A/N: Apologies for this delay. I blame the two stubborn dysfunctional and argumentative idiots you'll hear more from below. Not sure if I wasn't clear in the beginning of the story but I'm going to start screwing with canon beyond what I've done so far, for good reasons I promise, but consider yourselves warned. More notes at the end. Enjoy the extra long chapter (just short of 8,000 words, dang it)!

Chapter Six – Fleeting Treasures

Headache. He had a pounding headache and why was his head spinning with a pounding headache? It was like he had too much ale and he wasn't even an ale drinker. And his head was pounding in time with the throbbing in his legs. Oh. His legs. That was where the vines had wrapped around him and broken the skin. Maybe there was some venom or poison in them. Did he have a fever? Was that why he was so hot and sweating all over? Had he been sick? He felt like he still was.

Bilbo dragged his eyes open and looked around. He was covered in a thick blanket with a rolled one under his head as a pillow, right next to a burning fire. No wonder he was so hot. He sat up in shaky and weak arms, his blanket falling into his lap. Most of the company was missing, but those who stayed around camp (Ori, Nori, Balin, and Bifur) were not idle. Ori was busy sketching a flower while Nori and Bifur were arguing about something with hand signals. Balin, who had been smoking and staring off into the woods was the first to notice Bilbo was awake.

"Bilbo!"

All at once, Nori, Bifur, and Ori's heads snapped over to the hobbit's direction. If his brain wasn't so addled with fever he would have laughed at the wide doe-like looks they all sported. The rushing over to his side he could have done without. He'd never liked attention, even as a child. "Easy now," Bilbo managed with a scratchy voice. "Don't fuss…"

"Don't fuss," Nori exclaimed. "You've been down with a fever for three days, Burglar. "

Bifur grunted and pointed to his own head and made circling motions.

"He's not brain-damaged, Bifur," Balin reassured, then turned to Bilbo for his own reassurance. "Yer not are ye, laddie?

"Hope not-" he broke off into a coughing fit.

"Here," Ori said pressing a water skin into Bilbo's hands and helping him drink from it. "Your fever broke late last night. You slept better after that."

Bilbo only pushed the water skin away after remembering their last water situation. "Is that…?"

"Oh, no," Balin replied. "If there's any bit of luck that came out of that day, aside from you not dying of course, it was finding a clean tributary of water from that stream a little farther north."

"A clean one?"

"Aye."

"Thank Yavanna for that," he said, feeling a bit more clear-minded. If they hadn't found clean water, Bilbo didn't know if they would have lasted a couple more days or not, much less make it out of this blasted forest. "Where's everyone else?"

"Scouting for food," Nori answered. "Oin thought your idea of the animals drinking from the bad water might've have been why the meat was so foul. Up here might be different-least that's the hope."

"What happened? I remember falling from the tree, but not much else."

Balin frowned. "Well, do you want the long or the short of it?"

Bilbo winced and rubbed his left temple. "Short of it, I suppose."

"Thorin didn't listen to you-and mind you everyone heard your stupid little exchange," Nori summarized. "So he kept you from being eaten."

Balin nodded. "That's the short of it."

"Is he alright? He wasn't hurt, was he," Bilbo asked.

Bifur, Nori, and Ori simultaneously turned their heads to Balin, which told Bilbo all he needed to know when Balin only waved Bilbo off, telling the hobbit their fearless leader only received a few scratches. Though he wanted to challenge Balin on that assessment, just being up for five minutes had already drained all of his energy. Ori offered more water, which Bilbo gratefully took. Afterward he laid back down and fell into a fitful state of resting but not sleeping because his mind couldn't stop conjuring up all the possible ways Thorin could have been hurt because he refused to listen. Bilbo remembered specifically telling Thorin not to save him and NOT to risk himself. And here Bilbo was, by some miracle, with their stupid stupid leader somehow still alive as well. The more he let his thoughts latch onto the current state of affairs the more it made Bilbo angry. By the time the rest of the company returned in the late afternoon, Bilbo was more than ready for an argument despite his head still spinning. For purely physical reasons, he decided he would let Thorin come to him and then catch him when he least expected a reprimand.

