Disclaimer: The Hobbit, all characters, places, and related terms are the sole property of J. R. R. Tolkien's estate.
Author's Note: Fill for a prompt on the hobbit-kink meme.
Huge... Giant... Intimidating... Scary... Mean... Strong… Stern... Like an orc... An angry bear...
Many are the descriptions and responses little children give to explain what they think – ranging from unease to terror – of you, Captain of the King's Guard. It has always been so for as long as you can remember (even as a dwarfling your papa proudly called you intimidating). Some children run away yelling, some seek protection behind their parents' legs, others refuse to come nearer, and many burst into tears. Whether human or dwarf, stranger or relative, they all keep a careful distance from you.
Before, when you were young and innocent, the words and looks hurt, though it was true you did not get along easily with little ones. But as time went on, you grew used to them, expected such things. Now the words and reactions simply slide off you like water drops, your focus and energy on serving your king.
Thus, despite all appearances and endless wishful thinking on your brother's part (and the head dame in charge of the orphanage), the hobbit babe does not like you; and you certainly do not look forward to visiting Bilbo, holding and cuddling the little thing. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for everything.
There was your first meeting, for example. You discovered the creature wrapped in a blanket, hidden in the thicket, the only survivor of the ambush – littler than a newborn dwarf infant, hints of fur on top of its feet, ears with pointy tips – and the babe did not wail louder but instead twisted pudgy hands in the fur of your jacket, shifted closer to your chest. Well, that was simply because the baby had been out in the elements for so long, needed the additional warmth. (And your reluctance at having him taken from you much later at the orphanage was not due to how he strangely fitted so well in your massive arms, but because you feared he would start crying upon encountering yet another strange person.)
You accompanied Oin when he examined the baby because you felt slightly responsible for him, being the one to find him and everything. You realized just how small and helpless he appeared compared to the other strong dwarf babes. The quiet cries and the fear in his green eyes diminished when you entered his line of vision over Oin's shoulder, the healer's tentative probing fingers no longer of consequence, and gurgled at you. Because you were familiar, a representation of safety. (So you continued to tag along when Oin made his visits to the orphanage, just so Bilbo [the name was embroidered on a corner of his blanket] wouldn't be an uncooperative patient.)
Nearly four months after you found Bilbo, you visited him for the first time without Oin, with Balin at your heels instead. You could not account for your brother's great interest in the baby, often mentioning and asking about him at the oddest times, and gruffly agreed to introduce the two. The hobbit babe issued a loud incomprehensible exclamation when he spotted you and determinedly crawled over, grinning widely and extending his arms once at your feet. Feeling like a great oversized oaf, awkwardly you lifted him into your arms, having not held him since that first day. You chalked up his enthusiastic greeting, as well as his preference to being held by you instead of Balin (who was adored by children), to his not knowing better yet – unaware of what you were. (Your visit lasted much longer than you envisioned. When Bilbo started falling asleep, after thrice attempting to give him to a nurse only for him to jerk awake and whimper pitifully, you decided to let him nap in peace within your cradled arms. Ignoring the not so secret smiles cast towards you by Balin and the head dame, you instead focused on watching the hobbit, relaxing in turn.)
The next time you went alone to the orphanage some weeks later, it was simply to deliver an inquiry from your brother who suddenly found himself much too swamped by work to go himself. You had no intention of peeking in on Bilbo. But when you caught some of the older children teasing and calling him names – the little one's face scrunched up, sensing the meanness in their voices and expressions – you growled loudly, a giant barrier between them and Bilbo, grimly satisfied by how they backed away, warning them in no uncertain terms. (Bilbo clinging to your leg, not letting go despite your display of temper, made your stomach flip. But all you thought was how queer hobbits were.)
After that, about every week you went to see Bilbo. Because you had not realized before how lonely he could be, looked down on for not being a dwarf by the other orphans. And the way the hobbit lit up each time made it even clearer why he tolerated you, being perhaps the only one to show real kindness. And when he tottered unsteadily on his feet to you the first time, you firmly nodded when one dame said a few dwarves had come to look at him. Being adopted into a family, having the love and care of a papa and mama was what Bilbo needed. It would simply be a matter of time before he at last saw you for the scary towering dwarf that you were and shield away. (Balin's eyes twinkled when you shared the news, asking if you had considered such a notion yourself. You had roared with laughter, wondering if he had been dropped on his head as a baby. Yet your brother continued dropping comments here and there, sighing. And you always shook your head, marveling at his blindness of how things would be.)
And now, two years after rescuing him, you are going to see Bilbo for possibly the last time. You've heard that finally a dwarf family is considering adopting him who has met the head dame's approval. You remind yourself over and over that this is what you have hoped for him, knows he needs. A lump forms in your throat. Well, you have grown accustomed to seeing the little hobbit weekly, and you shall have to get used to it not being so anymore. You shall not linger with him long, stretch out the farewell. Erebor is large, and you can't be sure that he'll see you again after this. Better not make any promises that you might not be able to keep.
He will be well, he will be well, you think absently as a nurse nods and steps aside to allow you inside.
The call halts you five steps into the room. Shocked, instinctively you kneel and catch the little body that presses into you, short arms wrapping around you as much as possible in a hug. You only discover you are crying when Bilbo leans back a little to look at you, his face appearing blurry. The tiny creature giggles as you hold him while rising to your feet, happily kissing your wet cheeks. Never has he called you that – anything – before. Why, why make it harder for you to say goodbye...?
"Luv, papa," Bilbo proclaims quietly, resting his head against your shoulder as you rock him back and forth.
Swallowing hard, you fear you will burst and... There is no way you will let him go now, ever, no.
"He deserves a real family, with a mama and papa," you say hoarsely, noticing the head dame in the doorway, the same words you've oft repeated since nearly the beginning when she first broached the subject with you. You hug Bilbo closer, heart leaping at his contented sigh.
The dame's smile behind her beard is kind and reassuring.
"You already are family."