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Over Hill and Under Tree

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It was a perfectly tranquil morning in Bag End – but not for long. The clock was ticking eleven and the little Frodo Baggins groaned. He couldn’t believe this; for the umpteenth time his uncles had missed both breakfasts and were about to miss the elevensies as well. Fee had kept him company for the first breakfast but had left for the smithy’s right after that, though he’d be back for luncheon. But the truth was Frodo couldn’t remember when the whole family had last had either of the breakfasts together.

     Uncle Thorin he could forgive; he was a Dwarf and new to this way of life. But Uncle Bilbo was a Hobbit and a respectable one at that, never mind what folk said behind his back, and respectable Hobbits were supposed to keep up with the daily routine. And thus Frodo jumped off his chair with a grumbling tummy and scurried to the master bedroom where – as expected, Uncle Thorin was still snoring.

     The polite lad that he was, Frodo knocked on the round door first but didn’t bother to wait for an answer, for he knew from experience that there wasn’t going to be one. The only way to wake up his uncles was to jump on them, and that was what he was about to do. Frodo opened the door and tiptoed so he could see on the bed and peek at his uncles. Uncle Thorin had Uncle Bilbo tucked under his chin as per usual and they looked almost too peaceful to disturb. Almost.

     Frodo jumped on both of them with a squeal and began tugging on Uncle Thorin’s braids, sing-songing at the same time, “Wake up, wake up, uncles!”

     Thorin yawned, eyes still closed. “That’s your nephew, kurdel.”

     Bilbo groaned and pulled a pillow over his head. “Before sunrise he’s your nephew,” he grumbled.

     “It’s way past sunrise!” insisted Frodo, pouncing on Thorin’s back. “It’s almost time for elevensies! You missed breakfast again! And I missed my second breakfast because there was no one to make it!”

     Thorin rubbed his eyes to properly wake up, only to meet the pouting face of his youngest nephew.

     “Where’s Fíli?” he asked.

     “Left to the smithy’s after first breakfast, I’ve been starving since then,” complained Frodo, crossing his tiny arms.

     Thorin sat up and pulled Frodo into his lap. “Well we can’t have that. Let’s go for the elevensies, then.”

     Frodo buried his face against Thorin’s chest, still not very happy with either of his uncles. Thorin patted the lad’s head, picked him up and started to head to the kitchen. Bilbo would follow them when he was ready. It wasn’t like Thorin couldn’t make a simple ham sandwich and warm up some porridge or soup. He’d made the same those days when he’d had to look after Fíli and Kíli. (Those days weren’t many to begin with, Dís had always been quite clear she wanted to raise the lads on her own, but even she had needed days just for herself.) Frodo was easier to keep happy than Fíli or Kíli had ever been, that was for sure. The little fauntling only required some clean sheets of parchment and some crayons to be kept entertained for hours. But when it came to mealtimes Frodo was a lot more punctual. This wouldn’t be the last morning the lad would jump on both Thorin and Bilbo to wake them up.

     “Just make it light,” Frodo instructed. “Luncheon is in two hours’ time and I don’t wanna be too full.”

     Thorin agreed and only made the lad two ham sandwiches. For himself he heated up some oatmeal porridge Fíli had made in the morning. Bilbo would probably want to eat the same.

     “So, what are we going to do today?” Thorin asked the fauntling.

     “Uncle Bilbo said last night we need to go to the market,” replied Frodo. “We’re running out of lettuce and onions.”

     Bilbo then materialised in the kitchen a few minutes later, still half asleep, so Frodo got up and gave him a cup of tea with some lemon in it. It tended to wake his uncle better than anything (except maybe Thorin’s kisses).

     “How is it possible,” lamented Bilbo as he sat down and poured some milk on his porridge, “that one single adventure is able to ruin both my daily routine and sleeping pattern for good?”

     “You’ll be able to fix them eventually, I’m sure,” Thorin answered and pressed a kiss on Bilbo’s curls. Frodo made a gagging noise. It was quite all right that his uncles were so in love after ten years of marriage, but did they have to be so disgusting about it? Frodo finished chewing his sandwich and asked to be excused. Permission was granted and the fauntling went to draw in the sitting room.