The problem was: Thorin ignored him the rest of the night.

The blasted dwarf didn't even look in his direction. Balin had told him he was awake, but Thorin even refused to engage in conversation with the dwarf when Balin tried to press him. Was Thorin angry with Bilbo? Bilbo certainly wouldn't blame Thorin if he was angry. It wasn't necessarily the stupidest thing Bilbo had done since leaving Bag End, but given the outcome he supposed it was pretty close.

But damn that dwarf if he was going to make Bilbo feel guilty about what he did.

It was the most logical decision to make at the time and if Bilbo Baggins was ANYTHING it was NOT selfish, unlike some certain dwarves who had barged into his home all those months ago to empty his pantry. Though Bilbo knew the company's character better now, it certainly didn't rectify all of Thorin's. If anything it proved to Bilbo that their king was a complete dolt. If Bilbo was physically up to it, he would have gone right over and told him so himself, but after Oin had poked and prodded him for half an hour, Bilbo wasn't in the mood for anyone's company, much less a stubborn idiot who needed a stern talking to about priorities and life-choices. He weathered Kili and Fili's enthusiasm and resolved to wait until morning to see if the king's temperament changed.

It didn't.

The next day was even worse than the avoidance of the first. Thorin was forced to pass by Bilbo more than a few times in camp and each and every time he ignored Bilbo as he tried to catch his attention. A smile, a waved hand, even words or his name didn't work. Once he even tried to trip the dwarf, but only ended up sprawled in the dirt himself. And of course Bilbo wasn't the only one who noticed the problem. Both Fili and Kili had the most puzzled looks on their faces and had been whispering to each other all day, but not the way they usually did when they were up to something suspicious. Eventually Bilbo caught Kili's eye and waved both him and his brother over to his place by the fire.

"Do you two sneaks know what's going on?"

"We've been trying to puzzle that bit out," Fili admitted.

"Is he angry with me over what happened," Bilbo asked. "Or was there something else I did or didn't do?"

Kili shrugged. "Maybe-ow!"

"We don't know what it is," Fili pointed out.

"And we don't know what it isn't either! It's a fifty-fifty chance."

"Everything is a fifty-fifty chance when you don't know what it is-"

"I know what it isn't and I'll bet my last berries on it."

Bilbo sighed and flopped back down on his blankets, rubbing at his forehead. His headache was better today and his head had stopped spinning, but he was still rather weak and tired and eventually urged both boys to make themselves useful around camp without lazing about by his side all day. Fili and Kili both promised him to find out the problem, but as much as Bilbo desperately wanted to know, he didn't want to cause an argument he couldn't at least take part in, so he made them promise not to pry-as good as a promise was by those two at any rate.

On the third day, Bilbo's patience had reached its limit. The rest of the dwarves gave him a wide berth during the day, as he was mostly glaring daggers at Thorin's back as he paced around the camp to get his muscles back to work. Even Fili and Kili kept quiet and to themselves. When Thorin and Oin discussed waiting another day, Bilbo gradually crept closer until he was close enough to reach out and shake the damned dwarf by his fur coat.

"I can walk, you know," Bilbo interrupted. "I've been walking all morning and you lot can't afford to lose another day."

Silence followed. Then, to Bilbo and Oin's shock, Thorin stated they would wait one more day, and promptly disappeared into the trees. Dwalin followed a short time later after rolling his eyes. Bilbo huffed and stomped off in the opposite direction through the woods. It didn't take him long before he got winded and plopped himself down on a tree root to seethe. A few minutes later, Bilbo heard someone romping through the foliage after him and to his surprise found it was Gloin.

"Ye done havin yer tantrum, yet, hobbit? Oin threatened to cut off ma beard if I didna come back with ye. Says yer not quite over-"

"Yes, I know that I'm not all over the venom yet and I don't need anyone telling me that other than he who refuses to speak," Bilbo snapped.

"Wouldna bet my wages on that if I were ye."

