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A Silent Cry

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"And why should I give you anything, when you bring war to my gate?" Thorin demanded as Bilbo stumbled out onto the battlement behind the rest of the Company.

He had been the farthest from the battlements and now he felt utterly lost and confused.

Didn't the Men of Laketown deserve their money?

Smaug, he was sure, had stolen from them too, not to mention that, if the state of the clothes was anything to go off of, the gold was not a thing they were asking for out of greed, but out of necessity. "We do no such thing, Thorin Oakenshield, we bring only enough Men to carry a twelfth of the mountain's treasure, for Smaug did not steal from Erebor alone when he roared into the lives of Dwarves and Men alike!" Bard shouted back, even as Bilbo frowned over the amount.

Did they truly need a twelfth of it?

“What makes you think I’ll give you any of the treasure when you bring enemies to our doorstep?" Thorin roared back and Bilbo twitched away from him and, now, Bilbo could see the Men en masse, but also Thranduil and other Elves behind them.

"We have come for our own due Thorin," Thranduil called and Bilbo resisted the urge to beat his head against the stone.

"You are a betrayer, Thranduil, who turned your back on our people in our time of need!" Thorin roared and Bilbo covered his ears in hopes of muting the sound, but when Thorin continued to rage at Thranduil, Bilbo soon learned that it was a useless endeavor.

"Bard, when you return without our enemies, I shall give you the gold you are due and nothing more!" Thorin demanded and Bilbo hunched against the wall.

"We did not bring them Thorin, but we certainly won't turn them away when they obviously have cause to be here!" Bard stated and Bilbo resisted the urge to sigh and beat his head against the stone.

Again.

"Then you shall see none of our gold!" Thorin demanded and Bilbo's head snapped around to stare at Thorin, his jaw dropping at Thorin's words.

Bilbo could voice no protests, but Balin could. "Thorin, the Men of Lake-town aided us in getting here. It would be a slight against our honor if we did not at least give them their due in that regard. There is also the fact that Dale has always been our ally and Bard is a descendent of the Lord of Dale, and do we not owe them our continued alliance?" Balin argued as Thorin stepped away from the wall.

"We will be back tomorrow Thorin Oakenshield and I hope you will have changed your mind," Bard stated.

Thorin did not answer and, instead, stormed back into the mountain. Bilbo watched him go before he turned to watch the Men and Elves leave as well, a heavy stone of dread taking residence up in his stomach.

*~*~*

It only got worse as the days passed into a week.

Thorin grew only angrier and, for that matter, so did Bard. War went from being a distant to possibility to being on their doorstep, and Bilbo trembled slightly at the thought.

When he signed his worries to Bofur, the Dwarf merely nuzzled their foreheads together and said that everything would be okay once Dáin’s people got there. When Bilbo protested that that wasn't what he was worried about, Bofur had merely hummed and Bilbo suddenly felt like he was being patronized, as if his fears were not enough.

When nightmares of blood stained fields and black staining the white of the snow began and he woke with a scream trapped in his chest, he knew he had to do something.

But as the hours passed, everyone grew worse, drawn entirely to the gold and the frantic search for the Arkenstone (which Bilbo still didn't know what it looked like), barely taking the time to reinforce the gate as war drew closer.

Bilbo found his choices being slowly cut off, removed with each passing hour as the Dwarves (omitting Bifur and Balin), and most especially Thorin, slowly grew more attatched to the gold and pretty rocks than their own kin. That even Dori, fussy Dori who never let Ori out of his sight, was more drawn to gold and such than his brothers, which had Bilbo panicking slightly as he tried to find something, anything, to break through their haze.

It didn't help that Bofur kept trying to dress him up in jewels and Bilbo did his best not to throw it all off in disgust, though he found the easiest way to distract Bofur from dressing him up like some child's doll was to ask about things.

After a week of rising tensions and preparing for war with their neighbors, Bilbo finally asked what the Arkenstone looked like.

"Ye don't know what the Arkenstone looks like?" Bofur asked and that seemed to make everyone still.

"Then what have you been doing Burglar?" Thorin asked and Bilbo flinched away from Thorin's rage before he quickly showed them by gently shoving large gems out of the gold where they were easy for the others to find, which oddly enough, seemed to calm Thorin down.

Thankfully.

Bilbo wasn't sure if he could handle Thorin's rage, being a Hobbit and, thus, more breakable than Dwarves.

"It is a great jewel carefully polished and smoothed into an oval and coming from the center is a great white glow," Thorin described and began to go into the importance of the jewel to his Line, how it was Mahal's gift to the Line of Durin, to show their right to rule, but it was passing through Bilbo's mind and barely registering.

He just knew that the "crystal" he had been carrying around in his pocket was the Arkenstone, that the thing that was driving Thorin mad was on his person and he was utterly terrified.

What if someone found it?

What if Thorin found it?

