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The Fellowship of Bilbo Baggins

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Bilbo Baggins never considered himself to be a liar.

Now the same could not be said for his dreadful cousin Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, and Bilbo would like to be like her as much as he would like to set all of his books on fire.

His mother had been quite extensive on disciplining him to be truthful and nothing but truthful. He remembered one evening when he was a young lad he'd gone all the way to the Prancing Pony looking for Dwarves. (He'd wanted to know if they had hairy toes as well) When he came back and lied saying that he'd just been to see Hobson Gamgee, Belladonna had been so furious that she wouldn't let him out in the gardens for two months.

Bella had been smart and she knew the proper way to discipline a Baggins was to deprive them of their plants.

Bilbo never really lied after that.

Leaving Bag End (and his garden) behind in favor of an outrageous quest that was bound to fail with 13 Dwarves he'd never even met before, was almost like being disciplined by his mother again. He wondered what he'd done in the past to deserve being separated from his garden for so long. But then again, he signed the contract and therefore brought it on himself.

"How on Earth did you get past the goblins?"

"How indeed."

Bilbo considered his options for a moment. He could lie, and say he was just that good of a burglar, but that would hardly be believable. On the other hand, he could tell the truth and risk having the ring being taken from him.

For a second he thought he heard Bella's voice in his head scorning him. She may be dead, but Bilbo knew that lying would disappoint her, and that's the last thing he wanted.

"Well what does it ma-" Gandalf said, no doubt about to cover for him.

"No, no it matters. I uh- I found something in the Goblin Tunnels." Bilbo took out the ring from his coat pocket and held it up for the company to see. "It turns its master invisible when it's put on. I think it's dark magic."

The company was giving him disbelieving looks, he should've known he would get that sort of reaction from a group of Dwarves. But this also gave him the opportunity to back down, say it was a joke, and carry on with the quest as if nothing happened. What would Bella do?

He rolled his eyes and slipped on the ring, causing many of the members to gasp and look frantically around, as if he'd just run off. He slipped it off quickly, already beginning to feel the effects of the ring.

"What in Mahal's-"

"But why did you come back? You could have slipped away unseen and gone back to the Shire." Thorin said with an unreadable expression.

"Look, I know you doubt me, I know you always have. And you're right, I often think of Bag End. I miss my books, and my armchair, and my garden. See that's where I belong. That's home. So that's why I came back, because... you don't have one, a home. It was taken from you. But I will help you take it back if I can."

Bilbo could feel the points of his ears grow warm from all the looks he was getting from the company. He meant every word he said, he only just now realized why he had continued the quest when he had a perfectly good home. Bilbo couldn't imagine what it'd be like to be without his home for so long, and Thorin had been away from Erebor longer than Bilbo had been alive. He wondered what Thorin missed about Erebor. If he had a favorite room or a bookshelf full of trinkets. He hoped one day he'd get to see Erebor in its prime, with Thorin on the throne and the mountain alive with the cheer of Dwarves.

The moment of temporary peace was cut short, and Bilbo forgot what he had been thinking about and immediately went into survival mode. Wargs howled and growled as they sped down the mountain, sending the company fleeing further down the cliff towards the edge. Dori had thrown him straight into a tree and Bilbo could admit that he squeaked like a mouse.

An eerie silence fell upon the company, broken only by the sound of an Orc stepping forward.

The Orc sneered and spoke in a language as unnerving as his scarred face. He didn't need to be told that the leader of the pack was Azog the Defiler, he could tell from the descriptions from Balin's stories and the disbelieving expression on Thorin's face.

Azog turned to his Wargs and ordered something in his foul language, he must've told them to knock down the trees because the branches started shaking, much to the dismay of the company. He actually thought it was going to end there, when he was flying through the air from tree to tree, because he was only a little fellow, and jumping long distances had never been his strongest suit. Miraculously, he made it to the last tree where the rest of the company was holding on for dear life.

The deep laughter that pierced through the thin air sent everyone's nerves on edge, including Thorin's.

Why isn't Gandalf doing anything?

As if on cue, Gandalf started sending firelit pinecones to the members of the company, silently telling them to throw them down onto the Wargs.

Bilbo thought for a moment that they had won by using the pinecones to set the wargs on fire, but then the tree was falling, causing Bilbo's stomach to lurch. That would have been a sort of anticlimactic ending really, to die from falling off a cliff.

The Pale Orc puffed his chest, challenging any to step forward and fight him. Bilbo hoped beyond hope that the courage of Dwarves would not persuade any of them to take him on alone.

And then Thorin rose from the tree.

Bloody typical.

Not surprisingly, the Dwarf king was defeated quickly.

He didn't know what came over him exactly, but he knew that he needed to protect Thorin's life at all costs, even if that meant giving up his own.

After all, what is one Hobbit's life compared to a future king's? Thorin would be needed if they were ever to rebuild Erebor to its former glory, but Bilbo? Well they could manage without him. He rose cautiously onto the tree and unsheathed his sword.

"Bilbo, what're you doing?" Bofur said from below him.

"I'm going to save him." And then he ran. He ran and ran as fast as he could, because Thorin could not die. Not when they were so close to Erebor. Not when he still had to see what Thorin's eyes look like lit up with joy.

Killing the orc was a bit of a blur to Bilbo, with his adrenaline pumping through his veins. In that moment he was ready to take on the Pale Orc and all of his army just to protect Thorin. He was however, very thankful when the company came to fight along side him.

He knew his mother would be so proud of him, while his father would probably think him insane and mutter something like 'Tooks' or 'crazy, the lot of 'em'. But in that moment he was proud of himself, and he knew without a doubt that he would do it again without a moment's thought.

He mostly stayed by Thorin's side, killing the orcs that dared to come near him. He couldn't remember how many Orcs he killed but he hoped it was enough.

At the time he thought he was imagining things, pumped up too much from the adrenaline, but those were most definitely real claws wrapping around him. Bilbo can say honestly that he actually screamed instead of squeaked.

He didn't know which one was more dignified.

None of the company knew how long the flight to the carrock took, but it seemed to take hours with the worry for Thorin in everyone's mind. Fíli and Kíli seemed to be the worst off, they would take turns calling out for him until Dwalin told them to shut up - or else.

Being dropped off was much smoother than being picked up it seemed, but Bilbo felt disgruntled all the same.

"Thorin? Is he alright?" Bilbo asked softly from behind Gandalf. The Wizard began chanting words of a language unknown but no result came of it yet. Things were looking bleak for the Dwarf King, and Bilbo was on the verge of crying when he heard a soft whisper.

"He's alright, Bilbo is here. He's quite safe." Bilbo all but cried in relief but then Thorin was looking at him like he did before Goblin Town, making his heart sink.

"You! What were you doing? You nearly got yourself killed! Did I not say you were a burden, and you have no place amongst us?"

Bilbo was about to shout, or worse, cry, but then the Dwarf king's face softened. "I have never been so wrong in all my life."

Thorin pulled Bilbo into a strong embrace and he was a bit crushed by the Dwarf's strong arms, but it felt perfect. He finally felt accepted as one of the company and as a friend to Thorin - a king of all people. It made it all the more astonishing, that a King from the Line of Durin would show affection toward a gentlehobbit from the Shire.

Bilbo knew from that point on that he had made the right decision running out of Bag End and leaving his garden behind.

"I am sorry I doubted you." Thorin said, still holding on to his shoulders.

"No, I would have doubted me too. I'm not a warrior or a hero. Not even a burglar." Thorin's gaze was so full of affection that Bilbo had to look away so he wouldn't blush like a Hobbitling.

"Now Bilbo, you must tell us more about this ring of yours." Gandalf said, thankfully drawing Thorin's eyes away.

"Oh right, yes of course." And so Bilbo launched into the tale about finding Gollum in the caves and their game of riddles, much to the company's dismay.

"You could've just smashed 'is head in." Nori said as he demonstrated the action.

"Nori!" Dori looked scandalized. The company burst into chatter and Bilbo fought the urge to roll his eyes at the lot of them.

"This ring," he said loudly to get their attention back. "I don't think it's a good magic. It makes me feel like I'm sick and I... hear things. Like whispers in my mind. Whispers of bad things to come and of promises of evil in the future. I don't like this at all Gandalf. Something is very wrong with this ring." Gandalf looked at him for a moment before pulling out his smoking pipe, of all things.

He took a few puffs and then sat down on the rock and set his staff down beside him. Bilbo was about to ask if he knew anything or if he was smoking just because, when Gandalf spoke up again.

"My dear Bilbo, I do believe you have found the Ring of Power."

From behind Dori, Ori squeaked, "Surely you do not mean the One Ring from the legends!"

"I am afraid that is exactly what I mean."

"Would anyone care to explain this nonsense?" Dwalin asked as he crossed his arms. Much of the company grunted in approval.

"In Eregion long ago, there were many elven-rings of power made of various kinds. There were nineteen of these rings made by the elven-smiths lead by their leader, Celebrimbor. Of these nineteen rings, three were given to the Elves, seven rings to the Dwarf Lords, and nine rings to the race of Men. The Nine mortal Men were driven mad with power but instead of dying, they merely faded, and became servants to power. In the lands of Mordor, a new ring was forged by Sauron himself in the fires of Mount Doom. This ring was powerful above all else and it gave Sauron the advantage during the wars to come. The mortal Men became the nine Ringwraiths, slaves to the power of the Great Ring."

Gandalf took a few more puffs before continuing his tale. "Isildur supossedly vanquished Sauron during the Battle of Dagorlad, who then took the One Ring into his possession. But then the Ring was lost and passed into legend. I do believe dear Bilbo has found the One Ring."

All eyes turned to Bilbo so he looked down at his feet.

"How can we know for sure this is true and not just the ramblings of a crazy Wizard?" Glóin said.

"Bilbo, give me the Ring." Gandalf held out his hand and Bilbo reluctantly handed it over. Gandalf snapped and a little fire burst from his finger, as if his thumb were a match. He dragged the flame around the outside of the ring and Bilbo swore he could see something light up on the ring. After he was done, he held up the ring for everyone to see and sure enough, small engravings had appeared on the edges.

"Well what does it say?" Thorin asked, growing more impatient.

"The translation is roughly this: One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them."

"If this is really true then what are we supposed to do about it?" Thorin spat.

"You must abandon this quest and take the ring to the fires of Mount Doom, where it can be destroyed once and for all." Gandalf said matter-of-factly. Bilbo actually had to cover his ears so the Dwarves would not drive him deaf.

"ENOUGH!" Thorin's booming voice raised above all the others and made Bilbo jump a bit. "Wizard, you cannot expect me to leave this quest behind. Not when we're so close. You were the one who urged me to reclaim Erebor in the first place!"

Even though Thorin was nearly 2 feet shorter than Gandalf, he still had this air about him that would intimidate a giant.

"Yes I am aware I told you to take back your homeland. But now I am asking you to take back Middle Earth."

Thorin scowled and turned his back to the Wizard. Thorin gently grabbed Bilbo and pulled him into a conversation amongst the company. It seemed like the group was split evenly between those who agreed they should go to Mordor and those who didn't.

"In the grand scheme of things, destroying the ring would rid of all evil and it would make our current quest much easier to achieve, don't you think?" Balin said, mostly directing the question to Thorin.

"Brother, this is Mordor! We will be killed for sure!"

"It is our job to destroy it now that we have it in our possession, right Ori?" Dori and Nori seemed to be fighting for Ori to be on their side.

"Ori, we are just a company of 14, how will that measure up to Sauron's army?"

"Stop corrupting his mind, Nori!"

"Make me you dirty-"

"Shut up both of you!" Ori effectively ordered them.

"Give me the blasted thing and I'll crush it with my Axe!" Glóin said pulling out the axe as he said it.

The only one who wasn't joining in on the argument was Bilbo. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do, or really, what was the right thing to do. He thought of his mother, and what she would say in this situation. Belladonna had always been a brave Hobbit, always put others before herself. She probably would have marched right into Mordor if it meant she could save her boy.

Bilbo smiled and knew what he had to do.

"What about you Bilbo, what do you think?" Thorin asked from beside him. The company abrubtly stopped the chatter and turned to Bilbo.

"I uh- I think we should go to Mordor." He continued before the company could start yelling again. "Look I know it's a long-shot but it is the right thing to do. I know it is. Think of all the lives we'll save if we do this, all the children that will grow up knowing no evil, all the spouses who will no longer have to worry if their loved one will come home or not. And yes we may die, but in the end won't it be worth it? Isn't a world without evil worth the risk?"

The company was silent for a long while, and Bilbo could see Gandalf's smirk underneath his beard.

"Our Hobbit is right, we shall go to Mordor and destroy the Ring of Power. Then we shall reclaim Erebor." Thorin said. Bilbo smiled and almost hugged Thorin again. Almost.

"Aye, we're with you laddie." They all nodded to Bilbo and then turned to Gandalf.

"So be it. We shall go to Mordor." Gandalf said.

Kíli put his arm around Bilbo and ruffled up his hair.

"Great. Now where's Mordor?"

Chapter Text

Bilbo could safely say that he was in over his head.

He knew from the beginning that he was inexperienced but that doesn't mean he liked to be reminded of that. Especially when you're being chased by Orcs.

Gandalf had been very vague about his "refuge," but that's not surprising coming from a Wizard. He just hoped that whoever this person was, that they would get to them in time.

He didn't know how long they ran, but his poor feet were telling him it had been hours. And then there was the slight problem that they were also being chased by a bear. As if an Orc pack was not enough in itself! Bilbo was afraid he was gonna pass out by the time they got to the stranger's house, but at least he didn't look to be the only one. When they finally did make it to the house he all but collapsed onto the wooden floor.

"What is that?" Poor Ori looked like he would faint.

"That is our host. His name is Beorn, and he is a skinchanger." Bilbo made a mental note to always interrogate Gandalf before he let him take them anywhere.

"Are you mad?" Bilbo said with his hands on his hips, still panting like a madman.

"Possibly. Sometimes he is huge black bear and sometimes he is a great strong Man." He pulled out his pipe, as if he were oblivious to the enormous bear still banging on the door. "The bear is unpredictable, but the man can be reasoned with. However, he's not overfond of Dwarves."

"Well it's a good thing we don't have any of those!" Bilbo said sarcastically and Bilbo swore he heard Thorin snort while he was sure Fíli and Kíli were giggling.

After that, all the Dwarves split up and explored the house, secretly admiring the craftsmanship. Bilbo himself made his way to the living room and sat down on the carpet in front of the fire. It was quite a relief to his feet and legs, who were screaming in pain a moment before.

After he had relaxed for a minute or so, he got up and made his way to the bookshelf. He ran his fingers along the book spines and took out one that had a picture of a boy in a forest to begin reading.

He was already so enraptured in reading that he didn't hear Fíli and Kíli approaching.

"Hello Mr. Baggins!" Kíli said from right behind him. Bilbo was so startled that he dropped the book and made a sort of squeaking noise.

"Sorry we scared you, Bilbo." From the smirk on Fíli's face they were anything but sorry. Bilbo picked up the book and put it back on the shelf, silently promising to come back to it later.

"What do you two rascals want?" Bilbo questioned as he crossed his arms.

"You make it sound like we're using you for something!"

"Yeah, we would never do something like that!"

"Honestly, can't we just talk to our good friend Bilbo?"

"To even imply-"

"Boys, you can use your charming selves to lie to someone else, but I know when someone wants something." They both puffed up at being called charming but then lowered themselves when they realized they'd been caught.

"Okay fine, honestly." Kíli began. "We were just looking around in the kitchen." Naturally.

"When we saw a huge plate of scones on the top shelf,"

"But the both of us are not tall enough to reach it,"

"So we were wondering if you'd like to help us,"

"Because who else would be so kind?"

Bilbo sighed to himself and pinched the bridge of his nose. Those boys were going to kill him before they even reached Mordor. "No,"

"But Mr. Baggins!" Then both of them simultaneously dropped to their knees in front of Bilbo and grabbed hold of each hand. "You must help us!" Kíli looked up a Bilbo with big brown eyes and Bilbo finally caved in.

"Okay fine!" Both the Durin's boys hugged tightly to Bilbo and he had to pry them off so he could breathe properly. "Damn you Kíli and your puppy dog eyes." Kíli gave him a smug look that made Bilbo want to whack him upside the head.

The Durin boys hooked elbows with Bilbo, with Fíli on the left and Kíli on the right. They were practically carrying him like a child but there was nothing he could do about it at the moment. Once they made it to the kitchen they finally released him but Fíli picked him up right after and practically threw him onto Kíli's shoulders.

"Ack!" With ease, Fíli crouched down and lifted the both of them at once and sat them on his shoulders. "If you drop me, so help me I will give you both the ear pinching of your lives."

"It would be hard to, given the standards their mother has set."

"Thorin!" And all at once they can crashing down to the hard wooden floor in one pile. "Th-thorin! This isn't what it looks like!"

"Kíli, I know very well what this is." Thorin crossed his arms and smirked. "Though I do not appreciate you bringing Bilbo into your nonsense." He shook his head in mock disappointment.

"We were just- just um," Thorin raised his eyebrows.

"Just what?" When it looked like he wouldn't get a response from either of them, he marched over and pulled Bilbo up from the pile.

"Come Bilbo, let us leave the boys to their antics." And so Thorin guided him out of the kitchen, leaving the boys tangled in each other's limbs.

They walked in silence to the living area where the rest were seated and talking amongst themselves. Bilbo and Thorin joined in, sitting in between Glóin and Dwalin.

Bilbo was half listening to the chatter among the Dwarves as he felt inside his pocket for the ring. He ran his fingers around the rim, trying to hear clearly what the whispers in his mind were saying.

The voice was dark and foul, like a snake hissing poison into his mind. 'Sauron will rise once more and no one will be safe from his wrath. You will all burn in the flames of Mordor. You cannot protect those you love from the Dark Lord's return.' He saw an image, a great eye burning bright, casting it's gaze upon the company. His head burned and ached as if the Eye had scorched the inside of his brain. Was this truly the right thing to do? He'd be putting his company's lives and danger without knowing if their plan would actually succeed. And if Sauron got the ring...

"Something troubles you." Thorin stated. "What is it?"

"It's uh- it's the ring, sometimes it whispers to me and sometimes I see glimpses of images, images of terrible things." He withdrew his hand from his pocket and laced it within his own on top of his lap. "I can only hope they are not glimpses into our future."

"You must have hope, Master Baggins."

"Yes I know, it's just- I don't want to put any of your lives in danger. I care about all of you and I would never forgive myself if something happened. Maybe I should go alone-" Thorin held up his hand to stop Bilbo from going on.

"There is no point in that, Bilbo. You can't get rid of us that easily." He clapped a hand onto Bilbo's back and laughed a deep rumbling laugh. "And I myself would never leave your side. I will go with you into fires of Mordor and there is nothing you can do about it." Bilbo smiled and looked away before he said anything embarrassing.

Thorin had lightened his mood considerably and he found himself talking with the other Dwarves cheerfully, unaware of the Dwarf king's gaze still resting on him.