Bilbo scoffed, but knew the red-haired dwarf spoke the truth. Damn that dwarf and his endless mood swings. "Do you understand what's got him so upset?"

"Dunno if anyone does. Thorin's a bit of a hardhead at the best of times."

"You can say that again," Bilbo muttered to himself.

"But," Gloin continued. "If I had to wager, and mind ye I come from a long line of bankers, I'd say it has something ta do with what ye said to 'im. Bout actin' like a king and all. No one likes to be told what to do, or what they should do, much less a king."

"That's absolutely ridiculous," Bilbo replied. "If that's what this is all about!"

"Like I said," Gloin repeated. "E's a hardhead, that one. Come on, It took me ages to grow this back after ma wee one cut it off fer a prank. Dunna fancy startin' over again."

When the fourth day came with no change and Thorin absent from camp nearly the entire day, Bilbo finally made up his mind. Hardhead or no, he was going to actively pick this fight Thorin clearly didn't want to have. For there was no other explanation for the blasted childish avoidance. Oin kept him preoccupied most of the day to ensure Bilbo hadn't suffered any permanent mobility loss, but after he had exhausted himself enough to warrant an official rest, Bilbo spent his break searching for Thorin. It took him near an hour after sundown, but he finally found the dwarf king alone and polishing his sword by a stream.

Thorin spoke without turning his back in his native tongue.

Bilbo was taken aback at first, but then realized the king probably didn't even know it was him who'd come to pick a bone with him. Good. "Why are you ignoring me?"

Thorin did not turn to look at him fully, but with the slight turn of his face (the tiniest form of acknowledgement), Bilbo could see that he had that annoyed look on his face Bilbo hadn't seen since before Rivendell. And the fact that he was continuing polishing that sword as a deflection just angered the hobbit more.

"Well," Bilbo prompted. "Are you going to keep ignoring me now that I'm here or walk away again? Because I'm not leaving until you give me an answer. And even if you did do that I'd just follow you until you did. "

"I am not ignoring you," Thorin replied tonelessly.

"Not!-…" Bilbo stifled a chuckle before taking a few steps closer with crossed arms. "You're not ignoring me," he repeated. "You know, not speaking to someone whose life you saved constitutes ignoring. You won't even let me be angry with you for what you did."

This time Thorin turned fully to face him, disbelieving and affronted. "You are angry with me? I saved your life when you were so willing to throw it away! I believe that course of action constitutes stupidity," he spat.

Bilbo's mouth dropped open in shock. "You risked yourself on my account, if either of us is stupid it's you! You're a king, Thorin-and I'm not the heir to the bloody throne of Erebor!"

"I hired you to steal into that mountain and help us take it back, not to die before we reach its base."

"You would manage just fine without your investment," Bilbo waved off. "You're not that stupid to not figure out a way to get back into your own mountain without my services."

"Your services are not what I take offense to," Thorin growled. "It is your lack of self-preservation and the infuriating knack you have for finding unnecessary trouble and needing to be rescued for your follies-"

"Oh because I'm a simpering damsel in distress? Come off it! I've got a sword, I know how to use it, and I've already used it and proved I'm not some helpless halfwit who doesn't know the handle from the pointy end. Besides, it was only once or twice I actually needed real help-and for getting as far as we've gotten I'd say that's a pretty good record for a hobbit from the Shire who's never gone farther than Bree."

Thorin crossed his arms and raised an incredulous eyebrow. "Your memory's gone fickle from that venom, halfling."

Bilbo crossed his arms as well and turned his body to face Thorin straight on in a challenge. "My memory is perfectly fine."

"I beg to differ."

"Then, differ."

"Trolls."

"It was Fili and Kili who got us into that mess to begin with and you know that."

"The Misty Mountains."

"We all nearly fell to our deaths that day."

"Goblins."

"Now, I took that goblin with me over the edge, so that one does not count."

Thorin rolled his eyes.

Bilbo sniffed and stood up straighter. "Besides I handled Gollum on my own just fine."

Thorin's brow creased in confusion. "Gollum?"

