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Yavanna's Whisper

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In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. Not a wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it so sit down on or to eat. It was a hobbit hole, and that means comfort.


In this particular hole, with a bottle-green entrance door lived a single hobbit named Bilbo Baggins. He had been born and raised in this smial, and had inherited it after the unfortunate death of both of his parents. Being a single hobbit with such a big smial and rather well off, many a suitor had come to present himself to the hobbit that had only a short time ago come into adulthood, only to be refused by a shake of the curly haired individual. It took some time, but the suitors lessened and finally stopped coming at all.


By then Bilbo had a reputation of a well off bachelor, that didn't seem to have any intent in forming a family. Some unsavory characters whispered that such a large smial should have fauntlings running through it. That it was a waste for one hobbit alone, with no care for forming a family. But neither Bilbo, nor his grandfather Gerontius Took the Thain were bothering with those people. And despite their mutterings there was nothing to be done. Bag End belonged to him after all.


The real reason why Bilbo refused his suitors was his dream. He wanted to find the love of his life, just like his parents had found each other. It was just his unfortunate luck that said soulmate was not to be found anywhere in Hobbiton, Tuckborough or in the lands of the Michel Delving. He had even visited the river-folk, near the Brandywine river.


Bilbo had looked, went to parties and danced with pretty much everyone to no avail.


Never had Yavanna started to whisper in his ear. His parent's had told him how they had met and both recognized each other by the song they could hear, like a whisper in the wind. A song about their mate, said to be the whisper of Yavanna herself to tell of their past, present and future.


Bungo had described how he had listened to Belladonna's song, speaking of lands, far away, of rivers and elvish cities. Of a girl that loved to see the world but would be always be tempted back to her home. That's when he had decided that he would make her the most beautiful home to return to.


Belladonna had listened to the sweet voice whispering of a safe haven, of love and life and happiness aplenty. Of home and heart. Of books detailing adventures of his wife, of patience and devotion.

Stubbornly she had resisted. A home was well and truly nice, but she wanted adventure!

And he let her go. And when she came back after the first adventure with Gandalf, he had started to build a home. He smiled and welcomed her with open arms, a quill behind his ear and a book under his arm. And after she had refreshed herself, he asked her about her time away, noting it down in his little book with a serious face and a spark in his eyes.

After that she had fallen, and fallen hard.


For Bilbo, there was silence. Especially after the death of his parents, first his father and after eight years his mother. His smial had an empty feel now, no matter how many books he dragged into his home, or how his pantry was sometimes filled to burst. No matter how many guests came over, at the end of the day there was silence. No song or content humming or another person to share everything with. Silence. But Bilbo... well, he got used to it, slowly.


Someone else would have given up on that dream, after searching for so long. But Bilbo was as stubborn as his mother and as devoted as his father. He waited. And waited. And waited some more.


It's not like he had much hope to find his soulmate after all this time, with him now being 50 years old, he had settled into his life rather well. He enjoyed his evenings in his armchairs, the warm fire in the hearth in winter. On sunny days he loved to sit outside his smial to smoke his pipe. It was comfortable. And if it was a little lonely at times, he could count on his neighbors for a nice chat over tea in the afternoon. He was content in his peaceful existence.



So how had it come to this, with twelve rowdy dwarrows invading his home, plundering his pantry, without so much as a by your leave and seemingly set on destroying everything in their path, never mind the hobbit that was a little too scared to step in their way for fear of simply being mowed over.


It started with one dwarf, which had been bad enough. With a scary frown on his face and weapons strapped to his back, big enough that Bilbo was sure he couldn't even lift one of them, the dwarf introduced himself to the shell-shocked hobbit. Bilbo barely even remembered to pull his nightgown close!


“Dwalin. At your service.” And then he had ambled right in, past a wide-eyed stunned Bilbo, as if he owned the place. The nerve!


“Bilbo Baggins... at yours...?” he had went to the door, intent on telling whoever came calling this late off. He had not expected a dwarf. It threw him off his game. He was... he was not too intimidated to block Dwalin's path. He was not. It was simple curiosity that kept him from throwing the stranger out.


“D-do we know each other?” Bilbo was hesitant to provoke the clearly insane being. Which was sensible and polite. Because Bilbo was not intimidated. Not in his own home. Surely he had gotten lost and needed help. Or had mistaken Bilbo for someone else. Bilbo would point his mistake out – politely mind you – and send the dwarf on his way. Yes.


“No.” it sounded like Dwalin thought Bilbo was stupid for even asking, but who wouldn't when a stranger just pushed his way into your home?


“Which way, laddie?” Looking around, the dwarf's eyes settled on Bilbo once more “Is it down here?”


“I-is … is what down where?” he watches as Dwalin roughly put his things down and suddenly has his arms full too. Staggering under the sudden weight he almost lost his balance completely and only the wall behind him saved him from landing on his bum as he watched open mouthed as the dwarf settled down to eat the dinner Bilbo had prepared for himself. Still, despite his confusion and the rude behavior, Bilbo was a good host. When Dwalin asked for more, he had calmed down enough to actually serve the clearly hungry dwarf. Better feed him, before he went crazy or something. Keep him in a good mood. And try to get him to tell you what's going on. Better yet. Get him to realize he's at the wrong place!


“Mmmmh. It's just that...” Bilbo hovered next to the dwarf “Uhm... I... I wasn't expecting company.”


Of course the bell had to ring in exactly this moment. Feeling torn Bilbo looked between his uninvited guest and the door in alarm. What was going on this evening?!


“That will be the door.” Bilbo managed a weak glare at the dwarf for stating the obvious. Since he would not be able to actually throw the burly being out by himself, he opted to get the door instead.


Another dwarf had come.


“Balin, at your service!” the white haired dwarf said with good cheer and an elegant bow. He seemed friendly enough and Bilbo thought he could have surely gotten on well with him. If, you know, he hadn't been standing on his doorstep. Uninvited. Way too late in the evening.


“Good evening.” he managed to greet Balin faintly, his tone desert dry as he fought to keep his composure. Good manners had been drilled into Bilbo from a young age. Still... while he could expect one person to get the wrong place, two was a bit too much of a coincidence. Right now Bilbo was getting a really bad feeling about the happenings in his smial. And this feeling was telling him something, and that was: He was missing information.


“Yes, yes it is!” Balin chanced a look at the night sky. Not many stars could be seen.

“Though I think it may rain later.” Bilbo agreed silently, still feeling overwhelmed and having this ominous, unexplainable gut feeling.


“Am I late?” the dwarf stepped inside too and grabbed Bilbo's hands kindly and with an earnest look.


“Late... for what?” He was missing something here. He was sure he was missing something...


But again, no answer was forthcoming as Balin recognized the other dwarf in his smial and they seemed to enter their own world, completely ignoring Bilbo's existence.


“Uh, excuse me... sorry, I hate to interrupt...” seeing them bang their heads Bilbo stumbled over his words “ah... ahem. Yes. B-but the thing is... I'm not entirely sure you're in the right house.” he was also not sure they weren't. Not anymore. One dwarf getting lost and finding his smial? Fine. Another one doing the same?


Not likely.


His voice didn't even seem to register, so he followed them into his pantry. His agitation grew as he watched them sample his food and he tried again.


“It's not that I don't like visitors.” really. Really, really! But...


“I... I like visitors as much as the next hobbit, but I do like to know them before they come visiting.” waiting a second he hoped to get a reaction.


“It's gone blue...” Balin held up a piece of cheese.


“Riddled with mould.” Dwalin grunted.


Were they inspecting his food?? That was a very nice piece of blue mould cheese, thank you very much! As if he would keep bad food in his pantry! The nerve! The insult!

Wait, did that just fly past him?! The sooner he got them out of his house, the better! No matter what he tried to say, it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Bilbo watched helplessly as the dwarrows rifled though his pantry, feeling completely out of his depth. He had never been put into a situation quite like that. No hobbit would dare to invite himself to another's pantry, picking through it and sampling it and, and... and insulting it and throwing it away! What a waste!


“The thing is... um. I, I don't know either of you.” looking at the cheese on the floor was easier than looking at the dwarrows for the moment “Not. In. The slightest.” he put extra emphasis on it.


He looked back at his... guests and steeled his resolve “I don't mean to be blunt, but I had to speak my mind. I'm sorry.”


Finally. Finally they looked at him. Then Balin gave him a short nod.


“Apology accepted.”


Struck speechless he was distracted just a moment later. By the bell. Going off again. Bilbo felt a headache coming.


And they multiplied. The smial went from occupying two dwarrows and a hobbit to four dwarrows and a hobbit. Upon seeing the two new arrivals a sound that was a mix of a finished kettle and a desperate moan escaped Bilbo.


“Fíli.” the blond-haired dwarf intoned.


“And Kíli.” the dark-haired dwarf added, before they both bowed and said together “At your service!”


When they came up again, Kíli's face broke out into a grin.

“You must be Mister Boggins!” Bo-Boggins?! Nevermind.


“Nope! You can't come in.” better cut them off at the door “You came to the wrong house!”


Feeling fed up, he tried to shut the door in their faces, no matter how rude that might be. No more! No more dwarrows! He was already the minority in this house as it is, without 'inviting' more of those rude beings into his dwelling!


A steel-clad shoe stopped his plan and Kíli pressed the door back open. Easily. His eyes were wide.


“What?! Has it been canceled??” he asked while Fíli helpfully added in a hurt-kicked-puppy-way “No one told us.”


Bilbo was... well, honestly a little surprised at the strength with which Kíli had opened the door again, as well as their manner that was so different than that of the other two dwarrows. If Bilbo would have to guess, he would say they were a lot younger too. At least they were not as intimidating. Not that he had been intimidated before. No.


“Canc-? No-” shaking his head a little as if to clear it he cast a befuddled look at them “Nothing's been canceled.” mostly because nothing had been planned to begin with. Well, nothing planned by him at least, Bilbo amended.


“Well, that's a relief” and now they proved themselves to be just like the other dwarrows by entering his smial and throwing their weapons carelessly in Bilbo's fumbling arms.


“Careful with these, I just had 'em sharpened.” nice to know. Bilbo desperately hoped they were all sheathed or else he would soon be missing some limbs and bleeding all over his previously clean – now mud stained – floor.


Bilbo might have been a little petty when he threw the weapons and other stuff down in a corner without any care whatsoever. But then again, he had to stop the dark-haired one from destroying his mother's glory box, so it was their own fault.


And then they came like a literal tidal wave! Rearranging his place to their liking and pulling the food out of his stores. All the while ignoring his protests and only seeming to hear what they liked. Selective hearing, the lot of them!


He felt dizzy just from watching them. Throwing his stuff around (and his mother's beloved china!) and his poor silvery, that his mother had gifted to his father. It was extremely difficult to resist the urge to pull his hair out in frustration. And in the middle of it all? Gandalf.


This was all Gandalf's fault. But every time Bilbo tried to squirm his way to the wizard a dwarf would somehow block his path, or distract him with their antics and before Bilbo could look again Gandalf would have moved to another spot further away, where Bilbo could not reach him quickly and strangle him with his own robe like he deserved.


Maybe Gandalf could feel the murderous intent in the hobbit and that was why they were playing this game of cat and mouse until Bilbo resigned himself to playing host to those invaders. Well, actually it was quite out of his control. They seemed to feel at home enough to simply take whatever they felt like having right now.


Honestly. Would it have been too much to ask first before inviting strangers into his hobbit-hole??


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


The heavy knocks on his front-door made the whole lot of them freeze. Gandalf's grave voice “He's here.” did nothing but unsettle Bilbo's already frayed nerves even more. With all the activity his smial almost didn't resemble his normally quiet and beautiful home. It was not... bad, but Bilbo was unused to it. He felt ill prepared and honestly bewildered. If Gandalf would kindly explain why dwarrows seemed to think his home was an inn with free ale, it would be much appreciated. Inching to his door he watched as it slowly opened and peered at the individual standing on his steps.

The first he noted was his eyes. A beautiful, unique blue, that almost resembled the clear sky. They were narrowed a little, honing in on the wizard and for that alone, Bilbo liked the dwarf. Gandalf deserved a hard time for all he had put Bilbo through in the last few hou-




Bilbo blinked in shock at the whisper, a female voice clear as a mountain spring, and froze on the spot while staring up at the dwarf standing in his entrance hall now. Black hair, streaked with silver framed a handsome face and some of the bluest eyes Bilbo had ever seen on another person. His attire was different from the other dwarrows in his smial. He wore a deep blue coat, lined with fur that – if you asked Bilbo – looked like it came from a canine like a wolf. It was his bearing though, that drew attention.


...King under the mountain...


At the second whisper Bilbo nearly swallowed his tongue. KING? His soulmate was a king?? Or maybe Yavanna had meant that metaphorical? He did look majestic right now with his regal bearing and everyone seemed to gravitate towards him. Even Bilbo did, a little.

Meanwhile Thorin and Gandalf had their own conversation (how anyone could get lost in the Shire was a mystery, but Bilbo wouldn't judge) while Bilbo was just starting his very own midlife-crisis surrounded by dwarrow-invaders. Thorin's smooth, deep, rumbling voice made a shudder run through Bilbo's body. It was deep and steady, as if the dwarf himself was impersonating a mountain.


Something about a mark on his door caught his attention and finally snapped him out of his stupor.

“Mark? What mark, there is no mark on this door, it was painted just a week ago!” Bilbo's mouth worked on automatic but seeing indeed a mark glowing on his door like some... some...

Well. Yes. There was a mark. Giving Gandalf a reproaching glare he was distracted by his soulmate focusing on him after Gandalf introduced him. The nerve of that wizard! As if he was not able to introduce himself! Then again, Bilbo was a little blindsided... not only by the invasion happening right now, but also at finding his soulmate on his doorstep. What were the chances of that happening?? Pretty damn low, so excuse Bilbo for being a bit stumped that it was happening to him.




Thorin stepped closer and Bilbo had to look up even more. It's not as bad as it would be with a big person, like Gandalf, but Bilbo was unused to it nevertheless. He was almost normal sized for a hobbit, but a little on the taller side. Since you rarely came by strangers in the shire it wasn't something he experienced often. He felt small in comparison to Thorin, but intrigued.


“This is the Hobbit.”


Did Thorin recognize him as his soulmate? Did dwarrows even have soulmates?


“Have you done much fighting?”


Blinking in confusion Bilbo tried to keep Thorin in his sight as the dwarf begun to prowl around him.


“Pardon me?” fighting? In the Shire?


“Axe or sword, as your weapon of choice?”


Ehr... what? Was this some kind of joke? Well, he did have an axe for wood cutting, but somehow he didn't think that's what Thorin meant. Feeling a little indignant he straightened (not that it helped much as he was still smaller than Thorin), raised his chin and adopted an almost haughty tone he normally used on annoying relatives.

“Well, I have some skill at conkers, if you must know.” and there his mouth went, going off by itself again, because Bilbo felt terribly confused by what was happening around him, that he fell into his usual habits. Needless to say that this was not how he had imagined meeting his soulmate.


“Though I fail to see how that's relevant.”


“Thought as much.” Thorin said, crossing his arms and... was that amused disdain in his gaze??


“He looks more like a grocer than a burglar.”


And his soulmate had just called him a grocer. Bemused Bilbo kept to his spot and tried to let his thoughts catch up with his actions, while the dwarrows headed back into the sitting room and decimate what little had survived from his pantry.


What just happened?


The next events were enough to make Bilbo think he had only dreamed about it. Listening to Thorin and Gandalf explain the quest, as well as Bofur's helpful comments about what would lie in wait at the end of it, as well as realizing just what part had been intended for him to play...


“Funeral arrangements?” Bilbo had voiced, already feeling faint. And the terms of that contract. Cash on delivery? Well, right. Only problem being the dragon sitting on it.


The words lacerations, evisceration and lastly incineration had made his head swim. And Bofur's cheerful “Think 'furnace with wings'” was practically the last straw. Of course he continued on, oblivious to Bilbo's distress.


“Flash of light, searing pain, then poof! You're nothing more than a pile of ash.” Bilbo lifted a finger, the world already spinning and hoping he could stop Bofur's word's with that single gesture. He opened his mouth and tried to say something, closed it and opened it again for another try.


“Nope.” was all that came out and he didn't even get to hear Gandalf's sarcastic sounding “Oh, very helpful, Bofur!” as he hit the floor. Well, who could blame him for fainting after all that?


And then, regaining conscious and refusing to leave Bag End, he retreated to his bedroom, still feeling out of his depth and completely blindsided. He needed to think! He had to get to terms with what was happening and he couldn't do that surrounded by maniacs and mayhem. No, he was right to deny Gandalf, was right to insist staying at home. He was a Baggins of Bag End. Yes his mother had been a Took. Yes, there might have been a time when he had... wished for an adventure himself, but he had been a child and now? Now he was an adult. He was no warrior, or... or even a burglar. He would become a burden on them, probably rather sooner than later.


Of course that was when his blasted soulmate had to sing. In such a deep and gut tearing voice that it nearly brought tears to Bilbo's eyes. It was as if he could feel the longing himself. The silence afterwards was heavy, and Bilbo kept staring at the ceiling while sleep evaded him. His soulmate... Thorin... his eyelids grew heavy after a time, heavier still. Just before slipping closed another faint whisper of Yavanna teased his mind


...Alas no more shall rule this domain...


It had to be his imagination that it sounded sorrowful... right?



Chapter Text

The next morning was quiet. Too quiet. The silence had returned to his smial and even though the peace and quiet had only been interrupted for one evening, Bilbo found he missed it. A little.


Bilbo got up and looked around, walking through the empty rooms in his smial. The dwarrows were gone. Not only that, but there was nothing left indicating they had stayed here. Just like with his dishes, for all that they made a mess of everything the evening before, they did seem to know how to clean up again.

If not for the dirt-strains on his mothers glory-box, he would have thought it a dream. That, and his completely empty pantry of course.


Sighing he rubbed his face and turned away from his food stores. He would need to visit the markets later, restock and... his stomach churning and decided to make himself breakfast first. A nice cup of tea would settle his stomach for sure. And later he would go to the market and refill his pantry and... and everything would be like before. Before he met his soulmate.

Entering the kitchen in a bit of a daze he headed straight for the tea-cattle and thus it took him a moment to see the contract on the kitchen table, which twisted his stomach even more into knots. He could still remember the soft whisper. The very first he had ever heard and probably the last he would ever hear. There would not be another soulmate standing on his front porch complaining of how he had got lost in the Shire.


The voice, Yavanna's Whisper that had announced his soulmate's name first, almost like wanting to introduce him to his other half, the second part of his soul. The name that was also written on this paper. Thorin... son of Thráin. It was a very nice, loopy handwriting that Bilbo hadn't thought dwarrows would use. From stories and tales dwarrows were always stubborn hard beings, and Bilbo had unconsciously thought their writing would reflect that. And what a strange way to name oneself. No last name, like the human's and elves and hobbits used. Bilbo traced the lines, still deep in thought.


He had no place outside the shire, in the big wide world, no experience, he told himself. How would he be able to handle the long, long way to Erebor and the dragon awaiting him there? Not to mention whatever they would find on the way to the mountain. Bilbo was not naive enough to think that this would be like a walking holiday.

It was suicide and having a soulmate did not necessarily mean a romantic relationship. You could just as easily live without him, or just be friends. Yes, yes, that was right. He didn't... didn't need Thorin.


So why did he suddenly have a quill in his hand, dripping with ink???


Bilbo traced the lines – his soulmate's name – again, feeling almost sick with himself now.


To hell with it. He was so going after his idiot soulmate. His mother would box his ears if he gave up on his lifelong dream this easily because of a slightly longer walk than usual and a measly dragon. What would he tell her if he didn't even try?! As if a dragon would count as a valid excuse in her eyes.

(And how was it that the thought of his mother's anger did still scare him even after she had departed to the green lands???)


And that's how Bilbo found himself running after a company of dwarrows, with a hastily packed bag and probably being the most unprepared traveler in the entire history (well, probably the second best prepared hobbit traveler... after his mother, more due to the fact that he probably was the second hobbit to ever think of going that far away...). He was just glad he was not too late and managed to catch up to them.


Well. At least adventuring was educating.


For one: He could ride a pony. Barely. Who knew?

For another: Said pony's hair seemed to offend his body just by existing. Figures.

Lastly: He forgot his handkerchief. And his raincoat. Both things essential on a journey, while exposed to the elements.


Right now, about a week after leaving the shire, Bilbo was soaked. He usually liked rain. Loved how it made everything smell fresh and clean, enjoyed the sound of the drops falling down on the ground, the leaves. He liked that. From inside his smial.

The only positive point about the rain right now? He wasn't bothered by the pony hair anymore.

The bad point? He was freezing, wet and miserable and his soulmate was a stubborn, rude, grumpy arse. Even more so in this weather.


And no. Bilbo hat not ogled the ass. Nope.


He had no idea what he had done to offend Thorin Oakenshield but it had to be severe to cause the glares send his way, whenever another sneeze forced itself out of his body. And he was ignored a lot when he didn't sneeze. Like, all the time. Whenever they set up camp, Thorin seemed to prefer to brood in isolation or have important talks with... well, everyone else but him.


At least he had gotten to know a bit more about his soulmate, due to talking to the other dwarrows. So far Balin had been the most resourceful informant, after Fíli and Kíli had teased him about orcs and wargs. He had not been frightened. Nope. Okay. Maybe a little.


Thorin hadn't taken it well, his words cutting at his nephews, but (and Bilbo was almost sure it had been intended) also at Bilbo himself. He knew that he was unused to the big world he was tramping around, even though he was learning slowly.


Balin explained Thorin's reaction. Explained about the Battle of Azanulbizar, how Thorin came to be king. Bilbo did not envy Thorin, he had lived a harsh life, endured much. Maybe that's why he was so... suspicious and distant towards strangers. Who could fault him for it, after having lived a life of having to endure so many hardships and the weight of a crown when Thorin had been far too young?


But did that mistrust have to extend towards your soulmate?

Did Yavanna also whisper to dwarrows? Or did Mahal? If so, maybe his song was … lacking. Or insulting. Bilbo curled down by himself, cold and shivering and wet, waiting for sleep to take him as he thought about what he learned.


...rule this domain...


Instantly Bilbo felt wide awake again. Yavanna had whispered to him, every now and then. Mostly part's he already knew, but despite that Bilbo always strained to listen to her voice. He wanted to hear the whole song. He had taken to carry around a small piece of paper, where he had noted down the lines he already knew. As Thorin was still refusing to acknowledge him he hoped to gain some insight to better understand his soulmate, similar to how his father had learned about Belladonna. But this night, nothing more seemed to be sung to him and after several hour's he finally drifted of to sleep. The next day on the pony was horrible and Bilbo felt his eyes flutter close several times, yawning behind his hand and hunching in the saddle, wishing he could get a shut-eye but fear of falling and getting trampled by ponies kept him awake. That and the rain that continued to fall.


Amused he listened to the conversation between Dori and Gandalf.


“Here, Mr. Gandalf, can't you do something about this deluge?” perking up, Bilbo leant forward in his saddle. It would be nice to not be constantly pelted with raindrops.


“It's raining.” my, oh my, someone else was grumpy too “and it will continue to rain, until the rain is done.” Gandalf said with his wizardly wisdom.


“If you wish to change the weather of the world, you should find yourself another wizard.” definitely sulky. Apparently Gandalf didn't like the weather any more than the rest of them.


“Are there any?” Bilbo leant back in his saddle, but directed Myrtle closer to the wizards own horse.


“What?” Gandalf turned to him.


“Other wizards?” Bilbo specified.


“There are five of us.” Gandalf explained, sounding a little more cheerful with this new topic than the weather one “Saruman the White, the greatest of our order. Then there are two Blue Wizards...” a pause then he added “You know, I've quite forgotten their names...”


Bilbo managed not to roll his eyes. He was a little doubtful about that claim but wouldn't press the wizard if he didn't want to talk about it.


“What about the fifth?”


“Well, that would be Radagast, the Brown.” this time Gandalf sounded fond. It awakened a tookish desire to tease.


“Is he a great wizard or is he... more like you?” Bilbo's mouth twitched at the offended look that had gained him.


Soon after the conversation came to an end and Bilbo was left alone to fight his drowsiness.


...His brethren must go on without him...


With pounding heart he suddenly felt awake again as he listened to another part of Thorin's song. It had been about a week and a half and finally he got to hear some more. Without realizing it he had stopped his pony and only a disgruntled Dwalin snapped him out of his daze to loosen his hold on the reigns and allow Myrtle to move on again.


He mused over the lines. His brethren... that had to be Thorin's company? Or his people in general? Why would they leave Thorin, he was their leader, their king! Strange, but hopefully he would gain insight to it sooner rather than later.


When the weather finally cleared (yey! No more looking like a drowned rat! To be dry again!) and Thorin selected a spot to rest. Bilbo was grateful. While he could stay on the pony, it was by no means easy. He was sore from riding, though that was slowly getting better. And tired. And still wet. He wanted to be dry again!


That meant he had to get Bombur to let him help with preparing the food. It promised a spot near the fire for several hours while not seeming to skip his duty to help out.

Uneasily he watched the argument between Gandalf and Thorin, while he helped cooking their dinner, which ended with Gandalf storming off in a huffy-fit. Great.


The sun had set when Bilbo finally felt dry again, the food took a little longer though.

When the food was finally ready he did not complain of his hunger. But he did note Gandalf's continued absence.


“He's been gone for a long time...” he murmured and looked out over the darkening woods. The sun had set and night was falling quickly.


“Who?” Bofur asked, looking over to him. Surprised anyone had heard him, he came back towards the fire.


“Gandalf.” Feeling warmer than he had been for almost a whole week put him in a good mood despite the missing wizard and when Bofur handed him two bowls, he took them without complaint to bring dinner to Fíli and Kíli, who were watching the ponies this night.

Seeing them standing where, looking solemn, Bilbo took that back. He wanted to turn around and leave and eat his dinner. There could be nothing good from those two actually acting like adults for a second. Actually he would have thought he would find them skipping their duty and wrestling in the grass. Resigning to reality he stepped between them, holding a bowl to each of them. Maybe he could still run before they explained, if only they took the bowls from him quickly enough.


“What's the matter?”


“We're supposed to look after the ponies.” Kíli said, still staring off into the distance. Bilbo deflated slightly. They had not taken the bowls so he would be forced to listen to whatever shenanigans they had gotten into now. Wonderful.


“Only we've... encountered a slight problem.” Fíli continued, turning to Bilbo. Bilbo stared back unimpressed. Of course they had. And he did not want to know about it. Not at all. He tried to get them to take the bowls by pressing them closer, but both dwarflings seemed immune to the gesture.


“We had sixteen...” Kíli continued and having a gut feeling Bilbo started to count, finishing even as Fíli finished with “... only there's … fourteen.”


Bilbo let out an almost silent huff of breath and lowered the bowls a little, before his arms started to ache from holding them up for too long.

Yes. Casting a judging look down at the grass strains on Kíli's clothes, as well as the tiny dirt-patch in Fíli's face, Bilbo was pretty sure they had been very vigilant in watching the ponies.


“Daisy and Bungo are missing.”


Still holding the bowls Bilbo followed behind the blond prince. He had a a slightly more difficult time navigating in the dark, than the dwarrows with their keen night-vision. Feeling a little lost with the situation he helpfully pointed out “Well... that's... not good.” and then looking at the turned over tree, he swallowed. That was one huge tree. Not that it was huge as in standing up huge. But rather it was long, for it was lying on the ground. Tree's shouldn't do that. Nor should their roots be out of the earth.


“And that? That's not good at all.” he gestured at the tree with one food-bowls still in his hands to make it more obvious just what he meant. Fíli looked at it too, while Kíli inspected the area around them in interest. It was a humongous tree. Therefore it was not an easy feat to simply mow it over in the short time it had taken to abduct the ponies. And it had been recently uprooted. The earth on the roots was still damp and Bilbo knew the smell of recently plowed ground. This smelled a little similar. There were also broken branches that would give a clue on how they had been broken off not so long ago.


“Shouldn't we tell Thorin?” Yes, this was something Thorin should clean up. It was his brood – well his sister-sons – that had gotten them into this mess. He should really get them out of it.


“Uhm... no. Let's not worry him.” Fíli replied, waving off his concern as if it was a ridiculous notion “As our official burglar we thought... you might look into it?”


Giving a desert dry look at that statement Bilbo stepped over a root, to get closer, mostly to avoid having to talk louder than necessary. Who knew what had taken the ponies and if it was still around.

Besides, Bilbo was only a small, simple hobbit. He had no idea what the dwarflings thought he could do about something that was able to upturn trees.


“You are kidding right?” Bilbo sighed in exasperation “Look at those trees...” once more his hand gestured at the destruction “Something big uprooted them. Something very big... And quite possibly dangerous.” Then again, he had agreed to steal from a dragon so maybe it was not too far-fetched in their minds.


Again he was ignored.


“Hey! There's a light.”


Kíli came over to them after Fíli waved for him to follow and all three of them stepped closer, hiding behind another felled tree. Finally Bilbo could set down the bowls, not that there was much in them anymore. His sight at night was not the best and he had been stumbling around with them for way too long.


Indeed. In the distance he could make out the light, so there had to be a fire, but Bilbo could still not make out what else was out there.


“What is it?” he whispered to Fíli on his side.


“Trolls.” Kíli answered and before he could do or say anything, the dark haired dwarf nimbly jumped over the tree and rushed into the direction of the troll camp. Palming his face he prayed for patience to the Green Lady. Turning to Fíli he realized he was alone and whimpered. Why, oh why. Standing up he rushed to follow, only to stumble to a stop when Yavanna's faint whispering picked up again.


...His brethren must go on without him...


Again with this phrase... Concentrate! Dwarflings running into a troll camp here! He could listen to Yavanna while doing something productive. Like stopping them. Bilbo, picking up the bowls again, hurried to follow after the dwarrows, but he was distracted and tried to strain to hear more of his soulmates song. The ground shook ominously. Which was likely the only reason why Bilbo did not stumble out of hiding.


A troll stepped into their view, holding another two ponies under his arms and ignoring their terrified nickering and desperate struggles to get free. The hobbit and the dwarflings all ducked behind trees to avoid being caught.


...And ensure his death was not in vain...


Bilbo stumbled again, almost dropping the bowls but catching himself before drawing the attention of the troll. Wide eyed he caught the concerned glances of the dwarrows that cowered behind the other tree.




Bilbo swallowed, fighting to regain his composure. Surely he had misheard. Surely... surely his.. surely Thorin was not...


Taking a shaky breath he allowed his weight to sack against the tree, pressing the bowls to his chest to hide how badly they shook. Seemed like Fíli and Kíli would have to go without dinner.


His heart was still pounding like it wanted to explode out of his chest and there was a buzzing sound in his ears. He craned his neck around and hollowly took in the situation absentmindedly.


“He's got Myrtle and Minty.”


His soulmate was clearly alive. So was Yavanna telling him he would die? Why was she telling him right now?


“I... I think they are going to eat them.” he felt dazed, his heart heavy as he observed absentmindedly what was happening around him. It couldn't be that his mate was fated to die? Yavanna was not cruel. She wouldn't show him his soulmate and give him only a mourning song to remember him by. She wouldn't. Maybe it was a warning?


Yet, he had never heard of something like this happening. Of course, that could have to do with hobbits living in the shire and generally finding their match rather early, as well as living in the peace and comfort like they were, there was hardly any reason for them to die young. How old was Thorin?


“We've got to do something.”


He blinked when both dwarrows turned to him at the same time and looking as if he had just revealed the solution to their problem. Wait, what had he just said?

“Yes!” Kíli enthusiastically exclaimed, nodding wildly “You should!” he stood up and dragged Bilbo forward a little, almost beaming at the bewildered hobbit.


“Mountain trolls are slow and stupid, and you are so small-”


“Me? No-” Bilbo begun waggling his fingers. Bad idea. Bad!


“-they will never see yo-


“-no, no, no-”


“-u! It's perfectly safe! We will be right behind you.”


Was this some kind of joke?

Fíli suddenly stood up behind Bilbo (when had Fíli gotten behind him?), before the hobbit could muster up any sort of protest again.


“If you run into trouble, hoot twice like a barn owl -” A hand on his back guided him another step closer to the camp, before giving him a gentle shove ”- and once like a brown owl.”


“Once like a... and twice like a... what?!”


Snapping back he grabbed onto both of them, just as they tried to disappear on him.


“Wait. Wait, wait, wait. Not so fast.” He said, scowling into their surprised faces and holding on to them, just to be sure they would stay where they were right now “Are you sure that this is a good idea? We should go and...” Bilbo trailed off. Get Thorin and the company?? Yeah, right. To meet trolls. After Yavanna just told him Thorin would die. Nope. No. Not happening. Not on his watch.


This was so not happening. Laying one hand on Kíli's and one on Fíli's shoulder and hoping his face was not the grimace he felt it to be, he nodded.


“You are absolutely right. Let's go.” this was so going to suck. Bilbo knew this would just … turn sour. It was a terrible idea but he was not willing to risk Thorin. He might be an arse, but at least he was being alive while being one. Bilbo preferred if he would stay like that and ignored the suspicious stares of the two dwarflings. Kíli especially looked like his sudden turnabout was fishy. Probably because rarely (if ever) anyone thought they were right or followed their plans, except maybe his equally foolish brother, who was usually just as much to blame as Kíli.


“You just... uhh... stay here. And eat your dinner.” at least what was left of it. “I'll just... go over there and... take a look.”


So. He had... just agreed to go into a troll-camp alone (because no, he would not drag two barely out of childhood dwarflings out there, no sir. Didn't matter that they were actually older than him by years and had combat training since their grubby hands could hold something with the use of their opposable thumbs). Without a weapon. Great. What had he said to Thorin? He was skilled at conkers. Right now an axe or sword would probably make him feel better, even if he would have to drag it behind him because the weight would be too much.


Slowly he crept through the wood, taking care to be as quiet as possible so he wouldn't alert the trolls to his presence.


Finally he reached the pen and crept closer, looking at the situation from close and ducking low to avoid being spotted.

Ah... yes. He realized the first flaw in his completely-non-existent plan. He needed a dagger or something to free the ponies. He knew who had daggers. That idiot blond dwarfling. Of course, they hadn't thought about this either. For now he tried to loosen the knots with his bare hands, but they were tight. Troll-strength tight. Bilbo rumpled his nose in disgust. It was dirty, and the smell that permeated the air was so strong that Bilbo was struggling the first few long seconds to not just start heaving.


Looking around for something to use as a knife he took in his surroundings. Bone. Bone. Another bone. Urgh, gross, was that a head?? Bone, ladle, troll, bone, leather, dwarfling, Bone, b- what? He froze when he saw the dark haired dwarfling running into the clearing. One of those he had just told to stay somewhere else and eat dinner. You know, one of those that had gotten him to creep into a troll camp. He also went by the name Kíli and Bilbo would soon have to write a condolence letter to his mother, because said dwarfling would die in an unfortunate accident, if he survived the trolls.


Be blinked. Maybe it was some kind of hallu-


“Where is Master Boggins?! What have you done to him?!”


… uhm. No.


→ Bury your head into your hands. If you can't see it, it's not real.


→ Start laughing and giving your position away. Maybe it will distract the trolls enough to not kill the idiot standing in front of them.


→ Cry. You are doomed to death if that's the level of intelligence you are surrounded with.


Before he could decide on a course of action several more dwarrows came charging out of the trees, war-cries on their lips and weapons at the ready.


Bilbo buried his head in his hands. Too bad he could still hear them. Otherwise his plan might have worked.


Lifting his head he stood up. He could strangle Kíli later. Right now his soulmate was meeting trolls, and Bilbo would be damned if his soulmate ended as a pancake while he hid away behind a crudely made pen, hiding from reality. His hands flitted over his waist-pocket. Empty, except for the lone Chestnut that had hidden here from the last game of conkers he had played back in the Shire. He still had no (other) weapon. Great. But better than nothing, right?


Slowly he inched his way around the pen, looking to get the knife lying around the place one troll had used to cook. It was utter chaos to Bilbo's eyes. The dwarrows were slashing and hitting, and while the trolls did get injuries, they were minor. Their thick skin protected them from greater harm. It was terribly loud and confusing and Bilbo was sure he would be missing several limps if he so much as tried to step into the fray.

Besides, Bilbo was a little insulted that Kíli thought he would be caught that easily. Finally he reached the knife, while ducking low under a swing the troll had taken blindly at him. He shuddered to think what one hit like that would do to him. Carefully he crept forward, looking around for any other troll-swings in his direction.


Which is why he could see another troll honing in on Thorin, who was busy fending off the troll-cook. Without really thinking about it he reacted. With skill from conkers and another Shire-game called Acorn-Accuracy, he pulled out his chestnut and used a special made sling (usually for shooting acorns with accuracy and the chestnut was a little big for it), to shoot his conker-chestnut. At least he had a big target, which would excuse his inaccuracy because he had never really shot a those with his slingshot before.


A second later the troll roared out in agony, his hands flailing in the air and hitting another troll, who was knocked over by the sudden hit. Almost crushing the dwarrows that quickly scurried out of the way. Meanwhile the troll Bilbo had aimed his chestnut at continued to stomp around, through the fire – which meant that he scattered the coals and burning wood around, making it a hazard for any hobbit to take another step – before knocking over the cauldron of boiling so-called-soup.

There was a sudden, stunned stillness in the camp.




Even though he said it very quietly, it echoed in the sudden quiet that had interrupted the battle, while Bilbo froze in astonishment what his one conker-shot had caused. Sure, okay, maybe aiming for the eye had been a bit mean but then again, he hadn't liked the look the troll had given Thorin and the eye had made for a giant easy target. Clearly this was not completely his fault, no matter how much of an evil eye Thorin was sending over to him right now.


Which was why he was unprepared to be picked up by the remaining troll.


Okay. This was embarrassing. Maybe Kíli did have a point for thinking Bilbo would be caught easily.


Even worse was being stuffed into sacks and watching the trolls prepare for dinner, after watching Thorin plant his sword in the earth and the company following his example, all the while cursing lowly under their breath. And now the was forced to listen to trolls talk about cooking, making Bilbo twitch whenever they talked about combining herbs that really didn't go well together. It was an ingrained habit, but yes, Bilbo took affront to listening to them talk about cooking and getting it wrong. The troll – William was his name – was still holding his eye and whimpering pitifully at times, covering his injury with a hand, while sending glares at Bilbo at other times with his remaining eye. Bilbo sniffed disdainfully at it. It was it's own fault for breathing into Thorin's direction. There had been plenty of other dwarrows to pick on, besides his soulmate that had already been busy with another troll.


“What were you thinking?!”


It took a moment before Bilbo realized that an equally bound Thorin Oakenshield had actually deigned to talk to him. And look at him! Well. It was more of a furious and incredulous hiss, pressed out between teeth that were clenched tightly together in what was probably frustration, and a very intimidating stare. As intimidating as one could be lying on the ground in a smelly sack at least. Thorin sure managed to pull it off.




“What were you thinking by doing that!”


“Do... do you really want to discuss this right now? Bilbo hissed back and received a glower in return, but no further demand for an answer. Huffing to himself, Bilbo returned to listening to the Troll's planning their dinner. Bert especially was angry that his soup had gone to waste. Now he had to start again because those few dwarrows – apparently they hadn't realized he was not one himself, or simply didn't care – would never satisfy their stomachs.


“-never mind the seasoning, we ain't got all night.”


In this regard they were lucky, Bilbo mused, because they gained valuable extra time to think of a strategy to escape. And he was lucky Thorin was now silent because he just got handed their plan of escape on a silver platter a moment later.


“Dawn ain't far away away. Let's get a move on, I don't fancy being turned to stone.”


Right. Thank you for that information Mr. Troll! Now, his idea wasn't the greatest, it would turn out to be either brilliant or... extremely dump. With his luck he wouldn't bet on the first one, but it was better to try than to accept their fate as inescapable. If Thorin did die here, at least the rest of the company would hopefully escape. Had Yavanna tried to warn him of this? Was this the point where the Company had to go on without their leader? Bilbo felt a sharp ache in his chest at the thought that Thorin might not be able to go further. He buried it deeply, for it was distracting him when he had to concentrate right now. It was not too late yet and Bilbo... well, Bilbo was not ready to let go of Thorin yet.


“Wait!” struggling Bilbo sat up, a fire burning in his gut. Small but hot in it's anger “You are making a terrible mistake!”


Roasting over the fire Dori shouted “You can't reason with them, they are half-wits!” while Bofur complained soon after “Half-wits? And what does that make us then?”


Bilbo ignored the byplay with a condescending glance in their direction and struggled to his feet, evading attempts from his fellow sack-bound companions to grab at him and pull him down again.


“I meant with the seasoning!” in for a penny, in for a pound. He had to stall them, and Bilbo was determined to at least try. Maybe they would all live to see the sunlight again. And if he happened to move so he was standing in front of his friends – and consequently Thorin – well... that was his business.


At least he had gained the attention of all three trolls, and not only the one of William who continued to glare at him with his one eye.


Bert – the cook – took a few lumbering steps towards him with a scowl on his face.


“What about the seasoning?” at least he had the troll's interest piqued. Only he had no idea how to continue his plan. But he was a hobbit and he would be able to think of something in regards to food-preparation.


“Uhm.... W-well...” think Bilbo, think! This is no time to dwaddle and get scared. Even if there was a troll standing in front of him. Tilting his head back he stared up. A big troll. Suddenly Bilbo felt very small and very helpless, so much that it almost took his breath away. Shaken he continued anyways.


“Y-yes, w-well. Y-you... have you smelt them?!” not that Bilbo could distinguish any smell thanks to the polluted area they were in, except for a whole bunch of disgusting ones that seeped into each other... The smell of old blood, rotten and burned flesh and several other, stomach turning ones that Bilbo didn't want to spend time thinking on.


His words caused the dwarrows to break out in a wave of protest. Confound them!


“Y-you would need a whole lot more than a sprinkle of sage to plate them up.” he raised his voice slightly when the dwarrows begun to demur and grumble, as if hoping to drown them out. It worked somewhat, since the trolls continued to concentrate on him. Still, did Fíli have to try and bite him? Surely that was going to far...


“You see... there... there is a secret to cooking dwarves...”


“Yes?” Bert perked up even more.


“Well, you see....uhm...”


“Secret? What secret?” the troll was brandishing his knife and Bilbo almost took a step back, shaking in fright, but standing his ground in determination.


“Go on, tell us the secret!”


“Yes, yes! The... uhm... the secret....” Bilbo was at a loss, what should he say? It was as if his mind was suddenly wiped blank. Bilbo found it quite inconvenient right now.


“The secret iiiiisss.... toooo-”


“What would you know about cooking dwarves?” William growled at him. Apparently even trolls could hold grudges, but then again Bilbo was pretty sure that William only had one eye for the rest of his miserable life. Bilbo would be pissed too, if he was in William's place.


“Ehr... enough to … uhm... be known as one of the best hosts in... where my sort lives. And... and as one of the only ones, maybe even the only one that has had them at dinner!” true enough.


“What are you then?”


Bilbo blinked at the turn of conversation, but anything to stall time was welcome.


“Me? Well, I'm... I'm a burgl-a hobbit! Yes, yes and my kind are.. uh, renowned for our cooking. If you wouldn't mind, we could compare our recipes? Maybe we could even have a cooking match!”


He might be mistaken, but it looked like Bert did look delighted at his suggestion.


“A match!” he grabbed Bombur at his feet and dangled him upside down, while he studied him. The poor dwarf was sweating in terror while blood rushed to his face.


“Very well, a match it is. I'll prepare this dwarf, his meat looks juicy and soft.”


All of a sudden Bilbo felt at a loss at what to do, when confronted with a sweating and terrified Bombur that was helpless in the trolls grip. Blinking he forced his mouth to work, not even thinking really about what to say, as long as the troll would stop looking at Bombur as if he would eat him right this second.


“Yes, yes.” several dwarrows were throwing insults in his direction, calling him a traitor. Bilbo barely refrained from rolling his eyes in annoyance, of all the times to be slow on the uptake, did it have to be now?


“I have to say his meat is probably not the best to cook but it's your choice.”


At once he had the attention of the troll on him again. His heart was running a mile a minute.


“Why not?!” Bombur was held close to him as if a closer look would change Bilbo's mind. Bert was not happy that his choice in dwarf did not meet Bilbo's expectation.


Stomping on the urge to laugh hysterically – because he was kind of giving a troll lessons in cooking no less! – he eyed Bombur and tried to look neutral and not scared out of his mind like he was. He was not sure he succeeded, when Bombur turned his pleading eyes on him.


“Well...” swallowing he took a shaky breath “He's... he's...” he closed his eyes for a moment so he could collect his thoughts, which was well nigh impossible while facing his friends plight literally.


“I mean, you are probably right in regard that he would be juicy, but … well, you are making soup right? I wouldn't choose that dwarf because there is... there is too much fat. It would be better if you took another one that had more muscle-mass. And... and k-keep that dwarf for later. Maybe for steak. I think he would be great for steak.” he had never thought he would have to think about how to best prepare dwarrows as meals. It was a perspective he could have done without, to be truthful.


Bert harrumphed and tossed Bombur to the side, causing a wave of groans by the dwarrows that were buried under Bombur's weight, while looking around.


“Who would you take then?”


… right. Uh...


Helplessly Bilbo looked around, his gaze passing over Thorin with a pang of guilt and wincing at the looks he received in return. Maybe he did sound a little too serious in his food preparations?


“W-well...” Casting a quick glance to the sky he bis his lips. Still a little ways to go.


“... that one?” he nodded at Dwalin and instantly the dwarrows erupted in shouts and threats again. Fíli, the one closest to him was already chewing on Bilbo's sack, almost managing to trip the hobbit when he tried to shuffle away from him. It's not that Bilbo couldn't understand them, as Bert picked up Dwalin instead and critically looked him over. The knife itched closer and Bilbo's heart threatened to burst out of his chest.


“W-WELL! Well, normally you would take him but! ... But I really wouldn't at this time. Y-you know I was traveling with them? Well, that's because they are ill. Terrible business, really.” he was blabbering but Bert was already holding a knife way too close to Dwalin for Bilbo's comfort and he really didn't want to see Dwalin be cut to pieces. He might be panicking a little, okay?


“Parasites! They have parasites, all of them!” seeing a flash of disgust on Bert's face, Bilbo felt a wash of relief. Sweat tickled his brow and his neck.


“We don't have parasites! You have parasites!” Yes. Terrible business. He would have to tell Kíli's mother they had not even be able to find a body. Sad story, really. At least Thorin seemed to clue in to his plan and kicked his nephew. Thank you.


“I almost ate them myself, but I wouldn't risk it. Terrible business, really. Gandalf!” Indeed, it was Gandalf scurrying over a boulder “Uh...G-Gandalf... h-he's the one who gave them to me, this Gandalf... He really fooled me! It's fraud I tell you, can't even do a good business without getting duped! Still, they are infected w-with worms of all things!”


“Ew!” Bert threw Dwalin onto the pile of dwarrows, narrowly avoiding hitting Bilbo with him.


“What a load of rubbish! I've eaten plenty of dwarves. None of them had worms!” Tom, who had been silent so far, eyes the hobbit in distrust.


“Well, you got lucky!” Bilbo tartly replied, crossing his arms (not that anyone could see it, as he was still stuck in a sack) “If you want to eat worm infested food, be my guest. I certainly wouldn't.”


“What about you then?” okay, William definitely had a grudge against Bilbo. And apparently the dwarrows had finally seen through his plan and begun protesting, trying to draw attention to themselves and off of Bilbo.


“M-me?” it was a nice thought, that the dwarrows did care about him and tried to protect him.

“Yes, you are not a dwarf, but a burglahobbit...”


“Uhm.” right. There was a mistake in this plan as well...


At least Gandalf was finally ready and appeared on top of the boulder.


The dawn will take you all!” he boomed, staff raised.


“Who's he?”


“No idea...”


“Can we eat him too?”

And then Gandalf thrust his staff down on the boulder, cracking it in half with ease like one would crack open an egg over a bowl. Sunlight poured into the clearing and turning the howling trolls into stone almost instantly.


Bilbo sighed in relief and exhaustion, finally relaxing as the dwarrows around him begun to cheer for Gandalf. And if his legs finally refused to cooperate any further, he would dare anyone to say something about it.


He had probably aged like... 10 years or more in the span of just one hour or less.


But they were alive. All of them. Thorin...


A little frantically Bilbo's eyes searched his dwarf out, as Gandalf helped them to get free of their predicament.


Thorin... alive and glowering. Bilbo felt a knot in his chest loosen. With a sigh he closed his eyes and send a prayer of thanks to Yavanna for not taking his soulmate away yet.


Still... the song was bothering Bilbo a lot. So far he only had four lines, and they sounded sorrowful, almost hallow.


But Thorin was alive. He was still alive. Maybe, just maybe...


Maybe he could change his fate. Somehow. Why else would Yavanna be singing this to him, if not as a warning so Bilbo could act?

Problem? Well, they were on a quest, with a dragon on it's end. That might be a problem.

Not to mention that the way there had to hold it's own perils and Bilbo was ill equipped to deal with them.


Bilbo snorted, smiling shakily at Gandalf who helped him out of the scratchy sack and onto his furry feet with a raised eyebrow.


Well... Seems like he would just have to roll with whatever they encountered and keep Thorin out of harms ways to the best of his ability.


Easy, right?



Chapter Text

From his place on the ground Bilbo stared up mournfully at one of the trolls.


“What's wrong?” Fíli asked when he ambled past him while collecting his weapons. Bilbo had never realized just how many the dwarf had hidden on his person before, not even when Fíli had loaded most of them into his arms back in Bag End. One would have thought that this would be Nori's area of expertise.


“That was my best chestnut.” Bilbo answered with a sigh and a downturn of his mouth “And now it's stuck in the eye of a troll. In an eye of a stone-turned troll.”


Fíli stopped and stared at Bilbo for a moment, before turning and looking at the troll in question as well, crossing his arms in contemplation.






“Well. At least your chestnut died fighting.”


“There is that.” Bilbo agreed with a spark of amusement igniting in his eyes and watching as Fíli ambled over to his brother, helping him tie the leather vambraces back in place. He would have to keep an eye out for any chestnut-trees on the way. Maybe his chestnut's would be more useful on this journey than he could have guessed before.


Come to think of it, acorns should be collected too.

。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。

“So?!” Thorin was standing in front of him, his arms crossed and his brow furrowed in a terrifying glower. Behind him the three stone-turned trolls cowered, framed by the halo of the rising sun. It would be an imposing picture if Bilbo was not too exhausted and hungry to appreciate it.


“Explain it to me. Now. What were you thinking by hitting a troll in the eye?!”


Bilbo sniffed in Thorin's direction. Not even a little break – a well deserved break to relax! – after being patient enough to give trolls cooking lessons. No, as soon as Thorin was free, he stomped over in his regal way and demanded answers. See if he would safe that dolt again, if that's how he expressed his thanks! No appreciation. None!


“I didn't think he would overreact and be so dramatic.” Bilbo muttered, letting his head fall on the ground he was lying on. Really, his legs felt like jelly. He deserved to lie on the ground. He just wished there wasn't a bone or two digging in his back, but he was sure he could not stand, and had no wish to show this to anyone in the company. He was alive. Thorin was alive. The company was alive. That was what's important right now.


Thorin's gaze turned incredulous. It furrowed his brow even more, making deep groves between his eyes that told Bilbo the depth of Thorin's dissatisfaction. Not that he cared a whit right now.


“You didn't think he would react when you poked him in the eye?!”


“Weeelll...” no, he hadn't thought much except that he didn't want the troll closer to Thorin than he already was. And his goal had been accomplished. Somewhat. Not that he would tell Thorin that. Maybe dwarrows didn't have soulmates, or didn't know them. Or Thorin did know, but choose to ignore it because Bilbo was a hobbit and Thorin was a stupid, grumpy, outsider-hating, suspicious, rude, attractive, stubborn, frowny, frustrating dwarf. Who knew? Bilbo was not inclined to ask. He had made his decision and Thorin would have no say in it. Meanwhile Bilbo would make sure Thorin didn't do something reckless again. Like charging in a troll-camp. Yes, note to self: Avoid troll camps. (The way they smelt this shouldn't be all that hard to accomplish.)


“You could have gotten us killed! That troll could have trampled anyone in the company!”


A spark of irritation unfurled in Bilbo's stomach. He had nothing to eat yet – which, you know, for hobbits was a travesty – and that alone was reason enough to make Bilbo's mood turn sour, never mind what had happened after. Had he complained?? No. No, he held a god damn cooking lessons with beings too stupid to differentiate between thyme and rosemary! On an empty stomach! If that was not torture, Bilbo didn't know. And if that was not enough, no, he had to almost decide which friend to kill, handle almost being killed himself, and now he was also blamed for all of it?


Slowly Bilbo sat up, his right eye twitched and he darkly stared up at Thorin. Not that he was very intimidating, sitting on bone-covered floor and having... well, better not think of what might be stuck in his hair.


“You wouldn't have been in danger at all if you didn't storm into the clearing a bull!”


Easy? Keeping Thorin alive... Easy??? Nothing was easy when it concerned Thorin Oakenshield! Bilbo had half a mind to strangle Thorin himself. Maybe that's why Yavanna was singing a mourning song, it was to remind him of patience! Or maybe he could just shake him. Because apparently Thorin had more than a few screws loose and he wanted to check if they rattled in his apparently empty brain.


And then Thorin sneered at him. Sneered! And then turned around and left.


The nerve of that dwarf!


Open mouthed in outrage Bilbo couldn't even utter anything in reply to that behavior.


But if he found nettle, he knew which bedroll to put them in. Thistle would maybe be even better. If that didn't work he could always try other plants, of which he had extensive knowledge.


Why did he have to get saddled with this for a soulmate? Well, for better or for worse. Thorin was stuck with him.


As if sensing Bilbo's thoughts, Thorin looked over his shoulder and glared.


It may have been childish, but Bilbo struck out his tongue and blew a silent raspberry.


It was worth the incredulous look he got from Thorin.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Next Ori came by. A bit shy at first he wrung his hands in front of him, settling his weight from one foot to another, as if he was undecided weather to stay and ask whatever lay on his tongue, or turn and walk away.

Bilbo smiled encouragingly up to him, curious what this was about but willing to wait for the dwarf to find his words. He liked Ori, even if they had not talked much yet.


“I saw you using a slingshot....” Ori finally murmured “Why did you not tell us you could use it?”


Blinking Bilbo took a moment to stare owlishly at the dwarf. What was he talking about? Why would Bilbo have to tell him about shire games?


… Oh.


“I did tell you about Conkers... and that slingshot is actually used in Acorn Accuracy, not as a weapon.”


“Oh.” Ori seemed stumped for a moment.


“But... but you must have trained with it a lot?? You made a really good shot.”


“It was a lousy shot, that's what it was...” Bilbo grumbled, because for him it was. The Conker was just a bit too big to make a really good shot.

“I'm just glad the target was so big. Really, shooting my Conker... I would have fared better with an acorn.” Maybe he should still get used to shooting chestnuts too.


Seeing Ori's eyes begin to bug he felt at a loss about what to say.


“Well... it's a nice game? We play it a lot in the sire? I could show you maybe.... I saw you used a slingshot too...?”


Maybe Ori could give him a few hint's how to best shoot stones...


“... right.” why was Ori eying him so full of awe and apprehension all of a sudden? “Are there any other Shire games??”


Bilbo felt a grin spread over his face.




。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Apparently a small talk with Gandalf revealed a Troll hoard nearby. Great. Good for them. Bilbo would not set a foot in there though, no sir.

Groaning Bilbo pulled himself to his feet again. His legs wobbled a little unsteady and Bilbo felt like a newborn calf, but they held. Barely. With careful steps he followed after the company, deciding to say outside the cave they found nearby. On another fallen tree. Sitting. No need to expose himself to more troll-smell. He had been closer to them than he had ever cared to be. He would happily wait outside, in the fresh air and in the sunlight, while birds chattered in the trees. It was calming, relaxing. Bilbo felt his exhausted keenly as the last bit of adrenalin left his body, leaving him leaning heavily against a tree trunk. If only he could sleep now...

Instead his hands found the small paper that was hidden in his pocket, as well as a small piece of coal. It was not great, but it would do to note down Thorin's song, less he forgot something important later on. It was especially important now, that he knew Yavanna was warning him. Of … something.


So far he had only two lines noted down:


Thorin! King Under The Mountain

Alas no more shall rule this domain


Before anyone noticed him, he quickly scribbled down the lines that had been sung to him the last night.


His brethren must go on without him

And ensure his death was not in vain


For a moment Bilbo stared uneasily down at the words, worrying his lips between his teeth. Then, as Bifur went past him, he quickly stowed it away in his pocket again. He did not want to have to explain this to anyone. Much less Thorin. And the dwarf would ask if he found a piece of paper on Bilbo, with a song about his death that had not yet happened. Wouldn't happen if Bilbo had the choice. Actually, maybe he should simply learn the lines by heart, as it could get really uncomfortable if anyone found it. Just imagine Dwalin getting a hold of it. Right.


Slowly his heart-rate returned to normal and Bilbo felt exhausted beyond belief. Despite the lingering troll-smell that wafted over to him with every breeze now and then, he let the sounds of the woods and his surrounding lull him into a almost sleep-like state, only with his eyes still half open.


After all, he had only walked the day before and talked through the night to save their lives. He was tempted to simply close his eyes and get a little shut-eye while the dwarrows were digging through troll-shit or whatever was hidden in that cave to cause it to smell like that.


A booming “Bilbo!” ripped him out of his state.


Of course, that's exactly when they choose to come back out and Gandalf had to call him over. Bilbo went reluctantly, dragging his feet a little before coming to a stand in front of the wizard, who only pressed a sword in his hand.


“Here... this is about your size.”


Bilbo held it at a distance, unsure what to do with the thing, looking from the metal, up to Gandalfs blue eyes and back down again. There was still dirt sticking to it, but apparently Gandalf had roughly tried to clean it. It was heavy and cold and felt alien in his hands.


“Gandalf... I.... I can't take this.”


“The blade is of elvish make...” Gandalf explained and continued with an I-am-more-experianced-than-you-and-have-your-best-interest-at-heart sort of look “Which means it will glow blue when orcs or goblins are nearby.”


Clearly a hint for him to take it anyways. Okay, a blue flaming torch might be useful, if it indicates danger is nearby. Only blue blazing torches had the tendency of... you know, drawing attention to the person holding them. Well meaning, but Bilbo was not convinced.


“... I...” risking a glance over his shoulder he saw that the dwarrows were preoccupied and turned back to explain in a low voice that hopefully wouldn't draw too much attention “I have never used a sword in my life...” after Thorin's words in his entrance hall, Bilbo was reluctant to make himself into a target by admitting his weakness out loud. He was not sure what he would do in his sleep-deprived state if the dwarrows choose to ridicule him. Probably lob said sword at their heads.

And then get annoyed when they caught it. (He did remember his dishes back home...)


“And I hope you never have to.” Gandalf said gravely “But if you do, remember this: True courage lies in knowing not when to take a life.” a gentle twinkle entered Gandalf's eyes “but when to spare one.”


Bilbo – suddenly stuck speechless – stared up at the wizened wizard he had known since he was a fauntling. Then he looked contemplating down to the sword again. This time it didn't seem so bad to take it. The sword... Bilbo didn't want to use it to kill, but Gandalf was right, wasn't he? If Bilbo choose not to, then it wouldn't. Well, he hoped so. At least it might be used as a deterrent? Bilbo had seen 'sword' and thought of 'used to kill', but it was not the weapon that killed. It was the wielder.

“Something's coming!”


Thorin's loud voice interrupted their talk before Bilbo could make the decision, one way or another.