Fíli and Kíli snuck - or a least attempted to - into the room and sat down behind Dori, hoping his mother hen instincts would protect them from Bilbo's promised ear pinching.

"Fíli! Kíli! Don't think Dori will stop me from pinching the life out of you!" They both lept up and made a run for it, followed closely by Bilbo. They began circling around the room while the Dwarves erupted with laughter and cheers. Bilbo could hear Thorin's laugh amongst the chaos and he thought to himself, now there is a sound I could get used to. Once the fun had died down (and Fíli and Kíli had been put in their place), the cheer morphed into great songs of old.

"The wind was on the withered heath,
but in the forest stirred no leaf:
there shadows lay by night and day,
and dark things silent crept beneath.

The wind came down from mountains cold,
and like a tide it roared and rolled;
the branches groaned, the forest moaned,
and leaves were laid upon the mould.

The wind went on from West to East;
all movement in the forest ceased,
but shrill and harsh across the marsh
its whistling voices were released.

The grasses hissed, their tassels bent,
the reeds were rattling--on it went
o'er shaken pool under heavens cool
where racing clouds were torn and rent.

It passed the lonely Mountain bare
and swept above the dragon's lair:
there black and dark lay boulders stark
and flying smoke was in the air.

It left the world and took its flight
over the wide seas of the night.
The moon set sail upon the gale,
and stars were fanned to leaping light."

"Bilbo, you should sing us a song!" Kíli said once they had finished their songs. Many of the Dwarves nodded their heads eagerly and Bilbo wanted to bury himself in embarrassment. Kíli was going to pay for that later.

"Okay fine, but this is the only one I can think of off the top of my head so be warned."

"Sing hey! for the bath at close of day
That washes the weary mud away!
A loon is he that will not sing:
O! Water Hot is a noble thing!

O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain,
and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
but better than rain or rippling streams
is Water Hot that smokes and steams.

O! Water cold we may pour at need
down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
but better is Beer, if drink we lack,
and Water Hot poured down the back.

O! Water is fair that leaps on high
in a fountain white beneath the sky;
but never did fountain sound so sweet
as splashing Hot Water with my feet!"

Halfway through the song Bofur had pulled him into a dance and spun him around many times before handing him off to Kíli who was very energetic and almost dropped him a few times. It was delightful though, and he was so gleeful he thought he was going to burst at the seams.

The Dwarves began singing once again after that, while Bilbo had to sit down from the exhaustion. He fell asleep there with a happy heart to the sound of the Dwarves' songs.

When he woke up he was squished in between Fíli and Kíli who had both their legs and arms lying on top of him. He sighed and with his free arm he brushed the hair out of Kíli's face, and continued stroking it for a good long while after that.

"They are very fond of you." Bilbo nearly jumped out of his skin at Thorin's voice but thankfully Fíli nor Kíli stirred. Thorin was seated in an armchair behind them so Bilbo had to twist his neck painfully to see him. "You can move them, I assure you, they will not wake."

Bilbo was reluctant but managed to disentangle himself from the boys, who then cuddled closer together at the loss of Bilbo.

"They are very heavy sleepers." Bilbo said as he stretched his limbs and rubbed his eyes.

"Yes I know. Their mother once had to dump a bucket of ice water on both of them just to get them out of bed." Thorin smiled at the memory. "I have taken to offering them food to bring them from sleep."

"That's a good tactic for waking a Dwarf. I shall keep that in mind for the future." Bilbo chuckled.

It was still the early hours of the morning, so Bilbo decided he would visit the ponies before breakfast, when hopefully Beorn would return as a Man instead of a bear.

"I think I will take a walk, would you care to join me?" Thorin nodded and they slipped out quietly into the sunlight. "It's a beautiful day, isn't it?"

"Yes it is, I hope we do not have to leave this place so soon. However, if Beorn comes back as a bear, then we will have to flee as quickly as that which we came." After that they walked in silence to the stables, where ponies were grazing the withering grass and neighing occasionally.

"Fíli and Kíli's mother, she is a good Dwarf from what I have heard."

"Aye, the best. Dís is a warrior, a leader, and most of all she's absolutely terrifying. You should see the boys around her, they are the most behaved when she is there. Not only is she a great mother, but so brave as well. She would've come with us on this quest if she did not have responsibilities in the Blue Mountains. She was not very happy I took her sons with me." Thorin absentmindedly rubbed at his ear, no doubt recalling Dís pinching him.

"I would love to meet her. If she's anything like you I'm sure I'll like her very much." Bilbo mentally kicked himself for letting the words fall so easily and immediately felt a blush rising from his neck. To his astonishment, Thorin's cheeks seemed to be colored as well. He would have to think on that later.

"THORIN!" Bilbo and Thorin whipped their head around to find Dwalin coming toward them. "Beorn is back!"

They all ran back to the house where the company was gathered around Gandalf.

"He is in his Man form, but that doesn't mean he isn't still dangerous." Gandalf looked anxiously around the company. "We will go in pairs and you will only come out every five minutes. Bilbo and I will be first, and Thorin will come last."

"No, I will go with you first. We do not know if he will try to harm us." Thorin countered.

"No. I will be taking Bilbo with me because he looks harmless and Beorn tends to like small things that cause no harm. My decision is final, Thorin."

"Beorn could kill him in two seconds! He-"

"Um, you do know I am standing right here, right?" Bilbo said from in between the two quarreling members. "I will go with Gandalf first. After all, I'm not totally helpless."

Thorin actually looked sheepish.

Before Bilbo left to meet Beorn though, Thorin grabbed his shoulder and leaned down to whisper.

"Try not to get into trouble. If you need me- us, then just blow on this." He said as he put a whistle into Bilbo's hand. "It just wouldn't do to lose our Hobbit." He clapped Bilbo's shoulder once before letting him go. He hung the whistle around his neck and tucked it into his shirt collar, still trying to keep his cheeks from heating up.

He didn't end up needing to use Thorin's gift though, because Gandalf befriended Beorn easily enough by telling him the story of their journey. Beorn has also taken to liking Bilbo and calling him 'little bunny' which annoyed him a bit, but it was better than being called dinner. Soon all the Dwarves had come in and Gandalf finished the story, looking quite pleased with himself.

"That was quite the story, Wizard! I believe it is time for food, don't you think? Little bunny is looking too thin!" Bilbo plucked at his shirt and looked down. And then Beorn just picked Bilbo up and set him on a seat next to himself. Bilbo looked over to Thorin, who had his hand on Orcrist, and looked like he was going to murder Beorn. Bilbo caught his eye and gave him a look that only partly calmed Thorin down, but it was enough for him to move his hand away from the hilt of his sword.

"Eat up little bunny! These Dwarves have been starving you!" The Dwarves started muttering things but Bilbo talked over them.

"No really I am fine. I have been eating quite alright!" He said as he took a bite of his toast. To change the subject he started talking about his animals. "Your ponies are beautiful, Master Beorn. You must take very good care of them!" And so Beorn laughed and began talking about all of his animals, looking very pleased about the subject. Bilbo looked over to Gandalf and winked, who did so back.

After they all had their filling, they went back to the living room and sat as they had the previous night.

"I don't like him." Thorin said in greeting as he sat beside Bilbo. He still looked murderous, so Bilbo thought of what he could say to soothe his anger.

"Him liking me is much better than hating me. He has been a very kind host and we should be thankful he didn't kill us all the moment he came back. You don't have to like him, but we must stay here in order to regain our strength. Especially you. If I remember correctly, you were on the edge of death no more than two days ago!"

Thorin nodded his head and seemed to be calming down. Bilbo took out the whistle and began pulling it off, when Thorin stilled his hand.

"Keep it. You might need it later."

Chapter Text

This time when he woke he was sandwiched in between Bofur and Dori, whose limbs were quite heavier than Fíli and Kíli's from the night before.

Bofur's hat was covering the entire left side of his face, so he ducked first and then slid out from the pile. He was thankful that Thorin was not there this time to scare the living daylights out of him, but then he started to wonder where he was, if not in the armchair or sleeping like the rest of the Dwarves.

He stretched and tried waking the limbs that had fallen asleep under the weight of Bofur and Dori. Bilbo started reading the book he had been interested in before, hoping Fíli and Kíli would not interrupt him this time. He sat in the armchair reading for a good long time, when he started to hear muffled shouting from the room adjacent to them.

He put the book down and got up, silently tip-toeing to the door so that he could hear better.

“-don't like it here Gandalf!” Thorin.

“You do not have to like it here! Would you rather leave and put your family in danger? This is the safest we've been in a long time, Thorin. We cannot pass up this chance to regroup and fill our stomachs once more.”

There was a pause and Bilbo was almost sure it was because Gandalf was pulling out his smoking pipe.

“You must have realized the company starting to lose weight. Especially dear Bilbo.” Bilbo looked down at his stomach and frowned. He hadn’t lost anything drastic, he was just adjusting to eating thrice a day instead of six times. “Of course you noticed, how could you not when you're always staring at him?” That effectively shut Thorin up, and Bilbo could practically hear him fumbling for words.

Of course it was in that moment that the floorboard creaked where Bilbo was standing. Damn.

He pushed the door open and tried his best to pretend that he hadn't heard everything.

“Good morning Thorin! And hello Gandalf, lovely morning isn't it?” Gandalf nodded his head and smirked. The bastard knew Bilbo had been eavesdropping. Poor Thorin seemed to be halfway through turning into a tomato, so Bilbo did what he did best and tried to start a conversation.

“I came in here to get some questions answered, I apologize if I interrupted something.”

“No Bilbo it's quite alright, Thorin and I were just discussing some affairs.” Gandalf winked at Bilbo, which made Thorin turn an even deeper shade of red.

“Oh well in that case, I had some questions about our journey.” Bilbo said, trying to remain oblivious. “I am still in the dark about what path we are taking to Mordor, which is quite important. Also, I was wondering if I could have another weapon in addition to my current sword – or as Balin put it – my letter opener.” Thorin snorted. “If I lose this one, then I will be weaponless, and I would rather like to have a backup just in case.”

“We will be discussing our route once everyone has woken up. As for a new weapon, I'm sure Thorin here can take care of that.” And with that Gandalf stood up and left the room, leaving the two alone.

“I would forge you a sword, but I do not know of a forge around here.” He scratched at his beard, deep in thought. “How do you feel about a bow and arrow?”

“Hmm. I like that idea. It wouldn't be as heavy as a sword and I could do long distance kills.”

“Then it is settled. I will craft you one with a set of arrows today while we are still here. Kíli shall train you, while Fíli can help your swordsmanship.” Thorin stood up and made his way to the door, while Bilbo was still processing everything.

“Wait! Thorin, that is hardly necessary. I-” Bilbo started but Thorin held up his hand to cut him off.

“My mind is made up. I will talk to the boys once they wake up. I'm sure they will be very eager to start training.” That's what I'm worried about. But before Bilbo could protest further, Thorin was out the door.

“Dwarves.” Bilbo shook his head.

"What's he done now?" Bofur said as a greeting, nearly sending Bilbo flying to the floor from fright.

"He?"

"Thorin of course!" Bofur took a seat next to Bilbo and pulled out a small piece of wood and a knife, starting to whittle away at the wood.

"He didn't do anything. I told him that I wanted an additional weapon and now he's gone off to make a bow and a set of arrows from scratch! And he's insisting that I get lessons from Kíli for it, and that I get swordsmanship training from Fíli!" Bofur smiled without looking up at Bilbo.

"Why are you smiling?"

"No reason." There was most definitely a reason but Bilbo decided to leave it for now.

"What are you making?" Bilbo said, pointing to the figure in Bofur's hand.

"What, this? Just a little something I've been working on." Bilbo was about to interrogate him further when the Dwarves started to file through the door and sit at the table. Bofur got up to help his brother with breakfast, tucking away his project into his coat pocket. Fíli and Kíli took the seats open on Bilbo's sides, and yawned loudly at the same time.

"Hello Bilbo! Sleep well last night?" Fíli said as he ruffled his hair.

"Yes I did. And you?"

"Slept hard as usual. Although I had the weirdest dream that I-" Fíli abruptly stopped as Bombur started passing out breakfast. Bilbo shook his head fondly and started eating his eggs and bacon.

"Hello Bilbo. Fíli and Kíli, I must talk with you later." Thorin said as he took the seat across from them.

"Is all that really necessary? I can learn it on my own." Bilbo said once he finished his bite of toast.

"Learn what?"

"Oooh what's this about now?" Fíli and Kíli were both interested now.

"Now this is why I wanted to talk about it later. I am crafting Bilbo a bow with matching arrows, and Kíli, you will be training him to use it. And Fíli, you will be teaching him to handle his sword more effectively."

"Uncle should be the one to teach him to handle his sword, if you know what I mean." Fíli said as he drank his ale. Dwalin smacked him on the back of his head so hard that he went face first into his mug of ale, and when he pulled it off there was a huge red ring around his face.

The entire company burst into laughter while Fíli felt the indent on this face with a horrified expression.

"What did he mean?" Bilbo asked Thorin but he just shook his head.

"Just ignore him."

"My face! My beautiful face!" Fíli was rubbing frantically at the mark, which just seemed to be making it worse. Kíli was now on the floor laughing so hard he was wheezing.

"Dear brother, I think it is an improvement!"

"Shut up, Kíli! I'll push your face into your mug, see how you like it!" He got up and nearly got a hold of Kíli, who was now running frantically around the room. It was in this moment that Gandalf and Beorn decided to come in. Gandalf pinched the bridge of his nose and muttered something only he could hear.

"Good morning Beorn!" Bilbo said to break the sudden silence. Beorn smiled and reached over the table and in one motion picked Bilbo up. He carried him to his seat and set him down next to him, smiling like it was the normal thing to do. Bilbo looked to Thorin and held up his hand to stop him from whatever he was planning to do.

“And how is the little bunny today?”

“I'm quite alright thank you.” After that they ate in silence – well as silent as Dwarves can be when they're eating. Once they finished eating, Beorn left them to tend to his animals.

“So Gandalf, if it's alright with you I'd like to hear about our route to Mordor.” Bilbo said crossing his arms and leaning back.

“Oh yes, of course. Let me just get my map,” He said as he started rummaging through his pockets. “Ah, here it is!” He flipped the map upside down and put it in front of Bilbo and Thorin (who had just moved beside him after Beorn had left). “We are here. About thirty miles upriver from Old Ford. We shall take the River Anduin, passing through Gladden Fields, Lorien, the U-”

“Lorien? You mean to take us to see those tree-shaggers?” Thorin said, thoroughly disgusted.

“Thorin Oakenshield, by the time we reach Lorien we will be exhausted and in need of shelter and food. The Elves there will be nothing but hospitable! Do you not remember the friendliness of Lord Elrond and the Elves of Rivendell? We will be passing through Lorien anyway, so there is nothing you can do.”

Gandalf looked to be waiting for another counter from Thorin, but when he got none, he continued. “Then we will pass through the Undeeps, Emyn Muil, through the Dead Marshes, then down and through Minas Morgul, then finally around and into Mt. Doom.” He finished by tapping on the destination on the map. “That is of course the best case scenario, we might have to stray off the path if we run into trouble.” Ori was furiously writing in his book about the route they were to take.

“I can draw up a map for everybody, so that if anyone gets separated they can follow the route and hopefully meet up with us.” Ori said once he finished writing.

“Good idea Ori!” Dori patted him on the head and looked very pleased with his little brother.

“It's nothing really.” He said as his cheeks heated up.

“That would be very helpful Master Ori.” Thorin said with a smile. Ori ducked and practically buried himself in his scarf away from the attention.

“So,” Bilbo said to help pull the attention away from the poor Dwarf. “Gandalf, how long should we stay here before heading off?”

“I think it would be wise to leave first thing tomorrow. Beorn will supply us with food and water, which will hopefully last us all the way to Lorien.”

“How long do you think it will take us to reach them?”

“If my estimations are correct then it will take around ten days.” 

"That is no short journey." Balin said as he looked at the map from Gandalf's side.

"No indeed Master Balin, but I do believe we can make it." Gandalf said as he stood up. "I must talk to Master Beorn now, and ask him for provisions." And without another word he was out the door.

"Excuse me." Thorin got up from the table and left out the door that led to the yard. Fíli and Kíli started giggling but abruptly stopped when Dwalin held up his hand behind their heads.

"Mr Baggins, would you like to start our sword lessons?" Fíli said with a smirk. Bilbo groaned and put his head in his hands.

"You know Bilbo, Dwalin could teach you instead!" Bofur said cheerily from behind Bilbo.

"No!" Bilbo and Dwalin yelled simultaneously. Fíli laughed and jumped up from his seat.

"Then let's begin!" He picked Bilbo up from his seat and practically carried him out the door that Thorin had just gone through moments ago. He guided him to a clearing next to a pond, closely followed by Kíli.

"Draw your sword." Bilbo took it out and held it up with two hands like he usually did. "Okay now, keep your dominant hand right underneath the guard, and use your other hand to grip above the pommel." Fíli said, pointing to each part while he explained. "Good! Okay now, relax your shoulders, Bilbo. Keep them squared, but don't raise them to touch your ears. That's much better. Okay now lower your sword hilt to the same level as your belly button. Yes good, okay tilt your sword toward the enemy in front of you." He pointed at himself and unsheathed his own sword, but kept it at his side.

"Okay now Kíli and I will demonstrate a basic sword strike. This one is pretty simple, all you do is raise your sword and slice the enemy diagonally. While you're slicing downward, you turn your hips and pivot your body so that the sword slices from the shoulder to the opposite hip." He did so on Kíli slowly, so that he wouldn't hurt him. "See how I'm raising my sword while I'm stepping forward and then I pivot and bring the sword downward." He demonstrated it a few more times and then motioned for Bilbo to try on himself. Not willing for me to try on Kíli, I see. Protective big brother. He stepped forward and replicated Fíli's movements exactly, and smiled when the brothers started clapping.

"Mr. Baggins is a fast learner!" Fíli exclaimed.

"It's Bilb-"

"Only because he's learning from the best Fee!"

"Oh Kíli stop, you'll make me blush." He said sarcastically. "Anyways let's try another basic movement."

They trained for another couple hours before deciding to take a break and see what the company was up to. They walked into the living room and sat down in front of the fireplace, where Thorin was talking with Dwalin. Thorin seemed to be sculpting something out of wood with his curved knife.

"Hello Uncle! Mr. Baggins is a very quick learner, he was perfect at almost all of the strikes Fíli taught him!"

"For the last time it's Bilbo, not Mr. Baggins, and I hardly think I was perfect."

"Yes you were! Fíli barely had to help, all he had to do was show you the move and you picked it up just like that."

"You boys are too kind." Bilbo said with a fond smile.

"If we're too kind, you can always get lessons from Dwalin! I'm sure he'd be-"

"No!" Dwalin and Bilbo once again said simultaneously.

"Fine alright, just a suggestion... Anyways Uncle, what's that you've got there?" Kíli said, pointing to the rounded piece of wood.

