Author's Note: I have long been a fan of Tolkien's world as experienced through "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings", but this is the first work I have contributed to this fandom. Admittedly, it is mostly me playing with words and creating (hopefully) in-character Bagginshield fluff. I enjoyed writing it, so I hope you enjoy reading it. Cheers!

I feel compelled to say -though it is self-evident- that all characters belong to Tolkien, not me.

It was almost imperceptible, the change in Thorin's gate. His left side hitched ever so slightly as his foot made contact with the ground. Bilbo, always watchful, noticed the minute change in the leader of their company. None of the other dwarves did, and Thorin intended it to remain as such. No dwarf, nor wizard, nor halfling, nor anyone for that matter, was meant to see the great King under the Mountain in pain. But Bilbo did see it, and Thorin would never have thought the smallest member of his company would pick up on such a minor detail.

What Bilbo could not see, however, was the reason behind the subtle change: Thorin's aching ribs. Although Gandalf's magic did a great deal to heal the wounded dwarf king after the confrontation with Azog and his warg, he was still left bruised and lacerated. Each step would send searing pain to the tender flesh and bone that hid under folds of cloth and various animal furs. His rippling abdominal muscles would clench protectively, trying to ease the suffering of the cracked ribs. Failing that, the ribs would cave in on themselves, having no more strength to hold out. But, ever loyal to the being they belonged to, the ribs and muscles would push on because that is what was expected of them.

The sun hung low in the sky as the dwarves, hobbit, and wizard made their way through the forest. The company was moving slower than they had been for much of the journey. Everyone was tired and everyone was quietly dealing with the pain of their own wounds. With every step the members of the company prayed that Thorin would call for rest. The dwarf king noticed the lethargic pace of his comrades, taking their condition into consideration as he scanned the land around them, looking for a good place to stop.

"We rest here for the night," Thorin mercifully declared at last.

The sigh that went up from the company was audible in the stillness of the evening. Everyone visibly relaxed as they set their packs down. Gingerly, Thorin knelt to place his pack on the ground. The other dwarves were too busy with themselves to notice Thorin wince as he removed his pack. Slowly, very slowly he tested how far he could swing his arms without causing too much pain. Breath catching, Thorin stopped moving but for a nanosecond before quickly sliding the pack off his broad shoulder. Bilbo was a silent witness to the mighty dwarf's struggle, and his concern grew for Thorin and just how injured he might be.

Bilbo surveyed the other dwarves and wizard before him. Bodies were milling around, each dwarf preparing various aspects of their temporary camp site. All were accounted for, except Bofur. The hobbit stood a bit straighter so he could take in more of the landscape. The trees reached skyward, looming impossibly high above them. Etched in their ancient bark were names and stories written in the language of memories. Bilbo was grateful to the large trees, for they provided shelter from the chilly night breeze.

At first, the company was uncharacteristically silent. The events of the past few days had consumed a great deal of energy, both physical and emotional. Dwarves were scattered about, listlessly going through the motions of setting up camp. Bofur returned, to Bilbo's relief; he had merely gone to get wood for a fire. Upon his return to camp, Gloin moved to help Bofur make a fire from the wood he had gathered. It was slow starting, the wood was a bit damp, but in due time the embers built to a roaring fire. When the fire was well under way, everyone had gathered in a cozy circle around the blazing alter of light.

The silence from earlier in the evening was now replaced by jovial laughter and story-telling. Heroic episodes from each of the dwarves' lives were recounted with glee and pride. Balin and Dwalin had some of the greatest stories. Both dwarves had a wealth of experience in combat and had existed in the glory days of Erebor. They told stories of the awe-inspiring architecture hidden deep within the Lonely Mountain, and of jewels and gold and various other precious metals. The dwarves had all heard the stories of Balin and Dwalin before, but that did not stop them from sitting with rapt attention as if it were the first they had ever heard of the legendary dwarf kingdom.

The happy sounds of the company soon dwindled in the growing darkness of the night. It was decided upon that now was an appropriate time to roll out bedmats and sleep. Each dwarf, Gandalf, and Bilbo glanced about the camp in an attempt to predict who would be called for first watch.

Thorin spoke up, "I will keep guard over camp first." He paused for a moment, considering his options for second watch. "Dwalin, you will hold second watch, and Bofur, third watch is yours."

