Kindred Horizons

Author's Notes: The Hobbit was a very dear book to me, growing up. This idea popped into my head while thinking over the new movie, Peter Jackson's interpretation, and of course the books which are loved by so many people, myself included. For the book purists out there, you obviously won't be enthused with the finer details of this piece. I'll say up front that this is an alternative universe when it comes to the age of Frodo. Yes, I've screwed with the timeline, but it's for a reason that I hope will be apparent in your reading of this story. All said and done, this is set after the new movie, "An Unexpected Journey" and I hope you enjoy it.

Warnings: The italics section, or the dream rather, can be a bit disturbing. Just be aware of the story's rating. I don't think it warrants anything higher than what it is, but for those who have trouble with water and see it as a trigger for unpleasant thoughts, just be careful or avoid the section all together.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. I make no profit from this. All are sole property of the Tolkien estate, the original creator J.R.R. Tolkien, and Christopher Tolkien. Also, movie stuff to Peter Jackson, if anything can be inferred as movie stuff. I own nothing! XP


Thorin motioned for their company to halt. All obeyed with eyes to their leader and hands on the hilts of their weapons for good measure. Bilbo took a quick stock of their surroundings to distract himself from the fact that he was still dripping wet, and shivering at the mercy of the howling wind, even as low as they were in the valley they had been traversing. The poor hobbit was wedged as close as can be between Bifur and Bofur, with Bombur blocking most of the wind from the front, but somehow a chill still managed to creep up his back and make him shake as easily as a lone leaf on the very top of a tall tree.

"Fili, Kili, build us a warm fire," Thorin announced.

Bilbo could not have been happier at the news as they filed into the small cave, just large enough to fit all of them comfortably but snug in particular corners, such as the one Bilbo claimed for himself. He quickly shed his sodden coat and pack, rolling out the bedroll and blanket to dry properly. He had a passing thought to shed his other clothes for drier ones, but the extra set he had brought with him were just as damp as the ones he had on.

Puddle, he thought to himself with scorn.

Puddle!

That forsaken hole he had fallen into, purely by accident, was much larger than a mere puddle! He continued grumbling to himself as he took everything out to dry, thanking what gods there for hobbits that his small bag of pipe weed had, at the very least, escaped the wet fate the rest of his belongings suffered. Perhaps he would have a smoke later to calm his nerves, after he could stop sneezing, of course. Crouched over his wet things, Bilbo tried to reach for the handkerchief he'd been using, but had to settle for the crook of his sleeve when the sneeze came on too fast for him, the force of it knocking him clean off his feet. Once the fit abated, he felt something soft and weighty dropped unceremoniously onto his head. He fumbled with it for a moment before discovering it was a warm, and more importantly, thick dry blanket.

"Don't worry, laddie," Dwalin said. "Once we get some stew in ya, you'll sleep like a rock."

"I hhh-hhh-hhope-ACHOO!" Bilbo groaned as quietly as he could, burrowing into the furry blanket and giving the dwarf the warmest muffled 'thank you' he could muster. Wrapped up, and gaining some semblance of warmth back he silently cursed his clumsy feet. Hobbits weren't meant for mountain trails. Hobbits were meant for soft country roads and generally flat lands, not steep inclines and rocky terrain that's so easily dislodged at the hazard of the passing adventure-seeker! Thinking back on the incident in the early afternoon, his face flamed red with embarrassment. How he must have looked! Probably like a drowned little pup when they pulled him out, shivering and gasping and coughing and carrying on like he was.

But wouldn't you in a cool unrelenting autumn-turning wind from the Misty Mountains after a near drowning?

He'd already been trailing behind towards the back end of their company, his feet and legs still getting used to the long marches day after day, instead of leisurely meanders in the afternoons or the evenings back in the Shire. Gandalf had left them to their business early on in the morning and disappeared for their lovely trek up another, admittedly smaller, mountain on the other side of the larger ones. They hadn't had anything to eat since this morning either. So, he didn't exactly have all his wits about him when he turned at the top of a rocky hill to have a look back down at their progress to reassure himself of all the muscle work.

