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Story Notes:
I do not own any part of Tolkien's fantasy lore.
This is for entertainment purposes only.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Thorin arrives at Bag End.
He soon realizes that this "Hobbit" is not the buglar he was anticipating.
The Dwarf prince’s heart hammered with vigorous anticipation. This very night would dawn the beginning of a new era for his kin and finally a future was peering over cloudy horizon. If all went according to plan, Erebor would be reclaimed and Thorin Oakenshield’s birthright restored to him.

Erebor, he remembered. The halls of stone would soon have the resounding clanking and clattering of iron, steel and gold. The fragrant aroma of metal and sweat would waft from the mines and honor would swell his heart thrice its size.

But now, it was empty. Like Erebor, it housed a demon that cared not for labor or virtue. This demon tortured Thorin with memories only of death, destruction and fire. For, Smaug cared only for the precious metal Thorin’s own kin had forged with their bare hands. And with those hands, the Dwarf prince would see him fall. He swore to it.

Thorin had to remind himself of such realities as he meandered the streets of Hobbiton. The foreign town was unlike anything he had ever seen. There was so much life and merriment; he thought perhaps the folk of this place had something stronger than ale in their blood.

With a proud and masculine stride he dismounted his pony and began to ascend the nearest hill. Keen eyes peered toward the round red door before him searching for the Wizard’s mark. Nothing. Thorin’s doubts began to grow.

Gandalf had insisted that a great “burglar” would be found here. Baker, farmer or gardener, maybe but a thief required cunning, bravery and some type of backbone. And judging from the ample supply of flowers and smiles, he would find no such character here.

After approaching 3 houses and nearly scaring one Hobbit maiden to faint, Thorin almost began to give up hope. His company, too, was nowhere to be found. He clenched his fists with a loud crack and travelled to the last home on the path. Relief spread through him as the promised mark appeared. He could even hear laughing, singing and burping. Thorin smiled in spite of himself and pounded on the door with boulder-like fists.

Within a few brief moments the round door creaked open and Gandalf himself greeted him. Thorin smirked.

“Gandalf, I thought you said this place would be easy to find. I lost my way… twice. Wouldn’t have found it at all had it not been for that mark on the door.” The Wizard’s face expressed much guilt and Thorin ignored it, removing his hooded cloak.

“Mark? There’s no mark on that door. It was painted a week ago!” said a voice. Thorin’s eyes met a young clean face, whose eyes were wrought with panic and distress. His heart sank. His fears were coming to reality. This Hobbit was going to be quite the burden.

“There is a mark. I put it there myself.” The Hobbit seemed most displeased by Gandalf’s treachery. “Bilbo Baggins, allow me to introduce the leader of our company, Thorin Oakenshield.”

The Dwarf crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes with a playful smile.

“So this is the Hobbit,” he said quietly studying him, judging him. “Tell me, Mr. Baggins, have you done much fighting?” he asked rounding on the little creature.

“Pardon me?” he asked.

“Axe or sword? What is your weapon of choice?” Thorin continued egging him on. The poor thing was much too easy.

“Well, I have some skill at Conkers if you must know, but I fail to see why that is relevant.”

Thorin had to stifle a laugh. At least the lad was witty.

“Thought as much. He looks more like a grocer than a burglar.”

As the Dwarves erupted in laughter all around him, Thorin couldn’t help but notice the Hobbit feeling rather flustered. He smiled broadly at his distress and he sniffed the air. Taking Dwalin under his arm he gave his friend a hard smack against his furs.

“Tell me, what is for dinner? Or did you eat the lot?” he asked looking around Bilbo’s home. It had a feminine touch and was undoubtedly inherited; unless, of course, this Baggins fellow had a lass hidden among the corridors.

Doubtful, he mused.

“We ate well and Bombur cleaned the plates. Afraid there is nothing left,” Dwalin grunted. Thorin’s eyes darted to the corpulent dwarf, still picking his teeth with a chicken bone. The Dwarf prince shook his head with a smile.

