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Tea, Books, and Socketwrenches

Chapter Text

Bilbo Likes Books

(he wouldn’t have a shop half revolving around them if he didn’t)

 

Bilbo Baggins considered himself simple man.

Not simple in the way of intelligence; he knew he was no genius. He couldn’t draw or paint, he wasn’t very good at maths or science, and he could never remember important historical dates, but he had a good deal of common sense, integrity, and humor. He could also write.

Oh, could he write.

Bilbo had a particular aptitude with the language of storytelling, and immaculate penmanship. He would delight the neighborhood children with the stories his mother had told him when he was a child.

If you can keep a child entertained, Bilbo would think with no small amount of pride, then you surely must have some skill.

Writing was Bilbo’s second favorite hobby. His first, naturally, was reading. A good book, a cup of tea, and a warm fire were all he really needed.

Bilbo Baggins was a simple man.

Simple men, however, also had simple needs, like sleep, and he trudged down the stairs at six in the morning cursing whoever thought it proper to bang on his door in such a manner.

“Good Morning, Mr Baggins!” The lanky youth at the door greeted him cheerily. He stepped aside to let the lad in.

“It’s six in the morning, Ori.” Bilbo blinked sleepily at the boy in the hall, trying to remember why he was here. “Do Uni kids even get up this early? I don’t open for another hour.”

“My apologies, Mr Baggins,” Ori said bashfully. “I’m used to waking up early. I thought you might want help opening today, I didn’t think you were asleep.”

“What’s so special about today?” Bilbo shuffled past Ori and put a kettle on behind the counter. Ori followed.

“Durin’s day, Mr Baggins!” Ori cried. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten!”

In truth, he had forgotten. Bilbo had been living in this town longer than Ori has been alive, but the local Durin’s Day holiday always happened to slip his mind. He hadn’t celebrated it since his parents’ passing; holidays were far less fun on one’s own. Besides, Bag End was one of the few shops that stayed open today, and there was always a large incursion of business on holidays.

“I can’t have you working today, Ori!” Bilbo objected. “You live locally, don’t you? You should celebrate with your family.”

“I couldn’t leave you to the holiday rush by yourself!” Ori countered. “I would much rather be here today.” Ori let his sentence trail off awkwardly.

“Oh?” Bilbo inquired, pouring them both a cup of tea when the kettle finished boiling. “Did you invite someone by for the Holiday?”

When Ori didn’t answer, Bilbo smiled and took it as a yes.

“A special guest, then?” Bilbo continued. “Shall I make a lunch?” He took small pleasure when Ori jumped back and tittered nervously.

“It was nothing so dramatic, Mr Baggins!” Ori waved his hands in front of his face as if to ward off the suggestion. “They’re friends. I mentioned that I worked here; they were interested.”

Bilbo smiled and drank his tea. He hadn’t planned on hiring Ori, but he enjoyed the lad’s company. When Ori had popped in the first time, Bilbo wasn’t quite sure what to make of him. He knew he was young, much younger than his usual patrons; Bag End normally attracted customers of the middle-aged variety. That was also the reason he knew it was Ori’s first visit.

“Can I help you with something?” Bilbo may not have been a very social person, but he’d sooner eat a tea towel than not treat someone with according kindness.

“Ah, can I get a sandwich or something, I suppose?” The boy fidgeted and looked around. “And if you could tell me where the adventure novels are, I would appreciate it.”

Bilbo fixed the boy one of his most popular sandwiches and walked him over to the section of bookshelves where he sorted Action/Adventure novels. The modern Adventure novels, Bilbo had told him, were on the shelf in front of them. If he wanted fantasy adventure, check the Fantasy shelf, which was to the right, same with Sci-fi.

Bilbo discussed his favorite Adventure novels, and his preference for Fantasy to Sci-fi with the young lad, who surprised him with a vast knowledge of plot devices and the underlying themes of the duality of science in Sci-fi novels (which Bilbo decided he would have to check out later).

The conversation ended when another customer entered and Bilbo hurried to see to them, leaving the boy to his sandwich and a novel about pirates that Bilbo recommended to him.

