offered him a hand but the hobbit ignored it and slid off the bed on his own before drowsily heading out to look for more food.

Thorin followed him out with a smirk of amusement. He was definitely going to have to see about having the faunt’s ‘hobbit’ meals delivered. “What are the usually times for hobbit meals?”

“It can vary a bit, but the usual times are seven, for first breakfast, nine for second breakfast, eleven for elevensies, one for lunch, four for tea, six for dinner and eight for supper. Plus the occasional snack throughout the day. . . Why? Are you planning to integrate hobbit meals on the journey? You’d probably all be better off for it.”

“At the very least fatter for it. I don’t know where you hobbits keep it all.”

Bilbo shrugged with a non-committed hum. “And I wonder how such big people can manage to function on so little.”

“We may be bigger in size, but I believe hobbits have all the races beat in the size of their stomachs.” Thorin chuckled.

Bilbo’s belly rumbled unapologetically. “I’m not sure which is more unfortunate.” He mourned as he rubbed his hungry belly.

Thorin chuckled and directed the hobbit to what was left of breakfast. He needed to speak to an elf.

Chapter Text

Shortly after Bilbo finished his elevensies, lunch was delivered which he greeted quite enthusiastically despite having barely just finished eating. Only this time, he seemed to disappear before the meal was done. Thorin looked around in confusion before the faunt popped up again, climbing up onto the bench.

Thorin thought nothing of it, until it happened again. Mr. Baggins disappeared only to show back up a few minutes later. The third time it happened, Thorin’s curiosity was piqued and he discretely watched the hobbit as he climbed back up onto the table, having gotten over his disdain for it apparently.

Bilbo would sit down and grab a few more things for his plate as he munched away. Suddenly, he’d get up, his latest morsel in hand, and quietly and efficiently slip off the table before taking off. No one else seemed to notice the strange behavior and Thorin watched until the faunt was no longer within sight.

A few minutes later, he came back and scrambled up onto the table again. “What is that all about?” Thorin quietly rumbled catching the hobbits attention.

Bilbo stared at him, his head tilted just slightly. “What?” He delivered with innocent confusion.

Thorin raised a brow. He couldn’t tell if the hobbit was playing him or unaware of his actions. When he didn’t answer, Bilbo returned his attention to his plate and continued eating. He didn’t take off again for the rest of lunch.

Thorin eyed him suspiciously, but wasn’t confident enough to call bluff. Soon lunch was over (along with it Bilbo’s strange behavior) and an elf showed up to escort Thorin to meet with Lord Elrond.

Thorin waved Balin along and stopped when he caught Bilbo staring at him with wide pleading eyes. Thorin forced down his smirk. “Would you care to join us, Mr. Baggins?”

“Yes!” The faunt chirped happily as he ran to join them. The elf led them away, walking more slowly to better allow the faunt to keep up, and they were brought to a large balcony overlooking the gardens.

Gandalf and Elrond already sat at a round table chatting when Thorin, Balin, and Bilbo arrived. Bilbo quickly spotted his chair (the one with a stack of books) and climbed up to his seat, making a pleased sound when he saw the tea and desserts set out.

The hobbit had been seated beside Lord Elrond and Thorin took the seat on his other side. Before Thorin could get to it, Elrond was already serving the little hobbit his tea and sweets. Bilbo chirped a greeting and thank you before starting into his treats.

The others exchanged curt greetings before Lord Elrond got down to business. “And where is this map that you would seek counsel on?”

Thorin hesitated for only a moment before big green eyes spurred him to produce the map. “It was left to me by my father. I believe it may hold a message beyond what is plainly seen.”

Bilbo craned his neck as he tried to see the map as Thorin laid it out. Thorin wasn’t sure why. It’s not like he hadn’t seen it back in the Shire.

“The Lonely Mountain.” Elrond hummed as he carefully picked up the map to inspect it. He tilted it back and forth and held it flat at his eye line before he finally voiced his conclusions. “It would appear that you are correct. I am certain that there are moon runes on this map, but they cannot be perceived unless viewed under the light of the same exact moon they were written under. It is an old technique invented by the dwarrow.”

Elrond lay the map back down and Bilbo eyed it in awe.

“And what moon would that be, exactly?” Balin asked, trying not to sound annoyed.

“I believe these were written under the a crescent moon on a midsummer’s eve.”

“You can tell that just by looking at it? At letters you can’t even see?” Bilbo asked skeptically. He pulled the map over and peered at it carefully.

Elrond chuckled. “The runes are magical and I can feel that magic. You are in luck! Midsummer’s eve is in just over two weeks and it is supposed to be a crescent moon that night.”

“Two weeks?!” Thorin and Balin both shouted, startling the hobbit,

“Closer to two and a half really.” Elrond responded with a smug look. “You are welcome to stay here until then.”

“It’s not so bad, is it?” Bilbo spoke up. “We can rest . . and eat and resupply and we’ll be all ready to go once the map is read.”

“Two weeks is . . much longer than we intended to stay.” Balin answered diplomatically. It was better than saying they didn’t want to be stuck around the elves for that long.

“Perhaps, but it wouldn’t put us that far behind. And I was kind of hoping I could get some new clothes made. This set is the only set that shrank with me and they’re sure to wear out if I have to wear them all the time.” The faunt wrinkled his nose. “Besides they could use a good washing.”

“My people and I would be happy to provide you with any supplies or assistance you may need.” Elrond directed at the hobbit, gently placing a long fingered hand on his tiny back. “You merely need to ask and it will be done.”

Bilbo beamed up at the elf and Thorin’s mood soured instantly.

“If you cannot read the map, than there is no reason to continue this meeting.” He folded his map up and put it away.

“What?! I’ve only had one cup of tea and I haven’t even touched that pie yet and it has ‘eat me, Bilbo’ written all over it.” Bilbo argued.

“You can order a pie from the kitchens. Has he not just said you can have whatever you ask for?” Thorin congratulated himself on not calling 'him' ‘the elf.’

Bilbo glanced longingly at the pie then back to Thorin, his big green eyes wet and beseeching.

Thorin turned to Balin for support, but his adviser was already pouring himself another cup of tea in defeat. “Fine! One slice!” He growled in defeat.

Bilbo beamed at him and it was almost enough to make him forget about his humiliating defeat by green eyes and pouty lips. Gandalf chuckled behind his cup and even Elrond was making an effort to not look too amused.

Bilbo got his slice of pie . . and another, and a tart and a half a tray of cookies (most of the other half he did his best to stuff in his pockets for later) before Thorin was able to pull him away. Balin took it rather well, enjoying his tea and the idle chatter (much of which was supplied by the hobbit).

By the time they left, Elrond had practically given the hobbit free reign over all of Imladris and Thorin couldn’t help but get the feeling that Mr. Baggins was just a little too excited about it.

The faunt disappeared again after they made it back to their rooms, or tried to anyways. Thorin stalked after him, determined to find out what the tiny hobbit was up to. Thorin tracked him through the common room while pretending he was simply walking about and saw the hobbit disappear into the king’s room.

Unfortunately, whatever he had been doing he must have finished because by the time Thorin made it to the door, Bilbo was already on his way back out.

Bilbo grinned up at him as he walked by and announced he was going to take a bath before dinner as he head for the wash room. “Alone! Master Dori!” He declared without even looking in the dwarf’s direction.

Thorin chuckled lowly and turned to survey his room. Nothing seemed out of place or disturbed. It seemed he would have to wait to find out what the faunt was up to.

A little while later, there was a knock on the door and the same she-elf from before greeted them. “Lord Elrond sent me to help the young Master Bilbo with some change in clothes.” She explained, carrying a small bundle of cloths and tailoring supplies.

It was Dori who stepped up and guided her to the washroom. Bilbo called her in and Thorin was sure he saw a spark of jealousy on Dori’s face. He was, after all, a fine tailor in his own right. He just lacked the materials to help the hobbit.

Bilbo could be heard chatting up the elf as she supposedly worked on making him a temporary replacement for his current clothes and Dori practically hovered at the door the whole time.

Finally, after about an hour, the elf and Bilbo both re-emerged. The elf quickly took her leave to continue her work and the dwarrow were left to stare at the elven-clad faunt. He was wearing a wee light blue robe, very similar to the robes the elves wore only much lighter and miniature in form. The soft outer coat buttoned up his chest and hung down over the light under shirt. The sleeves flared just slightly at the ends and he wore simple white britches that had been hemmed to halfway up his calf.