"It is Bilbo's bow. It is rough right now but hopefully I will be finished before we leave tomorrow." He said as he ran his fingers along the edges. "I've measured it approximately to his stature, so it will be about his size if my estimates are correct. If you'd like to, you and Fíli can start crafting arrows." The boys both jumped up and made for the door.

"We'd love to!" And they were out the door just like that.

"Honestly." Bilbo said, but his smile showed he wasn't really annoyed. "Thorin, you don't really have to do this, I'm sure Bofur could-"

"Nonsense. I can do it myself. Plus I've been restless these past few days and I'd like something to pass the time." He knew there was no more he could say that would change his mind, but honestly, a king personally crafting a bow for a Hobbit. But Bilbo just brushed it off as Thorin being bored and needing something to do. Nothing more.

"Oh Thorin, um how will I be carrying the arrows when I have no quiver?"

"Ah rest assured Bilbo, I have everything covered. I already talked to Dori, who is fashioning a quiver out of the leather materials that Beorn lent him." Bilbo looked over his shoulder and sure enough, Dori was sewing patterns into a leather cylinder. Thorin really did think this through.

Bilbo did nothing else that day, though he did talk to Ori and ask him about his drawing, to which he blushed and just said that it was nothing. But other than that he mostly just sat and read his book in the armchair. He fell asleep early, feeling warm and content with a delicious dinner sitting pleasantly in his stomach.

 

He woke up early once again to find Fíli and Kíli squishing him. This time he didn't hesitate to jostle them as he untangled himself from the Durin pile. He walked outside and stretched, breathing in the fresh air and the smell of flowers. One of Beorn's dogs ran up and rubbed all over his chest, almost knocking Bilbo over with his enormity. He scratched behind the dog's ears and laughed.

"Fond of dogs, are you?" Thorin's voice made him jump and very nearly squeal. He walked over to where Thorin was sitting, followed by the dog.

"Are you fond of scaring people half to death?" Thorin smirked and laughed. Bilbo smiled at the sound and mentally made a note to make Thorin laugh more in the future.

"Only the ones that are easy to scare." Bilbo sat next to him and sighed when the dog laid his head on Bilbo's lap. Thorin was still sculpting the bow, and it looked to be almost finished.

"And the answer to your question is yes, I like dogs. I suppose that is because my mother bought me one when I was very little. I loved that dog, and I was devastated when she died a year after my mother died." Bilbo recalled the memory and tried to push his feelings down, for the grief was still near for him.

"Your mother, you don't speak of her often. What was she like?" Bilbo was almost stunned by Thorin's question, he didn't think he would be interested.

"Her name was Belladonna, Belladonna Took. Now the Tooks are infamous for being reckless and very often frowned upon for being the adventurous family. While my father, Bungo, was a baggins, and Baggins are - were - entirely respectable Hobbits. Baggins never do anything rash, never go on adventures or do anything unexpected. Imagine the shock when a Took married a Baggins!" Bilbo laughed and absentmindedly pet the dog on his lap as he continued.

"Belladonna was a good mother, even when she got angry I still respected her. One time I ran away in search of Dwarves and when I got back she wouldn't let me into the garden for two months!" Bilbo smiled at the memory.

"You ran away to look for Dwarves?" Thorin asked with a smirk that was entirely too smug.

"Yes I did, I was very fascinated with their history and anatomy and pretty much anything that wasn't like a Hobbit. Don't be too smug though, because I also went out in search of Elves." Thorin's smile dropped and actually looked to be pouting. A king. Pouting.

"Anyways, she died seven years ago, leaving me to be the owner of Bag End."

"What about your father? When did he die?"

"He died eight years before she did, when I was about 36."

"So young."

"What- no I was 36."

"But that is very young."

"Hobbits come of age at 33, so though I was younger, I was still an adult. Wait a minute, how old are you?"

"I am 195. I suppose that ages are different with Hobbits. And you? How old are you?"

"I'm 50. I've heard that Dwarves can live to 300, but Hobbits usually live only to be 100. Although, the Old Took died at 130 years of age. Right now I'm in my middle ages, just like you, so don't go telling Fíli and Kíli that I'm younger than them because I'm really not."

"I would not subject you to that torture." Thorin laughed and continued carving the bow. "Yes I think if Hobbits and Dwarves were to live the same way, we would be the same age." He blew on the bow, sending wood particles into the air. A beautiful pattern was revealed along the bow, leaving Bilbo struck with awe.

"But that will not stop me from worrying about your well-being."

He pulled out a string from his coat and wrapped it around the two tips of the bow. After a final nod, he handed Bilbo the weapon.

Bilbo had honestly never seen a weapon finer than this one. Thorin had carved gorgeous patterns all along it, nearly covering the entire thing. He'd even gone as far as to carve Bilbo's initials on the handle grip.

"Thorin, this is- this is a work of art. I have never seen anything quite like it." Bilbo couldn't put his feelings into words so he just continued to run his fingers along the beautiful craft. He found a small engraved picture below his initials and he studied it, unsure of what it meant.

"It is the emblem of Durin's folk, and you have earned it." Bilbo struggled for words as he traced the outline of the emblem.

"Thorin, I- I'm honored. This is truly more than any Baggins deserves. I just- thank you so much, Thorin." Before Bilbo could stop himself or talk himself out of it, he pulled Thorin into an embrace. He was about to pull away when Thorin wrapped his arms around Bilbo's shoulders, and smiled into Bilbo's golden brown hair.

"It is the least I could do Bilbo. I still owe you a debt for saving my life."

"No no, you owe me nothing. After all, I couldn't just let you die, could I? I cannot see an Erebor without Thorin Oakenshield as King Under the Mountain." I cannot see a Bilbo without Thorin Oakenshield.

"You never seize to amaze me, Bilbo Baggins." Bilbo blushed and was glad that he was hidden in Thorin's hair and not- wait a minute. We're still hugging! Bilbo pulled away and looked down at the ground sheepishly. He picked up the bow and admired the work again.

"It is not my finest work, but hopefully it will serve you well."

"It is amazing, Thorin. I-"

Bilbo was cut short when Nori burst through the door and told them it was time to leave. They left half an hour later, with their packs heavy and their stomachs full. Bilbo took one last look at Beorn's house and sighed. He had a gut feeling that it would be a long time before they felt that safe again.

"Not to worry Mr. Baggins, we'll come back and visit once we've finished our quests!"

"It's Bilbo!"

Chapter Text

"So Mr. Baggins, we've seen you talking with Uncle a lot lately."

"First of all, it's Bilbo, and second of all, that is none of your concern."

"It is most certainly our concern!" Said Fíli from his left.

"Yes, if Uncle Thorin is, how do I put it, cour-" Kíli was abruptly cut off when Balin smacked him over the head with the map he was holding.

"Ouch!" Kíli and Fíli scampered off to the front of the group, leaving Balin and Bilbo at the back.

"Would you mind telling me what that was all about?" Bilbo asked, still confused.

"Don't mind those two laddie. Best not to wonder about what goes on in those heads of theirs." Balin smiled and patted Bilbo on the shoulder.

"Yeah, alright. I've been meaning to come talk to you for a while now." Balin raised his eyebrows and motioned for Bilbo to continue.

"Well, I've always thought you to be the wisest of the company and I-"

"Wiser than Gandalf?" Balin joked.

"Perhaps. But Gandalf is the kind of wise person that would withhold information if it meant he could do things his own way."

"Aye."

"So I wanted to ask you about our quest. Do you truly think that we can make it all the way to Mordor?"

"That is no simple question, Master Baggins. In truth, I do not know what this quest's outcome will be. But in my heart, I believe that we will make it to Mordor. And never underestimate the courage of Dwarves - or hobbits for that matter!" Bilbo laughed and looked down at his feet.

"Now I don't know about that, Balin."

"Nonsense! You could very well be the most courageous of us all!" Before Bilbo could protest further, they came to a halt.

"What's going on?"

"Bilbo, my fellow could I borrow your compass?" Gandalf said, pushing through the Dwarves to get to him at the back of the line.

"Oh, yeah yeah, of course." Bilbo rummaged through his pack and pulled out his compass, the one he'd had since he was very young.

"Hmm yes I think we are going the right way."

"And which way would that be?" Óin said, leaning forward with his ear trumpet.

"We are heading southwest, towards the Old Ford. We can make camp there for the night and then keep moving on the morrow."

"What's this place you speak of?" Thorin asked with his arms crossed.

"You must trust me, Thorin. I know what I'm doing." Gandalf set the pace once again, cutting off any potential arguments. Bilbo looked at Balin and pointed at Gandalf who was too busy leading the group to notice them.

"You see that? Point proven. Wizards are quite fond of withholding things."

"I am not withholding anything, Master Baggins. I am simply telling you only select things."

"That is the definition of withholding, you dreadful old Wizard!" Bilbo said through cupped hands, but with no real bite. Fíli and Kíli guffawed, and to Bilbo's surprise, so did Thorin.

"You are quite right, Bilbo." Balin snickered and left him to walk with his brother.

With the company's mood lightened, they made good time from there to the Old Ford. The Dwarves cheered and howled when they finally arrived at the river. Gandalf smiled and sat on a rock by the riverside, pulling out his pipe and lighting it with his finger. Bilbo pulled out his own pipeweed and sat next to him on the large rock. Most of the Dwarves, even Thorin, had already entered the river to bathe but Bilbo decided to sit with Gandalf and maybe bathe later.

"So this is the Old Ford?"

"Yes it is, it's the place where-" Gandalf started but stopped when the two Durin boys started coming their way.

"Mr. Baggins, come and clean up with us!" Kíli said, wading through the water to where he was, followed by Fíli.

"The water is quite refreshing, you must join us!"

"No thank you, I'd like to just sit for now. We've had a long day of walking and I want to rest my feet."

"Come on Bilbo!" Bilbo almost caved in at the use of his first name but thought better of it at the mischievous look on the boys' faces.

"No. Now don't you have an Uncle to bother?"

"I heard that!" Thorin yelled with a smile that lit up his face. Thorin's chest was above water so Bilbo could admire the muscles lining his upper body and the ones leading - no no he would not look. Bilbo looked away and fought a blush rising to his cheeks.

Fíli whispered something into Kíli's ear, who then burst into a fit of giggles.

"Whatever you two are planning, just don't."

"Ugh fine, Bilbo. No fun." Fíli said, but Bilbo was not convinced at all. "I guess we'll just have to have fun without you!" Then, simultaneously the two Dwarves jumped up and then down, hugging their knees in cannonball form. The splash flew up and hit both Bilbo and Gandalf, the second seeming more amused than annoyed.

Bilbo however, was spluttering with rage as he hopped down from the rock. He looked at the boys and gestured to his soaked clothes.

"You know what, that's it! You two are in for it!"

He stepped into the water and grabbed the Durins by the ears, twisting them painfully. He dragged them out of the water and twisted one more time before releasing them. The (very naked) boys rolled around on the grass, clutching at their ears.

"That's not fair!"

"Oh yes it is. Expect a reckoning in the future!" He said before walking back to Gandalf. The company was still laughing hysterically, and at one point Bofur had fallen into the water from laughing too hard.

Once all of the Dwarves finished bathing, and Bilbo had changed into dry clothes, they started making camp. Bilbo helped Bombur dish out the stew and hand it out to the members of the company who were now sitting around the fire talking amongst themselves.

Bilbo sat with his back resting against a log and tried not to drop his bowl when Fíli and Kíli unexpectedly sat down on either side of him.

"Hello Bilbo!"

"We were just coming to apologize,"

"For earlier today,"

"Because it was uncalled for,"

"And very immature of us,"

"And the last thing we want,"

"Is for you to hate us,"

"So please forgive us?" Bilbo was alarmed when they both embraced him from the side, but pleased nonetheless.

"Alright boys, who told you to apologize?"

"Wow just wow, you would imply that we are so cold that we wouldn't think to say sorry?"

"That's just shallow Mr. Baggins." Bilbo crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows at the both of them.

"Thorin made us."

"That's what I thought." Bilbo looked to Thorin who was, unsurprisingly, watching them. "You don't need to apologize boys, it was just a bit of fun. But," Bilbo emphasized when their faces lit up. "that doesn't mean I'm giving permission for you to do it again."

"Yes of course, Bilbo."

"It will never happen again." Fíli said with a smirk.

"Yeah okay, see you in a couple days when we have this exact conversation again." Fíli and Kíli giggled before standing up and moving to sit by Bofur and Ori. Thorin stood up and sat where Kíli had been sitting not a minute before.

"Did they apologize?" Thorin said as greeting.

"Yes they did. But they needn't have. I told them it was fine and just a bit of fun." Bilbo drank up the last of his broth and set the bowl to the side before continuing.

"You didn't have to tell them to say all that, you know." Bilbo smiled and looked at Thorin who chuckled and averted Bilbo's eyes.

"I did not know if you were actually annoyed with them or not, so it was best to have them make amends."

"I'm never truly annoyed with them. I'm actually secretly pleased with them because look around," He gestured to the company who were laughing and talking animatedly.

"Do you see what they can do? It is important that we remain in good spirits... and I would be personally pleased to see all of you continue being happy. Even if it is at my expense." Thorin smiled and shook his head.

"There you go again, surprising me with your words." Bilbo blushed and tried to tell himself it was because they were so close to the fire.

"Oh but don't tell the boys about what I said, I would rather not encourage them further."

"Your secret is safe with me." Thorin said with a lowered voice that sent chills down his spine. Unfortunately, he didn't have cold weather to blame that on.

Suddenly Bilbo remembered the topic of his and Gandalf's conversation before they were interrupted.

"Gandalf, what was it you were saying happened here?"

"Oh yes, that is quite the tale." All of the company's attention turned to Gandalf who, predictably, pulled out his smoking pipe.

"Anytime today would be great, thanks." Bilbo said sarcastically when Gandalf made no sign of continuing.

"Be patient, I am merely pondering on where to best begin. Ah yes, that is a good place to start. Thousands of years ago-" The company groaned and started to grumble but Gandalf quickly shushed them.

"Thousands of years ago, at the Battle of Dagorlad, Isildur defeated Sauron and took the One Ring into his possession, but then later lost it in the Great River when he was killed by Orcs. The Ring remained lost for quite some time after that." He puffed a few times from his pipe before continuing.

"Nearly 500 years ago there was a Hobbit named Sméagol. He was a Stoor, and at that time the Stoors lived in the Vales of Anduin, sometimes dwelling in Gladden Fields. Of these riverland people, there was Sméagol and his cousin Déagol. One day the Hobbits were fishing in the Great River when Déagol discovered the Ring. Sméagol immediately fell under the power of the Ring, and killed his cousin - and best friend - to obtain it. That is where we are."

Ori looked around frantically, as if the ghost of Déagol would appear suddenly.

"If Sméagol fell under it's spell so quickly, then how come Bilbo hasn't?" Kíli asked.

"That is because dear Bilbo is an extraordinary Hobbit. Not many people have the strength to resist the power of the Ring, but we all seem to be doing quite alright." Gandalf praised.

"I don't know about extraordinary, Gandalf." Bilbo said, a little embarrassed by the compliment.

"He's right Bilbo, you are not an ordinary Hobbit by any means. You must have the strength of a thousand Dwarves to be resisting that much power." Thorin said from beside him. Bilbo most definitely blushed this time but was hidden with the dark of night.

The Dwarves sang a few songs before tucking themselves into their bedrolls around the fire, except for Dori who took first watch (after complaining for eternity).

Bilbo fell asleep quickly, feeling comforted by the warmth of the fire and the sound of Thorin's laugh still in his head.

 

When he woke the next morning the fire had been put out and all of the bedrolls except his own had disappeared. He quickly got up and packed up his own things, making sure he still had the Ring in his pocket.

"Good morning Mr. Baggins!"

"Sleep well?" Fíli and Kíli startled him from behind.

"Yes I slept quite well thank you. Actually, I think I slept a little too well... Where are the others?" Bilbo yawned and stretched out his toes, feeling the nice breeze of the river air.

"They're all talking with Gandalf. Over there." He pointed to a clearing through the trees, where he could now see the Dwarves huddled around Gandalf.

"We were sent to wake you up, but it seems you beat us to it!"

"We were going to wake you up earlier but Uncle insisted that you get more rest."

"Uncle seems to be very interested in your bed habits." Fíli said with a wink.

"Yes, he-" Suddenly Bofur came from out the woods and knocked them on the head with the bedroll he was holding.

"Come on Bilbo, Gandalf is asking for you." He grabbed Bilbo by the hand and guided him through the trees to where the company was.

"Ah, there you are Bilbo!" Gandalf made a motion with his hand to tell him to join the group.

"What's all this about?" Bilbo asked, his mind still halfway in a dream.

"We believe we are being followed." Gandalf said nonchalantly.

"We are being followed." Dwalin growled from beside Gandalf.

"Now, let's not be hasty, Master Dwalin. We cannot know for sure."

"Listen here Wizard, I know what I heard. That was no animal."

"But it could have been just a simple wanderer!"

"Since when do folk travel this close to Mirkwood?"

"Dwalin has a point, Gandalf. We can't be too careful these days. I put my trust with Dwalin if he says he heard something. He would not lie to his family." Bilbo said, finally fully awake. "I think we should move on and keep a lookout for anything in the shadows."

Bilbo thought for a moment that Dwalin actually looked pleased with him.

"Alright, fine. We move out as soon as possible." They quickly packed up the rest of their things and started walking along the river.

They had walked for about half an hour when Dwalin marched over to where Bilbo was walking. Bilbo was actually frightened for a moment but instantly expelled that feeling when he saw Dwalin's face.

"I just wanted to- to say that I-" Dwalin was utterly out of his element and it showed.

"It's okay, you don't have to say anything." Bilbo said with a smile and a hand on Dwalin's shoulder. "After all, that's what friends are for."

"Friends." He seemed to be testing out that word and in the end gave a small smile.

Dwalin was so distracted that he didn't hear the feet approaching them.

"Move, and I'll put an arrow between your ugly eyes." Bilbo looked up to see two elves pointing their bow and arrows at the company.

"Mallen pelu e' n'alaquel en' sen." The blond one said to the other one. The red haired Elf silently circled around to stand at the back of the company.

"What are 13 Dwarves, a Wizard, and a Halfling doing in these lands?" He asked to no one in particular.

"Our business is none of you concern." Bilbo spoke up, surprising himself.

Maybe I am still asleep.

"If I'm not mistaken, you're from Mirkwood. Last I looked, we are far from the forest, and therefore you have no say on the matter."

"Step forward Halfling." The blond said without looking at him still. The company protested but stopped when he pulled his arrow back and pointed it at them again. He finally looked at Bilbo with cold blue eyes.

"It is our business because we scout the lands of Mirkwood and the borders surrounding it." He dropped his bow and stepped forward, towering over Bilbo.

"I would not insult me so carelessly. Now, you will tell me what you are doing in these lands." Bilbo crossed his arms and thought about sticking his tongue out but thought better of it.

"Tauriel, tula sinome." The Elf circled back around and stood next to the blond who began speaking rapidly in Elvish. They both talked for a while, and Bilbo was about to make a snarky remark when they turned to the company.