The boy (Bilbo later learned his name, Ori) soon became a regular fixture at Bag End. He would stop in every Friday right before lunch rush, order a sandwich, pick up whichever book he was reading off the shelf, and curl into the chair in the corner. He would stay for a good amount of time, well after the rest of the lunch rush had left. Then, carefully, he would place the book exactly where it had been on the shelf, stack his plate at the bin, and head out with a polite wave toward Bilbo. Sometimes, if Bilbo had no other engagements, Ori would chat with him before heading out.

Eventually, Bilbo grew fond of Ori, fond enough to rescue the book he knew the boy was reading when another patron wanted to trade it. He got in the habit of keeping Ori’s current book behind the counter.

Then, his pattern changed.

Ori stalked in one Sunday afternoon, forsaking his usual armchair for one of the bar stools at the counter, crossed his arms and rested his head on them. It was four in the afternoon, and there were very few people in the shop, so Bilbo did the only thing he was particularly good at: he made the lad a cup of tea, and waited for him to talk about it.

He didn’t have to wait long, as it were. Halfway through a cup Ori let out a magnificent sigh. He apologised for the way he burst into Bilbo’s shop and launched into a long explanation about his overbearing older brother, whom he loved very much, but who drove him mad all the same. It was right after a particularly long spiel about how he needed to find a hobby outside of the house that Bilbo offered him the job.

He accepted, of course.

Quite right, too, since (presumably) Ori’s word-of-mouth brought other curious Uni kids who then told others and it really escalated from there. The point being that Bilbo needed the help.

That’s how he found himself, two months later, pulling down chairs and organizing new books with Ori, a lad he had come to particularly care for.

A lad he also just happened to be able to read.

Thus, Bilbo (who was much too curious for his own health) made a game with himself to identify Ori's special guest before they were introduced. It turned out to be harder than it seemed as nearly every student who lived in the dorms was celebrating the local holiday, and most of the ones who came to Bag End knew Ori by some extension.

There was the pale girl with red hair who smiled at Ori like they were friends, and her companion, a brown-skinned male who said something all three of them laughed at. Then there was a blonde, a brunette, a lad with pink hair, another brunette, three girls with black hair, and a strange bloke wearing a trench coat who made Bilbo feel generally uncomfortable. When three o’clock rolled around, Bilbo had quite given up.

And that, it seems, is when everything started.

Bilbo didn’t see the boys approach the counter until they were right in front of him. One was blonde, with his long hair pulled back in a lazy ponytail, the other was brunette, cut around his shoulders, and tied half-up haphazardly. The blonde one dropped a small stack of books on the counter next to Bilbo.

“I’d like to trade these in,” the boy stated. Bilbo was far too surprised by the sudden noise to properly reply.

“Huh?”

“I’d like to trade these books in,” he repeated, no less confident.

“That’s how it works here, right?” the brunette added, and Bilbo composed himself.

“Yes, of course.” Bilbo shifted the stack of books off to the side. “Look around on the shelves and bring the books you would like to trade. The rate is one-for-one.”

The blonde nodded his understanding and strode off, but his brunette companion stayed behind. The dark-haired boy leaned on the counter, and Bilbo was not quite sure what to do, so he fell back on default.

“Is there something I can do for you?” Bilbo asked the boy, covering his awkward feelings with a well-practiced smile.

“Ah, you make coffee here right?” The boy smiled brightly when Bilbo nodded. “I’ve always wanted to try one of those fancy sounding ones. Cap-u? Cappu sino? Cap-Al-Pacino?”

Bilbo laughed despite himself and began preparing the coffee.

“Cappuccino, lad.” Bilbo smiled, amused, and the brunette replied with a smile of his own. “It’s a Italian drink made with espresso and hot milk.”

“Sounds interesting,” the boy offered, smiling. “Also explains the stupid name. I’ll have one of those.”

Bilbo set about making the drink, while the smiling boy watched with interest. Bilbo tried not to fidget under his stare, but ended up spilling a bit of frothed milk anyway. The brown-haired boy paid for his drink and took a small sip.

“This is really very good!” He smiled encouragingly and took a larger sip. “You seem to know a lot about coffee and making it, despite the mishap with the milk.”