“Well, this is very nice, isn’t it.” Bilbo beamed as he smoothed out his new clothes.

“Ye look like an elf.” Gloin grunted, scrunching up his nose.

“Yes, well, they don’t exactly keep Hobbit clothes on hand, do they? She’s going to use my clothes as a design reference once their cleaned so I can get something a little more my preference.”

“Why would they even have such tiny clothes . . . unless?” Fili wondered.

“They’re baby clothes!” Kili fished the thought with a snicker.

“They are not!” Bilbo spluttered “. . . Anymore. She modified them for me.” He murmured, fiddling with his buttons self-consciously.

They will suffice until you have clothes of your own, though I am sure Dori is more than capable of seeing to your needs in the future should he be able to acquire the fabrics.” Thorin tried to pacify the company and the faunt.

“Does-does it look bad?” Bilbo mumbled, looking down at himself. “It-it is a bit . . grand for a lowly hobbit. I suppose.” He fretted.

“Nah, it looks good!” Kili reassured. “You look cute!” Fili agreed.

“C-cute?!” Bilbo squawked. “I-I am not! I’m a grown hobbit! I am not cute!” Bilbo protested, blushing at the agreements from the other dwarrow.

“To be honest, you were cute even before you shrunk.” Fili added.

“Yeah, now you're super cute!” Kili agreed.

Bilbo stuttered and spluttered denials and protests, much to the dwarrow’s amusement, before finally giving up and stomping away in a huff.

Thorin suspected it was more for show judging by the blush and small pleased smile the faunt was wearing as he stomped away.

Soon it as time for dinner again and Bilbo received numerous compliments on his new attire, always resulting in a blush and sweet thank you. It wasn’t until after dinner that Thorin got around to informing his company of their extended stay.

“What?!” “Two weeks?!” Two weeks with these blasted leaf-eaters?!” The company complained over each other.

“That’s not very nice! Those ‘blasted leaf-eaters have offered you free lodging and fare during your stay!” Tiny Bilbo rebuked them from where he stood on one of the couches.

The dwarrow grumbled, but didn’t argue.

“The message on the map won’t be readable for over two weeks. Two weeks of rest and recuperation will not hurt our journey.” Thorin spoke over them.

“But we don’t even know for sure that the map will have the answers we need.” Balin pointed out levelly.

“But if it does, it could be a fatal mistake to bypass it.” Thorin argued back and Balin nodded in acknowledgment. “This is not a suggestion. I have already made the decision. We will stay until the elf can read the map.”

This time there was minimal grumbling as the dwarrow accepted their fate, some already shuffling to their rooms for the night.

“Ah, Dori, Ori?” Bilbo called as he slipped off the couch to trail after them. “Might I trouble you for some bed space tonight?”

“Of course you may, Master Bilbo!” Dori returned enthusiastically as they welcomed they waved him in with them.

Thorin was watching the faunt disappear into their room when he heard a snicker by his side.

“Why don’t ye just offer ta let ‘im stay with ye?” Dwalin asked with a smirk.

Thorin turned a scowl on his friend but refused to dignify the question with an answer. He made his way back to his own room ignoring the snickers and soft chuckle as he left. Curse the Fundin brothers for knowing him so well!

Sleep came begrudgingly and he jolted out of bed when he heard a soft knock at his door. He opened it to find Bilbo once again blinking up at him. “What was it this time?” He wondered with a sleep-rough rumble.

“Dori’s bossy. Even in his sleep. He keeps moving me around.” Bilbo sleepily explained as he once again tried to climb the box at the foot of the bed.

Once again, Thorin snatched him up and placed him on the bed before returning himself. Bilbo curled up next to him as he had the night before and peaceful sleep finally came to the king.

~Bilbo~

Bilbo munched on an apple as he wandered through the gardens. He had sneaked out before the dwarrow had even finished their breakfast. He knew they wouldn’t have let him go alone if he had announced his intentions, so he had opted not to tell any of them.

Which meant they were probably running around in a panic trying to find him. He took another bite of his apple. He felt a little bad about it, but he was a full grown hobbit. He didn't need a babysitter, no matter what those overprotective stone-heads thought.

He had escaped so he could enjoy viewing the gardens in peace. He had thought he could spend all day in the gardens appreciating their beauty. Because they were beautiful, not quite hobbit garden beautiful. Few had a way with plants like the hobbits did, but they were certainly a place any hobbit would feel at home in. So, he had planned to spend the day touring them.

Unfortunately, he found himself getting . . bored. It was almost lunch time (by hobbit standards) and he had been there since shortly after breakfast. He had only lasted this long because he found a nice patch of grass for a nap, which was at least an hour, and then he came upon a nice elf who was sitting down for some tea and snacks (right around elvensies, what luck!) and had been invited to join him.

In fact, he had spent very little time actually enjoying the gardens themselves (other than sleeping and eating in them, of course). He loved the colors and the smells and even stopped to play with the fish in a little pond he found. But for prolonged periods it was just so . . . boring.