The company finished their night-time preparations, knowing now who was to guard camp at each interval in the night. Fili and Kili nestled close to one another for warmth, as did Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur. Dori and Nori had a shivering Ori pressed between them, and Dwalin and Balin had placed their bedmats closer to each other than they had in past nights. Though the dwarves were snuggled exceptionally close to their kin, they were altogether situated nearer to the other dwarves in the company. It was cold, and this way they would preserve as much body heat and energy as possible.

Gandalf had laid his bedroll out close to the dwarven folk, slightly more on the periphery, but still close enough to benefit from their warmth. Bilbo was not entirely certain where he would lay his bedmat down. All the dwarves were quite content and some were already snoring away. Looking around for a place to rest, Bilbo noticed Thorin stalking away up a small incline, presumably to get a better vantage point to guard the camp. Thorin made little attempt now to mask the limp that came when he walked, certain that nobody was watching him. Worry lines etched themselves on Bilbo's forehead as he watched the great dwarf king amble up the slope. There would be no sleep for him that night if he could not be satisfied with the state of Thorin's comfort.

Bilbo had an admirable –though still slightly limited- knowledge of plant life outside of the Shire, thanks to the multiplicity of books he had read. He remembered learning about a plant that grew far outside the reaches of his grassy homeland that had great analgesic properties. The leaves grew on medium-sized trees, were a soft green colour, and were accompanied by little pink fruit which were not very palatable. The hobbit could remember almost perfectly what the leaf looked like, but he could not remember what the tree was called. The name of the tree was of little concern to him at the moment, he merely wished to find it and set it to its pain-relieving task.

Bilbo silently moved from the sleeping dwarves and wizard, into the forest. His actions did not go unseen by Thorin, and Bilbo felt the dwarf's watchful eyes at his back as he disappeared into the thick foliage. The halfling was careful to remain close to camp, for who knew what creatures made the dark forest their hunting grounds. His fingers brushed lightly over the myriad different leaves and branches in the woods, fascinated by the new plant life. The penumbral state made actually seeing the leaves very challenging, but Bilbo pressed on, determined to find what he was searching for. There, in the darkness, Bilbo saw them; three trees huddled close to each other under a rare patch of sky that was not obscured by the much taller trees.

"Acullico," Bilbo muttered to himself, remembering the name of the tree upon seeing it.

He held a stem between his thumb and forefinger, pinching together to remove a leaf. He held the leaf up to the small stream of moonlight that traversed the thick branches. Yes, Bilbo thought, this certainly is what I am looking for. Just to be sure, he balled up the leaf and stuck it in the pocket of his cheek. He chewed it a few times, then felt a bit of the stiffness in his shoulders start to be relieved. Very good, he thought, suitably pleased with himself. He proceeded to remove close to a dozen leaves.

As he turned to leave he was startled by the large image of a dark being standing a few paces away from him. Bilbo stood very still, not even a breath escaped his form. The unknown figure was concealed by the shadowy forest that leeched away any light it could find. Bilbo's heart pounded against his chest. His hearing seemed to go fuzzy with the rush of blood, and he felt his body tremor slightly in response to the increased adrenaline.

Bilbo's anxiety abated when the figure stepped from the shadows into the moonlight, revealing Thorin, who looked slightly concerned, but more irked than anything. Thorin's well-muscled shoulders were still squared and set evenly, but Bilbo noticed the smallest relaxation of the muscles in his face when the dwarf king laid eyes upon him.

They stood eying each other for a few moments before Thorin broke the silence, "What are you doing, halfling?"

Bilbo took a few steps to shorten the distance between himself and Thorin. "I went in search of acullico, it has wondrous pain relieving properties."

"For what purpose? Are you in pain?" Thorin questioned, his tone was deadpan, not giving heed to any emotions.

"No, not so much," the hobbit began, "but you are."

Thorin raised a thick eyebrow at him. The great dwarf then closed the short distance between them and reached out, gently taking hold of the hobbit's right arm. Sliding his calloused hands up Bilbo's jacket, he let his fingers rest on the small shoulder of the hobbit. Then, with no warning, he pressed his fingers into Bilbo's right shoulder, with just enough force to elicit a shrill whimper from the slightly smaller creature before him.

"It seems as though you have not remained unscathed, burglar." The corners of Thorin's mouth turned up at his correct assertion of Bilbo's condition, but his expression soon turned to a frown, for her regretted causing the hobbit further pain. "And you are not the only one who takes note of things."