That cursed rock.

One silly little thing sends him sprawling backwards in a roll, head over feet, back down the stony rocky path headlong into a river!-of all things-not a puddle! And his pack hadn't really helped matters in trying to…well, what had he been trying to do? He couldn't swim. He supposed, at the time, that flailing his arms at the very least would be helpful, but as it turned out it hadn't really. All he could remember was the feeling of sinking.

And sinking.

And sinking.

And panic.

Just when he had a blaring thought of imminent death, someone pulled him out of the water by the scruff of his neck. He couldn't remember who, because at the time he was more preoccupied with coughing up all the river water in his lungs. And when he could look up at who was around him, every single dwarf had gathered around him, looking down with a mixture of concern, relief, and occasional amusement. It warmed his heart a bit, but at the time only a bit, for the shock of the event stayed with him. His memory was still a bit fuzzy from it, but he did remember Thorin barking orders at everyone and picking Bilbo up himself as they went back up the trail. Perhaps at the time he quailed a bit at being carried, but he remembered feeling so weak that he didn't have the energy to make any protest.

As they went on, eventually Bilbo did ask to be put down, and not without a little personal discomfort, to which Thorin replied, "As long as you don't fall into another puddle."

Puddle!

That was no puddle!

Bilbo thought he caught the dwarf smirking at him, but he was sputtering too much to come up with an appropriate response. Instead, he thought of the most childish thing he could think of and stomped away, with his head and nose in the air, of course. Because even in the face of humiliation, a hobbit does not let his dignity suffer.

Much.

"I'm all right-I'm all right," Bilbo tried to say, presently, wrapped up and somewhat comfortable in the cave, but Dwalin wouldn't be placated. The dwarf lifted the shivering little hobbit and planted him right in front of the fire. Before Bilbo could open his mouth a bowl was shoved under his nose by Ori, and the steam from the stew wafted up his nose, eliciting the strangest of reactions Bilbo ever had with food. He could quite literally feel his nose clear and open up, and at the same time he felt his eyes water and skin tingle.

"Bit spicy," Ori warned. "Your tongue won't like it, but I bet your head does!"

"That's amazing," Bilbo muttered, taking the spoon and trying some of the stew. Spicy was an understatement, but oh did it clear up his sinuses. He coughed out the first spoonful, which gave all the dwarves a good laugh, but ate more as sparingly as his fiery mouth would allow. "Alright, I take it back," he said, pulling a face.

"Thought you might," Nori said, holding out his hand to Ori, who begrudgingly handed over a small pouch of silver.

Bilbo shook his head and suppressed another shiver. Throughout their humble supper watches were set, grumblings about Gandalf and his whereabouts floated from group to group, and the wind continued to be a nuisance, even in the shelter of a cave. It almost drowned out some of the louder dwarves at times. Between the noise, the comforting warmth of the fire, and his satisfied stomach, Bilbo began to doze. He too wondered about Gandalf's comings and goings…always at the most inopportune times…and for long periods…always looked so…serious when he…returned. He laid back against a log just to rest his back for just a few minutes…hmmmm…who knew a log could feel so comfortable?

Comfort in a log.

Comfortable log.

Warmth.

Warm feet.

Toasty feet.

Carpet beneath his feet.

Windows to his right.

Summer afternoon sun striking through the thin panes of glass, reflecting off the polished wood of the curved wall to his left.

Bilbo walked down this long hallway, stopping to look out the large bay window at the end. His older cousins called to him from the third sitting room, while the younger ones ran in the meadow outside. On the bank of the Brandywine river. In Bree. At Brandy Hall. It was someone's birthday today. A celebration. A jubilation that Lobelia, his cousin-in-law, tried to pull him away to. He shrugged her off and her face turned sour. His uncle Hilibrand tried next. Then his Aunt Mirabella. And so on and so forth, faces he remembered, faces he should remember, until someone didn't tug at his shirt sleeve, but his pant leg.