He needed more . . stimulation. Something that would keep his mind working. He made a small pleased noise as he finished the last bite of his apple and tossed what was left under a bush. The library! He could surely spend hours on end in such a grand library as the one here! His belly growled a reminder. But, perhaps after lunch.

~~~~~

He flipped another page with a sigh. He had returned to the dwarrow for lunch and did a marvelous job (if he did say so himself) of ignoring the rather loud and animated lecture he got for leaving without telling anyone and wondering alone. He was, after all, an adult hobbit he reminded them and pulled another disappearing act as soon as lunch was over.

One of them had tried to follow him, probably Nori, but Bilbo had noticed him and easily gave him the slip. And so he had come here, to the most magnificent library he had ever laid eyes on.

Granted, he probably couldn’t read more than half of the books here, but just the sight of them was enough to make his little hobbit heart beat faster. At least, it had been for the first fifteen minutes.

He had ran around the first several minutes just trying to take it all in. When he finally had the presence of mind to look for a book, the librarian had been more than happy to direct him to the ones written in Westron and help him collect a few titles.

He then found a comfy couch to settle on and began perusing his finds. And had been for the past hour, and, as fascinating as he knew elven poetry was, he was finding it incredibly difficult to focus any longer.

The closed the book with a huff when he realized he’d read the same paragraph three times now. What was wrong with him? He’d never had so much trouble concentrating before or sitting still, for that matter. He loved reading! And this was elvish poetry! He loved anything elvish! He didn’t know why he was so restless.

He crossed his arms and watched as the librarian flitted around gracefully, taking and returning books swiftly, checking them, cleaning them, and just doing his job. There were days Bilbo would dream about having such a job. Today was not one of them. It looked so incredibly boring.

The library was already so perfect and pristine. It didn’t seem like the elf had a whole lot to do. Wouldn’t it be more interesting if there was actually something to be fixed? You know, like books out of place here or there or perhaps a book wearing one of these fancy fabric covers (no doubt meant to protect the book) that belongs to another book? Wouldn’t it be more fun to actually have something to fix, not just dusting off books all the time?

He ran his hand over the cover of the book he had just been (trying) to read and a wicked little grin spread across his face. Surely, the elf could use a little more excitement in his life.

He slipped off the couch and traded his little grin for a face of innocence and approached the elf. “I don’t think I can sit still for so long on such a nice day. Would it be okay if I just browsed?” He asked sweetly.

“Of course.” The elf quickly replied. “You are welcome to enjoy the library at your leisure.”

Bilbo suppressed a smirk. Oh, he was going to enjoy it all right. “Thank you. Is it alright if I use that ladder there. The little one?”

The elf hesitated a moment. “Of course, as long as you’re careful. Though it’s best if you request assistance with any larger books.”

“Of course. Certainly. Thank you!” Bilbo agreed and zipped off to grab his ladder. It was little more than a step ladder but it would give him access to at least two rows of books and not just the bottom.

He scurried off pulling his little ladder behind him. He had work to do.

A couple hours later he bid farewell to the librarian as he left the library. He dusted his hands off with a satisfied smirk as the giant door closed behind him. It was almost dinner time! He had better go wash up. That sweet she-elf, Elindia, her name was, was supposed to be dropping of his clothes today.

He skipped down the hall with a whistle on his way back to their rooms. He’d have to continue his new pastime tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Three days. Three. Days. Three days the hobbit had been sneaking away from them and none of them had been able to keep track of him! They had all tried to follow him and every single time he had slipped away from them almost effortlessly! Even Nori had quickly lost track of the small faunt as soon as he had turned into the gardens. It was almost like the blasted hobbit could literally disappear into thin air! Several of the dwarrow were beginning to suspect it and Nori was sure of it (how else could he have gotten away from him?!).

Thorin knew better and wasn’t quite so superstitious, but he could admit it definitely looked to be the case. But Bilbo was tiny and could move virtually soundlessly between his light weight, small size and, leathery, padded bare feet. He could squeeze into places no dwarf or elf could follow, so it really wasn’t a surprise that he could lose them so easily.

The true mystery was what the wee hobbit was doing all day every day. All the dwarrow had started venturing out more to try to find their hobbit and now most of them spent the days in various ways somewhere other than in their rooms. Fili and Kili had discovered the training grounds and Dwalin had resumed some of their training. Bifur and Dori seemed to enjoy the gardens, Balin and Ori the library. Thorin wasn’t sure he wanted to know what Nori was up to, but hopefully Bofur was with him and keeping him out of trouble. Bombur had discovered the kitchens, Oin the apothecary and Gloin just kind of wandered around grumbling about elves.

And that left Thorin. Here he was wandering around hoping to catch sight of the hobbit that no one could seem to keep eyes on for longer than a few minutes (unless it was mealtime).

He entered the gardens distractedly only to rush further in at the sound of dwarvish cursing. “What happened?!” He barked when he came upon Nori and Bofur. Nori was belting out curses while Bofur just shook his head.

“My stash is gone!” Nori stopped cursing long enough to explain.

“What stash?” Thorin asked suspiciously.

“My stash!” The thief emphasized.

“His collection of goodies ‘e’s been liftin’’ off the elves.” Bofur further explained.

“You mean the things you’ve been stealing?”

“Yeah, sure! It’s gone!” Nori stomped around the garden as if it might scare out the one responsible.

“Perhaps one of the elves found it.” Thorin guessed.

Nori looked at him insulted by the very suggestion. “No one finds my stash! I get away with what I do cause I’m good at it!”

“Obviously someone found it.” He rolled his eyes and ignored Nori’s spluttering as he walked away. And here he bought it might be something important . . or, you know, involving the hobbit.

Intellectually, Thorin understood that Mr. Baggins was an adult and valued his privacy and autonomy. But every time he looked at the faunt his instincts screamed ‘protect’ and ‘precious’ (and less officially ‘adorable’). It didn’t help that he actually had experience raising young children which no doubt strengthened his paternal instinct, much like Dori.

A child, any child, was simply not something that any honorable dwarf could ignore. And there was just something about Mr. Baggins that seemed to stir their protective instincts into overdrive . . probably his size (and the fact that he was the most absurdly cute child they had ever seen.)

Thorin stopped and ran a hand over his face in awe. Durin’s beard! No wonder the hobbits enjoyed such peace! There were rumored to be scores of children running around the Shire. If the other hobbit babes were even half as cute as Bi-Mr. Baggins, none of the other free peoples would stand a chance! They had a virtual army of cuteness on hand ready to charm the weapons off any would-be conquerors (the supplies too, likely, just for good measure), except maybe orcs and even that was questionable.

For Mahal’s sake! They’ve already charmed the rangers into guarding their borders for virtually nothing! Perhaps the hobbits were really the most formidable of the peoples and that’s why their lands were so peaceful! Thorin found himself rethinking everything he had originally thought about the peaceful hobbits.

As he was standing there re-evaluating his perceptions of the small people, he was distracted by a rapidly approaching rustling of leaves. Suddenly, something small burst out of the bushes in front of him and stopped to stare upon noticing him.

Bilbo grinned up at him entirely too innocently as he hid what was most definitely an elvish shoe behind his back.

Thorin raised a brow at the faunt.

“Oh, hello Master Thorin. I didn’t realize you enjoyed the gardens.” The small hobbit greeted casually, rolling from his toes to his heels and back while still trying to hide the shoe behind his back (and failing as it was almost as big as he was).

“What are you doing?” Thorin’s paternal tone seeped into the question. He knew a mischief maker when he saw one (he’d raised two).

“Me?” The faunt feigned. “Nothing much. Just a bit of hide-and-seek.” He grinned up at the dwarf sweetly, the glint of mischievousness in his eyes belying his innocent act.

“With an elvish shoe?” Thorin raised a brow in challenge.

“What? Oh, this?” Bilbo pulled the shoe out now that he was caught. “Sure! You can play hide-and-seek with things too, you know.” This time his grin wasn’t quite so innocent. “Well, nice to see you enjoying the gardens. I should go, you know, my turn to hide and all.” The faunt started backing away as he spoke, dashing back into the bushes after one more quick smile.

Thorin shook his head and continued with his walk. He had no chance of keeping up with the faunt, but at least he had an idea now of what the hobbit had been up too the past three days, and he highly doubted the elves were aware they were 'players' in his ‘games.’ He smirked as he thought of the wee hobbit pranking the elves.

Soon he came upon an elf enjoying the gardens. Or perhaps not enjoying so much as wading through it. The elf was bent over double as he fished around in the bushes looking for something. He had leaves stuck in his hair (he had likely been search for a while) and his clothes were rumpled from searching.

He straightened himself as Thorin approached, attempting to smooth out his clothes, and gave a curt greeting.

Thorin nodded, not trying too hard to hide his smirk.

The elf remained upright (clinging to his dignity, no doubt) until Thorin passed by. His smirk grew unrepentantly as he noticed a distinct lack of shoe on one of the elf’s feet.

It was good to know the hobbit had found something constructive to do.

~~~~~

“How was your game of hide-and-seek?” Thorin asked the hobbit later at lunch.

Bilbo’s grin was perfectly wicked when he answered back. “Great! The elves are so much fun.”

Thorin hid his smirk behind his cup with a low chuckle. His nephews, however, didn’t catch on.

“What?! Why are you playing with elves?!” “We’ll play with you!” We’ll play anything you like?!” Kili and Fili protested over each other. Even several of the other dwarrow heartily agreed.

“Really?” Bilbo asked all sweet and innocent. “You’d play with me?”

“Of course! Better ta be us than those leaf eaters!” Gloin agreed, others nodding along.

“Thank you!” Bilbo beamed at them, radiating joy and happiness. He turned back to Thorin, his eyes sparkling with mischief and his grin downright evil. Thorin groaned inwardly. Things were going to get interesting and, likely, hectic. The company had no idea what they were asking for.

In fact, it didn’t take even twelve hours for the company to feel the affects of the trouble they had unleashed on themselves. That evening after dinner, Ori was tearing the common room apart looking for something when Dwalin burst out off his room. “What in Durin’s bloody name are these and why were they with ma axes?!” He belted out holding up a pair of wooden, pointy sticks.

“Ah! Those are my knitting needles! How did you get them?” Ori wondered much less accusatively as he shyly retrieved them.

“Someone must have put them with my things.” Dwalin explained, a slight flush on his cheeks.

“Oh, really? ‘Someone,’ huh?” Nori sauntered over suspiciously. “And who would want to put his things with yers?”

“Maybe ye should go figure it out.” Dwalin crossed his arms and straightened to his full height as he growled. “Yer the one that’s into sneakin’ and takin’ things.”

“It’s alright! N-no harm done. I got ‘em back. Thank you, Dwalin.” Ori stepped between them to diffuse the situation.

Thorin glanced over at the hobbit, who sat on the sofa cross legged and watching the scene with his chin in his hands. His brow was furrowed, he almost looked disappointed. Surely, he hadn’t hoped for an actual brawl.

Suddenly, Gloin busted out of his room with a bellow. “Where’s ma bloody ax!”

He scanned the room as each member of the company looked about with him in confusion. Messing with Gloin’s ax was only slightly safer than messing with Dwalin’s. Even Fili and Kili were smarter than that . . . probably.

“Hey, isn’t this your ax, Gloin?” Kili asked, picking up an ax that had been leaning next to the table right next to him.

“Hah!” Gloin beelined straight for him. “So, ye like takin’ axes, do ye?!”

“What?” Kili jumped to his feet with a yelp. “No! I just found it! It was just sitting here! I swear it!”

“Let me give ye a good look at it!” Gloin snatched it away with a growl and swung the blunt side at the young prince. Kili dodged with a yelp and he and his brother both took off with Gloin on their heels bellowing warnings should they ever touch his ax again.

Thorin was distracted from the scene with a soft giggle, but when he glanced towards the hobbit, he was no longer there. He rubbed at his temples. He was already getting a headache and he was sure there was more to come. Perhaps it was a good time to call it a day.