“I would expect nothing less,” he said, seeing the Hobbit in the corner of his eye. He turned slowly, handing his cloak to Dwalin. “Mr. Baggins… what can you make for me?”

The Hobbit looked down quickly at his extremely large feet avoiding eye contact at all costs. Thorin could not help but smile at the peculiarity of his race and thought, perhaps he, too, looked just as odd to his host. With a knitted brow and a twisted face, Bilbo answered without sparing a single glance.

“I can make you some soup, if you like. There… erm… should be enough vegetables left to boil and I have plenty of broth. That is… of course… if you like soup at all.”

Thorin stepped forward and bent down toward him delivering imposing energy with every movement.

“Soup it is. But leave the vegetables. Boiling will take too long. We have much to discuss,” he said. The Hobbit flashed the slightest of smiles finally looked at the Dwarf. “Do I frighten you?” Thorin asked boldly. He saw the Hobbit’s throat push down a gulp.

“What? No… not at all!” Bilbo replied with nervous laughter. Thorin stood tall again and smacked the Hobbit on the back with a resounding thud.

“Good!” he exclaimed as Bilbo winced. “You have much worse things to fear, Mr. Baggins. Now if you please, the soup. I am famished.”

“Of course,” he replied through gritted teeth. Thorin watched him walk away; his shoulders risen, still feeling the sting of the Dwarf's palm. A deep chuckle emanated in his throat.

“You may want to go easy on him,” Gandalf’s voice rang from the other room. Walking toward the table where his kin awaited him, Thorin rolled his eyes at the Wizard’s advice.

“I treat him as I treat my own,” he replied gesturing to his company. “If the Hobbit cannot handle it, then he is not fit to be among us.” Gandalf did not seemed pleased by this comment but Thorin could care less. With pride, he took his seat at the head of Bilbo’s table, and smiled as the Hobbit carried in a bowl of steaming hot broth.

“Here you are… Thorin, is it?” he asked quickly.

“Aye,” the Dwarf nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Baggins.”

“Oh… no trouble really,” he replied thumbing his suspenders. “Oh… and please. Enough with the ‘Mr. Baggins’ talk. Call me Bilbo.”

Thorin smiled warmly and picked up his spoon. It was much smaller than anything he was used to and his giant fingers fumbled it slightly.

“Very well then. Thank you, Bilbo.”

And with gratitude he sipped the savory soup gently for it was quite hot. He nodded to his humble host and let his eyes linger on him, a bit longer than necessary.

A bright red flush darkened the Hobbit's cheeks as Thorin said his name. It was a feeling unfamiliar to Bilbo and he cleared his throat loudly.

"Dont' mention it," he replied looking down at his feet once more.

"What news from the meeting in Ered Luin? Did they all come?" the white bearded Dwarf asked Thorin. Bilbo racked his brain for the name. They all sounded so similarly odd.

"Aye, Envoys from all seven kingdoms."

Started with a "B", Bilbo remembered. And it rhymed with his brother's name.

"What do the dwarves of the Iron Hills say? Is Dain with us?" Dwalin asked.

Dwalin was the brother's name! Bilbo remembered. So the white haired dwarf was Bwalin? No. Balin!

"They will not come. They say the quest is ours and ours alone." Thorin's voice was dark and laden with much resentment. Bilbo found his palms sweating, which he quickly remedied by wiping them on his trousers.

"You're going on a quest?" he chimed in. He didn't want to seem rude.

"Bilbo, my dear fellow, let us have a little more light." Gandalf asked. Nodding swiftly, Bilbo brought a freshly lit candle to the table. Gandalf had spread out a rather intricate map with foreign runes and lovely illustrations.

"Far to the East over ranges and rivers beyond woodlands and wastelands lies a single solitary peak," the Wizard explained.

"The Lonely Mountain," Bilbo read. As the other Dwarves spoke amongst themselves, the Hobbit's eyes traveled to Thorin's face who remained stoic and intense. Bilbo had never seen such a stern looking being. Every Hobbit he ever had the pleasure of knowing had smile lines by the time they were in their twenties! Even the sourest of his kin had a laugh every once and a while. His inside stirred at the thought of what Thorin must look like while laughing.