Bilbo looked down and spied a bushy haired little hobbit, none other than a little Frodo! Barely three, and with a beauteous wonder in the innocence of children he looked up at Bilbo with a soft smile. Bilbo smiled at him in return and ruffled the boy's hair. Frodo smiled wider and pointed behind Bilbo. Bilbo turned to look, expecting to find the boy's parents near, but found no one. The Hall had been deserted. There was no one in the third sitting room. All his cousins had gone. He was alone. Even Frodo at his feet was gone when he turned back.

He turned in circles looking for the boy, a small spike of worry blossoming in his chest. Then he looked out the bay window again, and out across the river. There was a boat out in the middle of it, in the middle of a blustery day. Bilbo stepped closer to the window, squinting to see and feeling a strange pull in his feet and his heart, knowing there was something he was supposed to see and something that wasn't right. There were people in the boat. Two hobbits-

Frodo's parents.

Drogo and Primula.

Standing.

Of all things to be doing in a boat they were standing, walking around each other, making the sides of the boat toss dangerously. They were arguing. Completely oblivious to the danger they were putting themselves in, and completely oblivious to their son clinging to the side of the boat.

A chill of sharp fear traveled up his spine at the sight.

They'll overturn the boat.

They'll fall into the river.

They'll all drown because none of them can swim.

Terror seized him, made him freeze in horror, then made him turn around to run outside, running into walls and walls and walls all the way around until the only thing he could possibly do to get to them was to break through the window. He pounded against the glass, but it didn't give. He tried shouting when the wind grew worse, louder, drowning his own voice. No one could hear him. No one could understand. Then there were hands on him, holding him back, pulling and pushing at him as he continued to reach and shout to no avail.

Then a strong and deafening gust of wind.

The boat overturned.

And they were gone.

Nothing.

Nothing at all.

Then something-a small hand-reaching-

"FRODO!"

It was darker than before. He was too warm. Sweaty. Shaking and gasping for breath against the irrational fear in his chest that threatened to burst. Someone was talking to him, calling to him. More than one person, but all he could focus on was the dead fire. Only embers wafted up from the ash. Ash came from dead things. Burnt. Burnt wood. Dead wood. Spongy piles of black that scatter to easily under one breath-just one breath-air-he needed air-Frodo needed air-

"Bilbo," someone barked, shaking him roughly.

That brought him back to himself, made him blink, suck in air, and take stock of things properly. First of all, he was wrapped up tight in a blanket to where he could scarcely move. He was damp all over and hot. His chest felt like it was on fire. And his throat felt a bit scratchy. Bilbo looked up and saw faces. Faces he knew. "Thorin?"

"Do you know where you are," The dwarf asked him in a whisper.

Bilbo nodded, confused.

"And who we are," Balin asked, crouching behind Thorin.

Bilbo looked around, seeing just about every dwarf face fixed to his, close and needy for some kind of reassurance that he wasn't sure how to give. He blushed at all the attention as it dawned on him what had really happened. Bilbo nodded again and kept his head down, not really listening to the litanies of questions after his well-being, whether he was all right, what he dreamed about, if he needed anything, whether they had hurt him trying to hold him down, trying to wake him-

"Enough. Back to sleep," Thorin ordered to the other dwarves. "All of you."

Bilbo sighed in relief as the dwarves, one by one, obeyed and settled back down for the night. Thorin himself stood and disappeared for a few moments. Not that Bilbo would have blamed him. If it weren't for the wind outside wouldn't he have given them away to those orcs that were following them? There was no doubt in his mind it was himself he had heard screaming and shouting. Goodness, he thought to himself as he rubbed the back of his neck dry. What a real burglar he was turning out to be!

Something tapped on his shoulder. Bilbo turned and found Thorin holding out a small bag. Bilbo's bag of pipe weed. The hobbit took it with a look of immense gratitude, to which the dwarf merely nodded as he busied himself in rebuilding the fire. Shrugging the blanket off, and struggling with it a bit around his legs, and eventually giving it up, he turned to freeing his beloved pipe. He found his hands still shaking from the dream, and a heaviness developing in his chest in place of the ebbing fear, but he still managed to stuff his pipe without losing any of the carefully wrapped dry leaves he had packed with him before leaving home.