He stalked quietly to his room, hoping to escape notice, and shut the door softly behind him. No sooner had the door clicked shut, he heard a soft shuffling and froze. He scanned the room looking for his roommate.

He almost chuckled at the thought. Every night, Bilbo stayed with a different pair of Dwarrow and every night he ended up back in Thorin’s room before morning. He wasn’t even sure why the hobbit bothered anymore.

There! On the side wall there was a set of elvish drawers. Thorin hadn’t used them save to set things on, but the bottom drawer was slightly ajar. He stalked over as quietly as his dwarven boots would let him and gently pulled open the drawer.

Bilbo stared up at him, frozen where he lay inside the drawer, a half eaten cookie wedged between his teeth. He was surrounded by little white bundles that looked to be napkins.

Thorin raised a questioning brow at the hobbit.

Bilbo didn’t break his gaze as he took a bite of his cookie and chewed. “You’re heading to bed early.” He offered for conversation when he swallowed his bite.

“I’ve no interest in staying up for whatever havoc you’ve wrought on the company.” Thorin replied, wincing with sympathy at the growing racket outside his room. “What is all this?” He reached for one of the little white packages and Bilbo shot up with a shout of protest.

“No! It’s mine!” Bilbo yelled and wrapped his arms and legs around Thorin’s forearm to stop him as he lifted the little bundle out (Bilbo’s tiny weight doing nothing to slow him down).

He gently unwrapped the bundle and found . . a little stack of cookies. “Food?” He wondered out loud.

“Give it back!” The tiny faunt bounced on his arm.

Thorin re-wrapped and returned the bundle only to grab another one. The drawer was full of them. He ignored Bilbo’s protests as he unwrapped another and another. Biscuits, sweets, dried fruits, nuts, even a few meat sticks, a few things Thorin was sure hadn’t ever graced their table. “What is all this?” He asked as he squatted down over the drawer, shuffling the various bundles around in wonder.

“Stop!” Bilbo dropped back into his drawer to swat and push at Thorin’s intruding hands. “This is my stash! Go get your own!"

“Your ‘stash?’” Hadn’t Thorin heard something similar recently? “Your stash of what, exactly?”

“Snacks! Obviously.” Bilbo replied as he reorganized his collection, having fended off Thorin’s prying fingers.

“I thought the elves were providing you more frequent meals.” Turned out Thorin hadn’t had to say anything. Lord Elrond had taken the initiative and asked about hobbit meal times. Since then, meals would appear laid out seemingly at random near wherever the hobbit was suspected to be. Bilbo always showed up for them. Thorin wasn’t sure if the elves were more perceptive of the faunt's location or if he could simply sniff out a waiting meal from anywhere in Imladris. He suspected the latter.

“What?” Bilbo paused. “Well, I don’t thing they were for me but the elves have been very gracious to let me join them during their tea and snack times.”

“Elves don’t have tea and snack times, Mr. Baggins.” Thorin rebutted distractedly. “Are you still not getting enough to eat? And where are you getting all this?”

“Really? That can’t be right. They always seem to be having little picnics and tea times. The kitchens and, I told you, faunts snack between meals. This is my snack stash. Some of it is saved from meals but I sneak in to the kitchen to supplement.” Bilbo pulled out a roll to munch on.

“You sneak onto the kitchens?” Thorin raised a brow and stood up as the faunt climbed out and closed his drawer. “Surely they would grant you whatever you asked.”

“Probably, but it’s more fun this way. . . Can I stay with you tonight?” Bilbo stared up at him.

Thorin fought down a triumphant smirk and waved the faunt to the bed. Bilbo scurried over to it and didn’t seem to mind a bit when Thorin picked him up and put him on the bed.

Thorin sat on the bed and began removing his boots. “You know, I used to think hobbits were akin to rabbits, considering you’re small, skittish, and live in burrows-“ “Smials!” Bilbo interrupted. “But I’m beginning to think you’re more closely related to squirrels now.”

Bilbo gasped and sputtered indignantly at the comparisons. “We are not squirrels!”

“The trolls were wrong. You’re not a ferret, you’re a squirrel.” Thorin teased with a chuckle.

“I am not a ferret or a squirrel! I am a hobbit, thank you very much!” Bilbo protested loudly.

Thorin fished out a peanut he had slipped from the faunt's stash and held it out.

“Oh! Thank you!” The tiny hobbit seemed to immediately forget his upset as he shelled the little nut. He was distracted from his treat when Thorin laughed, a real laugh from the gut. “Th-this does not make me a squirrel!” He denied, making the dwarf laugh harder. Bilbo tried to stare the king down with disapproval but soon joined him in a fit of giggles.

Thorin laid back on the bed to rest and calm himself. He hadn’t laughed like that in . . a long time.

“I guess it does seem kind of squirrelly, hiding food away for later.” Bilbo admitted as his giggles died down. “It’s not my fault I’m hungry all the time.”

Thorin ruffled the faunt's hair with his big hand, ignoring Bilbo’s protests. “Speaking Of stashes. You wouldn’t happen to know what happened to Nori’s.”

“Nori collects food too?”

“Not food so much as valuables.” Thorin chuckled.

Bilbo’s eyes lit up with a wicked recognition. “Ohh~ That kind of stash.” He grinned. “Well, all I can say is, if he’s going to steal from our hosts, he’s gonna have to try a little harder . . Or at least hide his stash better.”

“So, you did mess with it.”

“I may have taken the liberty to redistribute some goods that were already misplaced.” Bilbo explained smoothly.

Thorin nodded and chuckled. He should have guessed. He got up to wash his face in the wash basin and finish readying for bed. Bilbo too started to strip off his outer layers and slip into a little night shirt that the she-elf had made for him.

“I know that you don’t like us hovering over you and that you deserve your freedom, but promise me you will be careful when you are running about causing mischief.”

“There’s no danger here.” Bilbo sounded exasperated.

“There is no evil here.” Thorin corrected. “But should you fall into a hole, or out of a tree, or knock something onto yourself, we would have no way of knowing you were in need of aid, Master Baggins, since you refuse to stay were we can keep an eye on you.” Thorin stared the faunt down, hoping to press the seriousness of the matter into the little hobbit's head.

Mr. Baggins didn’t scoff at him, like he thought he would, but stared back. He seemed to be taking the warning seriously. “Okay.”

Thorin’s brows shot up, he hadn’t been expecting compliance.

“You don’t have to do that, you know.” Bilbo started, making the king’s brows drop back down in a confused furrow. “Call me Master Baggins. Bilbo’s fine. I mean, we’re like roommates, right? You-you can just call me Bilbo.” The faunt stared down and fidgeted with the blanket shyly.

Thorin’s chest warmed at the permission. Bilbo counted him as a friend, despite their . . rocky start. “And you may call me Thorin.” He replied.

“Really?!” The hobbit perked up. “I mean, King Thorin seems more appropriate.”

“I am not a king yet.”

“Yes, you are.” Bilbo immediately argued before Thorin’s thoughts could take a more morose turn. “You have people who will follow you and trust you and put their lives in your hands. You have a heart for those people, a heart that would face nearly impossible odds and almost certain death just to see them restored and happy. Having a crown and a mountain and gold beyond your imagination won’t make you any more a king than you are now.”

Thorin stared at the uncharacteristically serious faunt. Bilbo’s eyes were sincere, there was no trace of teasing or ridicule.

Thorin struggled to suppress the wave of emotion that threatened to overcome him. There was such faith, such . . confidence in the hobbit’s eyes. Thorin felt unworthy of it. He had done much for his people, but it was never enough. “What does a hobbit know of kings?” He rebutted, doing his best to hide the wetness in his voice. “Would you wish me as your king?”

“Hobbits don’t have king’s.” Bilbo agreed. “But I would want you as my king . . If I were to have one.” Bilbo shrugged. “But then, who would want a useless little hobbit as a subject?” Bilbo chuckled in depreciation.

Thorin sat back down on the edge of the bed. Bilbo’s words were like a balm to a hurt he didn’t realize he had. It was one thing to hear his kin accept him as king. They were his family, his support. But this hobbit, who owed no loyalty or devotion to any king, and especially not Thorin after the way he had treated him. Having it was humbling . . . and somehow soothing, like maybe he was enough.

“I would be honored to have a small hobbit among my subjects, if one such were to ever desire it.” He side-eyed the faunt with a small smile.