"We will take you back to the King, he will decide what to do with you there."

"No, you cannot!" Bilbo yelled, stepping forward to face the two Elves.

"Bilbo, no!" A lot of the company shouted at him to stop but he didn't listen.

"You can't stop us! This quest cannot be delayed any further, because- because the whole of Middle Earth depends on it!" The Elves actually looked shocked for a moment before replacing it with their normal façade. "Do you not care about this Earth? Are you truly as heartless as these Dwarves say you to be?" The red haired Elf started muttering things, but the other did not look convinced.

"Legolas, gwaem."

"And why should we? We do not know of this quest, they could be lying." Bilbo was alarmed at the sudden change in language, but saw his chance. He took the Ring out of his pocket and held it up for them to see.

"You know what this is don't you?" He tucked it into his pocket once again. "Then you must know that we need to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom. You will not stop us, we will do what we have to in order to keep going."

"We should go with them."

"Tauriel, no."

"If that is what he says it is, then it is our responsibility to see that this quest be finished. What happens if they are killed and the Ring goes to Sauron? We need to make sure they make it. If not, the world will be lost. There have been reports of strange things happening in the east. We cannot ignore the evil spreading through our lands." The blond was silent for a while before turning to Bilbo.

"If this is the One Ring, can you prove it?" Bilbo handed the Ring to Gandalf who sighed before heating the edges with his flame.

"Do you see those markings? We are not lying."

"Very well then. We will be accompanying you on your journey to Mordor." The blond said as he tucked his weapon away. "But if you make so much as one wrong move, I will separate your heads from your foul bodies."

"Fair enough." Bilbo said, happy to not have a weapon pointed at his face.

"You Elves will not be going with us anywhere." Thorin spat.

"You must be Thorin Oakenshield. My father spoke often of you and of how ugly your features were."

"So you are Thranduil's offspring." Thorin crossed his arms and smirked. Uh oh. "Tell me, Elf, what is like to be the son of a wretched, hideous, dishonorable, de-" The Elf swiftly pulled out his knife and held it under Thorin's chin, cutting off any further insults.

"Why don't you tell me Dwarf,"

Don't.

"What's it like to have a father who abandoned you and went insane?"

Damn.

"Khagam menu reliku pembu rukhas!"

Thorin launched himself at the blond, not caring or not noticing the knife breaking the skin on his neck. It was obvious Thorin was losing, but he didn't seem to care. Dwalin had to pull him away, while the redhead put her arm in between the two.

This is going to be a very long journey.

Bilbo pinched the bridge of his nose and walked over to where Thorin was now sitting against a tree.

He sat on his knees and lifted Thorin's head to reveal a long cut along his neck and a nasty hit to his right temple that was currently gushing blood.

"What am I going to do with you?" Bilbo shook his head and took the medicine bag from Óin, who just nodded and left the two alone.

"Lie down." Thorin grunted but didn't object. "Okay tilt your head to the left." He winced at the sight of blood darkening Thorin's hair. "You are very lucky this doesn't need stitches, Thorin. Honestly, what were you thinking?"

Thorin tried to face him but Bilbo pushed his head back down with the heel of his palm.

"He deserved it."

"Yes he deserved it, but that doesn't mean you can attack him! You have to think before you act okay, because he could've killed you with one twist of his wrist!" He washed away the blood and applied pressure to the wound, ignoring the wince of pain from Thorin.

"You can't throw your life away like that! There are more important things than your pride, Thorin." He applied ointment to the gash and wrapped a bandage around his head before tying it tightly.

"Like what?"

"Don't you do that. You know very well what's important. Fíli and Kíli would be devastated and so would the company. And I- I would be too. You have to be more careful. Promise me that, Thorin. Promise me you won't get yourself killed."

"I promise." He finished cleaning the cut on his neck and sat back against the tree behind him.

"Plus, imagine Fíli as King!" He said with a raised voice so that Fíli heard him.

"Hey! I would be a great king! Wouldn't I brother?" Fíli said proudly.

"Absolutely not!" Kíli said and laughed when Fíli tackled him to the ground and started tickling him. Bilbo almost thought he saw the red haired Elf smile. Once they gathered themselves up, they started walking.

The walk was awkward now, the Dwarves still hesitant with the Elves now accompanying them. The only one who seemed at ease was, of course, Gandalf. They walked and walked until they had to stop, deciding that they would make camp there for the night. There were no songs that night, only the quiet chatter around the fire filled the uncomfortable silence.

Bilbo sat down next to the Lady Elf and handed her a bowl of soup, but she didn't seem very interested in eating it.

"I never really caught your name." He said after he finished a bite.

"My name is Tauriel. What is yours?"

"Bilbo. Bilbo Baggins." He shook her hand and smiled. "Just call me Bilbo though, I've tried to tell that to Fíli and Kíli but they seem set on calling me 'Mr. Baggins'." She smiled softly.

"Okay Bilbo, tell me, why do you talk to me when the others do not?"

"Dwarves are very stubborn, they will not befriend someone of a different race unless you do something very honorable like save their lives." Bilbo laughed.

"So how did you come to be their friend? Did you save one of them?"

"Yes." Surprisingly, she didn't look shocked. "Friendship it seems, does not come easy for Dwarves. Hobbits on the other hand, are very easy to befriend. Pretty much everybody in The Shire are friends, except the Sackville-Bagginses, but they seem quite content to be by themselves." Tauriel laughed sincerely and started eating Bombur's stew.

"You are kind, Bilbo Baggins. I think we will become very good friends."

"Me too. You seemed much easier to approach than your friend."

"Legolas? Yes he can come off as unkind, but he has a good heart. I think him and Thorin are much alike."

"Probably why they hate each other." They laughed together, causing many heads to turn their way.

"I've always been fond of Elves. I even learned a little Sindarian but I have forgotten most of it."

"Maybe I could teach you one day. Though I am not sure your friends would approve."

"They'll come around eventually."

"I just have to save their lives to gain their trust." She said with a smile.

"Maybe a few of them or so. But Kíli seems to be coming around already." She turned her head to see Kíli staring at her intently. She smiled at him and laughed when he turned away quickly.

"So it seems." Then Tauriel's eyes turned to Thorin, who was glaring daggers at her. "Looks like your King seems to think less of me." Bilbo shook his head at Thorin.

"That's the same way he used to look at me." They talked into the late hours of the night, and Bilbo soon found himself struggling to keep his eyes from shutting by themselves. That would be very rude indeed.

"You should rest, Bilbo. Elves do not need to sleep, but you obviously are in need of it. Quel kaima, Peredhil" He fell asleep before he could reply.

 

He woke up early to the sound of hushed voices from behind him. He looked around to see all of the company members asleep, and quickly realized it was Legolas and Tauriel arguing.

"Tauriel, mani naa lle umien?"

"I am doing what is right. I do not trust these Dwarves to destroy the Ring. Do you not recall the tale of Elrond and Isildur? We must see that it is done."

"My father will-"

"Your father will do nothing. If he does do something, it would be to bring you back home. If he sends for you, then I will have to continue without you." She said, her voice cutting through the silence.

"Lle tyava quel? This is madness! This quest will fail!"

"Exactly! Do you wish to sit by and watch while the Ring falls into the hands of Sauron once again? Do you wish to watch as Middle Earth falls? Are you really as cold as your father?" A long silence stretched on and Bilbo almost thought they had left.

"Fine, but I will not be speaking with them." Legolas said finally.

"I do not like them either, though few of them seem to be friendly enough."

"Like that Dwarf who stares at you constantly?" He spat.

"Actually, I was referring to the Hobbit. I'm sure that Dwarf you speak of would be kind if spoken to though."

"I would have you not speak to him."

"Last time I checked, it was your father who commanded me, not you."

Ouch.

"Amin hiraetha," They didn't speak after that, cut off as the Dwarves began waking up. Bilbo walked over to start helping Bombur make breakfast.

"Good morning, Bombur."

"Good morning, Bilbo! How are you?"

"I'm quite alright. What do you think of our new companions?" He asked, handing Bombur the ingredients as he asked for them.

"I honestly don't care either way. I'm just here to feed the company." He almost looked sad.

"You are much more than that Bombur! You are an important member of the company, so don't forget it!" He said, pointing a spoon at Bombur to emphasize his words.

"You are very thoughtful, Master Baggins." Bilbo smiled and began passing out breakfast. He saved Thorin for last so that he could change his bandages.

"I am going to change your bandages and you are going to let me." He said with his hands on his hips. Thorin nodded and laid down, knowing this was a battle he could not win.

Bilbo pulled away the wrap and accidentally squeaked at the sight of blood matted in Thorin's hair. He started cleaning up and found himself absentmindedly running his fingers through Thorin's hair.

"So, Master Burglar, I see you've taken a liking to the She-Elf." He said coldly. "Should I expect a courting announcement by the end of the week?"

"Is that what this is about? You are insufferable!" He finished cleaning his wounds hastily and threw the medical supplies away from them.

The company was conveniently not looking.

"Have you forgotten how cold and rude you were to me at the beginning of this journey? I would rather not have someone else be in that same position if I can help it! It's a terrible feeling, but you wouldn't know would you?"

He tried not to let the hurt into his voice, but failed considerably if the apologetic look on Thorin's face was anything to go by.

"Bilbo I'm-"

"No." He got up and ran into the forest, not caring that he was running away from his problems like an immature Hobbit. He ran for what seemed like an age, only stopping when he found a good tree to sit against.

He took out the acorn he had picked up from Beorn's and rolled it around in his palm. After a while he tried to imagine what Belladonna would say to him in this situation. She'd probably whack him with a book and tell him to face his problems head on.

I'm not as brave as you Mother.

"Quit moping and go talk to him you stubborn Hobbit." He smiled and tucked away the acorn.

"I am acting immature." Bilbo got up and started walking back to the camp. "I-" He was cut off when he felt the cold touch of a blade to his neck.

"Mirdautas vras!"

Chapter Text

Thorin was an idiot.

He'd been reminded of that often, by Dwalin and Balin and Fíli- you know what, the entire company reminded him of that on a regular basis.

But now was one of those few times when he told himself that he was an idiot. A very big one at that.

Thorin rubbed his forehead and sighed to himself as he paced along the edge of the forest.

You've really done it now, Oakenshield.

"Bilbo's been gone for a long time, Uncle."

"I know, Kíli. We should give him time though, he's just mad right now." Thorin said, still looking into the forest, as he had been for the past hour.

"Rightfully so! You shouldn't talk to him like that, Thorin."

"Yes I know. I'm an idiot." He dragged his hand down his face, and laughed sadly. "I'm such a fool aren't I, Kíli? To think that I- to think that he-"

"Uncle, he obviously cares about you! I've seen the way he looks at you." Kíli put his hand on Thorin's shoulder and smiled. "And I've seen the way you look at him."

"And I have seen the way you look at the She-Elf."

"That is an entirely separate matter-" Fíli swooped in and started talking, saving Kíli from having to continue the conversation.

"Come on, Uncle! Stop moping and come talk with the company." Thorin was swept away by his nephews, who took him to the seats by the fire.

"Ah, Thorin! We were just talking about Bilbo." Gandalf said with a puff of his smoke.

"I can go look for him, if you wish." Tauriel said smoothly.

"I would not have you alone with him, Elf." Thorin growled. Legolas was about to say something, but Tauriel shushed him.

"I would not have you say such rude things to him." Tauriel said calmly. Kíli made a frantic motion with his hands to signal her to stop but it was too late. Thorin stood up and moved towards her, only to be stopped by his nephews, who hooked elbows with Thorin and pulled him back down.

"Anyways," Gandalf started. "I think we should give Bilbo time."

"But he has the Ring! He could be taken and we would not know!" Dori said, sounding a bit hysterical.

"I'm sure Bilbo is fine, Master Dori. You needn't worry about our Hobbit. We should stay here for the day and wait for Bilbo to return."

The company continued their day after that, but there was still an uncomfortable air to them, as everybody's thoughts were on Bilbo as the time ticked on. As dinner approached, the company grew more worried. Bombur actually poured sugar instead of salt into the stew because he was so distracted by worry.

"Bilbo would not be gone for this long!" Bofur had been repeating that non-stop since Bilbo had first left.

"We should go looking for him, Gandalf." Thorin said, biting his lip anxiously.

"Okay, but I'll be sending Legolas and Tauriel with you."

"Dwalin and I can do the job just fine." Thorin spat.

"Elves are known to be wonderful trackers, would you really sacrifice Bilbo for your pride?" He said, knowing he had struck a chord.

"Fine."

They set out less than ten minutes later, eager to find the hobbit. The four walked together with an uncomfortable silence, the only sounds coming from the leaves and twigs under their feet.

Please be here, Bilbo. Please don't be gone.

"Don't worry, Thorin. We'll find him." Dwalin patted Thorin on the back, a little too hard, but comforting nonetheless.

"How can you know that?"

"Because he's one of us, and family never leaves family behind."

"We will find him, because I am a good tracker." Legolas said without looking at either of them. "And I-" Legolas came to a halt suddenly, as if he had hit an invisible wall.

"Mani naa ta?" Tauriel whispered.

"En. Mani naa tanya?" Legolas said, and pointed to something shining among the leaves. Tauriel advanced silently and picked up the object, placing it in her palm.

"A button. Does this belong to Bilbo?" She handed it to Thorin, who cradled the acorn engraved button in his hand.

Oh, Mahal.

"It's his. From- from his waistcoat." He tried not to let his voice crack but failed miserably.

"We will find him, Master Oakenshield." Tauriel said soothingly.

Crunch

All at once the four hunters pulled out out their weapons.

Crack

"What was that?"

"We are being watched. Something lingers in the shadows. Tauriel, tula." Legolas started walking back towards the camp, followed by Tauriel.

"That could have been Bilbo!" Dwalin said.

"Keep your voice down, Dwarf. That was not a hobbit, nor any good soul. I feel its evil presence watching us, I feel its corrupt mind planning onslaught." He said, blue eyes searching the dark forest.

"Then let's go kill it and be done with it!"

"We must go tell the others first. Then we will go looking for the Hobbit." Legolas said with finality. Dwalin looked to Thorin, who nodded in agreement.

It took them less than 5 minutes to get back to the campsite with their quickening pace. Just as they reached the forest's edge, Legolas stopped again.

"Ta naa neuma."

"Speak in a language we all understand!" Dwalin nearly shouted, annoyed with the Elves.

"I said, this is a trap. They know we're here." Legolas gestured to the empty campsite just a few feet from them. "Your friends have been taken."

"Taken?" Dwalin tried to push forward but Legolas held him back.

"If you do that, we will be taken as well. We need to have a plan. Tauriel?"

"I have an idea. You're not going to like it."

 

Bilbo's head was going to explode.

He couldn't remember what happened but he knew he was in immense trouble. He tried to lift his head to see where he was, but quickly dropped his chin to his chest when he felt immense pain in his temple. The movement caused a trickle of blood to fall down his face, nearly missing his mouth.

"Ow. Wha-"

"Lul Gijak-Ishi" A chilling voice said from above him. There was no mistaking its voice for an Orc. He was being jostled roughly, frantic hands searching his person for something.

"I do not think he has it, Master."

"One of the dwarf-scum must have it." Suddenly he was being lifted off the ground, his head spinning unpleasantly from the movement.

Wait, what are they looking for? Where am I?

Bilbo struggled within the tight grip of the Orc, but it was no use against the strong muscles of the creature.

What in Yavanna's name have I gotten myself into now?

"Bilbo!"

Oh, no.

Kíli's frantic call jogged his memory and suddenly he remembered being taken by the Orcs after he ran away like a child.

"Make a move, and we'll gut your little friend here." Bilbo was held in the air by foul hands, wrapped around his arms like the trolls had done long before. He tried with all his hobbit might to break free, but it only resulted in the Orcs' grips tightening painfully.

He turned to the company, who were seething with protective rage. He searched the members and found they were all unharmed, but they were two members short.

Thorin.

He quickly made a note of all the Dwarves and soon deduced who wasn't there. And Dwalin. Maybe they got away. Gandalf isn't here either, well that's not new.

His thoughts came to a halt when his ribs were hit with a strong blow. He shrieked with pain and closed his eyes when his sight started to darken.

"Put down your weapons and we won't kill him."

All at once the weapons of the dwarves clashed as they hit the ground. Bilbo sighed and shook his head. Leave it to Dwarves to risk their own lives for a single life.

"Tie them up!" He was unceremoniously tossed to the ground, grunting in pain when he fell directly on his hurt ribs. The Dwarves were lined up and pushed to the ground before being tied around the wrists and the ankles. Once the Orcs had finished, their leader stepped forward and smirked.

That looks familiar.

He had a distinct scar running diagonally across his face, along with many other smaller ones.

"Which one of you dwarf-scum has the Ring?"

Damn. They know about the Ring.
An uneasy silence fell upon the company, none of them sure exactly what to do.

"Shum pus" And in one swift motion he kicked Bilbo in the face, a disconcerting crack echoing through the clearing. He tasted the metallic flavor of blood and winced when pain pierced his nose.

"Bilbo!"

"You bastards!"

"You'll pay for this!"

He was hit with another kick, this time to his already wounded ribs. This time he screamed from the overwhelming pain, drowning out the sound of the company's distressed calls. He was sure he was about to pass out when suddenly the beating stopped.

"Now one of you tell me who has the Ring." When he got only silence as an answer, he raised his foot to kick Bilbo again, but pulled back when a frightened voice spoke up.

"Wait!"

Kíli, no.

"Kíli, don't! Don't say anything, no matter-" Bilbo screamed again as the Orc drove his heel into his (most likely broken) ribs. "-what happens. Don't say anything."

"Shut. Up." The orc covered Bilbo's mouth with his abhorrent hand, silencing him.

"Now, tell me dwarf, and I'll let your friend g-" Bilbo lifted his head and bit down as hard as he could, which apparently worked, because his mouth filled with foul-tasting blood.

The Orc howled and staggered away from Bilbo, who took his chance and crawled over to the Durin boys.

"Do not tell them anything." He tucked the Ring into Fíli's boot, the Orcs too busy tending to their leader to notice Bilbo. "If I die, you must finish the quest yourselves. Fíli, look after your brother and uncle. And Kíli, don't be reckless." He turned to the rest of the company and smiled as best he could.

"It has been an honor to fight along side you all." He turned to Fíli and Kíli and hugged them quickly.

"Tell Thorin I-"

Bilbo was plucked from them and tossed to the side by the leader, who looked murderous. The Orc held up his hand - well, what was left of it - in front of Bilbo's face.

"Zanbaur!" He picked Bilbo up and held him in front of the company, three feet above the ground.

"This is what happens to those who dare to oppose me!" Bilbo looked down at the company and smiled a crooked smile, doing his best to comfort them even then.

He felt a cold discomfort in his left shoulder, and looked down to see a blade sticking out of his front. A searing pain followed, burning his nerves and darkening his vision.

"BILBO!"

"Thorin?" He said, voice barely above a whisper. He looked up to see Thorin frozen in place, shock clear in his eyes. In less than a second it changed to sadness and then to anger.