Bilbo was sure he must got gotten paler or something, because Bifur was suddenly there, resting his hands on Bilbo's shoulders. He stared up at Bifur and tried to smile.

It must not have been convincing, because he was suddenly being gently tugged forward into a hug. A hug that he went willingly into before he curled up against Bifur's chest and wondered what they had all done to deserve their home being stolen from them before they had a chance to enjoy it.

And being stolen in such a way was...well.

It hurt Bilbo's heart to see it and, privately, he resolved to do something to fix this to the best of his ability.

Chapter Text

Balin sighed as he watched his companions sink into the Gold-Sickness, omitting Bilbo, who was not a Dwarf by blood, and Bifur, whose injury prevented him from doing so, as he did not precieve things the same as others did.

Bilbo was the most effected, having found safety and companionship, love even, just in time to lose it all again in the worst possible way.

If it were death, there would be closure, but in this...in this there was no such thing. There was only watching those you loved and cared for slowly lose themselves to the gold and jewels around them, especially with the dragon known to be dead and gone. They barely paused to eat, sleep, or fortify the front gate and, somewhere under it all, Thorin must still be there, for he had ordered it to be done, had made shifts so they could do so, though Bilbo wasn't allowed near the gate.

And that...that worried Balin as well.

For, as Bofur slipped further into the Gold-Sickness, he began to shift how he paid attention to Bilbo.

Slowly, it shifted...and Bilbo noticed.

Noticed that touch of possessiveness that now seemed to curl around every word and action. The way Bofur seemed to always want to prove Bilbo was valuable at the same time, yet never let him out in the sunshine again.

As it was, Bilbo was becoming the trembling pale figure he had been in Thranduil's dungeons and in Lake-town, and he didn't have the strength, even at full health, to fight Bofur, and as he weakened, he just didn't try to fight at all when Bofur manuvered him around to sit next to him, always had to touch, obviously growing irrtated when Bilbo left his eyesight for any length of time, and longer than ten minutes without Bilbo in reach sent Bofur into a small rage that was only soothed when Bilbo would reappear at his side once more, pale and shaking and signing something in that gesture language Balin did not know.

But Bofur only nuzzled Bilbo's forehead and each nuzzle seemed to cause Bilbo to slump more into himself.

Until one day Bifur grabbed Bilbo from where he sat next to Bofur (trapped to Bofur's side was probably far more accurate) and dragged Bilbo outside.

Balin was sure the only reason Bifur was still among the living was because he had downed Bofur with one punch before continuing to haul Bilbo outside, where they stayed in time for Thorin to confront Bard once again.

That was another disturbing thing.

Thorin, even when Bilbo said he would give his share of the gold over to Bard, in private (though Bifur was in attendence and translated Bilbo's shaking signs), Thorin had thrown it back in the Hobbit's face.

Bilbo had even gone to Balin, but Balin pointed out he would need Gloin's help to get everything together and Gloin was unlikely to help him, which had cause Bilbo to throw his hands into the air and shuffle-limp off, most likely to hide.

It was only getting worse the more Bilbo tried to get Thorin, or anyone else for that matter, to see reason.

And Balin wasn’t sure if this would end as expected for anyone, but most especially Bilbo, who seemed to lose more hope as each day passed further and further into winter.

*~*~*

Bilbo swallowed nervously as Bofur half-hauled, half-pulled, him into his lap and Bilbo worried that the Arkenstone would be discovered, only for Bofur’s hands to keep clear of the pocket where the stone was carefully wrapped, instead settling on Bilbo’s waist.

Tired and slowly growing sicker, Bilbo didn’t bother to fight back, though when Bofur shifted to reach under Bilbo’s coat, he didn’t hesitate to smack Bofur’s wrist.

Bofur startled at that, as he always did, but Bilbo’s quick sign of tired followed by sorry, usually had Bofur forgiving him for the slap.

He wished he could say always, but he couldn’t.

Sometimes, Bofur would dump him onto the ground and storm away in a rage, leaving Bifur to come pick a shaking Bilbo back off the ground, thankful a slap or a kick had not accompanied the rage.

For gone, far gone, was the Dwarf that Bilbo had fallen in love with.

Or maybe trapped was a better word.

Yes, trapped behind glazed eyes and a sharp tongue was Bofur, the Dwarf Bilbo loved, with his crass jokes and his jaunty tunes.

Instead, in his place was a sick and diseased monster that desired only gold and treasure, and what did not fit into either was forced into fitting.

Like Bilbo.

This time, it was taking longer than usual for Bofur to reach a conclusion of how he should react and that terrified Bilbo, who was unsure if he should be trying to fight his way off Bofur’s lap.

He watched closely now, saw the way Bofur seemed to be almost confused over the slap, his fingers alternatingly tightening and loosening around Bilbo’s waist.

It was almost as if he couldn’t figure out if it was something he should be angry about or not.