Bilbo’s responding beaming grin was contagious and Thorin felt his own grow in response. He climbed up onto the bed, feeling lighter than he had in . . decades? Centuries? He put out the light and Bilbo curled up next to him.

He relaxed with a sigh of relief and contentment and drifted off into a peaceful sleep, knowing the hobbit was right where he should be.

Chapter Text

Dwalin stomped down the hall fuming as he ripped the ridiculous amount of pink ribbons of so many different shades off of one of his axes. He had left them unattended for ten minutes (fifteen at the most) and returned to find them wrapped from handle to head in pink ribbons. So perfectly had they been wrapped, they looked more like ax shaped ribbons than ribbon wrapped axes.

He grumbled as he pulled the last bit off the first ax and started working on the second. He knew who was responsible. It was no secret that the hobbit had been pranking them all. The elves seemed to have been receiving the brunt of the faunt's attention, what with their library being in complete chaos and their kitchens steadily losing food from the pantries.

But it wasn’t just the library and the kitchens. Elves throughout Imladris were discovering missing, misplaced, or swapped items at seemingly random. Even Gandalf hadn’t been above the pranking and even the elves had been hard pressed to stop from falling over in laughter when Gandalf picked up his pipe (which he had only set down for a moment) and resumed smoking it only to start hiccuping bubbles.

True. Some of the faunt’s pranks were just plain hilarious. Like the elf who had gone half a day before realizing his hair had been dyed a bright purple. Dwalin still wasn’t sure how it was possible to not notice such a thing, but just assumed it was because he was an elf. But there were some thing that shouldn’t be messed with, like a dwarf’s axes for example.

The problem was that it was nearly impossible to catch the hobbit . . at all, even more so in the act of pranking someone. And he loved leaving little time-bomb pranks. The type that could sit for hours before some unsuspecting victim showed up at random to be pranked, like the library. So it was often impossible to tell when he had ‘arranged’ the prank.

And if anyone connected the dots (Dwalin was pretty sure everyone knew who was responsible by now) and tried to confront the hobbit, he would just turn up those huge innocent eyes and they would melt down with apologies for even thinking of rebuking him.

Even the mighty king Thorin was little more than putty in the faunt’s hands these days and that was hilarious in its own right. Dwalin snorted to himself. It seemed Thorin was the only one the hobbit hadn’t significantly pranked, little things here and there, but nothing as infuriating as having his weapons wrapped completely in gaudy pink ribbons.

In fact, the dwarf king was being awfully tolerant of all the mischief the hobbit was getting up to. Dwalin huffed. Of course he was. Putty in the faunt’s hand, that’s why.

He turned off the hall into the gardens. He knew Bilbo could often be found in the gardens around this part of the day. Several of the dwarrow (and elves) and discovered him napping here or there on some soft patch of grass in the shade. It was so easy to forget what a little devil he was when he was sleeping.

But today Dwalin was gonna find him and give him a lesson about touching a dwarf’s axes! (Hopefully before he found the faunt napping so he would’t lose his determination.) He stomped through the gardens wondering past all of the hobbit’s favorite napping spots until he finally spotted the faunt. Just in time, as he was already sitting in the grass, getting cozy.

Dwalin stomped up from behind him and crossed his arms, scowling down at the little hobbit.

Bilbo looked up and greeted him with the sweetest most innocent grim. “Hello, Mr. Dwalin. Are you enjoying the gardens today?”

Dwalin forced a fiercer scowl. Blast it! If only there was a way to confront the hobbit without actually looking at him, being near him . . Or, you know, confronting him. “I was looking for you actually.” He tried to growl, but it came out more like a limp grumble.

“Oh? Come sit then. This is one of my favorite spots.” Bilbo patted the grass beside him with a welcoming grin.

Dwalin groaned to himself. He could feel his anger and resolve slipping away at an alarming rate, but eventually gave in and took a seat next to the faunt in the grass.

Bilbo beamed up at him and offered him an apple (he had several). When Dwalin declined, the hobbit shrugged and began eating it himself.

“Why this spot?” Dwalin grunted suddenly.

“Pardon me?” The hobbit asked confused as he started into his second apple.

“You said this was one of your favorite spots. Why this one?” Dwalin clarified.

“Oh. Well~ The shade here is good. You don’t lose it as the sun moves. The flowers around here emit a wonderful sweet perfume, wonderful for lulling sleepy hobbits. There’s a pretty little songbird that lives in that tree over there who sings beautiful lullabies. And this grass, it’s so plush and soft and just perfect for sleeping on.” Bilbo lay back with a sigh and relaxed into the grass.

Dwalin studied the hobbit with a raised brow. He knew hobbits were more in tune with nature but he hadn’t really thought about what that meant. His mind snapped back to his objective. If he waited any longer, the hobbit would fall asleep on him. “You shouldn’t mess with a dwarf’s axes . . or any weapon for that matter. It’s personal . . almost sacred.” Well, not exactly the talking down he had planned, but it was something.

Bilbo pushed up and leaned back on his elbows. “Really? I didn’t realize they were so special. I mean, I know they’re important to you.”

“They are. It’s like a taboo. You don’t mess with another dwarf’s weapons.”

“Oh. I didn’t realize.” The faunt hummed thoughtfully. “Are there any other taboos I should know about?”

“Aye. Never touch a dwarf’s beard or hair. To cut it is a sign of great shame or disgrace. To touch one’s hair or beard is very personal. It’s only permissible for those closest to us.” Dwalin explained, hoping to ward off any truly disastrous pranks. Fortunately, the hobbit had been very good about not causing any truly offensive or damaging pranks, but it was best to take precautions.

Bilbo nodded seriously. “I see. I will remember that.” He looked up at the dwarf with a small smile. “Sleep is calling me, master dwarf, but you’re welcome to share my favorite spot if you’d like to join me.”

“Thanks, but I’m not really tired.”

“Then just to relax then. It’s good to take a short time out sometimes.” And with that Bilbo lowered himself back into the soft grass.

Dwalin watched as the faunt relaxed. Soon his breathing slowed and his mouth fell open just a bit to let out near silent snores.

