"Is it all right if we ask you something, Mister Baggins?"

"Hmm?" Bilbo looked up from mending his waistcoat, wondering if he should just retire the poor thing altogether, to see Fili and Kili perched just in front of him, eyeing him in a way that made him feel uncomfortable. "Um, yes, I suppose. What is it?" he asked, setting his waistcoat aside.

The brothers looked at each other uncertainly before Fili finally spoke. "May we look at your feet?"

"My... feet."

"Please? It's just that, you don't wear shoes, and we can't help but be concerned." They looked at him with wide eyes that were very hard to refuse, but as he knew, that innocent look meant they were up to something; it was not without suspicion that he eventually agreed. He held up his feet, and each brother took one by the ankle and began to study them. Kili began with the questions. "Do your feet ever get cold?"

"Well, no, not really, that's what the hair is there for."

"Do you have to brush them?" Fili asked.

"Yes, of course."

Fili asked again, "Ever tried braiding them?"

"Um, no. I'm not- no."

Kili lifted the foot up and smelled it, which embarrassed Bilbo immensely. "They don't even smell like feet normally do," he wondered, "and his toenails are neatly trimmed."

"Why would you even-" Bilbo sputtered.

"Does it hurt when you walk on rocks?" Fili interrupted.

"It depends. They're pretty thick on the bottom, but that doesn't mean they can't be cut."

Fili pulled out a knife. "Does this hurt?" he asked, poking at the sole of the hobbit's foot.

"Put that away! Right now!" Bilbo said firmly, wagging his finger.

Kili gripped the ankle under one arm, pulled out a bird's feather from one of his many pockets, and stroked the hobbit's foot. "Hey, does this tickle?"

Bilbo looked puzzled. "No, of course not."

"Here, Fili, try it! Right in the middle!" He handed the feather to his brother, who gripped the other foot firmly and tried to tickle it.

"Of course my feet aren't ticklish. Whoever heard of ticklish feet?"

Fili and Kili gaped at him. "Hobbit's feet aren't ticklish?"

"What, yours are?"

They exchanged a look of wonder before continuing their examination. "They're positively huge!" Kili exclaimed. "I wonder, are they bigger than ours?"

"One way to find out!" his brother smiled. They dropped Bilbo's feet, stooped down, and undid their boots. "Here, try these on!" Fili demanded, shoving his boots in Bilbo's face.

"No no! Try mine first!"

Bilbo's eyes watered from the scent of four well-worn boots under his nose; hesitantly he took Kili's left boot, and Fili's right. "Here, I can try them both on." It looked simple enough; he shoved one foot in with much effort (they were slightly damp, but he tried not to grimace visibly), then the other, then stood up. "Are shoes supposed to be this tight?" he complained. "They feel awful!"

Kili knelt down by his left foot, tracing where his toes would be. "His toes go right up to the edge here! My feet aren't nearly that crammed in!"

Fili knelt down by his right. "Same here! No wonder he doesn't wear shoes!"

"May I take these off now?" Without waiting for permission, Bilbo sat down and tried to pull his feet out. He pulled and he tugged, he wiggled his ankle, but the boots would not budge. "Er, how does one remove boots?"

"They're supposed to come right off," Fili murmured. "Here, let me help. Try pointing your toes for me." He grabbed the right boot and tugged, but the boot remained stuck. "Bilbo, grab the rock, Kili, get the other foot." His brother followed suit, both dwarves tugging as hard as he could while the hobbit desperately held on to the rock he was sitting on.

After three tries, Bilbo moaned, "This isn't working, and my feet are going numb!"

Kili giggled. "Hang on, I think we got it, one more time! Heave!"

They heaved. With a sound much like a cork popping off of a champagne bottle, the two dwarves were catapulted back as the hobbit flipped over the rock. Laughing, the brothers pulled their boots back on.

Bilbo, however, was less than amused. He stood, rubbing at his head and straightening himself. "Are you both quite finished with your inspection?" he grumbled.

"We didn't mean any offense, Mister Baggins," Fili apologized. "We were simply curious."

"And anyway, boots wouldn't suit you at all. They look unnatural on you." Kili shrugged. "Hobbit feet really are amazing."

Bilbo blinked, unsure as how one would respond to such an unusual compliment. The best he could manage was a "Thank you?" as he picked up his fallen waistcoat and pulled it back on.

"Would you mind if we asked you something else?"

Bilbo very slowly backed away from them both.