"Nasty creature down in the caverns who cared more for riddles than cannibalism. Split personality too. Never got the cannibal's name."

"You played riddles with a murderous creature living in the bowels of the Misty Mountains?"

Bilbo stopped and stared. "Yes, and?"

Thorin stared at him in turn. "My point."

"What point?! I'm here! He didn't eat me! I made it out!"

"Then allow me to continue. Wargs."

Bilbo sighed. "We've had wargs since the beginning of the journey-"

"Azog-"

"Technically he wanted us all dead, so that shouldn't count either-"

Thorin growled. "What of that bear-"

"Beorn didn't mean any harm-and how in middle earth is that even MY fault?! Sure he spotted me first, but I didn't lead us into barricading ourselves into his home! It was rather rude after everything he's done since then."

"Then what of those thrice damned possessed plants?! Who woke them up? Who was the only member of the company we had to rescue from that ravine?"

Bilbo threw out his arms in exasperation. "Thorin, whether that's my fault or not doesn't bloody well excuse your actions!"

"My actions are my own and I stand by every single one of them."

"That hero complex you have is going to get you killed one day and what if it's before we even face that damned dragon? What use is a king to everyone when he's dead?"

"I'm not your king."

"That doesn't matter."

"Why did you save my life," Thorin asked him. "From Azog."

"Wha…Oh, not this again," Bilbo moaned, dropping his face into his hand.

"I'd shown you no regard before that moment and yet you chose to put your life in front of mine despite the surety you would perish-"

"Nice to know you think so highly of me-"

"You know what I mean, halfling. I owe you my life-"

"You owe me nothing," Bilbo exploded. "You insufferably dense dwarf! If anything, I owe you mine, but that doesn't mean you have to put yourself in mortal danger to repay it-"

"Then you at the very least owe me the courtesy of TRYING to keep yourself safe. I do not leave ANYONE behind. I never have and I never will!"

Bilbo gave in to the laughter that bubbled up.

"What in Melkor's hell is so damned funny," Thorin growled.

"What about the people you recuse yourself from? Hm?"

"Recuse?!- When did I ever recuse myself from your wellbeing?"

"In my bloody home! You think I didn't hear what you said to Gandalf?"

Thorin closed his eyes and took a breath. "You…misunderstood me."

"How did I misunderstand you not being responsible for my fate? I think that's pretty clear and I'm telling you I understand. Alright? I get it. I'm not angry with you about that. For you and your people to have a future you need to make those kind of hard decisions and I cannot get in the way of your-"

"What I meant was I do not have Gandalf's power of foresight! I know little of what lies between us and that dragon and I couldn't protect you even if I tried. I did not want that expectation placed on my shoulders unjustly. I was guilting that old man into staying with our company not just to help us but to help protect you since he was so adamant you come in the first place-"

"You're saying you were asking for his help? Thorin Oakenshield, King under the mountain I haven't reclaimed yet, swallowed my pride after deigning to let a grocer accompany me asked for someone else's help? You see how silly that sounds to a mere halfling who should never have left his cozy little home in the first place?"

"Is it in the nature of your kind to be so fucking irritating?"

"Depends on the fucking family," Bilbo deadpanned.

Thorin glared at Bilbo, seething in an anger that Bilbo reflected back to him as if through a mirror.

But Bilbo was the first to break the glaring match. He sighed loudly and rubbed his hands over his face, tiredly. Oh, if his mother could hear him now-he was sure she'd force a bar of soap down his throat for days-but damn it all if that dumb dwarf didn't just wring that ire right out of him. "I honestly don't know what's so hard to understand about this," Bilbo moaned.

"Neither do I."

"Thorin," Bilbo started, stepping close to Thorin's face for emphasis. "My life is not as important as yours!-"

Thorin pointed an angry finger at Bilbo to silence him. "Do not say that to me-"

"It's true," Bilbo shouted. "That. Is. The. Bloody. Truth!"

"NO, IT IS NOT!"

"THEN WHY NOT?! Why isn't it?! Give me one good reason why it-!"