     Bilbo sighed and rubbed his eyes. “I’m still not used to a child running around here. I know it sounds silly because Frodo has lived here for almost a year now but–”

     “I understand,” interrupted Thorin. “You’ve lived alone for so long.”

     Bilbo made an affirmative noise before he got up to do the dishes and start with luncheon. Since they didn’t have any onions, he figured they could have some roasted potatoes and chicken instead. Yes, it was the best. They could leave the beef casserole (that required onions) for supper. It was no big deal.

     “Do you know if Kíli and Tauriel will be joining us for luncheon?” asked Bilbo.

     Thorin shrugged. “Probably not, they’re still building the love nest near the woods, which I do think is quite reckless considering her state.”

     Kíli and Tauriel had caused quite a scandal a year after the Battle of the Five Armies by eloping, and for Thorin’s utter shock Fíli had assisted them with the process. The couple had wandered around Middle-Earth until about a year ago, shortly before Thorin and Bilbo adopted Frodo, they had arrived to the Shire and started to build a home near the northern border of West Farthing. Fíli had been the one behind it; Kíli and Tauriel had been in Rivendell when they had received a letter that Bilbo and Thorin had decided to move back to Bag End and Fíli had moved with them and he wanted the whole family to be together. (The letter had got lost a few times on the way, Kíli had received it two years after it had been sent.) Thorin hadn’t had other choices but to accept the situation, and granted, he had learned to be civil to Tauriel, although it was mostly because he didn’t want to upset Kíli. And as it happened, the happy couple was now expecting a baby on top of everything else.

     As the clock struck half past twelve the luncheon was ready and as if on cue Thorin’s eldest nephew strutted in, covered in sweat and soot, and said, “Something smells nice, what are we having?”

     “Oh no,” announced Bilbo and gently swatted Fíli over the head with his wooden ladle. “You’re not coming anywhere near the food before you’ve washed yourself. Shoo!”

    “Come on, Uncle Bilbo, I’m hungry!” Fíli complained. “I haven’t eaten since the first breakfast!”

     “That’s completely your own fault,” huffed Bilbo. “Off to the bathroom now or I’ll have your uncle drag you there by your ear like the Dwarfling you are!”

     Fíli pouted but gave in and did as he was told. Bilbo promised him that if he was very clean he could get an extra portion of potatoes and chicken. That truly motivated Fíli to wash up.

     “I had no idea you were prepared to result to bribery in addition to threats,” chuckled Thorin.

     “Oh hush you,” Bilbo rolled his eyes. “Everyone knows that the three basic steps to raise a child are bribery, threatening and blackmailing.”

     Thorin couldn’t argue with that, since he had used the very same methods when his nephews had been young (even if he using them had been significantly less effective than when Dís used them). Fíli and Kíli had been absolute terrors as children – although Dwalin insisted Thorin and Frerin had been even worse, which was probably true. The story how they had glued their grandfather’s crown onto his head had become a legend. Balin and Dwalin still told the story to everyone who was willing to listen whenever given the chance.

     Ten minutes later Fíli re-emerged from the bathroom, now exemplary clean, and sat down with a smug grin. Bilbo and Thorin shared a secret smile at that; they really should start using food as incentive to get Fíli wash up more often.

     “Frodo, luncheon is ready!” Thorin called to the drawing room.

     “Just a moment!” replied the fauntling, apparently in the middle of colouring something if Thorin knew his youngest nephew at all.

     “The food is going to go cold!” added Bilbo. “So you better some now!”

     They heard a groan and two seconds later Frodo was at the table.

     “Hey, how come Frodo doesn’t need to go to wash but I do?” complained Fíli.

     Bilbo rolled his eyes. “Because he happens to be clean, unlike someone.”

     Fíli huffed. “You can’t expect me to not get dirty when I’m working at the forge!”

    “Who says you have to go there?”

     Thorin groaned how this was exactly Fíli and Kíli’s childhood all over again, except that Fíli was now supposed to be a grownup. Well, it was still significantly better than trying to run a mountain. Thorin had hated to admit it but the kingly duties hadn’t been good for his nerves. His or Fíli’s, for that matter. And that had been the reason for the both of them to move to the Shire.