Rude, Bilbo thought, and huffed rather indignantly.

“I’m glad my skill is so pleasing to you.” Bilbo postulated. The boy frowned curiously. “One does need to have the particular knowledge of coffee and tea when one runs a café.”

The frown was gone the very next instant, and Bilbo was met with the most charming smile he’d ever seen.

“Then, you must be Mr Boggins!” the boy exclaimed, surprising Bilbo immensely.

“Baggins,” Bilbo corrected, at the exact same time Ori popped out of the storage room and said “It’s Baggins, you prat.”

“Ori,” Bilbo chided, turning to the lad, at the exact same moment that the brunette boy replied “Good to see you too, Ori.”

“Piss off, Kili.” Ori’s tone held no mirth, and both boys grinned.

“So, you’re Kili, then?” Bilbo interjected, trying to get a handle on the conversation. Ori dropped the packages of cream and sugar he was carrying onto the counter.

“My apologies, Mr Baggins,” Ori offered sincerely, adjusting the glasses on the bridge of his nose. “This is Kili, he’s a classmate and a good friend. That’s his brother, Fili.”

“The better half,” Fili joked as he approached the counter again. Kili gave a disbelieving scoff, but still smiled at his brother. Fili placed the books he retrieved in front of Bilbo so the shorter man could catalogue them.

“It must be tedious to keep records by hand,” Kili said idly, still sipping at his drink.

“I suppose it is,” Bilbo agreed. “It’s much better than the alternative, however, which is no records at all!”

“Why even bother with records!” Kili bemoaned. “You must have books shuffling in and out all the time. Why keep track?”

“I like to know what we have on the shelves,” Bilbo said defensively, and with that he handed Fili the books he had picked out, and took the ones he traded over to the shelves. He shelved them properly (alphabetically by genre, then by author), chatting with a few regulars about books and tea, and a few kids from Uni who asked him for book suggestions. When Bilbo returned to the counter, Fili had ordered a drink and both boys were chatting amiably with Ori while he helped customers.

“Have you refilled the cream and sugar, Ori?” Bilbo asked, nodding at the boxes on the counter.

“Oh! No, Mr Baggins.” Ori hefted the boxes and swung around the counter in one fluid movement. “Doing it now!”

“He’s so forgetful sometimes!” Kili tittered and Fili hid his smile behind a sip of coffee. “Where did you find him, Mr Baggins?”

“Found me rather!” Bilbo laughed. “He just showed up one day and hasn’t left.”

“Wormed right into your life, huh?” Fili chuckled. “He has a knack for that.” There was something thoughtful in the boy’s smile that made Bilbo stare curiously for a moment before gathering his wits for a response.

“I found that I quite liked the company, I think.” Bilbo didn’t read too much into Fili’s thoughtful smile (he would happen upon the memory later when thinking about something else and suddenly everything would make sense). “It’s gets rather lonely living by yourself in a café.”

“Does none of your family come visit you?” Kili asked curiously.

“My closest relative is my cousin, Drogo,” Bilbo mused. “He lives a good distance away, and we don’t have a close enough relationship to warrant a visit.”

“You really have no family around here?” Ori appeared suddenly, seemingly awestruck and equally engrossed in his life as the other two were.

“Not since my parents,” Bilbo admitted. Apparently, it was the wrong thing to say as all three boys stared at him almost horror-struck. That was the same time that a brunette girl approached the counter. Bilbo made her drink and turned back to the boys, all of whom had not said a word.

“You go to University, right?” Bilbo asked the two brothers, hoping to change the subject. “Is your family close by?”

“Sort of,” Kili replied cautiously.

“Our mother lives in the Blue Mountains,” Fili added helpfully.

“That’s quite a distance.” Bilbo nodded sympathetically.

“We live with our Uncle here in town.” Kili smiled again, and Bilbo felt a little of the tension leave the conversation. “He owns a mechanic shop just over the water.”

Bilbo grimaced on reflex; he tried to pass it of as a facial twitch, but the damage had been done.

“It’s really not that bad!” Kili waved his hands in what Bilbo was sure the boy thought was a reassuring gesture. “Uncle is a nice fellow, and our neighbors are great, too!”