“Gandalf...” but Gandalf was already turning away. And Bilbo did remember that back in the troll-camp he had wished for a blade or an axe. Maybe the sword would make him feel a little safer? Besides, next time ponies got stolen by trolls he would at least be able to cut the robe now. Not that he planned to encounter trolls again. Not live ones. He might come back to the stone turned ones at a later point to pay his respects. To his conker-nut, not the trolls.


“Stay together! Hurry there, arm yourself!”


Great. Just great. Well, he had a sword and he had the very basics of the basics of how to use a sword down. Namely: The pointed end went into the fleshy parts of his enemy. Couldn't be too hard... right?


Bilbo, seriously wondering why they were walking towards whatever was coming instead of doing the sensible thing – like hiding for example – followed the dwarrows and Gandalf and hoped that the dwarrows would know to keep well out of his way.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


“Thieves! Fire! Murder!!” astonished, Bilbo stared at the dirty man on a sledge, pulled by giant rabbits. His first thought was: Rabbit stew.


Excuse him for being hungry. Slowly the adrenaline of the sudden appearance settled a little, leaving Bilbo rather shaken.


“Radagast!” Gandalf exclaimed “Radagast the Brown.” the second thought was Uh-oh, another wizard. Everyone in the company had drawn their weapons and they were wary, though Gandalf identifying the stranger did settle them a little.


“What on earth are you doing here...?” for once even Gandalf sounded baffled. Bilbo was preoccupied with studying the wizard. Suddenly he was glad that they had met Gandalf. Having this fellow on their journey... well, Bilbo would find the next cliff and jump. He liked being sane and Radagast seemed to be the kind of person that would literally drive him over the edge.


The dwarrows at last sheathed their weapons again, while the two wizards moved off to continue their wizardly talk in private. Bilbo was sure he didn't even want to know, instead he used the time to rest his feet and to look at the rabbits. They were quite big. One would probably be enough for a soup.


Maybe the talk with the trolls had damaged Bilbo somewhat. His stomach rumbled and the rabbit's looked to him. Quickly Bilbo looked away and found Thorin watching him, before looking away abruptly.


What had that been about?


A distant howl distracted him. Scrambling he got to his feet again, looking around.


“Was... was that a wolf?” Bilbo didn't care if his voice was a little higher pitched than normal. The Fell Winter had impressed a healthy dose of fear of those beings. Many a hobbit had fallen to their claws and maws.


“Are- are there wolves out here?”


“Wolves?” Bofur was standing close to him and already having his Mattock in hand. Bilbo fumbled to take out his sword “No, that is not a wolf...”


Oh, it was not? Good, goo-


Suddenly something leaped from a crag behind Bilbo into their midst, snarling and snapping it's jaws, knocking over several dwarrows. Like lightning Thorin is suddenly there, sword – Orcrist – drawn and killing the beast in a single strike. It had grey-brownish rugged fur, sharp claws and deadly fangs.


… on second thought, wolves were preferable.


Another beast came from behind Thorin and Bilbo's heart leaped in fright. Kíli's arrow felled the best, Dwalin's war-hammer silenced it forever. The whole company drew closer, staring at the two dead creatures in dread.


Thorin pulled his sword out of the dead animal with an easy strength that Bilbo envied. He had problems just holding his sword up.


“Orc scouts.” he spat disgusted, looking up at the rest of them “Which means an orc pack is not far behind.”


Haha. Ha. He could have sworn he heard orc pack.


“Orc pack?” demanded Bilbo as he wished he had the same condition like the dwarrows. Selective hearing would be great right about now. Maybe he had misheard? Or his brain just broke down, as an after effect from the meeting with trolls? He took a small step forward, closer to Thorin. Both wargs had been far too close to his souls other half. Far too close. Bilbo felt the strange need to fuss over Thorin and make sure he was unharmed. It was just not the time, nor would Thorin welcome it.


Meanwhile Gandalf was towering over Thorin, clearly unhappy with the situation.

“Who did you tell about your quest, beyond your kin?!”


“No one.” Thorin promised with surprise.


“Who did you tell!” Gandalf was clearly agitated, something that Bilbo wished he had never had to see. A calm wizard promised adventures, an agitated wizard promised orc packs or worse.


“No one, I swear!” Thorin growled, brow furrowing “What in Durin's name is going on?”


“You are being hunted.” Bilbo was tempted to throw his hands in the air at Gandalfs words. Wonderful! As if trolls had not been enough. And wargs! And probably soon orcs. His soulmate was a danger magnet. Trouble-seeker too, because which sane person went on a quest with about thirteen to fourteen members to take on a dragon?! His soulmate of course.


Maybe Bilbo had been a serial killer in his last life. That would explain it. Or maybe Thorin had been and his bad luck was now rubbing off on Bilbo, since he was the other half of his soul. This sucked. Yes, probably Thorin's fault.


“We have to get out of here!” Dwalin lifted his hammer and swung it on his back. Instead he pulled out his two axes, keeping a weary eye on their surroundings.


“We can't!” Ori exclaimed “The ponies, they bolted!”

Ungrateful creatures. Next time Bilbo would leave them to die. If they had, they would have been long gone before the orcs came. Still, maybe they could hide... no probably not with wargs who would smell them out. As they had spent several hours in the company of trolls, and after that some members had to dig around in a troll hoard, they would probably be smelled out while being a mile away.


“I'll draw them off!” Radagast exclaimed, but Gandalf shook his head, eyes showing concern and dismissing the idea instantly “These are Gundabad Wargs. They will outrun you.”


“These are Rhosgobel Rabbits! I'd like to see them try.” whatever those were, Bilbo had no idea (but he was glad he had not eaten them if they actually managed to get them out of this mess). Gandalf seemed to entertain the crazy idea after this, so maybe Rhosgobel Rabbits were better kept out of stew after all.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


He was used to walking holidays. Not this... this mad dash across fields and playing hide and seek with grotesque monsters out to kill them.

Panting he pressed himself against cold stone, his sides burning already. He watched as Thorin grabbed Ori and pulled him back behind the cover of a group of outcropping rocks, as the crazy wizard let the wargs on a merry chase.

“T-this better... be … the last time ...I run for my life!” he cursed under his breath. Bofur besides him chuckled as if he had just made a great joke.


He could still hear the many howls piercing the suddenly otherwise silent plains. Everyone was tense, rushing from hiding place to hiding place. Bilbo winced at the sounds they made. Those dwarrows in their armors, they were so loud. But still, to be able to walk with half a smithy on your back was impressive, running with it... Bilbo chanced a glance at Thorin.


No wonder they were made from muscle. Hmmm...


“Where are you leading us?!” Thorin's furious – and quite suspicious – question was met with an unreadable look from Gandalf, but no answer. If Bilbo wasn't so busy staying alive, he would have found it funny and would probably have been able to guess where they were headed to. If Gandalf didn't want to answer, it was probably due to him knowing that his answer wouldn't be well received. So the answer as to where they were headed most likely was the place Thorin was dead set against going to.


They came to a stop at another group of rocks. The tapping sound of claws on stone made all of them freeze. Low growling, almost snarling could be heard from the beast just above them. Ever so slowly Bilbo went to look up, holding his breath as if that would make them invisible. His lungs begun to burn from the lack of oxygen. Rationally he knew that it would be only a matter of time until the warg smelled them, or the orc looked down and saw them. It didn't help the feeling of wanting to cower down and hide away.


At Thorin's sign, Kíli quietly extracted an arrow from his quiver and – with a quick jump forward – he turned around and fired it. The warg fell, injured but not dead, whimpering piteously but still snapping and snarling in between. A second shot knocked the horn out of the orc's hand and Bilbo – for the first time in his life – got a close look at the being. The image would probably come back to him in nightmares, but in this moment he couldn't help but wince at the loud – and on the plain far carrying sounds they made. When warg and orc-rider had tumbled down the rocks, Thorin, Dwalin and Bifur had jumped forward and finished the creatures. The warg let out high pitched squeals of pain, and the orc managed a frightening roar as he charged at them. In Bilbo's mind it took ages for the dwarrows to kill the beings. And even longer until the echo disappeared.


Closing his eyes he prayed that luck would be with them and the orc pack had been out of hearing rage.


Rising howls changed direction – howls that became louder by the second – and forced him to face reality.


“Move! RUN!” Gandalf yelled and this time they took off without a care who would see them. They had no choice anymore, as wargs and orcs were on their heels and catching up quickly. Bilbo could see some of them already passing them, slowly surrounding them and forcing them to come to a stop. The dwarrows selected another outcropping rock-formation for their stand, forming a half-circle with their weapons raised.


“There's more coming!” Kíli yelled as he caught up with the group after having split off a little to their right to keep watch on their flank.


Thorin looked around, taking in their hopeless situation.


“Kíli! Shoot them!”


“We a surrounded!” Fíli cried, coming from their left, and at once Bilbo became aware again just how young the brothers were. He didn't know why, maybe because they were Thorin's nephews and in a distant way family – as well as friends – or maybe because he had always had a soft spot for children, but he didn't like them facing the orcs, not at all, but there was nothing he, or anyone else could do right now. Besides, at least they were somewhat trained, if not experienced in battle. Bilbo was neither. And the blasted wizard had disappeared.


Slowly the wargs and orcs drew closer, sensing their victory and enjoying drawing it out. The being in front, clearly their leader, let his warg draw closer in an overconfident swagger. Bilbo nearly cheered when Ori lobed a stone at it. Not that it did much damage. Ori really should learn to go for the eyes. Even the snout of the warg would have been better than the forehead. If they survived this he would have to talk with Ori about that.


“Hold your ground!” Thorin shouted as he drew Orcrist, widening his stance as if preparing to take on every single orc by himself if necessary. Dwalin, ever loyal, was right beside him. Bilbo wondered how often they had fought together, back to back if necessary. The whole company drew closer, forming a tight half circle and holding their weapons ready for the fight. Bilbo's sword was shaking slightly, he tried to avoid looking to closely at the appearance of their enemy.


This way you fools!!” Gandalf had appeared between the rock-formation behind them. Thorin quickly assessed their situation, then with two quick steps he moved over to Gandalf and saw the tunnel hidden between the rocks.


“Come on, move!” He mentioned for the company, who were already running in his direction “Quickly, all of you!”


Kíli was running backwards, drawing arrow after arrow to give the rest of them enough time to manage to get to safely. Bilbo quickly sheathed his sword and drew his slingshot, trying to aim with rocks he found on the ground. But they were heaver than nuts and most fell short of their target, the slingshot not having the strength to shoot them far and Bilbo not having the practice to know how far he would be able to shoot the rocks. He had better luck with smaller pebbles.


One warg – seeing his prey escape – recklessly approached from the side, trying to cut their escape route off. Thorin's blade flashed so quickly that Bilbo's eyes almost hadn't seen the swing, but Bilbo registered the dead warg a second later and concentrated on getting closer to the tunnel, while keeping an eye out for Kíli. He would not jump down that hole before knowing Thorin safe!


“Kíli! Run!” a voice almost directly behind him roared just as a hand grabbed the back of his waistcoat, making him shriek in fright, before roughly shoving him down their escape route. Tumbling Bilbo came to land on the ground groaning, but almost instantly tried to get up and if needed claw his way back up the tunnel. Someones arms locked around him – later Bilbo would realize it had been Nori who had held him back – but in this moment the sheer fright of the fall, the terror of being faced with trolls and wargs and orcs... that was nothing to what he was feeling right now when Thorin was out of his sight and in danger. He fought against the hold, and only slumped limply after Kíli and just a second behind Thorin slid down the crack.


He was very tempted to just shout at Thorin, rave at him for being reckless and shake him until he got it into his head that he was not allowed to do things like that.


It was that or simply hugging the life out of his soulmate and start bawling at how relieved he was that he was okay. And quite possibly get labeled as mad by every dwarf present.


The sound of a horn and the dead orc that tumbled down after them was distraction enough that neither of it happened.


“Elves.” Thorin spat, as he examined the arrow that had taken the life of this particular orc and throwing it back down on the ground, glowering in Gandalf's direction.


The company followed the path. It was narrow and sunlight steamed down from the crack in the ceiling. Bilbo didn't feel quite safe, knowing they could probably seen from above, as they slowly made their way along the crack between the two tall cliffs. Some parts the dwarrows sturdy frames have difficulty going through, especially with their weapons and armor strapped on. Bombur had by far the biggest problem passing through.


Thorin wearily eyed the path ahead, as if another orc – or possibly elf – would jump at them any moment. Finally the path reached an end and led to an open area with a clear sigh towards a beautiful valley with a small city nestled safely inside. Waterfalls seemed to follow natural, and directed courses trough the city until they joined together in a river that was leading out of the valley. The sunlight bathed the whole city in a soft glow, the light breaking in the spray of the waterfalls, creating a myriad of colors in it's wake. It was breathtaking.


“The Valley of Imraldis.” Gandalf explained, obviously content “In the Common Tongue it's known by another name...” he added with a hint of mischief.


“Rivendell...” Bilbo breathed out in awe. He had never thought he would see it, and even his mothers fond tales did not do reality justice.


Thorin turned back to Gandalf, who was standing besides Bilbo and had a look on his face like someone forced a lemon into his mouth and he knew how that would taste before it happened.


“This was your plan all along!” his soulmate accused the wizard “To seek refuge with our enemy!”


Bilbo rather thought the elves had saved them. He might have a bad case of hero-worship, especially where it concerned Elrond, who had been a dear friend of his mother, even if they had not seen each other often.


“You have no enemies here, Thorin Oakenshield. The only ill-will to be found in this valley is that, which you bring yourself.” Bilbo barely restrained himself from nodding. He might be compromised and he did not know why exactly Thorin despised the elves so deeply, however even the hobbits knew about the fact that elves and dwarrows had a deep mistrust for each other's race. Even if Bilbo thought there was more to it in Thorin's case.


Despite Thorin's protests and doubts they continued on, probably because the didn't exactly have a choice, Bilbo mused. Not only had there been an orc pack on the other end of the tunnel, according to Gandalf Elrond could translate the map, which showed the entrance to Erebor. Even Thorin had to bow to Gandalf's decision, no matter how grudgingly.


“If we are to be successful...” Gandalf mused, while watching Thorin like a hawk “this will need to be handled with tact.” Uh-oh, seems like they were doomed “Which is why you will leave the talking to me.”


Bilbo couldn't help it. He tried to cover his laughing by coughing in his hand, but apparently not well enough as Thorin's look would have been able to burn off the fur on his feet. Unapologetic, Bilbo shrugged his shoulders and gave his soulmate his patented you-have-only-yourself-to-blame look.


They continued on, walking over a bridge (where were the railings?! Who build a bridge without railings, especially when the fall could kill just about anyone?) to come to another open area. A small stairway was in front of them, on which a dark haired elf glided down to meet them.


“Mithrandir.” Bilbo ogled the elf. He did seem a bit... distant. And proud. But otherwise a nice fellow.


“Ahh... Lindir!” clearly Gandalf knew the other elf, and while the dwarrows were getting restless and begun murmuring to each other in their native language, Thorin turned to Dwalin, who was standing directly in front of Bilbo.


“Stay sharp.” Thorin 'whispered' and Bilbo rolled his eyes. He was pretty sure that the elves had very sharp hearing, even sharper than a hobbits. And while Lindir was standing further away, Bilbo doubted he had missed it, even while continuing to hold a conversation with Gandalf.


As Bilbo finally thought them save, the exhaustion that had been shoved aside caught up to him with triple it's strength. He wanted to just sit down on the floor and close his eyes, no matter if it was rude to sleep on the front porch of an elven city. From his mothers stories he doubted Elrond would mind, instead he would probably be affronted that Lindir had refused them entrance if it meant that the uninvited guests (wasn't that a familiar feeling? Bilbo almost got nostalgic and sent an apology for following the bad example of the dwarrows), were sleeping on the hard ground.


The call of horns brought him out of his dazed state, even as Thorin of all people grabbed him and shoved him into the midst of the dwarrows, together with Ori, Fíli and Kíli.


“Idrifî bekâr!!” At once the company drew their weapons “Hold ranks!”


Wide eyed he watched as elven riders drew close and almost got dizzy when their horses drew a tight circle around them.



Chapter Text

He was very thankful when they finally stopped. All those circling horses were making his head spin.


“Gandalf.” an armored dark haired elf sighed, fondness in his warm eyes even as his bearing was aloof as he dismounts elegantly from his horse. Bilbo has no doubt that this is Elrond. He might have never met him in person, but again, his mother's tales were enough, if not the presence the elf exuded and how the other elves deferred to him to recognize him on sight.


“Lord Elrond. Mellonnen! Mo evínedh?”


Farannem ‘lamhoth i udul o charad. Dagannem rim na Iant Vedui.” Elrond gave the horse a little stroke as another elf took the reigns “Strange for Orcs to come so close to out borders. Something...” and here he send the wizard a pointed look down his nose “Or someone, has drawn them near.” clearly Lord Elrond knew Gandalf rather well.


And Bilbo would readily point fingers. Actually, he did, which drew the attention of Lord Elrond. Giving a cough Bilbo shrugged his shoulders, even as his heart warmed when the dwarrows around him tried to close ranks in response to the attention the elf lord gave Bilbo.


“Absolutely his fault.” he imparted with a nod while Gandalf gave him a betrayed look. Thorin nodded alongside him. Must have been the first time Thorin was willing to agree with Bilbo about something. Though he was not happy when Bilbo managed to squeeze out of their group, coming to stand in front of the elves giving a bow to the elvish Lord, while a dwarfish king towered closely behind him.


L-le suilon, Lord Elrond...” his sindarin was rusty, but... but it was too much of a temptation to actually speak it, even heavily accented from disuse and lack of practice. Even if he could feel the burning looks on his back. It was a wonder he hadn't caught fire yet, which he was sure Thorin was trying with his eyes.


The dwarrows behind him rumbled in discomfort at his use of the language. Elrond just looked a bit surprised to find a hobbit in his home speaking his language. When Bilbo rose Elrond's face lightened up with a smile of recognition.


Iston i nîf gîn...” Elrond quietly said, eyes light with laughter.


In eneth nîn Bilbo Baggins. My mother told me a lot about you.” this elicited a chuckle out of the Lord.


Êl síla erin lû e-govaned vîn na vendui. Mae g'ovannen! Gi nathlam hí.” Again Bilbo bowed at Elronds words.


La fael!” Bilbo beamed, after he had taken a moment to translate what had been said to himself and Gandalf chuckled, shaking his head.


“Hobbit's” he said with a fond look in Bilbo's direction “You can learn all there is to know about them in a month, and they can still surprise you years later...”

At this Thorin finally seemed to have enough, stepping forward and slightly in front of Bilbo. At last, Elrond looked at the dwarf leading the company. Whether Thorin wanted to stop Bilbo from conversing any further with the elf, or just got impatient or simply didn't like not having the attention on him was anyone's guess.


“Welcome Thorin, son of Thráin.” he gave a slight nod.


“I do not believe we have met.” Thorin rumbled and Bilbo wanted to smack him. Gandalf had been right, it would have been better for Thorin to keep quiet. He was attractive as long as he kept his mouth shut. Too bad Thorin was to stubborn to obey and Bilbo could only roll his eyes at his soulmate's lack of manners.


Lord Elrond though didn't seem too mind much “You have your grandfather's bearing.” he explained patiently “I knew Thrór when he ruled the mountain.”


“Indeed.” Thorin said curtly, staring at the elf with barely concealed suspicion “He made no mention of you.” Bilbo's hand made an aborted involuntary twitch in Thorin's direction. The back of his head to be exact.


Nartho i noer, toltho i viruvor. Boe i annam vann a nethail vin.” Elrond said, this time a little colder and staring down at Thorin. Bilbo – if he had not been able to understand – thought it a bit rude of the elf too, to speak in a language Thorin obviously did not understand. No matter if Thorin had been bordering on insulting, Bilbo had thought better of the elf lord to not resort to petty tricks, even if it was harmless. Already he could see and almost feel the dwarrows anger being stirred, as they drew together again, weapons rising just a little as the elf continued to speak in sindarin.

Whaaat is he saying?!” Glóin growled agitated hefted his walking axe even higher “Does he offer us insult!?” already the bristling dwarf was taking a step closer to the elf as if he wanted to chop off his feet to get him to his eye-level. Actually, none of the dwarrows had put their weapons away yet, now that Bilbo looked back at them. With a sigh Bilbo looked up to the sky as if that would help with the situation. Just as he was about to speak Gandalf had the mind to actually cut in, before the situation escalated.

“No, Master Glóin...” there was a healthy dose of exasperation mixed into the tone. Bilbo could sympathize at least a little this time “He's offering you food.”

At that – gluttons that they were – Bilbo thought fondly, the dwarrows actually stepped back and rumbled to each other in their own strange language that Bilbo had until now only heard on rare occasions. Clearly food was one way to settle the dwarrows, but then again food was – in a Hobbit's mind – clearly the first step towards peace. Hobbits had it right. Then again, there had been that feud between a Bolger and a Chubb, when one accused the other of overcooking their meal... And the other time when one of the Sackville's had gifted burned cookies at a birthday party of a Brandybuck... and there had been one incident where a Took had 'accidentally' exchanged salt and sugar in a Baggins kitchen...

Okay, so maybe for Hobbit's food was … a way to make peace or start war. Mostly peace though.


At last Glóin slowly lowers his weapon.

“Ah.” he had the grace to at least look a little sheepish, but seemed mostly unapologetic “In that case, lead on.”

。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。

They were led inside. Bilbo could hardly see enough, he loved Rivendell already even if everything was strangely big. It wasn't surprising. Elves, like men, seemed to stretch to reach the sky (nevermind the disappointment that had to go with that impossible task) forgetting the good and proper earth beneath their feet. Was it a wonder they grew bigger than hobbits did?

His gaze kept darting around curiously and he only realized Elrond was watching him when he tried to look around the elf-lord at a statue and instead locked eyes with him. Seeing the fond look Bilbo flushed and tried to compose himself, to at least not act like a fauntling first time in the woods. It was embarrassing to conduct himself so, his mother would have boxed his ears for it for acting so poorly in front of her dear friend.

Actually, it was not hard to loose his excitement. He only had to look at Thorin's stormy face who was also watching him. And obviously not happy about Bilbo's enthusiasm about elvish things. Not happy at all. Bilbo really wanted to change the way Thorin seemed to perceive him. He might have to do some research in that regard, so he made a mental note to interrogate the friendlier dwarrows at the earliest opportunity.

Besides that his saddle sores were making themselves known again. He had gotten used to it, more or less. That didn't mean he wasn't glad to get some time off from riding and it did sound like the continued journey would probably not be on horse-back from now on. Mountain-paths were not for animals after all.

The elves led them to a open dining hall. It was beautiful, if a little big for Bilbo's taste. The rooms opened up to huge balconies on two sides of the room. Delicate but strong looking pillars held the ceiling and at some of them delicate little flowers were working their way up. It was like the elves managed to perfectly balance nature with their architecture and the flowers and trees just blended in and gave the entire place an ethereal atmosphere. Not that the dwarrows seemed to appreciate it as much as Bilbo did. They were sat around a table and were offered food, as promised. Bilbo had no problem digging in, despite being tired, he was starving. After all he had not had supper, dinner, first breakfast, second breakfast OR elevensies. It took a lot of restraint not to stuff the food into his cheeks like a chipmunk but to actually chew his food. Good thing his mother had insisted on instilling manners into his brain that he even feared her coming back from the afterlife if he misbehaved. It also helped that he liked salads just as well as other things that were on offer, so he had a lot to select from. The dwarrows – surprise, surprise – were not very happy about what was being served though, complaining about the lack of meat, and being generally dissatisfied of being in an elvish city.

“Try it. Just a mouthful.” Dori's mother-henning attracted Bilbo's attention. He was trying to get his younger brother to eat the salad.

“I don't like green food.” Ori whined, trying to shove his plate away. Bilbo was having none of that, glowering at the dwarf and pushing the plate back towards him.


Eat.” he said forcefully, and apparently commanding enough that Ori obeyed wide eyed. Dori was giving Bilbo a proud look. Apparently he had just won over the dwarf as a friend. Dear Yavanna, he was turning into a worse mother hen than Dori...

But he just didn't have the patience anymore to be polite like a Baggins should be. Which was also Gandalf's fault, he was sure of it.


He startled when the chair next to him was suddenly pulled back and blinked in wonder at Nori, who had settled in it and leaned back in a relaxed cat-like manner that bordered on slouching while still having the air of intimidation around him.


“Ori told me 'bout yer Shire-games...” Nori said with a grin tugging in the corners of his mouth, while he snatched up a loaf of bread, giving it a skeptic look before taking a hesitant bite out of it as if it contained poison.


“Oh?” Bilbo wondered at the sudden interest in his leisure activities.


“Oh yes.” Nori said, eying him with a glint in his eyes “Said ye have keen eyes and a steady hand.”


Bilbo shifted in his seat, unsure what Nori was getting at.


“I... I suppose?” he said carefully, because he had a feeling he was agreeing to something more than was being said here. Even more so when Nori full out grinned at him. Never a good sign.


“Wanna learn some more?”


Bilbo stopped with a bread halfway to his mouth. He blinked at Nori who was watching him, still smiling slightly. Then he tilted his head and considered it. While he did not have a lot to do with the Ri brothers – except maybe Ori in whom he had found a quick friend with several similar interests like books, slingshot-games, knitting, writing – Nori had never said or done anything against Bilbo. It was strange though, for the dwarf he had until now exchanged maybe four or five sentences to offer him to learn a game (and no, Bilbo was not convinced it was a game in the traditional shire sense).


“Why?” he asked instead, not suspicious but simply curious for the reason. Nori shrugged a little, turning to look at Ori and then back at Bilbo.


“Yer a good sort. Ori already likes ya, so tha' 's a point in yer favor.” Nori said, then he looked at Ori again, his expression softening the slightest bit.

“Besides, tha' chestnut-shot saved Ori from bein' trampled. Tha' 's good enough reason fer me.”


Nori turned back to Bilbo, this time a hint more serious. He leaned closer and in response Bilbo also leaned in to listen to what Nori had to say.


“Yer gentle-folk Bilbo. Good sort, but fightin'? Not yer cup of tea.” Nori said quietly, an amused sparkle in his dark eyes “This quest... it's goin' to be more dangerous as it continues... I'd like ter give ye a fighting chance. And I think I can use yer basic skills and refine them into somethin' more... useful.” Nori pulled back a little letting out a little laugh “Besides we thieves gottae stick together, hm? Think I can show yer a few other tricks besides...” Nori pulled back and refocused on his food. Bilbo noticed that it conceded with Dori looking over and giving Nori a flinty-eyed suspicious look, as if he knew his brother was up to no good.


Bilbo thought it over slowly, nibbling on his own bread. Back in the Shire he would have thought it repulsive to even contemplate such an offer. Now though... he had a soulmate. An oblivious-as-a-stone soulmate that Yavanna was already mourning, because she feared his time was going to be cut short. And Bilbo had just encountered trolls and orcs and knew just how... small and helpless he was in face of such enemies.


That's why he clenched his yaw and bit back the protests that wanted to spill forth and considered it. Really considered it. What harm could it do? Yes, no hobbit would think it respectable. It would probably change him, in a little way, but he already knew the journey would change him irreversible, no matter what he did. And he did have the option of not using whatever Nori would try to teach him, so nobody had to know he had acquired some... less savory skill-set.


Basicly: nothing would happen, if he didn't let it. It was just like learning a new skill. He could still decide to utilize it or not, depending on his wishes. The least he could do is look at the things Nori offered him to learn, because it might prove helpful in the future. Bilbo was the first to admit that he was hardly burglar material. And he knew he was not strong enough yet to help Thorin get out of the invisible noose that was slowly tightening around his neck.


No. Bilbo would never forgive himself if something he could have learned would have saved his soulmate, but because he didn't he hadn't been able to prevent his soulmate's death.


Besides, it would be a good way to pass the time on the road.


Giving a sidewards look in Dori's direction he chuckled lowly before nudging Nori with his foot and giving a small nod when the dwarf turned to face him.


It was even more satisfying when Nori blinked at him in astonishment, probably because he had rightly assumed that Bilbo would refuse such an offer on a normal soulmate-free day.


For now though they concentrated on the food laid out for them. Nori with less enthusiasm and Bilbo with gusto.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Bilbo was burying his head in his hands. This was not happening. Yes, maybe the music was a little too calm, but the behavior of the dwarrows was abhorred! How had the situation escalated this quickly?? They had just been eating and complaining and now...


“I'm sorry...” he moaned in distress, looking through his fingers at the elven lord who sat stone faced next to Gandalf.


“So, so sorry.” he added in a mournful tone as the dwarrows had not behaved this badly even back in Bilbo's home. Throwing around good food. Scowling Bilbo had enough, this could and would not go on! Grabbing a fork he threw it, hitting Bofur square between his eyes and knocking him off the table. Stunned silence followed.


“I'll give you meat from your own backside if you don't stop complaining. Now. Eat. The. Food.” if there was one thing Bilbo could not stand it was wasting food. He felt a little twinge of guilt in his stomach for hitting Bofur on his forehead.


Then Bofur grinned. The guilt was replaced by dread that was steadily growing in his stomach.


“Nice shot, Bilbo!” Nori cheered from the other side of the table he had retreated to after Dori had eyed them in suspicion for five minutes straight.


“Food fight!” and Bilbo whimpered and ducked. Had he thought he could actually curb those rude dwarrow-behavior? What a joke. He had not been able to stop them from invading his home, much less get them to do anything else he had wanted them to.


He crawled under the table as food flew over his head, splattering one of the beautiful statues behind him and sighed. At least his quick thinking had allowed him to bring his plate down too. Now he was relatively safe and could continue dinner, feeling miserable. His first dinner in Rivendell. Hiding under the table like a faunt.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


The next day Bilbo decided to spend in the library. Consequently it meant that he was spending his time with Ori, who seemed to refuse to leave the library for anything else than eating. Bilbo was half convinced that Ori was sleeping here and it had Dori in a tizzy. He had taken to look at Bilbo in a beseeching manner, as if Bilbo would somehow draw the youngest of the Ri brothers out of the room.


Maybe Dori thought he had some kind of wonderful power for getting Ori to eat something green that one time, but Bilbo was certain that there was no such a thing. He did however note that this could be an opportunity for him. Ori was one of the more open dwarrows so he might actually get some answers to questions that had been bothering for quite some time. The only problem was to get to those questions in a subtle manner, because Bilbo did not want to tell anyone about his soulmate. It was not done in the Shire. You found your soulmate and you courted and got to know your mate on your own, before telling anyone else about having found your mate.


Only Thorin didn't give him any sign of being aware that Bilbo was his soulmate.


“- there are so many books here it's amazing. I think it's one of the biggest libraries I've ever been to and the books look very well cared for. And it's not all in elvish either, there are many books in Westron and I've even seen a few in Khuzdul!” Ori exclaimed in an excited voice as he showed Bilbo around the book-filled halls. It certainly was very impressive. The room was build into the mountain and it was huge. A stairwell was spiraling up the room. They were currently on the lowest floor but if Bilbo looked up he could see several floors above them. It was very impressive and Bilbo was sure he himself could get lost and spend several years here simply reading, without running out of books.


“It's beautiful...” he whispered in awe, blinking against the light that spilled though the glass window in the far away window that was placed in the ceiling “I really wish we could have some more time here...” he sighed regretfully, Ori nodding emphatically.


“I know...” he said and wrung his hands “We have so little time here... I do hope I will be able to return someday to get a closer look at the Khuzdul books. Some of them seem really old and we are not sure how much of Erebor's library survived.” Ori looked worriedly over to Bilbo “Do you think the elves would mind me copying some of the books at a later point of time, should I get the chance?”


Bilbo hummed and shrugged slightly “I have no idea, but I would think not. Lord Elrond was a dear friend of my mother so I got a few tales of him in my childhood.” He knew a lot about Elrond's history, of the wars the elf had witnessed, not only in the first age but the second one as well.

“You do know that in the second war there was an alliance between men, elves and dwarrows. I would think that he is unbiased against your race, but it has been a long time since then...” Bilbo shrugged again, his fingers trailing over the spines of the books in the shelve next to him. “My mother spoke fondly of him, and she certainly was a person who valued judging someone as a person and not discriminating against a whole group of people. I should think that she wouldn't speak of someone so highly, if that person would be that biased.” he smiled a little at Ori “So I would certainly think that, if Lord Elrond looks at you and judges you by your own merit, he would not deny you your request...”


He really hoped so. The way Ori beamed at him after his little speech, clearly much more hopeful and taking Bilbo by his word. Gathering his courage, Bilbo turned to face Ori once more. At least they were alone because Bilbo was not quite sure how this talk would go.


“Say Ori... would... would you mind me asking a few questions about... about your culture and... and stuff?” Bilbo hedged carefully, seeing how Ori drew back a little and seemed to shift uneasily on his feet.


“You... you don't have to!” Bilbo tried to assure nervously, raising his palms in a placating gesture “I just... I thought... maybe I would understand you... better and I wouldn't... I don't know...” his shoulders slumped as his courage seemed to leave him and he looked away “I guess I just want to get to know you and... well, we are traveling together and I would also like to understand you better... and we do seem to have a few cultural differences and I guess I would like to avoid stepping on any toes – not that you would feel it with those contraptions stuck to your feet-” a soft touch at his elbow drew him out of his nervous ramblings to see Ori looking at him in amusement.


“I guess I can try to answer a few questions. You have to know that we khazad rarely share our culture with strangers and there are some aspects – like our language – that I'm not allowed to tell you. However... you are traveling with us and trying to reclaim our homeland. You certainly don't count as a stranger in my book.”


Bilbo nodded slowly, relief and hope rekindling at those words and already knowing about the 'not-talking-to-outsiders' fact after he had asked Fíli for a translation of a song at the campfire.

“I know. And I don't want you revealing anything that would get you into trouble... just... I thought maybe we could exchange a few questions. You lot don't seem to know much about hobbits either...”


Ori grinned at that and nodded, dragging Bilbo in the direction of a comfortable spot usually for reading or writing. He seemed a lot more enthusiastic now that Bilbo had offered to share some of his own culture with him too.


“So? What are you curious about?” he said even as he settled across from Bilbo on the well-upholstered bench in the alcove they had selected for their talk. Bilbo contemplated for a moment how he should start, without being too obvious about the soulmate issue currently bugging his mind.


“Uh.. general things I guess... how many meals are normal for dwarrows? I think it's a big difference to a hobbits six to seven meals... or is that just on travel?”


Ori's round eyes were answer enough that this was not the case “S-six? Seven?? No, no, we have a normal three...” Ori said and shook his head, then paused in consideration. A moment later his eyes clouded with worry “We aren't starving you, are we...?”


“No. I mean yeah, I've not had this little to eat in a long while and I'm... not accustomed to it. I do prefer the regular hobbit meal-schedule but I can certainly go with less...” Bilbo shrugged uncomfortable and decided not to mention that he last time he had eaten this little had been during the Fell Winter. Neither would he tell Ori that he had already lost a little weight. He really wasn't starving and he had been able to find some nuts and berries to snack on, to stave of the worst of the hunger.


“We value food and cheer above many other things... comfort is very important in hobbit culture...”


“I guess...” Ori didn't look like he believed him, at least not completely “I guess you already know that dwarrow value their family and craft. I'm a scribe, apprenticing under Balin.”


“Oh... I know a few of the others crafts... Bofur said he was a miner and toymaker, and I don't think I even have to ask what Óins craft ist, nor Bomburs...” Ori smiled at the light teasing “What about the others though?”


“Well... Bifur used to be a warrior. Well, he still is but his injury makes life among men difficult. It's hard for him to get work now, so he turned to make toys with his cousin Bofur. Bombur is a chef.” Ori explained “Dori's craft is being a tailor. Nori... well. Uhh...” Bilbo smirked and waved a lazy gesture for Ori to get on with it, which caused Ori to give him a relieved smile while they shared a conspiring chuckle “Then there is Glóin. He's a banker. Óin as you already know is a healer. Uhm... Balin is Thorin's adviser. In his earlier years he was a scribe too. I'm lucky he agreed to take me under his wing.” Bilbo smiled as Ori told him all this. While they were only little pieces of information, Bilbo was glad to get to know more. He had already put together some clues from talks around the campfire, but it was good to hear it confirmed.


“Dwalin is a guard. A warrior. He and Nori did have some.... alterations.” Ori coughed in his hand and Bilbo tried to hide his smile behind his own. He could imagine those two playing cat and mouse just too well.


“I can imagine Dwalin was very happy about working together with Nori on this quest then.” Bilbo said mock seriously and Ori snickered.


“Yes. Well, Thorin obviously is a king, but his craft is that of a blacksmith. He's really good at it too.” Bilbo raised an eyebrow and Ori flushed a little “Well... it's not really considered... a... kingly craft...” Ori explained “But with the situation as it was, I guess there was not much of a choice.”


Bilbo nodded solemnly. He had heard about the time when the dwarrows had been freshly exiled from their mountain. It was not something the dwarrows talked a lot about but Bilbo could imagine it was not a happy memory for them. He himself didn't talk about the Fell Winter a lot either.


“So... how old is everyone?” he asked instead and Ori launched into another explanation raging from the oldest – Thorin who had been born only 24 years before Smaug arrived as Bilbo had mentally counted with horror – to Kíli the youngest dwarrow in the company, counting only 77 years of life.


To Bilbo it was very surreal that his soulmate was almost 200 years old, and he shook his head in disbelief.


“Hobbit's mature at their 33 year of life. We usually have a lifespan from about 100-115 years...” which was met with wide eyes disbelief.


Finally he gathered enough of his courage to ask in an offhand way “What about your families? Anyone married? Children? Spouses?” which lead to another stunning revelation. There were very few dwarrow woman. Which made children a blessing to anyone.


“Glóin is married. He's got a son, but if you don't want to spend hours listening to him ramble about them I would recommend not bringing up that subject to him.”


Bilbo laughed and shook his head a little “I don't think I would mind terribly.”


“Yes... well, I didn't either. Until the... fifth time? I think I lost count.” they shared a little smile at that.


“Anyone else?” Bilbo was burning with curiosity.


“Uhm... Well, Bombur found his One but she's craftbound. He says he's willing to wait for her to change her mind later on.”


“One? Craftbound?” that were words Bilbo was not familiar with and Ori twitched a little, obviously thinking if revealing anything like that would get him into trouble before nodding slowly.


“We dwarrow have something like soulmates. We just call them Ones, because... well, there is only one other half to your soul. It's incredibly lucky to find your One... And even if you find them it can happen that they are, like Bombur's One, craftbound. It means that they are unwilling to start a relationship, because they want to dedicate their time towards their craft. It's an admirable goal and no one would ever speak out against such a decision, not even if it's a dwarrow dam.”


Bilbo felt his heart sink a little at the news but he nodded. Maybe... maybe Thorin was craftbound?


“We hobbits have something similar. We call them soulmates, like the elves and men do.” he explained, mostly to gain time to sort though his new findings “Elves do have their heartlode... It's fascinating, after meeting their soulmate their sense of home shifts, pulling them in the direction of their mate... it's said that Ilúvatar gifted it to them so they would always be able find them again... do dwarrow have something similar?”


Now Ori was definitely looking uncomfortable so Bilbo hastily backpedaled “Sorry. It's just... I'm curious, if it's something you don't reveal to... to outsiders I would understand...” he said even if it was painful to do so. He really wanted to know if there was a chance Thorin had simply not realized Bilbo was his soulmate.


“It's... well I guess it's not that secret, just not often spoken out to outsiders...” Ori hedged and then nodded firmly. He leaned forward in his seat, mentioning Bilbo closer.


“Dwarrow have dreams. It's said Mahal sends us an image that will help us identify our other half. It is different to every dwarrow and most never reveal anything about their Stonedream...” Ori smiled a little and Bilbo wondered if Ori had his dream already. He managed to quell his curiosity though and was pretty sure that he would have offended Ori with a question in that direction.


“Do hobbits have anything like that?” Ori leaned back a little and this time Bilbo was the one shifting in his seat, before nodding a little.


“Hobbits have... well, we have something called Yavanna's Whisper...” Bilbo said, his heart giving a faint throb as he thought about his song.

“It's... it's complicated to explain and we don't... don't reveal the song to anyone but our soulmate. It's... ah... it's incredibly private...” Ori must have seen something in his face because he let out a startled and sympathetic sound, brows furrowing in empathy.


“I'm sorry, Bilbo. I didn't want to bring up bad memories.”


“Ah! No, no I'm sorry. I... my, ah... my soulmate is not...” he cleared his throat flustered “My s-soulmate is alive, don't you worry...! Just... not...” interested? In the know? Bilbo was not exactly sure about that so he couldn't exactly help with the confusion that was building up in Ori. Bilbo was sure he wanted to end the situation now before he made it worse.


“So... I told you about Shire-games, are there any dwarrow-games?” Ori seemed to be just as eager to leave the previous topic behind.


Now Bilbo just had to find out if Thorin's dreams had somehow featured something about him.


Easy, right?


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


To say Thorin was unhappy about being stuck with elves was putting it lightly, Bilbo thought as he slipped through the empty corridors. He had... visited the kitchens in order to keep his proper eating schedule while he could afford it. Going from six meals to a meager two to three had his stomach in cramps. And while he was already eating less than back in the Shire, Bilbo would use the opportunity provided to get regular meals again for as long as they stayed in Rivendell.


He might have conveniently forgotten to ask for permission from the elves but he was almost sure they wouldn't mind.


Thus he had some armful of food he was carrying to his little refuge he had found. He liked staying with the dwarrows, but after years of living alone he also liked the occasional solitude, which he mostly could not have while on the road.


Arriving in the empty guest room he had found he nudged the door open with his foot. For not being used the room was clean enough and had a waterfall just outside of the window. It was beautiful, especially in the morning light when dust particle drifted lazily in the air, catching the light that was streaming through the window. Combined with the relaxing sound of rushing water it was a peaceful place that Bilbo had sought out several times.


If he didn't have a soulmate in the picture now, he could easily see himself spending years in Rivendell, especially after seeing the library that not only himself had fawned over, but Ori too. Rivendell was simply lovely and Bilbo already mourned having to leave the place sooner rather than later. At least a few more nights in a bed would do him some good.


And regular meals.


With a content sigh Bilbo placed the food he had brought on a blanket he had spread on the floor on his previous visits. A few pillows made it more comfortable to eat on the floor, while the blanket gave him the feeling of a strange-kinda-indoor-but-with-great-view-if-he-bothered-to-climb-to-the-window picnic. Smiling a little to himself he spread the food around himself and begun his breakfast in peaceful bliss.


It was several minutes later that Bilbo looked up, sure that he had heard something. He stopped mid-chew, an apple clutched in his hand while he strained his ears for something strange. It was hard to hear something above the rushing sound of water. After a while Bilbo relaxed and turned back to his food, sure he had imagined it.


A moment later his head snapped back up again. There it was again! A strange, scratching sound!

Frowning Bilbo looked to the door, than around the room. Maybe there were some mice that wanted to share his meal??

Again the sound came and Bilbo's head swung to the window in disbelief. What the hell was-


A familiar hairstyle appeared in his window. First the very tips of the star-shaped braids, then the head and finally the dwarf himself. Nori had just scaled the wall to his refuge and swung himself into the room while Bilbo watched in stunned incredulity.


“No-” he didn't even get to finish the name before Nori swung around. Next Bilbo knew was that there was a knife stuck in the apple he was holding. Several clangs sounded as whatever Nori had been carrying crashed to the floor a moment later.


Swallowing Bilbo set the impaled apple down and counted his fingers.


“Mahal's balls! Bilbo! Yer crazy?! Wha' yer doin' here at this hour?!” Nori put a hand to his chest and stared at Bilbo “Nevermind. Yer all right? Stupid thing ter do, surprising a dwarrow like tha'!”


“Well sorry for being here first... how about checking the room you break into first?” Bilbo mulishly snapped, his heart pounding from after shock. Squinting he frowned “Isn't that a candle-stand from dinner? Wait... is that-”

“Yes, yes, yes.” Nori interrupted him while stuffing the things back into his pockets that were bulging now. Then he flopped down to the floor just across from Bilbo, clinking and clattering a little with every movement. He slowly reached over and took Bilbo's hand, inspecting it and whistling.


“Yer one lucky bugger, that's fer sure.”


Bilbo glowered as Nori laughed and picked up the apple by taking the dagger still stuck in it. He inspected that one too, then shrugged.


“Wanna learn knife-throwin'?”


Bilbo gave Nori a deadpan look, but the thief only grinned unrepentantly. Finally he sighed.


“Sure... whatever... just... give me a moment to stop shaking...”


And that was that.


At least he would be able to (if he ever got the hang of it) slice down apples back in the shire. He might invent a new game too...



But maybe he would use spoons instead of knives...


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


It was evening and Bilbo was running late. It had nothing to do with Nori being an utter ass that had wiped the floor with him. While Bilbo was... apparently acceptable at knife throwing (once he had gotten the hang of it at least. It was still nowhere as precise as he could be with his slingshot but Nori said with a little work he would have one very fearsome talent), he was utter rubbish at what Nori had called wrestling and putting said knife to use without cutting himself up.

It was a work in progress that had ended with one very miserable hobbit and a mockingly encouraging Nori. Friendly mocking but Bilbo still pouted. It was not like he had expected to get one up on Nori right away but it was humiliating to be put to the ground repeatedly in under a few seconds. Nor was it comfortable to have the knife you should have used to defend yourself used against yourself.


Despite that he had to admit that Nori was teaching him. It would just take a lot of time and painful effort to get anywhere. Bilbo was not looking forward to it, but when Nori had seen his grimace and asked him if he wanted to quit, Bilbo had vehemently refused. If anything the lessons showed just how much he needed the training if he wanted to be of any use in saving Thorin's ass. Or at least not be a burden. It made him all the more determined to make that work. He would at least be able to fight for himself, not every enemy had troll eyes of the size of dinner plates after all.


He just didn't have to be happy about it. Nor was he happy about having missed lunch (okay, so maybe he had enough food for Nori and himself stored in the room to get by but that was beside the point!), so now he was in a hurry to actually reach dinner. If anyone in the Shire could see him right now, dirty, bloodied up, torn and rumpled clothes, covered in dust... well he wouldn't be very respectable anymore after the rumor mill caught on to that tasty morsel. He was tired and only wanted a quick shower so he could relax his aching muscles that were screaming at the abuse Nori had forced him to contort to, as well as get ready for dinner. He was starving.


Was it any wonder that he did not see the person hiding behind a corner until he ran smack first into him?

“In a hurry, Master Baggins?” Thorin said, his voice only having a hint of mockery and disdain that instantly raised Bilbo's hackles. Then the dwarf blinked in surprise, mouth opening in astonishment as he took in Bilbo's appearance. Self consciously Bilbo rubbed his palms on his trousers, even if that only lead to him spreading the dirt and durst instead of getting is hands clean. He shifted uncomfortably in front of the towering figure.


“Uhm... k-kinda?”

“What happened?” Thorin unhappily rumbled, a frown passing over his face like a sudden storm-cloud appearing on a previously clear sky. Well, almost clear at least. A hand grabbed his and pulled his limb up, ignoring Bilbo's startled protests. The callouses from handling a sword carefully traced the cuts that marred Bilbo's hands and the frown deepened, a feat Bilbo had not thought possible.


“It's... it's uhm...” Bilbo squirmed, but froze when Thorin's clear blue eyes suddenly pinned him with one of those intense looks Thorin did not even seem aware he possessed.


He was damn attractive and certainly bad for Bilbo's heart that was palpitating and faltering in irregular intervals.


Oh gods he was having a heart attack and Thorin was still staring at him, obviously expecting an answer and completely unaware that his thumb was stroking mesmerizing circles on the back of Bilbo's hand and stealing the hobbits breath in the process!


And then Thorin had to open his mouth and ruin everything.


“Was it the elves? They dare hurt-”


No!” Bilbo barely suppressed the urge to roll his eyes, because then they would start to argue again and he wanted to get to know Thorin. This was the person he had waited for so, so long, it shouldn't be that hard to manage at least one normal conversation!


“What happened then?” Thorin questioned, he was already bristling and was towering even higher than before. Probably in reaction to the way Bilbo had sharply snapped the 'no', when he had insinuated that the elves had attacked him.


“It's... I ran into... I was...” Bilbo huffed and crossed his arms “Okay, you know what? I was clumsy. I tried something new and probably stupid and I might have gotten hurt a little in the process.” It's not like Thorin's opinion of him wasn't already low enough the dent the floor. And he did not really want to explain himself to Thorin, he was... shy about flaunting his weakness even more. Even if it would probably come out anyways once they hit the road again and Nori continued his training. He shuffled a little and was in the process of hunching his shoulders too, before he shook off the urge and straightened up, facing Thorin directly.


“I know dwarrow and elves do not get along, but they wouldn't hurt a hobbit. They have no reason to, besides, as you know: My mother was Lord Elrond's friend. I am certainly safe here...” at Thorin's skeptic look that passed once more over his scrapes and cuts he sighed and combed his hand through his hair. It's not like he could make it worse.


“I was just exploring.” he admitted, which was a half-truth after all. For now he wanted to keep Nori and their little lessons a secret. At least until they left Rivendell or he no longer hit the ground 3 seconds after their spar started.


“Hm.” Thorin did still look a little unconvinced but he gave a reluctant nod. Bilbo was hyper aware that their hands were still linked but Thorin seemed oblivious to the fact. Somehow Bilbo did not want that little contact to end yet, which he knew it would as soon as Thorin became aware of it too.


“So... I mean, I know dwarrow and elves dislike each other on principle but... you seem even more suspicious than... well...” Bilbo hesitated but a small spark of amusement ignited in Thorin's eyes. Then he noticed their intertwined hands and quickly pulled his own back as if burned, much to Bilbo's disappointment.


“Elves cannot be trusted.” Thorin rumbled with conviction, his blue eyes hard like ice chips with dark shadows lurking in their depths. Memories long past but not forgotten. Bilbo took a small step back so he was leaning against the wall and mustered his soulmate, who took a few steps back himself and now stood at the beginning of a balcony that opened on the other side of the corridor. He was certainly beautiful, and had a very intent presence about him. Bilbo still thought that a real smile, or a honest laugh would suit Thorin very well indeed. He wondered if he would ever get the chance to see it.


“I believe in valuing a person for his deeds. And judging each person by their own merit.” Bilbo said quietly but with conviction, trying not to let his thoughts show on his face too much.


“Master Baggins... you are... new to this world in a way.” Thorin sighed and turning away a little as he looked out across the valley in direction where Erebor probably lay.


“I have seen much. My people were torn from their homes and the elves did nothing but watch their suffering.” Thorin turned his head back to stare darkly at the hobbit. Bilbo shuddered under the weight of this gaze. Dark memories indeed. He suddenly felt rather small and unprepared to deal with this. All of a sudden the age difference seemed really obvious, because Thorin had lived through so much already. Yet, if they looked at the timelines they were about the same age, just maturing differently. But Thorin had still seen many winters more than Bilbo, and endured much through them. The difference he suddenly felt left him untethered and floundering.


“I have not forgotten their suffering. Nor will I forgive those that allowed it.”


And what could he say in response to that? Bilbo frowned at his soulmate and weighed his words carefully.


“I... I won't say I understand, because I don't...” he said, drawing Thorins attention once more “But... ah.” again he rubbed a hand through his hair trying to find the right words “I guess I'm just... looking for the best in people. I can't... I don't want to …” he pressed his lips together and locked his eyes with Thorin.


“Maybe it's because I am a hobbit. We are peaceful folk and while some of us are squabbling and rumor mongering annoying little pests... I guess when it comes down to it we can still work it out somehow...” he took a breath “I don't think peace can come through force. Great wars and... and violence always leads to more fighting. That's... that's why I think that unity and happiness of a race, or between races, can only happen through understanding and the will to work through problems together.”


Thorin opened his mouth to inject something but Bilbo was not finished yet.


“I know that your races do not get along. I'm sure both sides do have their own points as to why that is. And... and you probably more than any. But someone does have to jump over their shadow someday.”


Bilbo crossed his arms and tried not to look too nervous. Thorin mustered him, as if seeing him for the first time and Bilbo was not really sure what to think of it.


“... Those words are naïve...” Thorin sighed “In a perfect world, maybe it could work. But in our world?” he heaved a tired sigh “It's not that easy.”


Bilbo pressed his lips together, because he could hear the undertones of Thorin dismissing his opinion quite well.


“Why... why do you dislike the elves so much?” he asked “It's not just the general dislike... yours is... it's personal, isn't it?” it garnered him a sharp look from Thorin, the dwarfs muscles tensing as if preparing for a fight and his teeth clenching in anger that had festered for a long time. Bilbo felt his heart sink at the sight.


“Elves... when Smaug came to out mountain, we had treaties with them.” he slowly recalled, turning back to the balcony again, leaning against the doorframe “The elves had a whole host, when the dwarrow of Erebor were forced out of their home. Women and children, coughing from the smoke and with horrible burns from dragonfire.” Thorin's mouth twisted downwards “A whole host that watched as my kin, injured and shocked with only their clothes on their back stumbled out of the mountain as the dragon forced his way in, doing nothing.”


When Thorin turned back to Bilbo, Bilbo almost shrank away from the burning feverish gaze of Thorin's blue eyes “I've lost count how many died in the following days from injuries. The elves retreated back to their woods, safe and sound while my people starved to death, succumbed to their injuries, froze in the cold. Children and babies!” Even recalling it had Thorin vibrating with rage.


“This is nothing that could be worked through by talks of peace! This is something I will never forgive.”


Bilbo couldn't find words to counter that, to horrified by what his imagination was painting him. He was not happy with this, not happy at all but... he did not know if this would ever be a topic he and Thorin would agree on, so he nodded slightly.


“I... I see.” he whispered a little hoarsely “But... I can't agree. It's not in me to hold someone accountable on actions of another.” he flinched under Thorin's steely gaze, but was also unwilling to lie to Thorin to appease him “I'm sorry.” Sorry, that Thorin had to endure all this, and to do it alone. Sorry, that this was probably only the tip of the iceberg. There was much of Thorin's history that was still unsaid.


He wanted to know about it. All of it. If he had anything to say about it he would.


“You are...” Thorin sighed and lost some of his anger, his shoulders relaxing a little “You are a kind soul, Master Baggins.” troubled eyes looked at the hobbit with one of the by now familiar frowns that Bilbo was secretly becoming fond of. A little.

“I do hope you will not loose that trait. Our journey is likely to be... rough. Tread carefully and... do keep an eye out. There are many who would use your nature against you.”


With that Thorin turned away and stalked off, leaving Bilbo staring after him in bafflement. What had that been? A... compliment? Warning? Something else?


Shaking himself out of the stupor he hurried to get to his rooms to have a quick wash. When he saw Thorin again at dinner, the dwarf wouldn't look at him.



Chapter Text

Days continued to pass as they waited for the right moon to read the map. Bilbo was using the time available to him, spending a lot of it with Nori, who wrestled with him and showed him some other tricks from picking locks to pickpocketing in the time in between meals. It was hard, exhausting really and got Bilbo more bruises than he wanted to count but it also became a playful activity between them. Dare he say it? It was... kind of fun. Especially the pickpocketing. It was a really un-hobbit-like activity but they had made a game out of it. They kept stealing stuff from each other – Bilbo with less luck than Nori – and if Bilbo succeeded he would have to try to sneak that thing back onto Nori. If Nori succeeded Bilbo would have to try and steal it back again. So far Nori had a button (Bilbo was very cross with him, for it had to have been cut off!), a pocket knife and his comb. Bilbo had not managed to steal even one thing so far but was determined to get to it at one point. Especially since it was a little awkward to ask the other dwarrows for their combs. They seemed to stare at him in utter mortification while Nori made strangled sounds of a dieing cat in the background. Honestly. Dwarrow!


He had to say that he never thought that it would be Nori he would find himself growing close at a quick rate. And if he overlooked Nori's tendency to slip shiny things into his pockets... well, he had to say that he was quickly becoming fond of the dwarf, just as much as Ori who had – with his love for books – already wormed his way into Bilbo's heart.

Nori though... Nori was quickly becoming someone Bilbo could see as more than just a friend. Once or twice when they were sharing food or when Nori explained something to him, he had caught himself thinking that this was what a big brother could have been like, if his parents would have had more children than just himself.

Not exactly a good big brother, more one that was looking out for you but getting into trouble more often than not. Bilbo had firmly stuffed that thought away, but decided to keep an eye out for Nori anyways. Just in case.


Which is why he noted the dark looks Dwalin kept giving him after he came back together with Nori once more. The guard was probably not happy about Nori taking him under his wing, if there was any truth to what Ori had told Bilbo about Nori's and Dwalin's escapades back in Ered Luin. Not happy at all.

Dori too was eying them with mistrust, even pulling aside Bilbo at one point (and Nori at another but to Bilbo it seemed like Nori just zoned out during that speech until Dori threw his hands in the air and left him be, muttering something about a hopeless case) to warn him about bad influences that could be hidden in people very near to you.


The day of the map reading came closer and closer and Nori had somehow snuck a dagger onto his person. Bilbo had stared at the dagger in his hand, wondering where it had come from. Then he turned around and saw Nori innocently watching him. Too innocent. Bilbo knew that look, it was the one fauntlings sported when they had stolen your cake from the windowsill. Most of the time they still had cake-crumbs sticking to them and were hiding their sticky paws behind their backs.

Ohh. They were so going to talk. Nori couldn't stick weapons onto his person whenever he damn well pleased!

After almost cutting off his own pinky-finger, he had been outraged, but all Nori did was grin and challenge him to return it somehow. It was training and as long as he couldn't do it Nori wouldn't return his stuff and by now Bilbo's hair was beginning to resemble a birds nest. On he other hand Nori continued to show him other useful tricks, like picking locks. This was something Bilbo actually was kind of curious about. It would be useful later on, as he had always wanted to know if Lobelia actually stole some of his silverware or not and if he ever returned to the Shire he would hopefully be able to check – and steal them back. (Was it stealing if it was his property?)

Nori also explained the different locks. Since they had a lot of elvish doors at hand, that's where they started. Meanwhile Nori explained that dwarven made locks often were a lot more complicated and trickier to open. Elvish doors though often had magic imbued to them, so some doors simply couldn't be picked at all, or only with a big amount of luck and skill. Nothing Bilbo would be able to manage at this point, which is why they simply amused themselves with simple doors. Like the wine-cellar.


As it was he was being kept quite busy. That didn't mean that he didn't notice Thorin avoiding him like he carried the plague. It was annoying really, since he himself was still waiting for a chance to get to know Thorin and actually befriend his soulmate, but it also was disheartening to be refused like that. Bilbo still did not know if Thorin even knew they were soulmates. If he did, maybe that was the reason he was avoiding Bilbo?

But for the life of him, the hobbit couldn't explain why.


Another thing: His 'training' was slowly being noticed. Dori of course knew, but had no proof and nothing to keep his brother in check anyways. The others though? Well, that was an entirely other matter.


“Mahal, Bilbo! What happened to your hands?!” Kíli exclaimed as he caught Bilbo's wrists, turning the hands closer to the fire to see the little cuts littering his hands. Bilbo winced a little at the motion and grimaced.


“I just cut myself on-” seeing Nori behind Doris back frantically shake his head he quickly amended his previous statement “-uh, s-some raspberry bushes in the... uhm... w-west garden. They are damn thorny.” while Dori looked entirely unimpressed, Kíli nodded with a long “ohhh.”


Óin's eyes had followed him the whole evening, as if he could see the bruises under Bilbo's clothes. It was a little unnerving.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


When Thorin finally did acknowledge him again, it was the day the map was being read. Bilbo was sure that it was only due to Gandalf that he was even present, though he truly couldn't fathom why.