Never before had he craved a little piece of home more than he did now.

He was very very thankful for it.

And especially thankful that it hadn't been ruined earlier by his clumsiness.

Thorin sat back and stoked the flames silently. Bilbo held his pipe in both hands so as not to drop it and waited on the fire along with the dwarf prince…king. King. He was a king wasn't he? Yes, they were on a quest to reclaim his possessions and right to call himself king, but, well, in the meantime he was still a king. A king that had carried Bilbo himself in the afternoon. A king that had taken it upon himself to build them another fire. A king that was getting up and…of all things, helping a hobbit light his pipe!

Maybe thinking of Thorin as a prince would be easier on his poorly bruised ego.

Bilbo's hands were still shaking a little, so he couldn't rightly refuse the dwarf king's attentions. A simple 'thank you' seemed too inadequate, but Bilbo nevertheless gave it, quiet and with much more meaning than Thorin may have let on to have understood. The dwarf waved him off and helped him detangle himself from Dwalin's blanket before reclaiming his seat next to Bilbo. The hobbit happily puffed on his pipe and focused on the one thing he felt such a keen longing for, his home. Oh the comforts of his home, how much did he want them at this very moment, even for a second or two. Something familiar to reassure himself that his dream, or nightmare-because that was what it really was, a nightmare-was pure fantasy. Not real. Just a dream. Just his overactive imagination.

Frodo was fine. Frodo's parents were fine. Nothing had happened to any of them. Nothing would. They were safe. They were safe. In their home while he was so far from his. Bilbo took a long draught and blew out puffs instead of circles, suddenly realizing with a calmer mind how painful it felt to feel so lost. With a heavier heart, the hobbit turned to look over at the dwarf king who had been sitting so patiently and quiet that Bilbo had almost forgotten that he was there. How many nights had Thorin or any of his company felt the same? It made him feel his troubles dwindle in comparison.

When soft snores from the company filled the cave air around them, Thorin finally turned to him and asked, "Who is he?"

Bilbo took his still smoking pipe out of his mouth and cradled it in his cold hands. "My nephew," he replied, and without thinking. "He'll be nearly a year old by now. Almost his birthday, actually. He'll be a year in September. He's so young. So small. So little. And for a hobbit, I'm sure you can imagine how small…I'm sorry, I don't mean to ramble on-"

"If you were, I would not take the care to listen," The dwarf king replied. "Go on."

Bilbo smoked a little more from his pipe, vaguely touching on the thought that it was still so odd for a king of all people to be willing to listen to his own silly troubles, and then did as Thorin bid mostly out of not wanting to seem rude. "It wasn't too long before Gandalf came to my door that I met Frodo for the first time," he began. "I don't really know why I went. I'm not much for these family sorts-gatherings, I mean. I probably went just to annoy Lobelia-sorry, my ah miserable cousin-in-law-and if you ever meet a Baggins, a Sackville-Baggins, go in the complete opposite direction or your life be on your own head-I'm not kidding!"

Thorin chuckled. "There is always a bane of every family. I see that with hobbits it is no different."

"Of course not," Bilbo said, feeling himself grow more at ease. "Just a bad apple, that one. No, but…that day, I was expecting to see her and thankfully I didn't. I never thought I'd be happy to hear someone came down with a bad case of hay fever before, but I was. I didn't want to stay for very long, but Primula, Frodo's mother, very nice hobbit, a bit quiet but very beautiful and with a good head on her shoulders too-she looked so tired that day, worn out, as new mothers are with little ones. When she asked me to sit with him for a couple of hours I couldn't say no."

Bilbo paused, chewing absent-mindedly on the mouth of his pipe, searching for the right words as the memory came back to him clear as the day it happened. "I didn't quite know what to do with it at first," he said. "It was the first time I'd ever held a baby, something so tiny and helpless. I hadn't thought holding a baby would be light, so the slight weight surprised me a bit, but…he didn't fuss. He didn't cry. He just looked up at me and didn't make a peep. His mother was so shocked because Frodo had cried with all his other cousins. But not me. And it felt…good. It felt very good."