The sword left his shoulder in one movement, pulling at his muscles. He was dropped roughly to the ground, landing in front of Fíli and Kíli. He barely registered the sound of swords clashing and of arrows flying, too busy focusing on the pain (or really, trying not to focus on the pain).

His head fell to the side, watching as his friends - as his family - fought off the Orcs.

Are those - are those horses? And Men?

A hand lifted his head up and Bilbo's eyes were met with Thorin's blue eyes.

"No no, stay with me Bilbo."

"Thorin." Large fingers laced together with his own, while Thorin's other hand still held up his head. "It- it hurts." His voice cracked, cracking Thorin's heart along with it.

"I know, Bilbo. I'm so, so sorry. This is all my fault." Tears brimmed Thorin's eyes and Bilbo used up what energy he had left to wipe his eyes and run his fingers through his hair.

"No it's not. It's my fault for running off. I was just- just acting stupid."

"No no, I am the one at fault. Don't try to argue with me, you already know of the stubbornness of Dwarves." Bilbo laughed and then winced when it sent pain through his ribs and shoulder.

"What hap-happened? To the Orcs?"

"It is fine, Bilbo. The Men of Rohan found us and helped to kill them, some of them got away, including their leader. That filth will not live long, not when I can do something about it."

"Thorin, no. Whatever you are thinking, no. You're as bad as your nephews." As if on cue, Fíli and Kíli crouched down next to Bilbo, looking heartbroken.

"Bilbo, you can't leave us! Please don't go, please don't leave." Kíli latched onto Bilbo, very nearly damaging his ribs.

"Kíli's right, who else will help us pull off our pranks?"

"And help us get scones off the top shelf?"

"And pinch our ears?"

"And forgive us easily?"

"And mother us?"

"And be our Uncle Bilbo?"

"And-" The last thing he saw was Thorin's smile.

What a lovely last sight.

 

"Tell us this idea of yours, She-Elf." Thorin scowled, not trusting an Elf to come up with a sufficient plan.

"This campsite is obviously a trap, there are most likely Orc scouts lining the trees. One of us should go out into the clearing and bait the Orcs, so they come out of their hiding spots. Then the rest can swoop in and kill the Orcs, but we take two as our prisoners. That way we can initiate a trade, theirs for ours."

The other three stood for a moment, processing the suggested plan.

"That could- that could actually work." Thorin said, a little surprised by the Elf's quick thinking.

"The only problem is that one person would look suspicious, so we should send two." Dwalin said, also surprised by the well thought out plan.

"I'll go."

"Tauriel, no. An elf would look even more suspicious." Legolas shook his head. "We send them."

"How do we not know that you two will leave us?"

"I am fond of Mr. Baggins. I would not jeopardize the plan, or his life." Tauriel said truthfully.

"Fine. Dwalin and I will be the bait. We'll give you a signal when we're ready."

With a final nod, Thorin stepped out into the clearing, followed by Dwalin. It took no more than 10 seconds for the Orcs to surround the two dwarves. They waited until all of them came out before whistling to Legolas and Tauriel, who leapt out of the forest and swiftly killed the Orcs.

Thorin and Dwalin merely watched as the Elves made quick work of the filth, not needing to help the skilled hunters. Once they finished, killing all but two of them, they bound the hands of the prisoners.

"You will take us to our friends." Thorin commanded, holding his sword to the Orc's chest.

"We won't take you anywhe-" An arrow flew straight through the Orc's neck, ending his sentence with a choked noise. Thorin whipped around to yell at one of the Elves, but found it was not they who shot the arrow.

Another arrow whizzed past Thorin's head, hitting the remaining Orc between the eyes.

Horses flooded into the campsite, mounted by Men who bore the horse of Rohan emblem, and with them came Gandalf the Grey, who looked quite pleased with himself.

"Never in my life have I come across an alliance between Dwarves, Elves, and a Wizard. Your Wizard friend here spoke very little of your quest, only that your friends were in peril. Tell me, what would this strange group be doing in these parts?" Their leader, a man with long brown hair and a short beard dismounted and stepped forward.

"What would the Men of Rohan be doing this far North?" Thorin crossed his arms and looked intimidating, despite his height.

"Touché. I am Thengel, son of Fengel, from the House of Eorl." He bowed politely and smiled a charming smile. "And who might you be?"

"I am Thorin, son of Thrain. This is Dwalin, son of Fundin, and these are Elves from the Kingdom of Mirkwood, Tauriel and Legolas." The four hunters bowed to the Man, still unsure of his character.

"It is a pleasure to meet all of you, but I must ask of your purpose."

"Forgive me, but do you have authority over these lands? Are you not supposed to be in Rohan?" Thorin asked incredulously.

"Our ancestors once lived Gladden Fields, not far south from here. We sometimes scout the area, ridding the evil from our ancestor's lands. We have not come across Orcs in these lands for some time, so for some reason I think you might have something to do with it. Care to share?"

"Our quest is a noble one, and that is all I shall say on the matter. Now if you don't mind, we are under time restraint. Our friends have been captured, and we had planned to use the two Orcs as a bargain, but it seems that is out of the question." Thorin said, kicking one of the dead Orcs to emphasize his words.

"I apologize, but the Orcs do not care for the lives of a few of their own. They would have sooner killed the hostages than let your friends go. I would not leave those foul things in these lands, so I will help you, but that is all I will do." Thengel said, mounting his horse and motioning for them to lead on.

"We do not know where they have taken them." Thorin said with disappointment clear in his voice.

"If I'm not mistaken, Elves are known to be excellent trackers." Thengel gestured to the two Elves as he spoke. Legolas nodded and crouched down, searching the ground for a trail.

He stopped, seeing something the others could not. He picked up a small piece of cloth and held it up for them to see.

"It seems one of the company has left a trail for us to follow."

"Then let's move, we have no time to spare."

They sped through the forest, trying to keep up with the quick pace Legolas had set.

"There. Just through the forest. Do you s-" He stopped abruptly, eyes widening in sincere shock.

"Legolas, what is it? What do you see?"

"The Halfling."

Thorin's heart sunk. He didn't hear anything after that, only the blood in his ears and his breath quickening as he ran through the forest to the clearing.

Bilbo.

His breathing stopped all together at the sight of a blade protruding from Bilbo's shoulder.

He might've screamed but he couldn't hear anything.

He didn't hear the Orcs approaching. He didn't hear his nephews' calls. He didn't hear Dwalin's shouting. The only thing he heard was his name on Bilbo's lips, merely above a whisper.

And it broke his heart.

Hot anger flowed through his veins, boiling below the surface as he pulled out his sword. Tears obstructed his vision, but it didn't matter anymore. He could've killed all of those Orcs blind but the cowards fled before he could do any real damage.

And boy, did he want to do damage.

He raced over to Bilbo's beaten body and nearly lost it at the sight. He kneeled down and lifted Bilbo's head as gently as he could manage. Thorin heard himself saying things, and he could only hope they were comforting.

The only thing he could focus on was Bilbo's labored breathing and his sad eyes looking into his own, not even noticing Fíli and Kíli's arrival.

Bilbo looked into his eyes, and Thorin smiled in a last attempt to comfort him, and Bilbo smiled back before closing his eyes.

"BILBO! No, no no no no, please don't go. Please don't die." He clutched Bilbo in his arms, resting his chin in his golden hair. He rocked back and forth, not caring that his companions were witnessing his hysterical cries.

"No, no please. Mahal, please." He stood up and carried him in his arms like a baby, to Gandalf who was also crying.

"Gandalf, please. Do something. Bring him back. You brought me back. Please. Please, Gandalf! BRING HIM BACK YOU BASTARD!" He grew more hysterical as he went on, his voice a horrible choking noise. He turned to the Elves when Gandalf did nothing.

"You! Elves! Elves are healers, right? Fix him. Fix him." Thorin held Bilbo up to Tauriel, who was tearing up herself.

"This is beyond my powers, but I will try." Thorin nodded frantically and set Bilbo in the grass in front of Tauriel, who summoned Legolas to help her.

"Bilbo, lasto beth nîn, tolo dan nan galad." Legolas handed her a strange plant, which she ground up and rubbed into Bilbo's wound. She put her hand on Bilbo's head and closed her eyes, deep in concentration.

Bilbo. He couldn't die.

After what seemed like an age, the two Elves stopped chanting and looked at each other knowingly.

"He's alive, but just barely. We need to get him to Lady Galadriel as soon as possible, hopefully she will heal him more than I could. I will take him."

"I can spare you a horse, my lady. We can take the Dwarves to Lórien, but it will take us a while to reach you."

Tauriel nodded and settled Bilbo into the horse saddle, jumping up shortly after.

"Wait! I will go with you." Thorin said, approaching the horse.

"I will go faster alone, Master Oakenshield. I promise you, I will get him there as fast as I can." Without another word, she dashed into the forest and out of site.

"At that pace, she will probably reach Lórien within the next two days. I have called to Galadriel and she will be expecting their arrival." Gandalf walked to Thengel and lowered his voice.

"Are you sure this is not too much a burden for you to take us that far south?"

"Not at all, we were heading back to Rohan soon anyways, so this will just take us there quicker. Though, when we reach Rohan, I will have to inform my father of all this, and I cannot promise you that he will not send us back to stop you. My father and I... we tend to disagree, which is one reason I am here and not ruling the kingdom with him." Thengel mounted his horse once again and signaled something to his other men.

"I will be expecting an explanation once we reach Lórien, Wizard. You can have your own horse, but the other Dwarves will have to ride with my men, some of them might need to double up as well." Gandalf nodded and motioned for the company to join the Men on the horses, who hesitantly complied.

"The Elf can also have a horse, but he will need to be accompanied."

"Move quickly, we do not have time to spare." Thorin ordered his companions. He mounted Legolas' horse behind him, still not trusting him alone with his family.

"Do not fret, Master Oakenshield. Love defeats evil, no matter the circumstances, and love shall protect him on this journey."

Chapter Text

"You let them go?" Azog circled Bolg, lifting his sword to his neck.

"They fled like cowards. The halfling will not survive the night, and without him they will be broken."

"It was you who fled, you fool! You are a coward and a disappointment of an offspring." He lowered his sword slightly, still pointing it towards Bolg.

"We make for Isengard, Saruman will not be pleased with your mistakes, and if he is to kill you, I would not shed a single tear in your name." Azog mounted his Warg and left Bolg alone, who quickly hopped on his own Warg and followed.

They rode into the night, only stopping the next day when they reached Isengard.

The two Orcs dismounted their Wargs at the edge of the Ring of Isengard, and began treading through the stronghold, passing Saruman's bred warriors.

Saruman's once green lands had been tortured, manipulated into a dark and evil land. Where trees had once rooted, now great fires and forges were, deep in the Earth. Green turned to black, and good to evil.

Saruman's mind had always been corrupted, in his heart he always had a great desire to possess the Ring, and his green lands had disguised that before. Now, there was no disguise, and Saruman's lands now reflected his heart.

Once the White Wizard had learned of Bilbo Baggins and the Company of Thorin Oakenshield, he knew it was time to show his true colors. The Halfling was bound to fail, and when the Ring came into Sauron's possession, he would be on the winning side.

It was a gamble, to put all your allegiance with one side, but Sauron would not be kind with those playing both sides. Once he got the Ring from the Halfling, Sauron would see that he only served Him.

Azog and Bolg reached the tower, a magnificent tower of great height, ascending to just over 500 feet tall. When they entered the citadel, Saruman was sitting at his desk, hunched over his abundance of books.

"Tell me, did you bring the company and the Ring to me?" Saruman spoke without turning to them, reading from an ancient book with faded words.

"I'm afraid not, master. None of them confessed to carrying it, but I did fatally wound the Halfling. Without him, the Dwarf Oakenshield will not continue. I saw it in his eyes."

"Fool of an Orc! Your foolishness will be the demise of us all! The company of Bilbo Baggins now know we have knowledge of their quest, and they will make haste to Mount Doom!" He shouted at Bolg, shutting his book harshly and standing up.

"The Halfling is the one who carries it, you imbecile! Did you not hear me before? I told you to bring them to me, and you have failed me, and for that I will not kill you, but I will relieve you of your duties to me. Get out of my sight!" Bolg bowed his head and left quickly, pushing the Orcs out of the way as he went.

"Azog, you will not fail me as that oaf has. Ride to Dol Guldur and inform the Necromancer of the new knowledge, tell him the Halfling carries it. The Halfling will not perish, the She-Elf rides with him to Lady Galadriel, and there he will be healed."

"Why not ride to Lórien and take the Ring from them there?"

"Galadriel is powerful beyond compare, you would not dare to take her on alone. Instead ride to Dol Guldur, and do not disobey my orders."

"Yes, master." Azog left, and Saruman watched him leave before returning to his books.

"So, Gandalf, you would put the fate of Middle Earth into the hands of a mere Halfling. But what happens when he dies? What then? Who will you put your trust into if not a Hobbit-fool? Surely not Thorin Oakenshield. The Dwarf will die, along with his bloodline, as he is too blindsighted by his love for the Halfling. Do you truly believe this quest will succeed? I never took you for a fool, Gandalf, but perhaps the pipe-weed has finally gone to your brain. Middle Earth will fall, and I will not be on the losing side in the end."

Chapter Text

"We are nearly there Thorin." Legolas stated from in front of Thorin.

"If you insist on continuing to push the horse to this absurd pace, then we should stop and let him rest for a bit." Thorin tucked his thumbs tighter into Legolas' belt and grunted his disapproval.

"No. We need to arrive at Lórien as soon possible. Tauriel and Bilbo could already be there."

"Let's hope they are!" Legolas glanced behind him quickly before continuing. "I am not as cold-hearted as you presume me to be, Thorin. The Halfling-"

"His name is Bilbo."

"Bilbo has a good heart, and to lose him would be a terrible loss indeed. You must put your trust with Galadriel, she is all-powerful and will be more than capable to heal the Hal- to heal Bilbo." Legolas said, and Thorin could only hope that he was right.

"I have never met Galadriel before, but I have heard stories of Dwarves falling under her spell once they gaze upon her beauty." Thorin said truthfully.

"Among the Elves there are songs of her fairness, and of her golden hair, outshining even the most radiant of stars. Her elegance is unmatched, untouched by any other. She has a fair heart as well, her generosity and nobility touches the hearts of all she meets, for she is compassionate to all with a good heart. I myself have longed to gaze upon her beauty, and witness her golden hair flowing in the wind, as do all Elves." Legolas finished with a gaze into the distance. Thorin snorted.

"Okay loverboy, focus on the path."

"I think loverboy would be a more appropriate name for you." Legolas smirked back at Thorin knowingly.

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"I've seen the way you look at Bilbo." Thorin spluttered and fumbled for words, knowing he'd been caught. He wasn't that obvious.

Was he?

"Don't even try to deny it. I am very observant Master Oakenshield, and I have identified that look of yours as one of longing. I'm quite certain your entire company knows as well." Thorin was going to argue, but he found he could not find words that would not expose him further.

"Shut up and focus on getting us to Lórien."

"As you wish, loverboy."

Thorin pinched his side, but Legolas simply laughed. They rode on in silence for a while longer, the constant sound of horse hooves permeating the air. Thorin let his mind wander, his thoughts full of worry for Bilbo. What would happen if he-

No.

However many times he tried to force the grimm thoughts from his head, they still came back to haunt him. He almost didn't notice the absentminded statement repeating in his mind like a prayer.

Please be okay. Please be okay. Please be okay.

He was so caught up in his own head that he was startled when Legolas spoke once more.

"Do you hear it? Long have I yearned to hear once again the leaves of Lóthlorien rustling in the wind." Legolas said wistfully.

"Does that mean we're here?"

"We approach the Golden Wood, so we shall walk from here." Legolas hopped off swiftly, and turned to Thorin with a smirk.

"Would you like some help dismounting, Master Dwarf?"

"I'm fine on my own, thank you very much." Thorin tried hopping off as the Elf had, but soon found his legs to be too short. He held out his arms to Legolas and scowled.

"You will speak of this to no one."

"Not a word." He laughed and picked Thorin up, promptly setting him down as if he weighed nothing.

"Let's move." Thorin started running but Legolas laid a hand on his shoulder, halting his movements.

"I would not go through the woods of Lothlórien so hastily, Thorin." He inclined his head to the trees, indicating the Elves with bow and arrows aiming at them from above. Legolas waved to the Elves, smiling a friendly smile.

"I am Legolas, son of Thranduil, and I come with Thorin, son of Thràin. We do not mean harm, our intentions are one of friendliness! We are friends of Bilbo Baggins, and have come to see him healed. Surely Lady Galadriel has warned you of our arrival!"

A blond Elf leapt from his tree, snapping the twigs below his feet.

"Galadriel did inform us, but we wanted to be safe nonetheless. I myself would not have a Dwarf cross these lands, but if the Lady wishes it, then it must be wise. I am Haldir, one of the few Westron-speaking Elves of Lórien, so I will be taking you to see Galadriel."

"Govannas vîn gwennen le, Haldir o Lórien." Legolas said amiably. Haldir nodded with a smile, and took them through the forest and into Lórien.

"Would you mind telling us when our friends before us arrived?" Legolas asked politely.

"They arrived not long before you, Galadriel and Elrond are just about to begin the healing process."

"Elrond? What would the Lord of Rivendell be doing here?" Legolas said with a furrowed brow. Haldir led them into a room where Galadriel and Elrond were towering over Bilbo's unconscious body.

"I am here because Lady Galadriel called for my aid." Elrond entered the conversation smoothly. "I also am fond of Mr. Baggins, I would not refuse aid to a friend."

"Fate is with Mr. Baggins this night, to have two of the most talented healers of our time." Legolas put his hand to his heart and extended it to them both, and they returned the gesture.

"I shall await your friends' arrival, Legolas son of Thranduil." Haldir bowed and left the room before Legolas could thank him.

"We must take him to the healing room, Elrond would you carry him?" Galadriel asked, tucking Bilbo's stray hairs behind his pointed ear. Elrond nodded and scooped Bilbo up, careful not to jostle him much.

"Wait!" Thorin called after them, pushing past Legolas who tried to stop him. "Let me go with him."

"I would not deem that wise, Master Oakenshield. You would get in the way." Elrond shook his head and began walking away.

"Please! Please, I need to be with him."

"Let him come, Elrond." Galadriel said gently.

"Okay, let's hurry now, I can feel him fading." Elrond said with his hand on Bilbo's forehead.

They rushed into the healing room, while Legolas stayed right outside the door. The two healers spoke rapidly in Elvish, ordering the helpers to bring them their materials.

"Bilbo Baggins, tolo dan nan galad." Galadriel laid her pale hand on Bilbo's head, whispering things only Bilbo could hear. She then leaned down and kissed Bilbo on the forehead.

"Stay strong, Bilbo of the Shire, this is going to hurt."

Galadriel laid her hand atop Bilbo's shoulder wound, and began chanting words in her own language. The wound began to glow, radiating a soft white light from inside him.

That's when Bilbo started to scream.