Bilbo was sure that Kili was telling the truth, but it hardly mattered if his Uncle was Aulë himself; the fact was that the other side of the river was not a place gentlefolk like Bilbo went without good reason.

“Of course,” Bilbo acknowledged, smiling. This seemed to placate Kili, and he launched into a spiel about his Uncle.

“Uncle Thorin is a good sort, but he doesn’t like anyone to know,” Kili giggled at a joke that only he understood, apparently.

“He offered to let us live with him while we’re at Uni so we’d be near family,” Fili added, when it appeared that Kili was satisfied with his contribution. “He’s very stern; won’t let us slip in our studies, curfews, and all that. Sometimes it’s maddening, but we know he cares.”

Bilbo gave a small, real smile. It was obvious how important family was to these boys.

It must be nice, Bilbo thought idly. They chatted a bit more in between drinks and customers, but soon the two brothers had to get home. They left with smiles and promises to return and Bilbo thought them, altogether, rather charming. A bit odd, certainly, but Bilbo was no stranger to being thought odd, and they seemed nice enough. It was only when they were closing up for the night that Bilbo spoke to Ori about them.

“They’re nice lads,” Bilbo started as he swept the floor. Ori stacked the chairs on their tables, giving only a pleased hum in reply. “How do you know them?”

“University,” Ori responded without pausing. “Life. We grew up together, sort of. Family... friends and all that.”

“That must be nice,” Bilbo replied honestly. At this, Ori paused. Bilbo heard him still, but made no move to acknowledge it; he waited for Ori to speak.

“You know, Mr Baggins,” he began carefully. “It may just be my brothers and me, and honestly they drive me completely mad most of the time.” He rubbed at the back of his neck. “What I mean is, I’m sure my brothers wouldn’t mind having you over for tea. If you’ve ever have the time.”

Bilbo smiled. He was touched by the gesture, he really was, but he couldn’t think of anything more awkward that having tea with his youthful employee’s elder brothers. Well, he could, but tea with Ori’s family ranked high on his list of awkward things. Nevertheless, he sincerely thanked Ori for his thought, and if the boy gave him an embarrassed hug before leaving, well, Bilbo wouldn’t tell.

Chapter Text

How to Make a First Impression

(a Guide to Bumping into People Because You Weren't Watching Where You Were Going by Bilbo Baggins)


Monday was Bilbo’s supermarket day.

He figured Monday was a good day to do the shopping; people were going back to work and back to University. Business was slow on Mondays, slow enough that Bilbo felt no remorse in closing shop for the day. Mondays were also Bilbo’s favorite day.

Ori had shot him a dubious look when he said this, which switched to a glare when Bilbo laughed. Bilbo didn’t blame the boy for his skepticism; four classes with barely a break in between for lunch guaranteed that Mondays were Ori’s least favorite day.

Ori, Bilbo thought as he pulled a jumper from his wardrobe, is an interesting character. It wasn’t just Ori that was interesting; the two brothers, Fili and Kili, had stopped by again nearly three days ago, just as they had promised, and stayed right until the shop closed. Bilbo was surprised when they helped close up—though he had insisted firmly that the two boys needn’t assist, the stubborn lads declared it was to make up for them loitering all day.

In the end, Bilbo accepted their help (it’s not like he could have stopped them, really), and took the time to observe the three boys. Kili, he noticed, was the most immature University student he’d ever met; doing cartwheels in between tables, and making stupid jokes to make the others laugh, it almost seemed like he was ‘taking life at face-value,’ as they say. Fili was definitely the more clever of the two.

To be fair, Bilbo had to remind himself sometimes, he is the older brother.

Though Fili seemed to think a bit more than his brother, he wasn’t any more mature. Bilbo honestly wondered how these brothers hadn’t gotten any incredibly serious injuries in their lives. He attributed that small miracle to Ori, who always seemed to be common sense of their operation.

‘No, Kili, I don’t think jumping off that is a good idea.’

‘I really think we should leave the hive alone, Fili.’

‘Playing with your Uncle’s tools isn’t going to end well, I think.’