Bilbo smiled, feeling the warmth from that day blossom back to life. The dwarf had been looking into the fire throughout Bilbo's story, and he continued to do so, even as he spoke. "You have a home," Thorin said. "Comforts that would suit a family of your own well for many years. Why haven't you taken a wife?"

There was more that Thorin was asking of him. Why are you here? Why play a burglar instead of a father yourself? Why put yourself at risk? They were understandable questions. Questions that Bilbo didn't know he had the answer to himself, or at least not definitively.

"Probably for the same reason you haven't," Bilbo said, shrugging. "Doesn't feel right. And I have a sneaking suspicion being a half Took is part of the blame. We Bagginses don't take too well to anything outside of the simple domestic life everyone else is expected to lead. But Tooks, you could say we thrive on stirring things up a bit, causing rumors, doing unexpected things, getting a rise out of people just for the fun of it."

"Is that why you joined our company?"

"It's part of it, yes," Bilbo admitted. "I think I'd gotten so used to doing expected things that I forgot who I used to be before all this."

"So you fought orcs and deceived goblins in your youth as well?"

Now it was Bilbo's turn to laugh. "Goodness me, no! Can you imagine the stories they'd tell?"

"If you had and I had heard them, I might have been more ready to accept you when first we met. You have been a welcome surprise, Master Baggins."

Bilbo smiled, politely. "I'm afraid I could be who it is you need me to be, but there's still that other hobbit inside who can't really wrap his head around everything. And before this is over I'm not sure who's going to win out over the other. I don't feel like a warrior, or an adventurer, or even a burglar at that. Half the time I feel like I'm just fumbling around in the dark."

"If you are, better that you are in the company of dwarves. We were made to see through darkness."

Bilbo took a deep breath, biting on his lower lip, then swallowing to make it easier to speak, fidgeting with fingers, toes, then ending it all with a resigned sigh. "I saw him drown. My dream-in my dream, I…I watched Frodo, and his parents, drown."

Thorin said nothing, and the silence in the cave grew heavy, even in the presence of the other slumbering dwarves.

"Hobbits, we don't swim. That's not to say every hobbit doesn't know how to swim, some do, most don't-only because there's just no need to learn because we're mostly-"

"Hole-dwellers."

"Some might prefer hole-builders."

"And some like to think of dwarves as half-men and lesser quality."

Bilbo scoffed. "Well, those people are stupid."

"Stupid," Thorin asked.

"Or idiots, whatever you like. But yes, stupid."

"You can say that in your time spent with thirteen dwarves that you know better than those who shun us, those that deign our very existence and have done so for centuries?"

"I do," Bilbo said with utter certainty, rather surprised at it himself for feeling so, but unquestioning in why. "And I'm thankful that I do. Well…so far."

When Thorin smiled it wasn't a brilliant one. It was one full of promise, an empty canvas with impressions for what would be filled in one day with brilliant colors and light, making a true smile of his absolutely beautiful in every possible facet. Until then, however, until they reached the mountain, until they somehow found a way to defeat the dragon lying in wait and reclaim the treasure and the halls, Bilbo had this smile in the place of a real one.

"I think I would do anything for that little boy, Thorin."

"That frightens you?"

"Yes. I don't quite understand why or even where it comes from."

"He is your nephew."

"Well…cousin, really," Bilbo admitted. "Once or twice removed…"

"And yet you speak of him as if he were more."

"Maybe I want him to be. And maybe that's wrong of me to wish so."

"He shares blood with you. My nephews are closer to me than your Frodo is to you, yes. But blood is blood, and for my people that is more than enough."

"His father's not careful," the hobbit whispered, shaking his head. "One of these days…I don't dare say it. I won't." He puffed on his pipe again, drawing the last he had to calm his nerves again with dissatisfying results. "How do you do it," Bilbo asked after a while. "Your nephews. Doesn't their being here weigh on you?"