But his attention was greatly distracted at the mention of a "beast." For the thought of his respectful... guest... being harmed was too much for him to bear.

"Erm... what beast?" he asked hesitantly.

"Well that would be a reference to Smaug the Terrible. Chiefest and greatest calamity of our age. Airborne fire-breather, teeth like razors, claws like meat hooks, extremely fond of precious metal - "

Bilbo's blood ran cold but he dared not show it. He narrowed his eyes at the Dwarf in the funny hat.

"Yes, I know what a dragon is," he spat sarcastically. For a moment he noticed Thorin's eyes shift his direction. Fearing they would be stern and scolding, Bilbo tried to look away. However, as fate would have it, the Dwarf's glance was amused of all things!

One of the young Dwarves shouted something brash causing quite the uproar. All Bilbo could do was breathe. Such noise and rowdiness was not fit for his quiet Hobbit hole and all he wanted to do was disappear. If his mother could see him now! He shuddered at the thought.

"Gandalf will have killed a hundred dragons in his time!" the dwarf named Kili exclaimed. Now things were looking promising.

"Oh, well, now, erm..." Gandalf stammered. Modesty was not a quality Bilbo knew the Wizard to possess. He deduced the fellow to never have even seen said beast.

With Gandalf's stalling and stuttering the company began to argue once again. Bilbo put his fingers to his temples and tried to block out any bit of sound.

"Oh this is doing nothing for my nerves," he whispered with a long sigh. Thorin looked at him; his eyes concerned and furious.

"Shazara!" he shouted in Dwarvish. Bilbo's heart stopped in his chest at the majesty of his voice. "If we have read these signs do you not think others will have read them too? Rumors have begun to spread. The dragon, Smaug, has not been seen for 60 years. Eyes look east to the Mountain, assessing, wondering, weighing the risk. Perhaps the vast wealth of our people now lies unprotected. Do we sit back while others claim what is rightfully ours? Or do we seize this chance to back Erebor?! Du Bekar! Du Bekar!"

A shivering chill raked down the Hobbit's spine as he heard Thorin's words. Such conviction had only been heard in stories, and, as far as he was concerned, didn't exist otherwise.

"You forget: the front gate is sealed. There is no way into the mountain," Balin said.

"That, my dear Balin, is not entirely true," Gandalf said producing a beautifully carved key. Thorin's face told the importance of such a relic and Bilbo had to remind himself to breathe.

The Wizard spoke of an alternate route to get into the mountain and Bilbo's interest peaked.

"That's why we need a burglar," a Dwarf said.

"A good one too. An expert, I'd imagine," Bilbo added thumbing his suspenders once again.

"And are you?" another Dwarf asked. Bilbo had to look behind him to see if he was truly referring to him. The poor Hobbit became extremely confused.

"Am I what?" he asked.

"He said he's an expert!" the deaf Dwarf shouted.

Panic constricted Bilbo's chest. This was wrong... all wrong.

"Me? No... oh no no no..." he stuttered trying to ignore the disappointing stares. "I'm not a burglar. I've never stolen a thing in my life!"

"I'm afraid I have to agree with Mr. Baggins. He's hardly burglar material."

Finally someone with some sense around here! he thought, gesturing in agreement to Balin.

Then suddenly Gandalf rose in his stance and his voice resounded like thunder.

"Enough! If I say Bilbo Baggins is a burglar, then a burglar he is!"

Bilbo tried to protest again, but it was a futile attempt. The Wizard went on to convince the company that a dragon would not be accustomed to his scent and that his participation was ideal. Nausea balled up in Bilbo's gut and he tried to calm himself. It was one thing to be weak in front of company, but to embarrass himself in front of the likes of Thorin? The thought was too much to stomach.

"Very well. We will do it your way," the leader said. Bilbo couldn't help but notice the displeasure in his voice and he quickly tried to voice his opinion.

"No, no no no..." he shouted. But, of course, as before all efforts were fruitless.

"Give him the contract," Thorin commanded.