Bilbo could almost imagine their childhood, and it made him chuckle. He reasoned that they must have conquered quite a bit of it together; the three of them were close, and Ori always seemed a little happier when they were around.

Bilbo rounded the corner to the super, humming to himself. As much as it surprised him, he cared quite a bit for the ginger youth, and seeing him so happy put Bilbo in a fabulous mood. With a shopping basket on his arm, Bilbo hummed and bounced around the market, picking up the supplies he needed for Bag End.

He grabbed a package of the biscuits he knew Ori liked, and found himself wondering what kinds of food Fili and Kili preferred. From their two visits, Bilbo knew that while both preferred coffee to tea, Kili liked flavour in his (or at least milk and sugar) and Fili preferred his black. Kili seemed to like anything with chocolate in it, while Fili liked simpler snacks.

He thought again about family. The Blue Mountains were very nearly on the other side of the country. For two boys like Fili and Kili, it must be hard to be so far away from home, but they had their uncle, and they had friends, so maybe it wasn’t too bad.

Then he thought about Ori's family and the offer to join them for a meal. He still couldn't bring himself to think it was a good idea, but maybe he could invite Ori over for supper. He'd invite Fili and Kili too, to thank them for helping.

He hummed happily, pleased with this idea. He'd have to enquire about the boys' favorite foods later, but for now he planned silently and smiled at Ms Gamgee as she walked by.

He had the shopping and he had plans to have company for tea later on this week. Bilbo Baggins was actually happy.

Which, of course, means that something went wrong.

Something in the form of a sturdy, dark-haired man.

"Oof!" Bilbo huffed as he hit the ground, dropping his bag. His first thought was I’m glad I didn’t get any eggs and his second was I don’t recall there being a wall there. There wasn’t a wall there, in fact, and after Bilbo placed a stray tin back in his bag he noticed that it was actually a man.

“I’m so sorry!” Bilbo apologised with a sheepish smile. The man stared down at him, impassive. “I m-must not have been looking where I was going! Are you alright?” Bilbo berated himself inwardly, there was no reason to stutter like a nervous child! He was a Baggins, for Valar's sake!

“Right then!” His smile faltered as the man continued to stare at him silently. “Good morning.”

“You should pay attention to where you’re going.” Bilbo started at the unexpected comment, and the man stepped around Bilbo before he had a chance to reply. He watched the man walk away for several long moments before he could make sense of the situation.

“Rude,” Bilbo groused at the man’s retreating form. “Oh, and I’m perfectly fine, by the way. Thanks for asking.” Bilbo stomped off down the street, deploring deploring the tall, dark, and very unagreeable stranger the whole way. He complained so much, that he didn’t even realise he had taken a wrong turn until he was in the middle of downtown. He slammed to a stop in front of the cinema and stood there, irate.

“Oh, confound it!” Bilbo made to turn back toward the main road when an interesting shop caught his attention. It was a book shop; new books, not like the second hand ones Bag End bartered with.

He never could resist a bookstore, so naturally, he went in.

I’m in a right awful mood, Bilbo reasoned, I’ll look around until I calm down.

The doors were metal with glass panes, like many doors Bilbo saw on commercial establishments, with large glass windows on either side. Inside smelt like paper and incense; the store was small and its shelves went all the way up to the ceiling. There were ladders and step-ladders placed in every row. He was looking at books on a display table when a familiar voice called out to him.

“Mr Baggins!” Fili smiled brightly as he approached, the neon green colour of his apron putting Bilbo off. “It’s good to see you. What brings you here?”

“That smock really is a revolting colour,” Bilbo grimaced. Fili only laughed.

“Regulation uniform, I’m afraid.” The younger lad gestured at his clothes, and Bilbo noticed that he was also wearing well-kept trousers and an untucked white polo. “We can’t all have casual everyday, like you and Ori.”

“You work here, then?” Bilbo turned and really looked at the shop. The bookshelves were a clean, light-coloured wood, the floors were immaculately clean and the books were shelved and orderly.

“Welcome to Rivendell.” Fili gave a short little bow. “Best bookshop downtown. No offense meant, Mr Baggins.” Bilbo waved it off, Bag End wasn’t really a ‘bookshop’ anyway.