Bilbo blushed at the comment. He knew that he was not as stoic as the dwarves, but he thought that he had done a reasonable job at concealing the pain in his shoulder. After the confrontation with Azog, Bilbo could feel enormous pain in his right shoulder, accompanied by the sensation of sticky, warm liquid that bound his shirt to his skin. He knew not how bad it was, but assumed that his minor injury paled in comparison to the epic battle wounds Thorin had received, so he kept silent about his pain.

"Come, let us return to camp. I must keep watch for enemies, but I can assist you in treating your wounds," Thorin said to Bilbo.

The hobbit did not protest to Thorin's proposition. He allowed himself to be led from the woods and back to where Thorin had been keeping watch. The short trek back to the camp was made in a silence that was not uncomfortable. Bilbo fingered the few leaves he had harvested from the acullicotree. He hoped they would be enough to relieve the pain that plagued Thorin. If memory served him well, only one or two leaves could do wonders in terms of alleviating pain.

Thorin was quite nearly out of breath by the time they returned to his spot on the small hill and his muscles cried out in protest of their continued abuse. Bilbo glanced sidelong at Thorin with concern. The dwarf had valiantly hidden the tremendous pain he was in, but his resolve was beginning to crumble under the weight of the agony. Determined to help the one who had saved him, Thorin moved to retrieve something from the inner pocket of his long coat. Stopping abruptly, his eyes went wide at the pain he felt. A small gasp escaped his firmly set mouth. He collapsed onto his knees, somehow retaining a great deal of grace as his legs gave out beneath him.

Bilbo was at his side with lightning speed. As badly as he wanted to comfort his companion, the hobbit was very careful not to touch Thorin. The halfling knelt next to the dwarf who was currently bracing himself against his knees. "Let me help you," Bilbo ventured. "Or at least let me try."

A low growl escaped Thorin's lips. He was not happy that anyone had seen through his kingly strength, although he was not displeased that it was the hobbit who offered help. He bristled, ashamed that his body had finally given out on him. Thorin raised his head to meet Bilbo's gaze; the hobbit's light brown eyes were soft and caring, but they betray the immense concern that he felt for the royal dwarf. The great King under the Mountain let go of his resistance, he let go of the stubbornness that kept him from seeking assistance, and he released a small amount of the vice-grip control over his emotions. "As you see fit," he answered.

Bilbo took two of the leaves that he had retrieved earlier, balled them up, and then handed them to Thorin. "These leaves come from the acullicotree," he began to explain. "As I mentioned before, they are renowned for relieving pain. Chew them until they are a fine paste in your mouth, then you can swallow them. They work with your body to heal whatever ails you the most."

Thorin shot Bilbo a skeptical look before complying with the instructions. Upon biting down on the leaves he was met with an acrid, astringent taste. The sensation was so unpleasant that he nearly spit them out. He did not do so, however, in hopes that Bilbo was correct about their ability to block pain. True to Bilbo's word, Thorin felt a pleasant tingling reach his wounded ribs. The small sigh that escaped his mouth informed Bilbo that the plant's magic was beginning to work.

"Feeling better?" Bilbo asked.

"Indeed I am," replied Thorin with a half-smile. His stunning blue eyes met the honey-coloured orbs of the hobbit before him. "Thank you."

"Well, we aren't done just yet," replied the hobbit. Thorin gave him a quizzical look, which encouraged the smaller being to elaborate. "The leaves will relieve the pain, but I think your wounds should be dressed as well."

Thorin seemed to consider this for a moment before replying. "Alright. Once again, as you see fit."

Bilbo took a moment to appreciate the immense trust that Thorin was placing in him. There had certainly been a paradigm shift in their relationship after his heroic defence of the wounded dwarf. It was a very honourable feat that far exceeded the expectation of Thorin and the other dwarves. Bilbo had a great many emotions that sprung up at the thought of Thorin Oakenshield, and seeing the great dwarf in pain had propelled him into action.

Bilbo had ignited a spark of affection that Thorin believed to be buried forever. Warmth radiated from his heart, causing him to feel joy simultaneously with apprehension. It was not easy to win the heart of a dwarf, especially not one as obstinate as Thorin, son of Thrain, but it seems that a certain hobbit had done just that. Thorin pushed the feelings away; he cared deeply for the hobbit, but his emotions were of little importance on this quest and would serve him no purpose.

"Are you able to take your coat off?" Bilbo questioned tentatively, "Or do you require some, err… assistance." A blush was creeping up the hobbit's pointed ears at the thought of the soon-to-be exposed dwarf king.

