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Life 2.0

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Bilbo Baggins was out in his front garden, watering his flowers when he saw his across the road neighbours car pull into the drive. He had not long moved into his house, and had barely met his neighbours. Of course, being a chef and working odd hours didn’t help the matter but he got the impression that his neighbour across the road hadn’t really been home either. His car was barely ever there, and the few glimpses that he had gotten of his neighbour gave him no clues as to what was happening. He was well put together the first time Bilbo saw him, but his state of dress had rapidly gone downhill over the few weeks Bilbo had been there.

The man was tall, with dark hair just brushing his shoulders when it wasn’t pulled back in a messy bun. His face seemed lined with worry, and his shoulders were continually slumped, making Bilbo think that something bad had happened or was happening. Gone was the neatly pressed suit he’d first seen him in; he was more commonly seen in dark wash jeans. He had even been spotted in a pair of jogging bottoms late one night. Bilbo was intrigued as to what was going on in the man’s life to have him in such a state.

Bilbo stood on his front step, watching the man get out of his car, instead of running it into the garage as he usually did. But this time, he walked to the passenger’s side and opened the back door. He bent into the car and carefully pulled back, a young blond boy in his arms. The boy’s right leg was heavily bandaged. His right arm was in a cast and held to his chest in a bright white sling. From what Bilbo could see from his vantage point, he looked small, scared and in pain.

Nodding to himself, he turned off the water and made his way to the kitchen. He absentmindedly turned on the oven, and opened his pantry doors, looking at the ingredients he had on hand. He smiled as he began to gather ingredients and set them on the counter.

He knew just what to make.

********

Thorin had settled Fíli onto the sofa; his leg propped up on a couple of pillows, his Duck Tales video playing, and locked himself into the kitchen to breathe. He had no idea what he was doing. Sure, Fíli had stayed with him plenty of times, but that was before... well. Just before.

Thorin had no idea what to do with a silent, traumatised 4 year old. Almost 5 year old really. Fíli’s birthday was the end of October. And he had to get him into a school too. He was due to start reception this year and the school he’d done nursery in was too far away from Thorin’s house. Thorin let his head thump quietly onto the table so as not to disturb Fíli. The boy had hardly said a word since he’d woken from the accident. He’d asked for his parents and cried and screamed when he was told they were gone. Thorin had pulled him, carefully, into a hug, and Fíli had struggled against his hold, tears streaming down his face, screaming until he was hoarse, until he’d been sedated by his doctors. Since then, he’d barely spoken to anyone. He’d ask for help to the bathroom if he needed it, but that was it. His communication was through head shakes and nods and Thorin didn’t know what to do. He had terrible nightmares every time he went to sleep and clung to Thorin when he woke, shivering in his hold and crying into his chest until he cried himself to sleep. His doctor had suggested counselling, but Thorin wasn’t sold on the idea.

It had been 3 weeks since the accident, and hopefully the cast would come off his arm, and the bandages from his leg, within the next month and then things could maybe start to form a routine.

He had just settle himself down on the recliner chair next to Fíli’s head with a cup of coffee when he heard a knock on the door. Fíli never even looked up; another reminder that the bright, vibrant boy was changed. Thorin could see his eyelids getting heavy and knew that in an hour or so the boy would wake screaming, another nightmare refusing him the rest he so desperately needed. With a sigh he heaved himself up from the chair and headed to the door.

“Yes?” he asked gruffly, a scowl on his face. But when he looked down into the happy, open face of his visitor, the scowl slipped a little.

“Hi.” The voice was too bright for Thorin’s current mood. “I’m Bilbo Baggins, I moved in across the street.” Bilbo gestured over his shoulder and Thorin realised the For Sale sign was gone from the house opposite his. “I saw you and your son come home and thought I’d introduce myself. I haven’t much had a chance to yet, what with both our schedules hectic as they seem to be.”

“He’s not my son,” was the first thing to come out of Thorin’s mouth. He closed his eyes and sighed. “I’m sorry. It’s been a rough few weeks. I’m Thorin.” He held out his hand to shake, and then noticed, for the first time, the containers Bilbo held in his hands. “Why don’t you come in?”

“Oh, yes. That would be lovely, thank you.”