     After finishing the luncheon Fíli offered to do the dishes before they’d go to the marketplace. While doing them he recounted all the gossips he’d heard while working and also mentioned that Kíli and Tauriel had almost finished building their new home and how they were going to throw a party after the house was ready and the baby born.

     “I ran into Tauriel when I went down to the smithy’s, that’s how I know,” Fíli told his uncles. “Apparently Kee’s already written Mum and asked her to come.”

     “Oh Mahal, is that a good idea?” asked Thorin. “Imagine your mother amongst the unsuspecting Hobbits...”

     Bilbo had to agree. Lady Dís was a force of nature, easily the most intimidating creature in all Arda. And the two of them had got along instantly when Thorin had brought Bilbo to Ered Luin and introduced him to her. Ever since that visit Bilbo had been dreaming about setting Dís loose amongst his most annoying relatives, especially the Sackville-Bagginses. Oh, Dís could definitely give Lobelia the fright she’d been craving for years now.

     So Kíli and Tauriel’s joint house warming and baby naming party was definitely going to be an interesting one.

     Then there was a light tug on Bilbo’s sleeve and he looked down at the wide blue eyes of his youngest nephew.

     “Can we go now?” asked Frodo. Bilbo couldn’t help a smile as he picked the little lad up.

     “Of course we can,” he answered. “Fíli, you can finish with those later, let’s go now.”

     Fíli put some water into the pots he hadn’t washed yet and then followed Thorin to the hall where their boots were waiting. They had been able to adapt to most customs of the Shire but they still refused to walk outside barefoot (apart from the garden). Bilbo helped Frodo to put on his new vest before putting on his own, and then grabbed a basket. Thorin had tied his hair up.

     “Are we ready?” he asked.

     “Yes, I think we’ve got everything,” replied Bilbo. “Let’s go then.”



The marketplace was crowded as per usual; fauntlings were running around in groups, Hobbit ladies were gossiping, some of the older folk were smoking their pipes. All and all life rolled on in the Shire like it always had. Frodo squealed with joy when the family ran into the Gamgees. He and little Sam had become close friends nearly the same day he had moved to live with Bilbo and Thorin. Fíli slipped away to look after the lads while they let the adults (even though he technically was an adult too) do the groceries.

     “All right,” said Bilbo. “We need lettuce and onions, and some more potatoes. I can get the first two, so could you go get the potatoes and some bread? Buy some eggs as well.”

     Thorin nodded and before going to find the things he pressed a quick kiss on Bilbo’s forehead. The Hobbit giggled and told the Dwarf to stop being a bloody distraction and actually be of use.

     “As you command, ghivashel,” smirked Thorin and went his way. Bilbo just shook his head and went to the grocery stalls to get the vegetables. He greeted some of his neighbours on the way but didn’t stay to chat. He was never really in the mood for long chats when he was shopping for groceries, for some reason.

     “’Ello, Mister Bilbo,” greeted one of the grocers, Old Cotton, when Bilbo came to his stand. “How are those Dwarves of yours? And little Frodo?”

     “They’re all very well, thank you,” Bilbo replied with a small smile. “Although out of the Dwarves only one is mine, actually.”

     “Ah, beg your pardon,” Old Cotton grinned. “So, what can I do for you today?”

     Bilbo told him what he needed and Old Cotton put the products neatly into a paper bag as they were listed. Along with what the family absolutely needed Bilbo figured they might as well get some turnips and cabbage too. It never hurt to buy a bit too much, Bag End had a large pantry after all. And knowing Thorin and Fíli it would be emptied again before too long.

     Old Cotton had just finished packing up turnips when the two Hobbits heard a shrill, “BILBO BAGGINS!”

     “Hide me!” Bilbo squeaked and Old Cotton moved so he could hide behind the stand. Bilbo really didn’t want to hear any of Lobelia’s judgmental comments today. Oh why hadn’t he realised to take his ring along? Old Cotton made discreetly sure Bilbo was completely concealed before he turned to give his toothless smile at Otho and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins.

     “How may I help?” he asked the couple.

     “Wasn’t Bilbo Baggins here just a moment ago?” asked Lobelia, clutching on her parasol. Otho was fidgeting behind her.