"I would welcome your offer of assistance with pleasure, master Baggins," came Thorin's reply.

The halfling's nimble fingers began to strip the first, thick layer from Thorin's hulking body. The fur-lined collar tickled his sensitive fingers as he slowly slid the coat off of Thorin's shoulders. The removal of two more layers revealed Thror's key, hung around his grandson's neck on a glittering silver chain. The dwarf king had but one, thin layer left, separating his bare skin from the chilly reaches of the night air.

Bilbo was exceedingly careful when removing the last garment, for it had to be slipped over Thorin's head, which would certainly be a difficult task to accomplish without issuing more pain. The flushed hobbit floated his hands up the dwarf's thick torso, not daring to allow his hands to rest on the hard muscle beneath, though he desperately wanted to. A ghosting touch to Thorin's damaged ribs caused his breath to catch, but he made no noise and showed no sign of protest as Bilbo hurried the cloth over the sensitive area of his body.

"Okay," began Bilbo, trying to think of the least painful way to get the garment the rest of the way off of Thorin's body. "I think if we do this quickly, it won't be too bad."

"I have felt greater pain than this, master hobbit. The removal of my tunic will not result in the amount of pain you seem to think it will."

"Oh, right," replied Bilbo, a little embarrassed. "Umm, I guess I'll just lift it over your head then, if you'll raise your arms."

Thorin smirked inwardly, though nothing much changed on his face. He liked the slightly flustered version of their burglar; the ruddied tips of his ears playfully poking out from beneath dark golden curls. He complied with the creature in front of him, feeling more smitten with him at every passing moment. Pain ripped through his body at the swift removal of his tunic. Thorin was thankful that the hobbit's movements were quick and sure when he slid the light fabric over his head.

Bilbo sheepishly gazed upon the dwarf king, torso now bare. Thorin's powerful chest was broad and muscled like a proud stallion in his prime. It was riddled with many a scar and fresh wound, but that made it no less striking to the hobbit. Bilbo's eyes darted across the magnificent body in front of him, scanning for damage while simultaneously lavishing in its glory. His eyes finally rested upon the source of Thorin's discomfort: his ribs. There were puncture wounds that almost certainly resulted from the warg's powerful canine teeth. Deep and dark were the holes that bore through Thorin's thick skin and into the bones that were now cracked. There were a few lacerations across his broad upper body, but they were superficial in comparison to the puncture wounds.

"My, my," fretted Bilbo in a whisper. He pressed a cool hand near where the puncture wounds were, feeling the heat pour out from the angry red skin. "A poultice would do nicely to draw the heat and infection out. I don't suppose we have any, do we? Well, at any rate, it should be cleaned first."

Bilbo hurried himself down to a near-by river, the likes of which the company would have to ford the following day. They had no water skins, but Bilbo found a number of rags that would have to make do. He let the chilly water rush over his hands, soothing the slightly raw skin. The hobbit did not linger by the water for long, and he returned –soaking rags in hand- to the dwarf king with haste.

When he had made his way up the gently sloping hill, he noticed a clay jar sitting next to Thorin. He was quite certain that he had no laid eyes on it before, so he asked what it was.

"Poultice," Thorin replied. "You did say it would be helpful, did you not?"

A surprised smile made its way onto Bilbo's face. "Yes! I was just not expecting it to appear so quickly."

"It was stored safely in the inner pocket of my coat. I had a far easier time retrieving it now that my coat is on the ground and I did not have to twist," Thorin explained.

"Splendid!" Bilbo exclaimed, and then he was silent for a moment.

Even in the obscured moonlight, Thorin noticed a blush beginning to creep up the hobbit's neck. Having sat in unproductive silence for a few moments, Thorin broke the silence. "Bilbo?" He questioned.

"Hmm?" Bilbo replied, then snapped back to reality. "Oh! Yes, I will just go about cleaning that all up, then we can put the poultice on."

He had not realized that Thorin's perfect body had held his gaze and captured his mind. Bilbo did not allow the slightly embarrassing moment affect his attempt to heal the wounded dwarf. He moved confidently toward Thorin's side, rag in hand, and began cleaning the deep puncture wounds. He firmly, but not roughly, pressed one of the sopping rags to Thorin's side and squeezed it, so that the water would cascade down the battered skin. Thorin's abdominal muscles clenched in response to the cold, but he remained still.