Whatever insight could Gandalf have, that made his presence here necessary was obviously beyond Bilbo's imagination. Thorin himself didn't seem especially comfortable with his presence either, but at least kept any comments to himself. For now.

Of course their luck could only turn even worse.


“So this is your purpose, to enter the Mountain.”


As it was, the subtlety of Balin and Thorin – who were probably too excited to care at that moment – led to Lord Elrond learning of their plans. To say he was happy about it was like saying Sauron was a rather nice son-in-law.


They dispersed. Gandalf though held Bilbo back with a hand on his shoulder and quickly leaned down to him.

“You will need to go. Quickly. I will catch up to you on the mountain-path to help you cross the Misty Mountains.” with a pat on his back he send Bilbo on his way while he followed Lord Elrond.


Bilbo meanwhile stumbled after Thorin and Balin. Just as Gandalf said, Thorin ordered the company to pack.


“We will leave at nightfall. Quickly and quietly, so the elves won't stop us, now that they know of our plans.”


While Bilbo had doubts about the quiet, he couldn't deny the dwarrows were quick. Not only had they been able to gather food (“You stole from their pantries?!” Bilbo had exclaimed in outrage, leaving Nori to stare rather bemused at him. It was hypocrisy at it's best after all, but... but...!), as well as other supplies they had lost on the plains in their mad dash across them, or when the ponies had fled before the orcs appeared. All that was left then was waiting for darkness to fall. When it did the dwarrows did their best to stay quiet on their way out. Bilbo winced at every sound they made and was pretty sure that the elves with their sensitive ears would probably from all over the place but he said nothing after Glóin had glared at him and hissed “I have eyes of an eagle and the ears of a fox.”


Yeah. Right.


As they climbed the stairwell that led out of the valley Bilbo couldn't help himself. He glanced back at the tranquil place nestled in the safety of the valley and felt sad he already had to leave this beautiful place.


“Keep up, halfling.”


Aaand that was another nice moment destroyed by your royal highness. With a sigh Bilbo turned back and trudged after the dwarrows. Not even a moment to mourn the loss of a perfectly fine bed and seven meals a day... rude.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。



They walked for half the night before setting up camp. Bilbo was partly convinced he had been sleepwalking the last few miles, that's how tired he was.

When they finally stopped Bilbo let himself fall to the ground with a quiet groan. Floor! Steady floor and stones and he would not have o walk further for now! Oh, he liked the ground, he really, really li-


“Up ya go!” two strong hands grabbed him by his forearms and pulled him back on his aching feet, despite Bilbo's whining.




“Comm'n, Bilbo! Training!” Nori cheerfully supplied “Besides, Bombur still has ta make dinner so it's a good way ter spend time. Up an' at it!” okay, apparently they were not keeping his training a secret anymore. Then again it would be hard to hide it, what's with living on the road... it would only bring unnecessary questions as to why he and Nori kept disappearing at the same time. And it wasn't safe besides.


“Whaaat? You are training him Nori??” Kíli exclaimed as he suddenly popped up at Bilbo's right elbow, making the hobbit jerk out of his half-asleep vegetable state for a moment.


“Not fair!” Kíli cried, shoving himself in between Nori and Bilbo and slinging an arm around Bilbo's neck “Stop hogging our hobbit, Nori! Who says he only get's to learn from you? You had him the whole time in Rivendell, learn to share!!”


Okay, apparently their disappearing had already attracted attention. So much for being subtle.


And that's how Bilbo suddenly found a bow pressed into his hands as Kíli dragged him away from the others “Just try the bow. It's the best weapon there is, no matter what anyone tells you! Well... for long distance at least. And you do have good eyes and you can shoot. I bet you are a natural!”


Apparently no one had told Kíli that there was a huge difference between a bow and a slingshot. One that definitely showed as Bilbo almost shot himself in the leg. Well.. that's what you get for trying out archery the first time in the dark. Bilbo was almost too tired to really care. He had missed anyways and still had all his toes.


As it was, Kíli was left disappointed (but not discouraged for he promised he would show Bilbo how to shoot properly at daylight again) and Bilbo even more tired than before as he stumbled back to the campfire. An unnecessarily amused Nori handed him his bowl of soup. He would probably be thankful that Nori had saved some for him later when he was not inhaling the food in a sleep-deprived state.


He had no idea how he spread his bedroll and got into it. But that's where he woke up the next morning.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


The paths went on and on. In the morning Bilbo would get dragged off by Kíli and spend more time watching the young dwarf shoot than trying out for himself, the evening after a day of traveling the mountain path found him wrestling with Nori, a practice that had in the beginning garnered quite some amusement for the company, but at least they had quickly grown bored with watching him face-plant to the ground several times in a row. By now Bilbo was seriously rethinking his decision of learning to fight. He clearly had no talent!


When he had exclaimed that out loud Nori had whacked him over the head.


“Yer getting better. Ya think it's a thing yer learn in a few days?” and that was that. Their wrestling continued, sometimes under the watchful gaze of some of their company. Bilbo always had a feeling he was doing worse whenever Thorin stopped to watch the process.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


There was still the matter of the dagger. He had the following options:


→ find a way to smuggle the knife back on Nori. That way his things would be returned to him until Nori stole them again. (Probably half an hour later but Bilbo was getting desperate for a comb.)


→ forget about the knife and steal back his own stuff. (He had tried. Multiple times. It was like Nori had eyes on his back!)


→ use the knife to carve a comb (he had already tried that too. It had failed miserably. Nearly lost a finger.)


Finally he had come up with another plan. While he had not been able to sneak the dagger back on Nori again, it had been rather easy to put it on Ori. Nori had been eying Bilbo several times in suspicious silence since Bilbo couldn't stop smirking whenever the thief looked over. Who ever said he had to get the dagger directly to Nori? Sooner or later it would end up in the thief's possession again without anyone knowing about Bilbo's involvement.


It was during dinner when Dori's face suddenly colored to a ruby-red and he hollered a “NORI!” across the camp, making the thief instinctively twitch and duck, eyes wide. It was a hilarious picture as Dori stomped over to the thief, grabbing him by the ear and dragging him to Ori, gesturing to the dagger in the young dwarrows hand. Nori gaped, started to turn in Bilbo's direction before restraining himself and stopping.


Bilbo chuckled as he shoveled the stew into his mouth, watching his dinner entertainment as Dori laid into Nori who was still staring at the dagger with wide eyes. Dori got even more angry when Nori barked out a laugh and ducked low, snatching the dagger out of the hands of his embarrassed baby brother, ruffling his hair. It took about half an hour for Dori to calm down. An hour later Nori settled next to Bilbo.


“Well played, burglar. Well played.”


This evening he found his comb, button and his pocket knife had been returned to his pack. Bilbo was just happy to finally be able to comb out the nests that had multiplied on his head before any birds could think to move in.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Their path continued on and on. Over hills and mountains, until finally they arrived at the pass that would lead over the Misty Mountains. Bilbo was slowly getting used to the strenuous activity he was forced into. Walking all day combined with training and food to a lesser extend than he was used to made one very tired hobbit in the evening. At least Nori let him off from time to time, to rest. Instead he would show Bilbo smaller tricks in the time they usually used to wrestle. Where Nori had been carrying multiple locks was a mystery that Bilbo intended to find out one day.


Of course, just when he thought he was getting used to the routine it started to rain. Which quickly developed into a downpour like the sky was trying to drown the earth and then turned into a storm of the likes Bilbo had rarely seen. And if he had, he had been safely stuck inside his hobbit-hole, warm with something to nibble on while he watched the weather outside. Meaning he was dry and comfortable during it, both thing he couldn't apply to the current situation with him clinging to slippy rocks on a narrow path that led along the side of the mountain.


And that meant that the other side was currently an empty abyss waiting to swallow naive hobbits that thought it wise to go on a journey of epic proportions for their dwarven soulmate. He whimpered when another lighting licked across the sky, followed by the deep bellow of thunder that seemed to shake the earth. He took another step and-


-startled when he felt something heavy weight in his pocket. What the-?!


Then he blinked and scowled. Nori. Again. He quietly swore under his breath, hearing a chuckle down the path from the offending party. Seriously... was this the time to play jokes? What if Bilbo slipped and the dagger impaled him? Okay, if he slipped he would probably have bigger worries, like the onrushing ground beneath him but that's beside the point! How had the pest managed to stick a knife on him again without him noticing? How long had he been carrying that dagger around?! Confusticate that dwarrow! On the other hand Nori had managed to distract him from his fear of height. Maybe he would let Nori live to see another day after all.


“Hold on!” Thorin shouted from the tip of the line. Bilbo took another step and yelped as the stone gave away under his foot, leaving him swaying dangerously until a big hand grabbed onto him and helped him find a steady foothold on the ground again. It was Dwalin Bilbo turned to, and nodded gratefully towards once he had shaken off the shock of almost tumbling down.


“We must find shelter!” this Bilbo could completely agree with. In his opinion they should have found shelter before being soaked through.


Watch out!” the bellow came directly from behind him, almost making him jump in fright but Dwalin – who had shouted – quickly grabbed onto him again, pressing him against the rough side of the mountain. An instant later Bilbo realized why, as a massive boulder collided with the stone above him, leaving rocks and stones and splinters to rain down on them besides the steady steam of water. Bilbo tried to shield his head as best as he could, noting that Dwalin seemed to try to shield him from the worst of it. A single rock to the head could easily kill or harm Bilbo. A dwarf probably had a better chance at surviving in such a case.


Further ahead of the path Bofur was shielding his eyes from the storm and suddenly exclaimed, half excited, half scared “This 's no thunderstorm, it's a thunder battle! Look!”


And yes, now that he had pointed out Bilbo could easily make out the BIG outline of a stone giant rising. No, it wasn't rising. It was raising it's arm. With another boulder!

Take cover!


They did. Bilbo was clinging to the cliff-side as the mountain shook. It was a horrible feeling that rattled the bones of the living. Bilbo cursed and closed his eyes for a moment to try and calm down. His stomach turned, it felt like he was... moving...


“What's happening?!”


With that he snapped his eyes open once more and stared in horrified realization at the ground between the company. The ground that was now sporting a giant split.


“Kíli! Grab my hand!!”


And Bilbo, Dwalin, Kíli, Bifur and Nori were stuck on one side, the side that was movingwhywasitmoving. Ohhh, bother! Of all the bad luck to have, did he have to get stuck on a knee of a fighting stone giant?!


As they moved around they desperately clung to the stone and to each other. One wrong move and one of them, if not all of them would be flung off the knee and fall to certain death.


“There!” Dwalin roared and pointed. And yes, Bilbo could see what he was getting at as they were getting close to a ledge. With some amount of luck they could make the jump. Dwalin went first, Nori followed almost immediately together with Bifur. They had been the closest when the stone giant finally passed the ledge. Bilbo mentioned for Kíli to go next. With as much strength as possible he shoved Kíli in the back, giving him a boost in his jump to cross the black abyss between them and the rest of the split up company. Without thinking over it he readied himself to jump, but just as he took off the stone beneath his foot crumbled suddenly into nothing, robbing him of much momentum that would have possibly been enough to cross the nothingness himself. Instead of landing on the cliffside, he collided with stone and had to scramble to find any hold on the wet, cold and slippery surface. His stomach pummeled as he caught sight of the endless stretch of the mountain he was clinging to, while he was desperately trying to find a foothold stong enough to support him. He could not even see the ground!
His muscles locked, panic rising in his mind as he ripped his gaze upwards. He could hear faint voices, but everything seemed muted, like he was being underwater.


“-ere is Bilbo?”

“Where is the hobbit!?”



Even if he wanted to he could not bring himself to utter a sound. He was terrified. And then Ori's head appeared over the side of the cliff.


“Found him!”

Ori shouted over his shoulder, and then didn't hesitate to drop to his stomach and reach for Bilbo.


It was not enough. And even if it had been, Bilbo had absolutely no control over his body right now. He was convinced that one single movement would end with him falling down in the endless darkness stretching beneath him.


“Comm'n Bilbo, take ma hand!”


“C-can't....” he was not even sure that whatever he said could be heard above the raging sounds of the storm. Ori stretched, trying even more to reach him. So much that Bilbo almost feared the dwarf would slip down himself. It was this that finally got him to at least try to move.


And Bilbo tried. He really did, but as soon as he moved, he slipped. Instantly he scrambled to find another place to hold on to as he slid down a few feet. Even after he found another place to cling to pebbles and rocks continued move around him, striking his hands and face while the sound was drowned out by the battle raging behind him. Again his muscles locked themselves and this time Bilbo was unable to even move a finger, that was how terrified he was right now. It was lucky happenstance that he only slipped down a little, but even this little bit seemed like a mile and was putting him completely out of reach for the dwarrows on the edge. His muscles were shaking and burning in exhaustion.


And then all of a sudden Thorin appeared over the edge. It was just a second where their eyes met.


If he thought he had been terrified before, it was nothing to seeing Thorin suddenly swing down himself. In seconds a strong hand gripped the back of his coat and with strength that in any other scenario would have left Bilbo breathless in admiration and envy as he was easily lifted up and dragged to safety by Dwalin.


Bilbo let out a hoarse shout. Someone pulled him back from the edge that Bilbo suddenly wanted to get back to. He couldn't let Thorin fall! What in Eru's name had the stubborn idiot been thinking?!

At least he felt the control over his body returning, sound that had been muted was almost deafening him now. Eyes wide and a panic that even encompassed and exceeded the previous moments of clinging to the mountain for his life crashed over him like a tidal wave and he struggled – trying to get back to the cliff and get to ThorinThorinTHORIN – like a madman possessed. He saw Dwalin surging forward, barely latching onto Thorin's arm before Thorin's life could be snuffed out in exchange for Bilbo's.


It was only when his dwarf was safely with the rest of them that Bilbo felt his knees give out. Dori – who had been holding him – slowly lowered him to the floor, but kept him encased in his arms and rubbing Bilbo's limps as if he wanted to warm him up. His heartbeat seemed to be louder than the still ongoing battle.


It was only then that Bilbo realized that his breath was coming out in quick, heavy puffs of air, his whole body shaking.


“I thought we'd lost our burglar...” Dwalin rumbled, clapping one of his hands on the kings back. Thorin was kneeling on the floor, panting – from shock or adrenaline was anyones guess – and staring at his friend. Then he turned to Bilbo, face like a thundercloud.


“He's been lost ever since he left home! The hobbit should never have come in the first place...” Thorin snarled “He has no place among us. And now he's nearly...” Dwalin's hand on Thorin's arm seemed to stop the dwarf short, for with one last furious look he turned away.


“Dwalin!” he barked instead “Let's look for a dry place.”


With heavy heart Bilbo watched his soulmate disappear around a corner, the bulky form of the loyal guard following close behind.


“Don't ye take those words ta heart...” Dori muttered in his ear as he helped him stand. His legs were still weak and he felt like a newborn calf in it's first attempt to stand up. Nori came up beside him and handed him a flask that looked distinctly elvish to Bilbo's eyes. And expensive. A sip of it left Bilbo spluttering and coughing, while Nori barked out a laugh and Dori shot his brother a disapproving look over Bilbo's head. But it did help him to regain control and calm down. The heat that spread due to the alcohol was welcome as well, even if Bilbo knew his fingers would still be frozen stiff until he had a chance to really get dry and warm up.


“Anyway.” Dori started up again, slowly letting go of Bilbo as if he was fully prepared to mother him again if he showed any sign of weakness again “I'm sure he doesn't mean what he said. Thorin is just... well...” he looked in the direction where the kind had disappeared and then offered a slightly sheepish shrug to Bilbo “Thorin I guess.”


“I... I guess...” Bilbo tried to sound confident but his voice held a waiver. It seemed that nothing he did would get him into Thorin's good graces. And while he had been... prepared for the eventuality that his soulmate would not want a romantic relationship, he had never entertained the thought that maybe, just maybe his soulmate couldn't even stand to be with him as a friend. And that hurt.


With that they started to move too and it was a relief for everyone when Dwalin came out of a cave and proclaimed it safe. By then Bilbo felt beyond exhausted and only Dori's (and Nori's) hovering seemed to really keep him on the path and going.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Bilbo had, if it came even up to that, slept only for a few minutes (half an hour? And hour? It was hard to tell the time in a cave when there was a storm raging outside), before he jerked awake again, struggling for a moment as sleep would still have him believe he was falling, falling, falling.


Panting quietly he sat up, still soaked through from the rain and clammy but warmer than he had been out there in the wind.




Troubled he sneaked towards the entrance and exit of the cave, sitting down next to Bofur. His hands twisted in his lap as Bofur send him an inquisitive stare, probably wondering what the matter was.


“I'm... I'm scared...” Bilbo whispered, mindful of the sleeping dwarrows and looking at his feet. He wiggled his toes.

Bofur shrugged.


“'s natural. Ye had a scare, what's with almost droppin' down there...” he nodded towards the cliff that hid the void Bilbo had almost tumbled off.


For a moment Bilbo was silent, then he shook his head.


“That's … no. Maybe I should-” he shook his head again “-should I go? Back to Rivendell...” he shuddered and Bofur wrapped a comforting arm around him.


“No! No, Bilbo. Ye can't turn back now! Yer are one of us, of the company now.” the words were kind, a balm to Bilbo's heart, reassuring but not enough to convince him. Thorin's contrary words were still repeating in his head over and over again. But even more than that... he could have caused Thorin's death.


“Ah... b-but I'm not though, am I?” he whispered, his voice choked with pent up emotion and a tight feeling in his chest as he thought back “Thorin said so... he said I should never have come. I've no part in the company... and I'm... I'm not used to the way of the road, to... to sleeping in the wild...” Bilbo shrugged, doubting and worrying. Was Thorin right? “I'm scared... what... what if it had been better if I hadn't come?” he shushed Bofur when the dwarf tried to protest.


“Don't! Don't say it's not so. I'm... I'm no fighter and I know next to nothing about surviving, not even how to start a fire without matches...”


“Yer just homesick!” Bofur cried in protest, while still trying to be quiet so as to not wake the rest of the company but Bilbo shook his head again “Thorin's just scared, tha' 's all!”


“No, no. That's not why- that doesn't matter... I... I-” he broke off, trying to find words and helplessly staring into Bofur's face “I'm.. I'm scared because... w-what if me being with you causes... causes one of you to die?! Look at what happened, I've almost- Thorin almost fell to his death trying to rescue me!” he felt tears pool in his eyes, the terror of the moment, of realizing that he would be the cause of death to his own soulmate was heartbreaking “I don't want that.” he choked out, quickly looking away. Had it been this Yavanna had tried to warn him off? Bilbo couldn't be sure, but the thought itself made him sick “I'd never want anyone to perish because of me, I don't want to be a burden to you all...” he admitted, trembling and leaning into Bofur's warmth “I'd rather die myself than let that happen.”


Bofur was shocked by the admittance. He had thought that the hobbit had been homesick, had doubts. But never had he entertained the thought that Bilbo was not scared for himself, but rather for them. His mouth worked silently, but he did not seem to be able to find the right words. Troubled he tugged Bilbo closer.


“It's a risk...” he finally allowed reluctantly, unwilling to lie “But! But yer have proved yourself already, havn't ye? I mean, with the trolls and all...” Bofur said “'s a dangerous journey no matter wha'. I'd rather have ye with us than not...” Bilbo slumped a little, burrowing into the warm furnace of a dwarf next to him and hummed unconvinced. Neither of them noticed Thorin lying awake and listening to the entire conversation.


For a moment they sat in silence, enjoying the companionship of each other. Then Bofur looked down and frowned.


“Wha's that?” he tried to get a better look and Bilbo followed the gaze to his letter-opener. Heart pummeling to his stomach he tugged the sword upwards from it's scabbard, only a little bit to show a sliver of the intense blue glow and blanched. The next he knew was Thorin jumping to his feet, shouting at the company “Wake up!” and “Take up arms!” but already it was too late, the confusion of the freshly awoken dwarfs didn't give them enough time to gather themselves as the ground split.


They fell.


The way down the stony chute was painful in itself, the landing even more so, especially since Bofur managed to land on top of Bilbo, driving the air out of the hobbit. The others were worse off though, especially those who had the misfortune to land at the bottom of the pile. Those poor souls were groaning in pain and cursing up a storm.


As it was, Bilbo only had seconds to worry about his companions as he struggled to get out of the way without stepping someone in the face. Because as soon as he had managed to hop down the dwarrow-pile he had also gotten a look around and some time to take in the surroundings. And the creatures hurrying towards them.


They had landed in a primitive looking cage inside a damp, barely lit cave. Bilbo could see the stone-ways, horrible small rough-hewn bridges and walkways that seemed to be in danger of collapsing. In some places they probably had and makeshift wooden planks served to replace the pieces lost. It all seemed terribly unsafe and that was before Bilbo saw the first Goblin. The beings were... malformed. Dirty and skinny and hideous. They had a lot of scars, and pieces of metal stuck into their skin, bones decorating them like jewelry. Their teeth were rotten and their eyes either sunken into their head or impossible big in their strange faces. Some had missing limps, often ears and a lot of them had bite scars. Bilbo wouldn't put it past them to try and eat one another.

Instinctively he shrank back, as the company around him jumped to their feet, roaring in their language, guttural angry words that seemed to be battle-cries Bilbo was unable to understand. The meaning though was clear enough, as the whole company jumped to action, hitting and slicing at their enemies to keep them at bay.


But they were too unprepared, and their numbers to low. While they did manage to fight the first few goblins off, actually more than just a few, it seemed that two more replaced the fallen until they were overwhelmed by the literal goblin-tide that was working against them. Another disadvantage was the terrain. They had no way to retreat as the cage had been build on a precipice. Bilbo had the opportunity – standing on the barricaded side of the cage – to take a look down and immediately looked away for fear of fainting. That... that was a very, very deep sheer drop that Bilbo had no wish to see the bottom of any time soon. Which meant that the only way out would be to fight their way though the goblin horde.

The dwarrows valiantly fought but even they were overwhelmed in too short a time for Bilbo to form any sort of plan. Their weapons were ripped from their fingers and then they were forced to follow, while the Goblins continued to pull and bite and hit and scream at them. Bilbo had almost been forgotten in the chaos, standing still against the wooden fence of the cage but seeing the company being pulled along and the damage they had already taken must have caused him to make an unconscious sound, for a goblin turned back, saw him and chattered angrily while pointing in his direction. Instantly three more goblins pounced on the hobbit, dragging him to the others where Nori quickly pulled him to his side, right beside Ori who was looking as terrified as Bilbo felt. Their path led them through a network of tunnels and bridges, until it finally opened up to a cave.


In fact they were dragged into an enormous hall. Wooden make-shift houses lined the walls, wooden bridges that Bilbo would never set a foot on if he had a choice led from one place to another. Goblins were practically everywhere. Their path took them over a bridge to a wooden plateau in the middle of the gigantic cave, where a massive, giant and even more hideous fat goblin sat on a stool. It was decorated with skins and bones. It wasn't a stool after all, it was a throne. It didn't take long after that for them to realize that this was their leader. Their king. The Goblin King. He shuddered at the image, for the fat of the goblin was wobbling around as he moved. Warts were covering his skin and in some places illness seemed to fester, not that it seemed to bother the being. It took another second to realize that tiny goblins were being used as a sort of foot-stool to the ugly king, who squashed them without a thought as he stood up.


Bilbo suddenly felt very small surrounded by those hostile creatures that towered over him. His eyes searched the company and he found himself stuck on Thorin, who was standing further ahead, scanning their surroundings for a way out. It seemed impossible.

Still, seeing Thorin did give Bilbo a little courage and seemed to calm him a bit. He was still scared out of his mind but... but he remembered how scared he had been on the cliff-side when he had almost fallen. And how much more afraid he had been after Thorin had nearly lost his life in exchange for his.


There were worse things than death. And one of them would be to loose Thorin, rude and impossible annoying as he was. It simply was not an option in Bilbo's mind. Besides, he had grown fond of the rest of the company too. So there was only one solution: He had to get them out of here.


Now to work on the how... well, that was still a work in progress. First things first though: Keeping his soulmates ass out of trouble. Because the shit would surely hit the fan as soon as the goblins realized who had been included in their catch.


“Nori...” he whispered, sure that the dwarf who spared him a glance had heard but the goblins with their shouting hadn't “... keep the... leader's head down. Don't let him step forward.”


“Who would be so bold as to come armed into my kingdom. Spies? Thieves? Assassins?” the goblin pondered with almost childish excitement.


“Dwarves, Your Malevolence!” another goblin that had been with the group that had dragged the company through the goblin town answered subserviently.


“Dwarves?” the goblin king seemed a little surprised, but nevertheless delighted “Well, don't just stand there, search them!” He commanded and laughed “Every crack, every crevice!”


Again the goblins descended on them. At least five more daggers were found on Nori alone, though Fíli had also had two more hidden on his person. By then Bilbo had fought his way out of Nori's protective presence and to the front, earning himself a sharp look from Thorin and a confused one from Dwalin. Bilbo had earned himself a couple of new bruises from goblin hands along the way but at least he was able to step in front of Thorin, shoving him back into the other dwarrows where Nori took it upon himself to make Thorin stand behind Bifur, despite the dwarrows struggles that went unnoticed in the commotion. Dwalin for his part gave Bilbo another, longer sidewards glance before he slipped a bit to the right, closing the space Thorin's absence had left behind.


Obviously Dwalin thought Bilbo had a plan.


He hadn't. Yet. He was sure it would come to him in time. If they had time. But that was one thing Bilbo hoped to be able to get. He could multitask the escape plan somehow. Hopefully.


“Who are you, and what are you doing in these parts? Speak!” the Great Goblin commanded.


Well... if there was one thing Bilbo was good at? Talking.


“I'm Bilbo Baggins and I'm traveling with my company. Beside me is D-Dorwin, my bodyguard and loyal friend.” he was not sure how well known Dwalin was as Thorin's loyal companion, so it was better to not reveal any real names. Oh... he might have already introduced himself as himself. Darn. Well, at least the goblins surely wouldn't know him...


“He's a mighty warrior from the Iron Hills.” also a lie but better safe than sorry.


And then Bilbo went on and on and on. He managed at least two minutes on 'Dorwin' alone, before he switched to Bombur, whom he introduced as the cook of his company. That was an additional five minutes where Bilbo got sidetracked by a particularly well made rabbit stew before he caught himself. By then Bilbo was seeing the goblin was becoming bored and thought about how to switch his tactic before the goblin would order to kill them just to shut Bilbo up. Luckily he didn't have to, as the Goblin waved a hand to silence him for a moment.


“Enough! Enough. What care do I have for your followers?” well, that was convenient and not. Bilbo was not sure what he would have done if he had come to Thorin's introduction, but he somehow thought that even if he changed the name, Thorin's presence alone would probably make them see him for who he truly was, if not his face. On the other hand he had hoped to stall for more time and he still didn't have a lick of a plan ready yet.


“Speak! What are you doing in these parts? And what are you?”


Bilbo didn't know what possessed him but by the time his brain caught up, he had already clapped excitedly in his hands.


“Oh, I'm so glad you asked!.” was he? Why? No actually he wasn't, what was he saying?


“I... uhm... I'm a...” and then he remembered his great-great-great-great uncle Bandobras Took. Also called Bullroarer. And that was the spark of an insane idea that would probably get him killed but maybe, just maybe would give the company an opening.


Bilbo felt a wave of dizziness at his decision. He yearned to take a look back at Thorin to gather some strength but forced himself to stand still and look at the goblin ahead of himself.


“I'm Bilbo Baggins. Son of Bungo Baggins and Belladonna Took.” at the word Took the goblins bristled. They remembered “My grandfather is Gerontius Took, Thain of the Shire, descendant of Bandobras Took who killed your ancestor.” The company behind him was by now very worried about what their hobbit was planning to do. Dwalin at his side had grabbed his elbow and seemed to be just about ready to shake him out of whatever madness had taken hold. How Bilbo managed to shrug him off was a mystery but he did and stepped forward. The Goblins moved around nervously, watching the proceedings with weary but curious expressions, chattering to each other in confusion. They seemed to be just barely holding themselves back from jumping at Bilbo and ripping him to pieces. Well... if that had already riled them up...


“I came here to request a duel with you, Goblin King.” with that utter chaos descended as the goblins surged forward, screeching horrible sounds. The company struggled under the onslaught, weaponless as they were.




A single roar of the Great Goblin made his minions scatter. A few stayed to keep the company at bay who were shouting themselves. Bilbo was not sure if it was obscenities at himself or at the goblin. He had what he wanted: He was the sole focus of the Goblin Kings attention.


A slightly angry Goblin King, who's eyes narrowed as he took in Bilbo's less than threatening appearance.


“You are bold to request something when you trespass my lands!” the goblin all but snarled with an ugly smile forced to stay on his face and Bilbo wanted to quiver and hide. The goblins around him were already stepping back, dragging the company with them to the bridge where they would still be able to watch, but be out of harms way.


All too soon he was practically alone on the plateau with the king, aware that he was totally at their mercy and if he was actually forced to fight, he would probably be dead in seconds.

Taking a breath he tried to keep calm and not let the shudders of terror leak to the outside.


“It's what was I was bid to do, so I will.” Bilbo forced out “The dwarrows are my witnesses. Not...” with this he chanced a glance over his shoulder “...that they knew about it.”


With that the Goblin roared out a laugh that made Bilbo flinch and quickly turn back to him. Thorin's eyes were still at the forefront of his mind. Blue. A blue he had always loved, his favorite color, one he had only ever seen in his dreams, but never before found anything that could be compared to it in reality until he had opened the door to his smial to find a late dwarf on the other side.


“Oh, that's good. Tricked them, didn't you? Well then, witnesses they are! And they will proclaim my victory all over Middle Earth!”


Bilbo huffed. Okay, so maybe he was going to die but the goblin didn't have to be so smug about it! Then again, with this there might be a chance of at least one or a few of the dwarrows being allowed to live, should he die in this. Right now Bilbo had to stall for more time. Time for what... well, he was still hoping that an idea would spring out to him. Right now he had the feeling he was willingly shoveling his own grave with a smile on his face...


“But how am I to know if you are a worthy opponent? I'm king, you know? I don't fight plebeians like yourself...” the Goblin grinned and wobbled back to his chair, stepping onto the already mostly dead (now probably definitely dead) goblins serving as a foot stool and sank back into the throne.


“Send for the Skin-flayer! I'm sure... he will enjoy this gift.” the goblin crackled and eyed Bilbo like Lobelia would eye a grub on her tomatoes.


“I think this will be very entertaining indeed.”


Bilbo let out a shaky breath, he was unsure what to do now. He would apparently fight. Someone. He glanced around, then spoke to the Goblin King again. Seeing as he had pretty much already put himself into as deep a hole as possible he had a hunch that a little more wouldn't worsen his situation...


“Will you allow me a weapon, or are you too much of a coward to make it a fair fight?” Bilbo had no idea where his fearlessness came from. Probably from the acceptance that he had only a few more moments to live and instead of going into hysterics he sort of went mad. What did it matter what he said now?


The fat on the goblin wobbled as he shook in rage. The dwarrows must think he had lost his mind too, he was pretty sure he had heard Nori – who was familiar with Bilbo's fighting abilities – question his sanity in very descriptive words. Very elaborate that dwarf, when he put his mind to it.


“Gutsy little insect.” the Great Goblin grumbled but he waved a Goblin on the side. The being quickly scurried to Bilbo and gave him a half broken … something that might have been a sword at it's creation. At least it still had one semi-sharp side, so maaaaybe it was still useful for something.


… and was way too heavy for Bilbo's comfort, the tip of the thing immediately sank down and the Great Goblin let out another plateau-shaking laugh. Truth to be told he probably made a pitiful picture of an opponent.


Especially once he saw the Goblin that was not cleaving a way through the masses. The company was forced out of the way and the being came to a stop next to Bilbo.


Bilbo blinked.


And blinked again.


“Uhm...” and swallowed because the goblin was easily three times as big as Bilbo. As if the 'sword' he had been given had not been mocking enough. Bilbo would probably be able to poke him in the arse if he stretched... Just standing next to him gave him a good view of his opponents knees. Craning his neck to actually face the creature was a mistake though. It smiled. If you could call it that...


Which made two mental pictures his mind would probably never forget again. Bother.


His 'opponent' had a spear almost the same size which meant that Bilbo was simply... completely out of his area of comfort. Of course it had to be a spear. He would much rather be cleaved in half than be speared on something like a pig for roast.


He had not wanted to know a mix of goblin and troll existed. That was another mental picture that would probably haunt him for the rest of his days, but that was the only explanation he had for the giant standing now across from him. He could hear the company, their furious yells, but they were ignored, some maybe even shut up by the goblins around them. Bilbo's concentration was on the creature in front of him. If he wanted to play for time he could not be struck down by the first strike.


“Well... I declare the 'duel' to start... NOW!” The goblin King clapped into his hands as he announced it. No sooner than that the spear stuck out at Bilbo, who let his sword clatter to the floor to dive out of the way. He didn't care for it anyways. Instead he concentrated on ducking the stabs and swings taken at him, stumbling around the platform. He had limited space so he did not only have to watch the weapon, but also his opponent (who could probably simply step on him to end the fight) and the edge of the platform they were staying on.


Would be embarrassing to misstep and fall to his death.


Bilbo had no way of knowing how the time passed. He dodged and weaved and ducked. Some of the hits taken at his person came a little too close for comfort. The first time the goblin nicked him on his arm the rest of the goblin-horde almost went crazy with bloodlust. But even that didn't really register to his mind as he ducked again to avoid a low swing that could have easily beheaded him. Bother! He had too short a reach to do anything to this goblin, never mind his inexperience in fighting hand to hand combat with an opponent of this stature.


It seemed like eternity in which Bilbo was scurrying around the platform, left to right and right to left, before he got too close to the bridge where the company and goblins were gathered. Sweat was poring down his back, his hair was sticking uncomfortably to his face and he had scratches and bruises all over, from falling wrong or from grazes and cuts and welts from his opponents weapon.

The moment he came to near to the goblins they tried to grab him, then shoved him in the goblin-trolls direction. He could hear the company howl in outrage as he landed – almost collapsed in front of the goblin. He heaved himself up, trying to get back o his feet despite burning muscles that protested against the harsh treatment. All he managed was roll onto his back, staring wide eyed up at the being grinning down at him. He could hear goblin chants filling the chamber with eerie music. He could see how the spear was slowly raised.


And then it came down.


Chapter Text

Nori who had been holding Thorin back as inconspicuously as he could worriedly watched as Bilbo had stood next to Dwalin and addressed the Goblin king. Had he known just what his... his... friend had planned, he would have grabbed him by the back of his tattered coat and dragged him back together with his king and let Dwalin do the talking. And he knew Dwalin was not very good at words but it would have been better than this... this... this insanity Bilbo had come up with. Nori's grip on Thorin had slackened by the time Bilbo had talked himself into trouble.


Fusak.” Nori cursed and then tried to get past the Goblins, struggling in their grip and trying to get back to Bilbo as they were herded back by their captors. He was not the only one, he noticed most of their company trying to get to Bilbo to drag him into their midst, to shield him from the goblins. They knew just how cruel they could be. Bilbo? Bilbo had lived all his life in the Shire, would never have left if not for them and right now Nori just realized how much Bilbo had given up. For them. Since they had started this journey. The trolls could have been a fluke, but this? This was Bilbo putting himself in front of all of them and Nori had no idea what their hobbit was thinking or why he would go this far. What was his plan? Was he simply playing for time? What for?! They were surrounded, they were weaponless (mostly, he still had a dagger that he had stolen back from Bilbo after the goblins had disarmed him...).


Back on the walkway they were restrained by the Goblins and Nori... well, he cut his ropes and bid his time. Their hobbit... he looked very small on the platform, standing in front of the giant of the seated goblin-king. He looked even smaller compared to the creature that they brought to fight Bilbo. There was no chance Bilbo would survive this. No matter how much Nori had prepared him... he had not prepared him for a fight to the death on his own. Nori could feel his heart flutter in anxiety, before it dropped as he watched Bilbo look around. He knew that look for when Bilbo had been looking for inspiration on how to get a dagger back to Nori.


Bilbo had no plan.


“What were you thinking...” Nori whispered in horror and Thorin threw him a look that obviously said that he didn't think Bilbo had been thinking at all. Despite that he turned to Thorin and insisted “He needs a plan!”


Thorin in turned stared at him. Then the same horror Nori was feeling appeared in his eyes.


“You mean he doesn't have one?!” Nori had certainly thought so after Bilbo said he should keep their king back.


And then they were forced to watch Bilbo take part of that mockery of a fight. Well, Nori wouldn't just sit here and watch his friend die. He eyed the distance between them and their weapons and prepared to set his own plan in motion...


The goblins at least were preoccupied by watching the 'fight' that had Nori's gut in knots whenever he so much as looked into that direction, fearing that any moment Bilbo would be stuck like a pig on a roast. So far Bilbo had managed to dodge well. He was sporting a collection of scratches from near misses, but they were shallow at best, for which Nori was thankful. He hoped Bilbo could hold out. He had secretly given his dagger over to Thorin, and it had made it's round after that, freeing about half of the dwarrows of their bonds, which had been forced on them to keep them under control after Bilbo had initiated his madness. It was a miracle they had been able to do that, and it was solely due to Bilbo.


And then the goblins grabbed onto their hobbit, before shoving him back. The company, himself included, howled in outrage and fear, because Bilbo lay dazed and helpless in front of his enemy. It was Thorin who shoved himself up and raised his voice.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


For a moment everything seemed to slow down. Bilbo was scared out of his mind and frozen in place, watching as the spear came closer and closer. He would die. Oh, by the Valar he would-




The desperate shout pierced through the terrified stillness that had kept Bilbo prisoner. And in a blink of an eye he did as he was told, trusting the voice on instinct as he barely managing to roll to the side. Just enough to avoid the spear as it was thrust deep into the wood that served as ground here. The tip was buried several inches in the planks and Bilbo scrambled away, panting harshly as he realized his close brush with death. Again. His shirt was ripped and bloodied, a nasty gash ripped into his side. He had not escaped entirely but this was only a scratch to what it could have been if Bilbo had not acted. Oh, it could have been worse, but for a hobbit who had never faced such injury? Had Bilbo not been pumped full of adrenaline he probably would have curled himself into a pathetic little ball and whimpered. But he knew now: It could have been so much worse. If Thorin had not-


The goblin-troll blinked slowly and tugged fruitlessly at his weapon. He had used so much strength that the spear was well and truly stuck. Not that Bilbo complained, as it gave him a much needed break. The goblin-troll was a little confused as to why there was not a Hobbit stuck on the pointy end of his weapon. In a fit of inspiration, as long as the goblin was more or less distracted which amounted to a few precious seconds – Bilbo's right foot struck out. There was something to be said about hobbit feet. They were tough – and astonishing strong. Strong enough to break the shaft of the weapon his enemy used, before he quickly scurried out of the stumbling goblin-trolls way, who had lost his balance when his weapon broke just as he had tried once more to rip it out of the wood. Taking several shaky breaths he ducked low as his enemy looked around, searching for the hobbit that was just slightly behind him. Bilbo was grateful for the break he had earned himself and quickly wiped the sweat on his sleeve, wearily keeping an eye on the huge beast as it inspected it's weapon, trying to keep behind it to not attract it's attention too soon. The tip of the spear was still stuck in the ground. Bilbo doubted it would be easy to actually pull it out.


Distantly Bilbo could hear the shrieks of the goblins that easily drowned out his company. He really needed a plan, for this could not go on much longer. Quickly he chanced a look around. He would have liked to look back at the company but didn't dare to stop watching his opponent, keeping him in sight even as he looked around for inspiration. Even with only the the shaft, the being probably had enough strength to run Bilbo through, even without a spear at the end of the weapon. Besides, one good strike against his head and Bilbo would be history. Goblin history, as no one in the Shire would ever find out about what happened to him. And he doubted he would get any mention in dwarven history.


Beady eyes finally searched him out and Bilbo had to swallow.



He might have just pissed off that goblin troll.


A little bit.


Tiny.... oh bother.


Did it just pick up his discarded sword?!? Bilbo felt a little sick as he saw the monstrosity swing around 'his' weapon, grinning in a way that promised to make the experience as painful as possible. The goblin had probably not thought Bilbo would survive this long. Hell, Bilbo hadn't thought he would. Not that they could call this fighting. This was more like a game of catch, one he had played as a fauntling, running through high grass and over soft ground in the sunlight shrieking with laughter. He really wasn't enjoying the experience now.

“Uh, oh...”


Right about now a plan would be glorious. Right now!

Wearily (on Bilbo's side) and anticipating (on one goblin-trolls side) they circled one another. Bilbo was still weaponless, while his opponent had his sword and the shaft of his previous weapon. At least the standstill had allowed Bilbo to catch his breath a little. Maybe the goblins wanted to drag this out a little more, or maybe Bilbo had actually learned more than he thought under Nori... or maybe his opponent really just was that slow due to his height. Whatever it was Bilbo was grateful. It had allowed him to live up until now, but that wouldn't work much longer.


And all of a sudden the goblin charged. Maybe it had sensed that Bilbo had grown a little off guard in their circling, but the sudden movement startled Bilbo to flinch back, nearly getting his head chopped off in the process before he managed to duck under the swing. His heart pounded wildly in his ribcage as the hair on his head got tousled by the powerful slash. A ripping sound and loud 'THUCK' followed as Bilbo scrambled away.


And blinked because... was that-?


Yes, yes it was. It was one of the poles that secured the platform to the rock in the middle of the cavern. Thick robes that Bilbo would never be able to undo. Buuut... he had a plan now! As Bilbo rolled out of the way of a downward strike he hoped he would have enough energy left to see it through.


“Awww... has the big... bad goblin problem taking down a little, harmless hobbit like me?” Bilbo let out a breathy chuckle that he hoped didn't sound as exhausted as he felt.


He danced a few steps back, mocking the goblin troll all the way back. As Bilbo had always had a way with words, it was easy to make the big giant of a monster spitting mad with rage. While the being had monstrous power and hideous muscles, one couldn't say it was the brightest crop in the intelligence-department. And Bilbo was absolutely willing to use that against him.


“Com'on, can't you catch me? It's not like I'm going anywhere...” he mocked, he ducked and rolled and his legs were killing him. The gash on his side throbbed in a dull but steady pain. Even breathing hurt after a while, the air burning in his lungs as if a fire had been set in them and every breath stroked the flames to new highs.

But he also enraged the goblin-troll to carelessly strike whichever way. It wasn't easy, keeping out of its way while also leading it where he wanted it to strike – namely the poles and the ropes that were securing the platform to the rock and the bridge. It wasn't easy, but he managed to make it hit the four main poles and was on his way to the last two now.

Just when he dodged another strike, one that severed another robe, there was a horrible ripping sound. And then the whole platform became unstable, as it begun to slide.

The weight of the goblin king on the other end was causing the whole structure to become unstable. The goblin-troll – as close to the edge as he had been while trying to get to Bilbo – lost his footing and tumbled off the platform, nearly taking Bilbo with him before Bilbo managed to find his balance and duck out of the way. The Goblin king tried to rise but he couldn't even really manage to stand up, not with the ground being this shaky and the platform slowly titling in his direction. Not with his weight dragging him down together with the platform.


Which was when Bilbo realized the very glaring mistake in his newest plan...


He was still on the platform.


The platform that was breaking off from the bridge and slowly got dragged over the stone into the void of nothingness on the other side by the goblin-kings weight.


“Oh... shit.”


With renewed energy he started to run towards the bridge. He could see the company fighting, goblins being shoved to their death. The whole cavern was in chaos. He ran, and ran and at first he managed to gain a few meters, but then the sliding got faster, the angle steepened leaving Bilbo to curse in his mind like he had never before. It felt like he was moving on the spot, which only pushed him to give it his all now.


He gained slowly. The distance between him and the bridge kept getting shorter and shorter. He could see the dwarrows, see Bifur and Dwalin hacking away at their enemies while Nori, Bofur and Ori were all turned towards him, already reaching out to catch him. Dori was holding onto both Nori's and Ori's back, probably to keep them from tumbling off the walkway before they could even get useful.

Somehow the company had mostly regained their weapons. Maybe they had been carried off to make room for his 'fight'. If so it had been tremendously stupid of the goblins to bring the dwarrows weapons anywhere close to them again. Nevertheless Bilbo was grateful, as they managed to defend the bridge, which was his last hope of surviving what his madness had caused.


When he finally managed to (half climb) the last meters, he didn't hesitate. Not this time, because any second would draw him even further away from his friends and salvation.


He jumped.


Several hands made a grab for him and managed to drag him onto the bridge to safety instead of letting him fall to become a pancake on the bottom of this endless-seeming void of a cave. Next to the soon to be goblin-king-pancake.


He turned back just in time to see the platform break and completely slip off.

The sudden silence that came after the platform disappeared was filled with tension that would snap at any moment.


“Mahal Bilbo....” Nori whispered, eyes wide with unnamed emotions swirling in them, raging from disbelieve to horrified amusement “Yer... yer just killed their king...!”

And with that all hell broke loose.


A dazzling light lit up the whole cavern, blinding not only them but also the goblins. A shock-wave followed, throwing many of the smaller goblins off the rickety walkways. His dwarrows were like rocks in a river, steady and stubborn. Whoever held on to him managed to keep the hobbit on his wobbly feet too.


“Run, you fools! Run!


He had never been so glad to see Gandalf before. But running really was the least he wanted to do, but seeing as he had no other choi-


“Com'on burglar, let's get out of here...!” Dwalin rumbled as he picked Bilbo up, paying no heed to the spluttering hobbit clinging to his arm like an angry little kitten.


“Excuse me-!” Bilbo tried, the dwarrows were already running and he would not be the cause of slowing them down (not that Dwalin seemed to be particularly disturbed by Bilbo's weight but he still could only wield one weapon while holding on to Bilbo).


“Give him here.”


With a shriek Bilbo was thrown at the next person. Which just so happened to be Thorin, who threw him – gentleman that he was – over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes!

“What do you think-” Bilbo tried again but a hand on his backside derailed any thought he might have had as his face erupted in fire. Instead he trailed of with a strangled tea-kettle like sound and resigned to his fate because... honestly, he was not sure his legs would carry him another step and... well... and... uh... Thorin.

Bilbo realized quite mortified that Bofur running behind them had a very amused look on his face. He didn't even stop grinning after Bilbo dragged a finger over his throat in a very, very serious threat. It would probably have been a little bit more intimidating had he been standing on his own feet, Bilbo grumbled to himself and swatted Thorin's back in retaliation. The indignity!

It didn't help that the hand on his backside squeezed warningly and it took all of Bilbo's willpower not to start flailing. It would surely have send them both over the edge of a walkway if he had done that. Instead he burrowed his head into Thorin's hair to hide the fact that most of his blood was rushing to his face. It was shameless behavior on his part but by now Bilbo was convinced he deserved a little treat. Even if that treat meant that a shoulder was digging uncomfortably in his stomach.


The rest of the way out, all the fighting and running along the way, passed in a blur to Bilbo. He was just too exhausted to really care and was selfishly indulging being near to his soulmate – despite the circumstance and his soulmate's less than gentle carrying.


Only when sunlight hit the company did they dare to slow down again. They kept going for quite a while, before they stopped between a few trees. Without a word the company settled down, exhaustion from the night before and the last few hours was taking its toll on them. Bilbo was set down rather gently leaving him blinking up to Thorin.


Who was having a terribly scowl on his face as he regarded Bilbo shrinking back on himself.


“What did you think you were doing, halfling!?” Thorin growled out, taking Bilbo by his shoulders and giving him a small shake. Bilbo glowered right back. But as he opened his mouth to give his dwarf a tongue-lashing, Thorin cut him off.


“You could have been killed!”



“Of all the ridiculous and stupid things you could have done-”


Hey now!” Bilbo puffed up in indignation, he had reasons! Good reasons!


“- you challenge the Goblin King to a duel?!”

“Yes, well, that-” okay, so maybe Thorin might have a small point there. Very small though.


“What were you thinking?! You put us all in danger-” a heavy hand landed on Thorin's shoulder, drawing him back a little. Bilbo blinked up at Dwalin as he inserted himself rather rudely into their rather one-sided conversation.


“What he's trying and failing ta say is 'thank ya'. In Thorin-speak he just wanted ta say that he was worried 'bout ya.” Dwalin said with a grin on his face that didn't even disappear as Thorin shoved him aside again.


“Oh.” Bilbo finally managed, feeling himself deflate a little and his ruffled feathers settle once more. From here he could see Thorin's slightly reddening ears and couldn't suppress a giggle. He grabbed one of Thorin's hands to regain the attention of his oblivious mate.


“I'm fine... I just thought it would be better if the goblins did not realize just who they had as their guests.”


Thorin's frown did smooth out a little at this as he stared down at Bilbo with an unreadable look in his face. As if – for the first time in their journey – he was seeing the hobbit in a completely different light. Bilbo could only hope it was a better one than before. He also realized that he must make quite a pathetic picture, sweaty and bloodied up, ripped clothes and scrapped skin.


Thorin must have realized it too.

“Óin! Look after B- our burglar.” he shouted over his shoulder. Then he looked at Bilbo again and said “I... You were quite brave.”


With a curt little nod he extracted his hand from Bilbo's slack grip and crossed the camp to look over his nephews, while Óin scurried over to him to inspect the hobbits condition.

By the time Óin finished up Bilbo was half asleep sitting up. He startled when another body sat down next to him, drawing him into a loose hug.


“Whaa-? Oh, it's you.” just Nori, so Bilbo closed his eyes, yawned and missed seeing Nori shake his head in amused disbelief.


“Yer just killed tha goblin king.”


Bilbo opened one eye and shot him a glare, huffing in annoyance and crossing his arms over his chest defensively, wincing slightly as his arm pressed against the gash on his side. It's not like he had planned to rile up the whole goblin-colony. Or kill their king.


“It's not my fault! He was standing in the wrong place at the wrong time...” Bilbo grumbled dryly “I didn't even mean to...”, but his mouth twitched into a little smile. How he was able to get the words out with a relatively straight face was a miracle.


“Sure didn't sound like tha' when ya were talkin' to tha king...” Nori said as he eyed Bilbo from the side. The hobbit puffed up, opened his mouth.... and closed it as he recalled that he had exactly announced that to the whole goblin-colony. Right before actually doing what he had promised he had set out to do.




Nori chuckled at the surprised sound and shook his head, while taking Bilbo in a – for a dwarf probably gentle – headlock, giving him a ruffle through his hair until they were even worse off than before. When he was finally released Bilbo quickly shoved Nori away and tried to save his hair at least a little, patting it down with his hands while Nori crackled madly next to him, drawing the curious but tired looks of other members of the company.


“We can't stay here for long...” Thorin called from the other side of the small clearing “We need to get going! Get some distance between us and the mountain before dark falls.”


The company groaned, grumbled and complained, but they all stood up and packed the few things they had been able to save from their run-in with the goblins. Bilbo himself felt like a newborn calf when he stood up. While his time of being carried had helped him a little against his fatigue, it had also given his abused muscles the time to spread the burn of exhaustion that was now settling in them. Of course he knew that walking would help more than staying still, keeping the muscles warm and not let them lock up too much. Besides he really didn't fancy getting dragged back into goblin town.

That didn't mean he was happy about walking though.


And they walked for quite a few hours. Food was scarce, since not a lot had survived and stayed with them after they had fallen down the chute. They had been too preoccupied fighting for their lifes and freedom to grab most of their gear. Only Ori, Bombur and Kíli still had most of their stuff. All others, Bilbo included, only had scraps of their things left. Their only consolation had been their weapons, most of which had found their way out with their owners. Bilbo was very glad his little elven sword had also been carried out and given back to him.


Still, having lost more than half of their supplies they were in dire need of a town or some kind of civilization to restock. If there had been any around. Kíli hadn't hesitated and had shot down the first bird he had seen. Bilbo had jumped like a scared rabbit when the dead animal had dropped down beside him, only Bofur's hand slapping over his mouth had stifled the squeak of fright and kept it at a lower volume. They really didn't want to alert anyone about their whereabouts. Rubbing his head Kíli had offered him a sheepish apology while Bilbo glared bloody murder.


Hungry and tired they walked on for a few hours, before they finally settled down before they could collapse. Quickly a makeshift camp was set up. It was still several hours to nightfall, as they had spend most of the night climbing the mountain-path in the storm and the rest of the night in company of goblins, so no one wanted to waste time. They had come out of goblin town early morning and every single one was in dire need of rest. Dwalin had grudgingly offered to take over the first watch, as he was more used to going without sleep than most others. Surprisingly Nori had offered to join him, despite their differences. Before really going to sleep they helped put together some food. Bombur had grumbled and told them to get a shut eye while he prepared a quick meal of whatever they had left, but instead they had made a quick snack for before, and a soup that could cook while Bombur himself and the rest got some well deserved rest. Hopefully it would stretch their supplies some too.


With that problem settled the rest of them quickly settled down. It didn't even matter that they didn't have their sleeping-bags anymore. Though the ground was cold, they huddled together near a small fire – which they had discussed would be allowed to burn only during the day as to not attract attention – and quickly fell asleep.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


The sound of warg howls were their wake-up call. In an instant the dwarrows were up and with practiced chaos the camp was broken down while Bilbo wrung his hand and just grabbed the first backpack, stuffing whatever things he could find inside, herbs, waterskins, cooking supplies, bandages. Everything he got his hands on was quickly stuffed into the bag as the dwarrows armed themselves.


“Quick and quietly.” Thorin ordered in a whisper as the dwarrows quickly grabbed onto their weapons.


“Maybe they haven't yet found us. If possible we should avoid a fight.” Thorin's was grim faced, most likely he didn't believe that they would be able to escape notice for long and fighting would be inevitable.

Bombur kicked dirt into the dieing fire and quickly filled the rest of the soup into an empty waterskin, they couldn't really afford to loose more of their provisions and the warg howls had been quite distant.


Another howl sounded. Bilbo shuddered at the sound. He was sure it did sound closer already and by the frantic working dwarrows they had noticed the same. The sun was only just slowly setting, night would be upon them and while dwarrows had a great night vision, Bilbo himself couldn't say the same for himself. Which was why he decided he would be more useful for carrying stuff than finding a way or fighting. Besides, he really was sore.


As quietly as possible while running they rushed through the darkening forest. The mood was tense. It was like they were expecting an attack at every moment. It was a good thing they did, for the next warg howl sounded directly behind them. Followed by another. And another. The dwarrows started cursing.


“They picked up on our trail, run!” before they had slowed a little for stealth's sake, now stealth didn't matter anymore and they were picking up their speed. At least the path led downwards.


Run! Faster!


All to soon the howls came closer, so close in fact, that they could hear them barreling through the wood, snapping branches in their haste to get to their prey. Bilbo could hear teeth snapping close behind him and ducked behind an outcropping rock, drawing his little sword. Not a second to soon, as a warg jumped over the rock and faced him, growling and barring its teeth. Bilbo shakily raised his sword to defend himself – just in time for the charging warg to impale himself on it. Blinking stupidly down at the warg Bilbo tugged at his weapon, having a sense of a déjà vu of the goblin-trolls situation from before. His sword was stuck.


“Step aside.”


Bilbo blinked and quickly stepped to away, watching as Thorin easily gripped the hilt and tugged Bilbo's weapon out of the warg-skull nearly effortlessly, handing it over to the hobbit in the next second before turning to the rest of their company.


“They are coming! Prepare yourselves!”


Another charging warg fell to one of Bifur's throwing axes.


Up! Up into the trees, all of you! Climb!” Bilbo had thought him crazy, why would they climb if they could run mo- oh. Cliff. That's why.


Climb, Bilbo!”


Running to the next tree, Bilbo quickly clambered up and pulled his feet out of the way of snapping yaws. The wargs had rushed to the trees that were now harboring thirteen dwarrows, a wizard and a hobbit. They begun clawing at the bark, their claws ripping deep gashes into the wood as they threw themselves against the trees while trying to reach their quarry. Bilbo was so distracted that it even took him a moment to realize Thorin was basicly standing next to him, his grip on a branch almost turning as white as his face as he stared at something in the distance.


“It... cannot be...” Thorin whispered and Bilbo followed his gaze to the source. A white orc mounted on an equally pale warg. Both were bigger than their companions, and much more intimidating.


“Azog.” of course Bilbo had heard about Azog. He had just thought the orc really was dead. As had Thorin, if his surprise was anything to go by.


Nuzdigid? Nuzdi gast?


“W-what is he saying?” Bilbo's voice wavered a little, having no way to understand the words being said but listening to them alone left him feeling dirty.


Ganzilig-i unarug obod nauzdanish, Torin undag Train-ob. seeing Thorin's face turn stricken in grief and pain made Bilbo hate the white orc just a bit more. He didn't need a translation to know that whatever had been said must have hit his soulmate on a personal level. Meanwhile the orc turned to his companions.


Kod, Toragid biriz.” the white orc announced, it's claw-like appendage pointing straight at Thorin. Bilbo felt something in him puff up in indignation. Even if he couldn't understand what was being said exactly, this time it wasn't hard to guess. And he took exception to anyone wanting or trying to kill Thorin, but... they were kinda cornered in trees on the side of a very, very steep cliff. And Bilbo didn't think he had no strength left for another drawn out fight like before.


Worori-da!” with those words the rest of the wargs surged forward, bellowing and howling they charged the trees, their body making the whole ancient giants shake and tremble violently under their onslaught. Their maws snapped at their feet, and Bilbo fearfully climbed higher as lower branches were ripped off in the wargs efforts to reach them. It was a struggle to hold on and others, like Bombur who had been on a lower branch, were finding themselves in a precarious situation. The assault continued on, the orcs crackling at their plight and egging their pets on. Bilbo was terrified. He had lived through the fell winter and seen hobbits ripped apart by wolves. Wargs were so much worse than wolves and Bilbo really, really didn't want to end under their claws, but there was no way out for them otherwise. Well, there was but he also really didn't want to jump off the cliff.


And then the situation naturally had to get worse. The tree had taken as much as it could and begun to tilt as it got uprooted.


“Oh, oh bother. Botherbotherbother....” Bilbo whimpered as he clung to his branch, the tree slowly beginning to fall over.


“We need to jump.” Thorin's steady tone did little to help him calm down. But even that little bit helped and so he fearfully nodded. He was getting good at jumping in dangerous situations. At least he was not freezing up anymore.


Now!” they jumped together.


Slowly one tree after another tipped over and forced the dwarrows, wizard and hobbit to jump from one tree to another or get ripped apart by the wargs waiting eagerly below. Somehow they found themselves all stuck in the same tree. The last one. Bilbo chanced a look and nearly fainted just from seeing how far away the ground was.


“Oh dear...” he mumbled and quickly looked away. Not that the other path was any more appealing, what's which wargs and orcs cutting off their way to freedom.


They were stuck. And Bilbo had no idea how to get them out of this frying pan. Hopefully he looked at Gandalf, the one who had so far gotten them out at the last possible moment before. The way the wizard was desperately looking around himself certainly didn't make him feel better, until the wizard grabbed one of the pinecones of the tree they were stuck in and mumbled some words, causing a spark to set the pinecone on fire.


The burning pinecones were a … nice idea. They did manage to scare the wargs away due to the fire, but Bilbo couldn't help but think that they were the ones stuck in a wooden tree on a cliff-side. A fire certainly wasn't making it worse per se, but in Bilbo's opinion it didn't really improve their situation either. Since he was out of ideas he did not voice that thought out loud though. At least their tree was still standing.