His high-pitched scream echoed through the room, and throughout the woods of Lórien. Thorin pushed past the helpers, but was stopped by Elrond.

"No. You cannot interrupt her."

"He's in pain!" He tried to reached for Bilbo but Elrond pushed him back further.

"THORIN!" Bilbo yelled at the top of his lungs, looking small and helpless on the healing bed.

"Bilbo!" Thorin struggled within Elrond's grip, but the Elf's hold was unyielding. "Bilbo! I'm here! I'm here! Let me through!"

"Legolas! Tula sinome!" Legolas bolted into the room and grabbed Thorin around the waist and lifted him up with ease, carrying him out with minimal difficulty.

"Let me go! Let me go you bastard! Ag zasasmaki rathkh-hund!"

"This is for your own good, Thorin. I'm sorry." Legolas dragged him all the way out of the room before shutting the door. They heard the door lock behind them, but Thorin still tried opening it anyways.

"Let me in!" He yelled, punctuating each word with a pound on the door. Another scream spread throughout Lórien, permanently engraved in Thorin's mind. "Let me in you Elf-bastards!"

"THORIN!" Bilbo howled, followed by quieter sobs.

"Bilbo! Listen to me, it's okay, I'm here! You're okay." Bilbo quieted after that, his cries nearly silent.

Thorin slid down the door and sat down against it, pounding the back of his head on the wall.

"You're okay. Please be okay."

Legolas sat down beside him and rested his hand on his shoulder.

"He will be okay, Thorin. He has a strong heart, one of the strongest I have seen." Legolas spoke softly. "Before, I was unsure of your character, and that of your company's. I have seen now your true hearts, exposed from pain, and in them I have seen love. It is a fierce love you all possess, one that I have not seen in all my countless years. My father spoke as though Dwarves were heartless, terrible beings who've never known love. But I disagree with my father on many things, and now I know that is one thing I do not concur with. I am sorry."

"What's this? An Elf apologizing? Now that is something I haven't seen in my years." Surprisingly, Legolas smiled.

"I would scorn you for generalizing our race, but we have done the same to you." Thorin would have laughed, but he found his heart could not manage it, so instead he smiled.

"Have I wandered into a dream?" Tauriel rounded the corner and froze at the sight of Legolas and Thorin side by side. "Never in my life did I expect to see such a sight as this."

"Nor did I." Legolas stood up and gestured to Tauriel.

"Let us leave Thorin to himself. He's got a lot to think about." Legolas smirked and mouthed the word 'loverboy' before spinning on his heels and following Tauriel out.

That was one of the strangest encounters I have ever had. That doesn't count the time with the-

 

 

Bilbo couldn't remember the last time he had felt this peaceful.

He found himself in a forest, surrounded by trees enveloped with glowing autumn leaves. Bilbo stood up and stretched his muscles, loosening his body before walking across the forest floor. The sound of a nearby creek filled his ears as he walked, relaxing his mind and clearing his thoughts of past pain. The sun felt wondrous on his skin, making him pleasantly warm inside. It felt like he was back in the Shire, no longer filled with worry or pain.

He was at peace.

"Bilbo?" He spun around and saw Thorin's figure shining with golden sunlight, his smile however outshined the sun.

"Thorin." He laughed and jumped into his arms, feeling Thorin's own laughter resonating in his chest. "What are you doing here?"

"I've come to be with you." Then Thorin pulled away with a smile and stepped to the side, revealing 12 other dwarves. "So have they."

Bilbo smiled and was about to greet the other dwarves when he was knocked to the ground by two very enthusiastic boys.

"Mr. Baggins!"

"We thought we'd never see you again!" Fíli and Kíli nuzzled their heads into Bilbo's golden hair, nearly squishing him. Thorin pulled the boys off of Bilbo and picked him up off the ground with a laugh.

"Care to join me for a walk?" Thorin outstretched his hand to Bilbo, who took it eagerly.

"Hey! Don't hog the Hobbit to yourself!" Bofur shouted as they began to walk away.

"Get your own!" Thorin yelled back with an amused smile.

They walked for a while in a comfortable silence, not needing to say anything to know what the other was thinking. Eventually they sat down at the edge of the creek, sitting atop a flat rock near the water.

Bilbo buried his head in the crook of Thorin's neck, inhaling the scent that was Thorin. The two sat there for hours and hours, maybe even days, the peaceful noises of the forest like a constant song.

"Thorin, am I dead?" Bilbo asked, still not sure if this was just a very good dream or if he was really dead.

"Soon you will be. Who would care anyway? You mean nothing to me."

What?

The songs stopped.

No longer did the birds chirp, the leaves bristle, the wind blow, nor even the water flow.

The air was now an uncomfortable silence, fragile as though it would break at any moment. His ears started to ring, piercing his ears and aching his head.

He looked up to Thorin and found him staring ahead motionlessly, not moving when Bilbo waved a hand in front of his glassy eyes.

"Thorin?" Thorin's head snapped to face him, startling Bilbo so much he fell off the rock.

A fair voice filled the air around him, its volume raising above the ringing in his ears.

"Bilbo Baggins, come back to the light. Hear my voice, follow me back into the world. Do not be afraid, I am here to help you, my name is Galadriel and I am going to heal you. Stay strong Bilbo of the Shire, this is going to hurt."

A light shone through his clothing above his shoulder, and a fierce cold iced his blood and shook his whole body from head to toe. The cold was soon replaced by a sweltering heat, hot enough to boil the water next to him. A pain, greater than he'd ever felt before, started to blossom in his shoulder, spread to his ribs and head.

Thorin stalked over to where Bilbo was sitting on the ground, towering over him.

"You should have never left the Shire, you miserable rat!" Thorin spat, kneeling in front of Bilbo and wrapping his callused hands around Bilbo's neck. "You are worthless! You mean nothing to me! I have never loved you, and I never will!"

"THORIN!" He choked out a scream as he struggled within the tight grip constricting his airway.

A different voice seeped through the air, this one a deep tone, but far more frantic than the calm woman's.

"Bilbo!"

Thorin.

"Bilbo! I'm here! I'm here!" Thorin - no - the stranger lifted him off the rocks and into the air, leaving his feet dangling far from the ground.

Bilbo, now assured that this was not Thorin, bit down on the fake Thorin's hands as hard as he could. He was released instantly, and fell down onto the rocks roughly. He gasped for breath and massaged the bruise already forming around his neck.

Bilbo turned his head to see that it was no longer 'Thorin' but a dark shape growing larger in height. The forest around him disappeared, replaced by dark land and painful heat.

Mordor.

Which means...

The figure finished its transformation, and laughed a deep frightening laugh. A fire lit around Sauron, burning bright yellow and blood red.

"You will all burn!"

He covered his ears and dug his fingernails into the skin around them as hard as he could to block out the sound. He soon felt blood trickle into his eardrum from the gashes he was creating around his ears.

He screamed at the top of his lungs, trying to block out the sound of Sauron's sinister voice repeating foul words in his head.

"You will burn! Oakenshield will burn! All of Middle Earth will fall to my power, and it will be all your fault! Burn!"

"Oakenshield does not love you! None of them do! They think you worthless, and when you die they will not mourn!"

His lungs felt constricted, like they were shrinking and refusing to expand so he could breathe. Bilbo cried out, and Sauron laughed a bloodcurdling laugh, sending his hair standing on edge. The terrible noise echoed through his head, increasing in volume and echo.

It felt like he was there on his knees for days, the words of Sauron an eternal loop, doomed to continue forever.

A soothing voice rose above Sauron's, gentler but somehow louder.

"Bilbo. Listen to me, it's okay, I'm here. You're okay." He breathed in and out, counting to ten as he did so. Bilbo released his tight grip on his ears and looked around to find Sauron gone, replaced by darkness.

He was left in the dark, cowering in unbearable pain for what seemed like an eternity, until a white light blossomed around him.

A glowing figure stepped into his sight, filling the dark with a soft white radiance.

"Bilbo Baggins, you are one of the strongest souls I have ever had the pleasure to meet. I must ask you to use your strength once more. I am here to take you back." She extended her pale hand to Bilbo and smiled.

"Take me back where?"

"Back into the world."

He clasped her hand and screamed once more when another wave of pain hit his shoulder. Suddenly he was in a bright room, no longer in the darkness.

He raised his hand to cover his eyes and pulled back in shock when he saw blood coating his fingers.

"What? Where am I?" Bilbo said, his own voice muffled to his ears.

"You are in Lothlórien, Master Baggins. It is good to see you again, my friend." Elrond said with a smile.

"Elrond!" He coughed when the voice came out hoarse and scratched his throat. He went into a coughing fit, the sudden movements shaking his injured ribs. A brown-haired Elf lifted a glass of water, which he gulped down in two drinks. He found it easier to speak now with the liquid nursing his dry throat.

"What are you doing here? What happened? Where are my friends? How long was I out? Wha-" Elrond held up a hand to stop any further questions.

"One question at a time, Bilbo. And unfortunately they will all have to wait, as we still have healing work to do." Bilbo nodded and winced when his head throbbed from the movement.

Elrond stepped forward and sat down on a chair next to the healing bed, ordering his helpers in Elvish to bring him specific supplies.

"Can you at least tell me if my friends are okay?"

"I can tell you of the two Elves and Thorin Oakenshield, but the others I am not sure of, as they have not arrived yet. Galadriel is talking to Thorin now, and she shall answer all your questions once I am finished. Now relax, I need to clean your head wounds. It seems that you have done quite the damage to yourself." He gestured to Bilbo's bloody hand and suddenly Bilbo remembered clutching his pointed ears for dear life, and that explained all the blood leaking into them.

"We tried to pry your hands away from them, but you would not budge until Master Oakenshield yelled to you from outside the door. It seems you two have grown closer since last we met."

Bilbo, despite himself, blushed.

Thankfully Elrond moved on quickly.

"You are very lucky these head wounds do not need stitches. Galadriel was able to heal your broken ribs and your shoulder injury, but they will still need to be nursed as you continue to heal." He taped up the last of Bilbo's bandages and commanded one of the Elves to get Galadriel.

Galadriel entered the room elegantly, her white dress flowing like hair behind her.

"I request a moment alone with Master Baggins." Her voice sounded like silk on the air, her tone commanding in a gentle way. The Elves bowed and left swiftly, the last of them Elrond who smiled once to Bilbo before exiting.

"Hello, Bilbo. I am Galadriel, Lady of Lórien." She bowed her head to Bilbo, who did his best to return the gesture from the awkward position his head was in. Galadriel sat down in the bedside chair, waving Bilbo off when he tried to sit up.

"No need to strain yourself, Bilbo. I am merely here to talk and answer your questions."

"Thank you, My Lady, for I have many questions. How did I get here?"

"Gandalf called to me and informed me of the situation, so I called for Elrond's aid. Tauriel rode with you to Lórien, followed by Prince Legolas and Thorin. Your other friends are currently on their way, and I can feel them approaching quickly."

"Right. When I was out, what was that? Was I dead? It seemed too good to be true, too peaceful, and then Sauron..."

"You weren't dead, though you were very close to it. Sometimes when people are pulled from the brink of death, things can get... complicated. Some people see evil, some people see good, some people see nothing. This rare occasion has not happened enough times to truly answer all our questions, but you are back, and that is all that matters. You are very strong, Master Baggins, to have endured such pain and suffering, yet still be alive." Bilbo smiled and felt himself growing more and more comfortable with the company of Galadriel.

"When I saw you - when I was... nearly dead - I thought you were an angel coming to take me to the lands beyond Middle Earth." Galadriel laughed, a beautiful sound that reminded Bilbo of wind chimes tinkling in the breeze.

"I am flattered, Mr. Baggins. You have a kind soul, and I hate to see such a pure being having to go through so much pain. Your friends are lucky to know you, and even luckier to have your love."

"Now you flatter me." Bilbo smiled and memorized the sound of Galadriel's laugh, for he knew such a lovely noise was meant to be cherished. And he knew he was a special person indeed, to hear the laugh of the Lady of Light.

"May I see Thorin now?" Bilbo asked politely.

"I would not thwart such a love, mellon nîn." She stood up and walked to the door, her dress trailing behind her gracefully. "I doubt I would be able to stop you anyways, as he is listening through the door right now." She pulled open the door and Thorin stumbled forward, quickly recovering and trying to look nonchalant.

"Right, I was just - just you know... Yeah." Thorin babbled, his face slowly gaining color with embarrassment. Galadriel smiled before turning back to Bilbo.

"Try not to strain yourself too much, Mr. Baggins." She winked at him and left the room swiftly, leaving the two fumbling for words.

When they did finally speak, they spoke at the same time.

"I-"

"You-"

"You go ahea-"

"You can go-"

They paused for an awkward moment, and then Thorin crossed the room and tucked Bilbo into an embrace.

Bilbo let out a breath he didn't know he was holding in, and buried his head into Thorin's neck. They stayed there for a long while, too caught up in each other to notice the time passing. Bilbo thought he'd imagined it, but soon felt another tear fall onto his hair.

"Thorin? Thorin are you - are you crying?" Thorin pulled away and looked down, looking ashamed. "Thorin, what's wrong?"

"This is all my fault." Bilbo tried to interrupt him but Thorin shushed him. "No, it is. And then I thought you had died, and it was because of me. I didn't know - when we were riding to Lórien - I didn't know if you'd died without me being there. I didn't - I couldn't know. And then when they started to heal you, you screamed and screamed, calling for me, and I couldn't do anything. They had to drag me away and I was helpless again. While I was sitting against the door I planned out everything I would say to you, every apology to the word, but now that I'm here with you, I can't find the strength to speak all the things I want to say." Bilbo shook his head and wiped away Thorin's tears, lifting his head to look Bilbo in the eyes.

"You don't have to say anything. This is not your fault, Thorin, and there is no need for apologizing. Now, stop talking and hug me again." Thorin laughed a watery laugh that made Bilbo's heart expand in his chest. Thorin sniffled and embraced him again, still being cautious with Bilbo's wounds.

"Please don't do that again." Bilbo barely heard it, a soft whisper into Bilbo's hair.

"I promise." After a while Thorin pulled away hesitantly, sliding his hands down Bilbo's arms as he did so.

"I should probably leave you to rest." Thorin turned, but was caught off guard when a small hand gripped around his wrist.

"Wait. Please, stay. I don't want to be alone." Bilbo found himself frightened at the thought of being by himself, the clear sound of Sauron's voice still engraved in his mind.

"Of course." Thorin sat down and squeezed Bilbo's hand reassuringly, telling him he would not leave. Bilbo relaxed once again, and fell asleep to Thorin humming a soothing tune.

 

 

"-see him!"

"We're his friends!"

"If you don't let us in we'll rip your arms off and go in ourselves."

"Dwalin!"

He was woken up to the sounds of muffled shouting outside the door, and looked over to see Thorin waking up to the noise as well.

"Mmph." Bilbo tried to stretch but found his hand still intertwined with Thorin's. He was about to let go of his hand when the door busted open, revealing Dori who had kicked it in.

"Bilbo!" Fíli and Kíli ran into the room and jumped on the bed, tackling Bilbo. It jostled his wounds, but he was too happy to notice it.

"Alright boys, that's enough." Thorin said as he pulled Fíli and Kíli off of Bilbo.

"Yeah! It's our turn now!" Bofur said with a laugh, and helped Bilbo to his feet so he could hug him properly.

"It's good to see you again, Bilbo."

"You too, Bofur." Bofur smiled and handed him to the next dwarf, and he got enthusiastic hugs from everyone (especially Dori who burst into tears and clung to him so long he had to be pried off by Nori and Ori), but the next person was Dwalin, who crossed his arms in defense.

Bilbo wrapped his arms around Dwalin's neck anyway, and was about to pull away when Dwalin started hugging him back.

"It's good to see you better, Bilbo. For a second I thought you'd actually left us."

"None of that, I'm here now. Besides, I wouldn't leave you all to deal with Thorin alone." The company, including Thorin, laughed heartily, and the air around them lightened considerably.

"You have not lost your jest, Master Baggins." Balin hugged him gently, much gentler than the other members. Once he finished hugging and greeting everybody, he found himself weary and had to lean on Thorin to keep himself from falling over.

"Bilbo? Are you alright?" Dori asked, already rushing to his side and checking Bilbo's forehead, as if he was a child with a cold.

"I'm alright, Dori, I think I just need to sit down." Bilbo sat down on the edge of the healing bed and closed his eyes, trying to stop his head from spinning. He counted to 10 twice, and his head eventually stopped swimming. He opened his eyes to find 13 dwarves watching him expectantly.

"Are you alright? Do you need to lay down? Do you-"

"I'm fine! Honestly, you'd think I was a child with the way you mother me, Dori."

"You get used to it after a while." Ori said with a half-smile.

"So what happened? How badly are you hurt?" Kíli asked with a hand on Bilbo's good shoulder.

"I'm fine, it's nothing. Just a few scratches." Bilbo shrugged, trying to look casual.

"There's no fooling us, Bilbo! Give it to us straight." Óin said, voice much louder than normal level.

"Alright fine. Well Elrond says that before Lórien, I had a few broken ribs and, of course, a stab wound. But then when we got here and Galadriel started healing me, I kind of... Had an episode." He gestured vaguely to the bandages around his head.

"I thought those were new wounds! What happened?"

"Umm... Well I- I was.." Bilbo struggled for words, not knowing if he was ready to tell them just yet.

"You don't have to tell us if you don't want to, Bilbo. It's okay." Kíli patted him softly on the back, and Bilbo smiled at the boy's kindness.

"No, it's alright, I just don't know what to say."

"How about where you went when you- when you left." Ori suggested.

"Okay, yeah that's a good place. Do you all remember the Shire?" The Dwarves nodded eagerly. "Well you saw it during the night of course, so you didn't get to see the true beauty of it. Well when I was... nearly dead, I went into this sort of dreamlike world, and it was in the Shire. And you guys were there, and it was lovely. I thought I was actually dead because it was so peaceful. Well Th- we - were sitting by the water," Bilbo was careful to say 'we' so it wouldn't signal Thorin out. "A stunning place, really. Perhaps if you are ever in the Shire I can show it to you. Anyways, the dream suddenly turned into a nightmare, and I was transported to Mordor." He also left out the unpleasant bits about Thorin almost killing him. "And then he... Sauron appeared. His voice was so... terrifying, and it filled every corner of my head. That's where these came from," He pointed to his head bandages and the company winced. "I clutched my ears so fiercely that I drew blood. There was so much blood." He stared blankly at his hands, still crusted with dry blood.

"Don't worry laddie, head wounds bleed a lot because of all the blood vessels near the surface" Óin said reassuringly, and Bilbo half-smiled at the Dwarf.

"I'm sure Uncle would love to clean your hands up, wouldn't he?" Kíli winked at Bilbo with a smirk that reminded Bilbo much of Fíli. Kíli jumped off the bed and pushed Thorin down next to Bilbo.

"He doesn't have to do that, I can do it myse-"

"Nonsense. You've been through enough, and this is the least I can do." Suddenly members of the company broke into suspicious coughing fits, and all of them not looking at the two.