Before the mountain, Bofur would have laughed, but stopped. He would have kept his hands over the jacket, or even removed the entirely, and hesitantly nuzzled their foreheads together before he apologized softly for making Bilbo uncomfortable, followed by Bilbo forgiving him.

In the mountain, Bilbo knew no apologies would pass Bofur’s lips, and until they did, Bilbo couldn’t forgive him.

But he wasn’t strong enough to fight Bofur, though he could wiggle away, disappear.

Hide away in Raven Hill and tremble in the shadows, waiting for this all to pass over.

Except it wasn’t going to pass over, was it?

It just got worse as the days passed into near two weeks now, and each day, his friends, his family, his love, only got worse.

He was running out of options and he did not know what he could do. He could try to find trunks to shove his share of the gold into and, somehow, sneak out, but…

It would not end well for Bilbo.

Accused of treason, possible, for that had been Thorin’s latest threat when Bilbo had approached the King about it.

His friend, Thorin had been there, during Beorn’s and through Mirkwood, and even in the dungeons, they had become friends.

Maybe not close friends, like Thorin was with Dwalin, but friends none the less, and it hurt to be cast aside.

It hurt more…

Bilbo’s thoughts derailed as Bofur’s grip became painful around his waist, and a silent cry of pain, an exhale really, escaped Bilbo.

“Why do you keep doing that?” Bofur asked and Bilbo began to twist in Bofur’s grasp, tears growing in the corner of his eyes.

It felt like being caught under a wagon at the market, or worse, and he continued to try and twist away when suddenly he was free.

Bilbo stumbled away, panting heavily, to find Bifur standing over Bofur, Khuzdul spilling from his lips.

He didn’t hesitate.

He took off from the room and down the passageway to Raven Hill, only to collapse half-way there in a heap of silent, breathless, sobs.

Everything was going wrong and Bilbo felt as if he was being pinned into a corner, into only one option.

And Bilbo knew that that option might come at much too high a cost.

Chapter Text

The dark closed in as Bilbo stood on the battlements, staring out over the Elves and the Men, to the forest, and even further west, where the Shire lay. Now, as winter crept in like a White Wolf on a hungry Hobbit, Bilbo could practically see the Shire. The colored lanterns would be hanging from the Party Tree and there would be music.

A call, specifically, to the Merciful Lady, in an attempt to entice her to smile through her weeping, and it was said that a bountiful harvest would follow the attempt, in thanks for it, but it was said that a swift end to winter meant they succeeded.

As winter always ended a long way down the road, Bilbo could only guess they had yet to succeed.

His eyes eventually fell to the encampment and felt his eyes narrow in fury.

Why did they have to do this?

Why did they have to come here, with the belief that the Dwarves were dead to take from the Dwarves, with no consideration for the exiled people, all the gold that resided in?

What was it about the shiny metal that drove Men and Dwarves and Elves alike to kill each other over?

Of course, there were the Dwarves, driven on by Thorin, but Thorin...

Thorin was desperate, and desperate men do desperate things.

He had spent so long in exile, had watched his people fall and falter, collapse in the dust, so far from home, and had to watch his people burn

Thorin was desperate and the slightest hint that everything he had fought for could be taken from him?

It drove him into higher levels of desperation, drove him to guard it all with his life, but he was forgetting what he was supposed to be defending, having transferred such blind devotion to the gold instead of what the gold represented.

Bilbo’s fingers twitched against the stone, even as he turned to look over at Bombur. He walked over and touched the Dwarf’s elbow.

“I will take over, Bombur,” he gestured and Bombur smiled, clasping a hand to Bilbo’s shoulder before he hefted himself up and headed inside.

A cold wind howled and tugged at Bilbo’s coat, but he felt nothing.

*~*~*

Sneaking past Elves, even without the help of his little ring, was laughably easy.

Sneaking past the Men was even easier. Bilbo, were it any other time, would have tied a bell around his neck and dared the Men to find him.

But for now, he makes his way through the encampment to where the main tent rests and inside he can hear voices talking out attack formations.

Bilbo resists the urge to snort and slips in with ease.

Both Bard and Thranduil look up upon the flap moving and Bard twitches in surprise while Thranduil draws his sword to point it at Bilbo, who stares at the sword tip with a façade of complete calm, possibly even boredom.

“Halfling, shouldn’t you be in the Mountain with your Dwarven companions?” Bard questioned and Bilbo gave a shrug while Thranduil frowned.

“Only thirteen Dwarves passed through Mirkwood. There were no others,” Thranduil protested, even as Bilbo made his way over to the table, this time earning a start from Thranduil when he appeared at the Elf’s elbow.

He just reached forward and tugged charcoal and blank paper over to him, ignoring how advisors returned from wherever, starting at the appearance of Bilbo.

I can pass unseen, when I wish. I wished in Mirkwood. It is not my fault if you cannot keep ahold of thirteen Dwarves, your Majesty.