Which of course was the moment the roots of said tree ever so slowly got ripped from the ground, and their haven slowly begun to tilt. In the direction of the abyss. All around him the companies fearful cries filled the air, fire was cracking and then the tree's roots snap, the whole tree giving a violent jerk as it abruptly falls further before stopping once more. But for how long would it hold? Right now this left them clinging to the branches and sticking out over the steep decline of the mountain. Very much away from the edge of the cliff. The dwarrows barely held on. All except Ori who slips off and just barely grabbed onto Dori's leg.


“No,no, nonono.”


Bilbo was clutching to the tree truck and quietly thought to himself that there had been way to many nearly-falling-to-death scenarios in the last day alone. He was really sick of it. It was a ridiculous thought at this time, because falling to death certainly wasn't the only problem they had. Behind a wall of flames wargs were pacing, probably just waiting for the flames to die out. The orcs watched on, leered and laughed at their plight. Smoke stung Bilbo's eyes, making them water. He felt overly hot from the fire, yet every blow of the wind was like icy blades cutting at him. No, there were better ways to spend a night.


And Bilbo still felt exhausted. He desperately looked around for a plan, hoping inspiration would strike much like it had in the goblin cave. His gaze went from one member to the next, but everyone was struggling. A cry escaped him when he saw Dori slipping too, watching helplessly as the dwarf and Ori very nearly fell to their death before Gandalf's staff swung down for Dori to grab onto at the last possible moment. He could see how much Dori strained to keep his grip, all the while shouting at Ori to hold on. Bilbo's gaze found Nori, who tried to get a better grip and come to his brothers aid. He only managed to nearly break of the branch he was clinging to.


It was hopeless. Was this the end? Was this why Yavanna had barely sung these past few days?


And of course that's when Bilbo choose to seek out Thorin. Thorin who had managed to find his way onto the tree trunk, panting and had looked around too, before his gaze fell to Azog. Slowly the dwarven-king stood up, his stare fixed on the orc who mockingly smiled at him through the fire. Bilbo could see the anger and hate clouding the beautiful blue eyes, could see how Thorin comes to a decision.


“No. Thorin, no!


He was helpless. So very helpless as he watched Thorin, his soulmate, draw his weapon. His words didn't even seem to reach the dwarf, that's how intent Thorin seemed to be to get his revenge, now that all seemed lost. But to charge at the orcs alone? It would be suicide! Thorin slowly walked down the tree, back towards the edge of the cliff. Slowly he picked up momentum and Bilbo couldn't help but think that with every step Thorin took he was taking a very important part of Bilbo with him.


“No. No. Yavanna, please...” would he be forced to watch his mates death? It couldn't be. Not after all he had tried. He could see Thorin running through the burning forest. Directly at his arch enemy. The pale orc mounted on a warg that looked ready to jump. All around him the Company was in a frenzy. Dwalin tried to get up the tree trunk too and nearly fell down in his desperate struggles. Balin had tears in his eyes.


But Bilbo only had eyes for Thorin, the commotion around him seemed almost distant.


And then Thorin brutally fell to Azog's mace and Bilbo felt as if that part that Thorin had taken with him... it withered and died when the dwarf fell to the ground and didn't get up. And then Azog pointed at Thorin.


Biriz torag khobdudol.


He had no idea how he had gotten up to the tree's flat side, couldn't even remember drawing his weapon, couldn't feel his sore muscles or the embers burning the soles of his feet. There was an orc advancing on his soul. An orc with his weapon drawn and if Thorin was still alive? If he was it would be over if that orc reached Thorin.


With an agonized scream Bilbo threw himself at the orc, his drawn sword piercing the flesh as easy as butter as he took the much bigger opponent down with him and stabbed him again, though the neck. Before stumbling to his feet. He stood in front of Thorin, facing numerous orcs that had surrounded Thorin to watch the spectacle much like the goblins had watched Bilbo before.


A wild laugh broke out of Bilbo with wild abandon he swung his sword in an arc, letting the black blood that had clung to it splatter to the ground around him.


“You want my king?”


He faced Azog head on, his gaze tunneling down on this sole being that was responsible for Thorin's state.


“Come and get him. I dare you.” he barred his teeth at the orcs almost in challenge.


There was no fear. His hand with the sword was steady, even if his stance was that of a beginner and he realistically had no chance of winning. He knew that. But whoever had said that you could live without your soulmate? Had probably never met his other half. Or maybe it was just Bilbo who was unable to live with only half his soul.


Bilbo was willing to fight for his soul. To strip himself of being a simple hobbit of the shire. To spill his own blood to save Thorin's.

He had no intention of dieing either. For if that was what he felt... if that was how anyone felt who lost their mate? He wouldn't wish it on Thorin should he survive.


Bilbo let the backpack that had still been on him slide to the ground next to Thorin. It would slow him down. And he didn't need any supplies should he die. He could see Azog waving some of his advancing minions away, obviously intrigued by the little creature that seemed harmless but had managed to kill one of his own.


Bilbo meanwhile took stock on what he had on him. His slingshot wouldn't really help him in this situation.


However... there was a heavy weight in his coat that had become familiar over the last couple of days. Someday (hopefully) he would find out how Nori kept slipping daggers onto his person without Bilbo noticing. This was harassment!

But this once it actually worked in his favor...


His heart fluttered in his chest as he watched Azog slide to the ground, the large mace was swung in lazy arcs as the orc slowly advanced on Bilbo. If the pale orc thought that it would weaken Bilbo's resolve he was sorely mistaken. It was intimidating, but with his soul on the line Bilbo was already stuck in a corner and the only thing he had left was trying to claw his way out again. And if that meant fighting, so be it. His grip on his sword shifted and he took the dagger in his other hand.


Throwing it would be a waste. He was sure the orc was fast enough to bat it out of the air with that mace of his and it would be a waste. But...


… but the orc was big. Big and fast and intelligent and experienced, sure. But Bilbo was small and fast and intelligent and determined. He had no real fighting experience but that only meant that he might be able to surprise the orc by doing something unexpected.


The orc seemed curious and it was only then, that Bilbo realized he was smiling at his advancing death.

And when the orc drew closer, Bilbo sprang into action.


He threw his elvish sword at Azog and then he recklessly charged at the orc head on. As expected the orc easily batted the sword away, a look of surprised intrigue crossing his face, but he looked amused more than threatened. He was already lifting his mace to swat Bilbo away like a little bug, but Bilbo ducked and rolled – right through Azog's legs.


Without hesitating he turned and stabbed Azog into his knee pit. Ripping the dagger out as the orc roared in pain and anger as he buckled and fell to his knee. Bilbo took the chance and jumped at the orc's back, his only intent was on stabbing that foul being and killing him at this one chance he had. But as soon as Bilbo landed on the Azog's back his hand snatched Bilbo's coat and plucked him right off, throwing him over the orcs head to the ground. The impact left Bilbo breathless for a moment, before he scrambled to his knees. Just a few paces in front of him was his discarded sword. Bilbo just wanted to jump in it's direction when a mace crushed the ground between him and his little letter opener.


Looking up to see Azog standing above him Bilbo was pretty sure that this were his last breaths.


And then Azog jerked away out of the path of an arrow. War-cries filled the air and all of a sudden the company joined the fight.


Khazad ai-menu!!


“Take that!!”


Bilbo took his chance to get some distance between himself and Azog. A couple of warg riders advance on him, their beasts snarling at him, but in the next moment Fíli, Kíli and Dwalin are between him and his enemies. Quickly Bilbo grabbed his sword off the ground and stumbled back in Thorin's direction. He uses the confusion to duck between the fights that had broken out as the company had somehow rejoined them on the cliff and make quick stabs at his enemies, all the while trying to keep low to the ground. It happened when he was finally almost back at Thorin's side that his luck ran out. An orc got lucky and tackled at him from the side, taking Bilbo down to the ground. They struggled and Bilbo managed to disarm the orc, but was pinned to the ground and basicly at the mercy of the victoriously grinning being.


Until it got ripped off by a giant something swooping down from the skies. Bilbo nearly had a heart attack.


Eagles! Big, majestic eagles!

Bilbo let's out a laugh of euphoric happiness. Just a few minutes before he had been sure they were doomed to death no matter what happened... and now? The Orcs were scattered and confused, their mounts terrified and running for the hills. He could hear Azog roaring angrily, hatefully...


They could survive this.


Bilbo jumped back to his feet, stumbling to Thorin's side and turning him over. He choked when he saw the wound on Thorin's head, big and bleeding freely. There was a lot of blood, so much. Head-wounds, he knew, were nasty business. If that hit had been aimed at a hobbit's head he was sure there wouldn't have been a face left to recognize. There was something to be said about he hardheadedness of dwarrows, that's for sure.


“Oh... oh....” helplessly he looked around and saw the backpack sitting a few feet away from them, where he had thrown it before the fight. He could remember packing bandages and a few things for Óin!

Quickly he jumped up and raced back to the backpack, picking it up and turning back.



“WH-!” quickly he stumbled back, nearly tripping over his own feet in his haste. An orc had somehow managed to get behind him and had taken a swing at Bilbo's back and was now slowly herding him away from Thorin and towards the edge of the cliff. Bilbo awkwardly held his sword in one hand and the backpack swung over one shoulder. He tried to parry or to get around the orc to no avail.


Behind the orc he could see how Thorin was picked up gently by giant talons and carried off. Actually... most of the company was gone.


“Oh... bother.”


His distraction cost him. The orc had jumped at him and grabbed his wrists, slowly pushing them to the side. Its face was so close to Bilbo's that he could smell the foul breath wafting over his skin.

The strength that was applied to his wrists was enormous and soon Bilbo cried out in pain, struggling to keep his grip on his weapon.


The giant talons closing around them surprised them both, and they came to a small standstill in their fight as they were dragged over the edge.


And then the talons let them go and they fell.



Chapter Text

。・゜゜・ K ・゜゜・。


The company had watched fearfully and with bated breath as their hobbit struggled with an orc almost twice his size at the edge of the cliff. Bofur kept wringing his hat in his hand as he watched their small friend slowly being overpowered. Stuck on the back of those eagles there was nothing they could do. The sigh of relief when they saw the eagle approaching turned to tense apprehension as they realized that in their struggle, there was no way for the great bird to snatch Bilbo away from danger.


And they were left to watch as Bilbo was taken by another giant avian and dropped onto the back of yet another eagle. Only he wasn't alone. Shocked cries filled the air as they looked on, seeing how Bilbo had fallen onto the back of an eagle, accompanied by the still living orc. Kíli had immediately notched an arrow, taking aim while Fíli held onto him with a tight, white-knuckled grip to prevent him from falling off.


Bilbo's sword was like a torch, showing the desperate struggle in the air but Kili could not get a clear shot, for he would risk to either hit the Hobbit or the eagle, instead of the orc. Bofur was shouting, gesturing to the others, but being atop of an eagle did not give them much allowances to help their hobbit out. Ori's slingshot hung limply in his hand and Nori had his throwing knifes out, but they were too far away to be of any use. It was simply bad luck that Bilbo had been one of the last ones to be picked up, even after Thorin himself.


Horrified they looked on, watching as the struggle continued and Bilbo kept flagging in exhaustion, stumbling away but engaging the orc back in fight as the creature moved to strike at the eagle that kept them afloat. The strikes with the sword became clumsy, often-times not even coming all that close to the orc like Bilbo was using his last strength to just wave the sharp edge in the orcs direction. It was a loosing battle and even Bilbo seemed to realize this. Despite being on an eagle he seemed to gather his last energy and jumped at the orc, trying to throw it off balance or even off the eagle all together.

It worked. In so much as to Bilbo and the orc tumbling from the eagle's back, the light of the sword showing how fast they were falling, all the while still fighting each other, as the orc held onto Bilbo and tried to stab him, while the hobbit tried to kick him off and wound him in return. Immediately the eagle who had them on his back seconds before dived, claws reaching out to pluck Bilbo from the air, only to screech in agony as it's claw got struck by the mad swings of the weapons. It was impossible to tell if the orc or Bilbo had wounded the creature, more than likely neither had seen the claw coming and it had simply been an accident.


A fatal one as Bilbo and the orc continued to fall, rapidly approaching the ground and with it sure death.


“No...!” Kíli tried to reach out, despite the distance and only Fíli dragging him back kept him on the eagle they were flying on. The ground came closer to their hobbit faster and faster, and the eagle tried again to grab him.


But missed. Bilbo and the orc disappeared in the dark woods at the feet of the mountains, the trees swallowing the little light of the tiny sword just as much as the death that was surely following seconds after.


The whole company stared down in shock, watching as the eagle circled the area, screeching in dismay. It was still circling while the company moved further and further away.


Ori was crying, Bofur had dragged his hat over his eyes and Kíli's knees finally gave out, the arrow now held loosely in his hands, Fíli's arms wrapped around his waist pulling him closer. He felt Fíli trembling too, his brother needing the comfort of his presence just as much as Kíli needed his.


“No...” he shook his head “no...” he stared back at the place Bilbo had disappeared, shaking in his brothers arms, before turning around, burying his face in Fíli's shoulder.


“We have to go back! We have to, we have...! Bilbo, we saw where he fell!” he frantically mumbled, trying to get Fíli to understand. Fíli was – after Thorin – the dwarf with the highest rank, who would continue the quest if... if Thorin... anyways, he should be able to get the eagles to turn back!


But he didn't. The arms around him just tightened their grip.


And so the eagles continued on, no matter how much Kíli yelled at them. When they finally landed on the Carrock the company's spirits was lose and Kíli had long since shouted himself hoarse. He felt numb.


They watched as Thorin was carefully lowered and Gandalf hurried over, his face pulled into a grimace of grief as he muttered over Thorin's body, while Óin made his rounds looking after the others.


Kíli looked up when a hand landed on his shoulder, meeting the red-rimmed eyes of Bofur.


“'t was too late already...” Bofur muttered, his usual cheer as muted as Kíli's own “'s no chance ter... ter survive a fall from tha' high.”


Kíli knew that. Of course he knew. Didn't mean he didn't wish it wasn't so, and it also didn't mean the he wished Bilbo wouldn't lie somewhere in the wild, dead and probably getting eaten by scavengers. Their hobbit had deserved so, so much better than that. Instead he looked away and gave a tight nod, his gaze locking on his uncle as the elder dwarf finally stirred.



Chapter Text

。・゜゜・T ・゜゜・。


As Thorin slowly came to he twitched from the intense pain surging through him. He had been in battle often enough to know when he was wounded, but it took a moment to remember why. When he did his eyes shot open and he tried to sit up, despite the wounds littering his body and despite a broken rip or two. They would heal as they always did.


“The halfling!” he could still remember the small form illuminated by the little elvish blade knocking the advancing orc over, remembered seeing Bilbo kill it and step in front of him, sword held in surprisingly steady hands to defend Thorin to the last. Could still see him raise his sword as Azog advanced, almost in challenge. Then his memory drew blank. His heart gave an unsteady beat, as if knocked from it's normal rhythm.


“The hobbit!?” He repeated, looking from face to face. They seemed grave, but he was alive so... so why...


“Bilbo?” he finally asked, this time sounding almost pleading. He looked at Dwalin, read the frown as the warrior looked away uncomfortably. Most of the company couldn't meet his eyes and he felt his heart sink.


His voice broke a little when he croaked out a weak sounding “What happened...?” already dreading the answer. He could not see Bilbo anywhere. No. No, Bilbo was probably hurt, he was not-


It was Nori's haggard appearance and behavior that settled a heavy stone somewhere deep in his stomach. One of the thief's hands were opening and closing and he didn't even look in Thorin's direction, but towards... towards the mountainside, even though those seemed to be further away than Thorin had expected them to be. His other hand clenched around a small object, hiding it from view. Forcefully he pulled his gaze away from Nori and turned back to Balin.


“I'm sorry, laddy.” Balins soft voice was soothing, a hand reaching out and holding his shoulder in a comforting, familiar gesture. It was the same way Balin had reached out to him on the battlefield while he was kneeling in the filth of the battle, blood still seeping from his numerous wounds and the creeping realization that while the battle had been won, his grandfather, father and brother hadn't lived to return back to the Blue Mountains. The field was littered by bodies and too many of them were of his people and now... now with this battle he had become king.

But this time there wasn't anybody hurt... there wasn't... Bilbo just wasn't there.


“Bilbo... Bilbo fell.”


There was a wounded sound echoing in the mourning stillness that seemed to engulf the company. It took Thorin a moment to recognize it coming from his own mouth, but the way his heart felt like it was pealed open, like there was a gaping open wound in his chest, Thorin wasn't really all that surprised. Oh he had denied it. Had forced any silly notions that painted the hobbit in a positive light out of his head by sheer stubbornness. Until Bilbo had forced Thorin to look at him only moments before.


It was not fair that he had just finally recognized the hobbit's worth and started to contemplate on his real feelings towards the hobbit, only to loose him scant breaths after. It was not fair!


He had not apologized. He had behaved atrociously, right from the start. He had blamed Bilbo for things he couldn't have prevented, like the trolls (which hadn't actually been his fault but Thorin had never been able to admit that either) and tried to push him away, no matter how stubbornly Bilbo kept at his heels.


The whole company was unusually quiet. It made the absence of their missing (notdeadneverdead) member all the more obvious. They packed in silence, checked supplies and counted their weapons. Not even the first sight of Erebor could really draw them out of the subdued mood that had settled over them. Thorin watched them absentminded, while his thoughts rested on their lost burglar.


It all started – just like the quest – back in the Shire...


。・゜゜・T ・゜゜・。


Thorin had already been in a pitch-black mood, coming back from a fruitless meeting with the other dwarrows and having to look forward to repeating the sad experience to his company. That only twelve dwarrows answered his call stung. It stung deeply, just as much as the other dwarrows insistence that it was a fools errand. Especially after all he he had done for his people over the years.

At first, just shortly after their exile, Thorin had not felt the full weight of his people resting on his shoulders. Back then there had still been the hope of recovering. Of aid, from other dwarven kingdoms at least. To say it had broken his heart to see his people denied was putting it lightly. Already weary of the world, especially in face of the recent abandonment by their elven allies, Thorin could say he had hardened quite a bit during that time. But back then his grandfather and father had still carried the brunt of the responsibilities that came with the title of king and prince respectively.


That too had ended before he even had the chance to reach his majority, at the scant age of 53 in the nightmare of a war that ended in the Battle at Azanulbizar. A battle they won, but it was a pyrrhic victory at best. They had lost many, among them Thorin's grandfather and younger brother.

Thorin became king in the same breath as his father vanished on the battlefield and was believed dead. There had been no time to truly grieve. He had people who suddenly looked at him to lead them, people who waited for him to make decisions about the future, their future.


He had never been able to admit to anyone just how scared he was. Dwalin had probably known, had stuck to him come hell or high water and had endured Thorin's temper like a mountain withstood the storms of nature. To be truthful, without the sons of Fundin and his families support he probably would have succumbed to the pressure that kept piling up on his shoulders those dark days in the past. Of venturing out in the world, with wounded and old and young, to places where too many of them perished before they even got to their goal. Hope dwindling as they went from place to place and yet soon after arriving they were forced to move on again. They endured. And yet everyone had felt the loss of someone precious at one point or another.


After all they had been through in their years of exile and the way Thorin had worked himself to the bone, meeting with other dwarven kings and their councils to try and find a place to settle his people, only to get turned down time and again. Of the humiliations of having to sell their meager belongings, their precious few heirlooms for mere morsels to buy food and clothes. Of learning how to be a blacksmith, something Thorin had never thought he would do before the dragon came. It didn't matter that Thorin found the forging of weapons to be a rather relaxing activity, despite it's physical demanding requirements, fact was: Being a blacksmith was not exactly a job for a king.

It had not been easy to learn but it had been something that had put food in his peoples mouth, sometimes for months if he managed to find a promising job for several dwarrows in a town.

They had struggled. Together. Until he had finally found them a place to settle and while Belegrost was not the most comfortable or safe mountain, they had been able to live instead of only surviving.


But the one time he called for them, most hadn't answered. If Thorin had not understood their position so well, it would have hurt a lot more. But even despite his understanding, it was a bitter pill to swallow. The Blue Mountains offered them a home. Not a comfortable one, nor a well off one, but after so much loss and tragedy Thorin couldn't hold it against them to cling to the little bit they had earned and worked so hard for. He could have ordered them. But he had not been able to bring himself to force the unwilling to such a journey, nor would he be able to trust them with his life if he always had to doubt their loyalty to him.


The refusal of the other kingdoms... well, after his experiences in the earlier years of the exile it had not exactly come as a surprise, but despite that Thorin had allowed hope to rekindle in himself. Surely they saw the signs. Surely they would agree to help, if only a little. At least his kin... not close but kin nonetheless...


Deep in thought as he was, he had lost his way, getting turned around in the confusing maze that seemed to make up the Shire. It was pure chance that Thorin had spied the glowing rune and followed the tiny light towards the burglars home. It was quaint and warm. Comfortable and secure in the ways he and his people weren't. Hadn't been for so many years. Some – like his nephews – had never gotten to know it. The meaning of having a home and to be without the worry of how to get the next meal. It soured his mood even more, especially since now he had to face his company, those dwarrows most loyal to him and tell them that they were on their own.


He had failed to secure them aid.


Back then the door had opened to the little, well off hobbit hole. Needless to say he had not been impressed, even though he knew his resentment was uncalled for. But even then he had justified his reasons with just a look around. It hardly looked like the home of a burglar, much less that of a warrior. No, it was a home of a creature of comfort, what's with all the knick-knack lying around and... and crochet and other dust-catchers. Bilbo himself had hardly been impressive at all. Soft and comely in his own way, but a short look over his person showed Thorin more than enough. No callouses on his hands, at least not from a weapon. Short curls of goldbrown framed a soft, beardless face.

He might be a little attractive, but he was certainly not a creature who ventured out in the dark. Let alone on a quest with dwarrows all the way back to Erebor.

And having thought the hobbit knew about the quest but was trying to back out of it had left a sour taste in Thorin's mouth after the meeting with the dwarrows and being turned down just hours before.


Had he known how unprepared Bilbo had been at that point of time, he might have curbed his tongue at least a little. Might have not been so derisive about the hobbit's home and way of life. Alas he had only gotten to know about that tidbit of information after Ori had told him about it in Rivendell.


At least there was enough food. Thorin had been quite confident that the little hobbit would stay away, and was happy with that decision. It would be a burden on the rest of them to take him with them. He would be utterly useless anyways and just get into the way if a fight broke out, if he didn't get himself killed right away. It was better this way, he had thought as he readied himself for bed in one of the guest-rooms.

Just as he had lied down to sleep, he had been scared awake again by a female voice whispering in the dark room he had been sure was empty except for himself.


Your storms have worn me out …


Who-?!” he had shot up in his bed, growling and already having a dagger at hand. He scanned the room, looking into the shadows with a fierce scowl, while being ready to defend himself at a moments notice. In times like these he was grateful to be born as a dwarf who had excellent vision in the dark. He didn't like being surprised. After a few moments though he exhaled and felt himself relax a little as nothing happened. It had to have been his imagination... the long day was probably catching up to him now.

At least being king did have the perks of getting a room to himself, so no one saw him questioning the empty room. And he was. By himself. Alone. Looking suspiciously around one more he found nothing out of the ordinary... had it truly been his imagination then?


Shaking his head and frowning he lay back down, closing his eyes and stubbornly insisting that it had been a trick of his mind. Slowly his heart-rate settled down. But his hand refused to let go of the dagger just in case. He hadn't lived to this day to get killed in his sleep in a hole in the ground.


The next morning he had woken blearily, dragged himself out of the cloud-soft bed that had seemed like it would swallow him whole and had quietly rounded up his company. They cleaned up, quick and in silence, and crept out of the hobbit's home with none the wiser. Their host was still asleep. It was better this way. Thorin felt a small pang of regret that he quickly squashed with a shake of his head.


Yes... this was right, Thorin had reassured himself as he had put the saddle on his pony and fastened the belts.


I've been chasing …


He stopped, heart-rate spiking again. Discreetly he chanced a look around, while his hands – well used to their task – proceeded with strapping his traveling gear to his pony. Nothing. No one – except his fellow dwarrows – was around, least of all some woman. His mood blackened, the little bit of peace the Shire's calm morning environment had offered disappeared in a moment as he gave sharp instructions in Iglishmek, so as to not wake the Shire-folk. Or their host.


They rode off, and Thorin felt torn, oddly relieved yet a little guilty. Maybe he should have at least given thanks for the meal to the hobbit before departing. That explained the guilt, but the relief? It's probably due to the fact that the useless and soft hobbit stayed at home where he belonged and Gandalf hadn't gotten his way to drag the creature with them. He would have been a burden and Thorin certainly didn't need any more of those, least of all on a quest as important as this one would proof be. The further they went, the more relaxed he became, even if there was a small pang of... something. Like he was forgetting something important, but he had checked his equipment more than three times. Strange. Well, the Shire was rather peaceful and maybe it was only a longing for his own home, so once again he shoved the feelings to the back of his mind. He was on his way to get his home back now, so hopefully he would soon be able to concentrate on rebuilding his kingdom instead of only dreaming about returning to it.


And then that blasted hobbit came running after them. Complaining about handkerchiefs of all things and dressed for entertaining dinner parties at home! Thorin was sure that the gentle-being wouldn't last a few days before turning his back and trudging back to his hole.


He couldn't help scowling at Bilbo suspiciously, as the strange (softhopefulcalming) voice had started in his home. Maybe it was some sort of strange hobbit magic. That or he was going mad. Which was a terrifying thought on it's own. His greatest fear in fact, followed closely by Dís wrath. It was deeply ingrained in him to be distrustful of strangers and outsiders. The hobbit was both and Thorin didn't feel an ounce of guilt to fully blame the hobbit for the strange voice. He had a gut feeling it had something to do with him and he trusted his instincts. He would keep an eye on the hobbit. And on himself. Whatever this strange magic was, he wouldn't let it influence him, the quest or anyone around him.


In spite of it he couldn't help himself but strain to listen, whenever the female (caringlovingpromising) voice sounded. He quickly realized noone else but himself could hear her and felt his heart sink at the realization. Having voices in your head was not something that spoke for a sound mind. His inability to ignore her annoyed him and messed with his sleep. He was more broody than ever.


It was the hobbit's fault.


you up and down …


And then, of course, the trolls happened.

After his argument with Gandalf he had chosen to sit by himself, watching his company make camp while he slowly unsaddled his pony and stowed away his stuff. Then he sat down to care for his weapon. Out of the corners of his eyes he saw Bilbo leaving the camp with two bowls in his hands. Frowning he turned back to his task. Keeping Deathless sharp was soothing to his mind and hopefully he could forget about the whispering voice and the companies burden. He was still riled up by Gandalf's insistence to carry on, which had made him all the more determined to stay exactly where they were. Slowly his tense shoulders relaxed with each stroke with the sharpening stone. It was soothin-


“Trolls!! Trolls took the ponies!”


It was as natural as breathing to jump to his feet, weapon ready as Fíli ran into their camp out of breath. All around activity froze for a second before all of a sudden chaos erupted. Weapons were thrown to their respective owners, armor was put back on and the camp was secured.

Meanwhile Thorin crossed the clearing to his nephew and grabbed his shoulder, steadying him just as much as trying to calm him down.


“What happened, Fíli? Where is Kíli?” and where was-


“I don't... uh, we...” Fíli stuttered before straightening up “Kíli is back at the troll-camp and watching.” his heir managed evenly, then slumped a little with a guilty expression “Aaaand we might have send Bilbo to... scout out the area?”


Thorin felt his heart skip a beat. And strangely enough his first thought was not on Kíli but the soft little hobbit without any battle-experience scouting out a troll-camp. Thorin shook off the strange thought and decided to concentrate on the issue on hand.


“What were you thinking?” then he shook his head “Nevermind.” that could be settled once he had gotten the two missing members of his company back to safety. Hopefully they wouldn't do something stupid.


“Let's go!” he called over the camp and watched as the mismatched company of toymakers, thieves and warriors turned at his call. They were small in numbers, they might not be the best warriors... but they were loyal to a fault and they had followed him willingly on this crazy mission. He couldn't ask for more. A small smile tugged at his mouth as he acknowledged that he was blessed with this company, more blessed than with any army standing behind him.


And no troll would get to take one of his numbers before they even got to face the dragon. Not if Thorin could do anything about it.


Mentioning to Fíli to lead the way they returned to the woods and Thorin felt a warmth rekindle in his chest as the company fell in step behind him.


。・゜゜・T ・゜゜・。


They arrived just in time to watch Kíli run into that clearing and nearly causing Thorin to have a heart-attack. Of course there had been no option but to charge in too. The hobbit? Nowhere to be seen. At first. Maybe the trolls had already eaten him... the thought made Thorin sick. While he hadn't liked the halfling, that was not a fate he would have wished on the gentle-being.


Seeing his nephew standing in the center of attention of three trolls also meant that Thorin did not have a lot of time to contemplate on a plan. With quick and sharp movements of his hand he directed the company to spread out, before signaling them to charge.


And then he had seen Bilbo at the edge of the fight. It distracted him that he nearly got stepped on by a troll and he scowled, returning to focus on the fight. He had noticed that his gaze often pulled back to the hobbit even at camp time or during their rides. But having the same awareness of Bilbo during a fight was unacceptable. Hobbits and their strange magic were probably at fault. He had never been one to be easily distracted during a fight and he couldn't explain why it should happen now.


Which was when the hobbit did the most astounding and unexpected thing: Hitting one of the trolls in the eye. The unpredictable flailing of the giant being interrupted what little team-play they had gained in the short fight, dwarrows fleeing left end right to avoid being stepped on or getting hit by the coals flying around by the trolls mad dash though the fire. Thorin himself couldn't help himself but gape in surprise at the chaos. An attack like that... he had never expected it to come from the hobbit and neither had the rest of the company.

Their surprise and inattention – Thorin cursed himself for it – cost them dearly. It was just a split second but Thorin didn't even have the time to shout a warning. The next moment Bilbo was caught, clutched in the fist of a troll and Thorin's heart fluttered in fright at the sight. The hobbit was so small and looked very fragile in the grip, as if a little squeeze could end his life in a single moment.


“Drop yer weapons!” the troll threatened “Or I'll squish this little...” the troll looked at Bilbo and frowned “What are ye?”


The company hesitated, glancing in Thorin's direction for instruction. Thorin struggled with himself. Once unarmed there was little chance of survival and the quest was important to the survival of his people. It should be his duty... he should put his people before a simple hobbit from the Shire. And yet...


And yet he couldn't do it. Grinding his teeth together in frustration and feeling his fears validated now he stabbed his sword into the ground and surrendered. The company followed suit, weapons clattering to the floor. Dwalin's warhammer left a dent in the soft ground as the dwarf released some of his anger when he put it down with force.


It was even more humiliating when they were forced to disarm themselves, stripping them not only of their weapons but armor as well. Thorin had rarely felt this vulnerable and felt reminded of the times he had been forced to do things he wasn't proud of to feed his people. And then they were forced into those sacks or bound to a roast. Thorin glowered from his spot on the ground, thinking furiously about how they could possibly get out of their dilemma now.


It was embarrassing that he had not been able to think of a plan to escape their predicament, but then again they wouldn't have been in danger if the hobbit hadn't walked into a troll camp. Only he hadn't, as he had later found out. Not really. No, his nephew had charged in. With no choice left they had followed and attacked. And only then had Bilbo entered the fight, shooting a... a nut into the eye of a troll and pretty much destroying the camp when said troll went on a rampage. The trolls had not been amused. Hell, Thorin had not been amused. Bested by trolls. If Dís heard of it, Thorin would never live it down. At least his fellow dwarrows were in the same situation so maybe it could be kept secret. Not likely but one could dream.


And what became of the infuriating hobbit? Stood up and talked about how to best cook a dwarf. Thorin had nearly been blind in fury of this... this impertinent betrayal! Until he realized through his rage Bilbo's intentions, but by then Bilbo had almost talked himself into a corner. Luck was on their side as Gandalf intervened and turned the trolls into stone just in time, preventing a tragedy.


just in case you need me …


By now the voice had become a repeating whisper in the back of his mind. It didn't bother Thorin all that much anymore, though a slightly uncomfortable thought of going mad remained. But so far, nothing seemed to happen and the voice... it didn't seem threatening at all. In a way Thorin wouldn't admit, it was comforting. Like a mother singing a lullaby. Now if Thorin would only know why it happened and what it meant...


Of course Thorin had faulted Bilbo. He would admit to be prone to saying things he didn't mean after a scare, and had proved that by ripping into the hobbit. He was surprised that Bilbo had showed a backbone and talked back. Had even insulted him!


It baffled Thorin, who had until the night before thought the Hobbit to be a gentle creature that seemed to avoid any sort of discontent and strife. Naive to the ways of the world, unprepared for the cruelties of the wild and not fit to be on their journey, having no experience to fight or even how to survive. Thorin was able to shut up some of the most war-hardened dwarrows existing (exception being Dwalin who just knew him to well for it to work), and thus was a little stumped that this... this soft little hobbit was so easily ignoring it. He had to admit now that he might have made hasty assumptions. There was probably more to Bilbo... something he had missed, something...


After that there was little time to think as they had to run from wargs and orcs, nearly getting eaten as they were surrounded. Again, Gandalf came to their rescue, finding a way out and Thorin, too relieved to think much about it had followed the urge to protect his company and shoved Bilbo down the escape-way. Bilbo who had been standing beside him, obviously trying to protect his side despite being terrified after being confronted with the foul creatures the first time in his whole life – a ridiculous notion, him needing protection from an inexperienced beginner like the hobbit – managed to bravely stand his ground. Thorin had to admit he felt... intrigued. And more than a little protective. So he had made sure the Hobbit was safe before himself, and only after Kíli followed had he jumped down the tunnel himself, safe in the knowledge that the entire company was whole and secure before looking after his own hide.


Can't make you choose


He had wondered why Bilbo was held back by Nori, but after he appeared all fight went out of the hobbit. A strange gleam was in the halfling's eyes, and it took a moment until Thorin realized the gentle creature had been worried about him. It was a... startling revelation. And a bit ridiculous as well, for Thorin was a battle-hardened experienced warrior and would be able to hold his own for a while to make some time for others to retreat.


Following the path had landed them with elves due to the meddling of the wizard. And Bilbo revealed that he could speak the tree-shaggers language. It offended Thorin on a personal level. One in his company, speaking that... that abominate language! Even more enraging was how enraptured the hobbit was with anything elvish. Thorin watched uncomfortable how Bilbo glowed as he looked around, how positively happy and relaxed the atmosphere made him. It hadn't been obvious before how tense the halfling was, until Bilbo apparently felt safe again and the tension disappeared. Any positive feelings that might have started to blossom after the troll-incident evaporated instantly, or were repressed by an iron will after that, because Thorin – the more he watched – was sure they were slowly loosing Bilbo to the elves. There was also an indiscernible gut-wrenching feeling in his stomach. Probably all the green food they were forced to eat. Most of the time in Rivendell was spent scowling and brooding, not that he would admit it to anyone. Never!


Between your heart and your head …


And yet more and more often Thorin felt his eyes stray towards their smallest member. Or would have, if Bilbo actually was with the rest of them. Watching him as much as possible, since the hobbit kept disappearing at the strangest times. He did note though that Nori just so happened to slip away more often than not during the same time.

Scowling to himself he crossed his arms and watched as the thief once again sneaked away and couldn't help but wonder what Nori had found in the hobbit that drew his attention.


Later that evening his thoughts drifted back to Nori's and Bilbo's absence. The rest of the company was in the room they had been offered by the elves. Dwalin was staring hard at the door to their room before switching back to sharpening his axe with more vigor than necessary. Then he would turn back and stare again.

Just what was it that Nori had seen in the soft creature? Then again, he wasn't all that sure why he was so interested in the hobbit all of a sudden. Or no, maybe he wasn't. It was his job as a leader to know what his company was up to, right? That's what it was.

Standing up he gruffly told Dwalin that he was out to get some fresh air. He needed time to think. Leaving the room he frowned at the delicate shaped doorways before stalking away. He wanted to be alone. The readings of the runes would be soon and-

Maybe he should pull Nori aside and have a talk though. Or maybe he should pull Bilbo aside-

Heaving an aggrieved sigh he rubbed his forehead. He could feel a headache coming on. More often than not his thoughts returned to the hobbit and it was galling him. It was magic. It had to be. Thorin was not obsessed. And he was not going crazy. Hobbit magic. He should be making plans to get supplies and how to best cross the mountains, yet here he was contemplating Nori's and Bilbo's relationship!


Huffing he turned around another corner and almost ran over the object that had been occupying his thoughts nearly constantly since arriving in Rivendell.


“In a hurry, Master Baggins?” he scoffed, raising an eyebrow and prepared to give the hobbit a piece of his mind. He was frustrated and he had been off to regain a semblance of peace and of course Bilbo had to show up right there and then!

And then he did a double take, noting the bruises on Bilbo's legs and forearms. The small cuts on his hands and fingers. There was a mark on his throat and a slight swelling barely hidden by the short hair on Bilbo's forehead.

And then it was as if a red haze settled over his thoughts, instincts screaming at him and fury mounting. Someone had assaulted the hobbit. He shouldn't have let Bilbo go alone. What had he been thinking? What had Bilbo been thinking? He should grab the hobbit and run. He had been a fool to trust those elves.


And when had the hobbit became Bilbo?


“-the elves? They dare hurt-” he had not even been aware that he had started to speak until Bilbo interrupted him with a sharp “No!” that left him snapping his mouth shut and bristling at the tone the halfling had taken. And he had no idea how Bilbo had managed to calm him down just as quickly as he had riled him up. But afterwards Thorin was astounded. He was not someone who easily opened up to people and while he had not told the hobbit much, it was... strange for him to speak to an outsider of their situation. And yet he had told Bilbo (in the vaguest sense) as to the reason of his hatred of elves. As if he owed it to the hobbit to explain himself!


But the conversation also revealed a little of Bilbo's stance, of his reasons of joining their quest. Such a soft creature, looking at what's best in people instead of searching for the worst to be prepared. Thorin... Thorin hadn't had that luxury in a long time. It was a naive way of thinking that Thorin envied Bilbo for. He had long since given up on that concept. He had lost too much. Too many. Had been burned once too often.


“I... I see.” the hobbit whispered a little hoarsely “But... I can't agree. It's not in me to hold someone accountable on actions of another.” he flinched under Thorin's steely gaze, but Thorin admired the honesty. While he wished to have the opportunity to say the same, too many fates rested on Thorin's shoulders to let go of his suspicious nature. Not when trusting the wrong person could lead to another disaster, costing them food, shelter or at worst lives.


But he couldn't hold that against the hobbit, Thorin thought resignedly. He just feared that all to soon the quest would force Bilbo to adapt, to lose the innocence he displayed right now. It settled a little ill with Thorin, which in turn surprised him because he had always been the sort that preferred it when people got a reality check in face of such naivety. In Bilbo it just... fit.


You are...” Thorin sighed “You are a kind soul, Master Baggins.” he frowned at the hobbit. Maybe it would be better if Bilbo decided to stay with the elves. He would – probably Thorin grudgingly admitted – be safe here.

“I do hope you will not loose that trait. Our journey is likely to be... rough. Tread carefully and... do keep an eye out. There are many who would use your nature against you.” and with that Thorin beat a hasty retreat. He felt unsettled by Bilbo's presence and wanted to sort out his thoughts. Was this truly hobbit magic? Or... was it something else?


。・゜゜・T ・゜゜・。


The next few days Thorin had tried to avoid Bilbo like the plague. It wasn't hard as Bilbo still kept disappearing, yet Thorin noted with mounting concern irritation that new bruises kept appearing on the hobbit's skin. Being clumsy Bilbo had called it, Thorin was entirely unconvinced. And yet he hesitated to interfere or investigate. Bilbo didn't seem to be a victim of any mistreatment, at least his demeanor didn't change to fit that suspicion.


He had hoped that his straying thoughts would return to their purpose – namely the quest – if he just stopped being around Bilbo for a while. Well, he was dead wrong. If anything he was more distracted then ever, whenever Bilbo was out of his sight. It was troubling and Thorin really couldn't decide if magic played a part or not. He had vaguely asked Gandalf if there was a curse on him and had wanted to sink into the floor at the look the wizard had given him.


“If you are worried about the gold sickness-” the wizard hadn't been able to say more before Thorin had interrupted him and closed that topic before it even begun.


Maybe hobbit magic was different from wizardly magic.


Truthfully: He had behaved atrociously towards their hobbit, and never once apologized like he ought to.


What really topped it all was what happened on the mountain path. Where he had nearly lost half his company and with them his nephew Kíli and Bilbo. In a way it had felt as if the world had stopped for a moment. The relief when he had found the company still alive had been staggering, but the fear when he realized Bilbo was lost almost felled him again. Once the hobbit was found he had not even thought about it, before swinging down to grab Bilbo and heave him to safety. Any other option seemed out of the question, the other outcome was simply unthinkable.

Only once he himself was back on the path did he realize his actions. He had nearly lost his life, trying to rescue the hobbit. The company would have been without a leader, for Fíli while being a wonderful heir was still too young to lead a quest like this, too inexperienced.


He had risked the quest for Bilbo's sake without a second thought. For the second time now, if one counted his surrender with the trolls as the first time.


With his heart pounding in fright he had once more reacted harshly, Bilbo being just the outlet of his frustration. He had not actually meant the words, which made the conversation between Bilbo and Bofur almost painful to listen to. He was not really used to feeling guilty, but he did. He had resolved to apologize to their hobbit, especially since the talk he had eavesdropped had revealed a lot about Bilbo's character. That Bilbo had placed his life and the companies above his own had nearly pulled the ground beneath his feet.


But I'll walk you through …


And then the floor disappeared literally.


the parts I understand …


Tumbling down into goblin town was en experience Thorin could have done without. He had been ready to reveal himself. He had known that it was very unlikely that they would get out of this cluster-fuck alive, but he had been willing to step forward and hope to bargain for at least the freedom of his company. He had not anticipated nor appreciated being jerked back and for the hobbit to take his place. And oh, he had been furious, but between Nori and Dori they had managed to keep him under control. He had wanted to rage, but he had also been intrigued. Bilbo had talked. Thorin recognized that he was playing for time, just like he had weaved words around the trolls before. It was admirable to watch the soft hobbit spin words around his enemies, to watch him stand up against those foul beings despite so very frightened. But his opponents were so much smarter this time and so much crueler. Reluctantly Thorin had settled down to see if the burglar had some sort of plan. And oh, did he have! The nerve of the hobbit! For a moment Thorin had contemplated if the burglar had indeed just used them for his own goals. Those thoughts had been quickly wiped away the longer he had watched Bilbo. Watched the hobbit fight for his life in his awkward helpless way that made Thorin's heart threaten to jump out of his chest.

Oh, he had been so stupid. How had he not recognized the burglar stealing his way into his heart? While Thorin did not know just what he felt for the halfling, well, it wasn't something bad. Dare he say it? He was becoming fond of the little fierce strange creature. He didn't want to, but he was.

And he realized that just as he would be able to watch the halfling die? It was a cruel mockery.




Bilbo narrowly escaped being speared by his enemy and Thorin struggled not to give away that he was free of his bonds. Not until the whole company was free and they had an opening, even if that meant Bilbo was in danger for some time more. Thorin hardly could take his eyes off him and... was Bilbo...?

Grinning fiercely he realized that Bilbo finally managed to put a plan together, even if it was a shaky one at best. It was only when the plan came together and the platform fell apart that Thorin realized that while Bilbo was good at making plans, his plans still had some work in front of them before they could be called finished. Cursing under his breath he gave a signal to the company and they jumped up, shoved the nearest goblins off the walkway and lunged for their weapons. After that he regretfully turned his back to the platform, busy defending their spot, because if they wanted a chance out of this? Then he had to hold their position and fight their way out. Otherwise they would all be dead soon. Luckily Gandalf finally made an appearance and aided them in their escape.


He fought. He fought twice as much to get to Bilbo and had practically ordered Dwalin to give the hobbit to him, needing to reassure himself that the hobbit was still in one piece. He had held onto Bilbo with a desperation and an overpowering need to protect the hobbit. This fierce, brave, soft, wonderful creature with a core of mithril. Raw but oh so precious.


Nori always had an eye for quality.


But they managed to survive, while hurt, none of them were unable to move and that's more than they could have hoped for.


Bursting out of the mountain brought a feeling of exhilarating freedom and he nearly felt high from their victory.

Carefully he set Bilbo down and looked at him. Really looked at him.


He was dirty, blood smeared over his face from a cut and the gash on his side was straining his clothes red. He was sweaty, hair tousled and dirty. He looked nothing like he had back in his home, his fancy clothes had turned threadbare and more than one button had been ripped off. He looked disheveled and tired and exhausted and...


… still so very attractive and beautiful.


Thorin scowled in reflex to that thought.


“What did you think you were doing, halfling!?” he growled, towering over the hobbit and ignoring the murmuring of the rest of the company. He shook Bilbo – gently mind you but honestly, what had the hobbit thought he was doing challenging the goblin king?! He was amused to note that Bilbo did not cower away from his temper but instead seemed to ready himself to argue right back. Silly creature.


“You could have been killed!” but he hadn't! By some miracle Bilbo was standing here, before him and almost whole.


“Of all the ridiculous and stupid things you could have done-” Thorin ignored the interruption “- you challenge the Goblin King to a duel?!” really. And he even succeeded. It was hilarious, if it hadn't almost given Thorin a heart attack! And where would they be then? Leaderless, that's where.


“What were you thinking?!” really, he was the leader, if anyone should have risked their lives it should have been Thorin, not Bilbo. And Bilbo who had no experience in battle? A duel? What sort of stupid idea had that been, he could have died and the rest of the company would have to deal with the fallout, if they would have been allowed to stay alive. Thorin didn't trust the word of the goblin one bit. They would have been killed without a chance to negotiate. “You put us all in danger-”


A hand on his shoulder interrupted the tirade that had been building up and Thorin stopped in surprise.


“What he's trying and failing to say is 'thank ya'.” Ehhh... hadn't he said that? Thorin thought back and felt himself flush a little in realization that he had laid into the hobbit. Well, he had never said he was good with words “In Thorin-speak he just wanted ta say that he was worried 'bout ya.”


What sorts of friends did he have?? Ones that fell into his back apparently and if Dwalin hadn't been so right he would have scuffed him over the head for that cheek. At the very least.


Looking down at Bilbo he realized the hobbit had a point with his worry about what might have happened if Thorin had been recognized in the cavern. Then his gaze fell on the gash on Bilbo's side. It was still bleeding sluggishly.


“Óin! Look after B- our burglar.” he hollered at the half-deaf dwarf, then turned back to Bilbo, suddenly unsure how to talk to him. He was not used to apologizing or admitting to wrongs. And he was unsure about how to talk to Bilbo. They were essentially strangers, since Thorin had avoided him or harassed him. He probably owed Bilbo multiple apologizes and resolved to – for once – jump over his shadow and make it happen. The hobbit deserved that, and more.


For now an awkward “I... you were quite brave.” had to be enough. At least until they had put enough distance between them and the goblin nation out for their blood. He quickly took over organizing their company, making them gather their stuff and then he forced them to march. As much as he wanted to give them a break, he wanted Bilbo – and everyone else – out of reach of the goblins now that they had managed to escape.

And if he kept an close eye on Bilbo... well, he wasn't the only one.


Finally he had deemed them to be far enough away and ordered them to set up a camp. After a quick bite to eat, not nearly enough to satisfy their stomachs but they needed to keep up their strength, most of the company laid down to sleep.


。・゜゜・T ・゜゜・。


It seemed like no time had passed at all when howls filled the air and woke them up again. Thorin sprang to his feet, adrenaline giving him a boost to snap to awareness in a blink of an eye.


They broke down the camp and then they were running again. Thorin really hoped the wargs wouldn't catch their scent, but so far their quest wasn't a very lucky one and just as he predicted their luck didn't hold this time either.


It wasn't until the cliff that Thorin realized just how unlucky they truly were. It was as if the whole universe conspired against and was out to get them!The whole company had scrambled into the trees as a last resort but that way they had just become sitting ducks. Thorin cursed lowly under his breath.


And lets not forget about Azog. Who should not be walking around but rotting somewhere else. Preferably while scavengers picked at the remains and ripped the monster apart piece by piece. But no, of course not. It couldn't be easy for once, right?


“Azog.” however that piece of filth had survived... if Thorin had anything to say about it he wouldn't continue breathing the same air as himself.


Nuzdigid? Nuzdi gast?


Foul creature and it's foul language!


“W-what is he saying?” surprised Thorin glanced next to him. He had been so distracted by the orc's appearance that he had missed Bilbo climbing the same tree as himself? Thorin didn't offer to translate the words. Lies. Meant to dig into his mind and leave a seed of doubt behind. He wouldn't repeat the words and he wouldn't believe them.


Ganzilig-i unarug obod nauzdanish, Torin undag Train-ob.


Of course Azog had to continue speaking. He probably loved to hear his own voice, even though it grated on the ears of anyone listening. And sitting in the trees the dwarrows were forced to do exactly that. Thorin's face darkened as he got an understanding of what the orc was talking about. Anguish and fury kept building up. The orc was mocking him, taunting him. Grief tore through Thorin at the reminder of his fathers and brothers fate. But he would never believe the words of a fell creature, only his own eyes would believe their death. No matter how unlikely their survival was. It was a very probable possibility that they had been beyond recognition and had been burned in the pyres of their dead. Or they had been dragged off by enemies, which would make their survival unlikely. Thorin was well aware that there was a big chance his kin was dead, yet he had never lost the hope that despite that he would somehow find them again. Without seeing their dead bodies Thorin just couldn't convince himself of their death. With Gandalf returning the key and the map... well, Thrain's death had been confirmed. He had not asked for details. He would not believe them out of this orc's mouth either.


And then the orc ordered his wargs to attack. And the trees fell. The company was slowly herded to the edge of the cliff until they had gathered in the last tree standing. The idea with fire-pinecone-missles seemed to give them a little reprieve as it drove the wargs back but the tree already had taken too much damage and it too slowly got uprooted by it's own weight and the company's sitting in it's branches.


Most of the dwarrows had almost fallen to their death. Thorin had barely managed to swing himself around the tree-truck and managed to cling to it until it settled on a very precarious place above the abyss. He was the only one who was on the more or less flat side leading back to the cliff while the rest of his companions were struggling for survival and purchase.


They would all die if something didn't change. He had not come so far to cower in a tree from his enemies. Slowly he rose to his feet, his eyes staring straight at the foul orc and it's beast of a mount.

No. He wouldn't give that orc the satisfaction of ending the line of Durin. And maybe, just maybe he could distract the orcs long enough for the others to get away.


He ignored Balin shouting after him as he drew his sword, ignored Dwalins pained howl when he started to charge and the looks his nephews send him. He didn't dare look in Bilbo's direction for fear of being distracted again.


It was a mockery of a fight. He managed to hold his own for some time but the warg and orc combined with Thorin's exhaustion due to little rest and even less to eat made for one powerful enemy. Smoke stung his eyes at the most inopportune time and before he could react Azogs mace hit him at full strength. But even that did not immediately down him. Instead he struggled to his feet, dizzy and weak and disoriented from the pain. Then he got mowed over by the warg and that was the point where he feared his life to be lost. He struggled to reach for his sword. It wasn't very far away but his body didn't seem to want to obey him anymore, no matter how much Thorin gritted his teeth and tried to endure. His senses were fading in and out again as he fought to stay conscious. He was aware enough to realize that Azog had just ordered his death and everything in him rebelled against the thought of being felled by a nameless enemy while lying on the ground – helpless. Angry he tried even more to reach his sword, his fingers stretching in the direction of Orcrist grazing it's hilt. A steel-clad dirty boot stepped on his harm, drawing out a pained grunt.


Felled by orcish scum. How ironic. He could see the orc raising his arm with it's sword and barred his teeth at it.


And then the orc was gone, mowed over by a small figure that should. Not. Have. Been. Anywhere. Near.


“B-bil...” where? Where was the hobbit? Where were the orcs? Panic gripped his heart in a ruthless grip as he succumbed to darkness just as a furred foot stepped in front of him.


。・゜゜・T ・゜゜・。


Thorin's heart had stopped for a moment as he remembered all of what had transpired up to his point, before achingly restarting in pulsing regret. He had not managed to apologize. And now...


It was too late. Frustrated and pained – because they were at fault for dragging Bilbo out of his comfortable home and through the wild, that was no place for the gentle-hobbit – he turned away from the company for a moment to pull himself together again. They all needed a break anyways. His eyes roamed over the area that they had been able to cover with the help of the eagles. He tried to make out the cliff they had fought on but failed to see it. They were too far away. Bilbo was out there somewhere, likely dead and all Thorin wanted was to search for him and at least give him a last place to rest. A grave was the very least he should be able to do for the brave hobbit he had refused to acknowledge. But... but Thorin was king. He had responsibilities towards his people and had promised them to try and return their home. No matter how much he wanted to, he could not turn his back on his duty.


Maybe later. Maybe after the quest. It was wishful thinking for Thorin knew that regaining control over Erebor would only be the start. Duty would bind him to the mountain for sure, there would be no time to look for the remains of a small hobbit far from home. Bitterly he turned away, unable to face that direction anymore.


Turning to the company he looked at each member. A hallow feeling settled in him, as if an important part of him had been cut out.


“We need to get moving.” he murmured and drew the attention of the company to himself. He straightened, lifting his head high and keeping a tight lash on his emotions. He couldn't allow grief to consume him.


“Get up, pack your things... this area is too vulnerable.”


He turned away, regret a painful twinge in his chest that had nothing to do with his wounds.



Chapter Text

。・゜゜・ T ・゜゜・。


In times like these the weight of his leadership was a heavy weight on Thorin's shoulders. It was never easy loosing someone, but having to be the driving force of motivating others while grieving on the inside? Never being able to show that he too was mourning right now, head held high, pushing on.


“What... what about...?” his youngest nephew started and Thorin almost flinched at the raw voice. Firming himself he straightened his spine. Rolling back his shoulders and ignoring the pain that flared up at he movement. He had hoped that Kíli did not have to face such grief yet. His youngest had not remembered his fathers death, not like Fíli who was standing solemnly beside his brother. In his eyes Thorin saw the same shadows that had settled into way too many dwarrow faces over the years.


“We need to continue on, Kíli...” Thorin tiredly, yet softly explained as he watched the face fall and the hope fade from his nephews face.

A short moment later Kíli turned to anger.


“You can't simply leave him behind!” Kíli's voice broke over the words, yet he deflated when he looked at Thorin once more. Thorin was not sure just how he was looking right now but Kíli pursed his lips, shoulders rising as if he was trying to hide inside of himself before giving a tight exhausted nod. Turning away.


Thorin felt some of the tension leave his shoulders and with a shaky breath he turned to face a grim looking Gandalf.


“Let's go.” he says, subdued in a way he hadn't felt since the battle of Azanulbizar. With that he stepped past the wizard in direction of a stairway that would lead down the Carrock. It felt like he was leaving a part of him behind...


。・゜゜・ N & D ・゜゜・。


Nori's hand refused to let go of the small comb that had belonged to Bilbo. He had stolen it to tease Bilbo with it again. Besides, the hobbit was adorable with uncombed hair sticking up like twigs from a birds nest.


Now Nori clutched to it like it was the last piece of gold that could feed his family during a horrible winter. Precious.

Pressing his lips together he turned and tried to slip away – as much as that was possible on a flat piece of rock. A hand that curled around his upper arm hindered him from getting far.


“Where d'ya think you are going, Nori?” of course it was Dori. Sometimes Nori would swear the dwarf had a sort of sixth sense for when Nori planned to do something his elder brother would disapprove of.


“Taking a piss.” Nori tried to shrug off Dori's hand but the dwarrow only raised an unimpressed eyebrow. Stupidly strong dwarf! Why his mother had managed to give that particular trait to Dori and not to Nori who could have used the strength in more than one situation, Nori would never understand. It was probably her foresight just to have someone that could keep Nori in line, physically at least. Dori didn't even use his strength most of the time. Well, he did sometimes. When people got too close to bothering Ori for example. Or to keep Nori on a lash.


Right now it was inconvenient because Nori just knew he wouldn't be able to break that hold. It didn't even hurt but it was like a living shackle without a keyhole.


Most horrible prison ever.


Nori scowled. Dori frowned right back.


“Yer going nowhere right now. Don't think I don't know what you want to do.”


Well. So much for fooling Dori but then again Dori was the person who could see through Nori best, at the worst times. Nori felt his shoulders slump in dejection because he knew it wouldn't matter if he confessed his intention to turn back and search for Bilbo or not. Dori already was convinced it was his plan. He wouldn't let Nori out of his line of sight, not if he could help it.


“Then just let me go.” he tried it with honesty “You know I can make it. I turn back, look fer him, bury him if- bury him. And come right back. Ya know I can do it, I'm faster alone and I could catch up to ya again.” he pleaded. It wouldn't be the first time, being a thief often forced him vacate a place quite quickly, or face punishment. He was used to running, of taking shortcuts. Not exactly the safest option out here but Nori was convinced he would be able to do it. To leave Bilbo just like that seemed wrong.


“Wish it was that easy...” Dori sighed “There's 'n orc pack on our trail. You think they would miss ya, coming from this direction?” the dwarrow shook his head “It's a fools errand and ya know it.” Nori flinched at the gentle words but offered no struggle when his brother drew him into a hug. Usually he despised it but this time he just let his forehead rest on Dori's shoulders, let his brother hide him from the world as he crumbled and put himself together.


。・゜゜・T ・゜゜・。


The company continued on their path. For once there was no arguing, no singing, no betting, no talking at all. Noting. Thorin almost wished they would do something, if only to escape the sombre silence. Anything was better than to be left to his thought like that. Dwalin was walking two steps behind Thorin, a secure presence at his back that was all too familiar. His nephews were at the back of the line and Thorin cast several looks over his shoulders. He half feared that Kíli would yet change his mind and turn back. He was not sure he would stop him, if it came down to it, or if he would follow under the guise of trying to keep Kíli with the group.


Yet every time he chanced a glance, Kíli was trudging along the end of the line, his eyes glued to the ground. He had never seen his optimistic and energetic nephew this still and silent and it tugged on his already abused heartstrings. He had known that Bilbo and Kíli had 'lessons' in archery, yet failed to notice how close the two had become due to their little sessions. Fíli was walking next to Kíli, casting worried looks at his younger sibling every now and then, but at least he kept an eye on him. Dori was walking in front of him, trailing behind Nori who was also a concern. Every now and then the dwarf would stumble, look at Dori – who had his eyes fixed on his younger brother – then scowl and turn back to face the path. Thorin was sure he would have bolted and turned back in a heartbeat if Dori would have looked away for just a moment. His hand was still clenched around something. Thorin thought it was a comb.

Ori was walking just next to Nori and he was the picture of pure misery. The fast friendship between the dwarf and hobbit and their frequent conversations had bolstered Ori's confidence. Now he seemed to be retreating, looking for comfort in his family. Thorin was not sure if Ori had lost someone before, but seeing how protective his brothers were Thorin had his doubts.


The Ri brothers were not the only ones that were seeking comfort in familiar bonds. The Ur's were walking in a cluster too. Bombur had found someone who loved to cook just as much as he himself did. There had been a lot of playful arguing about the evening-meal between the hobbit and the companies chef. Friendly bantering and exchanging of recipes... well, there were not that many dwarrows who had a passion for cooking, and cooking well. Maybe Bilbo had been Bofur's first friend who shared that with the rounded dwarf. The short break at lunch they allowed themselves was painful to watch. Bombur tried his best, but for once even his craft couldn't cheer him up and after the third time Thorin watched the dwarrow turn to his left and open his moth to say something, maybe just wanting to ask to be handed the salt that was standing a little out of reach to the empty spot, he turned his back to the scene. Until now he had not realized just how much he had watched Bilbo. Now that he was... absent, it was all the more clear how used he had gotten to following Bilbo's path around the camp. It was like an after image was still with them, fading and greying out rapidly and leaving behind holes in a previously amazing artwork.