The gentle cleaning went on for a short time, but Bilbo knew that dripping water was only so good for puncture wounds, especially ones as deep as Thorin's. It was when Bilbo pressed the rag into the holes that Thorin shot forward. The great dwarf was not expecting the rush of pain that resulted from the hobbit's actions, as he had been nearly lulled to sleep by the halfling's gentle touch. To keep him from shooting straight off the grass where the pair was seated, Bilbo laid his free hand against Thorin's chest, steadying him. Bilbo had not even thought about what he was doing, he simply reacted.

Thorin settled back after being slightly startled. He noticed that Bilbo's hand, which had been placed upon his chest out of utility, remained there, though there was no further use for it. Thorin liked the sensation of a warm palm pressed lightly against his chest. He closed his eyes and hummed a low, pleased sound. As Bilbo continued to clean, his free hand absently moved lower, down to Thorin's abdomen. There it rested comfortably while Bilbo busied himself at Thorin's side until the hobbit was satisfied with his work.

"There we are," Bilbo announced. "Cleaner than it was, anyway."

"Thank you," Thorin responded.

Bilbo, emboldened by their closeness and Thorin's voice, slowly rubbed his hand up and down Thorin's toned stomach in a soothing motion. Thorin made not a sound, but when Bilbo looked up he could see the king's eyes closed, head tilted back, basking in the sensation of the hobbit's hands on his body. Bilbo continued to stroke the length of Thorin's torso, lost in the pure look of satisfaction and happiness on Thorin's face.

After a time, Thorin's eyes came open and he glanced down at the creature that was the catalyst for his current emotional state. Inklings of a true smile played on the harsh lips of the dwarven king. Bilbo met his gaze, but promptly dropped his eyes, never failing to keep his hands going. He peaked shyly up the dwarf king to find the steel-blue eyes still upon him.

Bilbo smiled up at Thorin and said, "Right, well, I suppose I should put the poultice on those puncture wounds. Don't need you out here all night, all bare and whatnot; you'll catch cold!" And it was true; for being near the end of May, it was quite fresh as the night wore on. Bilbo had noticed goosebumps sprouting up on Thorin, but he could not be certain if it was the cold or something else that drew them out.

"Nonsense, dwarves don't get cold," replied Thorin. There was a twinge of humor in his voice that found its way to the surface and made Bilbo chuckle.

"Alright, but nonetheless we should probably get you patched up," Bilbo said, reaching for the poultice.

Bilbo removed the lid to find a thick, white paste. He reached his fingers in and swirled a small bit of it between his thumb and middle finger. It was unlike any poultice he had ever seen before. In the Shire they mostly used bran and rock-salt poultices, or milk and bread poultices, nothing at all like what he had in front of him now. The white substance was homogenous in texture and looked a lot like pearly-white clay. Within moments of him having removed a small bit of the white stuff, it started to harden on his fingers. Although it had hardened, Bilbo could feel the quick action of the white poultice drawing out any heat in his fingertips.

Satisfied with his brief inspection of the foreign white stuff, Bilbo took more onto his fingers and began to smear it on the dwarf before him. He did not want to pack the puncture wounds, but he made sure that they were covered well. If there was any hope of keeping infection away and soothing the inflamed tissue, then Bilbo suspected a great deal more poultice would be spread in the coming days. He made quick work of distributing the poultice, and in no time had adequately covered the worst of the dwarf's injured ribs.

"Is there still another wet rag, or have they all been used?" Thorin asked when he was certain Bilbo had finished.

"I believe there is one left… oh, yes, there it is!" Bilbo answered and picked up the one rag that had been spared from blood.

"The poultice should be covered by damp cloth. It should be pressed firmly against it, tied somewhere if possible. See if that one will span my chest."

Bilbo was not certain it would reach around the broad mass of flesh. He also was not certain how long the analgesic effects of the acullico leaf would last. He did not want to spur new pain in the dwarf if it could be helped, but he supposed it needed to be done regardless. Bilbo moved to kneel behind and slightly to the right of Thorin so that he would have a better angle to wrap the damp cloth.

Beyond his expectations, the cloth did reach. Bilbo slowly pulled the cloth tighter, keeping an eye on Thorin to make sure he did not pull it too tight. Satisfied with the knot he tied, he returned to face Thorin. Upon inspection of his handiwork, Bilbo noticed that the rag had slipped just a fraction of an inch from where it was meant to be. The hobbit leaned forward and shimmied the disobedient rag back to its proper place. He lingered for a moment and began to shift the cloth around a bit more when he felt a hand on his arm.