Thranduil inhaled, but had returned the sword to his sheath while Bard purposely looked away.

You wish for the gold to rebuild Laketown, Bard. You should have gotten it, and would have, had you come as a friend and not as an enemy and that is your choice that you must deal with.

Thranduil, I do not even think I can begin to understand what happened when Smaug came. To me, it should be in the past and without merit in the now, but Thorin will view you always as the enemy. It is neither your fault, entirely, nor his, entirely, but you should not have come, or when you saw Thorin was alive, retreated briefly.

Bilbo sighed and gave them both looks at that, ignoring how the Elf advisors, and Legolas, Son of Thranduil, stared back at Bilbo with something like rage.

Thranduil was eyeing Bilbo, however, with something akin to respect, but Bilbo was sure it was a trick of the light.

Instead he focused on the paper once more.

I would request we speak alone.

He paused and, with a self-deprecating grin, added, More or less.

Thranduil immediately dismissed the Elves and any protests were met with an indifferent look.

Bard took a moment and once they were gone, Bilbo closed his eyes, before he began to carefully seal off his heart, as it were.

Only then did he open his eyes and continue writing.

In the end, the damage is done and that is all there is to it. Thorin will not give the gold and enough blood has been spilled for gold to make this necessary, for behold that which Thorin treasures most.

Bilbo then deposited the Arkenstone on the table, the cloth falling away to reveal the glorious glow.

“Is that…” Bard began, even as Thranduil whispered, “The Arkenstone.”

Thranduil then looked to Bilbo and stared at him, though his face was unreadable and his eyes half hidden in shadow.

“You do realize he’ll kill you for giving this to us,” Thranduil stated.

Trade it for the gold.

Thranduil felt his lips thin and he looked away, even as Bard blinked weakly at the Arkenstone. “But…why?” Bard asked.

Enough blood has been spilled over gold. There need not be any more spilt.

Bard nodded weakly and Thranduil stared at Bilbo. “You are a most fascinating creature…Halfling,” Thranduil stated.

Bilbo Baggins, at your service.

“Thranduil, at yours and your family’s.”

Bilbo merely smiled weakly and wrote, I highly doubt that your Majesty. And now I must return. The watch will shift soon.

“Master Baggins, wait!” Thranduil exclaimed as Bilbo headed toward the entryway and Bilbo turned to face him.

“Don’t. Thorin will kill you. He’s stubborn at best and driven by desperation, he will be worse,” Thranduil pleaded.

Bilbo shook his head and looked back.

He had to face his betrayal with his chin held high and his heart bleeding.

“Master Baggins, you are by far more worthy to wear the armor of my courtiers than my courtiers,” Thranduil stated and Bilbo shook his head, even as he slipped out of the tent.

(No one saw him leave and, as such, no one could catch him, despite Thranduil’s orders to do just that.)

Chapter Text

The morning dawned sickly and gray, and Bilbo stared out across the field, to where the Elves and Men were camped.

He felt himself frown and he looked away, instead slinking down to curl up in the shadow of the wall and stare up at the mountain. Had he done the right thing? What had seemed the proper course of action in the night now made Bilbo's stomach churn to think about it in the cold light of day. He could think of nothing to justify what he had done and he could not sneak down to steal the Arkenstone back.

He covered his face with his hands and began to rock back and forth as the mountain, and the plains, awoke around him, wondering if he could ever forgive himself for what he had done.

*~*~*

Thorin scowled as the Men and Elves approached the gates once more. “I see you have not sent the Elves away,” Thorin rumbled out as he glowered down at Bard.

It would not take much. These bands of thieves and robbers had come to take what was rightfully the Dwarves of Erebor’s property. While he could understand paying Bard, and Laketown, for the supplies they had been given. However, even these thoughts of honor did nothing to drown out the dark, harsh, and unyielding voice that whispered about why he should give up any of his people’s heritage to feed the greed in these Men’s hearts. The other voice, the one that pressed for the Arkenstone, had lessened in the night, but now strengthened with the return of Bard.

Bard who had sent the messenger as an insult and had even called into question Thorin’s right to the throne!

If only he had the Arkenstone! That would be proof…

“IF you will not give us the gold willingly, maybe you will exchange it for something of more value,” Bard finished and Thorin felt as if the air was ripped from his lungs as Bard held up the Arkenstone.

“How did you get that?” Thorin roared, his mind blurring together and meshing in fury.

Bard stayed silent, but there was a touch on Thorin’s arm. He turned, furious and angry, only to start upon seeing Bilbo standing there.

Bilbo, who was looking up at him with slumped shoulders, and a slightly lowered head, but his eyes remained on him. Who looked both like how he was trying to sink in on himself, but also stand up tall.

“You?” Thorin choked out.