Bofur who was friends with everyone looked quite at a loss, torn between trying to cheer up the others and feeling down himself, unable to muster up his usual jokes in face of the tragedy. Bifur next to him was scowling fiercely, hovering over his brothers as if his presence alone could shelter them.


Óin and Glóin were walking as a subdued duo. Glóin had found someone who would patiently listen to stories about his wife and son in Bilbo. Thorin had nearly groaned in outright pain when Glóin had once more started to prattle on about them, knowing the stories like the back of his hand by now. Bilbo had politely listened and even inquired after them, so Thorin had been forced to passively hear he stories again.

That was, until Glóin took a break and Bilbo started to talk about his family.

It was hilarious to watch Glóin slink away after hours of being forced to listen to hobbit family stories. He had well and truly found his match in Bilbo, and by the mischievous look in the hobbits eyes he knew it. Thorin himself was astounded how much the hobbit could talk about relatives reaching as far back as to his great-great-great-great uncle. He shouldn't have been that surprised, considering how Bilbo wielded words like a finely honed weapon.

Óin had not had much to do with the hobbit, but Thorin had sometimes listened to them talking about medicinal plants while riding or walking next to each other. It was hard to overhear that conversation as Bilbo always raised his voice a little. No one had clued him in that Óin's hearing was selective by choice yet, too amused by the hobbit trying his best to be polite and understandable at the same time.


Balin was walking behind Dwalin, yet kept close enough to be in touching distance with his sibling. He seemed to be the only one unaffected, but Thorin knew Balin too well to be fooled by the mask. As an adviser Balin had perfected hiding his thoughts and emotions alike, yet there were some tells that Thorin had learned over the years. Him fiddling with his sleeves was a sign of the restlessness he felt, a sign just how unsettled the usually stout and confident dwarf felt. While Balin had little to do with Bilbo, he seemed to have enjoyed matching wits with the well-spoken gentle hobbit. Discussing treaties he had formed over the years for Thorin's people or talking about maps and areas he had been to before in his rather long live. Bilbo had enjoyed listening to Balin, asking questions at the right places and Balin had grown fond of the hobbit. Thorin knew that to be true since Balin almost always had a slight smile on his face after talking to Bilbo for some time.


Dwalin... his friend looked right back at Thorin and the king avoided the intense gaze of his best friend. Dwalin knew him too much. He could probably see how much Thorin was hurting just as well as his nephews, if not even better. Dwalin had kept his distance to the hobbit. Actually Thorin was pretty sure that Dwalin had some sort of grudge against Bilbo, though what for was anyone's guess. He had seen him scowl at their burglar on several occasions and it had caused Bilbo to stay clear of the intimidating dwarf. Yet even Dwalin wasn't unaffected. He seemed regretful of his behavior and Thorin had seen him look back a few times. Whether it was to glimpse back or to confirm the rest of the company was still safe at least, Thorin couldn't say. The king quietly thought to himself that he would need to reassure his friend that Bilbo's death was no fault on part of the guard. No one had been able to do something to help Thorin and it was pure chance that Bilbo had been unlucky to be backed into a corner by a particular stubborn Orc. If anyone was to blame, it was Thorin and maybe in some part Gandalf, for they had been the ones to persuade Bilbo to come on the quest, despite knowing better.


The company was splintering, Bilbo's loss fracturing them like shattered glass and Thorin had no idea how to fix this. He had been blind to Bilbo's influence on the group, of the many small ways he had just fit with them and had held them together.


Hindsight and all that...


。・゜゜・ N & O ・゜゜・。


“Do you think... do you think he hurt when he...?” Ori's voice quivered and broke, lips wobbling dangerously.


“No...” at least Nori hoped so. Then he forced himself to offer a rueful smile “He probably fainted midway down.” he tried to joke, remembering how the hobbit had swooned when Bofur had joked about the dragon, way back in Bag End. It seemed an eternity ago.


“You underestimate him.” Ori frowned fiercely at his brother and Nori felt his smile slip away, blinking his burning eyes and clearing his throat. Ori's own eyes went wide and he tried to hide in his shawl, peeping a small “Sorry!”


“'s alright...”


。・゜゜・T ・゜゜・。


Thorin heaved another sigh and turned to Gandalf who was walking close by. The wizard seemed older, weighed down by the recent loss and Thorin couldn't blame him. Thorin himself felt guilty and heartbroken.


How would Gandalf feel right now, being the reason Bilbo had even met them in the first place?


“We need a refuge. We need rest-” desperately so, and not only because of his own wounds “-and we need to restock our supplies that we lost.”


Already they had been forced to ration the food carefully, the plains surrounding them didn't give them much game to hunt. Yet they couldn't really stop for long, since there was an orc pack trying to catch up to them. They had gained some time due to the eagles but wargs were fast and Azog was surely determined to get his hands on them again and end his line once and for all. They could not afford to dally somewhere, yet they needed to rest if they didn't want to get run down only to be too exhausted to put up a fight.


“Ah... there is a house, it's not far from here... I think we might take refuge there...” Gandalf said calmly. Thorin watched him for a moment, then sighed resignedly.


“Whose house? Friend or foe?” he didn't like imposing on a stranger. But he would at least like to know if they should expect a fight.


“Neither. He will help us, or he will kill us.”


Great. That was helpful. Thorin rubbed a hand over his face in aggravation, then let it fall once he realized what he was doing.


“Wonderful.” Thorin groused “... he does know you, doesn't he?”


“...” Gandalf coughed suspiciously and Thorin turned his eyes to the sky. Of course not.


“Well... what choice do we have?”


“I had hoped that Bilbo...” Gandalf started, then tiredly let his shoulders sag and leaning heavily on his staff “Nevermind.” the wizard muttered regretfully.


“Lead on.” Thorin made and impatient gesture, then turned to walk beside the wizard.


“So... you said a house, not a town... who is that person? Will he be able to provide us with supplies?”


Gandalf wearily looked into the far distance, then down to Thorin.


“His name is Beorn.” he finally answered “He's a skin-changer and... not exactly fond of dwarrows.”


“A skin-changer?” Thorin raised an eyebrow in surprise before wondering aloud “What does that mean?”


“Sometimes he's a huge black bear... at others he's a great strong man.” well, that sounded interesting enough “The man can be reasoned with.”


“Good, good.” maybe they wouldn't have to fight after all...


“Wait- what about the bear?”


“... unpredictable. Running might be the better option.”


Right. Wonderful. Thorin glared balefully at the enigmatic old man who always seemed to tell half-truths if not pressured into revealing more.


They reached the borders of the skin-changers territory in less than half a day. In the early evening they arrived at the fortified home. A tall fence encircled the area, blocking sight and way alike. Gandalf confidentially went to the entrance and knocked. The whole company tensed, hands going to their weapons as they stared at the entrance. When no one answered after the third knock he opened the door slowly, shoving it open with his staff.




“What? What is it?” Thorin tried to look around the wizard, his hand gripping Orcrist – not yet pulling the sword out but ready to do exactly that in a moments notice. No reason to aggravate the host any more than necessary, especially since they came for shelter.


“No one at home.”


Thorin glared at Gandalf, but the wizard just smiled benignly at him and shuffled his way inside.


“Keep your weapons sheathed and leave the animals alone.” at this Gandalf looked at Kíli who already had his bow at hand and an arrow nocked on its string. “You do not hunt on a skin-changers land.”


。・゜゜・T ・゜゜・。


They entered the skin-changers home without his permission. Thorin didn't exactly like it, none of them did but they hardly had a choice. They needed rest and with Gandalf's reassurance that he would keep an eye out, most of them settled down.


Thorin himself felt too restless. He would close his eyes and see flames and death and a hobbit stepping in front of him. Grumpily he turned to his side, away from the company just in case another one of their group found it heard to sleep. Like this he finally allowed himself to feel.

Tired and world-weary he closed his eyes again, lips pressed into a firm line and tried to will himself to sleep, to not think of numb hole in his chest. To not think of-


He let out a slow, shuddering breath. The hobbit was dead. Thorin's breath hitched at the thought and he slowly got up, gathering his sword up and then, careful not to wake the exhausted members of his company, he slowly picked his way to the door. Dwalin of course startled awake, half rising already but Thorin waved him off and he settled back down, snores rising again before his head hit the make-shift bed.


Thorin went outside and startled at the wizard standing vigil on the front steps.


“You should rest, Thorin Oakenshield.” the wizard had not even turned around before addressing him. Instead of following Gandalf Thorin walked the few large steps down to stand beside him, looking over the garden and crossing the arms over his chest.


“.... why?” he asked after some time spend in silence.


“Why, what?” The wizard looked sidewards at the dwarf.


“Why do you think the half- the... hobbit did it?” why indeed. It's not like Thorin had endeared himself to Bilbo.


“Hm.” The wizard turned back to staring into the night “I could only guess myself, but... I guess it was just not in Bilbo to not step in whenever he saw something wrong... It has never been in him to ignore something like that.” the wizard smiled a little sad, leaning on his staff “I knew Bilbo since he was a small faunt, clinging to his mothers skirts and chasing butterflies, crawling through the woods to look for elves. A very active child, very curious and stubborn as any dwarf I have ever met. And with an abundance of imagination. Much like his mother in that way. An adventurer at heart, but... hobbits do not travel usually. It's not well received, nor respectable. I don't know when exactly Bilbo lost his will to go against the set norms but I guess... I guess it was after the Fell Winter when his father died. He changed, became more secluded and respectable. For his mother who started to fade with the death of her soulmate. The last time I saw him was shortly after his coming of age and it was not long after that his mother passed on too. He inherited Bag End and I'm sure he wanted to make his parents proud.”


“But... then why did he come after us in the first place?”


“If you must know... he refused. Vehemently in fact.” Gandalf chuckled “But I was sure that the child he had been was still somewhere inside. I thought once he had some time after listening to your, I was sure he would come. I'm not saying it was his only reason. In fact I'm sure there was more to his decision and when he nearly didn't show up... but he did. I'm glad he did.”


“He died.” Thorin said roughly, frowning into the darkness “It would have been better if he had stayed home.”


“Ah. But he was lonely. He was bored. He was living, but I doubt he truly felt really alive...” Gandalf sighed and shifted on his feet “I hadn't seen him in a long time after his parents deaths, but the difference between him as a child, him as a barely grown adult and the hobbit that lived in that little smial was startling to say at least.”


“As is normal, when growing up.”


“Mhh. True. But these past few weeks? I've seen Bilbo revert back to his roots. He always wanted to see more of the world. It's not the end I wanted for him, but I would say he was happier out of the Shire than he has been for a long time staying in his home...”


Happier, but his life had been cut short due to a small amount of happiness he could have found staying in Rivendell. Thorin should have put his foot down and refused the hobbit to come along further.

Even if that meant he would have died in the Goblin-town or on the cliff-side. It felt so wrong that his continued health came at the cost of the gentle hobbit that had no connection whatsoever to the quest, if not for dwarrows and a wizard invading his home and pulling him out of it on this mad quest of an adventure.


Why do you go where I can't follow? …


For the first time Thorin wished that the voice was some kind of hobbit magic. Because that would mean Bilbo was still alive out there.


He stood in silence with the wizard until the sun begun to rose. Then he turned around and walked back inside, settling into his bedroll.


It took him a long time to find his rest and even then it was fitful.



Chapter Text

。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


In sleep eternal he will rest…


The soft whisper was the first thing that registered to his mind.


With the Arkenstone upon his breast…


The next thing he registered was the pain. Groaning he rolled to the side, trying to breath through it. Just what had happened to him...? By Yavanna, everything hurt.


Which evermore shall emit its light…


The third thing that came to him was the sound. Birds were chirping and the wind left a soft rustling of leaves in the air. The soft buzzing of insects. It was almost soothing. A little chilly though.


To banish the darkness of unending night…


Then came the smell. Morning dew, clear and cold air, wet healthy earth, blood and... and...


Alarmed Bilbo opened his eyes. And promptly came face to face with an orc.


Barely holding in a shriek he flailed, ignoring the agony that flared up from multiple bruises, overworked muscles, scraps and other injuries as he tried to put as much distance as he could between him and the fell creature, finally coming to a stop when his back hit a tree.

Breathing heavily he looked at the orc, only now realizing it was long dead. Its body was clearly crushed and the broken bones deformed the body at unnatural angles. Already flies were beginning to crawl all over it. Shakily Bilbo got his feet under him, rising to his knees and tried to keep his rolling stomach steady while ignoring his hurts. It was much harder when no immediate threat forced Bilbo to go on. Shakily he tried to climb to his feet, until he tried to put weight on his foot. Hissing he fell to his knee again and whimpered, pressing his eyes closed. Slowly pealing them open he hesitatingly looked down to his foot. There was a big, wooden splinter sticking in the sole of his foot. Bilbo felt tears gather in his eyes. He would not be able to walk with it inside, so he would have to get it out. Alone. He really didn't want to but as so often in the last few days, or even just the last hours: What choice did he have?

Shaking badly he crawled slowly back over to the orc, almost cautiously just in case the being was not as dead as it looked, back to where the few things he had carried after getting out of the goblin tunnels were strewn about. While falling he remembered that the eagle had tried to catch him several times, only to rip the backpack Bilbo had used to carry his stuff with it's sharp claws. It had managed to slow him down quite a bit, and had probably saved his life in the process as he hadn't hit the trees with as much force as the orc. Looking at the broken being with mangled legs and arms he shuddered at what his fate could have been. As quickly as he could – which was not very quick at all – he gathered his scattered things and took a waterskin out of his ripped bag, as well as Óins med kit. He was no healer, but he knew plants and hopefully there would be something that would help heal or take the pain away.


He was lucky to find both. Though it would have been better if he had hot water for the plants that could be used as pain relief, to make a tea of sorts. Then again, a tea of the plants would have muddled his brain and made him quite sleepy, so it probably wouldn't have been an option after all.


Taking out the wooden splinter in his foot had him almost passing out again, pale and with shallow breath he tried to clean the wound best he could and bound it with stripes he had ripped off of his shirt. It certainly wasn't the cleanest, but it would be better than having clumps of earth and dirt in the wound. He felt a little dizzy, and sick, but after a few huge gulps of air he already felt a little bit better.


Time to leave.


He tried not to think about giant eagles carrying the company off to eat them. No, it hadn't seemed like that. The company had ridden on the back of the eagles, if they were to be food, Bilbo was sure the eagles wouldn't have bothered with their comfort.

The eagles had to have brought the company to a safe place. Bilbo refused to think differently, no matter that his stomach turned whenever doubt arose anew. Quickly he packed what he could into the broken piece that had been a backpack at one point. One strap was ripped and there was a large hole in the side of the bag. It would do, but just in case Bilbo put the most important items into his waistcoat pocket. Herbs could be more easily replaced than the needles Óin used to stitch them up after all. Anything expendable was packed in the backpack. That way, if he lost something on the way, it wouldn't matter much.


Finding a long broken branch he could use as a walking stick and crane, he heaved himself to his feet. Then he paused and looked around.


It... was very green. Turning in a circle he frowned at the big trees surrounding him.


“Great.” he muttered to himself “Just great. Fabulous. I'm... somewhere. In the middle of... nowhere.”


Right. Now which direction should he take?


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


He had emerged from the small wooded area, relieved to notice he had put more distance between himself and the misty mountains. He was on the right path! He noticed that the wooden area stretched on the foot of the misty mountains and he had been very, very lucky to fall there and not on the plains he was standing in right now. He might not have survived the fall, if the branches of the trees hadn't slowed him down after the eagle tried, and failed to do the same. Bilbo remembered the claw of the eagle gripping his backpack, but the sharp talons had ripped his bag. It had slowed him down enough to not break every bone in his body and the branches had slowed him down enough to not be killed as he hit the ground. Didn't mean it didn't hurt. No. It hurt a lot. Bilbo didn't want to see which color his body had, he was sure he was sprouting a multitude of bruises by the way everything seemed to hurt.

Sighing he sent a look up to the cliff they had been carried off from. It was very high up.


But if he had to guess he would say that the orcs would find their way down sooner or later and it would be best if they didn't find him standing around. Who knew how long he had been unconscious? Long enough for the sun to rise at least. A few hours? A day?


Yes. Best get going then. Turning around Bilbo began the slow and painful trek over the plains that were stretching in front of him. It was fine weather but that also meant that the midday sun was continually shining on his unprotected head. Bilbo had tried to wrap a shirt that must belong to one of the dwarrows around it to protect himself. He was thirsty and his foot pulsed in almost regular intervals of agony.


Of course, after many hours of walking on a sore foot, he was sweat-soaked and almost at the end of his strength. His right leg barely supported his weight anymore. At least he had reached a river. Carefully he crouched at the river bed, washing his sun-burned arms and face, as well as drinking greedily and refilling the empty water-skin he had on himself. He was glad for the chance to cool down. He was sure there had been black spots dancing in his vision for quite a while now, but he had been too restless to stop. He didn't know how much time had passed and how far the company had gotten during that time. Not to mention that they had the advantage of riding eagles to... somewhere. Bilbo tried not to think of the possibility that they were already as far as the mountain. He didn't know where the eagles had taken the company. It hadn't seemed as if the eagles were out to eat them, but you never knew. It was quite possible that he was walking in the wrong direction too.

Taking a shaky breath he splashed some more water in his face and put those thoughts to the back of his mind. Then he contemplated the situation he was facing now.


A big rushing river.


That he would have to cross to continue on. Or maybe he could simply follow it to the next settlement and hope to find directions to Erebor. But who knew where the next settlement was and how long he would need to get some directions.


Of course... Bilbo was good at maps, always had been but it was hard to remember and he didn't quite know where exactly he was. Taking a stick he used that to scratch a rough map in the soft ground in front of him. Behind him were the misty mountains that they had crossed using the high pass.. He had crossed a lot of ground until he finally reached the river he suspected was the Anduin. On the other side were a lot of grassy hills and even more plains and fields.

Bilbo sighed heavily. He was more or less on the right path. His goal right now would have to be finding Mirkwood, which shouldn't be so hard. Then he would have about fifty percent chance of finding the path that should lead through Mirkwood, depending on his luck. Either he would run all around Mirkwood or he would find the path. He would just have to throw a coin and hope the direction of left or right was the right decision.

He doubted anyone would have bothered putting up guideposts along the way. Bother.


Leaning heavily on his walking stick he heaved himself up to his feet again and wearily eyed the water crossing his path.

Of course... It couldn't have been easy. Now all that's missing was an orc or two. Yes, that would be-


A howl split the air and Bilbo closed his eyes and whimpered. He had not meant that literally!! Well, that definitely put his plans of finding a bridge on hold. If he tried, he would be spotted and run down. Thankfully he was hidden behind a boulder but he was sure that the wargs would easily pick up his scent, if they hadn't already. Which meant staying here was also not an option. Frantically he looked around, pressing his lips together and then, without much choice, he begun to cross the river hoping it was not as deep as it looked or he would have a very big problem. One other than wargs and orcs but still preferable to them. If choosing between drowning and being eaten alive or whatever else they might have in store for him should he be caught, Bilbo very much choose to drown. No matter how unpleasant that must be.


It was hard to tread through the water, that soon rose up to his hips and then to his breast. Bilbo was terrified, not only of the current that pulled and pushed and tried to throw him off balance, but also of the orcs spotting him. If only he could get to the other side, he might be able to hide between the hills, laying low. The river water would hopefully mask his scent. Several times he almost lost his footing, not only because of the slippery stones because of sharp edges digging into his already injured sole. He only barely managed to stay above water, sure that if he was dragged under he would be lost to the current. His strength was waning and when Bilbo finally reached the other side, he was exhausted beyond measure. Not only had he walked most of the day, without break for fear of being caught by the orcs that were still on the dwarrows trail, walking through the water and fighting against the might of it's flow, had sapped almost all of Bilbo's energy. Not to mention that his foot was pulsing in sharp bursts of agony as he crawled onto the shore of the other side of the river. He had most likely reopened the wound and the river-water had not been beneficial to the healing process at all. Not to mention he was freezing and wet from his struggle through the water, the clothes he wore were sogging wet and heavy. He had been forced to abandon his backpack, as otherwise he would have never reached the other side. He was doubly glad for his foresight of putting irreplaceable items on his person.


Clenching his teeth Bilbo forced himself up o his feet again, the stick too had long washed away in the water. Slowly he moved on, each step flaring into a new burst of pain and stumbled, almost crashing back to the ground. He looked down and saw that the wound had not only bleed through the bandage, but the bandage had come loose.

… couldn't wargs smell the blood?

Cursing he shook it off and bend down. It would not do to leave a bloody trail for the wargs and orcs to follow, so he quickly rebound his foot (not that the sogging wet makeshift bandage was very helpful) and struggled on. His gaze was tunneling, as he walked on. Darkness creeping in the corners and fought back by poor willpower.


And Bilbo had the feeling the howls were getting closer and closer.


When he finally looked back he saw the orcs crossing the river, much faster and more easily than him and cursed again. They had seen him. Bilbo started to run despite knowing it would be hopeless, there was no way that he would be able to outrun a pack of wargs, not even if he had not been so tired and injured. He still ran, survival instinct pushing back any other issues that could have stopped him or even slowed him down. He ran. He ran until something heavy collided with his back, pushing him down on the ground with a heavy paw, forcing the air out of his lung in the process. The pressure was so strong that Bilbo felt his rips protest, fearing they would crack. He was not even able to draw in another breath.


Panting shallowly Bilbo didn't even have the strength to struggle much, but the warg let up a little, enough for Bilbo to roll over and gasp for air, before the paw pressed down again, driving the air out of Bilbo once more. What little he had left after running for his life.


Horrified he stared up at the maw, the big fangs dripping with saliva as the beast snarled down at him, snapping it's jaw twice but not actually biting him. Yet. He was being played with. His eyes followed up to the figure sitting atop of the warg. It was an orc Bilbo didn't recognize. Not Azog at least, but ugly as they all were. It was sneering down at him, laughing at his plight as Bilbo tried to free his sword while the warg played with him like a cat with a mouse. The claws dug into his body, leaving bloody but shallow gashes until Bilbo lay shaking and without strength, sure that he would die. He would be eaten or torn limb from limb with orcs as company and laughter following him into the after life. Not the nice kind of laughter but mocking guffaws that stemmed from seeing him in pain.


Or maybe they would eat him, whilst he still drew breath. He had heard many horror stories from the two menaces his soulmate was calling nephews, and right now they were called to the forefront of his mind, playing with his imagination-


A mighty roar interrupted his thoughts. A black, BIG something rammed into the warg, leaving Bilbo astonished as he watched a humongous black bear rip into the orcs and wargs, some of who turned tail and ran. Darkness was creeping at the edge of his vision and Bilbo just didn't have the capacity to fight it any longer and sank into oblivion. A small smile tugged at his lips, for while he might very well end as bear food, at least the orcs following his dwarrows had been dealt with. His soulmate was safe for a night longer...


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


When he woke up again he felt like he was floating. Correction: He was being carried. Groggily he lifted his head a little, enough to see warm, kind brown eyes staring down, to hear a deep rumble, before sinking back into darkness.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


It couldn't have taken long for him to regain consciousness. He was lying on the ground, his wounds provisionally treated. A huge man was hunched over a dead warg. Bilbo did a double take when he realized the man was skinning the animal.


“Yer awake...” the deep voice was almost reassuring. Bilbo half remembered it from the time he had woken before. Swallowing heavily he nodded, having a hard time to keep his calm at the bloody sight before him.


“I'm Beorn, little bunny.” the man said as he pulled and teared at the skin, hacking with his knife to get the pelt off. Bilbo felt his stomach rolling at he sight.


“B-B-Bilbo B-Baggins at... at your service!” Bilbo stuttered out, only to receive a low chuckle.


“Ah... yer a companion to those dwarves that crossed my border then...? I don't need yer service but thank yer all the same...”


Finally he had pulled the warg pelt off and now walked over to a tree. A hammer and nails made sure that the pelt would warn any other orcs or wargs coming this way, what their fate would be if they dared to cross into Beorn's territory again. Bilbo felt his stomach roll again.


And then he struggled to roll over to vomit into the brushes next to him. What a great first impression he made.


When he finally finished he felt faint and dizzy. A hand with a moleskin appeared to his right and he gladly took it, hands shaking and Beorn reached over to help him wash his mouth out and taking a few greedy deep gulps afterwards to wash away the bad taste of his own digested food down from... well, last night? The night before? Who knew how long he had been unconscious. Again.


“Thank you.”


“'tis nothing.” Beorn said, looking him up and down with a frown “Well... best get going then.” Beorn rose and carefully picked Bilbo up, who felt quite dizzy being at such an unexpected high. Exhaustion and pain made made sure that the hobbit didn't even utter any protest to being carried like a fauntling. When Beorn grumbled out a soft “Sleep, little bunny.” Bilbo just thought that was a great idea. He closed his eyes and slipped away again.


。・゜゜・ T ・゜゜・。


Thorin had not been able to sleep long. Gandalf (and he himself) had kept watch through most of the night but the smell of food woke the king up due to the rumbling of his own stomach. Getting up was a torture in itself. He felt old.


Looking around he found most of the company already up and about, or in the process of rising. There was a sheep with towels walking past him and a dog who seemed to be carrying a bundle with plates in it's maw. Thorin blinked at the image and rubbed his eyes, then decided that whatever freakishness had infected the land, so long as the beasts didn't attack he wouldn't think on it too much. What had he expected when he followed a wizards advise? Safe, sane and quiet? Thorin suppressed a snort and slowly made his way over to the overly big table.


“Just so you know, lad, I'm going to be checking you over after we've eaten.” Óin waved his knife in Thorin's direction threateningly once the king had settled on the next best chair. It had involved a little climbing, and left Thorin feeling a little like he was back in his childhood.

He was just glad that his company finally got a little break and were able to eat a meal in relative peace. Dwalin was standing near the door, scowling at the peaceful surroundings like orcs would jump out between the flowers to attack them at any moment.


Thorin chewed his food slowly, taking in the company. As the day before clusters of families were sticking close together and for a meal between dwarrows it was eerily quiet. No one threw food, laughed or joked. It was a funeral meal, Thorin thought with a twist in his stomach, turning his gaze back towards his food. Suddenly he felt his appetite abate and disappear.


“Thorin!” he looked up at Dwalin's sharp voice, his hand already going for his sword just like the rest of the company was instinctively reaching for their weapons.


“Someone is coming.”


“Ah” Gandalf tried to inject “That might be-”


“Someone big.”


“Yes, yes, probably-”


“What should we do?” Thorin slid out of his seat and stomped over to his longtime friend. Indeed, there was someone coming closer to their sanctuary.


“Prepare for an attack. He seems to be alone but-”


“Ahem!” Gandalf pointedly shoved himself between the dwarrows and the door.

“That-” the wizard gestured to the outside “- is our host. Beorn. I would advise you not to provoke him without reason.” He stared at Thorin as he said that and the king felt himself bristle at he implication.


“Thorin!” Dwalin said, peering around Gandalf with his eyes narrowed, while Gandalf huffed in exasperation when Thorin simply went around Gandalf to see what Dwalin wanted to show him.


“Is that...”


“... it can't be...” Thorin breathed as he watched Beorn come closer. As he got closer it became clear he was carrying something – no someone. Someone small. With bare, furry feet. Tousled hair.




“He has our hobbit!” Dwalin exclaimed, half cheerful, half outraged as if Beorn had kidnapped Bilbo for nefarious reasons. Suddenly the whole company crowded in the entrance and shoved and pushed to be the first one to get out. Nori even elbowed Dwalin in the stomach as he shuffled to the front. Thorin was not entirely sure it had been an accident.


Stop!” Thorin growled and pushed through. “Make some space! Óin! Gandalf! Come.” if their hobbit was still alive, then he would need medical attention and Thorin would not let the company hinder Bilbo getting attended to if he needed it, not even for a few seconds.


They rushed over, the rest of the company hovering near the doorway, while Thorin let the wizard and healer to their burglar. He was frighteningly still, but as Thorin drew closer he heaved a sigh of relief as he could see the chest moving. He was breathing. He was alive.

Only then did he take note of the gigantic man carrying the hobbit and glowered suspiciously at him. But he reigned back the urge to snap and growl.


“I must thank you for finding our missing member.” Thorin schooled his face to indifference, but his eyes straying back to Bilbo and softening slightly betrayed him.


“You have my thanks and that of my company.” he inclined his head.


“Hm.” the giant replied, studying the king and the dwarrows in the back with irritation.


“I don't remember inviting anyone but the little Bunny to stay at my home.”


“We apologize for entering without permission.” Thorin took a deep breath. Balin was better suited for diplomatic talks but that didn't mean Thorin couldn't try to give his best, especially since the giant-man was still holding the hobbit.


He didn't get a chance to explain as Gandalf stepped forward and slightly in between Thorin and the shape-shifter. Thorin scowled at the back of the wizards head but turned to Óin, gesturing him closer.


“We ran afoul of some goblins and orcs. It cost us out supplies and nearly our lives.” Gandalf said.


“I'm a wizard.” Gandalf continued “I have heard of you. My name is Gandalf the Grey and hoped we could take refuge to rest, before setting out again.”


“Gandalf?” the bear man looked the wizard up and down and scoffed “Never heard of him.”


“Ah.” for a short moment Gandalf seemed a little stumped at that admission, before he pressed on “Maybe you have heard of my good cousin Radagast, who lives near the Southern borders of Mirkwood then?”


Beorn gave a slow, cautious nod.


“Yes, not a bad fellow as wizards go, I believe. I used to see him now and again.” His eyes went from Gandalf to the horde of dwarrows invading his home and narrowed.


“Well, now I know who you are, or who you say you are. But what do you want?” he growled lowly.


“For one... I would like to make sure of Bilbo's continued health. Maybe we should take this inside and get him settled?”


On this they agreed. The rest of the issues could be sorted out later after all.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Even though the bear-man had assured them that he had cared for Bilbo, Óin made sure to recheck every bandage and scrap he could find himself. The company hovered outside of the room Beorn had carried the hobbit into, settling the small still form of their burglar into a gigantic bed that seemed to swallow Bilbo whole. He cleaned the scraps and applied óintments where needed before rebandaging the wounds.


Finally, with a small sigh, Óin straightened and rubbed his back, climbing down from the high stool he had used to get access to the injured hobbit.


“He's going to be fine.” He said and the whole company slumped in relief, letting out cheers that quickly quietened down at Thorin's glare. Óin used that to usher them out of the room, and even Thorin let himself be dragged out, if only so he could get a first hand account of what ailments Bilbo had.


Once outside the room the company crowded Óin until the healer let out an impatient huff, crossing his arms in exasperation.


“He's going to be fine.” Óin repeated as if they were the ones hard of hearing “It might take a while but he should not die.” Thorin didn't like the 'should' in that sentence. It was Nori who stepped closer and asked for specifications.


“What yer mean should?” the thief said, clearly unhappy “What's wrong with him?”


“Exhaustion. Mild fever. A lot of bruises, cuts, scrapes, but those are minor to the bruised if not cracked rips he has. A rather deep injury on the sole of his foot, and the wound from his... duel with the goblin. That one reopened and in both wounds there already begins to set in infection.” Óin glared at Nori who backed off a little “As long as we can stop the infection before it gets too strong, he should survive. He needs rest. Quiet. And food. And fluids. He lost some weight since the start of the journey. And really, he ran himself into the ground those last few days.”


Thorin let out a small shaky breath as the company begun to discuss between themselves how to best help Bilbo recover. Since he had been standing close, he had seen the wounds on Bilbo. The dark bruises covering every inch of his body, the scrapes and cuts and claw marks. Claw marks!

Thorin knew the wound inflicted by a warg and to see those marks on the back and front of Bilbo's body...


Bilbo had nearly been eaten alive.


Thorin rubbed a hand over his mouth, feeling sick. He took a slow step back and as no one seemed to take note of it, slipped back into Bilbo's room.


。・゜゜・ N & D ・゜゜・。


Nori glared at the closed door. He had been evicted, told to sleep. As if he was a dwarfling that needed someone to manage his time! Nori crossed his arms and tried to think about how to get back into the room. He didn't need sleep. He had gone longer times without, on stake-outs or robberies. He could certainly stay awake to wait for Bilbo to get better.


A presence beside him made him hunch his shoulders. He didn't need to look to know who was leaning on the wall beside him.


“A fools errand, eh?” he recalled bitterly.


“Ya couldn't have known he would survive.” Dori calmly replied and watched his agitated brother play with a small gold coin, letting it wander over his fingers without even looking at it. Nori could never keep his hands unoccupied for long.


“No.” Nori said “I couldn't. But I still should have.”


Dori watched his brother for a long time, then he sighed and rubbed his neck in frustration. Nori only ever got that agitated over something he considered his. That mostly meant his family and very few items that held sentimental value for him, like the letter opener that a very small Ori had given him on a birthday, saying it was practical and could be used to cut open his enemies. Nori had thought it hilarious. Dori had been horrified.


The elder brother wondered if Nori realized just how much he cared for Bilbo.


。・゜゜・ T ・゜゜・。


Bilbo looked so very small in the white, clean sheets surrounding him. Thorin soundlessly made his way over, used the chair too get closer and stared at the hobbit as if he was willing him to wake up by pure force of his thoughts. It obviously didn't work, but Thorin felt reassured when he could watch the continued rise and fall of Bilbo's chest.


For such a small and gentle creature, the hobbit sure could bear up against seemingly unbeatable odds. It was most curious and made it obvious that Thorin had willingly overlooked something about the smallest member of the company. No, not overlooked. Denied. Ignored. He had argued any strengths and benefits that could be attributed to Bilbo away. Had blamed him for things out of his control.


He had not thought he would be able to make amends. It was such a relief to be able to fix a mistake for once. He would. He wouldn't let this chance slip away again. Bilbo belonged in his company and Thorin would make sure he knew it, promised himself to include Bilbo more, to help him find even more of his strength. It galled him that Nori had clearly seen it before he himself. He had discarded Bilbo as tarnished silver, when in truth he hid a core of Mithril.


Carefully he reached out and flicked a sweat-soaked strand of hair out of Bilbo's face, freezing when he felt the heat radiating from the hobbit. Óin had said a mild fever... this was not a mild fever.


ÓIN!” Thorin hollered, a little panic lacing his tone, even though he didn't know why he was so terrified. The hobbit was burning up, breathing shallow and cheeks flushed. He didn't like it. Óin could fix this.


He had to.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


It took five days to bring down the fever. Five days of the company wearily watching for any sign that Bilbo might be getting worse, always a member at his side that would check his temperature every couple of minutes and keep changing the cold cloth that lay folded on Bilbo's forehead.


It was a relief of them all that the fever broke in the night to the sixth day.


Bilbo was laying half awake in the make-shift bed, Óin was leaning above, checking him over for more injuries. Thorin was keeping an eye on the burglar and startled when their eyes met and Bilbo's seemed to caught fire. Not the heat of the infection, but burning coals of hot ember.




Never before had Thorin seen the hobbit angry. Annoyed? Frequently. Exasperated? Nearly all the time. Angry? Not really.

It made a stone settle in Thorin's stomach, because apparently even with the illness lingering Bilbo had found a target to put the blame on and Thorin could hardly fault him for picking out himself.


Thorin watched as Óin puttered about and Bilbo responded, but every now and then the hobbit would look back at him and frown. Thorin drifted closer, slowly and with a nonthreatening posture, as if he was trying to calm a wild animal.


Once he stood next to Óin he looked between healer and patient.


“How are you feeling Mr. Baggins?” he tried to ask soothingly. Bilbo's eyes still held the glint of the remaining fever. It was lowering now that the fight against infection seemed to come to an end, but it still lingered. Thorin allowed a small glance to Óin, raising an eyebrow in question and receiving a frown in return.


Quick as a snake a hand shot out and tangled in Thorin's hair (when had he gotten close enough...?) and pulled. Weak as it was, Thorin's surprise caused him to comply with the movement, bringing him even closer to Bilbo.


You...!” Thorin withheld a wince at he sheer fury radiating from the sick hobbit. It was well deserved, he knew. His treatment of Bilbo had been abhorred, and truly he would have to think of ways to make amends.


“Stubborn, dunder-headed basket-cockle! You... youuuu....” apparently even the silver-tongued hobbit was at a loss at how to describe Thorin, who stoically bend over and let the words wash over him. “You... dwarf!”


“Mr. Baggins-”


“-an aging, brain-addled animal has more sense then you! Of all the... I can't believe...!” Bilbo gasped for air and Óin was shooting him a reproaching look, as if he had done anything to rile up his patient besides standing next to the bed. For once Thorin felt the need to point out that he hadn't done anything to the hobbit right at this moment. Another violent tug brought them almost nose to nose. Thorin could feel the heat rolling of the ranting hobbit.


“If you ever pull something like that again you... canker-blossom! I'll... I'll dig you out and replant you in sour ground until you learned your lesson!” Bilbo's voice wavered as if he was just about to break out in tears. Now that send Thorin into a panic and he wildly looked around – as much as possible while being held captive by his braids – for help.


The first few insults had made sense to Thorin. Those last ones? They left him with the vague feeling that he was being threatened but the talk about blossoms and gardening just ruined that.


“Now, now lad. Leave the grumpy king alone and lie back.” Óin said and tried to tug Thorin's captured braid free from the hobbits clutches while ignoring Thorins scorching gaze with practiced ease. The grip slowly eased as the hobbit huffed out an exhausted sounding chuckle. Thorin almost sagged in relief. Crisis averted.


Quickly he took a step back. Maybe he had been wrong again in assuming he knew what Bilbo's ire was about. Maybe he should stop assuming things about Bilbo. Period.


"You just watch out... if you ever think of doing something so incredibly stupid again, I'll... I'll make sure you're save and if I have to poison your tea to keep you in Óin's care!" it was a very serious threat in the Shire. Not that it ever happened, but each hobbit was well aware of the wrong plant in your blend of tea having unfortunate, if not irreversible outcomes. To do so on purpose was a grave threat indeed.


"But... Uncle Thorin doesn't even like tea..." Kíli injected with a timid voice from just outside the room where he stuck his head in to see what was going on, unsure if he should even draw attention to himself despite the feral looking Hobbit being bound to the bed due to injury. He shrunk back under his uncles stare but the hobbit gave him a weak smile and an exhausted thank you, as the released Thorin's hair slowly. More due to tiredness than due to him calming down.


“Ale then.” Bilbo muttered while his energy waned, blinking sleepily in Thorin's direction “Just watch your step or you will never drink another tankard in peace.”


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


It took another two days until the last of the fever had run its course. After that Bilbo was feeling much better, sitting up in bed and devouring whatever eatable things were within reach. The company happily provided him with lots of opportunities.

“Yer lucky that ye've got such thick soles, or ye might have lost a foot.” Óin said to Bilbo as he tended to the injury. The infection was luckily receding, and though Bilbo would have a vivid scar, he would at least not have any problems later on, as long as he kept the weight off for a few days and exercised the foot after the period of rest. Óin would make sure he did.


Bilbo snorted and wiggled his toes, wincing at the sting and shrugging off Óin's pointed glare.


Another almost constant presence was Nori. Not that Bilbo was surprised, since he and Nori had been getting close. More surprising were the reactions of some of the other members of their company.


Dwalin had come by and had gruffly offered his thanks for stepping between Thorin and the goblins and later orcs. That in itself wasn't what surprised Bilbo. Of course Dwalin, one of Thorin's closest friends was grateful. That, and Thorin was his king, the person Dwalin had sworn to protect, yet been unable to do so himself in the situation.

No, what surprised Bilbo was how concerned Dwalin had looked when he had asked how Bilbo was. He tried to hide it behind his gruff demeanor but it was a stark contrast to how he behaved around Bilbo before, which is why the hobbit took notice. Ridiculous, soft-cored dwarrows.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


“Little Bunny has a weak stomach...” Beorn grinned unrepentantly down at the unimpressed hobbit that was pulling a grimace of distaste. Bilbo had finally regained the strength to leave the confines of his bed without being glared into submission by Óin or another member of the company that happened to see Bilbo trying to escape.

That's why he was now seated on a gigantic chair next to an equally big table that stood in the middle of Beorn's hall. Dori had fussily insisted on several blankets that were currently wrapped around the grumpy hobbit. Bilbo had only agreed to it after he had been subjected to several doe-like eyes (curtsey of Kíli and Ori) guilt tripping him into it.


“You skinned and nailed a warg to a tree and practically forced me to watch while I waited.”


That wasn't a sight a respectable or even unrespectable hobbit would ever forget. At least Dwalin seemed to get some amusement out of Bilbo's squeamishness. Well, at least until Dori fixed him with one of his reproachful glares that made you feel as if you were back to being a tween that had just gotten caught doing some mischief by his parents.

Bilbo was sure that Dori had learned that particular skill due to necessity after partially raising Nori.

Bilbo was equally sure that despite feigning ignorance, Nori was still as affected by that stare as the rest of them.


Actually, most of the company seemed unwilling to let Bilbo out of their sight. At first, and especially while being affected by the fever and bed bound, Bilbo had not minded it all that much. In fact, he had welcomed them, as their company meant he would not be stuck in bed alone with nothing to do. Besides, it gave him the chance to make sure that they were all safe and whole.

After several days it got tiresome though.


Especially now that he was feeling better.


There always seemed to be at least one person watching him. If he showed the slightest inclination of wanting something, a dwarf jumped up and quickly got it for him.

Yes, he had a wound on his foot. But that was it! He was not made from sugar and Bilbo would have thought that his last actions would have at least proved that he was not completely hopeless and helpless. But somehow it seemed that the opposite had happened. He was coddled to death.


Bilbo huffed out and clutched his mug of milk, staring grumpily into its depths as if there would be answers to his current predicament. He was perfectly able to hobble over to the table to get some tea and biscuits for himself, thank you very much!


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


“They are driving me crazy, that's what they do.” Bilbo muttered mulishly to Nori in a resigned grumble. It was late evening and he had tried to hide himself away in a corner. It was some half-assed privacy and Bilbo could see that Óin was watching over him like a hawk from the other side of the room. At least once Nori settled next to him he could hide behind the other dwarf and complain.


A small careful nudge to his side almost made Bilbo topple to the side if Nori hadn't caught him with an apologetic wince.


“Cut them some slack, Bilbo.” Nori groused and ruffled Bilbo's hair once the hobbit was upright again “They thought ya dead.” Nori's voice became a little rough, making Bilbo pay more attention “Yer can't really fault them fer wanting ter make sure yer really all right. Nor after ya risked yer skin fer us in goblin town.”

That made Bilbo pause and blink at Nori several times. The dwarf was almost pointedly not looking at the hobbit. Despite that Bilbo could still make out Nori's embarrassed and uncomfortable countenance, the slightly reddening ears poking out of impeccable braided hair.






Oh! Suddenly Bilbo felt a little stupid for not seeing it before. Not because he hadn't thought about what the companies reactions meant, no, that had been quite obvious to Bilbo. It was touching that they cared about him so much but that didn't mean they had a right to treat him like a child.


No, what stunned him that it was Nori too. Of course his friend cared, Bilbo had not doubted that for a second, but Nori had, in his own way, admitted to it. Closed off, lone wolf Nori who cared so much but had at some point in his life learned to keep his affection a secret. Believed it to be a weakness, if Bilbo had to guess. And maybe in a way it was, if he took in consideration what Nori's occupation brought with it.

Gently Bilbo swayed and nudged his shoulder to Nori's.


“I'm fine though. Couldn't very well leave you guys alone, could I?” Bilbo grinned up to Nori.


“Hopeless, the lot of you!”

。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Beorn's lands were peaceful. In a way it reminded Bilbo of the Shire. In a strange, overly big way.

When night fell and the company had settled down, Bilbo finally saw a chance to have a moment of peace to himself. As quiet as his furry hobbit feet could carry him, he picked his way through the bundles of sleeping dwarrows.


For a moment Bilbo feared that the low squeak of opening the door might wake them, but after a moment of holding his breath he slipped outside into the fresh air unbothered.

Careful because of his injuries, especially his foot, he slowly made his way over to the front steps that led down to the garden and took in the scenery in front of him. With his hobbit sight he could not make out much, mostly shapes of trees that were barely visible swaying in a gentle breeze in the little light the moon provided. A million stars dotted the sky, partially hidden by a few clouds.


It was breathtakingly beautiful and Bilbo took a moment to admire the different star constellations that showed that he was somewhere far away from home.


It was relaxing and Bilbo felt something inside him finally unwind.


Safe. He was safe. The company was safe. Thorin...


“Shouldn't you be resting?”


Bilbo let out a startled squeak, scrambled to straighten up and twist around and face the other person. Immediately his foot begun to pound fiercely in protest to the sudden and careless movement and he used a hand to steady himself against the wood.

Thorin was sitting in the shadows of the veranda, partly hidden by a wooden beam, enjoying his pipe. By the heavy smoke surrounding him, it was likely that Thorin had been here for a while and Bilbo had simply missed him when he had stepped out.


“Apologies.” Thorin mumbled around the stem of the pipe “It was not my intent to startle you.”

How Thorin managed to look somehow majestic while hiding in the shadows, Bilbo would likely never find out, not be able to replicate.

As it was, he found himself hesitating. He had a vague memory of Thorin coming to his bedside while Bilbo had been ill. But he could also half remember threatening Thorin and pulling at his hair. When he first remembered he had blanched and desperately hoped it had been a dream, then he had taken to avoiding Thorin.

Now they met and they were alone and Bilbo... he was left floundering at what to do.


Should he leave? Was he somehow imposing on Thorin's scheduled brooding time? Was the dwarf-king angry about what had happened?
The hobbit couldn't really tell. Why was it his soulmate that seemed to be overly complicated?


“-ite alright?”


“Huh? What was-?”


“Are you quite alright?” Thorin repeated patiently, sounding amused despite himself and a little concerned as well, it was such a difference to before that Bilbo almost did a double take to assure himself that it was really Thorin and not some imposer with the same face.


“Uhm... oh! Yes. Yes of course, quite alright.” Bilbo shook himself out of his inner ramblings and thoughts.


Instead he took the chance and let his gaze trail over Thorin, looking for injuries. He had seen Thorin up and about and that had been enough to reassure Bilbo that Thorin was alive and well enough. At night Bilbo could still see Thorin sprawled on the ground, limp and lifeless, about to be beheaded by gruesome creatures. It seemed to replay whenever he closed his eyes and left him scared out of his mind, searching out Thorin's form to assure himself of his soulmates continued health.

“Uhm...” Bilbo paused, shuffled a little closer before he wavered and stopped, hand half raised. After a moment of silence where Thorin looked at Bilbo in question Bilbo let the hand fall back to his side and lamely asked “What... what about you?”


While he would like to search Thorin himself for any injuries the stubborn dwarf was probably hiding under his armor, he was pretty sure that Thorin would stab his hand without hesitation if Bilbo took liberties with him.


He could count the conversations he's had had with Thorin on one hand with fingers to spare. Mostly Thorin barked orders at Bilbo and Bilbo tried to follow them as best as he could. That hardly counted as a conversation in Bilbo's mind.

It left him feeling a little out of his depth now, that they were trying again. The last real conversation had been in Rivendell. Or maybe before goblin town, even if that was a rather one-sided conversation.

Nevertheless he was willing to try. It shouldn't be so hard to talk to your soulmate. They just needed to find some common ground.

Bilbo gathered some courage and stepped a little closer, leaning against the railing next to where Thorin was sitting on the banister.

“I've had worse.” Thorin shrugged with a small wince “It could certainly have been worse, if not for your intervention.”

“Well.” Bilbo stared down at his toes, wiggling them as he tried to hide his discomfort as he mumbled “I could hardly just leave you, could I?”


Thorin hummed in thought, eying the hobbit in silence as he took a deep breath from the pipe. The quiescence made Bilbo want to squirm, especially since Thorin's blue eyes kept staring at him with an intense focus that made it seem like Thorin was trying to decipher the very thoughts by force of his will.

Finally Thorin slipped off of the railing and leaned against it right next to Bilbo, holing out the pipe in a silent, questioning invitation of sharing the pipe with a simple gesture of holding the device in Bilbo's direction.


It was probably due to the surprising offer that Bilbo numbly took the pipe without protest, stunned silent as he was. Once he realized that he was actually sharing the pipe with Thorin and not just holding the pipe for a moment, Bilbo felt a tingle of warmth ignite that left him eager to explore the chance of finally getting to know his soulmate better. That Thorin took the step made it mean so much more to Bilbo.

Unable to refuse Bilbo took a cautious drag of smoke. Quite suddenly he realized just how long it had been since he last had a smoke. He relaxed and let the smoke trail slowly, only to freeze when Thorin leant over and took another breath himself while Bilbo held onto the pipe wide eyed.

As Thorin leaned back almost nonchalantly Bilbo tried to put his broken mind back together and stop looking at Thorin like his eyes were glued to the dwarfs form.

Somehow it felt too warm, Thorin was so close and radiating heat like a running forge, but Bilbo was sure that his imagination was playing with him, making this seem far more intimate than it probably really was.

Maybe it was normal for dwarrows to lean into ones personal space to share a pipe.

Or maybe Bilbo was just projecting his feelings onto the situation? Well, it was true that he rarely shared a pipe with someone else. Not like this at least.


Or maybe it was because Thorin was still watching his every move, those stunning blue eyes alight with mischief and fond amusement.


Bilbo huffed and put the stem of the pipe between his teeth, puffing away to try and hide the rising red hue in his cheeks.


Thorin hummed again, almost a happy rumble as he watched Bilbo and then held his hand out, making an almost childish 'gimme'-gesture that made Bilbo swallow a laugh.


“My thanks.” he chuckled as he gave the pipe back to Thorin.


Thorin surprised him again with his answer “Anytime.” before he took another drag himself.

Bilbo was almost mesmerized as he watched the smoke curling around them. The pipeweed was different from the shire weed. Strong enough to make him a little light-headed as he took some more breaths, the pipe changing hands as they shuffled a little closer o each other, almost leaning side by side. Bilbo couldn't deny that he enjoyed it. They should probably talk, but right now this was good.


“I... I need to ….” Thorin muttered then huffed in frustration, eying Bilbo from the side with a small frown.

“I have misjudged you, Master Baggins.” Thorin finally sighed, breathing the words out with the smoke almost as if he was ridding himself from the lingering presence of the words that left the hobbit blinking owlishly. Bilbo truly had no idea what to say to that admission, so he decided to keep quiet and wait what Thorin wanted to say.


“I.. may have... No, I have been overly harsh with you since the beginning.” Thorin finally continued once he found the right words. Obviously he had thought about what to say beforehand. But he still seemed to have problems finding the right words. The wording made Bilbo believe that Thorin thought it important that he used the correct phrases. So far he had avoided looking at Bilbo but quite suddenly he raised his head and looked at Bilbo straight on, remorse and sincerity swimming in blue oceans.


“I'd offer my deepest apology. And my most heartfelt thanks, that you have stayed with m- us in spite of it.” the words were stiff and had an overly formal tone to them, that almost made Bilbo smile around the pipe clenched between his lips. Clearly his dwarf was unused to making apologies. At least not apologies that seemed to be important to him, as this one seemed to be.

Bilbo could kind of understand it, as kings probably couldn't admit to their faults as readily as common folk.

He appreciated it all the more that Thorin was making an effort now.


“It's fine.” he smiled at Thorin “I guess I wouldn't have trusted me either, if I had been in your place.”


Again Thorin went and scrutinized the hobbit, as if he was trying to unravel a mystery wrapped in a riddle. He seemed to hesitate, frowning fiercely while he seemed to think on his words, before he finally spoke his thoughts.


“Why did you?” at Bilbo's uncomprehending stare he elaborated “Follow us. Not only out of your home but... after the stone giants. I heard what you spoke to Bofur but...” Thorin shook his head, looking mystified.


“Of course I would... it's you after all, so why wouldn't I....” He broke off after seeing the confusion clouding Thorin's eyes. Well, there was his answer. Thorin probably still didn't know about them being soulmates, after all, dwarrow didn't seem to have a song but instead were offered an image of their mate... now if Bilbo could just make Thorin see that! But for this plan to work, well, he would have to know what exactly Thorin had seen in that Soulmate-dream of his.

Would Thorin even believe him if Bilbo just right out told him?

“I...” all of a sudden courage fled him and Bilbo closed his mouth with a snap, shoulders slumping a little.


“I guess you all just grew on me...”


… okay, so how could he manage to take a bath – preferably alone – with Thorin now? Because Thorin had to recognize him as his soulmate somehow.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Dwalin towered over him, casting a shadow that made Bilbo look up and swallow nervously. It was after all a rather intimidating picture, seeing the warrior clad in armor with his favorite weapons, two aces named Grasper and Keeper if Bilbo remembered correctly, strapped on his back. The arms were crossed over his chest, making the muskles buldge almost threateningly as he glowered down at the sitting hobbit.


“Uhm... can... can I help you?” peeped Bilbo.


“Yer well enough ter be up and about now?” the question made Bilbo blink and offer a hesitant nod.


“Good. Means yer well enough fer some training with that tooth-prick ya call a sword.” Dwalin gestured at the little elven blade that was leaning next to Bilbo's new pack against a wall.


“Ya and me. After lunch. Outside.”


Before Bilbo had a chance to reply and protest, Dwalin had turned around and left, leaving Bilbo gaping after him.


“What...? What just happened?!”


“I believe that's Dwalin's way of offering an apology.” Nori said as he passed Bilbo, carrying his own pack over and smirking in an all too pleased manner that promised pain and shenanigans to come.


"Dwalin does not believe in going easy on beginners." Kíli mused, while he cleaned his arrows and tried to fight back a grin as he looked over to his brother. "He says pain is the best teacher if you want to learn the way of fighting."

Fíli nodded sagely and added "Prepares you for real battle too."


... great. He was going to die. Bilbo shot a despairing look at Nori.


Or maybe... maybe Kíli and Fíli were joking. They were grinning. Keep calm, Bilbo, Fíli and Kíli had surely just made that up.






Craning his head Bilbo frowned over to Nori, who was suspiciously lingering in a corner for longer than necessary.


“That's an apology? What for??”


When Nori merely shrugged Bilbo heaved an exasperated breath. Then he realized what he was in for and paled.


“I'm dead. He's going to kill me.”


Nori, being the utter arse that he was, simply threw back his head and laughed at the hobbits misery and misfortune. Then the dwarf settled next to him and begun to sharpen his daggers.

In retaliation Bilbo tugged at one of Nori's braids, blowing a raspberry when Nori frowned at him.

And if he just so happened to slip the bead that had previously decorated Nori's hair into his sleeve... well, Nori had it coming.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。

Despite his fears Bilbo had dutifully followed Dwalin's instructions – ignoring Nori's chortles about his face looking like he was heading for his death-sentence (which it probably was!) – and reluctantly arrived in front of Beorn's house. He had his as of yet unnamed sword with him. He should probably get a name for it, if only so the dwarrows would stop insulting it with degrading names like letter-opener and tooth-prick.

Not that Unnamed-Sword would help him against Dwalin with his killer-axes. A little anxiously he peered at the dwarf, who – thankfully – didn't have his axes at hand. Actually, not even anywhere near him.

“Dun give me that look, hobbit. I'm not about ta kill ya.” Dwalin huffed and crossed his arms.


“Right.” Bilbo nodded and straightened “I knew that.”


What followed was an introduction of how to hold his sword, how to stand and whatever basics someone carrying a sharp blade should know. The few others of the company who had lingered, soon dispersed as they saw that Bilbo was getting the soft introduction into his blade training. After all, his foot was still injured and that made explaining footwork rather hard, when Bilbo shouldn't stain his wound much. Bilbo didn't doubt the company would reappear as soon as he was trying to fight, if only to throw 'helpful' advice around. Óin was keeping an eye on them, giving a stink-eye towards Dwalin whenever Dwalin tried to get Bilbo to do a new stance that made the hobbit wince.


“Go on, give it a swing!” Dwalin tried to be encouraging but the deep concentration on his face made it seem as if he was glowering rather fiercely at Bilbo. Already Bilbo could feel his palms getting sweaty and decided to just go for it. With as much power as he could he tried to make an upward swing, one he was certain he had seen one of the dwarrows do before.

He didn't account for the weight of the weapon. As it was he barely managed to stop himself from stabbing himself in the ass when he almost lost control of the weapon halfway over his head. He struggled back into position and tried not to melt on the spot as Dwalin pinched the bridge of his nose.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


“Bilbo... what's got ya all in knots?” Nori's first statement as he settled next to Bilbo at dinnertime. Bilbo scowled into his bowl and stubbornly decided to remain silent.


“Don't tell me yer already thinking of quitting? Dwalin is a good teacher...!”


“Oh... sure... he is...” Bilbo halfheartedly agreed. If only Dwalin wouldn't glower and stare and bellow and tower! It was so intimidating that Bilbo always fumbled with his sword, nervous and sweaty and all out of sorts.


Nori chuckled again and dragged Bilbo in a half hug, ignoring the yelp as Bilbo quickly tried to stop the stew from spilling out of his bowl. Then he abruptly paused and looked at Bilbo's free hand, that had been playing with a very familiar bead. Bilbo flashed a grin as he rolled the small bead in his hand, letting the small token slip swiftly between his fingers. For all that dwarrows were used to be aware of their surroundings, it had been rather easy to steal the small accessory.


“Mahal's balls, Bilbo! That's ma bead!” Nori, who had just taken him in a headlock exclaimed. Bilbo grinned up to him, face full of mischief.

“That it is, my friend, that it is.” He sagely nodded. Nori looked torn between several emotions, raging from proud and amused to horrified and weary.

“Yer don't even know what yer've done, do ya?” Nori slowly released him and watched him intently.


“Finally gotten back at you?” by now Bilbo was not so sure about that anymore, the smug feeling was slowly draining away as Nori snorted in amusement and rubbed his face in aggravation.


“Congratulations Bilbo... yer just accidentally proposed to me.” and that was all it took for Nori to completely break down howling in laughter. Well, that and the face Bilbo was probably pulling right now.

His roaring laughter managed to attract the attention of the rest of the company, while Bilbo stuttered and flailed and tried to reassure Nori that he had really not meant anything by it! And he was definitely not proposing to Nori, or anyone for that matter!


“Problem here?” a gruff voice asked and Bilbo peeped an awkward scared sound as he turned around. Dwalin was standing right behind them, his arms crossed over his chest and a terrible frown stuck on his face. He was staring mutinously at the bead still cradled in Bilbo's hand.


“Uhm... I... I wasn't- no, I mean I didn't...” Bilbo shriveled under Dwalins harsh stare and quickly elbowed Nori, while he hissed to him out of the corner of his mouth “Nori, stop laughing you ass!”


The literally hiccuping dwarf tightened his arm around Bilbo's neck as he tried to compose himself.


“'m sorry... It's just.. please, please learn a bit more about our culture...” Nori choked out between suppressed laughter before he waved at Dwalin.


“Just a misunderstanding, don'tcha worry!” he chuckled as he plucked the bead out of Bilbo's limp hand.


With burning cheeks Bilbo ducked his head and wiggled out of Nori's grip, a quick retreat behind the treeline was his goal to escape the embarrassment. With a quick shout over his shoulder about collecting firewood Bilbo fled the scene with his last shreds of dignity.

Seriously... how was he to know stealing a bead would have this sort of meaning to dwarrows... bebother and confusticate them all!


Later that evening after Bilbo had quietly returned and found a quiet secluded spot next to the fire, Nori settled down beside him and gently cuffed him over the head.

“Yer certainly have ta learn a lot about dwarrows before ya get someone killed someday.”

Killed?!” Bilbo yelped as he stared wide eyed at Nori.

“Uh, huh... I was certain a... someone was burning me ta death with only his eyes...”