It took a second to realize what had just come out of his mouth, but when Bilbo did realize what he said, he ducked his head in shame, not wanting to sound presuming at all. But instead of replying with some mixture of anger and indignation, Thorin rose and walked toward the mouth of the cave. Bilbo followed him, careful not to wake any of the other company. The wind had died down considerably, and with Dwalin's blanket around his shoulders, Bilbo felt a bit more comfortable than he would have in his coat otherwise.

"The days that Fili and Kili were born changed my mind on a great many things," Thorin began, staring out into the night. "They were born in the wild, not in the halls of their forebears as they should have been. They never knew the mountain as I did. It was never their home, only a story told to them since birth by their mother and I. There were things my sister and I could not give them. Protection was regrettably one of those things. They lost their father before they were ten. Ever since then they looked up to my brother and I for guidance. And when my brother died they looked to me."

Bilbo couldn't help glancing backwards into the cave, finding the brothers easily. They slept next to each other, backs pressed together and hands on their swords, ready for an attack from both sides, ready to defend the other even in sleep.

"There were many nights when I cursed my sister's husband, always in the name of his sons he left behind, and never for having to replace him. I had hoped I could provide some kind of stability for the both of them, but too often I found I had no need. They took to each other as brothers should, and they have made me prouder than I suspect their father would have ever been. The splendor and the glory that was ours, our family's and their heritage, defined a golden generation for my people. What is there now? I don't expect to remember it as it was if we do reach its crumbling halls. So much time has passed, and with each day my memory of it fades…as if it were only a passing dream."

"When," Bilbo stated, turning to the dwarf king. "When we reach it. And when we do, you'll have a lifetime to make it better than it used to be, better than you can still remember, and better than the stories you told your nephews. You're doing this for them as well as yourself, and I know they think the world of you for it."

Thorin shook his head, closing his eyes briefly and letting another smile grace his lips. "Is it in the nature of hobbits to forget their own troubles for the sake of others?"

Bilbo pursed his lips in thought before coming to a conclusion with a bit of a shrug. "Probably."

Thorin sighed. "Innocence is easily lost, would you agree?"

"I would have to. It makes me think how closed off to the world the Shire is. I know it's silly to think anyone could be protected from hardship, but is that so wrong to want to protect him? Or protect anyone?"

Thorin put a hand on Bilbo's shoulder. "For our race and yours, nothing lasts forever. Perhaps it is wrong."

"Don't you wish it wasn't?"

"Every day."

As Bilbo looked into the king's eyes in the moonlight he felt a keen kinship with him. The hobbit couldn't really explain why, and when he tried to for his own peace of mind he felt the feeling fade. So he stopped trying to think of a reason why. Instead he held onto that feeling just a bit longer, and basked in the strangeness of it, of feeling connected to someone else. Friendship had come to Bilbo in many forms during his lifetime, and its many faces never ceased to surprise him. This moment with a dwarf, a king, someone who by all right had loathed his inept presence, someone he had wanted to prove wrong, someone he had proved wrong, someone who Bilbo had gladly tried to lay down his life for, was special and different. There was nothing to compare it to, and it made Bilbo question whether he had ever known true friendship at all.

The hobbit grabbed onto the dwarf's hand on his shoulder. "I meant what I said, before the Eagles saved us. I will help you take back your home. Whatever it is that I can do that's in my power, I will."

Thorin only nodded at him, words not needed for either of them. The terror from the nightmare had left Bilbo a while ago, and yet again he found himself indebted to the king. How many times had this dwarf chosen to save his life or spare his life when trouble came running? The previous afternoon had been a complete accident, yes, but it made Bilbo wonder how much of a necessity his presence was to this journey. If the actions of all the dwarves hadn't convinced him of his self-worth and what he had to offer, then surely this did. Being a burglar and being simple Bilbo Baggins from the Shire meant the same thing for Thorin. The hobbit wasn't sure when it happened, but somewhere between goblins, orcs, elves, and eagles, who he was and what he could do became one matter for the dwarf.

And one matter for himself.

"It seems silly to say, but thank you," Bilbo said. "I hadn't expected to make any friends on this adventure."