He remembered Bilbo, gentle Bilbo. Bilbo who leapt in defend him because of some reason Thorin still could not fathom. Bilbo who fought for them, rose up to new heights for them, who wanted nothing more than to give them a home.

Bilbo, who stared up at him and just nodded in agreement.

Thorin’s fists clenched, and his jaw creaked as his teeth clenched. “I have been betrayed!” Thorin roared and grabbed Bilbo, who did not fight.

Bilbo who fought for them at every turn, Bilbo who had never turned on them, never left, had come with them across the distance, who had stayed even when he was unwanted, and with such a mithril bright spirit, didn’t fight, but he had betrayed them and Thorin was blind to all other facts, though he saw them all the same.

“You…betrayer! You undersized burglar! I ought to throw you down onto the rocks below!” Thorin snarled, shaking Bilbo violently as he held him over the parapet.

Bilbo didn’t even hold onto Thorin’s wrists and behind there was a scuffle, as if someone was being stopped, but he didn’t care.

Bilbo had given away the Arkenstone.

“Do and incur the wrath of a Wizard, Thorin! If you do not like my burglar, then set him down on the wall and send him down!” Gandalf suddenly shouted and Thorin turned his fury turn to the gray robed figure.

The figure who had come out of nowhere.

Thorin didn’t hesitate to turn and throw the Halfling to the stone before he turned back to Gandalf. “Take him then! And no friendship of mine goes with him!” Thorin roared, before he turned to Balin, ignoring the Halfling on the ground.

“Get together rope and a bucket. We will lower the Halfling down last, in exchange for the Arkenstone. That is the only way we will insure its return,” Thorin snapped and then he turned to snarl it down at the Men and Elves below.

For the Arkenstone, he would deal with these grave robbers.

And they should be so lucky he did not cast the Halfling down to the rocks.

A part of him, a snarling dark part of him, much like a dragon, hissed that he should break the Halfling’s legs.

He didn’t listen to it, content to march away from the shaking form on the stone, who was curled up in the shadows, ignored.

Where it belonged.

Chapter Text

At first, Bofur isn’t sure what the feeling is racing through his veins.

At first, he thinks it is possessiveness, but that’s not right and it is the confusion that paralyzes him, that keeps him from moving or reacting as Thorin snarls at Bilbo.

Why…the world is a fog around him, trying to smother all thought. That it is only because he swore fealty to Thorin that he moves to keep Bifur from launching himself forward and doing unspeakable things to their King.

It will be hours of puzzling out that emotion, that feeling, until he realizes that it is.

Mostly because it was many emotions, all balled up and tangled into one large knot.

He was never very good with knots, always cutting through them instead.

But when he finally managed to untangle them (and Bifur was nowhere near him, but over with Bombur, who was looking…saddened or frightened and Dwalin had even holed himself up somewhere with Balin), it crashed through him like a runaway mine cart.

Horror. Grief. Guilt.

Fear.

Why when…

And then it hits him. Bilbo, sweet Bilbo, trembling and scared in his arms, of what he had said, what he had done and suddenly the gold doesn’t look pretty, it has history to it.

There is something to it beyond the monetary value and Bofur begins to gasp for air as it hits him, rolls over him, and slams through him.

He hurt Bilbo.

No, worse.

He had treated Bilbo like an object, like one of these precious gems or bits of gold, and Bofur drops like a marionette that just had the strings cut.

Mahal.

What had he done?

*~*~*

Dwalin shakes slightly as Balin pats his shoulder. “He sounded like her,” he stated and Balin resists the urge to wince.

“He sounded just like she did when in pain, those little hitches of breath and…how could we let this happen?” Dwalin demanded.

“We could not know, fully, how this would affect our King and friend,” Balin answered and tries his best to calm Dwalin down.

*~*~*

Fíli and Kíli poked at the gold before they sat on the ground. “What did we do to Bilbo?” Kíli asked softly, even as Fíli shook his head before he pulled Kíli into a hug.

He said nothing about the thoughts that had intruded on him and made him feel muzzy that spoke of harming his little brother.

Kíli just snuggled into the hug happily and forgot all about the gold around them.

*~*~*

Thorin glowers at the encampment.

The Arkenstone has been returned, the Traitor evicted, and yet…

Something in him screamed and howled in an all consuming rage, refusing to fall silent, to go back to sleep. Whatever it was, it had awoken and refused to go back to sleep.

Thorin snarled at the wordless screaming to go away, but it would not, and it pushed at his mind, at his soul…

At his heart.

Thorin shook his head and snorted.

What need did he have for maudlin…

Thorin looked up as a raven, young and silkily black, landed next to him. “Your majesty, I have dire news,” the raven croaked out.

“What has happened?” Thorin asked.

“An army comes from the Misty Mountains, made of Orcs on their Wargs and Goblins. They will be at our doorstep within the fortnight,” the raven answered and Thorin’s shoulders hunched.