Looking over to Dwalin, Bilbo had to swallow. That was definitely a look that would have killed Bilbo on the spot, if that had been a particular skill of Dwalin's.


“W-well...” Bilbo coughed and quickly looked back at Nori “Seems like I am back on Dwalin's black-list.”


“Don't take his manners so seriously...” the thief said and then leaned in to whisper conspiratorially into Bilbo's ear.


“He's just a little jealous, is all... my poor soulmate seems ta think I fancy ya.”


“He's what?!?”


“Ridiculous right?” Nori beamed and waved at a glowering Dwalin across the fire. Bilbo felt a flush settle over his face. Oh. Oh! Nori and Dwalin... oh, that explained so, so much.

“You, my friend, are evil.” he couldn't believe Nori would tease his soulmate like that. But maybe it was a dwarvish foreplay thing...z


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


“Did ya know that yer the only person I've ever told about Dwalin?” Nori started the conversation while he plonked himself down besides a startled Bilbo during one of his breaks from training. Bilbo used it to nibble on some honey-bread and water, while watching Thorin and Dwalin go at each other. Well, ogling Thorin more like it. He did cut a rather impressive figure fighting, even when he was being careful because of his own injuries.


“I- what? You mean about you and him-”


“Yep. Never told a soul.” oh. Well, it didn't exactly surprise Bilbo. Nori was just the type of person that would hold his cards close to his chest.


“But... why didn't you tell Dwalin? He seems to know, doesn't he?”


“Oh, he knows.” Nori said and stretched in a way a satisfied cat did before it settled down for an afternoon nap. Bilbo followed Nori's gaze and winced when he saw Dwalin glaring at them. It wasn't as obvious now as it had been before. Indeed, after goblin-town Dwalin seemed to have mellowed out and did seem to try and get along with Bilbo. At least he didn't glare half as much, but at times like these he still seemed to slip up.


“How did you know that he was yours?” Bilbo wondered aloud, then winced as he realized he had probably asked about something considered very, very private.


“I'm sorry. Ori explained and I really shouldn't have as-”


“Dwalin was the only guard to have ever caught me when I didn't want to be caught.” he paused, then seemed to reconsider “Well, he was the only guard after I had become good enough to evade all others.” Nori said and winked at Bilbo, bumping against his shoulder in a friendly teasing way and half leaning on him, making the hobbit sag under the additional weight. Huffing Bilbo readjusted Nori until he was comfortable again.


“I dreamed 'bout that particular scene. It was ma stonedream. I think I seriously freaked him out when first I tried to flirt with'im, then started to laugh madly. He was so surprised he just let go and then instinct took over and I ran.” Nori chuckled.


“After that I... well, I provoked him. I wanted to know what kind of person he was and I think I just about drove him up the mountain. Literally sometimes, when I made him chase me half a day. It became kind of a cat and mouse game and I take too much enjoyment out of it to end it.” Bilbo gaped at that kind of explanation, because seriously? Taunting your soulmate and playing hide and seek??

“How old are you again?!”


Chapter Text

Bilbo was able to actually follow through with his plan of surprising Thorin at bathing sooner than he would have personally preferred. Actually, he stumbled onto it quite on accident and without any prior preparation or planning.


And by stumbled, he meant that he had sneaked out of Beorn's home to have a quick wash in the river by himself, early in the morning. He had removed his clothes, folded them neatly next to his little sword (just in case), before taking the soap and slowly making his way into the cold, but gently flowing water. Shivering he waded into the river until he was about waist-deep into the water. Deep enough to be able to dunk himself quickly, but shallow enough to not be in danger of drowning. A most sensible idea.

Despite the cold it was very relaxing. The birds had just woken up and were twittering their morning songs, the wind was a soft but – for early morning – warm breeze that rustled through the leaves and grass. While Bilbo would have preferred warm water, he was sure that trying to warm up a bath would have woken the company, which would have led to someone helping him out and then having one or two dwarrows hanging around the bathroom-door, trying to subtly make small talk with him. And after the incident where he had not realized that the question was directed at him and decided to doze a little in the warmth of his bath... well, that hadn't gone over well. Next thing he knew was Dwalin charging into the bathroom, Óin hot on his heels, making him nearly drown in fright. And then he got scolded for not being careful!


Yes. He only wanted a peaceful bath. By himself.


He didn't expect Thorin to turn up minutes after he had gotten into the water and start to undress without a by your leave! Bilbo had not had any time to get mentally prepared at all! As it was he clutched the bar of soap to his chest and stared wide eyed at the (nakedThorinwasnaked his panicked brain supplied) king, who didn't seem to be bothered by his nudity at all. Which probably came from the fact that dwarrows regularly bathed together, but Bilbo had always refrained from joining them.


For good reason apparently, because the next thing he knew was him flailing to do something, like get away or turn around or... or anything besides beginning to drool or something equally stupid, which was of course the reason why he slipped and got swallowed by the water a moment later. A sharp pain exploded in his foot, then his back.


Then everything went dark.


When he came to several minutes? Seconds? Later, it was to a very naked, hairy chest and strong arms holding him up while he spluttered and coughed and shivered.


“Calm, Master Baggins.” a very familiar voice rumbled and Bilbo froze, heart racing like it was trying to win a marathon or jump out of his chest. He was developing a heart condition. Those palpitations couldn't be healthy. The blood rushing to his face couldn't be healthy either. Oh, and the water in his lung. Yes, that was most definitely unhealthy.


Warm hands carefully checked him over, making Bilbo freeze again in the process. Oh. Oh, no. Thorin. Naked. Naked! Breath Bilbo, breathe!!

And then Thorin just had to pick him up and carry him like a child. On his front. With Bilbo's traitorous legs wrapped around his waist because apparently they thought that was a great idea without any input from Bilbo whatsoever! Or maybe Bilbo had unconsciously tried to climb Thorin like a tree. To get out of the water, not... not for anything else of course.


Once he realized that this meant that Thorin's crotch and his own were now perfectly aligned on the same high and they were both naked...


Well. That's when he fainted for real.


This time, when he woke up again, he was back in the bed. Óin was hovering over him (using a step-stool to look down on him), eying him with a speculative frown while a concerned Thorin stood next to him (thankfully dressed but still dripping riverwater from his hair) and Nori hid in the corner.


“I didn't mean to scare you, Master Hobbit.” Thorin ruefully mumbled, even going so far as ducking his head a little. It was kind of adorable. Of course he had to ruin it like he always did only seconds after with a rather mulish sounding “... but you really shouldn't have taken a bath alone when you are feeling unwell. What do you think would have happened if I hadn't come by?”


It's not like Bilbo could admit that it was entirely Thorin's fault to begin with, so he had nothing to explain why he fumed silently as Óin checked him for any additional injuries and re-bandaged his foot.


Nobody said anything when Bilbo decided to hide under his blanket, but there was a suspiciously Nori-sounding snicker. He would never live this down. But maybe he could make himself believe this had only been some pain-medication induced nightmare.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Of course Bilbo should have realized that this would not be the end of it. Oh no. If he had thought the company was protective before? Nothing to how it became after his 'bathing stunt' as the dwarrows liked to call it when he was around. Bilbo was sure he had heard whispers behind his back of 'suicidal streak' and 'keeping him on a leash from now on', but whenever he quickly turned around to glare at the offenders, they assumed innocent expression and quickly asked if he needed anything.


At long last his foot started to heal enough for him that training with Dwalin was not pure torture from just standing. It was tender still and the bandages itched and pulled at his foot-hair in uncomfortable ways, but it beat having another infection by miles.


It was a relief to finally be able to leave the bandage off, after almost a week of recuperating. By this point Bilbo had already realized that the dwarrows were starting to feel antsy to get going again and he almost felt bad for delaying them for so long.


At least he could finally walk again, even though he still used a walking stick to keep most of the weight off of his foot.


In the afternoon, with a poorly hidden considering stare from Thorin in Bilbo's direction, the king declared that it was time to move on. That promptly started a flurry of activity as the dwarrows started to pack their things, something Bilbo didn't want to get in the way of. Instead he made his way over to Beorn and beseached the bear-man for more food. He was a hobbit through and though after all.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Nori and Bilbo were wrestling. They had been at it for quite some time and currently Nori had Bilbo in a headlock, while Bilbo tried to squirm out of the grip as if his life depended on him. That was why they were both soon rolling over the floor, trying to gain the upper hand when they finally came to a stop at two boots that hadn't been there before. They both glanced up and came face to face with Thorin scowling down at them “What do you think you are doing?” As so often, Bilbo froze like a startled deer, which Nori promptly used to shove his face in the ground, once more putting Bilbo in a headlock that left Bilbo gurgling and flailing about helplessly. Internally Bilbo despaired. Thorin always only seemed to see the worst side of Bilbo!


“Why, trainin' of course, yer Majesty.”

At least after Thorin was gone Nori let Bilbo out of his headlock, watching amused as the embarrassed hobbit scrambled back to his feet, spitting out grass and dirt.


“Make it more obvious, won't ya?” Nori said as he stretched next to Bilbo, who had been distracted again by trying to inconspicuously watch Thorin train with Dwalin. Well, who could blame him? His soulmate was flexing his muscles right there! A pole in his side redirected his attention back to Nori who was silently laughing at him with a raised eyebrow. Bilbo could feel the tips of his ears start to burn in embarrassment.

“I... can't help it.” he coughed into his hand and made a small gesture in Thorin's direction.

“I mean... just look at him.” Nori did, then looked over to Dwalin and back to Thorin.

“Hm.” he said, sounding totally unconvinced.

“Oh, you are just biased because his opponent is your soulmate!” Bilbo scowled, no matter that in the back of his mind something called him a total hypocrite. It's not like Nori knew about that.


… right?


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Beorn was very generous. Not only did he offer them much needed supplies and food, he also arranged for some of his ponies to carry the company to the borders of Mirkwood.


Glóin stared flinty eyed into the forest. All of them were eying the woods with trepidation.


“This forest feels sick...” Bilbo hesitatingly pointed out, hoping in spite of knowing better that the others would agree and they would find some other way “As if a disease lies upon it.”


“Well...” Glóin sniffed the air and grumbled with an expression of deep disgust “There are elves inside. I would get sick from that too.”

Bilbo was not sure what disturbed him more, when he thought of an elf inside Glóin: That Glóin was eating the elves or cheating on his wife. He decided not to mull over it. He turned to Thorin instead.


“Is there no way around?” he tried not to sound to hopeful. Thorin shook his head and Gandalf, who was standing next to the king, answered.


“Not unless we go two hundred miles north, or twice that distance south.”


Bilbo sighed in defeat. They didn't have the time for that, so into the forest it was. He was not looking forward to it, and even less so when Gandalf revealed that he would be leaving them. After some vague warnings of not going into the mountain without him and to stay on the path, Gandalf's horse turned and the wizard rode away, to do whatever wizardly business he had to do.


Bilbo turned to look at Nori, who was staring contemplative into the darkness of the forest himself, before the thief turned to Bilbo and quirked an eyebrow.




Time to go.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


The forest was strange. A few steps into it and light became scarce. Bilbo stumbled along and he could swear that the roots moved to trip him on purpose. The air was still and suffocating, an unhealthy stench of rotting wood and dead leaves lay cloyingly in the air, making it most uncomfortable to breath.

There were no sounds of birds or wildlife, something that alarmed Bilbo's hobbit-nature and made him fidgety and nervous in return.


The company reacted to the environment by being less lively, as they quietly trudged along in a line, most staring at their feet to make sure they were still on the path. They walked and walked until it became so dark that they couldn't see anymore, which was when they settled on the path. Bilbo had found out that he could see worse than the others in the dark. Nori had noticed his struggles to keep up with them and had wordlessly taken Bilbo's hand, making him grab onto Nori's pack. Every now and then Nori whispered a quiet “Careful, root.” or “Rock. Step high.” to him.


The attempt to lit a fire summoned giant moths, which was why they aborted and nibbled on their food silently in the dark. The mood was pretty low, despite Bofur's attempt at jokes. Even those fell flat and the company huddled down for warmth to sleep.


Two nights later Bilbo was practically freezing, shivering in his bedroll as he attempted to find a comfortable spot, before settling down and giving the attempt up as hopeless. There was always a root or stone digging into his rips, no matter which way he moved.

He had almost been lulled to sleep when a warm but heavy weight landed on him. It pulled Bilbo back to full awareness as he startled, struggling to get the fur out of his face only to face a slightly remorseful looking king of a dwarf, barely visible in the darkness. They had a very small lantern at the edge of the camp now, where the moths wouldn't disturb them too much, which was the only reason he was able to see Thorin's features at all.


“Thorin..?” He murmured and rubbed his eyes. Was he hallucinating?


“To keep you warm.” Thorin grinds out as if that had been a painful admission for him. He also seemed a little sheepish. Maybe he had thought he was being stealthy or hadn't wanted to wake up Bilbo...

It was... nice, but also seemed a little out of character for the dwarf who had refused to acknowledge Bilbo since the get go.


“Thank you...?” Bilbo sounded a little unsure about himself, and watches as Thorin nods and abruptly heads off back towards his own sleeping bag.




A small smile broke out on his face as Bilbo laid back down. Maybe... maybe Thorin was just gruff in his demeanor. It was very rare that Bilbo ever saw him smile, so maybe... maybe frowning and brooding was just Thorin's default behavior. Bilbo had noticed that Thorin had been trying to be more welcome towards him, but he was showing it through actions more than words. That was... that was new. Different but definitely nice. He felt warm, very warm and safe and Thorin's scent... mhh. He might have snuggled into the coat, clutching at it like a lifeline. It didn't really matter that there were spots of orc blood on it. Not even the mud and dirt would have made Bilbo relinquish his treasure.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


The next day Thorin was relentlessly driving them onwards. Bilbo, still feeling some leftover pain from his fall, especially in his foot, was in a sour mood, despite the good night of sleep he had gotten for once. When evening came, he settled next to Nori, ignoring Dwalin who was watching him like a hawk and Thorin, who would look over to him with a frown every now and then.

Bilbo just wanted to be left mostly alone to wallow in misery, while he tried to comb his nest of hair out. He was sure that by now leaves and dirt had found a permanent home there, as twigs seemed to get tangled every now and then when he didn't see a low hanging branch. There was even something sticky there that Bilbo tried not to acknowledge but made the hair-combing a painful experience that made him wince in pain at every tug that pulled at his scalp.


“I can't watch this anymore.” came the irritated mutter from beside him and the comb was taken out of his hand by nimble fingers that could only belong to one person. Bilbo turned to Nori, ready to let loose a rant for stealing the comb again, but something in the dwarfs expression halted him. It was unlike Nori to be hesitant, but right now Nori did look like that.


“May I?” the dwarf asked. While Nori appeared rather collected on the outside, Bilbo had gotten to know Nori enough that he could see that Nori was actually really nervous, as if the answer was more important than Bilbo realized.


“Of course.” Bilbo said and easily turned his back to Nori, gratefully offering his comb so the mess on his end would finally disappear. It was not like hair brushing was something that he was particularly worried about and why would he refuse Nori a request that, in the end, would only help Bilbo? For a while they were silent, a comfortable silence in which Nori carefully untangling knots in Bilbo's longer than usual hair. Maybe Bilbo should think about cutting it, it was getting too unruly and impractical for travel. Right now he let himself be soothed by the gentle tugging until he was almost drifting off.


“Brushing hair is an intimate act.” Nori quietly hummed as he dragged the comb through Bilbo's hair, scowling as he hit another knot “Usually only shared between family or lovers.” Bilbo blinked awake again and could feel the tips of his ears start to burn in embarrassment. After his lat blunder with the bead Bilbo wondered how he got himself into this situation. No wonder Dwalin looked ready to strangle him!


“I- I didn't mean to imply anything. I'm sorry Nori, you don't have to-”


“Shush. Yer my brother in all but blood.” Nori said as he carefully pulled the comb through Bilbo's unruly hair again and again “A Soul-brother, kinship in another way than yer used to, but kin nonetheless.” Bilbo blinked again at that, touched and a bit startled. What had he done that had given him this precious opportunity? Family. Yes, he could see Nori as that, as a brother.


“But... but why? I mean, we don't really know each other that long and I didn't really do anything to-” a gentle pull at his hair, stronger and more deliberate then the previous ones, stopped his ramblings.


“'tis not for one reason alone Bilbo. It's all the small things together. Yer never judged me for what I do, nor did ya shy away because of what I am.” be it thief or dwarf with a mean streak or brother with a hidden overprotective side “and ye always consider things from every angle, but if someone needs help, ya don't hesitate. Yer gentle, but fierce. And yet yer vulnerable and naive in other ways. Loyal to a fault too.” Nori sounded so fond that Bilbo really wanted to turn around to see the expression Nori was making. It figured that Nori was keeping his head turned to the front right now and made a small tsking sound when Bilbo attempted to turn around.


“I dun think I've ever been around someone like ya. I feel like I know ya much longer. I can trust ya and talk to you and know ya will understand.”


“... thanks Nori.” Bilbo's voice was a little rough from emotions he tried to bury. He patted the leather-covered leg that was the only thing he was able to reach.

“Besides. Ya really need someone to watch out fer ya. Reckless beyond measure!”


Finally Nori deemed Bilbo's hair untangled enough to leave off, so Bilbo turned around a little and raised an eyebrow at Nori, who was eying him appraisingly.

“Ya know what?” Nori finally said “Let's just make it official. There is a... let's call it ritual 'cause the words seem lacking in westron.” Nori was eying Bilbo critically “Ya don't have ta, if ya don't want to. But I want the world ta know that we are kin. I would have it etched into my skin fer all to see, so no one can claim otherwise.”

“A ritual?” Bilbo thought he should feel more cautious than intrigued, but he wasn't. It startled him a little to realize that he trusted Nori's word. And the desire to be able to call Nori his brother would be well worth doing some kind of ritual.


“Marks. A little like tattoos, but not really. I would claim ya, and ye could claim me.”


“So... Dwalin's tattoos..?”

“Oh.. no, those are different. They show his battles. The marks we would get from the ritual would represent us. The mark ye would get bein' a representation of myself and yourself, same as me.”


Huh. Strange, but apparently magic was involved so Bilbo really should have expected it.


“And if we do this ritual...?”


“Would mean yer family to me. Only to myself, Dori and Ori would have to claim ye for themselves. It would 'legally' make ye dwarf-kin.” Nori grinned at him. He was probably missing something.



“Just means ye are allowed into dwarven settlements, allowed to learn our language and secrets in trust that you wouldn't betray us.”


Oh. Well, that would be useful. But even more than that...


“Even without that I would love to have you as a brother.” yes. That sounded about right. Nori had given him much more. A family. He had given up hope sometime in his forties, once he was rather certain none of his fellow hobbits had sparked that little whisper that would indicate meeting his soulmate. After that he had settled into life as a bachelor. He could have tried to find a lass, but he had been burned once rather badly by one that in the end had cared more for the wealth he had than about himself.


And now Nori was offering him a family again. A sibling, a brother, something new altogether.


“I... I'd like that.” if his voice was a little raw and choked up this time, Nori didn't mention it.


This adventure seemed to offer him treasures well more worth than what would be waiting for them at the end.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


The time went past quickly. Or not at all, Bilbo was not sure how long they had been in the forest, but as their provisions grew thinner and thinner, despite the careful rationing they had strictly kept to, Bilbo had to admit that it must be longer than he had thought. It was hard to tell the time when most of the time it was simply dark around them, for Bilbo even quicker than for the rest.


With their dwindling food, the moral also kept sinking, their nerves were frayed and bickering between comrades came as easy and unpredictable as the growl of hunger from their stomachs. It was tiring and even Bilbo found himself snapping at Ori of all people, even if he felt bad about it later on.


They were all stressed and about ready to burn down the forest if only to get out of it. Despite still being inside.


Even worse was the thirst. Water had been running low much earlier than food and no matter which river or steam they passed, they heeded the warnings and kept away from he water. Bilbo had seen a few dead animals at the edge of the water of a steam and thought it was better that way.


That didn't relieve the thirst burning in his throat though.

And then they realized they had been running in circles.


Worse even: They had lost the path.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Their desperate search had turned up nothing. Looking everywhere they could without loosing sight of each other, they had spend hours just combing through the forest in hopes of finding it again, so sure that it couldn't possibly be far. Had they not kept their eyes on the ground near constantly? At long last it became too dark for even his dwarrows to see and they made a camp, looking glum. Many cast glances at Thorin, looking for what he would decide should be done and Bilbo, who had caught himself doing the same, frowned. That was another thing that probably led to Thorins stiff countenance, people turning o him as the leader or king for help, thinking that he would somehow get them out of trouble.


It was Thorin's duty to lead, but in this instance it was also rather unfair. Bilbo didn't think anyone of them knew what to do. They had lost their way and were stuck in a huge forest, with their food running low and water being even more scarce.


It didn't look too good. Bilbo cleared his throat, attracting the attention of the others.


“I'll climb one of the trees in the morning and see where-”


“No.” Óin interrupted him while darkly scowling and pointing in his direction “Yer foot is not well enough.”


“I'll do it then.” Nori offered “I'm used to climbing.”


But Bilbo shook his head and stubbornly crossed his arms.


“I'm lighter than all of you. I'll just be careful and go slow.”


They argued a little, back and forth until Óin grudgingly allowed Bilbo to climb, provided he tried to not use his right foot too much and used lots of breaks. Nori insisted on climbing with him for as far as the branches allowed, which had Bilbo rolling his eyes but at the same time he found a newfound warmth spreading through him at the open concern his fellow thief just displayed.


Shortly before Bilbo slipped off into his bedroll, Thorin came to him and led him to the side.


“Thank you. For distracting them and... not giving up.” Thorin said, looking intently at Bilbo and smiling one of those rare half-smiles that Bilbo absolutely adored, because they were so rare and almost never directed at him.


“It's fine. I'm about ready to leave this forest myself.”


“Who isn't...” Thorin wryly replied and shook his head, then turned around. He hesitated, then, after a moment of thought, he shook of his coat and turned back to Bilbo, holding the piece of clothing out to him.


“It's getting cold and...” Thorin looked unsure how to continue what he had started so Bilbo almost hastily reached out and took the coat before freezing.


“Uhm.” blinking at Thorin Bilbo took in the armor that Thorin rarely got out of, when he didn't deem a place safe enough. It couldn't be very warm.


“What about yourself? I don't want you to feel cold due to me.”


“Dwarrows are made of hardier stuff than that, Master Baggins.” Thorin seemed amused, but Bilbo didn't hear him denying it.


“Doesn't mean you don't feel the cold.” Bilbo stubbornly insisted and watched as irritation and confusion entered the dwarrows face. Something that made Bilbo feel in equal parts guilty and sorrowful.

Guilty because he hadn't wanted to reject Thorin's offer, sorrow because Thorin had to have faced a lot of unjustified treatment to be confused when someone didn't want him to suffer on their account.


Bilbo wondered how many had used Thorin's kindness before, taking and taking and taking until Thorin had learned to close himself off.


Looking down at the material in his hands Bilbo weighed his options. They could share, and Bilbo wouldn't have anything against that, at all, but he didn't have the courage to offer that nor was he sure Thorin would like an offer like that. The last thing Bilbo wanted to do is offend Thorin and go back to the way things had been before he had fallen off an eagle.


“I'll... I'll take it this night. But the next one it is yours again, okay?” at his words Thorin slowly relaxed and let his hands that had defensively crossed over his chest drop back to his sides.


“Very well.” now his dwarf just sounded amused.


“A good night to you then.” and with those parting words Thorin turned away again and sauntered back to his sleeping bag, leaving Bilbo flustered and confused why he was so flustered behind. Finally Bilbo looked down at the coat in his hands and felt a smile tug at his lips.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


From then on it became more regular that Thorin would try to get Bilbo to accept the coat for the night, while Bilbo tried to not take Thorin's kindness for granted.


Several times Bilbo thought to just offer to share, it was cold enough that already family members huddled together.


And that's when Nori begun placing his bedroll next to Bilbo, all the while frowning at Thorin in what could be in disapproval or irritation. A look at Thorin showed that he was rather darkly staring back.


“Uhm.” oh dear. Bilbo had the feeling he was now stuck between a rock and a hard place, and whatever was between Nori and Thorin had to do with him.


“Nori? What's wrong?”

“Yer cold.” Nori shrugged “And I don't like Thorin getting ta close ta ya.” Nori scowled over o the king again and Bilbo huffed a breath.


“Really Nori? I'm not a toy that you keep to yourself...”


Now it was Nori who looked a little offended “'s not that!” Nori insisted “I think he's using yer kindness. Yer way too forgiving. Let him grovel!”


And with that Bilbo was startled into a sudden loud laugh before he stifled it behind a hand. Well, whatever he had gotten into... he had Nori on his side and if Thorin reverted back to his unreasonable behavior, Bilbo doubted that this would change anything with his brother... friend. Whatever they were.



“Hm?” the thief didn't even look up as he rolled out his sleeping bag.


“I'm glad I met you.” he smiled when he saw how Nori tried even more to look busy to hide his embarrassment.


“And Nori?”


“What?” Nori slipped into his sleeping bag and turned his back to Bilbo, who huffed and sidled closer. Poking Nori in the back repeatedly proved fruitful as the thief turned around to face him, even though he tried to look aloof and annoyed.


“I thought about it.” Bilbo quietly said, nervously clenching his hand in the material of Nori's sleeping bag “About... the... you know? Ritual.” Bilbo cleared his throat “I'd... I'd really love to be your brother.” seeing Nori's eyes soften Bilbo could almost feel his heart melting into a pile of goo. The small smile, half smirk was so familiar on Nori's face now, an expression he begun to show when they had been training in Rivendell and that appeared more and more often when they were relatively alone.


“We will do that then.” Nori said and ruffled Bilbo's hair “Next chance we get. I'll get stuff ready.”


Bilbo offered a smile of his own.


It was one of the best nights of sleep Bilbo had gotten in a long time, wrapped in Thorin's scent and Nori's warmth.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


It had also become a rather regular thing for Bilbo to climb a tree in the mornings to see where they were heading. And while Bilbo was sure they were making some progress, he was also convinced that they would never reach the end of the forest before the food ran out. He said as much in a moment to a grim faced Thorin, once they were walking a little further ahead of the others.


At least his dwarrows became less fussy about him climbing the trees. The first few times they had wrestled Thorin's coat from him and tried to make a make-shift backstop, just in case Bilbo slipped and fell down. Bilbo didn't bother telling him that he would probably hit his head on one of the branches long before he met the floor, and yes, he was speaking from experience. The deformed and mangled body of the orc came to his mind and made him extra cautious about climbing, as well as fearful of looking down and actually seeing how far away the ground really was.


One of the good things about climbing duty was, that at least once a day he was able to see the sun and feel some fresh air. The beautiful sight of a million blue butterflies swaying in the wind would probably be mesmerizing every single time.


Of course their luck didn't hold out. After everything they had been through Bilbo should have been prepared for things to go south, but he had hoped, begged really, for a break.


This morning, as always, Bilbo had climbed up into the trees, enjoyed the sight for a moment before using the time to take note of the now familiar sight of Erebor in the distance, trying to measure how far they still had to go so he would have something to report back to Thorin. It was then that he noticed some of the trees swaying in the distance. An unnatural, haphazardly movement that could only come from something heavy moving between the trees, probably in the upper canopy as Bilbo doubted something could move the trees that strongly from the ground. Except trolls. Please don't let it be trolls again.


And of course it was heading straight towards them. Worriedly Bilbo hurried more to climb down, only now noticing the spiderwebs that he hadn't realized were sticking everywhere on his climb up, since he had been concentrated on finding secure footholds. Next he begun to notice that no one was waiting for him on the ground. A little lost and frightened Bilbo reached the bottom of the tree, frantically looking around.


“Hello?” He whispered into the stillness surrounding him and bit his lip.


“Nori?” Bilbo tried a little louder this time and hesitatingly took a few steps away from his tree, unsure where he should go now. He knew which direction he should be heading towards, but he doubted the company would have just left him behind!


Please don't let it be trolls. Clutching his sword he took a deep breath and tried so look for signs of his friends. Horrified he realized there were scuff-marks on the ground, small signs of resistance but not a full out battle. They had not left willingly and Bilbo had not even noticed something was wrong, enjoying the view and the sound of wind rustling in the leaves.


Something landed on his head and Bilbo reached up to pluck the leaf out of his hair, looking up a little in the process and jumping away screaming when a spider a spider bigger than a horse!! – was currently coming down from the upper canopy he himself had just left! Fumbling for his sword he tried to back away, yelling loudly by instinct to make the thing back off .


And he walked straight back into a spider web.


All in all Bilbo should have been embarrassed at how easily he had fallen for the trick. As it was he was unable to do anything at all as the spider came up at him, fangs at display and the horrible foul stench of the creature intensifying the closer it got. Not only that but Bilbo got a good look at the fell creature, frozen stiff by his mounting horror of being absolutely helplessly stuck and about to be eaten. Alive.


He fainted just as the spider begun to wrap him up tightly.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


He groggily came to while feeling himself be dragged over the ground. Immediately he froze, barely stifling a whimper of terror as the situation he was in came back to him. Through the sticky spider-silk he could barely make out the outlines of the spider that was carrying him. In his hand he could still feel the sword. It wasn't very difficult to make the count of one plus one, so Bilbo – trembling like a leaf – waited until the spider tried to adjust him by climbing over him before he stabbed it – awkwardly – in it's unprotected belly. A terrible shriek that ended in a gurgle ripped through the forest before the spider collapsed half on it's prey.


Panting heavily and shaking like a leaf in the wind Bilbo managed to wiggle out from the creature, tugged his sword out more roughly than probably needed only to stab the spider again. Just to be sure. Then he set about working himself free, fumbling with the sword and his shaking, sticky hands that he half feared he would cut one of his appendages off. Once he had managed that, he scrambled away, half crawling, if only so that he could put some distance between himself and what he had been certain would be his death. He didn't bother standing up, since Bilbo was pretty sure that his legs were not working like they should be.


Several deep breath with his gaze fixed on the spider, the black dots that had been obscuring his vision slowly disappeared and his breathing calmed a little. The tickling sensation that had invaded his limps and had made them nearly unresponsive to his will slowly went away. Once he was able to think again, Bilbo took stock of the situation.


He was still in a forest.


He was still alone.


He was covered in spider goo and blood.


He was still alive and probably uninjured, so long as shock didn't prevent him from noticing.


He had no idea where he was, but he knew where the spider had been trying to drag him and that's where he had to go if he wanted to find the company, hopefully still alive.


A sob tore out of Bilbo's throat as he slowly pulled himself up, leaning against a tree and going in a wide circle as to not move too close to the spider lying curled up on the ground.


Thorin. Nori. Company.


That was what was important. The longer he dwadled the more likely it was one of them was being killed, so Bilbo slowly and cautiously crept in the direction the spider had been dragging him and hoped he wasn't walking into his death for nothing. Then again, he wouldn't survive for long enough to leave the forest, especially not without his dwarrows.


And Bilbo was not sure he would be able to live with not knowing what had happened to them.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Bilbo almost stumbled right into the next of spiders, but at the last moment managed to hide behind one of the trees. By some grace of the Valar the spiders hadn't seen him, so he took the chance to slowly look around the tree he was leaning against to get some insight as to what was going on.


Counting twelve wrapped dwarrows made Bilbo's heart sink. He had half hoped to be wrong, to not find the company captured and possibly dead. Again the hobbit could feel panic creeping up to him, constricting his lungs until he was almost forced to take gasping breaths that would have surely given his position away. Quickly Bilbo clamped a hand over his mouth and tried to clear his head, if only by reciting how many different flowers he had in his front garden. Once he was calm enough again, as calm as the situation allowed, he tried to think of a plan of action, while resolutely shoving the thought that his friends might already be dead away.


Honestly, if they were? He would burn down this forest somehow. He had not come this far only to see them all end as spider-food. Seriously, after trolls, stone giants, goblins and orcs, what was he afraid of a spider?


The sound of a branch breaking nearly let Bilbo jump out of his skin, while two spiders up above scurried away to find the source of the sound.


One was left behind, probably to guard his dwarrows. Bilbo shuddered and chewed his lips, trying desperately to think up a plan. He could climb up and engage in a rather hopeless fight with the spider, but it would see him coming before he even reached the nest and Bilbo really didn't want to fight with a giant spider in its territory.


Something yanking him back and covering his mouth nearly gave him a heart attack, making him struggle and whine in the grip, terrified out of his mind.


“Shh, halfling. Shh! Bilbo!” a very familiar voice hissed into his ear and Bilbo's desperate attempts to get free stopped abruptly, like somebody had cut the strings of a marionette. Heaving and shaking he limply hang in Thorin's grip, his legs once more refusing to work. Thorin dragged him further into the shadows, almost carrying him, before gently setting him down at the base of a tree.


“You are way too reckless.” Thorin sighed as he pushed Bilbo's hair out of his face and looked him over “Are you injured?”


Still feeling out of sorts and numb Bilbo blinked, and when Thorin repeated his questions, brow furrowing in concern, he slowly shook his head. Very slowly his heart-rate begun to settle and out of instinct Bilbo swatted Thorin at the back of his head.


“You... you!! Clot-head! You scared me out of my mind!” Bilbo took care to not raise his voice above a whisper while Thorin scowled and rubbed his head.


“How else was I to gain your attention, without making the spiders notice too?” Thorin petulantly replied, and while Bilbo had to agree that it would probably have been hard to find another way, without running risk of Bilbo screaming his head off, he would never admit that.


Instead he huffed and looked back the way they came from.


“We need to get the others out.” and that was way more important than arguing. They could argue all they wanted to later.


“We need to distract the spider, try to lure it away. Then one of us can cut the others down.”


Bilbo stared and Thorin. No way. That plan sucked. But try as he might, he had no better idea. The problem was: Bilbo had no idea which position was safer. The one where Thorin was chased by a spider while distracting it, or the one where Thorin cut down the dwarrows and ran risk of other spiders returning. Carefully weighing his option Bilbo reluctantly nodded.


“You distract it, I cut them down.” at Thorin's raised eyebrow Bilbo explained his reasoning.


“You are more experienced in fighting. I trust that you can kill one spider, and I can't run as fast with my foot still injured. I can, however, climb quickly and had plenty of opportunity to practice.”


Nodding Thorin stood up and held out his hand to help Bilbo up. Accepting the offer they set off. They had work to do and a company to save.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Of course it had to get worse. Bilbo had only managed to actually cut down about half the company before one of the spiders came back. Seeing as his friends were still too affected by spider poison, or even unconscious, Bilbo left one of his – well, Nori's but as they seemed to spend more time on Bilbo they could be considered his? – daggers behind, which he had been using previously to set them free.


The enraged spider discounted the freed pray in favor of going after the one that was still fit enough to run. And run Bilbo did, ignoring the pain shooting up from his foot as he slid down the tree and took off on the ground.


He had no idea where he went off too, only trying to keep in mind where he came from, as the hobbit crashed through the undergrowth, trying to outrun a spider that had no problem keeping up with him. There were several near misses when Bilbo go almost tangled in another web or the spider almost caught up. In a desperate attempt to loose the beast Bilbo crawled underneath the roots of a tree, stabbing out at the spider legs that were trying to reach inside to pull him out.


Spider screeches and Bilbo cursing the beast in a way that would have horrified any hobbit if they had heard half the stuff that left Bilbo's mouth, then, all of a sudden, the legs reaching for him begun to twitch before going still. Bilbo held his breath, not really trusting the peace and taking a deliberate stab at the limp that was nearly touching his stomach.




“Are you alright?” Thorin asked from outside, a boot kicking at the spider until it moved and rolled away before a concerned, bearded face appeared in the entrance.


“Oh thank Yavanna.” Bilbo let himself collapse to the ground, grimacing as he realized that the ground was wet and the water soaked his pants now. Could this day become any more embarrassing? Bilbo really didn't want to go out and look like he had... in his pants.


A hand reaching inside gave him no choice and Bilbo took the offered help and allowed himself be drawn out. Thorin looked him over and made no comment to his strained trousers, maybe because Bilbo looked pretty dirty all over after the day he had.


“That was a clever tactic, but you really shouldn't hide in a small space with no other exit if you can help it.” Thorin murmured, which Bilbo tried to take as a compliment.

“It's not like I had much of a choice. It was that or getting caught for sure.” this way, he had thought, at least he would have the chance to chop off the legs of the spider, preventing it from going back. Not that that had worked out that well, since he didn't have much space to swing his sword in between the tree-roots.


“Thanks for the save.” Thorin nodded and looked back the way Bilbo had come from “The company?”


“I got them half out. Only one spider came back, hopefully they managed to free the others....”


Squaring his shoulders Thorin nodded.


“We should hurry.”


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


They were careful upon returning. There was no surefire way to say the company had managed to free every member, of if they had been captured again by returning spiders, so they were cautious in approaching the nest again.


Quite suddenly one hand grasped him around his chest, while the other clapped over his mouth, stifling the question that Bilbo would have otherwise made. Carefully Thorin pulled him into the shadows of a tree, blue eyes boring into the darkness in front of them, where Bilbo could make out vague shapes moving.


Elves.” Thorins voice hissed into his ear again. Bilbo wanted to plant an elbow somewhere where it hurt. Bilbo could feel the body behind him shaking in suppressed rage, not that he could fault Thorin for that. This time. A light had flickered where the spider nest had been. It was the burning corpse of a spider that illuminated the shadows of the forest and revealed what had happened to the company. Currently elves were surrounding the ill dwarrows, bows aimed at their heads as if they were any threat with poison flowing in their veins. Even Bilbo felt indignant that the elves were treating them as intruders, rather than helping clearly sick folk after surviving an attack of the nasty critters living in the woods. He was watching as elves held his friends at arrow point and slowly collected their weapons and belongings. Even Bilbo bristled at the treatment the rest of the company was being put through, as elves went through heir belongings and took away their weapons, even mocking Glóin after looking at the family heirloom that held the picture of his wife and son.


Still, Thorin's grip was bordering on painful and he lightly tapped the hand on his mouth and waist in a silent order for Thorin to let go. The arms reluctantly let go and Bilbo turned around, looking uncertainly up to Thorin and pointing in the direction of the company. Should they just go there and ask he elves to release the company, maybe even explain their need for help? Despite having a good impression of elves due to his stay in Rivendell, even Bilbo doubted that these elves would help them. He wasn't surprised when Thorin shook his head and made a gesture over his shoulder, pointing in the direction that would lead them away from the company. They needed to plan, otherwise they would just get stuck with the rest of them.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


After all the this time, Bilbo should have been away that it could always come worse for them.


They had carefully backed away from the elves, hoping to stay undetected at a distance before somehow getting a plan to free their friends, when the spiders descended on them.


Angry spiders.


A lot of angry spiders out for blood.


Seeing as they were hopelessly outnumbered, Bilbo and Thorin came to the same conclusion at the same time: Run.


They couldn't get that far away, but thankfully they did loose some of their opponents. If that was because they had lost interest, lost sight of them or were currently circling around to come at them from different sides, Bilbo could not tell. But when they almost stumbleddown a steep hill, they were forced to stop and face the rest of the spiders.


Bilbo eyed the three spiders that were blocking their way wearily, while the spiders with uncanny intelligence blinking in their beady eyes appeared to do the same. Thorin hald his sword in front of him, ready to react to the slightest movement.


“We can't stay here.” Bilbo whispered desperately. The longer they stayed, the more spiders would come for them.


“I know.” Thorin grit out and slashed at a spider that had taken a bold leap forward. It scuttled back, screeching angrily and waiving it's front legs.


Bilbo's clammy hands gripped at his sword as he stepped up beside Thorin, trying to get into the stance Dwalin had shown him at Beorn's place and stop his shaking.


“Get back! Run if you have to!” Thorin ordered harshly, his sword slicing at another spider, cutting off one of its legs. It appeared that the spiders were getting impatient. They were trying to drive them off the edge, or into making a mistake.

“T-Thor-” Bilbo's legs refused to move, the hand with his sword was wavering. He was still so very much untrained in the way of sword that he feared he would only get in Thorin's way, especially in this small of a space. Behind him there was a steep cliff, not deep enough to kill but falling could at least break a few bones, so that was not an option. Not with spiders intent on wrapping them in their webs to eat them.


Move it, Bilbo! I will not let harm come to you again!”


Like hell he would leave his mate behind! Clot-head or not!


And with that Bilbo let out a hoarse shout and dived low, his sword taking a stab at the spider that was trying to get at Thorin from the side.


“I refuse! I- I'm not someone who will cower behind and run!” he yelped when the spiders stinger took a stab at him in return and barely parried with his little letter opener. In the next moment Orcrist swung over his head and cleaved into the spiders legs that were reaching for the hobbit.


“Why do you never seem to do what I tell you to?” Thorin huffed out in an exasperated yet amused voice. His breath tickled Bilbo's ear and – despite the situation – send a shiver down the hobbits back.

And then everything happened so fast. The spider took another stab and this time Bilbo was too close to avoid it, too distracted by Thorin's presence so the attack startled him, making him shrink back against Thorin before fumbling to defend himself. He tried to swing his sword but a strong grip ripped him out of the way of the stinger, making it pass him harmlessly. His clothes got ripped, but Bilbo felt no pain that would indicate he had been hit. With his new position he took the chance to stab the spider in the side while it was still distracted and heaved a sigh of relief when after some struggle and avoiding it's twitching legs, it finally fell over and lay still. Looking up to defend himself again, Bilbo realized with surprise that this had been the last one of the spiders. For now.


“It's finally dead... We should go back and look for the others.” he said, poking the spider wearily to check if it wasn't just playing possum to attack them with their backs turned. It stayed dead.


“Where do you think we should go?” Bilbo wondered and wiped the sweat and dirt off his forehead. Or at least he hoped he did. He was probably just rubbing the blood and gore and dirt around instead of wiping it off. He was covered in that stuff.


“Thorin?” finally he looked back and felt his breath catch. Thorin lay face down on the ground.


Bilbo felt his mind go blank. The next moment he was kneeling next to Thorin and carefully turned him over. His hands were shaking as he stroked Thorin's cheek.


“Thorin?” his voice wavered “Thorin? That... that's not funny...!” His eyes trailed over his soulmate's face, down to his chest where blood and a sickly green-grey substance gathered. The stinger that had harmlessly passed Bilbo had obviously struck Thorin. With haste Bilbo took of his coat and used it to wipe the poison or whatever spiders had in their stingers away, trying to clean the wound. It was hopeless and Bilbo tried to repress as sob. He had nothing on him that was still clean, no water, no bandages and no idea how to treat poisoned wounds. Not even time, as the spiders would be back soon.


“Thorin?” his voice broke over the name as the dwarf remained immobile. Almost... lifeless.


“Y-you don't have- Y-you can't die yet!” Bilbo hiccuped and ripped out a piece of his shirt. That was a little cleaner than the rest of his clothes. Thorin didn't have that Arkenstone thing Yavanna had talked about... he couldn't die if he didn't have it, right? Carefully pulled at Thorin's armor that had thankfully taken the brunt of the attack. The wound beneath wasn't all that deep, Bilbo noted with a little bit of relief. Surly if Thorin could survive being a wargs chew-toy, this wouldn't to him in. Certainly nothing his dwarf would die from, right?


If there wasn't the poison.


His ears twitched as he became aware of rustling sounds in the trees. Familiar clicking sounds became louder and Bilbo just wanted to cry. Biting his lips to keep from making a sound Bilbo looked around, trying to think of a way to keep them safe. He couldn't even really fight one spider alone, let alone several.


Heart pounding wildly he took notice of some bushes that were dense enough to cover one person. Smiling grimly to himself he didn't even have to think just who would have more use of that spot.

Quickly he climbed to his feet, then struggled to drag Thorin over, determined to at least give his soulmate the best chance at survival while he was out cold. The clicking sounds were still a little off, yet Bilbo always checked the trees just in case he missed something. When he finally got his dwarf to the bushes he rushed to cover the marks dragging Thorin to relative safety had left behind, covering them with leaves and dirt as best as he could. Finally he took Orcrist and put the weapon in Thorin's hand, just in case Thorin woke up and needed to defend himself quickly. He should at least have the means to fight in that case. A brief look over his shoulder confirmed their safety for the moment, though his ears twitched with every sound. They were coming closer. Searching for them.


Just a moment. Just a moment of selfishness was all he would ask for, as he leaned over his soulmate. He wasn't sure if he would survive. He wasn't sure if Thorin would survive or if the poison would kill him. His hand hovered at Thorin's cheek, afraid to touch and find the skin clammy-cold by deaths touch or fever hot by poison. The slight rise and fall was the only reassurance that Thorin yet lived.


“I would have given you the world, had you asked...” he whispered to deaf ears “And tried for the stars if you wanted them.” daringly he let his hand stroke over slack features and blinked away his tears, willing himself to commit Thorin's features to memory.


“And I will gladly give my life if it meant saving yours, Thorin Oakenshield.” he sighed against limp lips, pressing his against Thorin's in a brief caress that made his heart throb painfully in his chest. It was so unfair... they had just started to get along and here he was, stealing a little bit of affection from his unresponsive soulmate before facing his newest mad plan that had a low chance at his own survival.


The snapping of a branch made Bilbo hastily stand up and turn away. Then he started to run.



“Old fat spider, spinning in a tree!”


“Old fat spider can't see me!”


“Attercop! Attercop!”


“Won't you stop, stop your spinning...”


“...and look for me!”




And Thorin was left behind.


Chapter Text

Bilbo ran for what felt like ages, crashing through the underwood with reckless abandon and appreciating all the running the company had forced him to do on their travels so far. He would probably have been out of breath, back in the Shire, after running the even one minute through the dense forest and the uneven ground wasn't making it any easier. Still, even with all the training he now had, all of the situations they had fought themselves out of... it was not enough.

Bilbo could hear the spiders crashing through the woods behind him, getting closer and closer, despite him trying to shake them off, after leading them far enough away from Thorin's place.

There was no company beside him to fight with him this time.

There was no wizard to burst him out of a tight spot at the last minute.

There was no Thorin warning him, watching out for him despite disliking him.

He was alone.


Bilbo tried not to think of limp cool lips against his own and a lifeless body on the cold ground of these cursed woods.


Thorin was alive. He was alive. He was alive. Hewas alive. He was alive, alive. Hewasalivehewasalive. He was, he...


Had to.


It just took a small moment of distraction and the next thing Bilbo knew was a sharp pain in his knees and hands as he landed hard on the ground. A root had tripped him up and Bilbo had landed on the ground. It was just a few seconds but it was enough for the spiders to catch up. One landed directly above him as Bilbo rolled onto his back and stared horrified as the beast screeched at him, opening it's foul maw with unnatural sharp fangs dipping with poison. His hand blindly groped for his sword, thankfully lying next to him and swung it blindly.


“Sstiiinggs!” the creature wailed as it reared back “Itss ssttiiiinnngs!”


Meanwhile Bilbo tried to crab-walk away from it, trying to keep his sword raised at it at the same time, to keep the spider at bay.


And promptly managed to crab-walk over a cliff.


Because, of course. That was still there.


But thankfully not as deep as where he and Thorin had fought before, so the fall hurt, sure, but he wasn't crippled by it.

It took a second to get some breath back into his lungs though, and another second to shake off the disorientation and realize the incredible LUCK that was literally staring at his face.


There was an abandoned fox den. Directly next to him.


Without thinking it over much more Bilbo rolled to the side and into the hole that was surely too small for any spider to follow him through, landing at the bottom of it with his breath held.

Small stones and clumps of earth tumbled to a stop at the entrance and Bilbo could hear the spiders climbing down the cliff.

Shaken he retreated a little further into the burrow he was hiding in, not that there was much room to move. Bilbo could see the spiders skittering back and forth of the entrance, but they weren't trying to get to him.


They... they were searching. Bilbo could hear them clicking and screeching and even saw a few of them rummaging through the leaves on the ground, obviously believing him to be hiding underneath them.


It was so surreal that Bilbo had to clamp his hands over his mouth to keep the hysterical giggles suppressed. Or maybe it was desperate sobs. His cheeks felt wet but Bilbo was not sure if that was water, tears, mud or blood.


Slowly the sounds became more distant. The spiders were moving away, but Bilbo was too scared to move. It could be a trap. They could come back. A spider could still be lurking outside, waiting for Bilbo to feel safe and emerge from his hiding place.


Silence fell.


It was a long time Bilbo cowered in the small space, his muscles cramping. It went deep into the hill, but it was not very high and Bilbo had to stay in a hunched position as he strained to listen. Minutes? Hours? Bilbo couldn't guess, but the ground was wet and water was soaking into his already strained clothes. Slowly awareness of himself returned. His body throbbed in agony again, old hurts renewed from his newest cliff-dive and new ones revealed from when he had hit the ground. Bilbo looked at his hand and saw that they were strained in mud and blood. His clothes were similar affected, but more muddy than bloody. Yet there were rips and leaves and Bilbo was sure he had never before looked more pitiful than he did now. There must be mud on his face too, for he could feel it drying as he waited. Once he carefully edged closer to the entrance, but he shrank back again when he could hear something cracking in the woods. Only when he noticed that the world was turning dark – darker than usual, as in the night was falling – did he realize that he must have spent a long time kneeling in this hole.


And he was not sure he should get out now. It was getting dark after all. Soon it would be so dark that Bilbo would not be able to see anyways, never mind climbing a cliff!

He could however get his sword back. That he had left lying in the leaves when he fell. Just in case. Only now did Bilbo appreciate that he had fallen god knows how many times, while carrying an unsheathed sword in his hand, without stabbing himself. It was a miracle he was still alive.

And Bilbo wanted his miracle-sword back, so he could at least have some safety-measure near him.


Very cautiously he climbed up to the entrance and chanced a look around, eying the area around him suspiciously. Who knew where those crafty beasts where hiding out. Snatching his elven-blade out of the mud, Bilbo quickly retreated to his hiding place.


Yep. Better stay here until he could see again, no matter how... uncomfortable and cold and wet it was. Bilbo curled in on himself and drew his arms around his knees. The company was probably safe. The elves wouldn't actually hurt them. Right?

And Thorin. Thorin was probably awake now, stomping though the woods in a foul mood and cursing the tree-huggers. He would be in an apocalyptic mood, glaring at... at trees and being alive.


With a death-grip on his sword Bilbo cowered in the small space, heart pounding like a scared rabbits at every unexpected sound and prayed for the lives of his friends and the life of his soul.


He wished Yavanna would whisper to him.


It was a very long night and Bilbo didn't think he had closed his eyes at all, but he woke up slumped and cold and wet when light tickled through the entrance so he must have dozed off at some point.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


The day was spend carefully climbing the cliff and trying to retrace his steps. Sometimes it was easier, since the spiders had left deep gashes in the trees and spider silk in the branches when they had wildly chased him, so it was rather easy if not a little disconcerting to retrace his steps by following the destruction.


His body still throbbed in pain, especially his ribs protested and it forced Bilbo to take rest more often than he liked. It frustrated him how slow he was, but he knew that if he actually lost his way, lost the trail of the chase, he would be lost in the woods without a chance of actually finding his friends.


So Bilbo stumbled through the woods, jumping at every shadow and sound until he finally reached the place he had left Thorin. And if he ran the last paces separating him from the bushes he had hid Thorin's body, no one would be able to tell.


Mostly because Thorin himself wasn't there anymore.


Bilbo stared at the spot several seconds, hands holding the tiny branches and leaves out of the way, his heart sinking, stuttering weakly in his chest.




Letting out a shaky breath he tried to push away the numbness and hopelessness that invaded his body like an infection. Gone could mean many things. Maybe Thorin had woken up and wandered off – it's not like Thorin had the greatest sense of direction. Or maybe the elves had found their trail or heard the sounds of battle and had found Thorin?

Or maybe the spiders had found him lying helpless on the ground and had dragged him off to-


Bilbo shuddered and pressed a hand to his face, covering his eyes as if he could wipe away the pictures his imagination had conjured up.


No Thorin here, meant that Bilbo had no reason to stay here either. He had to move.


If... if Thorin had come after him (ifhewasalive), they had either missed each other or Thorin had been captured by the spiders returning to their nest or he was lost.


On the other hand, Thorin could have done the sensible thing (likenotdieingpleasepleaseplease) and headed back in the direction of the company. Meaning, back to the nest and then going to the elvish settlement.



Yeah. Right. Thorin going to elves.


“You better be alive...” Bilbo whispered in a choked off cursed and gripped his sword so hard that his knuckled turned white. Or they would have, somewhere underneath the mud and blood. Looking at the sword he tried to wipe a section of the blade clean and get a small glimpse of himself. It was not pretty. He was more dirt than hobbit, but then again... that made hiding easier, if not a little uncomfortable. He had earth and stones in some pretty uncomfortable places, but with everything going on Bilbo simply didn't care. He was lost, cut off from his friends and family and soul. He had no water, no food and he was hungry and exhausted and thirsty.


Basicly, he was in some serious trouble.


Closing his eyes for a moment Bilbo took some deep breaths. As much as he hated it: He couldn't chase around blindly looking for Thorin. Thorin could be everywhere.


But he could find his friends and Nori. He knew where they where, at least in theory.


“Well...” Bilbo breathed out, looking down at the sword and thus at the small spot where he had wiped away the dirt and thus at himself.


“Guess it's you, and me.” Considering the sword he let his hand trail carefully over the edge of the blade “Sting.” he remembered the spider recoiling from the sharp bite of the blade – not a letter opener as Balin had said! - and smiled wryly.


“As good a name as any.” his voice was shaky, but he felt better even if he was basicly talking with his sword. Or himself. Neither a sign of a healthy mind but it's not like he had anyone else around.


Taking another sharp breath Bilbo turned and headed back in the direction of the nest. While he looked for the elven city, he could check out the spider nest just in case. Only to be sure that Thorin was not there. It was on the way anyways.


“And if any spider comes our way they will learn of your bite.” Bilbo muttered more bravely than he felt. He rather hoped to have no more spider-meetings. If all went well, Thorin wouldn't be hanging in the spider food-chamber and Bilbo would be happily on his way to find this elven place before he starved to death.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Bilbo had kept low to the ground once he neared the spider-nest. He was very careful not to disturb any of the spiderwebs and kept an eye out for any movement. The place was strangely empty, but once Bilbo reached the nest he realized why pretty quickly.


Spider bodyparts covered the ground, but most of them had been stacked on a pile in the middle of the small clearing and burned to crisps. How Bilbo hadn't smelled it before was a miracle, but then again he was pretty sure he himself had a pretty strong body odor. Maybe that's why. It's been some time since the last time he had a chance to wash.


Looking around the battlefield Bilbo was convinced that Thorin was not in any way here, so he turned away and headed to the place where the company had been captured. Looking around he found nothing that belonged to the company, not any evidence of the elves apart from loads of dead spiders. The elves must have cleaned up after themselves then.


It was hopeless. How was he supposed to find them?


Close to tears Bilbo shuffled in the direction he knew the company had been taken by the elves. Then he blinked.

A very deep and deliberate boot print in the soft ground. A distinctly dwarven bootprint.


A few paces after that another. And another.


Bilbo choked a laugh and wiped his eyes.


“Nori... you sneaky bugger.” with a grin splitting his face Bilbo set out to follow the lead Nori had left behind for him. Maybe... maybe Thorin had found the way too. Maybe Bilbo would stumble upon him once he got closer to where their friends were hidden away in an elvish settlement.


And if not... he would have more of a chance to find the king once he had the rest of the company to go looking with him.


Plan in place Bilbo stubbornly fixed his gaze on the ground and trudged on, despite the exhaustion and his rumbling stomach and burning throat. It's not like he had much of a choice anyways.


。・゜゜・ Nori ・゜゜・。


They had been captured by elves. It was an insult to Nori's very own questionable honor. Seriously. The last time he had been captured unwillingly had been Dwalin. Okay, and the goblins, maybe, but they did not count. Besides, he had gotten himself free in that case, so it really didn't count.


But elves? Did it have to be elves? Scowling he had to admit they were at least more competent at this capturing business than the goblins. He didn't have a single dagger on him. Then again, it's not like they had many weapons left after their run in with the goblins and orcs, and they had been too exhausted, too drained and poisoned on top of it to put up much of a fight. So maybe Nori would simply not count this as a fair capture. If he had been in top condition things might have gone differently.


Or maybe he just didn't want anyone but Dwalin being able to catch him, not that he would admit that.


Scowling fiercely and trying to ignore how the world seems to sway around him, he allowed an elf to steady him, taking the chance to look around as best as he could. His vision swam, but he could see the rest of he company. Bifur and Bombur were trying – and failing – at keeping the elves away from molesting (or searching) their brother or cousin. Dwalin was swaying on his feet, clearly trying to still get to his weapons while looking around wildly. Their gazes locked for a moment and some of the wild edge in Dwalin's demeanor softened, before he continues to look around and absentmindedly tried to slap away a hand of an elf. In return he got an arrow held to his face, Nori registered with a low growl. Near Dwalin were Dori and Ori and Nori felt his heart leap in fright. Dori was trying to get to Ori, who was sitting dazed on the ground. An elf held him back – barely – until the Elf put a dagger to his throat. Even from where Nori was standing he could see how fiercely Dori was struggling with himself, gritting his teeth and snapping words at the elf. Finally one of the other tree-huggers went over to Ori and knelt down, looking him over for injury. Nori wanted to go over himself, but right now his hand were being bound in front of him and maybe he could make them loose enough to slip out of if he didn't struggle. Fíli was offering little resistance, but the little scamp managed to feign sarcasm without words pretty well, from the way he lifted his jacked in a mockery of inviting the elves to search him some more. It would be hilarious in any other situation. Too bad the elf still managed to find the daggers he had been hiding in secret pockets, but Nori gave him points for trying. Kíli was hovering next to his brother, but he seemed a little distracted by red hair and soft curves. Oh, that was a juicy bit of blackmail material, at least it would be if the rest of the company wouldn't catch on too. So, all were accounted for.


Except their rescue team that consisted of their leader and burglar.


Of course Bilbo had disappeared once more to who knows where Nori couldn't keep an eye on him. He was getting the hobbit a leash and bind it to himself. And bells. Bilbo would get bells in his hair so Nori could hear him on his near-silent bare feet. And he would recruit Dwalin. Dwalin was a guard. He was supposed to be good keeping an eye on someone, even if he had failed just as much as Nori, if one thought of who else was missing right now. Still, two pairs of eyes would see more than one, right?

And Dori. He already set Dori on the case, but he would remind his brother just how easily breakable their hobbit was and how vulnerable and young (never mind that age and maturely was different between hobbits and dwarrows). That would do to get Dori to go into his mother-hen-modus.

And Ori. He would definitely recruit his crafty little brother. Besides, if Ori was dogging Bilbo's steps with puppy eyes of woe, not only would he have both of them in his sight, no, Bilbo would hopefully be less inclined to throw himself into dangerous situations. Maybe just mention to Ori that Bilbo was lonely so far from home and his books. How he missed writing and reading, and maybe Bilbo could offer some insight from his point of view for Ori's book on their travels? Yes.

And maybe he could recruit the rest later on. They were already on the same page in regards that Bilbo was needlessly reckless and needed someone (or rather someones) watching over him.


If he was alive. Nori let his slowly steadying gaze trail over the clearing as if he could summon Bilbo by the force of his will and scowled when it didn't work. He would not doubt Bilbo again, until he saw a body or proof, so for now Bilbo was alive. And if Nori got his hands on him, he would make this right, would make sure that Bilbo stayed safe from then on out. Bells and Leash and guards.


As the company, at least what was left of them, was rounded up, Nori didn't offer much resistance. He could not see Bilbo, but if Bilbo was alive he knew the hobbit would come after them. So if he stomped down hard on the soft ground the elves would see nothing but a thoroughly frustrated dwarf trudging along. And since he kept himself apart from the others, not showing any sign of family bonds, well... nobody would be able to use his loved ones against him knowingly.