     Old Cotton put on an innocent face. “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about, Missus. ‘Aven’t seen Mister Bilbo all day.”

     Bilbo let out a deep breath when the Sackville-Bagginses didn’t push the matter any further, accepted the lie and went their way.

     “Thank you, Mister Cotton,” he said eagerly when it was safe to come out.

     “’S all right,” stated Old Cotton. “Always a pleasure to pull Missus Lobelia’s leg. ‘Ave a nice day then, Mister Bilbo, and give my warmest to your Dwarves and little Frodo!”

     Bilbo was now in such a fine mood that he didn’t bother to correct Old Cotton. Well, everyone called them “his Dwarves” and that wasn’t likely to change to maybe he ought to stop the correcting altogether. So they were his Dwarves, what did it matter in the end? Right then, now he just had to find the rest of the family.

     Thorin wasn’t hard to find, since he was well over a head taller than anyone else and, as per usual, surrounded by little Hobbit children. Thorin was everlastingly patient with them, never getting bored of their questions or, in this case apparently, them climbing all over him. Two fauntlings were hanging on his shoulders and another two on his arms. The rest of the flock were tugging at the hem of his tunic. Fíli and Frodo weren’t there, though, but that didn’t worry Bilbo. Frodo had never got lost in Hobbiton so if he couldn’t find the lads in the marketplace he’d meet both of them at home.

     “Thorin, I’ve got the vegetables,” Bilbo came to say, amused to no end by the tiny fauntlings all over his husband. “Did you get what I asked?”

     “Yes, I managed to buy them before this army ambushed me,” replied Thorin, also amused. Then he started to put the fauntlings back on the ground. “Now then, if I’m not mistaken it’s soon time for afternoon tea, so you better scurry home, else your mothers will worry!”

     Most of the fauntlings took their leave without another word, albeit a tad disappointed, but there were some, Merry Brandybuck especially, who grumbled and mumbled how they didn’t want to go and that Thorin owed them a long story.

     Bilbo shook his head at the Dwarf. “How you have such a way with children, I’ll never know.”

     “I would like to point out that you’re talking to a Dwarf who had to put up with Fíli and Kíli for decades,” hummed Thorin and picked up a sack of potatoes and a bag of bread and eggs he had bought. “They made me the patient person I am today.”

     Bilbo decided not to make any snide comments to that. “Anyway, let’s go find the boys and then we can go home.”

     It took them a while to locate Frodo. He and Sam were infamously good for their skills at hide-and-seek, even when they weren’t playing that game. In the end they found the lads with the Gamgee family near the stalls of flowers and seeds. Frodo was holding a bouquet of forget-me-nots and upon seeing his uncles he ran to them and offered the flowers to Bilbo.

     “For you, Uncle Bilbo,” he said with a wide smile.

     “Oh– thank you, my boy,” said Bilbo, taken aback but pleased nonetheless. Forget-me-nots were some of his favourite flowers after all. How had Frodo remembered?

     “You could make Uncle Thorin a flower crown or something, if you like.”

     Bilbo laughed first at Frodo’s words and then at Thorin’s expression. That was definitely something to be considered.

     “Where’s Fíli?” asked Bilbo after he carefully settled the flowers over the vegetables.

    Frodo shrugged. “Don’t know, we ran into Jasmine Banks and they started to chat.”

     “Jasmine Banks, you mean your aunt Eglantine’s niece?” checked Bilbo. Frodo nodded. “Wonder what she’s doing here. Last I checked she lived in Tuckborough with Eglantine’s family.”

     “Even more, Fíli hasn’t showed any interest in anyone ever, so this lass has to be special,” stated Thorin, raising an eyebrow. Now this was very intriguing. Fíli always got along with most people, even Elves, but kept his distance. If he ever was interested in anyone, he didn’t show it.

     The family said goodbye to the Gamgees and left to find their last remaining member. Fíli was so much shorter than his uncle and younger brother that in a crowd he didn’t stand up much. Thorin let Frodo sit on his shoulders so that the lad might be able to catch his elder cousin before his uncles. It took a while but in the end Frodo saw Fíli in front of Green Dragon, indeed with a pretty Hobbit lass who had curly auburn hair. She was without a doubt Miss Jasmine Banks. Bilbo and Thorin shared a knowing glance – the young couple was smiling and laughing and didn’t seem to be able to take eyes off of each other. It was almost a shame that they had to be interrupted. Fíli caught Thorin and Bilbo grinning at him and seemed to let out a groan.