********

Bilbo followed Thorin into the house, not so discretely checking out the interior. Not only did the man have money, he had good taste too. The home was neat and tidy, although almost clinical in its appearance and Bilbo’s fingers itched to make it homier. Thorin led him towards the kitchen, and Bilbo stopped as they entered the lounge. From his vantage point, all he could see of the child was a blond mop of hair nestled in amongst the pillows. Without conscious thought, he moved around the sofa and crouched in front of the boy. He looked so sad and a little bit broken and Bilbo couldn’t help but run his fingers through the tangled blond strands. He felt the man, Thorin his brain reminded him, come to stand beside him, his entire frame tense as Bilbo reached out his hand.

“What’s your name sweetie?”

“Fíli,” Thorin finally answered. The boy never moved, looking straight through Bilbo to where the TV was, but not seeing Bilbo standing in his way.

“Oh, my boy. You poor thing. I’ve bought chocolate cupcakes and chocolate chunk cookies. I even slipped some mini apple tarts in.” With one last run of his fingers through Fíli’s hair, he stood and faced Thorin. The dark headed man nodded his thanks and directed him through to the kitchen.

Bilbo took in the kitchen with awe. It was large, bright and airy. But Bilbo felt a pang of sadness at the thought that it wasn’t used very much. Or at least, it hadn’t been used much recently. There was something sad about a kitchen that wasn’t well used and loved. He set the containers down on the kitchen bench and looked over to Thorin, who had dropped down into a chair at the table. The man looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders and, judging from the boy curled up on the sofa, maybe he did. So, Bilbo did what he did best and started bustling around the kitchen.

********

Thorin started when a cup of coffee was placed in front of him, along with a red velvet cupcake. He looked up into green eyes full of understanding.

“Thank you. I... I didn’t mean to... That is... I-”

“It’s ok.” Bilbo shrugged and settled into his chair, a cup of tea in his hands. “I don’t expect anything. You look like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. I can clearly tell that something’s happened. I was planning on coming to introduce myself, but when I saw you get Fíli out of the car, I couldn’t help but make some things. Hopefully it might make him feel a little better, even just for a moment. And you too.”

“I didn’t mean to leave you to yourself though. And you certainly didn’t have to go about making coffee.” Bilbo scrunched his nose up at that. “Tea?”

“Tea,” Bilbo said with a nod. “I have come to learn that everything looks better on a full stomach. And you didn’t really leave me by myself. I could have easily let myself out if I’d had the inclination. But I get the feeling you need some adult company now. And a conversation that doesn’t revolve around the boy.”

Thorin desperately needed the company. He needed someone that didn’t need him. He needed some time that didn’t revolve around Fíli and didn’t that thought make him hang his head in shame. Fíli had done nothing wrong but have his whole world turned inside out. It wasn’t his fault that Thorin was struggling to deal with everything. This man seemed open and friendly and Thorin desperately wanted him to stay.

That wasn’t what came out of his mouth though.

“You can leave,” he said, but his voice plainly pleaded with Bilbo to stay and he hated it. He was the owner and CEO of one of the richest and most powerful companies in Europe, if not the world. He could handle what life was currently throwing at him. He didn’t need the help of some curly headed stranger.

“Is that what you really want?” Bilbo asked, setting his cup down on the table. “I’ll leave if you want me to go, but-”

“I... I think I need to be alone for the time being. I just...” Thorin sighed.

“I understand.” Bilbo stood from the chair and rinsed his cup. “I left the cupcakes and cookies on the bench, and the apple tarts are in the fridge.” He came to stand next to Thorin’s elbow. “Do let me know if you need any help. I’m... I’m sorry if I overstepped my mark today.”

Thorin shook his head. “You didn’t. And I don’t mean to kick you out after... well... I just...”

“You need some time to adjust and I understand that. My number is on the fridge if you need me. Or come over any time you like.”

With that Bilbo let himself out. When Thorin heard the closing of the front door he buried his head in his arms and wept.

********

Not even an hour later Thorin was sat on the sofa, a trembling, crying blond boy and all his blankets wrapped safely in his arms. He rocked backwards and forwards, pressing soft kisses to the top of Fíli’s head and trying to calm him down as much as he could. When he eventually cried himself to sleep, Thorin held him tighter, whispering apologies into the blond hair and wishing his brother or sister in law was here.

He couldn’t do this.

He didn’t know how.