。・゜゜・ Balin ・゜゜・。


The company was lead into the elven realm and without much further ado, they were brought in front of the king. Balin stepped forward a little, taking over the leadership of their group with almost natural ease of a true diplomat.


“Dwarves.” Thranduil drawled as he lingered in his throne with bored apathy, ignoring them after a curious sweep over their faces in search for someone familiar. They lingered on Balin's face and Balin had to wonder if maybe the elven king knew whose adviser he was.


“What brings you through my woods, trespassing on my lands without announcing yourself?”


Balin cleared his throat that must be as sore as any of theirs, before sketching a small bow.


“We are on our way to the Iron Hills, your majesty.” the dwarf said calmly, standing back up again. “We crossed the woods since it's the shortest way and we are in a hurry to reach our destination in time. We already ran into some precarious situations several times, before we were caught by the spiders. My thanks for helping us out.” Balin smiled guilelessly.


“Hm.” The elven king's cold eyes returned to Balin, boring into him with ageless intensity that was unsettling. Eyes that saw far more, but were also blind in some ways.


“We are sorry for intruding, your majesty.” Balin continued, as always he used the concept that honey attracted more flies than vinegar and maybe, just maybe he could get them out of here without any more complications.


“If I could ask for some supplies, we will set out right away and leave your kingdom.”


Finally the elf stirred, straightening a little on his wooden throne as he looked down at the small group of starved dwarrows with what Balin supposed was disdain wrapped in a sharp smile.


“You really seem to be in a hurry...” the elven king said with a smooth and amused voice, laced with something darker “... but really, you should... rest. You've had a stressful day, I'm sure you would appreciate some... comfort.” Balin winced at the barely concealed mockery in that voice and forced himself to stay calm. The king was obviously suspecting something about them, but Thorin was not with them. They could get out of here, if only they didn't reveal their true purpose, or their missing king. Hopefully Thranduil didn't notice any family resemblance between Kíli and Thorin. Fíli might throw them off with his fair hair, but Kíli...


“You are truly generous. However, as I explained, we are in a hurry to reach the Iron Hills. While we are grateful for your invitation, we can't really linger for long.” Balin smiled indulgently, internally he thought that staying for a few hours was better than trying to leave right away, no matter how much he wanted to, if only to search for Thorin and Bilbo. But insisting on leaving right away would be much more suspicious, especially in the state they were in.


The elven king smiled, a cold and calculating smile.


“I'm sure.” the elf drawled, leaning back in his throne and waving a hand to his guards.


“Get them their supplies. It seems they have nothing to do with Thorin Oakenshield after all...” his eyes swept over their group again in satisfied arrogance “... or would you like to add something to your... travel-plans?”


Balin was tempted to let his shoulders slump, but refrained. He would not give the poncy elf another victory.


“Thorin Oakenshield is indeed part of our group. We wanted to set out immediately to find him, before heading out to the Iron Hills.” he amended his story. It's not like they could leave Thorin behind. But Balin was pretty sure now that he would not be able to get them out easily. Thranduil suspected something, and he and Thorin had never seen eye to eye after the elven king had abandoned them in their time of need. No, their best chance now, that Thorin had apparently been found, would be to make a deal with the elven king. Even if it left a bitter taste in Balin's mouth.


“Is that so. Then why did you not say so right away?” the king waved off his people who had started towards the doors to get the supplies.


“We could have... helped.” the king smiled in his unreachable way “If your... companion-” Balin bristled as Thranduil refused to acknowledge Thorin as a fellow king “-was lost, surely you could have used the help of my guards to locate him?”


“We didn't want to overstay our welcome.”


“Don't worry. I have accommodations ready for your...” the gaze that swept over them showed the contempt Thranduil held for the dwarrows “... members.”


He waved the guards again and let his steely eyes settled on Balin at last.


“Take them to the dungeons. Maybe that will loosen their tongues and make them speak truth instead of veiled lies.” the elves eyes grew hooded as he settled back and got more comfortable on his throne once more “I have time...”


Well. That went to Mordor in a hand-basket fast.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Bilbo had reached a treeline and came to a stop. Elven guards were posted at the end of the very narrow bridge, guarding the closed gate. The hobbit could feel a knot in his chest relax. His friends were at least somewhat safe and hopefully treated for their injuries and poison, as well as fed and watered. But he did not know how the elves treated them and if he could just jolly up to them and wave hello. Worst case the elves would shoot him first and ask questions later, after all this was not exactly a friendly forest and right now Bilbo looked more like a goblin than a hobbit.

From the way the company had been taken, Bilbo doubted that he would receive a warm welcome.


After watching the gate for... a long time, Bilbo resigned himself to finding another way inside. This gate was too out in the open and there was no chance he would be able to sneak inside without anyone catching him.


Taking a few near silent steps back Bilbo retreated into the shadows of the trees, until he was only able to see the barest outline of the entrance. Then he carefully started to walk, cautious to be silent near the vigilant elves and out of sight of their sharp eyes. Thankfully he was accomplished at staying silent and hobbits had a natural talent of staying out of sight, but Bilbo really didn't want to test those traits with notch-happy elves around. The least he could use was an arrow anywhere in his body. It would be uncomfortable as hell and Bilbo was hurt enough, thank you very much.


Slowly he made his way around the elven realm, encountering guards walking along balustrades or high walls keeping intruders out. The trees were mostly too far away to offer a chance of climbing them to get inside. It was a well defended fortress.


Finally, almost dropping in exhaustion, he noticed the sound of rushing water.


Bilbo was careful to stay hidden behind the treeline, so that the elves that were standing on the balustrade wouldn't see him right away. His eyes tracked the wooden barrels that fell down the small waterfall, the gate closing after them again. Thoughtfully he pursed his lips and eyed the water in speculation. His throat felt as if it had been scraped raw, so despite his doubts and further away from the elves, Bilbo gave in to the urge to sate his thirst. Kneeling at the shore of the river he anxiously waited for something to happen, eying his reflection in the shallow water lapping at the stones. Would he sprout limps? Break out in rashes? Fall into eternal sleep?


After wringing his hands for some time, Bilbo finally scoffed and threw his hands in the air. Enchanted rivers, ha! As if! Since the water seemed safe enough, Bilbo risked washing his hands and face as best as he could, just starting to have a quick wash when he heard voices nearing his place and was forced to stop and listen. A second he stayed frozen, then he sprang into action. Scrambling to his feet, Bilbo dived for the safety of a nearby bush.


He was unlucky enough to have selected a raspberry-bush.


Since the voices became clearer, Bilbo quickly clamped a hand over his mouth to stifle his pained moan. Staying still, he watched through the foliage as humans with carts came to around the corner, just out of sight of the elven palace.


Thinking quickly, Bilbo waited until the wagons passed him and jumped up onto the back of the second cart, ducking under the cover of the wagon just as the human up front turned around.

。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


“What was that?” the human asked as he scrutinized the area behind him. Nothing was out of place but he could have sworn...

“What'cha talkin' 'bout, Bard? 's probably a squirrel or somethin', stop bein' so paranoid.”

another voice chimed up, slapping the wood of the cart.


“I could have sworn something moved...” Bard slowly turned back to the front, his grip stayed at his bow though. These woods were dangerous after all, even if it was safer this close to the elven city.


“'s probably one of them. Checkin' that their stuff is being delivered in time for their fancy partyin'”


Bard rolled his eyes but shrugged and pulled his cart to a stop, swinging down from his seat in the front and preparing to wait for the elves.


“Them an' their fancy wine.” the other male muttered “'s a shame we never see a drop of it...”


“You get paid handsomely for it, human.” another voice spoke up, this ones voice was lighter, more... ethereal. An elf.


“Ain't seeing much of that either...” the human muttered but shrugged “Yer wine.” he tugged at the covers uncovering the wine-barrels.


“And here is your gold.”


A bag of money exchanged hands, then the cart with the wine-barrels was pulled away, leaving the humans on the smaller wagon to turn back around, with some money and food in payment of the wine they had just brought. And a hobbit, cowering under the cover of the wine-delivery, thanking the stars that not all the barrels had been inspected for otherwise he would have been discovered for sure.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Bilbo half expected for someone to shout and point at him, someone would rip away the covers and then he would be dragged out of hiding.

As much as he would love to stay here and cower and hope nobody would find him, Bilbo knew that was not realistic nor very intelligent. Until he knew what became of his friends, it would be better to stay low and gather information, then reveal himself and hope for the best. Or not reveal himself, depending on the situation.


Right now though he slowly crawled to the end of the wagon, where he had first slipped into the wagon. He stayed hidden behind the last barrel, but once he saw a chance to slip out without anyone noticing, he took it. And he was left standing in a corner of the woodland-realm, having just invaded an elvish kingdom with no idea what to do now.


Hiding in a alcove until he deemed it save seemed to be the best idea. His palms were sweaty and he was sure he looked like a fright, having not have had the chance to clean up much.

Now that the adrenalin was receding he became aware of all the tiny scratches that the raspberry-bush had left behind. They stung.


This quest was the worst. Bilbo had never hurt as much as he did now. It was all Thorin's fault.


Bilbo stayed in that alcove, hidden behind some kind of elven statue, until the sounds in the kingdom receded and silence settled. It must be late, enough that most inhabitants were otherwise distracted or sleeping. Did elves sleep much? Bilbo didn't think so, but the hallways were almost empty now.


Very slowly he uncurled from his position on the cold floor and peered around the empty hall he had been left in. Then he took a few careful steps forward, in the direction of where the cart had headed to. Bilbo tried to stay close to the wall, using every opportunity given to him to take a small break and listen. It took an eternity to travel that way, but the two patrols had passed his little hiding places without so much as looking down. Better safe then sorry, Bilbo thought and gave himself a small mental pat on the shoulder.


In the end he followed his nose to what seemed to be the kitchens and very nearly gave himself away with his growling stomach. Despite being disgusted with himself, he snatched some half-eaten bread off a plate and scurried away before someone could see him. He made two more trips to the kitchen, since there didn't really seem to be anyone around. It was nighttime, and thus Bilbo thought nobody would frequent this place until early in the morning, but one elf had stumbled in half drunken, got himself a pitcher of water and stumbled out again. Bilbo had ducked behind the table and thanked Yavanna for his luck. Deciding it was to dangerous to stay in the kitchen after all, Bilbo stuffed his pockets with whatever leftovers he could find – food he was sure wouldn't be missed after all – to tide him over the next day, before looking for a place to sleep. He needed his energy if he wanted to be of use.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


It took him two days to confirm that the company had indeed been brought here. It was on his third day he had nearly exposed himself with a gasp of outrage as he overheard that they were prisoners.

Hunkering down in another small alcove – Bilbo was very thankful for whoever designed this place, he doubted that many enemies could make use of it, but for a hobbit it was just enough space to squeeze between the wall and whatever statue they had placed inside – he fumed and glared at the cold stone-back of the elven portrayal that he was hiding behind.


So... revealing himself was out, for now. Finding his friends in this place though... well, that might take more time. This place was a maze!


So another two days of aimless searching went past, and Bilbo was stressed out from this hide and seek, tired because he was only sleeping very lightly, afraid of being discovered in his moment of weakness or making an involuntary sound that would attract attention.


All in all, he was feeling slightly better than in the forest, but he was still dirty as hell, probably stank despite trying to clean himself at one of the fountains. He was too afraid of leaving behind a trail of footprints to really take a bath. Besides, that would be the most embarrassing capture ever. Bathing in a fountain after invading a kingdom. No. Nori would laugh his ass off and then proceed to kick him to Morder for being so stupid.


And thus a week went by, without getting much headway in his personal quest. It was only after he overheard a conversation in the kitchen that he finally got a lead. He tried to remember the direction the elves with the food for the prisoners had went off to, but he was reluctant to follow them. Instead he used the time at night, when there was less activity, to search in that direction and finally, almost missing it in his cautious exploration, he found a small staircase that lead down to the dungeons.


Heart pounding in excitement he slowly went down the stairs, well aware that if someone came from below, or from behind, he would be left with no way to hide himself away in time. Low voices, low familiar voices lifted his mood instantly, making him skip a few steps down at once.


“'s dead. Why wouldn't they bring him here to us if they had found him?” Glóin reasoned, sounding resigned and irritated at once.

“Mayhaps because he's a hobbit. They might think we... dunno, kidnapped him?” Bofur!


“Or maybe they are keeping him wherever they keep his majesty.” Bilbo stumbled to a halt at Dwalin's words, heart racing like a rabbits.


His legs rounded the last corner and stepped into the light without his express permission, his thoughts felt like they had narrowed down on these words with a desperate hope.


“Thorin is here?” he asked, no, demanded, then stumbled back as they all surged to their feet, shouting at him.


“Shh!! SHHH! Do you want me to be caught?!” a hand slipped through the bars next to him and pulled him close, nearly choking him in the process as an arm wound around his neck and another patted him down in almost frantic, if barely hidden movements.


"Mahals balls, Bilbo, yer 're like one of those weeds ye always prattle on about! Sprouting out of nowhere and all that!" Bilbo was not sure if he should feel offended by the way Nori had likened him to weed or preen at being able to sneak up on the cautious dwarf. Offense won out. Weeds! Nasty, horrible things to have in your garden! But the hand that searched for wounds was shaking slightly, even if Nori sounded completely at ease, the body behind the bars relaxed a little as he realized that Bilbo was indeed in one piece.


“How? How did'cha get in here?!” Nori finally released him reluctantly.


Turning around to Nori Bilbo sniffed and in a haughty tone replied “Broke in, of course. Learned from the best, after all, didn't I?”


Which earned Nori a slap up his head from Dori, who was in the cell next to the thief and who glared at his younger brother in his reproachful way that made Bilbo revisit childhood-memories every time he saw it.


“I knew you were corrupting him!” Dori huffed, but he only seemed half annoyed with Nori. Instead he seemed to eye up Bilbo as if he wanted to wrap him in cotton and hide him away. Nori smirked when he saw Bilbo take a few hasty steps away.


“Never said it was Nori.” Bilbo petulantly replied and then sniffed “I would never inflate his already overly big ego.”


Ignoring Nori's gasp of outrage, the hobbit turned to the rest of the company.


“Tell me what you know. Everything, the patrols of the elves, whatever you remember. Times when they deliver food, when they take it away again. I need to know it all.” Bilbo looked around.


“And I need to find Thorin. He's here? Did you see him?” he tried hard not to betray his anxiety but he needed to make sure Thorin was safe. It was like a physical need.


“Do you know where they keep him?”


And thus he begun to plan, hope renewed.


Thorin was alive, and Bilbo would find him. It was only a matter of time.


Chapter Text

“Who is there?” Thorin demanded, scowling at the bars fiercely. He had heard near-silent steps and had immediately straightened, standing up and crossing his arms over his chest with a fierce scowl. Elves. He would not let those wheat-eaters see him feeling down!


“Found you.” Bilbo peeped as he carefully stuck his head around the corner. There, in a small cell stood his dwarf. Thorin had taken a step back in surprise at Bilbo's sudden appearance, then continued to stare at him in awed, grateful silence, drinking him in with his eyes. And then he choked and clamped a hand over his mouth. Puzzled Bilbo inclined his head to the side.


“Are you-” choked off laughter interrupted him before he could finish his concerned question, turning his mood into bemused astonishment since that was one of the first times Thorin just let go and laughed. Completely involuntary but that made the sight all the more bewildering to the hobbit, especially with the rather dire situation they were in.


Maybe Thorin was ill. By Yavanna, what if the spider poison had affected his brain??


“I'm... I'm s-sorry Bilbo, truly I am!” Thorin chuckled as his hands reached out between the bars to softly lay the palms on Bilbo's cheeks. The hobbit hat edged closer to the bars as if proximity would help Thorin get better. Carefully the king examined him, still chuckling. If Bilbo had not been so distracted by the way Thorin's hard blue eyes had thawed immediately once he had stepped into his sight, he would have been very cross with the dwarf. Very cross indeed.


“It's just... you are caked in mud! What's this- is this some kind of disguise?” Bilbo could feel Thorin's hands shaking from suppressed laughter that Thorin tried to desperately keep back. If he tried it for Bilbo's sake, who puffed up in indignation, or for the sake of not drawing attention, Bilbo couldn't tell.


But he very much felt like pouting right now. Or floating since Thorin's smile was a sight to behold and Bilbo had never imagined that the sourly dwarf would ever loosen up enough to laugh like that. Still, after all he had been through-


The hands drew him closer to the cell, forcing him gently to step up to the bars. Then Thorin carefully leaned in until his forehead rested gently against Bilbo's while smiling the most breathtaking, unfair smile possible. Bilbo felt a little dizzy from the lack of air and quickly sucked in another breath, a high inquisitive sound escaping him.


“I'm glad you are alright. I worried.”


They were close. So close to each other that Bilbo could feel Thorin's warm breath ghosting over his mouth. Suddenly the chill that Bilbo had been unable to shake off disappeared, replaced by an almost stifling heat. Bilbo is sure his face was beet-red, but the mud and dust and whatever else he was covered in probably concealed it rather well.


With a sudden, stunning certainty Bilbo realizes that even now they are moving closer, despite the metal bars keeping them separated. Thorin had a soft look in his eyes that send Bilbo's heartbeat into a sky-rocking rhythm.


Ûrzudel...” it was an unfamiliar word, but surprisingly soft in it's sound and tender in the way Thorin pronounced it.


Bilbo blinked slowly, but couldn't move. He didn't want to. This... if this was what he thought it might be, this would not be like in the forest, a stolen moment in face of grave danger, with only himself being aware of it. Slowly Bilbo let his eyes drift close, started to angle his head towards Thorin and then-




With a sudden panicked rush Bilbo retreated, pulling out of Thorin's arms to cast a quick look around, before throwing himself into the cell on the other side, crawling under the bed to have some cover as elves entered the dungeon. Really, he should have heard them earlier. But he could hardly be blamed, he had only just realized that being close to Thorin was killing his brain-cells at a rather alarming rate. Really, he should have realized that sooner, as soon as he had agreed to go on this mad adventure, but apparently Thorin didn't need to stand all that close to affect him. Why else had he agreed to follow into this madness?


The elves stepped in front of Thorin's cell, both carrying weapons and while Thorin was unarmed, he looked ready to strangle them with his bare hands.


“The king sends his regards” one of the guards said in a mocking tone, setting the Food on the ground. Bilbo could barely make out some bread and water, not the most nutrient meal but still better than starving. He bit his lips and felt the hunger gnawing at his stomach, but thankfully he didn't make a sound. That would have been embarrassing, if his gurgling stomach had revealed his hiding place. Not as embarrassing as he would feel if he got caught while relieving himself though, because somehow his mind had settled onto that fact and now it niggled and lingered in the back of his head. Who knew how elves went about their business? It would certainly not be hobbit friendly and he doubted they were as thoughtful as Elrond and put a small stool in the bathroom to make it easier for Bilbo to use their facilities.


“It's better than you deserve.” the other elf sneered, kicking at the tablet he food was placed on so that the water splashed over the rim of the cup and soaked the ground and bread.


Bilbo has never understood the grudge the dwarrows held against the elves. Until now.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Bilbo scrambled around a corner, nearly getting impaled by an arrow. The elves hadn't seen him, but they had heard him, and that was enough. Enough for them to start chasing him, especially since he started to run away instead of revealing himself, shooting arrows in his direction with seemingly no regard. Bilbo kept low to the ground, trying to stay out of sight and to shake them off. He had gotten into this predicament after filching some bread in the kitchen and hurrying to hide again. He had just rounded a corner when a voice had called out, then he had ran and the pursuit had been on since then. A few minutes at most, but Bilbo was not used to being shot at, like, at all.


“What is it?” an agitated voice called out “Did you see it? Did you get it?”


“I don't know... don't think so.” That voice sounded older, slightly irritated and Bilbo's ears twitched at the small sound of another arrow being notched. His ears might not be as good as an elf's but better than that of humans. In this moment it was a blessing and a curse. Blessing because he still did have a small chance of making it out without getting caught, curse because he could hear the arrows cut through the air, the plans on killing him or 'whatever basted Morgoth-spawn' dared to trespass. Bilbo had very nearly shouted back that he was no servant of that earth-rotting weed, thank you very much. He was a creation of the Green Lady after all and took pride in it. Not enough to reveal his hiding spot though.


“It couldn't have gone far. Some kind of animal that got in?” Excuse you?! Bilbo definitely didn't look like some kind of animal! He was a respectable hobbit, if a slightly dirty one at this moment.


“If it's one of those spiders again...” the older voice growled and Bilbo hightailed out of there, hearing hasty steps following him as he ducked around another corner. Another arrow clattered to the ground after hitting the wall, sending another jolt of fear through the hobbit. He had tried to be as quiet and fast as possible, but the elves hearing was simply superior and all he managed was a deadly game of cat and mouse. So the next time he rounded a corner he all out sprinted, before stumbling to a stop in the corridor he was.

It took a split second to form a plan. His hands were already acting before he had fully laid out his plans, but he was desperate. Nimble fingers grabbed the first heavy-but-throwable object and threw the candle-stand that had been standing around though a window behind him. Then he ran and ran and ran until he slipped into a quiet room, where he took quick stock of the situation. It was – thankfully – not a room that someone seemed to live in. It seemed to be a storeroom, that might have previously been a living quarter. Fearful of someone opening the door and checking the inside of the room, Bilbo stumbled behind a few crates and ducked down low. Blinking his eyes adjusted slowly to the darkness of the room. Through a window that was mostly overgrown by ivy from the outside, a little bit of light slipped inside the room, enough for him to see more than just shapes. The place was cluttered, but there were a few empty crates that Bilbo climbed into, carefully dragging the cover back over his hiding spot. His heart hammered hard in his chest, so much that he was sure that it was a sound that would attract attention to him. In response he made himself as small as he could and pressed his eyes closed. He didn't want to die and he also didn't want to be captured, though he would prefer capture to death. But if he stepped out now, he would probably be shot on sight. Meanwhile he could hear the agitated elves searching for him. The door to his room opened and closed several times. Once or twice he was sure that an elf even walked inside and took a closer look. In those times he held his breath and tried to suppress the shaking that seemed to want to overtake his whole body.


He waited for hours. Or days. It was hard to tell the time while stuck in a box. The only consolation was the piece of bread that he carefully rationed, hoping to make it last until the patrols searching the castle calmed down.

He knew he must be somewhere near the dungeons, but he didn't make a sound or tried to get out of his hiding place. Nearly getting shot several times had terrified him, had made him feel like prey. It took a long time until the elves calmed down and until Bilbo overheard them saying that whatever had managed to sneak in must have left. The elves were still more alert, but Bilbo stayed in his small box, ignoring his cramping limps and waited. And waited and waited. His body was shaking like a leaf, tiny tremors that rattled him as he hid. He was sure that nearly a full day had passed and only when evening fell over the kingdom again, and then night did Bilbo finally gather the courage to crawl out. He was sore from holding still and the terror on his mind hadn't really left. He staggered and tried to keep low, making his way slowly back to the dungeons.


It was only when he was nearly standing in front of Thorin's cell that the past events rushed to the forefront of his mind, making him gasp and shake as he stumbled into a wall to steady himself, pale and shaking even more. He was so sore, and hungry and thirsty. He wanted to be clean and to sleep without jerking awake at every sound.

Yavanna, he had nearly died. Arrows had nearly missed him, several times. His knees suddenly felt weak, as if he was a newborn fawn trying to stand for the first time. Without his consent his legs gave out and he hit the ground hard with his knees. Thorin was on his feet in an instant, his blue eyes wild as he took in the hobbit kneeling on the floor gasping for air.


“Bilbo!” the dwarf king was at the bars of his prison in an instant, his eyes roving over the shivering form “What happened?” he rattled at the bars before letting a frustrated growl out “What's wrong? Are you injured?”

“T-Thorin... I c-can't. Can't...” never had Bilbo felt like this before. His limps were tingling and he was having trouble getting air, even though he was taking huge gulps. It didn't feel like enough and he felt dizzy. Not a good kind of dizzy, but one that tilted the world. His limps were starting to feel numb and the loss of control over them made the hobbit panic even more. Bilbo was dimly aware that Thorin had sunken to his knees too and his arms were stretched towards him, reaching and waiting for Bilbo to come closer.


“Bilbo. Breath, Bilbo. Come here, it's all right. You are fine. Take a breath, slowly.”


Bilbo tried to focus on his voice. He sounded sure and strong and calm. He wanted to follow the instructions but it seemed impossible. Feeling helpless Bilbo tried to shuffle over to Thorin, even though his limps hardly cooperated anymore. It was a strange feeling, being so out of control of his own body functions.


Once he was within reach, Thorin didn't hesitate to grab his wrists and draw him closer. The hobbit felt his breath hitch, each one coming too short and fast as Thorin's arms encircled him from the side, pressing him close to the bars and Thorin's body warmth.


“Shh. It's alright. Breath. In – come on Bilbo – In... and out.”


This close Bilbo could feel Thorin's own breathing. He was also pressed close to the bars and with one arm around him, the only thing separating them were the iron bars of the prison. The other hand had settled on his head, as if trying to shelter him from the world, big and warm. The huge and worn hands rubbed calming circles on his back and arms, warm puffs of air ruffled his hair and that... that was something that Bilbo couldn't ignore. His breath hitched, but his breathing wasn't as forceful and desperate as moments before.


Slowly but surely Bilbo managed to adjust his breathing to the same pattern as Thorin and felt something in him relax. The tingling, almost numb sensation in his limps receded until he sagged against Thorin in exhaustion. He imagined warm lips brushing his temple but right now he was incredibly exhausted, both from the events over the day, the lack of sleep, and whatever just happened.


“What... what was that?” Bilbo croaked out, feeling sweat-soaked and tired. He blearily blinked, but made no move to separate from the dwarven king. This was nice. So nice. And Bilbo wanted to enjoy it for as long as he could, before Thorin remembered himself. Call it selfish indulgence but Bilbo was sure he deserved a little comfort after the frightful day.


“Panic attack. Some warriors get them, too.” Thorin's voice rumbled near his ear. Despite the attack being over, the dwarf didn't let Bilbo go. Instead he gently continued to rub his arms until warmth slowly returned to his body. Slow circles that made Bilbo relax even further, as if that was all it would take to make Bilbo into a puddle of goo. It was silent between them and while Bilbo thought several times that he should retreat, put some distance between them, he just couldn't bring himself to do it.


After a while Thorin finally spoke up again.


“What happened?” he asked and Bilbo stiffened, but as the silence continued to grow he let out an irritated huff.


“It's not easy going around undetected here.” he mumbled and finally forced himself to sit back, watching with regret as Thorin's arms released him and the dwarf sat back himself. It was strange, seeing Thorin sitting on the ground, one leg propped up and leaning back on his left hand, while his other arm rested on his raised knee. The kings attention was unwaivering on Bilbo though, leaving him almost flustered.

“They- they heard me and thought I was some kind of animal from the woods. They started shooting arrows-” Thorin growled and Bilbo rolled his eyes in exasperation “Oh, shush. It's not like they knew what they were shooting at and I don't expect they even know how a hobbit looks like.” he shook his head “It's just... I didn't really expect it and... and it's been hard. I can hardly sleep and food is scarce and I have no idea how to get you out...” Bilbo felt tired and so out of his depth that it wasn't even funny anymore. How was he supposed to smuggle out thirteen dwarrows when he couldn't even really keep himself hidden? It was too much. He couldn't do that.


A hand at his cheek refocused his attention back to the dwarf.


“You can do it.” there was no doubt in Thorin's voice, only utter confidence, warmth and concern.


“I'll save some of the food for you.” Thorin cast a slightly guilty look down at the already empty plates, before looking back at Bilbo with an earnest look of someone trying to do better.

“We can share. And I can keep watch over you while you sleep, the elves don't come here except for food deliveries.”


Bilbo stared at the dwarf in silence for a moment, utterly surprised. He had not really expected to get any sort of help, when he had started to unload his feelings on the unsuspecting dwarf. It was not much, but... but compared to before? Thorin was opening up and it left Bilbo feeling... flustered and hopeful and indescribable because Thorin was looking at him with suddenly warm blue eyes and his warm weapon-rough hand was still cradling his cheek like he was something precious. Bilbo's breath hitched again, because this... Yavanna's grace, this was a dwarf he could fall hopelessly in love with and that was entirely too dangerous. Because Bilbo had been willing to go into a dragon's den to save his soulmate-stranger. He didn't know what he would do for a soulmate he was head over heels in love with.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Things were easier after that. With a somewhat regular source of food, he was able to avoid the kitchen more often than not. Sometimes he got lucky and found some fruits that were probably intended as a quick snack option for whoever came by. He didn't dare take too much, but every little thing helped. Being able to sleep with Thorin watching over him helped him a lot too, because now he wasn't in a constant state of awareness where sleep was optional.

Not being tired meant he was able to concentrate and focus on the important parts. Like finding a way out of this hellhole – no matter how beautiful yet overshadowed this place seemed to be – and not getting caught again. It still was nerve-wracking, and left him jittery after a few other close calls and his near-capture Bilbo was playing it much more on the safe side than before. It did him a world of good to have Thorin talk to him and trying to make plans together with whatever Bilbo managed to discover during the night. He mostly used to look around the palace, without much of a goal besides finding an exit, knowing the guard-rotations and finding the keys or another way out of the cells for his companions. Many plans had to be discarded after finding the faults in them. But slowly the details came together, and if nothing else they might have some fall-back options in case their final plan fell through.


Another astonishing discovery was that Thorin always seemed to know what to say to get Bilbo's spirits up. Maybe it was the trust shining in those eyes or perhaps it was the easy demeanor that Thorin had adapted, that made it easy to get a small smile – more of a smirk – out of the dwarf than ever before. It became something that Bilbo looked forward to, and he had kind of made it his goal to get as many smiles out of Thorin was possible.


“I know you can find a way.” Thorin's conviction was unshakeable, their hands were nearly brushing as they both sat with their backs to the iron bars “Every place has a weakness. You will find it sooner or later.”


That he would rather it happened sooner didn't need to be said. They were, after all, on a tight schedule if they wanted to reach the hidden door in a timely manner. But Bilbo could appreciate that Thorin didn't put additional pressure on him.


When Bilbo slept, he usually hunkered down near the door so Thorin would be able to reach him and shake him awake.


A few times he was sure he was able to feel a hand carefully combing through his tangled mess of hair before he drifted off to sleep. Or a feather light touch to his cheek when he was about to wake up. Bilbo was unsure if his imagination was playing tricks, dreams straying into reality due to the sudden closeness that seemed to develop between them, or if some of it was real. He was too much of a coward to ask though, for fear that it might stop.


It took him nearly a week before he caught the trail-end of a conversation about a festival. That same day he had also found an infirmary of sorts and had gleefully stacked up on herbs and whatever useful odds and ends were within his reach. He had made his way to Óin, if only to confirm his rusty knowledge on some of the rarely seen plants he had known back in the Shire. A day later he found the trapdoor in the wine-cellar. With pounding heart he related his findings to the king. The only missing puzzle was the key, but even the dregs of hope pulled out a stunning laugh from his dwarf, and that was before a hand settled warmly into his neck and pulled him close, until their foreheads gently rested against each other.


“You are amazing, Ûrzudel.” Thorin breathed against his lips, unaware of how he stole any remaining breath from the poor hobbit that felt near dizzy due to their proximity and his swelling affection. And Thorin smiled. His eyes were crinkling in the corners and the oftentimes cold, detached, angry or carefully blank blue orbs thawed until Bilbo begun to wonder how he could have missed the warmth in them so often. It made Bilbo want to go to the ends of the worlds without question if Thorin kept looking this happy. Or keep sneaking around an elven city. Or into a dragon den.


When Bilbo appeared next to Nori's cell to tell the company there might be a plan and to be ready at a moments notice, the dwarf inside took one look at him and snorted, while shaking his head.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Bilbo nearly had a heart attack when Thorin was led past his hiding spot near the throne room. It did offer him the opportunity to overhear the quickly escalating conversation between the elven king and Thorin.


“Some may imagine a noble quest at hand.” Thanduil's ethereal voice resonated through the halls, crystal clear with a haughty arrogance “A quest to reclaim a homeland and slay a dragon.” Bilbo couldn't see into the room but his mind was creative enough to create an image of what was happening inside.


“I myself suspect a more.... prosaic motive: attempted burglary, or something of that ilk.”


Bilbo felt uneasy, having his soulmate so vulnerable near somebody that Thorin clearly thought of as a mortal enemy. It made him itch to leave his hideaway and stomp up to the elf and take his attention away from Thorin. Only knowing that it wouldn't help in any way made him stay in place. Restless and straining his ears for sounds that might give him some insight to what was happening, but out of sight nevertheless.

A small movement made him look across the corridor and smile as he spied the window. It showed a translucent reflection of the happenings inside the room. It rankled seeing his soulmate, a king of his own right stand before the ruler of this realm in shackles like a common criminal.

Thranduil meanwhile was pacing slowly, hands folded behind his back as he continued his speech unhurried “You have found a way in. You seek that which would bestow upon you the right to rule: the King's Jewel.” at this the elven-king turned to look at Thorin “It's precious to you beyond measure.” at these words the kings voice turned soft but Bilbo shuddered at the undercurrent desire “I understand that. There are gems in that mountain that I too desire. White gems of pure starlight.”

Bilbo rolled his eyes. It was a nice description, but to him a jewel was still a stone. A pretty stone but in the Shire most would look at it with curious confusion and add it to the long list of mathoms that seemed to circulate between the homes rather freely. Weather by choice or other means was questionable sometimes, especially with Lobelia involved. Bilbo had never felt a compunction of relieving Lobelia of her nearly acquired treasures and depositing them in another, nicer home. Even mathoms had feelings and he wouldn't leave anyone helpless in Lobelia's clutches.

If he actually acquired any gems at all, they would probably serve to mark the line of his tomato-patch. Or maybe as a little souvenir on a string that he could hang in his window and would play with the light, amusing the faunts. It would probably be gone in a matter of days, claimed in one of the infamous fauntling-heists that everyone tried to act as if it was a bother, but secretly baked an extra cake to cool at the windows for hungry stomachs and sticky fingers.


The dwarrows would clearly be horrified by Bilbo's nefarious plans for their precious cobble-stones, but they had never asked Bilbo's opinion on the matter so it was not like they would find out, right?


“I am listening.” Thorin's voice brought him back to the present and he shook his head at his own foolishness. His soulmate sounded... off. Composed and cold and dark in a way that even before Thorin had warmed up to him Bilbo had never heard or seen him display.


“I will let you go, if you but return what is mine.”


At the words Thorin turns away, seeming to draw himself up.


“A favor for a favor.” Thorin murmured. There was an edge to the words. A few weeks before, Bilbo would not have noticed the mood Thorin was currently in, Mordor, even a few days ago he might have had trouble. But right now? It was like Bilbo could hear the hiss of the fuse as fire worked it's way to one of Gandalfs fantastic firework-crackers. Cringing at the mental picture that evoked Bilbo was half tempted to run into the room and shout “Abort! Abort!” before Thorin well and truly lost it.


“You have my word. One king to another.” and that seemed to be the thing that truly set Thorin off. Instead of shouting like Bilbo expected, Thorin went still, fists clenched into trembling fists and head bend low. If not for the mere presence that he exuded, Bilbo would have thought the king was giving in. When Thorin started to talk it begun as determined words that were pressed out iron-clad control.


“I would not trust Thranduil,” he begun, his voice rising until it was booming around the hall “- the great king, to honor his word should the end of all days be upon us!”

Thorin whirled around, drawing back his shoulders and staring at the elf with burning rage as scorn dipped from his words. His cuffed hands pointed at the elf that was coldly watching the dwarfs anger in dispassionate calmness.


You lack all honor! I've seen how you treat your friends!” Thorin was shouting now, but Bilbo could hear the anguish in his voice that raked over his heart and left bleeding clefts behind “We came to you once, starving, homeless, seeking your help, but you turned your back. You turned away from the suffering of my people and the inferno that destroyed us!” Thorin took a threatening step towards Thranduil, his rage beyond measure as his mind wandered back to some of the worst days of his life. Two elven guards took a step with him, clearly intent on holding him back if he so much as tried to make an attack at their king.


Imrid amrad ursul!” Thorin bellowed in rage as the elven guards flanked him and grabbed his upper arms. Thranduil leaned in, suddenly, putting him on the same level as Thorin for once.


“Do not talk to me about dragon fire.” as Thranduil spoke his face contorted in imagined pain, and Bilbo was horrified to realize that previously unblemished skin peeled away to show deep grooving burn-scars and an unseeing blindness take the place of Thranduils left eye “I know its wrath and ruin. I have faced the great serpents of the north.” As quickly as they appeared the disfiguring scars smoothed out once more, magic making the king appear ethereal and flawless once more. He rose again, an elegant, seamless movement and glided back “I warned your grandfather of what his greed would summon, but he would not listen.” slowly Thranduil climbed the stairs up to his throne “You are just like him.” He made a small, dismissing gesture with his hand and the elven guards started to drag Thorin, who was struggling in their grasp, away.


“Stay here if you will, and rot. A hundred years is a mere blink in the life of an elf.” Thranduil called out as Thorin was dragged away, watching the dwarven king with bored dispassion once more.


“I am patient.” then the elven king sat down and leaned back.


“I can wait.”


Bilbo withdrew so he was completely out of sight once more before the guards dragged Thorin past his place. He felt shaken by the encounter he had witnessed, but even more world-shaking was the few snatches of a conversation between Thranduil and a red-haired female elf. It was hard to hear but Bilbo managed to gain insight of what they were talking about.


“- wouldn't do - le- them go. The-re safer... dungeons.” Thranduil said to her and Bilbo looked the corridor up and down, before sliding a bit closer to better hear what was being said “Unwilling … stubborn but … alife. They … wake the beast … fire down on everyone! I cannot let them go, not if they threaten to bring calamity upon all of us.”


“Of course, Sire.”


“Go, Tauriel. You know your duties.”


And while Bilbo thought – rather uncharitably if he was honest but Thranduil made it hard to feel guilty about it – that Thranduil was an arrogant piece of rotting, stinking fungus, he did care about his people and was trying to protect them from harm. And that Bilbo could hardly fault him for.

Curling his nose a little he let out a silent huff. There was still Thranduil's behavior from before Bilbo was probably born, when he had refused to help out the dwarrows that had been forced out of heir home. Maybe he had reasons for that, but Bilbo was rather uncommonly unwilling to listen to reason.

Well, if luck would have it they would be out of this place before long and he would never have to meet Thranduil in person. He didn't want to know what would come out of his mouth if he was faced with someone who had apparently deserted his soul in his time of need. He was not sure any reason could hold up against what Thorin had told him. Of children and woman dieing on the road, succumbing to their wounds or starving to death.


No. Maybe he could understand in his mind, if it was explained. But somehow Bilbo doubted he could forgive. He might not have lived though it himself, but it had oh so obviously left a mark on Thorin's soul. And that was the worst kind of damage that could be dealt, in Bilbo's eyes.


Chapter Text

The day of the festival approached and Bilbo was near frantic that he still hadn't gotten a chance to steal the keys yet. Or rather: There had been two times before, where he could have possibly snatched the keys, yet had to refrain. He tried to keep an eye on the person in charge of them. But he knew he would only have one chance at this. Once he stole the keys it was only a matter of time before the elves realized the theft and would surely check on their prisoners, switch out the locks or stick the dwarrows in other cells, making stealing the keys in the first place redundant and more of a hassle than it was worth. The uncertainty of his success in the right moment was one of the reasons Bilbo felt harried and stressed out, aside from still having to sneak around elves far closer than he preferred. Armed elves. With arrows.


But no, he had to wait for the perfect moment. The time during the festival would be ideal to smuggle out the dwarrows. Most of the elves would be distracted and, hopefully, there would be less guards roaming the corridors. Maybe even the guards could be tempted to a glass of wine in face of the celebration and would thus pay less attention to hobbits creeping through their domain. If they were lucky, they would get out without being seen and would be out of the kingdom and Thranduil's reach before the breakout would be detected. That's why Bilbo had not taken the keys off the table, in the small moment where the key-warden had left them unattended. Nor had he taken them off another warden's hands when said warden decided to take a small nap instead of keeping watch. In face of these occurrences Bilbo was hopeful he would get another, easy chance to get the key during the festival. But at the same time Bilbo remembered how much had already gone down the drain during their whole journey and worried himself sick that another obstacle would come their way. Not that being shut down in the dungeon with armed elven guards wasn't obstacle enough.


Bilbo very nearly snorted. Right. Since when had they been lucky to have something go the easy way, but one could dream. It would probably be better if he also tried to plan for the worst case. Like elves shooting arrows into their retreating backs.

That's why Bilbo tried to steal a few weapons and place them behind a statue near the dungeons. A dagger here, a knife there. A small shield, that might have belonged to a child before it grew up. A few wooden planks that would hopefully save their hide in emergencies. His exploration had even led him to the medical ward, empty at night and Bilbo had taken the chance to carefully stock up on some herbs, remedies and bandages, ascertaining the purpose of some of the more obscure dried leaves with Óins help, if he wasn't quite sure about or their uses for healing, or when all he knew was to use them to cook. All in all it was nothing like what they had before and Bilbo mourned that he had been unable to find their equipment but Thorin had been adamant that he not take any unnecessary risks trying to find replaceable things. What mattered was getting them out of here. Preferable on time.


Finally it was the day of the festival. Bilbo had to be very, very careful, as many elves rushed back and forth between the kitchen and the hall where the festival would take place. In their rush though they hardly ever looked down, so Bilbo just had to stay very still and even hidden under a table he would go unseen. It also seemed to be louder all around, a buzzing that seemed to fill the entire city. It was a little surprising and maybe even fascinating to watch. Before Bilbo would have called the place beautiful, but sort of dark and overshadowed. Now he could hear occasional laughter and was passed by elves chatting amiably with each other. This feast seemed to be important to them and everyone seemed to look forward to it.

Was it still nerve-wracking? Yes. Very much so, but hopefully he would get them out of here by the end of the day. Bilbo rubbed his sweaty palms on his dirty trousers for the third time before forcing himself to still again.

He would definitely be thankful to leave this place. It was not good for his peace of mind to sneak around and have to be constantly aware of his surroundings, nor was it good for his stomach, that – despite Thorin trying to share his meals with him – was paining him with the bite of hunger more often than not. After all, even if Thorin tried to divide the meal between them fairly, it was still only half a portion and Bilbo felt bad enough about taking so much, that he tried to get food elsewhere anyways. It didn't always work, but Thorin grudgingly took a little more of the food back whenever Bilbo said he had found something in the corridors during his exploration.

This quest needed the king healthy and able to fight after all.


But now it was time for the festival and Bilbo was getting antsy about getting his hands on the keys.

He had followed the key-warden back to the wine-cellar where he had found the trapdoor before. Grinding his teeth he could feel the frustration rising as the elf just sat at the table, obviously bored out of his mind, but the key was hanging from his belt and Bilbo would bee seen in a second if he ever tried to reach for it. Currently he was stuck behind some barrels on the side of the room. In his sweaty hand he had clutched a tiny bottle with powdered herbs – from when he had raided a cabinet near what was probably supposed to be the healing ward and which he had then crushed under Óins watchful eye – that would put any elf to sleep. The problem was: He either had to get close enough to throw it in their face or he would have to try and spike their food and drink. Currently both would require him to be seen and Bilbo wasn't eager to reveal himself. He waited instead for an opportune moment to arise, hoping desperately that this moment would come in the next few hours if their shaky, half-formed plan was to succeed.. Only if he would be left without a choice would he be that reckless. It would probably end up with him imitating a pincushion or his arse in the cell next to one of his friends.


Another elf stepped into the cellar, already a little bit tipsy from what Bilbo could tell.


“... we're running out of drink.” The elf said, swinging an empty bottle in the direction of the key-warden to make his point. The key-warden snorted, waving in direction of the barrels Bilbo was hiding behind and spying though the gaps between them.

“Should have lasted for longer than that. You are all empty kegs without a bottom in sight.” he pointed towards the barrels stacked onto the trapdoor.

“See those? Should have been send back to Esgaroth hours ago. The bargeman will be waiting for them.”


“Well, say what you like about our ill-tempered king, but he has excellent taste in wine. Who wouldn't want a taste of that, especially for free? Come, Elros, try it!”


Elros looked tempted but sighed petulantly “I have dwarves in my charge, Gallion.” he pointed out and took the keys from his belt, rattling them for emphasis.


“So? They are locked up! Where could they go?” Gallion snatched the keys out of a scowling Elros's hand, letting them spin around his finger while he winked at his fellow elf before he hung them onto a hook in the wall with exaggerating care. Well within sight of both of them as Bilbo sourly noted, yet he was just happy that they were not attached to a living, breathing guard anymore. Keys hanging from a wall was definitely an improvement from keys hanging on a belt. It would be easier to get it from the wall, even if he probably needed to stand on the very tip of his toes to reach them.


“Loosen up a little you sourpuss. Have a little fun!” the elf wandered to a shelf and took a bottle from the shelve, holding it up with mischief sparking in his eyes “as I said, the wine is excellent. You should try it, really.”


Finally Elros snorted out a laugh, shaking his head a little and leaning back in his chair and mentioning for his friend to take a seat.


“Fine. A glass won't hurt I guess.”


Bilbo watched in barely concealed glee as one glass grew into many. And once the elves were slightly drunk he took a chance to spike three of the bottles still on the shelf with the powder in his hands. Then he waited with baited breath.


It took a lot of restraint to not shout out his excitement or do a small victory dance, when Elros picked one of the spiked bottles for their little private celebration.


After the first two glasses the to elves slipped of into a rather deep slumber and Bilbo carefully approached them, weary of the effect of the drug he had used before he scrambled to get the keys off the hook.

Then he slunk back to the dungeon with a small smile on his face. Time to free his friends and leave this place.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Freeing his friends was the easy part. Put the key into the lock, turn the key, open the door. Viola.

Keeping them quiet? Not so much. Bilbo felt like he had a crowed of fauntlings behind him who hadn't yet learned how to whisper and were on a sugar rush on top of that. It seemed to be impossible to escape near-bone-breaking hugs, boisterous laughter and well-meaning slaps on his back that nearly send Bilbo to the ground.

Never mind that Nori (and strangely enough Dori) were hovering over him like he had planned to get cut off from the whole group in a hostile forest in the first place. He had even had to endure Óin patting him down and looking at him with a critical, judgmental look that made Bilbo cringe despite having done nothing wrong in the first place. In reply Óin had huffed unhappily and muttered something about resolving 'that' issue after they were out of this dump of an elven-infested hellhole. For once Bilbo didn't bother to acknowledge the insults, still remembering how the elves had treated Thorin and not feeling charitable enough to defend them in spite of it.

Kíli and Fíli had nearly mowed him over in their eager rush to get to each other. And by mowed over he meant that Fíli had scrambled up to his brother, accidentally elbowed Bilbo out of the way and which had nearly send him off the steps into the depths below, if not for Dori who had simply dragged him back and then continued to scold Fíli for his thoughtlessness, all the while holding up Bilbo by the scuff of his coat, feet dangling over the ground like the hobbit weighed nothing. Meanwhile Bilbo tried to get Dori to first set him down and second town down the volume because they were still in the dungeons where elven guards could come by any time.

Getting Ori out of his cell at least distracted Dori from Bilbo, who let out a sigh of relief that drew a knowing smirk from Nori, the unhelpful bastard.

Dwalin had simply charged out of his cell, looking battle ready and impatient despite his state of undress – probably because Thorin was still missing and Bilbo could not fault Dwalin, one of Thorin's closest friends and his personal guard – for wanting to confirm for himself how his king had fared. It was a little strange seeing Dwalin without his armor and weapons. It was almost as if a part of him was missing. That did not mean he was in any way less intimidating.

The Ur brothers were equally relieved to finally be reunited. Bombur clapped Bilbo on the back several times that Bilbo wondered how he was still standing upright after the onslaught. Bifur nearly enthusiastically headbutted him, but was yanked back by an exasperated Bofur who drew the hobbit in a bone-crushing hug that turned Bilbo's previous thankfulness into desperate gulps for air, which in turn made Bifur club his brother over his head. Then they fell over themselves to form a group-hug, that turned them into a laughing mess of bones and limps while Bilbo's nerves were nearly wrecked by the echoing sounds that surely carried on for forever in the winding halls of the elven kingdom.


Finally they had all of the members out of the cells and – for most part – stopped them from expressing their excitement too loudly. There was a little bit of squabbling down the line, which ended with a dark look from Dwalin.


“Okay. Wait here. Don't draw attention. I'm going to get Thorin-” looking at Dwalin who already opened his mouth to protest he just talked over whatever the dwarf wanted to say because he was already at the end of his patience “-which will be easier to accomplish if it's only me, who knows the way by now, and later on Thorin. Less chance of getting caught.”


Maybe he should have gotten Thorin first, but now it was too late to reconsider. Instead he turned around, as if expecting his orders to be followed and strode away. Only after he went around the corner did he look back to check that there was really no one following him and let out a relieved sigh. He had no surefire way to make the dwarrows listen to him after all, but it was nice to see that they would trust him that much. It made him feel a little bit warm to see them trust him, Dwalin especially, with the life of their king. Or their own lives.


Hurrying on he quickly descended the stairs to get to Thorin. His soul had been isolated for long enough, Bilbo wouldn't stand for it any longer now.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


As always Thorin was already up on his feet when Bilbo rounded the corner. He must have been waiting already, knowing that Bilbo would attempt to free them today. Bilbo could just imagine his restless pacing as he tried to listen for his footsteps – or capture.


Grinning he held up the keys and let them clatter shortly, before rushing to the door and searching for the right key. Thorin stood at the bars, watching him intently and as soon as the key turned in the keyhole, he was pushing the door open and stepped outside.


The next Bilbo knew was being surrounded by a living, breathing forge so warm, that he nearly went boneless.


“I knew you could do it.” Thorin's voice sounded rough with emotion as his arms pressed the hobbit to his chest “You truly are the best that could have happened to me – to us on this quest.”


Flushing Bilbo squirmed a little on the spot. He had never felt truly comfortable receiving compliments “Uhm.” his cheeks felt too warm and hesitatingly he brought his arms around Thorin too, though he felt a little unsure about the placement. They really should hurry, but again Bilbo couldn't help but selfishly indulge in the proximity of his soulmate. A few seconds surely wouldn't hurt. Right?

It was Thorin who drew away first, not much but Bilbo instantly let his hands fall, unsure of their continued welcome. Hesitatingly he looked up at Thorin and immediately wished he hadn't, for the soft blue eyes that were bearing down at him would surely be his undoing at one point or another.


“Thank you.” it was so sincere and vulnerable that Bilbo had to swallow several times before he found that his voice would work again and even then it sounded a little bit too croaky.


“Y-you... you are welcome?”


Thorin's gaze shifted from his eyes slightly to the side, about where Bilbo's ear would be. His hand came up and took a strand of Bilbo's hair – which had grown long enough to cover his ears now – into his hand, staring at it intently enough for a moment that Bilbo feared he was trying to set it on fire. Then Thorin's eyes searched out his own again.


“Once we are in Erebor...” Thorin hesitated, his fingers slowly trailing down the strand of hair as he obviously searched for the right words “Once we are home... I'd be honored to show everyone your deeds, your strength.” Bilbo shivered as Thorin's fingers grazed the lobe of his sensitive ear, blinking up at Thorin a little dazed and uncomprehending. Must be one of these bothersome dwarrow-rites again.


“I.... sure? I mean, I haven't really don-” Thorin's frown made him shut his mouth with a snap.


“You have gone beyond what was asked of you.” Thorin firmly repeated “I'd have everyone know of it.” the dwarfs eyes crinkled a little as he smiled “You will be the first hobbit that will become a hero in our history.”


A hero? Bilbo's nose wiggled in discomfort “I don't really need that.” he stated firmly and for some reason that made Thorin laugh. A bright sound that Bilbo couldn't bring himself to sush, despite the niggling fear of discovery in the back of his mind.


“Anyways. We really should- I mean... The company is waiting and we really should be on our way before anyone comes upon them.” he muttered in embarrassment looking every which way to escape getting his brain fried again by a happy looking much-too-close Thorin. The dwarf hummed, but slowly (almost reluctantly?) released Bilbo and took a small step back.


“All right then. Lead on Master Burglar.” it was unfair how Thorin could manage to make his head spin without even realizing it, and that was before he went for the kill “I trust you.”


Never mind the dragon. Already Bilbo could feel the heart palpitations skip in irregular intervals and that clearly couldn't be healthy. Thorin would kill him with words alone.


He just hoped that he could live up to the trust placed in him.



Chapter Text

The first part of their escape actually went of without a hitch. It was when they had gathered the make-shift weapons and were well on their way to their escape route that things turned ugly. Bilbo felt his ears twitch as a horn was blown and he and the whole company stumbled to a halt. It was a long, drawn out sound that echoed through the whole fortress or city or whatever the elven kingdom actually was. For a moment nobody moved. Then Bilbo turned to Nori, his teeth worrying his lip before he whispered in the otherwise dead silent corridor “That... was that a horn for the celebration?” The grim looks of the dwarrows surrounding him were answer enough, even before Thorin made some harsh gestures and growled out a quiet “Move!” to them. Abandoning their attempt at stealth Bilbo sprinted ahead, since he was the only one that actually knew the way. He could hear footsteps, the dwarrows stomping heavily behind him but even further away he could hear elven armor clatter as they seemed to gather themselves as well as their light steps that Bilbo had grown used to hear and avoid.


Some guard rotation must have found the empty cells and sounded the alarm. Bilbo could only hope that they would still have enough time to actually reach the trapdoor. Maybe the elves wouldn't realize that there was another exit out of their realm. Or at least only think about it once the company had already passed through.


Together they tumbled down the few stairs to the wine-cellar, the dwarrows cursing and readying their poor-quality weapons against the sleeping elves while Bilbo just ignored them as he moved to the empty barrels.


“Get over here! They are drugged, leave them!” he practically ordered them and gestured to their barrels. For a moment the dwarrows seemed reluctant, still watching the elves with suspicious eyes, but Bilbo had already clued them in on the plan and they finally climbed inside them one by one. They grumbled and shoved each other but Bilbo was relieved to not they didn't dilly-dally around needlessly.


If the situation had been any different, Bilbo would have found the sight of dwarrows peaking out of the barrels rather amusing. Right now he just hoped everyone would get out alive because he had never had the chance to look below the trapdoor and see how deep it actually went. Sure, the barrels usually seemed to survive the drop to float down to Laketown. But usually they didn't have dwarrows weighting them down either. The thought of sharp stones at the floor of whatever river seemed to flow beneath set his heart fluttering in anxiety.


“Take a deep breath.” He said, trying to sound more confident than he felt. He could hear the elves come closer and knew there was no time to delay any more. Using his whole body weight he rammed himself against the lever and watched with churning feelings as his friends dropped into the dark pit below. The door to the wine-cellar was slammed open and Bilbo took a running leap to follow his friends to freedom as elves burst into the room, shouting at his disappearance.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


He missed the barrels by several feet and splashed into the icy cold depths of the river. Of course he had known there was a river. He had just thought he would be in one of the barrels himself, but during the rush he had not had the time to think his plan completely to the end, intent on getting everyone out of the wrenched place as fast as possible. The cold was a shock to his system, making him open his mouth in a stifled scream that stole the rest of the air from him in a steam of bubbles. With flailing limps he managed to break to the surface once more. Immediately afterwards he was pulled under again, the strong currents tugging him around like a leaf in the storms that sometimes sweep over the Shire in late autumn.


It was after several seconds below the water that Bilbo started to panic, already going dizzy from the lack of air. Beneath the water it as strangely silent, the only sound being bubbles that played to an odd melody. He had planned it out with Thorin, as best as he could. He had told the oaf that someone needed to pull the lever, thinking he would be able to leave one of his friends to the task.


He might have forgotten to mention he could not swim. At all. Like any hobbit Bilbo was more prone to sink like a stone and his desperate flailing limps were not stopping that from happening.


...-nd on -is tomb is Orcrist la-...


...-n -ven blade forge -n -der Days...


The weak sound of Yavanna's Song – how had he not noticed the strange silence since entering the woods? - sounded oddly broken off. As if it came from far away. It was enough that for a moment Bilbo stopped his struggles and strained to listen, even though his situation was precarious at best.

It was still the same. The same melody and sad, sweet voice that sang about Thorin's death. Had he changed nothing yet?


...- warn of f- and -ing orcs...


Orcs? What orcs? Was it orcs that killed Thorin? The voice made no sense and Bilbo could only hope that Yavanna would repeat herself once he was safe – if he survived. Dark spots flickered in front of his eyes and a few precious bubbles of air escaped his mouth as the pressure to breath grew too strong. Bilbo was sure he would die, he would die and he wouldn't even have changed anything for Thori-

A hand closed around his limp wrist and pulled him up, enough that Bilbo could cough and splutter as he tried to get the water that had clogged in his nose and throat out while at the same time trying to get as much air in as possible. Desperately he reached around to grab at something to keep him above water. Something tick and warm was wound around his chest and he dug his nails in, ignoring the cursing of the voice behind him.


Stop struggling, Hobbit!


Bilbo had not even been aware that he was still fighting but the voice had him going limp in an instant, making Thorin curse for an entirely other reason, since the sudden movement made the barrel dip dangerously to the side. Instead Bilbo scrambled to get a hold on the barrel, his knuckles turning nearly white as he attempted to cling to the surface of the wood with all the strength he had left.



"What the hell is wrong with you?!" Thorin growled as they drifted down the river. They were already picking up their speed as the current grabbed hold of them and dragged them along.


"C-c-can't s-swim..."


"…" a moment Thorin stared down at the hobbit in speechless horror.


"…" Bilbo would have looked away but that meant facing the water.


"Do you have some kind of death-wish?!" he dwarven king growled, his arm that was wound around Bilbos chest tightened as if he was frightened Bilbo would dissolve on the spot.


"I f-f-forgot...!"


Thorin made a teakettle-like sound and looked like he was just about to throw his arms in the air in exasperation. He might have if it didn't mean dropping Bilbo back into the current and possibly loosing him.


"How can one forget not being able to swim!" Bilbo winced as a barrel rammed into him, ignoring the frantic apology of the dwarf in it. It sounded like Bifur since Bilbo only heard the strange dwarrow language. He just assumed it was an apology


“Do you think right now is the right time to lecture me?” Bilbo didn't care that his voice went high with bordering hysterical sarcasm. He was scared to death of losing his grip again.

They drifted out of the caves and Bilbo blinked as sunlight, warm and bright and beautiful evolved and nearly blinded them. Bilbo needed a few seconds to adjust his sight to the new light but was just so relieved to finally see the sky again. It had been far too long.

His breath hitched as in the distance he could see the gate of the kingdom open and elves spill out onto the grassy plains. They were in plain view and the elves quickly took note of them. Another sound of a horn being blown split the air and Bilbo whimpered. This was not going as he had hoped. Frantically he looked around, so far the elves were far away but their arrows were far reaching and Bilbo could see the company readying themselves with their wooden planks to defend themselves against a hailstorm of the deadly projectiles just in case.

His gaze swept past Thorin and towards the watergate in the distance. And the elves patrolling it.


“Oh. Oh no.” Bilbo whimpered as he saw them turning and pointing at them. Thorin's head whipped around and Bilbo could see in the corner of his eyes how Thorin grimaced as a heavy frown settled once more onto his features. Splashing sounds drew his attention to another barrel as Nori tried to get closer to him, only to be derailed as Bombur's barrel cut his way off. The indignant expression on the thiefs face almost made Bilbo snort, if their situation had not been as desperate as it was. Their barrels were already swiftly speeding their way through the rapids, so there was no chance to get to ground without the guards catching them, nor for a better ability to fight or run.