Bilbo looked over to see Thorin's large hand gently grasping his small arm. "I'm sorry, did I—", Thorin stopped Bilbo's apology with a kiss.

It was not a harsh kiss, nor was it particularly gentle. It was much like Thorin himself; gruff and assertive, with a hidden kindness. Bilbo responded automatically to the warm, chapped lips upon his own. Their noses were nestled side by side as their lips crashed against each other like storm waves on a shore. With each breath, Bilbo inhaled Thorin's scent. The smell of blood lingered on his body, despite having been cleaned. It was mixed with the much more pleasant aroma of fresh rain water, fir needles, and something that was uniquely Thorin Oakenshield. The dwarf smelled nothing like the rolling green pastures of the Shire, but to Bilbo it was a comforting smell that made him feel at home.

They broke apart briefly, only so Bilbo could readjust his position. Straddling the king's muscular thigh, Bilbo moved in for another intoxicating kiss. He was greeted eagerly by Thorin's lips. Kisses became more fervent as the two males continued their exploration of one another. Bilbo tangled his right hand in dark locks of hair close to Thorin's temple, while his left hand found its way to the nape of his neck. Drinking each other in more and more, their thirst for kisses only grew more unquenchable. Bilbo relished in the scratchy sensation of Thorin's thick beard on his baby-soft skin.

The pain in Bilbo's shoulder had not been entirely forgotten, although the most recent developments of that night had been a welcome distraction. The endorphins and adrenaline released at the start of their intimacy had driven the pain so far from Bilbo's mind it might have been lost in the vast expanse of the night sky. But, alas, one's mind can only mask the pain from the body for so long before it gets tired and you are reminded of its existence.

Thorin felt Bilbo tense against his touch and his initial offer to heal the hobbit was brought to mind. "You are still hurt. It appears as though we had both forgot," Thorin said, retreating a bit from Bilbo's embrace.

Bilbo almost let out a whimper at the loss of Thorin's body so close to his. "I'm fi-", Bilbo began, but was silenced by a dubious look from his dwarf companion. "Okay, maybe I do still hurt a little."

"Eat some of those leaves; they worked wonders for my pain. I will clean and dress your wounds," Thorin ordered.

Bilbo was still slightly in shock at the events that had just transpired, but he complied and in a moment was met with the same acrid taste that Thorin had experienced earlier that night. Bilbo squeezed his eyes shut, not at all enjoying the taste of the leaves. His expression relaxed a bit when he felt Thorin's hands traveling up his weathered jacket to slide it off his hurting shoulders. Bilbo did not have nearly as many layers as Thorin did, so, it was not long before the dwarf was working on the buttons of his second-to-last garment. Off came his vest, then his undershirt, and Bilbo's upper half was exposed in full to the dwarf. When at last the final garment was removed, Bilbo opened his eyes to find Thorin soaking him in. The dwarf wore a longing and almost lustful expression as he looked upon the hobbit. Bilbo fleetingly wondered if this is how the great dwarf king would look upon his treasure when they reclaimed it from Smaug.

To say that Thorin admired the hobbit's body would be a lie, but he did like the look of it. The nearly hairless form of the being in front of him was so different from his own well-muscled and well-covered body. Thorin shifted so that he could get a better look at Bilbo's back. Truly, it was not as bad as the deep wounds that he had, but Thorin thought that it was probably the most gravely the hobbit had ever been injured. A long gash ran from slightly above the hobbit's collar bone to just below his right shoulder blade. The blood that had coagulated looked black in the moonlight, and all down his back were dried flecks of rust-coloured blood.

Realizing that all the clean rags had been used on his body, Thorin instructed Bilbo to keep watch while he went to wash the old rags. When he returned, Thorin noticed Bilbo shivering, but he made no remark to note his observation. He was really quite enamoured by this creature, but he was not given to coddling. The dwarf pressed his palm to the hobbit's back and splayed his fingers to steady Bilbo. Thorin felt the body beneath him begin to relax, so he took that moment to begin cleaning the wound. Immediately Bilbo stiffened away from the unpleasant sensation, then forced himself to settle against the warm hand on his back, bracing against the piercing chill.