“What about Dáin’s army?” Thorin questioned.

“They will be here tomorrow. Shall we deliver messages to the other leaders?” he asked.

Thorin hesitated, but the back part of his mind snarled and howled and…

“Let me speak with Balin and I will return with messages. When Dáin camps, I will need one of the ravens to inform him that Bard and the Elves are not our foes for now,” Thorin stated and the raven nodded once before he flew off.

Thorin took a deep breath and closed his eyes as the cold winter night winds swept across his face. For a moment, it felt like no time had passed.

Any moment now, Frerin…

Thorin opened his eyes with a gasp and shook.

For a moment, he was horrified.

He had thrown Bilbo!

And then the rage rolled back, clouding his mind and Thorin snarled before he slammed his fists on the stone wall and stormed back into the mountain.

Chapter Text

When Bilbo was lowered down from the battlement after the Arkenstone had been sent up, the snow the sky has been threatening them with since the ‘negotiations’ had begun was unleashed. It came in flurries thick and fast, heralding, dressing the land to match the season as well as crowning the Dwarvish New Year in something soft and white, yet dangerous, instead of blood and death.

Bilbo, after getting out of the bucket used to lower him down, had just stood there for some time, just staring up at the sky until he was suddenly being ushered away from it all by Thranduil, who guided him deep into the Elven tents where there was already a tent set up for him in the very heart of it all.

It was in this tent, on a cot stacked with warm things, and after Thranduil left him with the promise that all would get better eventually, that Bilbo breaks down in tears.

Few Elves hear him, for his sobs are as silent as a breeze across the plains, and it is the soft struggles for breath his only audible sign of distress. As he sat there, sobbing, he clung to his torso, to the mithril mail underneath, and he clung to the last happy memories he had with Bofur and he clung and clung as he sobbed silently into the air.

Some hours later, an Elf he did not recognize, who introduced herself as Tauriel, came to bring him to dinner, on Thranduil’s orders. “He’s taken a liking to you,” she explained as they walked to the Thranduil’s tent.

When he tilted his head slightly, she smiled in a way that Elves did when they were trying not to, and stopped to face Bilbo. “That is both a good and bad thing. While he makes poor decisions, generally, when Dwarves and shiny white jewels come into play, when he cares for someone, he cares and cares all the more when he knows that person’s time on this world is limited. On the other hand, he can become near smothering in his affection,” she stated.

When he raised an eyebrow, she smiled. “You’ll see,” she offered and carefully pat Bilbo’s shoulder before she lead him toward the tent designated for them to eat in.

*~*~*

The first dinner was…interesting.

It had just been Thranduil, three Elves that could be Thranduil’s sons, Tauriel, and himself, with some guards, all of whom Bilbo was pretty sure had already eaten. He was hesitant to enter, at first, but Tauriel had been quick to introduce him to Legolas and from there the dinner had gone swimmingly. Talk had been as free and as flowing as the wine served, both of which Bilbo enjoyed with great caution.

When it was over, Tauriel had escorted him back to his tent and that had been the beginning of an odd sort of friendship to begin between Bilbo and Tauriel.

It was also the start of a pattern for the next two days and had culminated in this moment. An hour after dinner and they had stopped to observe the stars in the dark of the night, only to see clouds on the horizon. At first, neither had thought much of it, but as they continued to watch the stars, they also slowly watched them get swallowed by the dark of the clouds.

"That is not a good omen," Tauriel murmured and Bilbo nodded in agreement.

The clouds of snow had already passed and, even if more were coming, they would not move as quickly as these. He twitched slightly and looked over the female Elf, who was watching the sky as intently as Bilbo had.

The fires of the Elven camp were odd, mystical almost, and caught her hair, making it blaze like dragon fire, which had Bilbo swallowing nervously before he turned his eyes back to the stars, which were now just clouds.

Clouds that felt…foul. Like the great exhale of a deadly beast that could poison the very air and it was that feeling that rode the air that had him looking back at Tauriel, thankful to find that the lights had shifted again and her hair had returned to normal.

That was what gave him the courage to reach out and carefully grasp her sleeve to tug it gently, much like how a child would tug on their mother’s skirts. The red-haired Elf looked down at him and Bilbo nodded towards the clouds. “I’m in trouble enough,” she stated and Bilbo shrugged before he began to trot in the direction the clouds were coming from.

She let out an irritated sound and followed after him. “I did not say I did not wish to know. What has you so worried about it?”

Bilbo waved his hands in circles, even as he continued, though he found that it was pointless. “We’ll never find the source this way. We must swing by the horse tents first,” she stated and immediately lead the way.

*~*~*

The horse was like midnight and the each snort like steam rising from a dragon’s nostrils. Even as Tauriel saddled the horse and worked, it was obvious the horse was against being ridden out at this time.

“Quiet!” Tauriel hissed at the horse, even as she finished settling the final saddle bag over his back.