“They are closing the gate!” Kíli cried out and Bilbo cursed, looking back to the gate that was getting closer by the second, and also closing more and more in the same amount of time.


“No!” Thorin cursed, the arm around Bilbo's chest was now almost painfully tight and Bilbo could practically feel the desperation of his soulmate. Without further ado they reached the now closed gate, the barrels piling against the obstacle with them trapped inside. Bilbo groaned as several barrels slammed into his body but was far too busy trying to search for a solution to notice the pain.



And then the body of an elf fell in their midst. Bilbo stared at the face of the elf, eyes blank as the ethereal grace that seemed inherent in the immortal beings seemed to leave once he was dead. An arrow with black fletching protruded out of the breast, blood already seeping through the clothes ans armor where the elf had been struck.


“Oh.” Bilbo muttered faintly, blinking in a daze as the body slipped between them and drifted in the water, slowly sinking due to the weight of his armor. He felt sick. As if from afar he could hear the commotion break out, not only between his companions but also among the elves.


“Watch out!” Dwalin bellowed warning snapped Bilbo out, making him fumble for his sword as best as he could “Those are orcs!”

And indeed it was. Bilbo could see shadows jumping from over the arch they were hidden beneath. Some were engaging the elves while others seemed resolute to keep to their goal and get to the dwarrows as quickly as possible, without any thought of their own companions or the elves closing in on them.


But within the barrels there was not much space to defend, not with the unsteady 'ground' they were on being moved by the current sloshing against the sides of the barrels, trying to push them further than the gate allowed. Bilbo held Sting in his hand but it was impossible to reach beyond his companions without risking to harm them too.

Dwalin and Kíli were some of the dwarrows that had been pushed last into the water lock and thus were the dwarrows that were now doing their desperate best to defend the rest of them.


“My sword! Take my sword!” He called out and by some miracle, the dwarrows heard him and the little letter opener found it's way to the front line. Kíli – while not mainly wielding a sword himself – could certainly hold his own with it well enough, while Dwalin had resorted to simply using his firsts and elbows, and sometimes even his head to knock his enemies senseless.


And then Kíli jumped out of the barrel and onto dry ground and Bilbo nearly died of a heart attack as he saw the youngest of their group rush recklessly into battle, his brother crying out but unable to help his younger sibling.

He could feel how tense the body holding him afloat became as Kíli disappeared from their sight to the bride above. Bilbo held his breath as he listened to the sounds of struggles going on and fights beginning and ending. Clashes of weapons and the all too familiar whistling of arrows streaking through the air, as well as the sound of water splashing against their barrels and water falling....


Wait. Falling?
Bilbo twisted around and tried to get a good look and nearly felt himself faint at the sight of a waterfall just beyond the gate.


“Thorin-” he didn't get to finish as with a start the gate begun to move upwards again, not that his faint voice could be heard over the cheering of the dwarrows. His insistent tugging at Thorin's soaked tunic also didn't prove fruitful, despite Bilbo's tries getting more and more desperate as the water gate slowly raised above the surface of the water. But Thorin's gaze was locked worriedly on his nephews injured form that had tumbled from above into the barrel.


“Thorin! Thorin!” The barrels started to move just as Thorin looked at Bilbo. For a moment their gazes locked. Then the world tilted.


And then they went over the edge and Thorin lost his grip, the water ripping them apart with its natural strength.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Bilbo didn't even truly have time to panic. One moment Thorin was holding on to him, the next he wasn't and the falling water pressed Bilbo under the surface of the continuing river with a strength that pushed the hobbit down to the floor of the riverbed, and the rest of what little air he had before out of his lungs. Then the new current dragged Bilbo this way, then that, like a tug of war between invisible water-spirits. It was sheer luck that the hobbit managed to break to the surface a few times, swallowing about as much water as he got air.

Distantly Bilbo recognized that Yavanna's voice seemed to get stronger and stronger the further they drifted away. The words she said didn't really register to his mind in this instance but something in Bilbo relaxed at the familiar sound. Exhaustion – from his stressful time in the dungeons and from fighting against the rivers strength with all he had – slowly filled his limps with lead. More and more often he almost didn't have the strength of getting back to the surface, his flailing limps growing heavier by the second and slowing down. Sometimes he collided with heavy objects. Barrels? Stones? The river floor? Most of the time Bilbo couldn't differentiate between up and down anymore.


Just as Bilbo thought he couldn't go on anymore, something heavy collided with him again and pulled roughly at him. Coughing Bilbo broke to the surface again and clung to... Thorin. Thorin in the river. Not safe in a barrel. Thorin was struggling about as much with the river current as Bilbo, but had one hand curled around the rim of his barrel, holding on as hard as he could since the barrel would probably be their lifeline if they wanted to survive. Bilbo was sure that if Thorin had simply tried to get him from inside the barrel, he would have failed and Bilbo would have drowned.


“I've got you.” Thorin ground out as he pulled Bilbo to him. Weakly Bilbo grabbed at the barrel too, still trying to expel half the river from his lungs. All the while Thorin didn't let go of him, his grip stark white as he fisted the material of Bilbo's clothing, one arm curled around the hobbits back in an almost protective embrace.

Shivering Bilbo tried to smile at Thorin even though it probably resembled a grimace more than anything.


“T-t-thank-” Bilbo stuttered out, shivering and still trying to get as much air into his lungs as possible.


It was only then that he realized that Thorins protective stance was not only to hold on to Bilbo... but also to shield him from the still ongoing battle. Orcs swarmed at the riversides, trying to keep up with them and attack them at the same time. He could see the rest of the company fight to keep them at bay.


And to keep them away from their very vulnerable king and helpless hobbit. They needed to get back into the barrel to be able to defend themselves. But Bilbo also realized that it would be next to impossible to actually archive that while they were still in the river themselves, and exhausted too.


The battle probably only lasted a few minutes, but for Bilbo it felt like hours while he watched anxiously for any weapons heading their way. At one point two elves had interfered and Bilbo was thankful they had sort of helped, even if it had probably been unintended.


Finally the Orcs fell back and the dwarrows continued down the river by themselves.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Bilbo crawled away from the water without any dignity left. He didn't care about that. He was cold, shivering from both the rough ride and the temperature and his wet clothes. He felt sick and had swallowed a lot of water that was settling uncomfortably in his otherwise empty stomach. The dwarrows could fend for themselves, Bilbo thought as he let himself flop onto the ground and refused to move any further. Land. Strong, steady earth.


His attention wandered back to where Kíli was climbing out of his barrel, before he went face-first into the water. Bilbo huffed in exasperation, before he grew concerned when the young dwarf didn't immediately sit up again. Scrambling to his feet he splashed through the water, ignoring his sores and the bitter taste that was crawling up his throat at the sudden movements. He could feel water he had inadvertently swallowed slosh around in his stomach. Once he reached Kíli he grabbed him by his scuff of his shirt and pulled him up, barely managing to get the dwarf above the surface again.


Kíli blinked groggily at him, water was running down his face in small rivers and plastering his hair to his ashen face. He looked dazed, but a tiny bit of colour returned to him as he heaved in a few lungful of air. Bilbo huffed at the unrepentant dwarf that had nearly given him a heart attack.


“I swear, if you weren't Thorin's nephew I would seriously contemplate leaving you to drown.” Bilbo muttered as he heaved at the dwarrows almost limp body. His own body arched all over, but sometime during this path of hell of a quest he had actually grown fond of his companions. And Thorin's nephews had somehow wiggled their way deep into his heart. Bilbo grimaced at the thought.

“Y' love me.” Kíli panted out and threw Bilbo a pained sidewards grin, mischievous as ever, if a little tired and waterlogged.

“Yes. Yes, I do and I have no idea how that happened. Or when. Yavanna's Grace, my mother must be laughing at me...”


He managed to drag Kíli and himself to the shore once more. Then he crawled just a little bit further and bowed over a bush to emptied his stomach.


After getting rid of most of the water he became aware of a warm hand rubbing soothing circles on his back, while another tried to keep his slightly longer hair out of his face and relatively puke-free. A glance to the side showed Thorin frowning at him, but it was not the you-have-done-something-that-displeases-me frown, well, at least not entirely. No it was an stop-doing-that-so-I-can-pretend-not-to-be-worried-frown. It was a slight but important difference. Another hand appeared in his field of vision and he followed it up to Nori, who was holding the waterskin out to Bilbo, which the hobbit gratefully took. He completely missed Nori giving Thorin the stink eye and the rather obstinate stubborness as Thorin's hand settled at his neck in a small, possessive display that went completely over Bilbo's head as he was too distracted by the skin-to-skin contact.


“Step aside, step aside!” Óin hollered as he elbowed his way through the company. For a moment he frowned down at Bilbo, clearly unhappy with what he was seeing. Maybe it was the way he was still shivering in his wet clothes – it was in the middle of autumn and it was getting cold, never mind that he had spend ages in the frigid water.

“That's it. We're getting him a leash.” Óin muttered as he knelt besides Bilbo, his hands slowly searching for any wounds that might be hidden. It's no wonder the healers face looked like a storm cloud, because after the rough river ride Bilbo was black and blue, from barrels bumping against him or stones jutting out of the river. It would only get worse as the bruises blossomed later on.

What Bilbo didn't expect where the murmurs of agreement that spread through the company. Nori was already searching through their meager belongings for some rope. Bilbo scowled up at them, not that it was very intimidating when he looked like a half drowned rat himself.


“Don't you dare.” his voice cracked a little. Meanwhile Óin was looking him over, hands patting him down carefully and muttering stuff like “Not broken at least” in between.


Finally he leaned back and stared at Bilbo, then frowned at the king at his side like he wanted to yell at him to find some other place to be. Seeing the stubborn set of Thorin's jaw the healer huffed in annoyance and turned back to Bilbo “Ye need to warm up. And ya need ter get a good, warm meal int' ya. Yer have lost weight laddy, a lot more than the rest of us.”


Thorin's frown deepened “We do not have many supplies...” the dwarf said in clipped tones. At one point Bilbo would have thought Thorin was dismissing Óins words, now he felt like he detected concern and frustration. Concern for Bilbo's well-being and frustration at not being able to provide help, even when the healer recommended it.

At the same time Thorin pulled Bilbo towards himself, drawing him between his legs and into his arms. It was like the dwarf had not been stuck with him in the water as he was still as warm as a forge and Bilbo couldn't help a groan of appreciation escape him as he went boneless in the hug, eyes slipping close out of their own accord.

“It's fine, khajmel.” Thorin rumbled behind him, voice low that probably only Bilbo could hear him “Rest for a moment. We can't stay for too long but a short rest...” he trailed of and Bilbo huffed lightly. The thought of moving at all was not appealing, especially not now surrounded by warmth and Thorin's smell. Leather and a soothing smell of something warm and woody, a lot like cedar wood in Bilbo's opinion, as well as the hint of metal and fire that Bilbo thought was nearly inherent in dwarrows. It was relaxing and Bilbo found himself drifting off slightly, despite his previous decision to stay awake. His shivers abated a little as Thorin's warmth seeped into his body and slowly warmed up his numb body.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


It seemed like no time at all had passed when Bilbo was gently shaken awake and helped to his feet. He still felt drowsy, his clothes still damp and he was missing Thorin's warmth before he had fully untangled himself from the dwarf.


Looking around he could see that the company had been tended to. Kíli had a make-shift bandage wrapped around his leg and was supported by his brother, a sight that tugged painfully at Bilbo's heart as he remembered that their youngest companion was likely hurt from when he had pulled the lever. Reckless beyond measure, but without it they would have either died to the orcs or been recaptured by the elves. The others thankfully only had a few scrapes and bruises.

Blinking Bilbo was left standing behind, looking at Thorin's back as the dwarf gathered the company and went about ordering them to different tasks. They needed food, so everyone was supposed to keep an eye out for prey. Apparently after being tended to they had taken stock of their things. While Bilbo had gathered some necessary things, a few weapons and shields, as well as flints and medical herbs and bandages, there was very little food. Mostly because the hobbit had rarely found the kitchen unmanned.

Now they were trying to decide which route to go, since there was an orc pack on their trail and a lake blocking their way. Their weapons – Bilbo was shamed to agree – were not good enough to face the orcs in battle. Never mind that they had lost their armor and most of their provisions, with only the basic needs Bilbo had been able to hold onto. His tiny sword was returned to him by Fíli and he settled down to rest a little more before he would be forced to walk for hours on end again. He felt tired to the bone and cold was beginning to settle in again, despite trying to huddle into a small figure to preserve warmth.


Instead of thinking about the way ahead he found himself watching Thorin, his eyes following the dwarf as he gesticulated while speaking to his adviser.

He cared about Thorin.

He cared.

Not just as his soulmate.

Not just as a friend.

He might be falling for Thorin for real. Or he already had.

“Damn...” Bilbo muttered. He had been prepared to get to know his soulmate, and yes, he had always wanted a romantic bond with his soulmate, not just a platonic one. How could he not, after having his parents as an example?!

Once he had gotten to know Thorin, he had been resigned to simply keep the dwarf alive, but had quickly lost hope to actually be seen as a lover.

Yet here he was. Falling in love with a rude, stubborn, oblivious dwarf. He had followed Thorin out of the Shire to keep him alive, because he had felt obligated to do at least that much for his soulmate, unwilling to let half of his soul die if he could do something against it. He had kept following him with that reason in mind, never stopping to doubt if that was the right course of action, because of course it was! Even if Thorin had not been his soulmate, it was just the right thing to do. To help them regain their home.

So when the hell had this happened?

“What the hell am I getting myself into...” staring at Thorin who just removed his boot to empty it from a little left over river-water, he uneasily felt like he was gearing up for some rather serious heartbreak. This was not what he had wished for. Rubbing a hand over his face, Bilbo couldn't decide if he should keep trying to catch Thorin's interest or try to bury the feelings before they blossomed into something stronger and more devastating than his starting crush.

When he looked up to see Thorin beaming at something his nephew had said, he rather thought that it might already be too late for denial and avoidance.



Chapter Text

The next week had passed in a blur to Bilbo. Literally a blur, since shortly after the river ride he had fallen almost violently ill. To be honest, the hobbit mulled from where he was confined in a bed (a literally bed, with bed sheets and pillows and even a thin mattress!), he could only barely remember flashes of what happened between shortly getting sick on the riverside and arriving in Laketown. He had a vague memory of being dragged onto a boat against his will whilst protesting feebly with his scratchy and almost non-existent voice – foolishness of the highest degree in his opinion, they had just left the horrid waters after all – before arriving in Laketown – a town on a god forsaken lake, what kind of craziness would... yeah, ok. A Dragon might be a reason – and being bundled up in several blankets by the whole company until he could barely move.

Since then he had, for lack of better words, been pampered, fussed over, forced to take horrid medicine that Bilbo was not entirely sure wasn't actually poison and being watched over by a band of hawks who seemed to think he was their baby chick or something along the line.


It was worse than what happened at Beorn's place. At least there he had been able to hobble away and vent his frustration in the privacy of the backyard with the company of only giant bees, flowers and trees.


But he had been mostly voiceless, as the hoarse croaking coming from him could not be considered any known language, bedridden as even sitting up had exhausted him and made him dizzy and tired beyond anything he had ever experienced before.


Óins muttering had only increased the hovering of overprotective dwarrows at his bedside. Words like malnutrition, exhaustion, overstrained, overworked, not to mention his previous wounds that were still healing and starvation – though the last one had been carefully (if reluctantly) redacted after Bilbo had nearly thrown a fit – he was a hobbit and he knew how much he needed to eat, thank you very much, even if he had maybe cut it a little low with how the events had forced them all to near starvation in the forest.


He just hadn't had the luxury of sitting in a cell with a meal schedule. And maybe he had not been able to sleep as well as possible while in the elven kingdom either, which was a given though. It's not like he had purposely skipped on meals and sleep time, like the dwarrows made it sound like.


Clearly a dive into the river – while terrifying and possibly cleansing (he might have accumulated a little bit of dirt in the woods, with no way to really have a wash! Just a little though!) - had been the last thing he needed and Bilbo had come down with a really bad case of a cold.


There really wasn't a reason for the dwarrows to make such a fuss about it.


But well... it had gotten him a new set of clothes, curtsy of their kind hosts. Even if it was from Bards son and a little short in some places. His own clothes had been in a state of nearly falling apart that even little, sweet Tilda – Bards daughter – who had very clearly tried her hardest, had to give up in the end. She had been sorry about it too, eyes wide as she said that his lovely (it really wasn't lovely anymore at this point) waistcoat was beyond saving.


He had assured her that it was all right, even if he was kind of missing the familiar feel of his well worn, traditional hobbit-attire. At least his new clothes were warm and much more appropriate for the current season and weather. That, Bilbo thought, he could appreciate, especially the thick cardigan he had been bundled into to keep warm. It was a little worn on the sleeves, but otherwise served it's purpose well and Bilbo had to admit, after trekking through the wild in a waist-coat, he was a little in love with the cardigan that was keeping him warm.


A knock on the door made him sit up a little straighter – even if he still felt a little dizzy.


“Come in!” he called out and sighed as the door opened to reveal Bombur with a steaming plate of soup.


This was nearly luxury and Bilbo wasn't entirely comfortable relying on their hosts so much, when they clearly didn't have enough for themselves.


Nori appeared to not be sure whether to stay out of Bilbo's room until he felt better or should hover in case Bilbo went on another mad adventure that could be detrimental to his health.


At one point he had visited. A very short visit, probably due to Bilbo getting a little emotional. Now Bilbo was a little embarrassed by his reaction, but he had been ill! He couldn't help it!


“Is... is that a handkerchief?” Bilbo's voice sounded wobbly even to his own ears. Nori was twitching on the spot like he was torn between running or hiding or simply snatching the piece of clothing back and pretending it never happened. Bilbo clutched the square piece of clothing closer to his chest, almost protectively.


“Thank you...” Nori nodded curtly and huffed a gruff “Well, if ya feel better...” before beating a hasty retreat.


。・゜゜・ Dwalin & Thorin ・゜゜・。


Dwalin was leaning against the wall, watching Thorin brood while his king stared darkly into the flames of the burning hearth. He had been watching his friend and brother in arms for nearly all his life, but these past weeks especially had caused his friend to change more than Dwalin had seen in a long time. For once, the guard thought, it was not a bad change. Even if he was weary of interfering, he could read Thorin like almost no other, Dís, Thorin's sister, excluded.


At first Thorin had nearly fooled him too. His king had grown distrustful and distant over the years, especially so to strangers. To his friends and family, and friends and family only, he sometimes showed his softer side. One that Dwalin remembered still, many years ago before all the tragic events had piled up and buried a part of Thorin. Honestly speaking, Dwalin had not thought he would ever see Thorin open up to someone else again, not like he was doing with their burglar.


Dwalin was usually not the person to dance around a topic. Well, except around his own soulmate, but then again he had never been all that good with feelings or expressing them. But he could see that Thorin was torn in his decision and with a sigh he pulled away from the wall. It was time to give Thorin a little shove in the right direction, before his dithering around turned into that aweful sort of pining which would at one point turn into whining and who would be forced to listen to that then?


Dwalin. That's who.


“Don'tcha think ye should talk te yer hobbit?” Dwalin could see that he had startled Thorin out of his thoughts, just as much as he could see the mask Thorin was trying to pull off to express nonchalance. He nearly rolled his eyes at the attempt.


“About what?” Thorin tried, an attempt to derail the talk he could probably see coming for him like an oliphant stomping over the battlefield. Dwalin honestly wondered if that was Thorin's way of begging to be left alone or if he honestly thought it would work on Dwalin.


“Yer like the little bugger. Just tell him.” Dwalin let himself fall onto the small bench near the fire, stretching his legs towards the warmth without looking at Thorin who was holding himself very still. He waited, patiently, until Thorin sighed and sunk on the mismatched wingchair that was sitting directly across the fire, a basket of knitting stuff resting next to it.


“He is not my One.” Thorin muttered quietly and Dwalin furrowed his bow, then shrugged.


“Yer allowed to find happiness elsewhere, even if you are king.” he didn't try looking at Thorin, knowing it would be easier for the king without making it more uncomfortable for him.

“Yer deserve it.” he hesitated before adding “'n I'm sure yer soulmate wouldn't want'cha to live a lonely life for eternity...”


Clearly it was the wrong thing to say as Thorin stiffened up and slowly rose, pacing a few steps before coming to an halt next to the window overlooking the waters surrounding them.

“I wouldn't be able to tell.” Thorin snarled quietly under his breath, nearly curling up in himself and staring out of the window with a menacing frown, staring at Erebor in the distance. His hand had an almost white knuckled grip on the windowsill.


“After all, he died before I ever met him. Died when Smaug came.” Dwalin mustered the back of his friend and let out a deep sigh at the slightly slumped turn of the shoulders.


“So? Havn't ya suffered alone for long enough? Ach! Can't'cha grasp at what little happiness comes yer way?”


Thorin let his gaze drift longingly over Erebor, before settling on Ravenhill.


“Do I deserve that?” his shoulders sunk even lower “Do I deserve happiness after I couldn't even protect my soul from that beast?” Thorin could clearly remember his stonedream, could see the snowy hills of Ravenhill, could see himself looking over the devastation that had become of the area surrounding his home and the ruins of Dale. Not only because it was his stonedream but also because this dream came frequently the closer they got to the mountain. It was a sight he dreaded, and a sight he knew he would face yet again, a remembrance of his realization that his soulmate was dead. Even now he could feel the bone-deep sorrow when he recalled his dream.


He had never even gotten to see his One. But what else could that dream mean? Where he could see the empty mountain, see his home from the outside with the destruction surrounding it like scars littering the ground.


Sorrow. So much sorrow. He was never meant to find his One.


“Long enough, Thorin. Yer deserve that.”


Thorin let out a sight, yet a tiny flame of hope flickered and brightened. Maybe Dwalin was right. Maybe he could find happiness, once Erebor was reclaimed. Maybe Bilbo would stay and he could try to reach out. He might not be his One, he might never be complete, but he had been alone for so long and Bilbo... Bilbo had quenched a little of the loneliness and lifted a little of the heavy burden Thorin always carried. He brought cheer and light into his life, and comfort.


Would his soulmate begrudge him that, after Thorin had held onto a faceless stranger for so long?


Could he hope? Would Bilbo even be interested...?

Thorin thought back to the forest and felt a small smile curl his lips, his features softening.


He would give Bilbo everything he could, once he reclaimed the mountain.


He would give him the world.


And if Bilbo asked, he would even reach for the stars to lay them at his hobbits furry feet.


It had been a long time since Thorin had allowed himself to hope for more than having to rule a kingdom on his own, if he ever reclaimed it.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Bilbo looked over the crumbled and torn parchment. How it had survived the trip was a miracle. By now the scrap of paper had become very worn around the edges from his constant handling and from being kept in a pocket. Some words had been smudged by his rip into the river and he had to write them again to make them readable.


Thorin! King Under The Mountain

Alas no more shall rule this domain

His brethren must go on without him

And ensure his death was not in vain


In sleep eternal he will rest

With the Arkenstone upon his breast

Which evermore shall emit its light

To banish the darkness of unending night


And then, newly added, Bilbo had carefully squeezed the words on the bottom of the small slip of paper, that he had heard while in the river, and then as a repeating whisper afterwards.


And on his tomb is Orcrist laid

An elven blade forged in Elder Days

To warn of foes and roving orcs

And ward off all evil from Erebor.


Additinal to that he had two new lines that he carefully added on the back of the page, which had come to him while he had lain sick in bed.


How shall we remember our fallen friend

Who conquered Dragon Sickness in the end?


And this... this Dragon Sickness, was his new headache. Apart from the Arkenstone riddle, which he still hadn't solved, any sickness to Thorin should be prevented. Even if Thorin apparently overcame it, somehow. Bilbo felt a headache coming.


Then a hand fell onto his shoulder and Bilbo let out an involuntary shriek of surprise. The hand was snatched back quickly and callused fingers covered his mouth instead.


„What in the blazin' forges is wrong with ya?!“ Nori hissed into his ear while Bilbo had quickly stuffed the parchment into his pocket.

Not quickly enough though because Nori eyed him in suspicion and added.

„'N what was tha' parchment there?“


“Nothing I am willing to share.” Bilbo huffed and put a hand over his pocket, eyeing Nori distrustfully until the thief backed of a little and raised his hands.


“Alright. Keep yer secrets.” despite his words Nori was avidly watching Bilbo's pockets, but rolled his eyes when the hobbit pointedly stared at him.


“Fine. Yours.” the thief grumbled as he sat himself on the edge of the bed.


“What'cha say of getting out of this room fer once and getting something to eat down where the others are. We've kinda missed yer presence.”


Bilbo blinked up at Nori and felt a slow smile creep over his face. Getting out of bed? Against Óin's orders? Did he need to think about that?

“I'm in.”


Somehow they managed to sneak downstairs without the others really noticing. Balin seemed to be in a deep conversation with Thorin, while Dwalin stood nearby furrowing his brow and cracking his knuckles. It looked intimidating, but Bilbo had recognized it as Dwalin's default state when his mind was wandering. It was a little bit funny to watch the absentminded dwarf threaten the world around him without really realizing it.


Bofur was taking a nap near the fire and Bifur was whittling on a small wooden block. Bilbo was curious about what it was, but the food that was cooling on the table distracted him enough. He wondered if Bombur was still in the kitchen as he was not in the room. Kíli and Fíli and Óin were also absent, the latter much to Bilbo's relief. He could use a break from the mother-henning.


Ori was sitting at the table scribbling away in his book, most likely making up for his lost one that was currently residing in the elven kingdom. Dori... was glaring at them in disapproval that made Bilbo almost feel guilty, but he had an extra blanket wrapped around himself and he really wanted to stretch his legs a little, so he just ducked his head and quickly scrambled onto one of the slightly too high chairs, just a little away from Ori. The small dwarf didn't even look up, that's how concentrated he was on his work.


Despite feeling a bit weak from his time spent bedridden, Bilbo reached over the table to grab some of the soup that was still slightly steaming. He poured himself a little in one of the bowls that were standing ready and decided to just slowly sip at it, relaxing as warmth spread through him. He let out a groan of appreciation and heard Nori chuckle beside him. They had selected the little shadowy corner – Bilbo in hopes of not being discovered out of bed quite so fast and Nori probably from habit – and thus they were a little secluded. Dori had looked reluctant but left them alone after he had seen Bilbo take a warm bowl of soup for himself. He probably thought eating was a little more important than carrying Bilbo back to bed for more rest.


After a few minutes of comfortable silence that was only interrupted by Bilbo quietly slurping his soup, he set the bowl down and patted his stomach. It was a little on the flat side but Bilbo felt comfortably full for once.


“Nori?” Bilbo inquired softly in an attempt to not attract attention and after the answering hum continued “What does uzudel mean?” he winced as he was sure he had absolutely butchered the word Thorin had said to him. Nori seemed to recognize it anways because he abruptly looked up and fixed Bilbo with a stare. Then slowly, almost menacing, his darkening eyes roved over the company until they landed on Thorin.

“Means trouble.”


Bilbo snorted at that. He highly doubted that was what it really meant but Nori didn't seem willing to part with the truth so Bilbo let it rest. For now. He would figure out what Thorin was secretly calling him. Somehow. His gaze flickered over his soulmate and then switched to Dwalin who was now leaning against the wall and glowering at his brother.

“Why doesn't Dori know about you and Dwalin?” he asked instead, genuine interest causing him to prod Nori in the side when the thief deliberately tried to act as if he hadn't heard him. A quick grin from the thief showed that he had only been teasing and at Bilbo's raised eyebrow he shrugged.

“Mostly 'cause I'm not sure 'bout the outcome.” Nori said, his head turning a little in his brothers direction, before his eyes flickered to Dwalin, then back to Bilbo “I mean, Dori is no warrior. Dwalin might be one, and he's strong. But not Dori-strong.”


Blinking rapidly Bilbo tried to follow Nori's thought process and was rather aghast at his conclusion.


“You mean they would fight?!”


“Yup! I dun fancy Dori seriously going at Dwalin though, so better just tell 'im after the union is done.” Nori grinned impishly and Bilbo had a hunch that the only reason Nori would follow through with that, would be to cause trouble.


“... he's going to kill you if you keep him from your wedding.”


“Ah, but the beauty is that I'm used to tha' and know to evade.”

。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Bilbo's talk with Nori had left him a little unsettled. Hobbits generally didn't talk about soulmates. The song was private, not shared with others but the persons of the union and close family. How the soulmates decided to evolve their relationship was something that they had to decide between themselves. Sometimes, when a hobbit doesn't acknowledge the other half, it meant that they were simply not interested in pursuing a romantic relationship. In those cases the soulmates often became close friends.


With Thorin Bilbo couldn't be sure if it was simply ignorance, or if Thorin just didn't have a song. Or if he had one, did he know what it meant? Bilbo knew that he should ask but he was honestly not sure hot to broach the topic and in the beginning of the journey it had simply not been feasible to actually talk to Thorin at all. All he would have gotten in return would have been a scowl and some snide comments, if Thorin had listened to him at all.


But should he just straight out tell Thorin now? Before they went to a dragon, just to have him know the truth? But what if Thorin did know he was his soulmate and just... hadn't been interested in a romantic relationship? But then again his actions since their stay at Beorn's halls told a different story. One that Bilbo wasn't entirely sure how to interpret. Was it culture clash, where he read more into Thorin's gestures than they really meant? The time in the dungeons, when Thorin had watched over him while he slept, had hugged him through the bars, talked him through his panic. His sometimes open expressions... could Bilbo dare to hope for more?


A knock on the door distracted him and he sat up in bed.


“Come in?” he called out and the door opened only to reveal his grumpy soulmates concerned face. In a way it seemed like fate was giving him a hint and suddenly Bilbo's mouth felt dry as a desert. He cleared his throat and mentioned for Thorin to come closer, discreetly rubbing his sweaty palms on the blanket.


“Uhm. Hello, Thorin...” his heart fluttered nervously. He should tell Thorin. He should. Right now. Well, maybe not right now, after they got over the initial awkwardness that seemed to stifle the room. Thorin looked as nervous as Bilbo felt, too. The dwarf made a hand gesture mentioned at the bed.


“May I?” the king asked and Bilbo nodded quickly.


“How are you doing?” Thorin asked after a short if awkward break of silence.


“Eh? Better.” Bilbo replied before hesitatingly asking “How is Kíli? I've heard he was ill, too?” a shadow passed over Thorin's face, concern and worry and frustration with a hint of helplessness. It must be hard to see a lad you had watched grow lie bedridden and be unable to help. Bilbo had not realized how dire it seemed to be, but Nori had hinted that the lad was not getting better and something in his heart twinged at the thought of the cheerful lad succumbing to some kind of illness.


“Is there nothing to help?” he asked lowly, shoulders slumping a little as Thorin heaved a heavy sigh.


“Óin is doing all he can.” the dwarf gruffly admitted in a thick voice, but it was clear that he thought it would not be enough. Bilbo swallowed, his own concerns forgotten for the moment as he grabbed onto Thorin's hand.


“Kíli is a strong lad. He will pull through, if only by Durin's stubbornness alone. That seems to be inherent in your family!” it drew a chuckle out of Thorin, a small grateful look mixed with fondness aimed at Bilbo.


“You are a treasure Bilbo. Never change.” the dwarf sighed, the hand in Bilbo's tightening for a second.


“Enough about others. I did not come here to burden you, or make you worry.”


“I don't mind.” Bilbo was quick to assure him. He rather liked that Thorin opened up to him about his worries. Maybe now would be the right time to tell Thorin? They were alone after all...


“I wanted to talk to you, Bilbo.” Thorin started just before Bilbo could open his mouth to pour out his confession and the hobbit blinked and nodded slightly, a bit frustrated at himself to let another chance pass him by.


“I...” Thorin frowned, looking down at their hands and once more his grip tightened as if he drew courage from the contact.


“This is... not easy for me to talk about. Please be patient...” Thorin gave a wry smile that looked too boyish and made him seem years younger “ you well know that I'm not good with words.”


Oh, dear. Did he ever.


“Go ahead.” Bilbo smiled “I'll be silent.” he mimed locking his lips and throwing away the key and drew another smile from Thorin.


“When I was young, just a few scant years after the dragon came and took our home...” a hint of bitterness still carried with the words “I had my stonedream.” Bilbo's breath hitched and he swallowed nervously.


“It is not normally shared with outsiders, and I will not share the details with you.” Thorin said, staring at his lap and Bilbo felt a well of disappointment crash over him, but he kept silent for it didn't look like Thorin was finished. At least they were talking about the issue of soulmates now, so that was something, right?


“Stonedreams are our way of recognizing our soulmate, if you hadn't already known.” Thorin clearly had trouble finding the words to finish saying what he wanted to express. Finally he sighed and Bilbo could feel how clammy the grip of Thorin's hand around his became.


“My soulmate is dead.” Thorin finally croaked out, slowly lifting his gaze to Bilbo's “He or she must have died in the dragon flames, and I have never had the chance to get to know him or her.” there was torment in Thorin's eyes and Bilbo opened his mouth to say something. Anything. Nothing came to mind.


“It's been a long time since I had this dream. I've come to... if not peace, then at least to terms with it.” Thorin looked at Bilbo's face, an earnest and hopeful kind of searching gaze.


“I've immersed myself into my work, dedicated my life to my people and my craft as a blacksmith. I have never looked at other pairs with envy, only with melancholy of what could never be. I never thought I would be able to care about anyone or anything as much as I do about Erebor and my people. I thought I would be fine living my life and help raising my sister sons, my work dedicated to help my people find homes to live in and with hope of one day regaining Erebor so that my kin might rest in a safe place without fear for hunger or shelter. I think with those goals I would have been happy...” Thorin swallowed, never breaking eye contact with Bilbo as if beseeching him to understand “I've lived with friends and family but there is a part of me that felt lonely and all the work I've done could never fill that hole entirely.” Thorin said it as if admitting to a dark secret, his other hand rose and carefully cradling Bilbo's cheek.


“You have been a light in these dark days. Comfort when times were dire. Hope when everything seemed hopeless. Invaluable throughout all the journey, with courage and a willing heart. A heart worth so much more than all the gold in Erebor and so much bigger than I ever thought possible. You put yourself before others, shielding us when you are the least experienced in ways of fighting.”


Thorin's other hand freed itself from Bilbo's and gently placed itself on Bilbo's other cheek that was heating up from he abundance of compliments heaped on him, while the hobbit was frozen and unsure how to handle this much openness.


“I deeply regret how I've handled... no, how I treated you in the beginning. You didn't deserve it, if possible I would go back and change my behavior for it shames me in light of all the deeds you have done for me and my kin since stepping out of your home. And you had a home, no need to leave and help a crazy wizard and thirteen dwarrows on a quest that borders on suicide.”


Reluctantly Thorin lowered his hands after he gently stroked Bilbo's flaming cheekbones like they were made of the most fragile glass.


“My soulmate died a long time ago. I do not know about your own, or even if Hobbits have a way to recognize their soulmates. But if you are willing...” Thorin swallowed heavily and Bilbo could hear his voice shaking slightly.


“If you are willing, I would like to court you. Properly. I've naught now but what I carry, nothing I can offer you aside from my loyalty and heart. I'm a king in name only, with a handful of followers that were crazy enough to follow me through this madness. If we regain Erebor I would offer you everything.” Bilbo could feel Thorin's hands where they had once more gripped onto his shaking.


“I would give you the world.” Throin whispered “And if you asked, I would reach for the stars if you wanted them.” Bilbo's breath hitched at the familiar words.


“You were awake.” He whispered back, eyes wide. Back, in the forest, when Thorin had been poisoned by the spiders. He had been awake and... and Bilbo had kissed him. The hobbit could feel himself flushing even more. This whole speech had left him reeling. Courting?


“Yes.” he felt himself say, breathless and overwhelmed.

“I mean, yes, I... I would love to... uhm. Court.” he stammered awkwardly as Thorin gave a delighted sound and a brilliant smile.


Slowly, as if assessing Bilbo's reaction, Thorin leaned forward and very carefully nuzzled his cheek, his bristles tickling over the hobbits cheek as warm lips left a butterfly light caress on his cheek.


“I should leave you to your rest then... khajmel.” the dwarf huskily said, clearly reluctant to leave “... before Óin finds out I've been keeping his patient awake.” Bilbo winced at the image. He had gotten a fine lecture for leaving the bed without telling Óin that hat almost left his ears ringing.


He watched Thorin leave the room while his heart palpitations hammered in irregular intervals.


He was courting.


Courting Thorin.


His soulmate.


He was courting his soulmate.


A slow, if a little silly smile spread over Bilbo's face as he let himself flop back onto the bed and tried to stifle the giggles in the pillow. Slowly he calmed down squeezing the pillow to his chest.


And then Bilbo finally realized the rest of what Thorin had said.


Thorin thought is soulmate dead.


He was Thorin's soulmate, but he was definitely not dead.


Did that mean...?


Would he...?

Running a frustrated hand though his hair Bilbo sighed and clenched his eyes shut for a moment. He wished he had asked for details now, for how would he be able to prevent his death and Thorin's without all the information? But Thorin hadn't gone into any details and Bilbo had been too stunned and shaken to insist, not that Thorin would have told him. As it was, what Thorin thought he had shared must have been quite private and if Bilbo hadn't been his soulmate and knew for a fact that he was still alive, well, it would have been quite rude to ask for more details.


That meant... what? Had Thorin misunderstood the stone dream? Was that possible? Or was something wrong and Bilbo had another soulmate, one that had indeed died by dragon fire? What about Bilbo then?


Blankly Bilbo stared at the darkening ceiling, his elation of the development muted by worry.


What was he to do now?


Would he die? By dragon flames?


Should he even enter the mountain with that knowledge?


Slowly Bilbo turned his head to the window and stared at the mountain in the distance with growing unease. So many questions were running through his mind. Most importantly though:


Could he change Thorin's fate?


… Could he change his own...?



Chapter Text

Bilbo had mulled over what he could do while he had been stuck in bed. Even now, days later, he was still not sure how to confront Thorin about being soulmates – and if he even should. The more days passed, the less convinced Bilbo was that this would be the right time to tell Thorin the truth, not with the quest so close to coming to an end.


What purpose would it have to argue with Thorin about whether they were, or weren't soulmates?

On the other hand, should the dragon be alive and Bilbo die to his flames... would it be fair to have Thorin never know the truth? Would it be fair if he didn't know?

For once in his life, Bilbo wasn't sure about the course of action he should take. Tell Thorin the truth, or let things take it's course?

The questions made his head spin, and as often in the past he resolved to writing in hopes of settling his mind. Currently alone in the room, he had parchment and quill ready and now frowned as he tried to think up the words he wanted to say to Thorin, probably should say but...


But couldn't. He was a coward. But how did one start such a conversation when the other party was convinced that their other half was dead and buried, if not burned to ash? What if Thorin rejected the idea and accused Bilbo of... of wanting to manipulate Thorin, or... or trying to fit in a place that Thorin seemed sure would stay empty forever?


With a sigh Bilbo rubbed the back of his hand over his eyes, then dipped the tip of the quill in ink and then put it to paper. Slowly, and with much contemplation in between sentences, sometimes even between words, he poured his heart out. A letter. One letter that he would give to Thorin if they succeeded in their quest. No matter what, Thorin would know the truth for Bilbo couldn't quite imagine letting Thorin live in ignorance. If the worst happened and he perished, Thorin would never need to know and the letter would burn with him. Maybe he should draft a small letter in case he died too, since he did not want Thorin to realize the truth and not have any last comfort from Bilbo, should the worst happen. No, if Bilbo died, he hoped with bleeding heart that Thorin would find it in himself to move on and find happiness elsewhere.


The parchment was slowly filled to the brim with words, then carefully folded and sealed with some candle wax.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


Within the week Bilbo finally overcame the last of his cough and with much pleading had been allowed out of bed by a very skeptical Óin who still insisted on warm clothing to keep Bilbo from falling back into sickness. The first thing he did was visit Kíli, who was also bedridden and looked pale as a ghost between the sheets, despite the wan smile he offered Bilbo when he noticed him.

It was disconcerting seeing Thorin's lively nephew so withdrawn and exhausted, so Bilbo tried to offer some comfort with words, describing the Shire and some of his more Tookish adventures during younger years. Clearly those had been instigated by his cousins, but nevertheless Bilbo had been part of them. He might have been the founder of some of the silly ideas they had come up with, but he had long ago sworn to take that secret to his grave and not even Kíli would get the truth out of him.


After Kíli had fallen asleep Bilbo had quietly sat by his bed for some time, worriedly watching his breathing before leaving on quiet feet to leave the dwarf to his rest.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


In the evening Nori had pulled him aside after dinner, into a shadowed corner. There he had shown him a bowl, some herbs and a candle and smirked at Bilbo who frowned at the collection of random things in confusion.


“What is this?” Bilbo had asked and Nori seemed to puff up.


“Got the stuff for the ritual... yer still want to go through with it?” at Bilbo's scoff – as if that question even needed to be asked – Nori's smirk had melted into a small, honest smile.


And thus they had barricaded themselves in Bilbo's room after dinner, despite the curious glances thrown their way because they kept sticking their heads together like naughty fauns and giggling in anticipation. The further into the evening, the more nervous Bilbo became and now he was sitting on the floor of his room, rubbing his sweaty palms against his trousers as Nori got ready for whatever ritual they were about to do.


Bilbo watched with curiosity as Nori mixed some herbs together in a bowl, crushing them with a pistil until they became a green-gray powdery substance.


“Where did you get those?” Bilbo hardly thought Nori had that many dried herbs on his person.


“Got them from Óin, mostly. Some of them I found at the market.” Nori flashed a grin at Bilbo's unimpressed frown “Not ta worry. Nothin' important that would be used to save someone.”


Bilbo let out a huff and looked down at the other articles that Nori had collected for the small ritual. A candle, mortar and pistil, a small bowl made of some strange metal, flint-stones, a few pebbles and a small dagger. It looked mostly innocent but the unknown of the whole ritual made Bilbo a little bit nervous, if he was truthful with himself.


“So... how is this going to work?” the question made Nori briefly look up from his work.


“Its rather easy. You need a bit of green stuff.” he clanked the bowl where he was still mixing and crushing the herbs inside. Green stuff, honestly. Bilbo could name the herbs even in their dry state, but then again there were different pebbles and Nori could probably sing songs about those while Bilbo would name them stone one, two and three.


“And crush the stones and the herbs into a fine powder.” Nori added the small pebbles to the herbs and Bilbo watched in fascination as his soon-to-be-brother used his usually hidden upper arm strength to easily grind the stones to the same fine powder as the herbs before them. When he was done there was a fine powder left in the mortar. Nori carefully poured the fine powder into the metal bowl, taking care not to spill it.


Then, leaning back, Nori took the dagger in his hand “Next we need to make a small cut into our wrist.” without hesitating Nori nicked his wrist with the dagger before turning the sharp instrument of death handle first over to Bilbo, who took it with slightly shaking hands. Before he could think it over in his head Bilbo pressed his eyes together and nicked his wrist. Hastily he set the dagger to the side and tried to avoid looking where his own blood welled up. A slightly amused looking thief gently took his hand “Not even hesitating, yer something else.” Nori said and slender fingers wrapped around his wrist, just above the cut. Instinctively Bilbo mirrored the gesture and realized that their small wound aligned now, without really touching each other. With his free hand Nori poured the powder into the metal bowl, then took the candle and brought it down to light the powder on fire.


“Wait!” Bilbo's hand tightened his grip on Nori's wrist in alarm “Won't we get burned if you light a fire this close to us?”

The bowl was mere inches below their hands and a fire would probably reach up and lick at their skin, leaving burns behind that Bilbo would rather do without and had no wish to explain.


“Trust me. It won't.” Nori said and after Bilbo took a breath and nodded his consent he quickly dipped the candle and set the powder on fire. Bilbo watched as the powder was devoured by the element, the flames licking at their hands but other than a curious heat that almost tickled it wasn't even slightly painful. He continued watching as the powder slowly melted into a shifting, almost black fluid that seemed to move on it's own, as if being stirred by an invisible force or having a life of its own. It was weird and just a little scary that Bilbo instinctively wanted to back away from, if Nori hadn't tightened his grip around his wrist in a reassuring and restricting way.


“It's fine Bilbo.” letting out a shaky breath Bilbo nodded and watched as the fluid turned into a black-silvery smoke-like gas that slowly drifted up to their joined hands. It felt warm and with a surprised gasp Bilbo watched as the smoke seemed to gather around their small wounds, entering it in an unnatural way that just screamed magic. If not for Nori's reassurances and Bilbo's absolute trust in the thief's character and friendship, Bilbo would have turned tail and ran away.


It was over in moments and Bilbo blinked down at his wrist. The cut was healed and the black substance that had entered the wound was slowly gathering beneath his skin forming a key and a dwarfish looking rune.

Raising his head he glanced over to Nori so he could see the thief examining his own wrist.


“What does yours look like?”


Amused Nori turned over his wrist, showing Bilbo a book with stars on it's cover as well as the initials B.B. next to it.


“Full of surprises, aren't ya?”


Nori gently took Bilbo's hand in is and examined his own mark with a smirk. Gently he brushed over the small tattoo and to Bilbo's awe it seemed to light up in the same way slumbering hot coal glowed when a fresh wave of air lit it's inner fire, before the mark turned dark again. A spark of warmth radiated from the mark and Bilbo felt tears gather in his eyes. It felt so much like belonging. A warmth that had been absent since his parents died, leaving a permanent cold that no fire could extinguish in his lovely home.


“Ach. Don't cry Bilbo...!”


Quickly Bilbo rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, before he sniffled and touched his new mark again.


“How comes it glows?” Bilbo let his finger slowly trail over the mark on his wrist, feeling the small warmth it radiated when the tattoo glowed for a short moment at the touch. Curiously he looked up when Nori didn't immediately answer him and saw the dwarf looking at him with fond amusement.


“Well.” Nori finally said “I guess now I can tell ya. Yer basically a dwarf now in the eyes of all that are important.” Nori took his wrist and pressed a finger on the mark, making Bilbo go nearly boneless as he relaxed into the gentle heat radiating from it, slowly filling his entire body with an incredible peaceful and content warmth.


“We dwarrows have our maker, Mahal. Or Aulé, which you might now him by.” Bilbo blinked owlishly and nodded “When our maker creates us, we believe that he crafts us out of the stone. Carefully chiseling 'til he deems us ready to enter the world. But that is the shape, not the soul. Our creator is a master of his craft, so when it is time fer us to be born a spark of his forge enters our bodies, bringing us to life.” Nori released his wrist and drew his attention to the glowing mark, where the light was slowly fading out again.


“What I did was share that spark with ya. It wouldn't have worked if our maker didn't approve.” Nori smiled fondly and ruffled Bilbo's hair as the hobbit tried to dodge him squeaking in protest


“Never had a doubt it would work though!”

。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。

Nori was strutting proudly out of Bilbo's room, which immediately had Thorin turn to scowl suspiciously at the thief. As soon as it was feasible, and inconspicuous Thorin snuck inside himself, looking over Bilbo who had fallen back to exhausted rest. A sliver of silver distracted Thorin and made him peer closer. Upon seeing the bead, Thorin felt dread pool in his stomach as his face probably morphed to mirror a thundercloud. Only a closer inspection - meaning Thorin had to carefully lean over Bilbo to get a closer look - revealed that it had fortunately not been a courting bead that had found its way onto a thick leather band around Bilbo's neck, probably because Bilbo's hair – while longer than back at the start of the journey, was still too short to braid. The bead was not, as Thorin had thought at first, a courting bead but rather indicated Bilbo had been adopted into the Ri line.

Leaning back with a huff Thorin allowed himself a small smile. Good for Nori. The thief had just escaped an unfortunate accident on the road. Or a mysterious tumble down a certain mountain.

It also meant that Bilbo now had dwarrow kin. Depending on how serious the adoption was, how far Nori was willing to let Bilbo into their culture, it would mean that Bilbo had now another protector and guardian looking over him. Something Thorin wholeheartedly approved. He had just not thought that the thief would ever care about someone just as much as he did his brothers. Upon reflection of the journey though, Thorin wasn't as surprised anymore since Bilbo and Nori had become... well, thick as thieves.


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


The days continued, and for all that Bilbo got better, Kíli's condition seemed to worsen. Thorin watched it all with breaking heart, often sitting by his bedside but ultimately, he was king and the quest was essential. Ered Luin was struggling more and more to support them and in honest truth, Thorin could see that if nothing changed, his people would soon starve to death. Maybe not this year or the next, maybe not the next five years if fortune was on their side. But eventually it would. Already he could see the signs. Mines running dry, which meant that there was less metal to work with, which in turn led to fewer businesses, that was shortening the short amount of money they made. Less money also meant less food on their tables, less of everything it seemed. He loved Kíli like his own son, but at the end of the day he was still king. And not a healer. Unable to do anything but the simplest comfort for his ailing kin.


Sitting by his sister-sons side as he fitfully rested, sweat soaking his bow, Thorin felt helplessness creep up to him, as well as he felt the time ticking by. Balin was giving him sympathetic, but pointed looks. Dwalin was simply frowning and Óin was muttering in a corner, looking through a leather bound book of remedies as if he didn't know each of the well-worn pages by heart.


In part, he went to reclaim the mountain for his people. A far bigger, selfish part was reclaiming the lost kingdom for them, his heirs, so they wouldn't have to live in poverty and reign over folk slowly being felled by illnesses and ruin. He wanted them to have a future, and seeing how Kíli might not even be there to see their victory, small chance as they might have...




Carefully he reached out and tugged one of the wild strands of his nephews hair back, carefully wiping his face with a cool washcloth. His heart sat heavy as a stone in his breast as he struggled to get back into the mindset of a king.


Why do you go where I can't follow?…


Slowly he got up and trudged over to Balin where he settled heavily on a stool next to his adviser.


“If we are to succeed...” he said, his gaze fixed on a point in the fireplace, avoiding the stares of the company “we will need weapons.” he could almost see Fíli bristling, as if his other nephew knew what Thorin would decide. His gaze flickered to the rubbish the bargeman had presented to them. If they went to face a dragon, equipped with these tools that couldn't even cut butter, never mind dragon scales, they would be doomed for sure. Then his eyes flew up and followed Nori who slinked out of the shadows.


“Mah. The man said it 'imself, din't he?” Nori said as he leaned forward slightly “The real things are in the treasury. Locked up, nice and tight, if only we had sum'one who could get in an' out without bein' seen...”


。・゜゜・ ✿ ・゜゜・。


In hindsight, Thorin reluctantly admitted, they should have let Nori go on his own. Maybe. In his own mind, and only there, he could acknowledge that the rest of them weren't exactly what you would call stealthy. But on the other hand, time was essential and to carry so many weapons as to equip their whole company... it would have taken several runs for one dwarf to do alone. In the end he had decided for 4 other members to follow Nori. Nori, Bofur, Dwalin, Thorin and Dori. If it came to a fight, they had some of the strongest on the team. Dori was the muscle and Bofur had some of the best eyes in the company, being able to see in even the darkest tunnels. A talent that showed him to be blessed by Mahal, night vision near unrivaled. Nori was of course the stealth expert and Dwalin... well. Self explanatory, though Thorin thought it had more to do with Dwalin keeping an eye out for Nori. Worrywart. Thorin knew his best friend enough to guess that there was more going on between the thief and his captain guard, then they tried to let on.


Meanwhile Bifur, Gloin and Fíli were out, looking for transportation to get them out of the city and to the mountain. A boat to fit them all, to get them to the shore where they would go the rest of the way on foot. Bombur, Bilbo and Ori were looking for supplies and Óin had stayed with Kíli. He had adamantly refused to leave his patient and secretly, Thorin was glad for it, even if he worried that the healer would be needed at the mountain, especially after they encountered the dragon.


Maybe, if they failed, Dís would not be the only Durin to pick up the pieces if Óin could make sure that Kíli survived.


Now, Thorin was looking at his group being surrounded. It had been only a minuscule mistake. Dwalin had glowered around, assessing if any threat was getting closer and had not seen the golden cup on the floor. His heavy boot had stepped on the object, making him loose his balance and before anyone could react, he had torn down a suit of armor which had come down with a terrible, clanging noise. For a moment nobody had moved, but approaching footsteps had them in a flurry to take the needed things and rush to safety. Only it was too late.

In what appeared to be seconds as they stepped outside, the guards had them surrounded with sharp spears pointing at their throats.


With no other choice they were herded in front of an opulent mansion, more and more villagers rousing as the commotion woke them from sleep and curiosity dragged them out to see the spectacle.


With heart in his throat, Thorin can see the supply-gathering group also being brought to them. They huddle together in the middle of town square, surrounded by humans twice their size and torches lightning up the area. For Thorin, the situation was looking grim. He would prefer not to fight, especially as badly equipped as they are. The weapons they had recently acquired had long been taken from them.


Once they had all gathered, the door of the mansion opened and an obese man stepped out of the doors, and the way he drew himself up to make himself look more important (while barely being dressed), seemed almost ridiculous to Thorin. Almost. If they hadn't been caught stealing weapons and supplies.


Now though he knew they were in a tight spot and it would be up to him to get them out.


“What is the meaning of this?” the masters nasal voice grated on his ears. A guard stepped forward.


“We caught 'em stealing weapons and stuff, sire!”


“Ah.” the obese man nodded imperiously, as if he had known all along “Enemies of the state, then.”


The guard stood to attention “This is a bunch of mercenaries if ever there was, sire.”


Before Thorin could voice the offense he felt at being called a mercenary, Dwalin pushed forward, ignoring the spears hastily pointed in his direction and calling out in defensive anger “Hold your tongue. You do not know to whom you speak!”


Ever loyal Dwalin.


“This is no common criminal; this is Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thror!” on instinct Thorin stepped forward. He wasn't sure what reception this introduction would get them. People were murmuring all around them, but nothing was clear enough to give any indication if that was a good or bad thing. The word prophecy caught his attention, before he refocused on the master. He knew how to draw attention and stepped forward some more, even looking up to the humans he had to ooze confidence, even if he knew they were on knifes edge and this could go belly up in just a few short moments. One wrong choice or word and their quest would end here. Be it in the dungeon, or at the gallows.


He could not let that happen. He needed to convince them to at least let them go, if not help them. Thankfully the master was easy to read, and if the people followed him...


“We are dwarves of Erebor.” he spoke clearly, his voice just a timbre deeper, Dís called it his king-ing voice, the one people paid attention to, the voice he used to hold speeches or announce decisions. Attentionseeker, she teased him, natural charmer, if he so wanted to convince someone. Big on speeches, but if he tried to turn on the same charm in his private, social life, he often misspoke. She would often watch him fumbling around, until he had made a right fool out of himself, then tell him where it went wrong while wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. Not that this mattered right now.


“We have come to reclaim our homeland.” he said, turning slightly to include the crowed gathered around them “I remember this town and the great days of old. Fleets of boats, markets with the finest wares, handcrafted and sought after! Of a town with good, upstanding folk like yourselves, but without the burdens and struggles that weight you down. No one lived in fear of dragon-fire, nor did they have to question where to get the food they needed to pull their children through a harsh winter.”


He turned a circle, trying to catch as many eyes as he could.


“This was no forsaken town on a lake in the shadow of a stolen kingdom.” he said with passion, remembering colourful banners fluttering in the wind, almost like they were waving merrily to passing strangers, inviting them in to take a look at their splendor. He had not had much of a chance to visit the town himself, but the few times he had passed through, once riding on the war-goat with his father, long before the dragon, he had been welcomed kindly “This... this was the center of all trade in the North. Powerful and beautiful in it's own right.”


With some relief he noted that the whispers turned from sounding weary and distrustful to recognition and interest. Some people were straightening up proudly, nodding their heads and Thorin felt his heart flutter hopefully.


“I would see these days return. I would reclaim what was taken, free us from this plague and see us return to these days, where friendship lay between our people. Once the great forges are burning brightly again, riches will flow once more from the halls of Erebor and we will return to our former glory!”


He feels relief when the crowd cheers, but they are still not out of the woods yet, as Bilbo would say. The master looked on, and to Thorin's disgust he could see the greed in the mans eyes. But if it would help them, he would not speak against it. What was a little gold if they got the chance to reclaim Erebor, for the safety of his people?? It's short lived though, as a voice cuts through the excited chatter.


“Death! Death is what you would bring upon us.” Thorin whirled around to see Bard shoving his way through the crowed towards them. Thorin almost barred his teeth, for all that the human had been helpful to them – was still helpful since Kíli still rested at his home – he would not let the man stand between him and his goal.


“Dragon-fire and ruin!” Bard tried to appeal to the crowd “You will awaken the beast, anger it and set it upon us once more.” he whispered ominously in the suddenly quiet square, like a dark secret he was sharing.


Thorin looked in the eyes of the man, saw someone so similar and yet so different than himself. Bard who was only trying to protect his people, but with not enough support to see it through. A small part was saddened that he had to undermine the human that had helped them and who he could imagine could have become an ally to them. It would set them on different sides for sure, but the simply matter of fact was: Thorin could not fail here. Not after coming so far.


I hate to watch you fall apart…


The voice whispered in his head, but Thorin tried to turn it out. He couldn't be distracted by the soothing voice right now.


“You can listen to this naysayer, but I promise you this;” he straightened his pose, once more letting his gaze pass over the onlookers.


“If we succeed, all will share in the wealth of the mountain. You will have enough to rebuild Esgaroth ten times over!” people clapped, excitement showing on their faces. Thorin hoped this would be all that was needed but the furious light in Bards eyes showed him that this was not over.


“Have you forgotten those who died in the firestorm?” the bargeman called out, a few in the crowd denying the accusation the man had barked out.


“Then how can you risk a repeat of that happening! And for what? The blind ambition of a mountain-king so riven by greed, he could not see beyond his own desire?!”

It pulled a chord deep inside Thorin, who could still remember his grandfather and the gold sickness that had completely ensnared his mind. He grit his teeth at the accusation aimed at him, as if the gold was all he was trying to regain by taking back the mountain. As if the human knew anything about his purpose. He took a deep breath, to calm himself or to retaliate, he didn't know. The voice of the master cut him off.


“Now now, we must not, any of us, be too quick to lay blame. Let us not forget that it was Girion, Lord of Dale, your ancestor, who failed to kill the beast.


Girion. Thorin vaguely remembered the man, a good, kind man and looking at Bard, he could finally see the similarities between them. Regret coursed through his veins, but he could not let it deter himself. Bard clenched his jaw and looked away and Thorin almost pities him with the way the crowds favor suddenly disappears and turns against him.


A distant, oily voice rambles in the background, but Thorin pays it no heed. Bard doesn't either. His head raises slowly and he tries to stare Thorin down. There is a deeply hidden resignation in his eyes, a strong will and a small plea.


“You have no right, no right to enter that mountain.” Bard speaks desperately.


Regret. They could have been allies. Thorin doubted they would be kindly received by Bard from now on.


“I have the only right.”


He turned his back, deliberately giving all his attention to the master, who is so easy to manipulate with the sly promise of gold. It's dirty and underhanded. It leaves a slightly bitter taste, but honestly?

Thorin is used to this, and worse and it will not shake him from his path.


With the masters welcome, the deal is sealed and Thorin gives a small smile, looking over the crowd until his eyes meet the bargeman's. For a moment they look at each other, almost sizing each other up. Thorin doesn't know what the man sees, but with a frown and a bitter downturn of his lips, he shakes his head and turns away. Out of the corner of his eyes Thorin watches him leave.

Oh, why must you bear this burden alone?…


In his mind, the woman's voice almost sounds like a sigh as it faded out of existence once more.


Oh you know it breaks my heart…