“Part-time while you’re at University?” Bilbo asked, mostly to keep conversation going.

“No, no. I’ve already graduated.” Fili was still smiling, but his voice grew softer. “Working here until I can find a proper job for a bloke with a computer science degree.”

“It seems like a nice place to work,” Bilbo offered, trying to cheer the boy up. “It’s very clean.”

“Yeah,” Fili said, chuckling. “They pay’s great too, even if the content isn’t really my thing.”

“You don’t read?” Bilbo asked, fixing the boy with a bemused expression. “You exchanged books at my shop not a fortnight before.”

“Eh, yes well.” Fili looked away and rubbed at the back of his neck. “Never a bad time to start, right?”

“You’re,” Bilbo paused, “trying to like reading?”

“Yes, I-” Fili cut himself off. “Is that weird?”

“No, no!” Bilbo waved his hands around and bit back a laugh. The poor lad looked so honestly confused and concerned; Bilbo found it adorable. “I’ve just never known someone to try so hard.”

Fili seemed to think deeply about that.

“Are there any new releases in?” Bilbo asked to distract him from his thoughts.

“Oh!” Fili snapped up suddenly, as if waking up. “There has been a new release, yes. It got very good reviews, and it’s a steampunk fantasy adventure. I think you’ll like it.”

“Steampunk?”

“It’s a genre.”

“How did you know I like fantasy adventure?” Bilbo asked when they reached the display shelf. Fili looked back at him with a curious tilt to his head, as if Bilbo should already know the answer.

“Ori told me,” Fili replied, and Bilbo probably should have known.

Chapter Text

 Threatening Gangs is Never a Good Idea

(You think Thorin would know that given all the mafia movies Fili and Kili make him watch)

 

Thorin wasn’t in a mood to deal with much today.

It was one of those days where Bofur and Dwalin stayed clear of him as much as possible, and Balin didn’t bother stopping by. Thorin never figured out how Balin always knew about his Sour Mood Days (as Fili and Kili dubbed them, the little shits); he eventually just assumed that Dwalin tipped him off.

His Sour Mood Days never really affected anything business-wise. Bofur would chat up clients, like always, Dwalin would be gruff and serious and help Thorin fix the cars. The only difference, really, was that Thorin and Dwalin didn’t work on the same car. He wasn’t mad at Dwalin, he wasn’t mad at anyone really, he was just mad, and he had the tendency to take his anger out on anything unfortunate enough to cross his path, even family and friends.

His family and friends, however, knew well enough to stay out of his way and almost never took any of his anger to heart. There was one time, before he knew better, when Bofur tried to cheer him up; he took the brunt of Thorin’s anger that day. Thorin apologised profusely, and his cheery co-worker assured him it was fine, and he never treated Thorin any different, but that day still remains the longest Thorin had ever seen Bofur without a smile.

“We’ll see you next week then, mate!” Bofur’s pleasant drawl signaled the departure of their client, and the shop fell into a busy silence.

“Appointment next Tuesday!” Bofur shouted over the sound of scraping metal and rolling trolley wheels. He penned a reminder messily into the day planner on the front counter before joining Dwalin.

“Bollocks,” Dwalin cursed, “Bofur, snag a lug wrench on your way over, yeah?” Bofur grabbed the lug wrench from the top of the tool box as he passed and threw it at Dwalin, who caught it without looking. Bofur gave an excited whoop at the successful exchange, which quickly melted into the silence of the shop.

After several hours of quiet work, all three men jumped at the sound of the door chime.

Thorin was already standing and waved off Bofur, who was standing to answer the door. Thorin wiped his hands on his jeans, leaving streaks of grease, but he could hardly bring himself to care.

Walking past the front desk, Thorin opened the dark wood-and-glass door to greet a small man with spindly arms.

"Can I help you?" Thorin asked, with as much politeness he could muster at that point.

"Mr Oakenshield, I presume." He looked up at Thorin when he spoke. There was a sickly way to the man's voice, almost as if he could break into a cough at any time.

"Who's asking?" There was something about the man that put Thorin ill at ease, so he stood tense in the doorway as the man gave him a searching look.