“Come on Bilbo,” she whispered and Bilbo hurried over, a bit surprised when she just lifted him up into the saddle and she mounted up behind him.

Gathering the reins in one hand, she guided the horse around, only to stop short at the sight of Legolas on a horse as pale as moonlight. “I’m coming with you, or I tell Father you and the Hobbit are sneaking away into the night,” he stated.

“You are a dirty little blackmailer,” Tauriel warned, even as rode past Legolas close enough to have her foot tap his.

“Yes, but this way I can help keep you two out of trouble,” Legolas answered as he followed Tauriel’s lead.

“Keep us out of trouble? Who was the one who fell down the well? Who was the one of us fell out of a tree and broke his arm? Which one of us slipped through the bars that mark one of our gates and nearly got swept all the way to Laketown? I do not believe, in any of those circumstances, it was I, Legolas,” Tauriel answered calmly as her horse began to pick up speed as they left the Elf encampment behind.

Chapter Text

The night clung to them as they followed the trail, forced to leave it when patrols began to cross over each other, eventually coming out near Laketown. The once semi-vibrant, if decrepit, town was still smoldering from the dragon fire and Bilbo stared at it with guilty eyes.

He, and the Company, had brought this down upon them. They were at fault for these people losing their homes and their lives. “You are not at fault, Bilbo,” Tauriel murmured, but Bilbo just shook his head, pressing his hands to his eyes.

He felt Tauriel shift behind him and he was being hugged. “You’re not,” she pressed softly as her mare, Thinel, shifted beneath them.

Bilbo shook his head again, even as he heard Legolas’s stallion, Calithilon, make a low grumbling noise. “Legolas, you are not allowed to lead. And what’s wrong?” Tauriel stated and Bilbo looked up to find the stallion was refusing to go past Laketown’s ruins.

“He’s never refused to ride on before,” Legolas stated and Tauriel frowned as her mare strode forward, Bilbo winding his fingers through her mane.

“Then we walk,” she answered as she dismounted, helping Bilbo down shortly after.

Legolas frowned before he joined them. “Which way?” Legolas questioned lowly and Tauriel glanced around.

Bilbo merely looked up, mentally changing their direction and began to walk. He ignored the slight twinges that came as side-effects from the injuries he had sustained over the journey. He wasn’t even sure if he was fully healed and he smiled a little as Tauriel was there. “You should get our attention before you leave without us,” Tauriel stated, even as Legolas caught up.

“You could get harmed,” he added and Bilbo shot him a look before he continued on.

Yes, he could be, but Bilbo highly doubted it could be worse than what he had already endured.

*~*~*

"By the Valar," Tauriel gasped and Bilbo merely nodded.

What else could he do as he watched an army of Orcs march out of Mirkwood?

“Those…” Legolas hissed quickly dissolving into Sindarin.

“I knew we should have followed those spiders back to their breeding grounds!” Tauriel agreed and Bilbo frowned as he watched two pale Orcs strode out.

The two seemed to be in command, though only one rode a white Warg. The other rode a regular colored Warg and Bilbo yanked at their sleeves, drawing their attention to him. He made pointed nods with his head back to Laketown and began to inch backwards. Both Elves hesitated before they slid back as well.

Bilbo just walked backwards, wincing a little when various aches and pains from injuries newly healed reminded him that they existed. He continued to walk backwards, however, until the pair both turned away to follow him. Satisfied they weren’t going to do anything stupid, Bilbo turned and hurried along, wincing slightly at the tiny scraps of boots across the ground as they hurried after him.

Elves were said to be the quietest of all the Races?

Obviously whoever had said that hadn’t ever met a Hobbit.

Bilbo exhaled sharply when he was suddenly lifted into the air and he felt Tauriel tighten her grip on him. “I thought I heard them speaking of other movement. Do you wish to investigate with me?” she whispered as they walked back to Laketown.

Bilbo did not hesitate to nod quickly and she gave a soft affirmation before she picked up speed. “Quickly! Thranduil needs to know of the army,” she whispered and Legolas walked ahead of them.

“Don’t worry, Bilbo. We’ll get him to lead,” she whispered and made sure to keep at Legolas’s heels.

*~*~*

“Legolas, they won’t stop through the night,” Tauriel explained as she settled Bilbo in the saddle.

Legolas mounted up just as Tauriel got her boot in the stirrup, quickly swinging up behind Bilbo. She held Thinel’s reins and guided the mare around, even as Legolas urged his stallion into a light canter.

She nudged Thinel’s sides and they were soon just out of Legolas’s visual field. “Hurry up Tauriel!” Legolas ordered as he urged Calithilon into a gallop.

“Yes Legolas,” she agreed simply and Bilbo glanced over his shoulder at her.