     “Sorry, Jasmine, but I have to go now,” they heard him tell the girl. “I’ll catch up with you later, okay?”

     “Sure,” replied Jasmine. “You can always buy me a couple of drinks at Green Dragon tonight and I’ll call it even.”

     “Done deal,” Fíli smiled. “I’ll see you tonight at eight then.”

     Jasmine nodded and took her leave. Fíli watched after her a while before he turned back to meet his family, all of whom (well, aside from Frodo who had no idea what was going on) looked like they were about to burst into laughter.

     “What?” he snapped.

     “Nothing, we just didn’t know you had a sweetheart,” smirked Bilbo, and Thorin almost choked on his restrained laugh.

     Fíli rolled his eyes. “It’s nothing like that. Jasmine is Tauriel’s midwife, I was just checking that everything was fine. She’s just a friend.”

     “Oh, sure, and I’m an Elf,” Thorin huffed and then grimaced. “It hurts to even joke about it!”

     Fíli shook his head at the stupidity of both his uncles. Well, it wasn’t like he hadn’t expected this. They had also mercilessly teased him about that one Proudfoot lad he had flirted with some years ago, this was nothing new. Fíli only hoped they wouldn’t say anything to Kíli, otherwise he’d never hear the end of it. Or Mum, Mahal forbid, Mum was the worst teaser of them all.

     Bilbo cleared his throat, trying to keep a straight face. “So, Jasmine is Tauriel’s midwife? Is everything well then?”

     “Yeah, looks like it,” answered Fíli with a shrug. “I know I did run into Tauriel earlier on but Mahal knows she never tells me anything. And Jasmine didn’t go into detail either, just stated that everything is fine and Tauriel still has about three and a half months to go.”

     Then Frodo started to complain how it was time for afternoon tea and he was hungry, so the family decided to head back home. Fíli ran back in advance to finish with the dishes, because the kettle was still in the sink and they couldn’t have tea without it. Thorin put Frodo back down, knowing the lad would want to walk back home himself like always. Frodo was very persistent in things like that, insisting he was too old to be carried around, that he wasn’t a baby that needed to be carried around. He did want to hold the hands of both of his uncles, though. For that he wasn’t too old. Bilbo and Thorin had no objections to this. Thorin moved the sack of potatoes so that it was resting on his shoulder, leaving one hand free, and Bilbo was carrying his paper bag with one arm in his lap.

     Frodo grabbed his uncles’ hands and with a smile that revealed his adorable tooth gap he said, “Let’s go home.”

     And holding hands the three of them headed back to Bag End.



The doorbell rang when Bilbo was almost finished with the beef casserole and was decorating the strawberry cheesecake he had planned for dessert. They weren’t expecting any company for the evening, and at any case Bilbo didn’t have time to go open the door, as he truly was in the middle of decorating the cake and at the same time cooking potatoes and carrots.

     “Can someone get that?” he called to the drawing room where Thorin was reading and Fíli and Frodo were playing with Frodo’s bricks and building a huge castle.

     “I’ll go,” replied Fíli, got up and ran to open the door. It was probably Kíli and Tauriel, barging in for dinner as per usual. Or rather Kíli would barge in like that first time he and Fíli had come to Bag End, and Tauriel would apologise for showing up uninvited and ask if there was enough food for them as well. As a result Bilbo had long since started to make dinners for six rather than just for four, just in case. Fíli opened the door and his jaw dropped.

     “Mum!” he exclaimed and let the Dwarrowdam come in. “How are you here already? We weren’t expecting you until next month!”

     Dís handed her travelling cloak over to her son, revealing a fur coat very similar to the one Thorin had, and untied her long dark hair. “Am I not allowed to visit you and your uncles?”

     Fíli snorted a laugh. “Mum, that’s not what I meant. Of course you can visit!”

     “Fíli, who is it– oh.” Thorin halted as soon as he caught the sight of his sister. He was carrying Frodo who was eyeing Dís warily and whispered, “Who is that, Uncle Thorin?”