"Please!" Bilbo pleaded with him. But Thorin would hear none of it and Balin handed the Hobbit the longest roll of parchment he had ever seen.

His eyes skimmed the terms and his rising panic rested in his throat as he read "lacerations", "evisceration" and "incineration" aloud. The room began to blur.

"Oh aye, he'll melt the flesh off your bones in the blink of an eye," he heard the funny hatted Dwarf comment.

"Huh?" he asked panting.

"You alright, laddie?" Balin asked. Bilbo hugged his knees with his palms. The floor swayed and he blinked rapidly to keep focus.

"Uh...yeah. I feel a bit faint," he admitted. The other dwarf said something else but Bilbo couldn't hear it with the sound of blood rushing to his ears. "Air... I need air." His voice trembled.

"Flash of light, searing pain the poof! You're nothing but a pile of ash!"

Just when the poor Hobbit was about to regain composure, the room went bright...

"Nope." he said.

...then black.

Thorin rose from his chair far quicker than his companions as Bilbo fell to the floor. Hurrying toward the unconscious Hobbit, he knelt and felt his forehead. He was clammy and cold.

"Bofur! Get a wet towel!" he snarled. Gently he shook Bilbo's face from side to side, hoping to wake him, yet he did not stir. Bofur soon arrived with a wet rag and Thorin dabbed it against his forehead and chest gently.

"Will he be alright?" Bofur asked with a twinge of concern.

"What do you care?" Thorin shouted. "Isn't this what you wanted? Have a good row at the only one who could complete our company?"

Bofur's brow furrowed with shame.

"I was just having a bit of fun," he replied quietly. Bilbo began to awaken and Thorin threw the rag down beside him with a sloshing splat. He rose to meet his kin before the Hobbit knew he had aided him.

"Well, if your fun costs us our burglar, I blame you entirely," he sneered stepping into the kitchen.

Bilbo stirred asking many questions, and Gandalf led him to a chair by the fire. As Thorin expected, the Wizard would talk as much reason as he could muster. But the true question remained. Would it be enough?

As much as he toiled, the Dwarf prince couldn't find the source of his rising irritation. Yes, Bofur was a bit heavy with his banter, but no more than was custom. Was it the idea of losing the only hope he had left to secure the treasure? Was it the constant reminder that his prize was so close and yet just out of reach? Or was it that this Hobbit, this... insignificant being held so much weight to this quest?

Quickly he banished the thought. Bilbo Baggins meant nothing to him, and that he was certain of. If the Hobbit couldn't stomach the reality Bofur so clearly and descriptively stated, then he could stay here in the confines of his warm little burrow.

"I can't sign this. You've got the wrong Hobbit," he heard Bilbo say. Thorin clenched his teeth trying to stifle his disappointment.

"It appears we have lost our burglar. Probably for the best. The odds were always against us. After all, what are we? Merchants, miners, tinkers, toy-makers; hardly the stuff of legend."

As much as Thorin wanted to run the old Dwarf through, he knew Balin had a point.

"There are a few warriors amongst us," he said slowly, watching Bilbo retreat to his sleeping quarters. Balin followed his gaze and looked at the young prince with intrigue.

"Old warriors," he quipped.

"I will take each and every one of these dwarves over an army from the Iron Hills. For when I called upon them, they came. Loyalty. Honor. A willing heart. I can ask no more than that," Thorin retorted.

"You don't have to do this," Balin said with gentl urgency. "You have a choice. You've done honorably by our people. You have built a new life for us in the Blue Mountains. A life of peace and plenty. A life that is worth more than all the gold of Erebor."

Further irritation bubbled inside Thorin once more and he pulled out the key of his forefathers.

"From my grandfather to my father, this has come to me. They dreamed of the day when the dwarfs of Erebor would reclaim their homeland. There is no choice, Balin... not for me." His once strong voice was laden with sadness and grief. Such a responsibility weighed upon his shoulders and he was proud to carry it.

"Then we are with you, laddie. We will see it done." Balin slapped his arm and Thorin offered his best smile.