Just watching the hobbit so relaxed and blissful in sleep made him feel a bit drowsy himself. He laid back into the grass beside the hobbit. He wouldn’t go to sleep, but it would be irresponsible to leave the defenseless faunt alone and vulnerable.

~~~~~

Dwalin stomped through the halls, growling ferociously at any who dared even look at him. Angry didn’t even begin to describe how he felt right now. No, this morning, he had been angry. Now he was furious. If he could stomp as hard as he wanted, he was sure the earth would shake with his every step.

He had fallen asleep in the grass next to the faunt. He didn’t know how or when it happened, but it did. He knew it did, because, the next thing he knew, he was waking up to an annoying flutter in the breeze. The hobbit was gone (probably long gone) and his second discovery resulted in a roar that he was sure all of Imladris heard.

That blasted little trickster of a hobbit! Dwalin had specifically warned him that a dwarf’s beard and hair were off limits! Not even hours ago! And what did he wake up to?! A beard the length of his brother’s made of some (very suspiciously familiar) gaudy pink ribbons! What’s worse is that they were so expertly woven into his actual beard that no amount of tugging would dislodge them!

He tugged on the mass of ribbons again just to make sure, but the hair on his face felt like it would give out before even one of the ribbons. He growled again. He was definitely gonna teach that little trickster a lesson this time! He had no idea how he was going to get the ribbons out. His fingers were too big to undue the tiny little weaves that held them secure and cutting it was not an option.

Mahal’s balls! If the others saw him like this, he would never live it down! It was bad enough a few elves had happened upon his gaudy pink bearded appearance. He gave the ribbons another tug. Where did the hobbit find so many ribbons anyway?! And how did he manage to weave so many in so quickly without waking him?! He was a warrior! Alert even in sleep!

No big eyes or pouty lips were gonna spare the hobbit this time! Dwalin vowed to himself as he continued to stomp through the large elven house. Now if he could just find the hobbit.

He turned another corner and grinned ferally. Luck was on his side. He had found the faunt, not once, but twice today. “You!” He bellowed down the hall at the little hobbit.

Bilbo popped up and swiveled to stare at the raging dwarf (exactly like a rabbit).

“I warned ye!” Dwalin continued as he quickly closed the distance between them.

“Mister Dwalin!” The little faunt practically cheered. “Perfect! Do you think you could help me with this?” Bilbo held up a lumpy bag almost as big as he was with a cheerful grin.

“Ye . . What?” Dwalin’s furious (and justified!) lecture fizzled out before it even got started. Why was the faunt so happy to see him?

“This bag. It’s heavy. Could you carry it for me?” Bilbo clarified with a sweet smile.

Dwalin’s face contorted as his initial anger and objective warred against the sweet and adorable pleadings of the hobbit. He was trying very hard to maintain a scowl but the confusion and flattery was making it difficult. Finally, he surrendered with a growl and snatched the bag up. It jingled as he did so.

“Oh, careful now. We don’t want those to break.” Bilbo cautioned. “Thank you, Mister Dwalin. This way please.” The faunt turned and ran off without waiting for a reply.

Dwalin followed after with a quizzical brow as he sneaked a peek into the bag of . . . glass vials . . filled with colorful liquid. An ominous feeling settled in his gut. He wasn’t quite sure he wanted to know what the hobbit was up to.

He followed the little hobbit around until they came to the end of the hall where it opened up into a courtyard, the one with the big fancy fountain that the company had been making plans to bath in as a prank to the elves (until the hobbit went on his little pranking spree).

Bilbo stopped and peered out into the courtyard, looking every which way, even up to the higher levels.

“What are ye doing? And what’re these vials for?” Dwalin grunted. The feeling was getting worse.

“Shhh. Come on.” Bilbo ushered him out towards the fountain, walking casually and relaxed. He pulled himself up onto the side of the fountain and sat to dangle his feet in the water. “Hand me one please.”

Dwalin eyed the hobbit suspiciously, but fished out one of the little vials and handed it over.

“Thank you.” The faunt chirped as he got up to walk along the fountains edge. He expertly popped open the cork and dropped the vial into the water. The movement was so swift and fluid, one would miss it if he wasn’t paying close attention. “Another one please.”

Vial after vial, Bilbo would pop them open and drop them into the water all while casually walking around the ledge. Dwalin wasn’t sure what the point was but he had a feeling he was going to find out soon enough.

Bilbo tossed in the final vial carelessly before hopping down of the ledge. “Time to go.” He chirped as he made a beeline back for the gardens.

Dwalin stalked behind him with a suspicious brow. “What did ye just do?”

“Hey!” A shout echoed from somewhere behind them and Bilbo took off in a sprint.

“Talk later, run now!” He called back over his shoulder.

The shouting got louder behind him and Dwalin took off after the hobbit like some guilty little conspirator himself. Despite his little legs, Bilbo was fast and Dwalin found he couldn’t slack off if he didn’t want to lose him. Fortunately, the hobbit didn’t seem to be trying to lose him and was staying to a broader path that the dwarf could follow.

They ran for several minutes, weaving about through the gardens only to double back towards the courtyard. Finally the faunt slowed to a stop in a more secluded part of the gardens. It was barricaded off from the the rest with high hedges.

Just when Dwalin was about to demand some answers, the little hobbit slipped right into the bushes. “Hey!” He shouted after him, afraid of loosing the hobbit again before he could say his piece.

“Shhh!” Bilbo hushed him back. “Can you see?”

Dwalin cocked a brow. Now that he was paying attention, there was a lot of racket going on on the other side of the hedge. He shoved a big hand in and parted the branches just enough to get a peek of the other side. It was the courtyard with the fountain . . which was now surrounded by a group of elves doing their best to fish out the little vials. “What did ye do?” He asked down at the growing giggle beneath him in the bushes.

“Look at the water.” Bilbo giggled.

The water? It was just . . . yellow. And not a nice yellow but more like a . . urine yellow.

Suddenly, Bilbo fell out of the bushes in a fit of giggles. “Do you see them? They can’t fix it! It’ll take days if not weeks to filter out the color!” Bilbo pushed out past his growing giggles. “Th-they’ll just have to live with a fountain that looks like the world’s biggest troll used as a toilet.” Bilbo grabbed his sides in laughter. “They can rename it the troll-pee fountain!” Bilbo collapsed into the grass, rolling in laughter

Dwalin’s lips turned up at the hobbits amusement and he peeked back through the bushes. He didn’t know how the hobbit did it, but he managed to turn the entire fountain a very unflattering shade of urine yellow and nothing those tree-shaggers tried could fix it.

He chuckled, enjoying the prank at the elves expense and their frantic efforts to reverse it. Then a fluttering at his chin reminded him why he was looking for the faunt in the first place. Suddenly the fountain wasn’t that funny anymore and his laughter met a quick death as he turned back to the hobbit.

Bilbo’s own giggles were beginning to die down and he wiped the tears of laughter from his eyes before grinning up at the now stern dwarf.

“Ye’ve gone too far, Mr. Baggins.” Dwalin scowled down at the faunt (whose smile never faltered).

“It’s just water, Mister Dwalin.”

“That will take weeks to fix!”

“It’ll take ‘em longer than that to fix the library.” Bilbo giggled. “Besides, it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

“That’s not the point!l Ye have desecrated something sacred!”

Bilbo stared up at the dwarf. “Mister Dwalin, . . . you’re the one holding the bag.” Bilbo pointed out.

Dwalin stared at the bag in his hand like he’d never seen it before. He glanced back at the small hobbit who was still smiling at him and looking quite amused. Dwalin growled and threw the now empty bag down. “I had no part in this!”

“Actually,” Bilbo corrected. “You are both the transporter and accomplice, since you were the one who handed me the vials so I could drop them into the fountain. I don’t think it would have gone nearly as smoothly without your help.” The faunt looked even more amused than before and a small giggle escaped him.

Dwalin gaped at the hobbit. He wanted to argue, but he had, he had actually helped the hobbit with the prank, even if it was unwittingly.

“Besides, it was probably you they saw running away from the scene . . . though I don’t know if they’d recognize you in that get-up.”

Dwalin’s gape morphed back into a scowl at the reminder.

“You weren’t really talking about the fountain, were you?” Bilbo asked with a knowing gleam in his eye.

“I warned ye!” The dwarf growled, finally back on track.

“You can’t tell a hobbit not to do something and then expect them not to do it!” Bilbo defended in exasperation. “That’s like asking them to do it!”

Dwalin stared at the faunt in indignant confusion. “If ye had cut my beard-“

“I would never cut your beard, Mister Dwalin, or do anything that would cause permanent or serious damage. That’s the number one rule of pranking etiquette.” Bilbo explained with superficial haughtiness.

“This isn’t serious?!” Dwalin tugged on his ribbon beard for emphasis.

“Of course not. They can be easily removed without causing any damage to your wonderful beard . . by someone with small enough fingers.” Bilbo wiggled his fingers at the dwarf with an evil grin.

Dwalin stared with wide eyes at the faunt. Blackmail? Did the hobbit want him to beg? “What do ye want?” He asked suspiciously.

Bilbo giggled and pushed himself to his feet. “I’d be happy to help you with your little problem if you could, say, lend me a hand every now and then when my . . endeavors get a little to big . . or heavy to handle.” He smiled up sweetly at the big dwarf.