"I think it is quite time for a song!" Bofur said, pulling out his flute as he spoke. Thorin cleaned Bilbo's hands gently, as if his hands would break at any moment. Once he finished cleaning the blood off, Thorin joined in the songs, so Bilbo was free to watch the Dwarf- the Dwarves - sing.

The Dwarves sang into the night, and Bilbo found it harder and harder to keep his eyes open as the time went on. Thorin noticed and made him lay back, even going as far as to pull the blanket to his chest.

"Sleep well, nûlukhith."

 

 

He woke up to the sound of Dwarves snoring loudly, one of them being less than an inch from his ear. Bilbo turned and was caught in a faceful of Kíli's hair. He looked to his right, expecting to see Fíli's mustache, but instead found the older brother sitting in the bedside chair, wide awake.

"Fíli? What are you doing awake?"

"Hello Bilbo. Thorin insisted on keeping an eye on you to make sure you weren't in pain, but I made him rest because he hasn't slept since the day... The day that happened. I'm not very tired anyways, so I told him I'd watch over everyone."

"That was very kind of you, Fíli." Bilbo sat up so his legs were hanging over the edge, and he could stretch his toes.

"Is it dawn already?" Bilbo said, turning around to tuck Kíli's hair behind his ear and run his fingers through the tangled strands.

"No, yet it approaches." Fíli turned to Bilbo and smiled.

"I used to do the same thing, especially when we were younger. He always manages to get it tangled when he sleeps, and Dís was always a little rough with the brush, so I'd do it myself. I can't imagine what the Elves must go through, all that hair must get knotted."

"That's one of the reasons Hobbits keep their hair so short. Well that, and so it doesn't get in your face when you're gardening."

"Dwarves have the same problem when we're fighting, so we braid our hair out of the way. You should consider growing out your hair, then we could braid it for you. I'm sure Thorin would think you quite dashing with Dwarf braids." Fíli smirked and took a puff from his pipe, looking incredibly pleased with himself.

Bilbo'd get him back for that one. One day.

"Perhaps I will consider it. I think I'll take a walk, you can come if you'd like." Fíli automatically looked to Kíli, probably contemplating whether or not to leave his brother.

"Yeah, alright. I've been sitting in that chair for a while, so I'd like a good stretch." He set his pipe down on the table beside the bed, and followed Bilbo out into Lórien.

"Are you sure you're alright to walk, Bilbo? You seemed pretty wiped out last night." Fíli said once he shut the door.

"I'm fine, Fíli. Dori mothers me enough on his own."

"Well I've had a lot of practice with Kíli, so I'm pretty much obliged now to utilize my skill." Bilbo laughed and winced when it jostled his ribs.

"Oh, don't make me laugh."

"I'll do my best, but no promises." Fíli smiled and gave his arm to Bilbo for him to hold onto as they traveled down the rock stairs, and to the waterfall.

They sat down on the grass and Bilbo exhaled, already worn out from so little exertion.

"Kíli is very fond of you." Fíli said, taking off his boots and sticking his toes in the cold water. "And so am I. Do you remember what you said? When you- when you were-" Fíli's voice very nearly cracked, but Bilbo saved him from continuing.

"Yes. Yes I do remember what I said. I told you to look after your brother and your uncle, and I told Kíli not to be reckless." Bilbo said, remembering the boys' heartbroken looks at his words.

"Yes. Has Thorin told you of Dís? Our mother?" Bilbo nodded quickly so Fíli could continue. "Our mother was very... very upset the day we left for our quest. You should have seen Thorin's face, I have never seen him look so frightened. Anyways, when she was saying her goodbyes to us, she gave each of us a token, so that we'd remember our promise to come back to her. She gave my brother a runestone, and to me she gifted this pendant," He pulled out a chain from around his neck and placed it in Bilbo's palm. The pendant was made of silver, and had runes engraved across both sides. "Innikh dê; return to me. The same runes are engraved on Kíli's stone." Bilbo handed the chain back to Fíli, who put it back on before carrying on talking.

"Do you know what she said to us when she gave these to us? She said, 'Fíli, look after your brother and don't get into trouble. Kíli, don't be reckless.' Then of course she burst into tears and cursed Thorin for taking us with him." He smiled and subconsciously fiddled with his beard, turning to Bilbo and looking him in the eyes sadly.

"When you said those things- when you told us that, you sounded like our mother. You sounded exactly like her. So that's why Kíli and I are so attached to you. Because you're like our mother."

Bilbo was speechless, not exactly knowing how to respond to that.

"Don't be surprised if we start calling you Uncle, but I suppose that is better than Mom." Bilbo laughed again, not caring that it was sending pain through his chest. They sat quietly for a moment, listening to the peaceful harmony of Lórien.

"You remind me of her, you know. Of Dís."

"How so?"

"Strong-willed, quick witted, fiercely protective over her own, a good heart, independent, and above all, not afraid to stand up to Thorin."

"Perhaps we shall get along well, then. I would love to meet her. After we get through all this."

If we get through all this.

"That would be quite the meeting! I'd personally love to introduce you." Fíli said and then looked down to his feet with sorrow. "I'd love to see her again." These words were barely audible, but Bilbo heard it.

"Oh, Fíli." Bilbo pulled him into an embrace, feeling but ignoring the pain in his shoulder.

"That's- that's why we're so attached. It's like having a mother with us, and then we almost lost you. Don't do that again. I'll personally raise you from the dead and kill you again for breaking my uncle's heart." Bilbo chuckled, a little breathlessly.

"I'd understand." They separated after a while, and Fíli started getting up so Bilbo did as well.

"It's nearly dawn. The others will be waking soon, and I'd hate to be at the center of Thorin's wrath if you're gone." Bilbo stood up and brushed himself off, sending bits of grass flying to the ground. "I almost forgot, this is yours." Fíli took out the Ring from his boot and handed it to Bilbo.

"You're not tempted by it?" Bilbo said, a little perplexed by the boy's lack of interest in the Ring.

"The sooner that Ring is destroyed, the safer my brother is."

"You sound like my mothe-" Bilbo collapsed to the grass after he took his first step, feeling his fatigue catching up to him.

"Do you need me to carry you?" Fíli crouched down and lent Bilbo a hand.

"No no, I'm quite alright." He stood up again and took two steps, immediately falling down again.

"Alright, that's it." Fíli said, tucking his arms under Bilbo and picking him up like it was nothing.

"Fíli! Put me down!" He struggled within Fíli's hold, but failed miserably. "I can walk fine by myself!"

"You know you're as stubborn as Thorin sometimes right? This is really nothing, you barely weigh anything. Plus I've had a lot of practice from carrying Kíli around, and sometimes Thorin if he gets too drunk." Fíli said nonchalantly, walking up the rock steps and entering the hallway to the healing room.

"This is hardly necessary, and you know what? I'm telling Thorin."

"Go ahead, he'll probably laugh and tell me good job. He'd do the same as me in this situation and you know it." Fíli smirked and rounded the corner, getting closer to the room.

"In fact I think he'd like to carry you to be-"

"WHERE'S BILBO AND FÍLI?"

"Mahal help us both."

Chapter Text

Gandalf had never liked having dealings with Men. They're much too proud for his liking. But unlike Dwarves, he could find a few rational folk among Men, and it seemed Thengel was one of those few.

"Now Gandalf, you will tell me what it is exactly that you are doing." Thengel was leaning against a tree with a half-eaten apple in his hand. Gandalf summoned his patience.

Haldir had been nice enough to guide them, even though the Dwarves had threatened to kill every last Elf if he didn't take them to Bilbo. As soon as they had breached Lórien, the Dwarves ran off, but Gandalf decided to leave them be. He wanted to see Bilbo too, but he had business to take care of first if they were ever to reach Mordor.

"I assume you have heard the tale of Isildur and the Ring." Gandalf walked passed him, beckoning Thengel to follow. They sat down on the stairs that led up into the trees, and Gandalf sighed at the sound of shouting dwarves.

"Yes I have, though I am not sure why that is relevant." Gandalf pulled out his pipe in preparation for the upcoming conversation.

"It is relevant because we have found the Ring." Thengel spluttered and choked on his apple, coughing like a madman.

"What did you say?"

Gandalf launched into the tale of the abandoned quest for Erebor, and then into Bilbo's discovery. It took him an extensive amount of time to explain everything, even though he shushed all Thengel's interruptions.

"You cannot mean to make it to Mordor! You will be killed the moment you pass into those lands, if not sooner."

"I admire your faith." Gandalf said with a hint of irritation. "If we do not attempt this now, then when? 100 years from now? We cannot postpone the inevitable for much longer, especially when such an opportune moment as this arises! The enemy has not been seen for many long years, and that may not last. With every day we grow closer to Mordor, and every day we grow closer to triumph. And you'd have us turn back?" Gandalf puffed out a large smoke ring that looked more like a square than anything, for he was quite anxious.

"I would have you turn back." He turned to Gandalf and shook his head. "But I won't stop you. My men and I now turn to Rohan, and there I will have to tell my father of this quest. He will decide what to do, not me." Thengel rubbed at his eyes with weariness and sighed. "My father is a good man, but our views are not the same by any means. He will have me come back for you, and bring you back to Rohan. I cannot predict everything he does, but I can say that he will not approve of this."

"I have met Fengel before, when you were much younger, and I can say that everything he does, he does for his people. I would ask that you give us time before telling him, as we need time to heal and to get a headstart."

"I will do my best." Thengel stood up and shook Gandalf's hand. "The Hobbit has my thoughts with him." He whistled to his men, who then stood up and prepared to leave.

"Will you not stay and rest for the night?" Said Gandalf.

"We will rest on the road. My men are eager to return to Rohan, as they all have family awaiting our homecoming. Farewell, Gandalf the Grey. May our next meeting be in a world without evil." Thengel bowed and smiled before turning and leading the Men out of Lórien.

"Let us hope that." Gandalf then turned to Haldir, who had been close by during their conversation.

"Would be so kind as to lead me to the healing rooms?" He asked politely.

"I am afraid I have been ordered to take you elsewhere. The Lady Galadriel requests your company." Haldir turned and started walking, not waiting for Gandalf to respond. Gandalf tsked but followed nonetheless. Haldir led him up the stairs and into the trees, where many Elves were conversing in their own language. Some of them nodded politely to Gandalf, but most of them just sent him curious looks.

"Galadriel and Elrond are just through here."

"Elrond is here?"

"Yes, My Lady Galadriel sent for him once she heard of Bilbo, and he assisted in healing the Halfling." Haldir motioned for Gandalf to go forth, and he did so with little hesitancy. He ascended up the next set of stairs, a little weary of the lack of railing. The last step led to a round platform, which Gandalf proceeded onto happily when he saw his old friends sitting at a table.

"My Lady," He bowed with a smile before turning to Elrond and doing the same. "Lord Elrond. It is always a pleasure."

"Tenna' telwan." Haldir said with a bow, and was gone the next moment.

Elrond gestured for Gandalf to take a seat at the table, where the two Elves were currently sitting.

"Elen sila lumenn omentilmo, Mithrandir." Galadriel's smile was incandescent, brightening the room and lifting Gandalf's spirits.

"We have much to discuss, Gandalf. It seems you have made some improvident decisions." Said Elrond, with a hint of exasperation coloring his voice.

"Yes of course. Before we do, may I ask of my friend? How is Bilbo fairing?" He asked, not directing the question toward anyone in particular.

"Bilbo is making a quick recovery. Thorin however, is not." Galadriel said, with a slight upturn of her lips. "He has been worried sick about the Hobbit, and has barely left his side. Their relationship is a peculiar one, one that I have never seen the likes of before." Galadriel raised one of her eyebrows at Gandalf before speaking again.

"Love is a dangerous thing, Mithrandir. It taints the hearts of all it consumes, and it is the downfall of many. To have the Halfling carry the Ring when his heart is elsewhere is a hazardous choice, and it could jeopardize this quest."

"A quest that we have not yet authorized!" Elrond interjected. "You would avoid seeking our council, and therefore endanger the whole of Middle Earth, all because you deem it wise yourself?" Elrond went on, but Galadriel looked thoroughly unperturbed. "Perhaps if you had come to us first, then we would have approved, but-"

Galadriel cut in, but this time the words did not pass her lips.

"I have seen the Halfling's heart, and it is pure. At the end of all this, whether it is in triumph or defeat, he will not be the same. Neither will his companions." Elrond continued his rant as Galadriel spoke in his mind, oblivious to the sub-conversation.

"I am aware. Bilbo is courageous and fiercely protective over his friends, and his courage is driven from that love. You say love is dangerous, and that rings with truth - I myself have seen countless fall to it - but it is also a catalyst for valor. Bilbo is the only one who can bear the ring. I fear it would corrupt the Dwarves' hearts, and disclose their greed, however deep it may be. As long as Bilbo keeps it in his possession, the Dwarves will be fine. I hope."

"-and not to mention the Mountain currently inhibited by a dragon-"

"I fear for the Dwarves hearts as well. They have good souls, but even the kindest of hearts can fall to the power of the Ring. There is a sickness that has plagued the Line of Durin for many many years. You know of what I speak. Thror's love of gold was fierce, and I fear one day Thorin will fall to it. This Ring is beyond powerful, beyond the worth of Thror's gold. Curious... I wonder how Oakenshield has yet to be consumed by it."

"-and of course... Are you even listening to me?" Elrond sighed and sunk in his chair, defeated. "You are lucky Saruman is not here, he would surely give you a much more potent earful."

"Where is Saruman?" Gandalf noticed the empty seat reserved by the White Wizard, and felt his eyebrows knit in confusion.

"That is a good question. We have not heard from the White Wizard since Rivendell." Said Elrond.

"I feel an evil stirring in the west... I fear for Saruman." Galadriel said.

"I can go-"

"No, Mithrandir." Galadriel cut him off. "I have a different request for you. The blade of the Witch-King has troubled me greatly, and I will ask you to go to the tombs in the mountains. Every day I feel the evil living there growing stronger, and as the Ring moves closer to Mordor, the more strength the evil gains. If our enemy has returned, then we must know."

"So be it. Dol Guldur is not far east of here, but I will need a horse."

"You may borrow my horse," Elrond still looked exasperated at being thoroughly ignored. "I will stay here in Lórien awaiting your return." Elrond said.

"What of the company?" Gandalf asked. "I got them into this mess, and it will pain me to leave them to go alone."

"The company will soon leave Lórien, and they will have to make it without you for a time. You must not fret, Mithrandir, you will see them soon again." Galadriel rested her hand over Gandalf's and smiled reassuringly.

"Very well, I should say my farewells now."

"Stay here, the company is rejoicing now, and it wouldn't do to give Bilbo anxiety during this healing time. Rest tonight, and then say your goodbyes tomorrow."

 

~~~~~

 

"Bilbo Baggins!"

Bilbo looked up from his bed to see Gandalf standing in the doorway, chipper as ever. He hoped he was there to tell them to get going; he had long since grown annoyed with having to sit around all day.

"It is good to see you again, my dear boy." Bilbo leaned up from the bed to hug Gandalf, ignoring Thorin's disapproving look from beside him.

"The same to you, Gandalf. Would you like a chair to-"

"Where have you been all this time?" Thorin grunted, standing up to face him. "Smoking pipe-weed with your Elf-friends?"

"Thorin." Thorin ignored Bilbo's warning, instead crossing his arms.

"Thorin Oakenshield! If you are implying that I would forsake my own friend for a good smoke, then you have got another thing coming!" Gandalf curled his lip in outrage. "Perhaps I would forsake you for one!"

"Gandalf, enough. Both of you." Bilbo rubbed at his temple, he hadn't missed the constant bickering.

"Now Gandalf, would you please tell us where you were?" Bilbo asked politely to expel the uncomfortable tension.

"I was clearing things up with Thengel and his men, and you should all be thankful I did!"

"Wait a minute, who's Thengel?" Bilbo asked, only vaguely remembering the Men from that night.

"He is the leader of the Men of Rohan, and next in line to the throne. Thengel very graciously agreed to help us fight off the Orcs that night, and even more so when he carried you lot as a burden to Lórien. The Men of Rohan now ride back to their home, where Thengel will tell his father of our quest. He promised us time, but not much. Once King Fengel hears of our journey, he will send his men to stop us. I am almost positive of this."

"And you let them go? What were you thinking?" Thorin snapped.

"I was thinking for the best, Master Oakenshield! Do not question my ways." Gandalf grew taller and the room darkened by every inch, so Bilbo put his hand on Gandalf's arm to calm him.

"Yes yes alright, enough. What else did you do?"

"I had a meeting - a very important meeting -" He punctuated that with a pointed look to Thorin. "with Galadriel and Elrond, who gave me council on my next move."

"Your next move? Are you leaving us?" Kíli asked frantically.

"I am afraid that is what I must do." Gandalf sighed, looking resigned.

"Leaving?"

"We'll never make it to Mordor without a Wizard!"

"We should've known."

"Honestly, you can never predict what a Wizard will do next."

"ENOUGH! I know what I am doing, and I am not doing it for my own sake, but for the sake of Middle Earth!" The Dwarves grumbled, but no one argued any further. Gandalf turned to Bilbo and whispered quietly;

"Keep the Ring safe. If one of them tries to take it, do not hesitate to leave and go to Mordor alone." The Wizard pulled away and smiled, unbothered by what he'd just said. "Until our next meeting, Bilbo Baggins." Gandalf hugged him once more before turning on his heels and walking out of the healing room.

"Wizards." Balin tsked.

"Should we follow him?" Bilbo asked, a little concerned.

"No. Let the Wizard do as he chooses." Thorin said, sitting down in the chair beside Bilbo. Thorin's hand twitched, like he was about to reach for Bilbo's hand but thought better of it.

"I'm really doing much better now, see?" Bilbo all but sprung off the bed, ignoring the pain so that he could prove his point. He stood straight up and took a step forward, and regretted moving so quickly when his head spun uneasily. He swayed precariously on his feet, and didn't miss how the entire company lurched forward to catch him. Thorin was closest though, and he steadied him with gentle hands.

"See? I'm fine. Let me go and I'll go for a walk-"

"You are not fine. Elrond should be here soon to change your bandages anyway." Bilbo huffed at being ignored and laid back down, annoyed to be sitting still for such a length of time when they had done nothing but run for so long.

"Fine. But I won't be happy about it."

"I wasn't expecting you to be."

"Don't worry Bilbo! Once you're healed we can get back to our sword lessons!" Fíli said with a pat to Bilbo's shin.

"Yeah! And we can start our bow and arrow lessons!"

"I thought- I thought we lost the bow back at the campsite."

"No, of course not! I grabbed it before we left for Lórien." Kíli rummaged in his backpack and pulled out the bow, handing it to Bilbo with a smile.

"Fíli and I have been making arrows, but we'll make some more out of these Lórien trees."

"Now that's not necessary, boys."

"How will you shoot without enough arrows? Plus, we're really bored and I'd like to see those pretty Elves' faces when they see us up in their trees."

"You think Elves are pretty?" Bofur asked with a smirk.

"Uh I- that's not- I mean uh..." Kíli's face heated up as he fumbled over his words, and the company burst out in laughter.

 