She was never that compliant and this would never work. She just gave a small nod and continued to ride out of Legolas’s sight. As they neared the one turn that could hide them, she gave a low order in Sindarin. With a toss of her head, Thinel was rushing away through the night, towards the Misty Mountains. “I thought I saw something in the dark and if there is another force coming, I want to know,” she explained lowly and Bilbo merely nodded as they continued to race through the night.

*~*~*

The dawn didn’t even begin to break through the thick clouds as Tauriel and Bilbo quietly made their way through some muck, Thinel walking close behind. She never even flinched as rough words began to tumble through the air and Tauriel gently tugged the mare to a halt.

With a small huff, she carefully threw the reins back over the mare’s neck. “Halt,” she whispered as she began to make her way through the tall stones.

Bilbo hadn’t even known they were there until they had been forced to dismount. He followed Tauriel dutifully as she lead the way, keeping to the deeper shadows until they came to a stop. “Goblin,” she snarled, her face twisting into a vicious visage akin to that of Azog (which Bilbo wasn’t going to think too much on) and followed her gaze, gulping slightly.

“We need to go, now,” Tauriel whispered as she began to retreat, but Bilbo was already moving.

This time, he led the way, picking their way across the rocks and through the muck, which in the murky sunlight looked like it might be blood. Bilbo ignored it as he continued to lead the way. When they reached Thinel, Tauriel placed him on her back before she mounted up. Turning the mare around, she nudged her forward and they began to walk. The moment they reached a clearing, the mare tore off with barely a word from Tauriel.

Chapter Text

"Where have you been?" Thranduil demanded the moment Thinel cantered into the center of the Elf encampment.

"Movement, from the Misty Mountains. Goblins," Tauriel panted softly as she dismounted quickly lowering Bilbo onto the ground.

A younger Elf rushed forward, hair a darker red than Tauriel's, and gathered up Thinel's reins before she quickly retreated with the mare. Bilbo tugged at Tauriel's tunic and she glanced down at him. He made obvious gestures, making a crown with his hands and pointing to the Misty Mountains, followed by a cutting motion across his throat, followed by pointing to the Lonely Mountain. He covered his face with his hands when they stared at him blankly.

Oldest and wisest his feet.

He tried again and Thranduil raised an eyebrow. "The Dwarves killed the King of the Goblins? No wonder they are leaving their festering cesspools of former Dwarven Halls. Not much of a step up," Thranduil muttered and Bilbo shot him a dark look before he let out a long sigh.

He would deal with proud and stubborn beings later. Right now, they had to prepare for war.

*~*~*

Bilbo watched as the camps, Elf, Man, and Dwarf alike became a buzz of activity. Warriors, both trained and not, rushed around to make up some sort of central section for the planning as Orcs and Goblins marched ever closer. Bilbo frowned as he watched, eyes taking in the weaving of the Men and Elves and Dwarves and he closed his eyes against the sight.

It was…terrifying and horrifying, to know that war had come. Thranduil had learned from a raven about how Orcs had originally been marching with the Goblins, though both Tauriel, and Bilbo, admitted to not seeing any. “We were caught off guard by the Goblins. And the…cloud that has been keeping the sun from reaching the ground,” Tauriel explained, when Thranduil had questioned them about it and Bilbo had nodded in agreement with those words.

He had not seen Wargs or Orcs, but he had not realized that he should have been looking, and now he worried what this war would bring. “Bilbo,” Gandalf called and Bilbo looked up at him.

“It might be best if you stay out of the way. War is no place for a Hobbit,” Gandalf stated and Bilbo gave a small nod of agreement, even as he knew he would do no such thing.

That he would dive into battle, just as the rest would.

He would just have to be sneaky about it in a manner that no one else would have to be. Gandalf smiled at the easy acceptance and pat Bilbo’s head, the braids half-undone and a mess of curls, before the Wizard retreats.

Mentally, he prepares himself and ignores the feel of guilt. He has lived with it since the Arkenstone and a little more isn’t going to hurt anyone except himself.

And he deserves it, the weight of that guilt in his heart and stomach, having lied and cheated and stole from those he considers family.

When Tauriel comes to sit down next to him, eyes on the darkened sky, he is a bit surprised when she passes him a small knife. “In case you lose that sword of yours,” she stated as she stood.

“Be safe, my friend,” she whispered in Sindarin, and then she was gone.

Bilbo was sure she was the only one in the entire camp that knew what Bilbo planned come the cry for war.

*~*~*

“Will he be safe?” Thranduil asked and Tauriel gave a small shrug.

“As safe as one can be on the battlefield. He has a second weapon and mithril mail. I believe he will live to see the aftermath,” Tauriel responded and Thranduil sighed, fingers tracing the battle plans.

“Be safe,” he ordered and Tauriel gave a small bow before she left Thranduil to his musings.

Mortals, Thranduil decided, were too hard to care about, especially ones with too big feet and curling ears that were almost, not quite, like an Elf’s.