Dwalin stared down at the faunt as he weighed his options. He doubted any of the dwarrow would have small enough hands to undo the hobbit's work and there was no way he was going to ask an elf for help.

“I mean, you’re already an accomplice so it’s not really much of a change, right?” Bilbo further reasoned.

“Fine.” Dwalin growled. “But I want immunity.” He counter offered. “If I help he with yer pranks, I don’t get pranked.”

Bilbo hummed thoughtfully. “Alright, you have a deal. You’ll be exempt from personal pranks, but I can’t make any promises about common or group pranks.”

Dwalin didn’t know how many different kind of pranks there were, but if it meant he was personally off limits, he could live with it. “Fine.” He grumbled more than growled.

Bilbo giggled and reached up for his giant paw of a hand, stretching but still coming up short. Dwalin slouched down until the little hobbit could wrap one tiny hand around one of his thick fingers. “Come on. Let’s go find a comfy place to sit and we’ll get those ribbons out.” The faunt soothed. “And you can just call me, Bilbo.”

Dwalin allowed himself to be pulled along (slouched quite a bit to keep the hobbit's feet on the ground) and melted just a little bit in the faunt’s grip. They were soon settled into one of Bilbo’s other favorite spots. Dwalin sat on the ground and leaned against a tree with his arms crossed while the faunt sat in the nook of his crossed arm, patiently and carefully undoing the tiny weaves holding the ribbons in.

Bilbo chatted softly to pacify the gruff dwarf as he worked. He wasn’t even halfway done though when two young princes stumbled upon them. The princes gaped at the warrior and hobbit who stared back. They cast each other a conspiratory glance and, before Dwalin could growl out a warning, they took off through the garden, their laughter echoing behind them.

“Those little- I’m gonna wring their princely little necks!” Because there was no way they weren’t going to go tell everyone they met that they saw the gruff warrior sporting a bright pink ribbon beard.

Bilbo giggled but continued to work. “Don’t worry about them. I’ll take care of them later.” He gave the warrior an evil little smile and winked.

Dwalin’s ire faded and he returned the evil grin. He was sure whatever the hobbit had in mind would be far better (and humiliating) than anything he could think of.

Chapter Text

That evening the princes spared no time in regaling the rest of the company of their encounter with a very un-dwarvishly pink bearded warrior and his little hobbit accessory at dinner. The entire company got a good laugh out of it, much to Dwalin’s annoyance. He wore a scowl that could scare off a warg through the whole retelling, but endured it in silence.

Thorin had wondered (and secretly wished he could have seen his old friend sporting a bright pink beard) why he had allowed the princes to go on without so much as even a threat. It was clear he wanted to do a lot worse.

He got his answer the next morning when a string of curses and yelping erupted from the princes’ bedroom. They stumbled out over top of each other with further cursing but never fully separated.

“Bilbo!” ‘What have you done to us?!” They shouted at the wee faunt happily munching away on (first) breakfast.

“Me? I don’t know what you mean?” Bilbo smoothly denied.

“We know you did something!” Kili accused and stepped forward a few steps only for his brother to jerk along behind him with a yelp.

Thorin stomped over to separate them. It was too early for their overly dramatic antics. Surely their hair had simply tangled in their chaotic sleeping habits. He quickly found he was wrong. Nearly half of each of their heads was braided into half of the other’s, up to halfway up their hair. If they could even be called braids. The weaves were so small Thorin could barely see the interlocking strands.

Thorin raised an impressed brow and dropped the weaves. Maybe their drama was a little justified this time. “Sorry, boys, you’re on your own with this one.” He wiped his hands clean of the situation. Bilbo had been thorough. He glanced at the hobbit, who was devouring his food completely unconcerned by the princes’ predicament.

Right next to him sat Dwalin, which was interesting in itself. When had the warrior gotten so close to the hobbit? Jealousy stirred in his gut. Suddenly the princes toppled over noisily behind him, having not coordinated their movements well enough now that they were attached at the head.

Thorin was just about to roll his eyes at his nephews when a smug smirk bloomed on Dwalin’s face as he watched the two young dwarrow flounder to get back up. What happened next shot his eyebrows to his hairline. Without even looking away from his food, Bilbo lifted a fist to the warrior, and, without breaking his gaze from the mess of struggling princes, Dwalin bumped it with his own massive one. And just like that it was over. If Thorin had blinked (or rolled his eyes), he’d have missed it.

Thorin wandered over into Dwalin’s line of sight and sent him a quizzical (and slightly accusatory) look. Dwalin met his gaze but just shrugged with an unrepentant grin. Thorin huffed and walked away. As much as Dwalin like to tease him, he was just as bad when it came to the hobbit.

Three days later and the princes were still joined by the hair. The first day they had defiantly declared that they would get out of the mess on their own. The second day they had resorted to asking some of the other dwarrow for help. Unfortunately, the weaves were so tiny and expertly done, no dwarf could help them. Even the elf they swallowed their pride to ask for help wasn’t able to do much for them, save to offer them a pair of sheers.

By the third day, they had broken down and asked Bilbo to fix their hair, but he continued to stubbornly play innocent and insist he couldn’t help them. By dinner time, they were groveling at his feet (or rather chair) as they begged for his mercy, much to everyone else’s (including Gandalf and the elves) amusement.

“Pleeeease, Bilbo!” Kili begged while hanging off the faunt’s chair. “We are so sorry! Whatever we did to you, we will never do it again!” Fili groveled. “Yes! I promise I’ll never call you Mister Boggins again!” “We won’t call you cute anymore!” “We’ll never eat the last biscuit again, we promise!” “Please! We’ll do anything!” They begged and promised in turn.

“Anything?” Bilbo finally turned to them with interest after having completely ignored them up to this point.

“Yes!” They agreed together.

“That’s interesting. These promises and apologies are all well and good, but you’ve failed to do the one thing you should have done from the very beginning.” The tiny hobbit critiqued.

“What?!”

“You’re digging in the wrong flowerbed. I’m not the one you humiliated.” Bilbo sent a purposeful glance towards the bald warrior.

The boys followed the hobbits line of sight before sharing a quick glance. They fumbled over each other as they tried to shoot up and turn around but finally got their movements in sync enough to sprint over to the older warrior and resume their begging and groveling.

Thorin chuckled as Dwalin ignored the princes and Bilbo returned to his food with a relieved sigh. “I thought you were never going to clue them in.”

“Yes, well, a hobbit can only take their incessant ramblings for so long.”

“And what did Dwalin do to earn your action on his behalf?” Thorin tried to keep the suspicion out of his voice.

“He and I have an arrangement.” Was all the hobbit would offer in response.

“I see.”

Bilbo had barely finished his desert when the princes accosted him again with pleas, claiming that Dwalin had accepted their apologies. Bilbo looked to the warrior who gave him a small nod. “Very well. But it will have to be tomorrow. I won’t miss the map reading cause I’m too busy fixing your mess.”

It was finally time, according to Elrond. They would be able to read the runes on the map tonight and they headed out to do just that immediately after dinner. It went more smoothly than Thorin expected. They found out exactly what they needed. The wait had been worth it. The only downside was that he was pretty sure Elrond knew exactly what they were up to now and clearly didn’t approve. It didn’t matter. No elf would stop him on his quest.

Fortunately, the hobbit’s Presence seemed to buffer any true conflict. He was a bundle of excitement about it all and Lord Elrond seemed loath to interrupt it. Thorin suspected they would be having words again in the faunt’s absence.

~Bilbo~

Bilbo sprinted through the halls looking for his king, wizard, and childhood idol. He had just spent the last couple hours untangling the princes, who were far worse off after having been stuck together for three days than he had originally intended them to be. It had taken forever and he had been nearly buzzing with the need to get up and move by the time he was done.

Even worse, he had found out that Thorin had left to attend a private meeting with Gandalf and Lord Elrond while he had been tied up with the princes. Private! Shmivate! A secret meeting between those three had to be important and Bilbo wanted to know what it was about!

Not just because he was curious, though he was, but because he had a nagging suspicion that he was going to be one of the topics. He pretended not to notice, but he could tell that Elrond had been very displeased to find out about the true purpose of their quest and even more so to realize that Bilbo intended to follow it to the end. He wouldn’t put it past the elven Lord to either try to stop the dwarrow or, at least, try to get them to leave Bilbo behind.

He shot around another corner and stopped suddenly. Voices! That was definitely Thorin’s deep tones. Now he just had to pinpoint them. His ears twitched, his head swiveling in little jerks, as he focused on the direction of the sound. Found it! He took off after the voices, his leathery padded feet not making a sound.

“You must see that this quest is folly. The chances that the dragon still lives is great. It is a small matter for a dragon to sleep for decades the a time. What do thirteen dwarrow hope to do against a dragon.” Elrond tried to reason as Bilbo slipped closer.

“What business is it of yours? Would you send aid if we asked it of you? Of course not! You care little of the plights of mortals! Of my people!” That was definitely Thorin.

“What aid do you hope to bring your people when you are dead and have stirred the beast’s anger once again?”

“With the dragon dead, my people can return to their home!”