Thorin worked quickly, trying to be at least a little gentle, but ultimately failing. As he washed the gash on Bilbo's back with one hand, the other hand that had been splayed began rubbing slow circles on the hobbit's soft skin. A small gasp escaped Bilbo's mouth as Thorin rubbed the harsh cloth over his sensitive body. The rough material dragged on the blackened, coagulated blood and the flecks of rust-coloured liquid that flaked easily off the skin. Thorin did not dally cleaning Bilbo's back, but he enjoyed every moment that he was close to the hobbit. He relished in the feel of the halfling beneath his hand, though he knew that it must be painful and uncomfortable for his companion.

"You're wound is now cleaned, burglar," Thorin declared with one final swoop of the once again bloodied rag.

"Thank goodness," Bilbo muttered. If Thorin heard Bilbo's complaint, he chose to ignore it.

Thorin pulled yet another small pouch from the pocket of his jacket. This paste was brown in colour, a bit sticky, and smelled of newly spun yarn. The dwarf took a small dollop and smoothed it along the jagged line of Bilbo's wound. It seemed to suffocate the searing pain and relieve a bit of the tightness that the hobbit felt in his skin. The dwarf informed Bilbo that it was a special dwarven ointment used to keep infection away and soften healing skin. Thorin's fingers lingered a moment by the red flesh when he seemed done dressing the affected area. He then bent down and placed a kiss in the crook of Bilbo's neck, close enough to the soft brown curls that they tickled his nose.

Thorin's fingers traced the spot where his lips had been mere moments before. "It is time for Dwalin to take watch," stated the dwarf, his voice almost sad.

"Oh, oh yes, of course," came Bilbo's reply, the sadness very evident in his voice.

Bilbo did not want to leave the great dwarf king, but Thorin was right, it was time for them to retire. How could he possibly care for me anyway? Bilbo silently lamented. This surely won't happen again. The pair of males sifted through the discarded piles of clothing, returning their various layers to their proper places. As Thorin stood to leave, he placed a gentle kiss on top of Bilbo's head. Or maybe it will… the hobbit thought hopefully.

Bilbo sighed as he watched Thorin go. He stood to follow the stouter male back to their camp, a little disheartened that the evening was drawing to a close. In reality, the evening –so to speak- was well over, and it after midnight. Bilbo stretched and yawned as he walked back to hoard of sleeping dwarves. Even with his clothes back on his body, Bilbo felt a chill ripple through him and he started to shiver. He could see the light of the fire and was anticipating its warmth. Bilbo could also see Thorin rousing a sleepy Dwalin.

The hobbit wandered over to his bedmat, noting how cold it felt against his back - which was significantly less sore now, thanks to Thorin and the acullico leaves. He had been infatuated with the dwarf king for some time and had survived the absence of his closeness, but after having the taste of Thorin in his mouth, the feel of the dwarf's solid body pressed against his own lithe one, he longed for more. His presence was so commanding, his voice so sultry, his scent so invigorating… Bilbo rolled over, trying to focus on something else. He noticed Dwalin walking up the lazy slope where Thorin had been perched earlier that night.

Thorin. Bilbo did not see the dwarf king. He let his eyes flit around the camp site, looking for his companion, but he was nowhere to be found. Bilbo almost began to worry, when he felt a large hand on his shoulder. The halfling knew that the hand could only belong to one being.

"Thorin," Bilbo whispered, turning toward the hand.

Thorin was silent as he pulled his bedroll next to Bilbo's. It was not until he gently lowered himself to the ground that he spoke: "You appear to be cold, Master Hobbit. It is convention among dwarves to preserve body heat by sleeping close to one another," Thorin stated diplomatically.

When Thorin pulled Bilbo close to his chest, the hobbit had a feeling that Thorin's courtesy extended beyond mere convention. The halfling rolled over so that he was facing Thorin. "Is that so, Master Oakenshild?" Thorin only responded by pulling the smaller being closer to his body and placing a kiss upon his brow. The pair fell into a restful sleep, wrapped snugly around each other in a sea of warm blankets and furs.

It was almost imperceptible, the change in Thorin's gaze as he cast it upon Bilbo. The nearly private moments when hobbit and dwarf would share knowing and affectionate glances were entirely missed by the other members of the company. The "convention" of sleeping close to one another became an unspoken agreement that both Thorin and Bilbo were abundantly pleased with. Hobbit pressed into dwarf, the pair cared not if dwarf, or wizard, or anyone for that matter, could see the great King under the Mountain with his arms wrapped protectively around his hobbit.