"Come," he said to his friend. "Join me by the fire."

Thorin hunched over the mantle of the fireplace in the adjacent room. There, he stuffed his pipe full of tobacco struck the match with much contempt. A low hum began to groan in his throat and soon he was joined by his kin to create a mesmerizing drone. The song of his people was quick on his tongue and in a daze of weariness and disappointment, Thorin began to sing.

"Far over, the Misty Mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To find our long forgotten gold"

Then the company joined him.

"The pines were roaring on the height
The winds were moaning in the night
The fire was red, it flaming spread
The trees like torches blazed with light"

Thorin's eyes met that of his kin and a tight knot balled up in his throat. A humble group, they were, but they had more heart and valor than any army in all of Middle Earth.

"Well, where to now?" Kili asked between the puffing of his pipe.

"The Green Dragon ought to suffice," Gandalf answered. "You will find rest there as well as good company and food."

Thorin nodded, his eyes fixed on Bilbo's bedroom door. The faintest of lights flickered between the cracks and he felt himself pulled to whatever hid behind it.

"Shall we depart then, Thorin?" Gandalf asked. Thorin nodded again stepping out into the hall.

"Yes... yes get your things. I will meet you outside in a moment." Suddenly he felt a large hand upon his shoulder and the Dwarf prince looked up rather startled.

"I think it best you let Mr. Baggins alone, Thorin. He has given his answer. If he changes his mind, he knows where to find us." The twinkle in his eye made Thorin feel rather repulsed and he quickly shrugged the Wizard's hand away from him.

"I will do as I please, Gandalf. If I wish to have a word with the Hobbit, then I will do so," he whispered walking away. And much to his surprise, Gandalf did not pursue him.

With a quiet creak, Thorin pressed open the door to Bilbo's humble bedroom. It smelled of old candle wax and parchment, mingled with the unmistakable scent of pipe weed. To enter such a secret space felt invasive, and the intrusion excited Thorin to the core.

The Hobbit laid with his back to the door, his quilt pulled up tightly around his neck so that just his tuft of curly brown hair was visible. With his breathing so soft, Thorin knew the lad to be asleep. He exhaled a long sigh. There was to be no convincing him. Not now; not ever.

Thorin walked slowly toward the side of the bed where Bilbo slept, his heavy boots thudding with every stride. Kneeling before him, the dwarf studied the face of his former host.

Bilbo's expression was still twisted with worry, for even in sleep he couldn't find peace. Thorin couldn't help but feel slightly responsible. He wanted to calm him. Before he could even stop himself, the Thorin's hand stroked Bilbo's brow, sweeping away stray curls from his eyes. His calloused fingertips traced the soft and supple skin hugging his cheeks and the dwarf prince felt his chest grow warm. Bilbo was so innocent and so thoughtless. It was those attributes Thorin found so desirable, for he had none of the like in himself.

The Hobbit gave a sharp inhale at the dwarf's touch and Thorin froze. If Bilbo woke and saw such tenderness, he would think Thorin a fool. Such discoveries were not worth the risk and Thorin quickly stood as Bilbo settled once more.

"Sleep well, Mr. Baggins," he whispered accepting that this would be the last time he would ever see him. For if Thorin were to survive his quest, he knew Mr. Baggins wouldn't dare leave Bag End. He had no reason to.

Unless Thorin had to banish the thought before it was even entertained. There was simply no possible way the Hobbit felt the slightest attachment to him. He was tricked into housing them all in the first place, and all they did was eat his food, drink his ale and cause him panic.

Yet, Thorin couldn't deny the possibility was rather a delicious one. A humble Hobbit forsaking his own comforts for the company of a hardened Dwarf brought a smile to his face. He had to admit, he was fond of the little creature.

He stepped out into the hall of Bag End and straightened his stature. A proud Dwarf prince never hung his head. Grabbing the contract, Thorin opened it and stared at the empty line beneath his and Balin's signatures. How they mocked him. And with the last bit of faith he could muster, he left the parchment open on his table. The offer was still valid, if he chose to accept it.
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