"Neither did I," Thorin replied, softly, and grasping onto Bilbo's hand a little tighter.

Suddenly, they heard a noise from the gravel path ahead of the cave, coming straight towards them at a brisk pace. "Get back," Thorin hissed, quickly pulling Bilbo by his shoulder backwards.

The hobbit felt the fear start to pound in his chest again, only this kind of fear was a quieter one of impending danger. This kind of fear Bilbo was well accustomed to by now. It sharpened his focus and gave his Tookish side a bit more courage than the Baggins in him was willing to let on.

"Stay behind me," Thorin growled and whispered at once. He grasped the hilt of his sword, but refrained from drawing it prematurely as their unseen enemy continued to grow closer. Completely oblivious.

Bilbo wished he had his sword at his side, but at nights he found the thing too uncomfortable to sleep, so he had taken to sleeping beside it. In its absence he cupped the bowl end of his pipe into his palm and wrapped his fingers tightly around it, fully intending to use the stem and mouthpiece as a…well, not particularly as a weapon, but as something in the absence of his sword. He hated to ruin his beloved pipe, but in the face of danger, little things, little comforts often found themselves forgotten. And he had no intentions of leaving Thorin to face whatever was out there in the night alone, even for a second.

Perhaps the safer option may have been to wake some of the other dwarves, but in the moment, his sleep-addled nightmare-startled brain hadn't really thought past what he should be doing, what he could be doing as a burglar, like sneaking off to get help or putting on his new ring and-

"Bilbo Baggins, do not tell me you were planning on bludgeoning your enemy to death with nothing more than a Shire pipe!"

Bilbo and Thorin both sagged in relief against the wall of the cave.

"Gandalf," Thorin exhaled.

The wizard "Hmm?"ed at Bilbo once he came into view, even going so far as to lean down to get a straight answer to his earlier query.

"Well-…but-…you-…" Bilbo stopped to clear his throat, stick his pipe back in his mouth as a show of defiance, and stood up straighter under the amused gazes of Gandalf and Thorin both. "Yes, and why not?"

"Why ever not indeed," Gandalf chuckled, ruffling the hobbit's hair as he passed.

Thorin and Bilbo both shared similar looked of mild exasperation as they trailed behind the grey wizard. Bilbo pulled Dwalin's blanket around him a bit tighter, feeling exhaustion begin to pull him back down to sleep. He barely had time to hide a yawn behind his hand. "I hope you'll forgive me, but I think I've had my share of excitement for the night."

"Sleep well," Thorin replied. "I'll keep watch."

"But you've been keeping watch all night."

"Yes, and it is Fili's turn to watch for the rest of us. For you, my watch has just begun. Sleep," he said with a gentle push toward his own dry bedroll, for Bilbo's was still damp.

The hobbit couldn't really think too clearly, but protested all the same. "You don't have to do that, or this."

"And you, Master Baggins, do not have to state the obvious. Need I ask you a third time?"

If Gandalf had questions, he didn't voice them, at least to Bilbo's knowledge. For as soon as he lay back down again and found a comfortable position, he was asleep. And for the rest of the night, his dreams were mercifully dull and forgettable when the morning came.

Thorin settled himself down on a log between Bilbo and the fire, notably closer to Bilbo himself than the inviting warmth of the fire. He could feel the wizard's gaze on him, and he answered it by ignoring the old man and turning his attention back to their sleeping burglar. But before Gandalf could open his mouth, Thorin beat him to the punch with a warning growl. "If I hear one laugh, wizard…"

Gandalf concealed a smile behind his hands as he lit his own pipe, blowing thin and enclosing smoke circles into the air. "Duly noted, my dear dwarf!"


A/N: I can't wait to see this movie again. I actually quite enjoyed it, even with the departures from the book. I'm not entirely sure I'm satisfied with the overall product that this story produced, but what's a challenge without some difficulty? I'm not entirely sure if I'll be writing any other Hobbit fics, but maybe another plot bunny will come to me one day. This one was rather persistent. Happy Holidays to everyone!