My first ever piece of writing on anything, so I'm very nervous. I'd love to know what you think, but please be gentle with me.

PROLOGUE

Thorin noticed the woman shiver. Her thin dress, soaked by the sudden downpour, clung around her legs and she clutched her damp shawl more closely to her. She was cold. Without thinking he pulled off his coat and threw it roughly towards her.

"Do not get a chill" he barked. "A sick woman is all we need". He made to move away, then noticed the gleam of anger in her eyes as she stared pointedly at him. Confused, he turned on his heel. "We move on," he commanded, talking to no-one in particular, staring at her over his shoulder, "we've wasted enough time already". The company trudged forward with a few muttered grumbles.

The Halfling started to complain more vociferously, about 'just for once stopping for a rest' and 'having a nice warm fire' and 'dry clothes'. Thorin fixed him with a glare. "Would you have us exposed to all and sundry, Mr Baggins?" he rasped. He was about to point out the many, many dangers that could befall them now or at any point on their quest, but Fili and Kili seemed to find something very amusing about the word 'exposed'.

Glaring at them, Thorin mounted his pony, and made for the head of the group. The hobbit reddened and fell silent, a silence that remained with the company for the rest of the day, as the rain fell again, driving into their faces, and the ground grew heavier beneath their ponies' feet.


CHAPTER ONE

Later that night, as the company huddled by the camp fire, Thorin pondered the two strangers as he sat a little to the side with Balin and Dwalin.

"I do not understand the Halfling" he mused. "He whines at the slightest thing. I knew he would be a burden."

"He's just not used to this, that's all", said Dwalin. "I've known you to whine many a time, when it's cold and wet".

"It's bad for morale", Thorin grumbled, slightly mollified. "As for the woman…" he trailed off, and the two brothers looked at him sharply, suddenly more interested.

"Yes?" prompted Balin, when Thorin did not continue. Thorin sighed.

"I gave her my coat to warm her up and she looked at me like I had done her harm."

"You threw it at her and shouted" Balin pointed out.

"I was perfectly civil", huffed Thorin. Dwalin snorted at this, and Thorin cocked an eye. The bluff warrior smirked.

"Your way with women is legendary"

"This is not about me having"…he started again. "My way with women... I mean…I was simply…" He smiled wryly as both brothers chortled at the unintended pun. "You know what I meant".

"I know I'd like to have MY way with her" Dwalin volunteered, a low chuckle lacing his words. "Those titties in that wet dress…"

"Brother". Balin's tone was sharp. Thorin simply stared, mouth agog.

"Oh, don't say it hasn't crossed your mind, you old goat. Aye, and that of every dwarf in the company- including you my lord king", Dwalin replied with a leer, adding in a less enthusiastic tone, "That's why we shouldn't have a woman travelling with us."

"I couldn't agree more, my friend" intoned Thorin, glad at the direction the conversation was taking, "but what else could I have done? To leave her with those men at Bree would have been …dishonourable".

"Aye. But what do we do with her now?" All three fell silent for a moment, looking over to where the woman sat with the hobbit, a little way from the rest of the company, talking in low whispers and both looking miserable.

"It's my belief that the wizard intends us to go to Imladris" Balin began to say, swiftly interrupted by Thorin's snarled "Over my dead body" and Dwalin's snorted "No doubt he could arrange that for you".

"As I was saying, he intends to go to the elves, and we should let him," continued Balin. "He can take Miss Anna with him, and we'll press on. You know he never intended to stay with us for the whole quest".

"Good riddance, I say" Thorin snapped in a surly tone, "and he can take the Halfling with him too. Why I ever agreed to that, I do not know."

"Mr Baggins is not so bad if you take the trouble to talk to him. Most of the lads like him; and they like the lassie too."

"I thought we'd already established that", put in Dwalin; he and Thorin exchanged glances, then giggled.

"Aye, well, if that's what you think, maybe you should try talking to her". These two had been exasperating him for over a century. He gave Thorin a pointed look.

"Me? I do talk to her!"

"No you, don't Thorin. You shout. You've never known how to talk to women."

"Like I said, legendary…"

"Why are you so keen for me to talk to her? Besides, I think it's too late for me to start now." Thorin knew that finding a consort for his king was a plan dear to the old dwarf's heart; he also knew that he was accustomed to his bachelor status. It was Thorin's turn to be exasperated.

At that, Gloin joined them with a question about the next day's travel, and the matter was dropped.


Anna and Bilbo sat miserably by themselves, away from the dwarves and the fire, Anna still wearing Thorin's coat. The question under discussion was how to return it. Had it belonged to any other dwarf (with the possible exception of Dwalin) it would have been a simple matter. It would've been the easiest thing in the world to walk over to the rightful owner, thank them genuinely for their kindness and perhaps exchange a few polite lines of conversation. The thought of approaching Thorin, sat in all his haughtiness, flanked by the fearsome Dwalin, filled them with dread; both had been on the end of some fairly sharp comments from the leader and his henchman in the few days they had been travelling together.

"Perhaps if you do it quickly, and don't make eye contact" Bilbo suggested tentatively.

Anna shook her head vigorously. "I wouldn't know what to say. He'll shout at me again"

"Just say thank you"

"What if he says something back?"

Bilbo seemed nonplussed. "At least Balin's with him". The elder statesman had always been kind to them both.

"So is Dwalin".

Bilbo fell silent, seemed to hesitate and then, somewhat reluctantly offered "I suppose I could take it for you…"

"No. he doesn't like you anymore than he likes me."

"Less, I'd say"

"Then I must do it myself" said Anna, making no attempt to get up and go over to the dwarf king. She added, "You know, in anyone else it would've seemed like a kindness, but he…Thorin… just has this way of making you feel…"

"I know."

"It was as though it was my fault I got wet in the rain. I almost shouted back at him; then thought better of it, obviously."

"Obviously" agreed Bilbo.

"And yet it was a kind thing to do, or it would've been if it wasn't Thorin. I doubt he's ever done a kind thing in his life" she added cattily.

"I'm sure that's not true" Bilbo replied, without an ounce of conviction in his voice. A burst of laughter erupted from the king and his friend. Anna and Bilbo shot them a glance of alarm, wondering what manner of horrible thing could elicit a chuckle from two such fierce warriors. They both sighed and then Anna seemed to steel herself.

"Right. It has to be done. I can't keep his coat forever." Rising suddenly, as if to give herself no time to think better of it, Anna stood up and strode across the camp, confidently at first, her steps faltering as she drew close to the forbidding form of Thorin Oakenshield.

He and the others had been joined by Gloin, one of the least friendly of the company. Great, thought Anna, but there was no way she could turn back now. All four fell silent and lifted their heads sharply at her coming. There was a moment's uncomfortable silence. Anna cleared her throat, and then tried to speak. Nothing came out.

Thorin frowned. "Yes?" he said imperiously.

She shrugged off the coat and handed it to him wordlessly, then, squeaked "Er, I just wanted to return this and say thank you. It was very kind of you." More silence, then it was Thorin's turn to clear his throat.

"If you caught a cold it would slow us down".

"Legendary…" laughed Dwalin, to Thorin's right. Balin shot him a glare.

"Well, um, like I said, thanks", Anna turned and fled back to the safety of Bilbo.

"Dwalin!" hissed Thorin and Balin in unison. The big dwarf just roared in laughter. From the other side of the camp Anna blushed and Bilbo shuddered.

"What's this all about?" asked Gloin, and then getting no answer from anyone, changed tack. "Did you see those tits when her dress got wet?"