     Dís rolled her eyes at her brother. “And that’s a very fine way to greet your only sister who has travelled a long way, Thorin. You’d think you were raised better than that.” Then she saw Frodo and forgot about her brother’s stupidity. “Who’s this little one?” she asked, her motherly instincts kicking in.

     “This is Frodo,” Fíli introduced as Thorin put the faunt back down. “He’s Bilbo’s nephew, we’ve adopted him.”

     “You mean Bilbo and I have adopted him,” snorted Thorin. Fíli ignored him and went down on one knee.

     “Frodo, this nice lady is my mum, Dís daughter of Thráin.”

     “Hello,” said Frodo with a tiny voice. Dís crouched so that her eyes were on the same level as the lad’s, hoping this way she would appear less frightening. The lad was still so small, still at the age when strangers were scary.

     “At your service, little one,” she said with an affectionate smile. “Please call me Auntie Dís.”

     This gave Frodo more courage and he held out his hand, expecting Dís to shake it. Dís didn’t get it at first but when she did Frodo started to smile even wider. He then held out both his arms, asking his new aunt to carry him. Dís was more than happy to oblige.

     “Dinner’s ready!” Bilbo called from the dining room. “Should I take out one more plate?”

     Thorin and Fíli sat down in the table and Dís gave her brother-in-law a sheepish smile when he placed a plate in front of her.

     “I’m so sorry to barge in like this,” she said. “I left in such a hurry and I simply forgot to write that I was coming.”

     “Oh, nonsense,” Bilbo waved off the apology and motioned Thorin to help him carry the casserole and the mix of potatoes and carrots to the table. “You’re very welcome to stay as long as you wish. I hope you didn’t lose your way on your way here.”

     Dís put Frodo on his own chair and flashed Thorin a smug grin. “No, not at all, it was very easy to find this place. I thought about going to surprise Kíli and Tauriel, first, but then I decided that while their house is unfinished it’s probably better I stay here. I hope it’s not a problem.”

     Thorin and Bilbo both insisted that it was absolutely no trouble. Of course, they would have to clean up the guestroom that was now used as a storage room but that wasn’t too much effort if everyone helped. Bilbo brought one more glass to the table and sat down next to Frodo.

     “So, did you come alone all the way from the Blue Mountains?” he asked his sister-in-law.

     Dís nodded but before Fíli and Thorin started to yell how dangerous it could be she added that there had been no hindrances whatsoever, apart from that one wolf but that had been a piece of cake for her. “As you can see, the fur in my coat is brand new.” And that reminded her son and her brother that for many decades she had been one of the best knife-throwers in Ered Luin, a skill she had passed on to Fíli.

     “Weren’t you scared?” asked Frodo, eyes round as coins.

     “I was terrified but it was either kill or be killed, and I had my knives and daggers,” Dís reassured the lad. “I was safe the whole time, and it wasn’t a very big wolf anyway.”

     Frodo gazed Dís with such reverence that Bilbo couldn’t help but worry that the lad might insist she’d teach him how to accurately throw knives. Sometimes living with Dwarves clearly wasn’t the most beneficial thing for a Hobbit child. Hobbits just weren’t created for wielding weapons, even if Bilbo had, but he was part Took anyway. It was expected that he’d be a bit strange. Oh well, Frodo actually too was part Took, through his grandma Mirabella, Bilbo’s aunt.

     The dinner went on without any incidents. Dís told them how the life in Ered Luin was going on and in return Bilbo, Thorin and Fíli told her about everything that had happened in the Shire since they had last met (which wasn’t much). Frodo was determined to introduce Dís to all of his friends, and the idea of meeting even more Hobbit children was more than pleasing to her. She might never leave if they all were as adorable as Frodo. Then, just as they were starting to eat their pieces of strawberry cheesecake Fíli took a look at the clock on the wall and cursed in Khuzdul under his breath.

     “Can you save my piece?” he asked, getting up from the table. “I’m late, I was supposed to meet Jasmine ten minutes ago!

     Dís raised an eyebrow at her eldest. “Who is Jasmine?”

     “Fíli’s sweetheart,” giggled Thorin very uncharacteristically. Dís’ mouth turned into a wide grin, and Fíli groaned.