“I come as a representative from the Fire Drakes, Mr Oakenshield.” The man bowed, but Thorin was already walking back inside.

“I don’t do business with the Drakes,” Thorin spat, trying to slam the door closed. The man put his foot in the door and shouldered it open with a strength that surprised Thorin greatly. “You have exactly 30 seconds to get off my property.”

“No need to be so hostile, Mr Oakenshield.” The man tutted, as if Thorin was being difficult. “The Fire Drakes care greatly about their community and only wish to help. There are not many police patrols around these parts, Mr Oakenshield. The Fire Drakes are offering protection.”

“Protection from what?” Thorin laughed aloud, without mirth.

“There are many dangers in communities such as this one.” The man’s eyes flashed dangerously. “You would do well to remember that misfortune does not discriminate.”

“You’re not offering protection, you’re threatening families and businesses out of their money.” Thorin spit on the ground, nearly hitting the man’s shoe. “Take your protection elsewhere.”

“I greatly suggest that you reconsider, Mr Oakenshield.” The man smiled like a salesman who knew he was losing, though it was colder and more cruel.

“You alright out here, mate?” Bofur appeared at Thorin’s side, leveling the man at the door with a challenging stare.

“Heard a bit of a scuffle with the door.” Dwalin loomed behind Bofur; he also looked at the man, indifferent.

“I can see you are busy.” The man retreated with a bow. “Another time, Mr Oakenshield.” With that, he left down the street and disappeared around the corner.

"What was he on about?" Bofur thought aloud once the man was out of sight.

"A representative from the Red Drakes," Thorin sneered. A low whistle from Dwalin brought their attention to the taller man.

"I’ve heard of them," Dwalin answered their questioning stares. "They're bad news."

"Good thing you sent him away then, yeah, Thorin?"

"Maybe." Dwalin glowered at nothing in particular. "Watch yourself, Thorin. The Drakes are trouble."

And Thorin thought his mood couldn't get any worse.


When Fili and Kili burst through the door to Thorin's flat later than night, it was nearly midnight. They were laughing and stumbling through the front room. Thorin glared at them from his spot on the couch.

"Have a care, you two," Thorin groused. "It's late."

"You aren't even sleeping," Kili countered, flopping down in an armchair opposite him. Fili sat on him and Kili flailed and whinged.

"Where have the two of you been, anyway?" Thorin asked, because these were the kinds of questions that concerned family asked, he supposed.

"We had tea with Ori and his family." Fili replied as his brother struggled to push him off. He landed on the floor with a thump and a victorious shout from Kili.

"It's been weeks and Ori finally convinced Mr Boggins to visit him at home," Kili added after he settled. "We got invited too!"

"How was it?" Thorin asked earnestly. It was obvious his boys had fun and he couldn't begrudge them their happiness.

"Nori taught me to pick locks!" Kili yelled excitedly. Thorin sent a silent prayer that Kili was awful at it and made a mental note to strangle Nori.

"The food was good." Fili pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around them, like when he was little and listening to a good story. "I got to play my fiddle a bit, too."

“And I can’t imagine Nori having any kind of gathering without alcohol,” Thorin added, mostly to himself.

“Yeah, we drank a couple beers.” When Kili didn’t add a comment both men looked to find him asleep, curled up in the chair.

“You nearly tripped over the rug on the way in,” Thorin snorted. “I’m willing to bet you had more than ‘a couple beers.’”

“I’m not drunk,” Fili insisted with a slur. Thorin couldn’t tell if he was doing it on purpose or not.

“It’s only Thursday, doesn’t Kili have class tomorrow?” Thorin set his papers aside and stood up with a stretch. Fili hummed in agreement.

“He has practice, too.” Fili stood on wobbly legs as Thorin moved over to shake Kili awake. When he blinked awake Thorin gave a small smile at his bleary face.

“Go to bed, Kili.”

Kili lifted himself from the armchair, and stumbled up the stairs to the room he an Fili shared. After a yawn and a ‘good night, uncle’ Fili followed him up, and Thorin was left alone in the front room. With a determined set to his shoulders, he poured himself another cup of coffee and set back to getting through his paperwork.