“You could not do this with an army. What can you do with just thirteen?”

“We are fourteen and a wizard, for as much as that’s worth.” Thorin aimed disgruntally at the wizard.

Bilbo heard Gandalf make an offended noise.

“Which brings me to another concern. You intend to take a faunt on this foolhardy quest of yours.” Elrond segued into what was likely his true priority with a hint of disgust.

“Foolhardy to an elf!” Thorin spat back. “It was not your people who died and wandered homeless because a dragon cast you out of your home! It was not elves who fought for their home without aid and died to protect it!”

“Be that as it may, it does not change the fact that you are planning to take a tiny and defenseless hobbitling on this journey and to face a dragon. Even a dwarf must see the irresponsibility in such an action.”

Bilbo ducked behind a large vase situated on the small balcony that the three were using for their private conference. He peeked out just in time to see his dwarf king's confidence waver as he winced at the accusation.

“He was not a faunt when we hired him. I tried to sending him back after the . . . accident. It was Tharkun who insisted on his continued involvement.” Thorin redirected. It was true. Bilbo had only gotten involved with the dwarrow because of the wizard.

Elrond turned an expectant and disapproving stare on Gandalf, waiting for an explanation.

“Now, now. He isn’t a true faunt, regardless of his recent behavior. I have no doubt the spell will wear off soon enough and then things will be as they were.”

“You mean you intend to face off an adult hobbit against a dragon. Yes, Mithrandir, I can deduce why you chose a hobbit.” Elrond added at Gandalf’s defensive spluttering.

“It’s the best plan we’ve got.” Gandalf defended.

“For an unnecessary venture.” “And what if he doesn’t change back?” Thorin questioned over the elven Lord.

“Then we will simply have to wait a bit longer. Once the door to the mountain is opened, there will be no hurry.”

“And what of the spell itself? Don’t tell me you have not noticed, Mithrandir. Your so-called ‘harmless’ spell may be far more harmful than you thought.” Elrond confronted the old wizard.

“What is he talking about?!” Thorin asked in alarm when the wizard was suspiciously silent.

“It Is not the issue. The issue here is that you wish to take a hobbit faunt on this very dangerous, and some might say overly ambitious, quest.” Elrond brought them back to his true concern.

“The hobbit is necessary for the success of this quest. Without him, I have no doubt, it will fail.” Gandalf countered.

“And is this quest of yours worth the hobbit's life?” Elrond directed more at the dwarf than the wizard. “Because that is what it will likely cost.”

“We would defend him with our own.” Thorin answered, but his confidence had waned.

Bilbo couldn’t help a small flattered blush at the statement.

“And what if it’s you he needs protected from?”

“What are you implying? I would not harm the hobbit, whether he were a child or not.” Thorin growled darkly.

“Perhaps not in your right mind, but do not think the world has forgotten about the greed of your grandfather. His blood runs in your veins. What assurance do you have that you will not succumb to the same madness?”

There was a pregnant pause and Bilbo peeked out to around the vase. Thorin looked like a dwarf already defeated.

“I have none.”

“He is not his grandfather.” Gandalf asserted over the king’s soft statement.

“That’s what I thought.” Elrond ignored the wizard. “Then you agree with me that the hobbit must stay?”

“I would see him returned to his home.” Thorin corrected over Gandalf’s disagreeing splutters.

Bilbo shook his head in disagreement. They couldn't just send him home!

“That will be up to him. He is welcome to stay if he so wishes it, but I will provide him an escort should he wish to return home.”

“The hobbit will be continuing the quest!” Gandalf slammed down his staff with a rumble. “There is no point in continuing without him.”

“You are outnumbered, Mithrandir, the hobbit will be staying!” Elrond countered, deflating the showy wizard.

All right. That was enough. Bilbo was done sitting around waiting while these three self-important yahoos presumed to make all his decisions for him! He was a grown hobbit! He could make his own decisions!

“Now hold on just one minute!” He slipped out of his hiding place and scampered up to the trio. “Whether I continue with this quest or not is my decision! I am a grown hobbit and-and I don’t need a dwarf, an elf, and a wizard making my decisions for me, thank you very much!”

The trio stared down at him in surprise. “Bilbo, how long have you been here?” Gandalf wondered.

“Long enough to listen to you three argue over something that has nothing to do with you! I signed that contract! I ran out my door! I knew what I was getting into . . More or less. But the point is that those were my choices and so is this one! And unless Thorin kicks me out of the company, I’m staying with them!” He paused uncertainly and turned pleading eyes on the dwarf. “But you won’t, . . right?”

Thorin just huffed in defeat and shook his head.

“Bilbo, my small friend, there are many more dangers on this quest than just a dragon, as you have already learned. Even the dwarrow themselves, could become your biggest threat.” Elrond tried to reason in a soothing voice.

“The company would never hurt me. Thorin would never hurt me.” He shook his head in denial.

“Not in their right minds, no. But the dragon sickness can twist the mind of even the noblest dwarf. And the gold of a dragon has powerful sway.”

Bilbo looked to each of them, but there was no hint of untruth on their somber faces. Thorin’s was almost downcast as he refused to make eye contact with hobbit. He wasn’t sure what dragon sickness was, but he didn’t like how defeated his dwarf king looked at the mention of it.

“All the more reason for me to go.” He said with a determined nod. “Someone needs to keep these silly dwarrow on track and remind them that there’s more to life than shiny things.” Bilbo shuffled over and grabbed a fistful of Thorin's pant leg since it was all he could reach. He gave the dwarf a small smile when he turned to him.

“Then it’s decided! Bilbo will continue the quest.” Gandalf tried to put an end to the discussion.

“Not so fast.” Elrond cut him off. “It is true that you have the right to make your own decisions, Bilbo, but I would have you make an informed decision before you go. I would speak with you privately, if I may.”

Bilbo cocked his head quizzically, but nodded. “Okay.”

“Surely, this is not necessary.” The wizard tried to interfere.

“It is necessary, Mithrandir, and it is a shame on you for not telling him sooner.” Elrond ushered the hobbit away into the inner room of the balcony where they could talk privately.

~Thorin~

Thorin waited with the wizard while the elf discussed whatever issue he seemed to think was so important for the hobbit to know. He couldn’t hear their quiet voices so he chose to study the wizard instead.

Tharkun was . . nervous? He fidgeted with his pipe and generally looked like he wanted to burst in there and put an end to the talk. Thorin wondered just what the wizard had been hiding from them. Maybe they were finally telling him how the spell was affecting his behavior.

“Gandalf!” Thorin had wondered over to lean against the balcony railing when the shriek nearly made him slip off of it. The hobbit did not sound happy.

Bilbo came sprinting back out onto the balcony looking fit to be tied. “You said it was harmless! You said it would wear off! How is this harmless!” The faunt shrieked at the old wizard.

“Now, Bilbo, you know I would tell you if it was truly dangerous.” Gandalf tried to sooth. Thorin didn’t believe him and clearly neither did Bilbo.

“Liar! All you have done since you showed up at my house is lie! You ruined my life! I hate you!” He screamed as he kicked and lashed out at he wizard’s shins.

Thorin’s protective instincts flared and he moved to intervene and attempt to sooth the hobbit. But before he could get there, Tharkun grabbed the faunt by the jacket and lifted him by the scruff of it.

“Bilbo Baggins! This is no way for a grown hobbit to behave! Your mother taught you better than this!” The wizard rebuked.

Bilbo’s eyes were wide and furious as he stared down the wizard, not the least bit affected by the scolding. “You put me down right now, old man . . . Or. I’ll. Scream.” The faunt threatened evenly though gritted teeth.

“You wouldn’t.” Gandalf tried to call his bluff.

Bilbo’s eyes widened even further in determination and he sucked in a big gulp of air.

“Alright! Alright!” The wizard set him back down quickly. “No need for that.”

Bilbo straitened his jacket, looking more collected now but still just as angry. “And don’t you ever mention my mother again! If she knew what you’ve done she’d yank you down by your beard and box your ears!”

“Does this mean you will reconsider your decision?” Elrond asked after he had followed the hobbit back in.

“I-I don’t know! I-I need time to think!” Bilbo shook his head, his anger giving way to his true distress. He sent the wizard one more hard glare before turning and padding away in a huff.

“What just happened? What did you tell him?” Thorin wondered as he watched the hobbit disappear around the corner.

“That is for him to share, if he so chooses. I wouldn’t be surprised if he chooses to stay, if I were you. Know that he would have a good reason for it, if he does.” Elrond informed.

“He will not stay. He will continue the quest. That is the kind of hobbit he is.” Gandalf assured the dwarven king. But, judging by the dirty look Elrond was giving the wizard, he wasn’t sure it should be comforting.

“I find you’re use of the hobbit disdainful, Mithrandir. If there is any way I can convince him to stay, I will do it.” Elrond made a final jab at the wizard before he too took his leave.

Gandalf wasted no time turning to Thorin. “You have the instructions from the map. You no longer have any reason to stay. You should find the hobbit and leave immediately. It is not just Bilbo that Elrond would see swayed from the quest.”

“You wish me to sweep him away before he has had time to change his mind.” Thorin glared at the wizard. “I will not. When he has made his decision, then we will leave.”

“Elrond is not the only one who may try to stop you.” Gandalf tried to warn.

“I care not. Let them try.” Thorin growled and walked away. He would give Bilbo the time he needed.