     “She is not my– oh, you know what? I’m not gonna deal with this right now. I’m just gonna go to Green Dragon, meet her, and get drunk.”

     “Remember to come home before midnight,” reminded Bilbo, resulting another groan from Fíli. He wasn’t a maid from stupid fairy tales, for Mahal’s sake! This family was driving him bonkers.

     Bilbo told Dís the whole story after Fíli had left, while Thorin was still snorting down his cheesecake, resulting to Frodo kick him in the thigh under the table. Frodo was too small to cause any proper damage but the kick still hurt enough that Thorin was sure it would bruise slightly in the morning.

     “You do take food very seriously, mizimith,” he said, ruffling Frodo’s hair. The lad nodded, ate the remainder of his cake, and then jumped off the table.

     “Can I go? I need to finish the castle.”

     “Of course, but come back here and help us with the dishes if we need you to,” answered Bilbo. “We’ll call on you.”

     “Okay,” said Frodo. “Thank you for the dinner, Uncle Bilbo!”

     Then he ran back to the drawing room. Dís smiled after him and commented to Bilbo and Thorin what a lovely lad they had adopted. “Though I do wonder why you never mentioned him in any of your letters.”

     “It’s been rather hectic for us, the past year or so,” explained Bilbo. “Long story short, what with all the dealings with Frodo’s adoption and the aftermath of his parents’ death I think we all thought one of us was going to tell you about him in the letters but apparently none of us did.”

     “We are sorry about it,” added Thorin as he got up and started to gather the dishes. Dís waved the apology off, saying this would even out her barging in without any forewarning.

     “So, do tell me, do you think anything will come of the friendship of my Fíli and his Hobbit lady?”

     Bilbo and Thorin shrugged. It remained to be seen but it was definitely a possibility. Dís made a satisfied hum and went back to her cheesecake. If this meant she might see her eldest settle down in a few years’ time, then she would not be opposing anything at all. Besides, she trusted Fíli to be a good judge of character. Her son wouldn’t choose poorly.

     Bilbo called Frodo back to the kitchen to help with the dishes while Thorin and Dís started to clear the guestroom. Dís was about as strong as her older brother, so the task didn’t take too long, and she had slept on nearly every possible surface so having a cramped bedroom wasn’t nearly the worst thing she could imagine.

     After finishing with the dishes and the clearing the adults had one more cup of tea while Frodo prepared to go to bed. This had been one of the best days ever for him. He’d had so much fun at the marketplace and now he had got a new aunt on top of everything! Frodo washed his face and went to say good night. He hugged all three of them and even kissed Dís on her cheek.

     “He really likes you,” commented Bilbo. “I don’t think he’s ever grown that attached to anyone that quickly before. Even with Fíli it took longer.”

     “I’m glad to hear that,” Dís hummed, adding a bit of brandy to her tea. Thorin drank up his and announced he was going to turn in. As much as he would’ve liked to stay up and interrogate Fíli he was simply too tired to wait until his nephew came back home again. Bilbo and Dís agreed. The third-degree could just as well wait until morning. Dís went to her room, and Thorin and Bilbo into theirs after they had first checked Frodo was asleep. The lad was sleeping like a little angel, a stuffed bunny tucked under one arm.

     Bilbo chuckled as he settled on the bed, picturing the next day and how Dís would give all his relatives a good scare. Oh, it was going to be so much fun, he was certain of it.

     “Well, that was quite a day,” sighed Thorin. “I would’ve never thought Dís to show up just like that.”

     “I don’t mind,” replied Bilbo and placed a kiss on his husband’s forehead. “It’s actually quite nice to have a lot of company. This house has been too quiet for far too long.”

     Thorin smiled and pressed his forehead against Bilbo’s. And just then they heard a soft knock from the doorway and turned to look. Frodo was standing there, clutching on his bunny.

     “I had a bad dream,” he told his uncles, tears in his eyes. “Can I sleep here for the night?”

     “Of course you can,” Thorin answered and patted the space in between him and Bilbo on the bed. Frodo climbed up and settled mostly on Bilbo’s side, curling up next to him. Thorin wrapped his arms around the both of them and one by one they drifted off, sleeping until the dawn breaking.