~~~~~

 

There was a short knock at the door and Elrond filed in, followed by his healing helpers.

"I apologize for interrupting, but I'm afraid I must ask all of you to leave." Elrond said politely.

"Alright Fíli, let's go make Bilbo some arrows!" Kíli giggled and the two fled the room, followed by the rest of the company. Thorin gave him one last look, seemingly struggling to trust an Elf to be alone with Bilbo, and closed the door behind him.

"Good afternoon, Master Baggins. I see you have much improved from our last visit." Elrond pulled up another chair next to his bed and sat down.

"Yes. It's surprising actually; I wasn't expecting to feel this much better this soon."

"Lady Galadriel has done her best to speed up the healing process, and it seems she has done a miraculous job doing so. However, you still have much healing to do so don't strain yourself." Bilbo nodded and let Elrond unwrap the bandages from around his head, flinching when he saw them soaked in blood.

"This will sting." Elrond coated his finger with ointment and held it up to Bilbo's gashes, pausing a moment before pressing down.

A stinging pain started from the surface of his skin and spread through his head, making his head ache and his eyes water. Bilbo clutched at the bed sheets and reminded himself to breathe normally, and to not pass out. It took Elrond about five minutes - it felt like an hour - to clean his wounds and rewrap them.

"Your other wounds are faring well, so I do not need to apply any ointment to those. Galadriel's magic truly works wonders." Elrond nodded once before turning and leaving with his helpers.

Once Elrond had left he laid back down and yawned, even though he had only been awake for a short amount of time.

He chastised himself for being so exhausted after he'd only woken up, but drifted to sleep nonetheless.

 

The first thing he felt when he woke up was hair tickling his nose. He carefully turned away from Kíli's hair, trying his best not to disturb the bed too much. Bilbo expected to see Fíli awake in the chair, but instead saw Thorin asleep sitting up.

Probably tried to stay up all night.


He sighed as he picked up an extra blanket from the bedside table and wrapped it around Thorin. Bilbo tucked away Thorin's braids and leaned down to quickly kiss him on the forehead.

"Why did I do tha-"

"Bilbo?" Thorin's muddled voice startled Bilbo so much that he stumbled backwards and very nearly fell over. He felt his cheeks heating up and prayed to Eru that Thorin hadn't felt his kiss.

"Did- did you-"

"Did I what?" Bilbo asked, mentally praising himself for sounding nonchalant.

"Nevermind. I was just dreaming." Thorin stretched his arms out and Bilbo told himself he did not find it cute. "What are you doing awake?"

"Well I would be asleep, but somebody didn't wake me up." He raised his eyebrows at Thorin, who almost looked smug. "Sorry to have woken you, I was just going out for a walk."

"A walk?" Thorin crossed his arms, unimpressed. "Last time you went for a walk, my nephew had to carry you back. I shall not permit it."

"Hah! What are you going to do? Tie me to the bed?" Bilbo said, immediately regretting his words as they came out. He looked around, suddenly finding the walls interesting. He was thankful that Fíli and Kíli were not awake, as they would never have let him forget that. Thorin coughed, and actually smirked.

"I was thinking a more civil approach, if that's alright with you." Bilbo nodded his head a little too enthusiastically. "I myself have not left this room much, so I would be grateful to stretch my legs."

"Yeah alright. But you will not carry me."

"Promise." Thorin grinned. They carefully maneuvered through the sleeping Dwarves, not once stirring. They exited the room and Thorin closed the door quietly behind them.

"Anywhere specific you'd like to visit?"

"Not really. I miss walking through the woods of the Shire, but most of all I miss the fresh air from the trees." They began walking through the hallway, going in the opposite direction that Fíli and Bilbo had previously.

"You miss it." Thorin said, not exactly a question.

"Yes I do. I miss it all the time."

"Then why? Why would you volunteer willingly to take the Ring to Mordor? Why not return to the Shire?"

"I don't know really. The Shire is my home, just like Erebor is yours. You'd do anything to protect it, wouldn't you? To protect the people in it?" Thorin nodded. "I will do what I need to do to protect my home, and your home, and the people of this Earth. And if I am to die, then I will have died protecting what I love." Who I love.

"Never in my life would I expect to know a Hobbit as courageous and selfless as you." Bilbo smiled and looked to his feet, turning the corner and entering the woods of Lórien.

"What about you? Why accompany me when you could've continued the quest for Erebor? That is your home after all."

"Well by doing this, I am protecting Erebor, but I don't think that's why. I used to think it was because I have a debt to you, for saving my life, but now I'm not so sure. Perhaps it is because I want to guard you from harm, or maybe it is so I'll have a clear conscience. Or maybe it is to see my sister-sons survive. Any of these reasons would make me a fool." He chuckled. Bilbo laughed, and the movement only sent a meager bit of pain to his ribs.

"Fìli told me that I remind him of Dìs." Bilbo said after a short silence. "He told me that the reason they care so much is because I'm a lot like her." Thorin rubbed at his beard and smiled.

"That makes sense. You are a lot like her, now that I think about it."

"I look forward to the day I meet her. She must possess the patience of a hundred mothers to have raised those two hooligans." Thorin laughed and nodded fondly.

"Truly."

They took the steps down into a small glade, where a single pedestal stood in the center. The pedestal was as tall as Bilbo, obviously made for the Elves.

"What is that?"

"It is a mirror." Galadriel's silky voice rose from their left. Bilbo and Thorin turned to see Galadriel, her white dress emitting a soft glow. "Those who look upon it see things that were, things that are," She paused and moved silently to the pedestal, not looking at them. "And some things that have not yet come to pass." Galadriel lifted a silver basin from the ground and turned to Thorin and Bilbo.

"Would you look into the mirror?" She poured water into the basin, seemingly already knowing the answer. Bilbo stepped forward, his curiosity growing. Thorin rested his hand on Bilbo's shoulder and shook his head.

"I do not like it." Thorin whispered, his easy nature from before all but disappearing.

"Don't be so quick to judge. Galadriel is not our enemy."

"Fine."

Bilbo stepped up to the pedestal, earning a reassuring smile from Galadriel. He looked down and gazed into the clear water. The water rippled, revealing a wobbly image of the Shire. He was in his garden, a distant memory of springtime from when he was a child. Suddenly the green morphed into red, and the grass into a blazing fire. His eyes grew wide, afraid that this was his future. The image changed, and he saw icy blue eyes, cold with anger. The image panned out, and he found himself looking upon Thorin. Thorin punched him and wrapped his hands around Bilbo's throat. One of Thorin's hands moved to the chain around his neck, yanking the Ring off and slipping it on. His breathing sped up, and once again the image morphed. He now saw Fíli and Kíli, lying motionless in the snow. They lay side by side, hands entwined and blood darkening their clothes. The water rippled again, and the Durins were replaced with darkness. Out of the black abyss a single flame grew, and from that flame an eye appeared. The cold voice of Sauron filled his mind, repeating the words he had once before uttered.

"You will all burn"

"No!"

"Bilbo!" Thorin pulled him away from the pedestal and searched his eyes with worry. "Are you okay? What did you see?"

"I'm afraid that is only for Master Baggins to know." Galadriel said, unfazed.

"No it's alright, I just-" He clutched at his head, a headache already forming from Sauron's foul words. "I think I just need to lie down." Thorin shot Galadriel a nasty look and muttered something in Khuzdul.

"I told you not to delve into Elf-trickery."

"He saw what he needed to." Galadriel said, and Bilbo had a feeling she knew what he saw.

Bilbo thought back to when he nearly died, and the horrible feeling he'd gotten when Thorin had choked him, and then he thought to what he'd just seen. Thorin's icy blue eyes, his familiar hands wrapping around his neck and taking the Ring. Gandalf's words came back to him; "Keep the Ring safe. If one of them tries to take it, do not hesitate to leave and go to Mordor alone."

No, Bilbo thought to himself, I won't let that happen.

Chapter Text

That night the images from the mirror of Galadriel haunted his dreams, and when he awoke the Eye of Sauron was still burning behind his eyes. He sat up abruptly and rubbed his eyes with vigor and it must've been worrisome, because he opened his eyes to see Bofur in front of him.

"You alright there, lad?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," He lied.

Bofur reluctantly nodded, not buying his act but letting Bilbo get away with it nonetheless.

"The Company is gathering their things; we depart today." Bofur smiled but his brown eyes were still filled with worry.

Suddenly the door to the healing room burst open, and Fíli and Kíli rushed in and slammed the door behind them. The Durin brothers erupted in laughter and clutched their chests. Fili pulled out Dori's hand-made quiver, now filled with arrows made from the trees of Lórien.

"You should've seen their faces!"

"They looked like they'd seen Bombur naked!" Kili said, dissolving into another fit of laughter.

"Mahal help us." Dwalin huffed.

Bofur shook his head and smiled, and Bilbo found the smile traveling to his face. Once Fili had calmed down, he handed the quiver to Bilbo, who put it over his shoulder next to his bow.

"We can start lessons once we get back on the road." Kili said, wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes

Their time of merriment ended when Haldir, followed by Legolas and Tauriel, entered the room. Haldir beckoned the company to follow and started to leave, and the company followed suit.

The company followed Haldir through Caras Galadhon, with Bilbo and Thorin leading. Bilbo looked up to the sky, admiring the beautiful staircases wrapping around the trees, the white light filtering through the branches, the soft and gentle singing of the Elves. He let the sweet songs calm him and stop the nightmare from replaying in his head.

"They sing the song of Nimrodel," Legolas stated, waking Bilbo from his trance. "In Sindarin, our woodland tongue."

"Do you know it?" He asked the Elf, curious.

"I do. I can sing only a part of it, as I have forgotten much."

And so Legolas sang a beautiful song of how sadness came to Lórien when the Dwarves awakened the beast in the mountains. He finished the song with a somber look that matched Tauriel's.

"The Dwarves did not cause the evil." Thorin stated.

"I did not say that, Master Oakenshield, but the evil came anyway." Legolas said, and walked away to catch up with Haldir.

"I don't understand," Bilbo said, confused. "What awoke in the mountains?"

"The evil the Elf sang of is Durin's Bane. The mining of mithril in Khazad-dûm woke the Balrog from its hibernation, and killed Durin VI and Náin I." Thorin said, and Bilbo regretted asking. "My ancestor Thrain I fled to the lonely mountains, leaving Khazad-dûm, or Moria as the Elves call it, to the Balrog." Bilbo felt like Thorin was leaving out something, but he didn't push him any further.

"I'm so sorry, Thorin, I-"

"Don’t fret, Bilbo. It's in the past, Khazad-dûm has long since been lost to us."

The path Haldir was taking them on was ending, and they came to a gate separating Lórien from the rest of Middle Earth. They passed through the gate and the forest, and finally reached the shore of the River Silverlode.

The Lady Galadriel and Celeborn were waiting for them, and many boats and Elves were waiting patiently on the shore.

"The Lady Galadriel wishes to give gifts before you depart." Haldir said, and instructed them to line up.

Galadriel seemed to float across the ground to the dwarves, and when she spoke it sounded ethereal.

"Dwarves of Thorin Oakenshield," She began, speaking to them all. "I would have weapons crafted for all of you to carry, but there is no reason to replace dwarven craftsmanship with that of the elves. Instead I offer you a grindstone to ready your weapons before you leave, and a whetstone for the road." The company stood in shock for a moment at Galadriel's declaration of respect for dwarven craftsmanship before bowing and hurrying over to the grindstone.

Galadriel moved to Legolas and Tauriel, who both gave an Elven gesture of respect.

"Legolas, son of Thranduil, my gift to you is a bow of the Galadhrim, worthy of the skill of our woodland kin." Legolas caressed the bow in awe while Galadriel moved to Tauriel.

"To you, Tauriel, I give daggers of the Noldorin." Tauriel took one in each hand and spun around gracefully, testing them out. Tauriel smiled a beautiful smile at Galadriel and sheathed her daggers.

Galadriel finally approached Thorin and Bilbo and smiled, somehow glowing brighter than ever.

"Thorin, son of Thrain, to you I present a pendant, forged here in Lórien." She placed the necklace in his palm, and Bilbo saw the Durin emblem, with Khuzdul written in thick letters.

Hurmel photo Hurmel_zps170aoely.png

Thorin glanced up in shock, closing his fist around the pendant.

"You know Khuzdul?" He asked, and Bilbo was reminded of how secretive the language was, especially to Elves. Galadriel simply tilted her head to look into his eyes.

"I have lived many, many years, Master Oakenshield. I remember when the relationship between Dwarves and Elves was that of respect and kinsmanship. I remember the First Age, when Eöl befriended the Dwarves and was entrusted with the knowledge of Khuzdul. I remember the Wars of Beleriand, when Elves and Dwarves forged a Union and fought together. I remember Khazad-dûm," Thorin's eyes widened at Galadriel's use of the dwarven name for Moria. "I remember Celebrimor and Narvi crafting the doors of Durin together, and the trade we shared for over a thousand years."

Galadriel smiled once more and rested her hand upon Thorin's shoulder.

"I do not ask that you forget the misdeeds done to you and your people, I'm asking that you give my people a chance. Do not let the bitterness between our races be the downfall of this quest."

Galadriel left Thorin in shock to move in front of Bilbo.

"Bilbo Baggins of the Shire. My gift to you is the light of Eärendil, our most beloved star. May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out." Galadriel placed a phial in Bilbo's hand, and he stared in wonder at the white glow of it. While he marveled at his gift, Galadriel spoke. "Bilbo," He looked up but saw that her lips did not move with her words. This time when he heard her voice, he could hear it in his head. "All of Middle-Earth is depending on you. You must not let anything stop you from reaching Mordor, not fear, not pain, not love. You mustn't let any of the company take the Ring from you, and if they try, you must leave and go to Mordor alone." Bilbo was scared of even the thought of doing that, and Galadriel must have noticed because she leaned down and pressed her lips to the top of his head.

"Do not fear, Bilbo. Even the smallest person can change the course of the future." Galadriel smiled and left to stand by Celeborn.

Bilbo looked at the phial once more before tucking it away, along with Galadriel’s words. He looked around and found that most of the company had already gotten into their boats, and he and Thorin were the only ones left. Óin and Glóin were sharing a boat, along with Fíli and Kíli, Bifur and Bombur, Balin and Dori, Legolas and Tauriel, Bofur and Nori, and surprisingly, Dwalin and Ori. He smirked at the unlikely pair and got into his own boat, followed by Thorin.

For some reason in the boat to their left Legolas was raising his eyebrows and wording something to Thorin, who was decidedly ignoring the Elf. He shook his head and went to put his bow and arrows down and found a few packages at the bottom of the boat.

"What's this?" He asked.

"The Elves of Lothlorien packed us supplies for the road." Tauriel answered. Bilbo found something wrapped in what looked like a green leaf, and he sniffed it curiously.

"It is Lembas," Said Legolas. "It is said that it came from Yavanna, as far back as the Elves' Great Journey to Aman. One small bite is enough to fill the stomach of a grown man."

Bilbo looked at it curiously when a large belch from Bombur startled him.

"Oi! Bombur!" Bofur said from behind. "How many did you eat?"

"Four." Bombur replied, causing the company to erupt in laughter. Bilbo found himself smiling and shaking his head. The appetite of Dwarves could rival that of Hobbits.

 

~~~~~

 

They rode down the Great River for a full day, and by the time they reached a good campsite, the sun had set and everyone's arms were exhausted from rowing. Bilbo wasn't as sore because Thorin insisted on rowing most of the trip, and Bilbo knew better than to argue with a stubborn dwarf.

They docked all eight of their boats, and Glóin and Nori both collapsed on the ground, immediately falling asleep.

"Couple of good-for-nothing..." Dori muttered.

"This is the Field of Celebrant, it should serve well as camp tonight." Legolas interrupted, and he and Tauriel went to gather firewood. Bilbo himself took his things from the boat and sat down against a rock, sighing loudly. The Ring was starting to wear on him, and take all his energy from him. He closed his eyes and rested his head against the rock.

When he opened his eyes there was a fire going, and Bilbo realized he had fallen asleep. He sat straight and found that sleeping against a rock was not kind on his back nor his head. Bilbo looked around and found that most of the company was either asleep or sitting by the fire. After a quick glance around, he noticed Thorin wasn't there, so he took his Lembas and walked to the shore, hoping to find Thorin sitting by the water. Sure enough, he was sitting a small distance away from camp with his head resting on his hand.

Bilbo walked along the shore with his feet in the water until he reached Thorin. He sat down on the rock next to him and dipped his toes in the water.

"What are you doing out here?" Bilbo asked.

"Thinking." Thorin replied, his voice low.

"About Galadriel?" At that Thorin looked at him, eyebrows knitting together. "I heard what she said to you." Bilbo answered his unspoken question.

Thorin took a breath and moved his gaze to the water.

"All my life I have hated Elves for what they've done to me, to my people." Bilbo could hear the conflict in his voice. "But when I looked upon Galadriel I did not feel hate. When I look at Legolas and Tauriel I do not feel hate." Thorin seemed to be deeply conflicted, and Bilbo struggled to not put his hand on Thorin's back to comfort him. "She used the Khuzdul word for Khazad-dûm and not the disgraceful word Moria, and she showed respect for our craftsmanship. She did not show disrespect for my people like the others do."

"The Lady Galadriel holds no disdain for Dwarves and neither does Legolas or Tauriel or Elrond." Bilbo said. "I think Galadriel was trying to tell you to not let dislike for a race affect the decisions you make on this quest. Or to not refuse help from Elves because of it." Thorin seemed to take that in and contemplate on it, and Bilbo just hoped that he'd given good advice.

"Can I ask you something?" Bilbo asked, letting curiosity win.

"Anything."

"What does the pendant say?" Bilbo hoped he wasn't crossing any lines, but Thorin just reached inside a pocket and pulled out his gift.

The moonlight shined on the Khuzdul word and Bilbo realized how beautifully made it was.

"It says Hurmel." The Khuzdul word flowed from Thorin's mouth like a song. "It means honor of all honors."

"It's beautiful." Bilbo said. "It reminds me of Fíli's pendant." He said, remembering the runes engraved on it. Thorin gave him a smile, not his customary smirk; a real smile with teeth. Bilbo looked away to stop the oncoming blush and instead looked at the river.

Something in the distance caught his eye. It was a branch floating on the water, but behind it were two glowing eyes. He squinted and made out the scrawny form.

"Gollum." Bilbo hissed, instinctively clutching the ring to his chest.

"What?"

"It's Gollum, the creature who was the Keeper of the Ring before me." Bilbo whispered, pointing across the river.

"How long do you think he's followed us?" Thorin asked.

"I'd guess since the Goblin Tunnels." Bilbo pinched his nose and sighed. "Just another thing to worry about."

"Do you think he'll attack?"

"No, he's too smart. He'll only attack if he catches me alone."

"I'll stay up and keep an eye of him, you go get some rest." Bilbo thought about arguing with him but the thought made him tired, so he relented and left Thorin with a "Good night".