It was a quick and forceful press of lips to his own. He hadn't really registered what truly had happened until after the fact, but afterwards when Thorin was glaring at him a small degree less than before, Bilbo found he could suddenly breathe again. He stared at the dwarf in shock.

Thorin Oakenshield had just kissed him.

"You have your reason," the dwarf said, and then took his leave stomping back through the underbrush.

Bilbo stood there, shock still body-numbing. His mind was sluggish. Slow to put the pieces together. When he was able to put a coherent thought together he looked around to find himself alone. He touched his lips with his fingers as he panted. Had that actually happened? Had he imagined it? Was there something in that water they were all drinking? It was impossible. Yet it happened. It made him dizzy, so he sat down on a rock and covered his entire mouth with his hand.

After a while it was Dwalin who came looking for him. When he grunted at Bilbo to come back to camp, Bilbo had a moment of fear that the dwarf knew of what transpired, but one look at Dwalin erased those fears. Unless any of the dwarves were eavesdropping (which he didn't put back a certain few), none of them would have heard what happened after the shouting. Bilbo apologized to Dwalin for having to come and find him, making a shoddy excuse for needing time to think to himself. Yavanna eternally bless him, Dwalin didn't comment any further.

When they returned to camp, most of the dwarves, Bilbo found, were pretending to be asleep. Except for Fili and Kili of course. When both boys turned to him and asked silent questions of 'What happened?!' Bilbo breathed a sigh of relief he didn't know he was holding in. If either of those boys found out what had happened, then everyone would know and he and Thorin would never hear the end of it. Bilbo shook his head and waved them off. Though the boys both looked comically put out, Bilbo couldn't find it in himself to care. Thorin was still at the other side of the camp, bedded down for the night with his back to everyone else. Slipping underneath his own blankets for the night strangely felt like worse misery than he'd endured the past few days.

The fifth day the mood among the company was much the same as the day before. The dwarves were quiet and gave Thorin and Bilbo their own space. Bilbo spent most of it running the previous night's argument and kiss over and over in his head. One moment they were shouting at each other, and the next Thorin was kissing him. It made little sense on its own, but when Bilbo thought back over their conversations they'd had since leaving Bag End and supposed there could have been something at some point lurking beneath the surface that he'd just never noticed. But the only one that stood out to him was the conversation they'd had at Beorn's before venturing into Mirkwood the next morning, and even that Bilbo questioned as proof.

The more he tried to put the pieces together, the more confused he got. Eventually when they stopped for the night, and Thorin stomped off with Balin trailing behind, Bilbo realized that it didn't matter. The fact was the deed had been done and he could spend the rest of his days figuring out the how instead of acting on the thing itself. A little while later he slipped away from the others and found Balin frustrated with Thorin, his hands on his hips with the king sitting on a rock and stubbornly ignoring him. Balin was the first to notice Bilbo's presence.

"Could we have a moment alone," he asked. "Please?"

Balin sighed and gave Thorin a pointed look before acquiescing and heading back up to camp. On his way past Bilbo, Balin laid a hand on the hobbit's shoulder and whispered to him, "Whatever this is, laddie, try to fix it."

Bilbo nodded, and that was enough for the old dwarf who took his leave. He stood there listening to Balin's retreat until they both could no longer hear him. The silence between them was a strange air, and despite having rehearsed exactly what he wanted to say, the words seemed to have abandoned him in his hour of need.

"Do I frighten you now?"

Bilbo hadn't realized he moved no closer to the king than the edge of the clearing until Thorin asked his question. He almost laughed at himself, but stopped at the last moment, fearful it may be mistaken for something else. Instead, he forced himself to move forward until he was standing to Thorin's immediate left.

"Maybe," he admitted quietly.

The strangest look passed over the king's countenance. It was something sad and soft, and almost regretful. It pulled at poor Bilbo's heartstrings to see it, and got worse when Thorin stopped looking at him and chose instead to stare out into the woods.

So he sighed and scrunched his eyes shut, mentally gathering his wits. Then, before he could let himself consider the matter any further, he opened them, tilted Thorin's face up by the chin, and kissed the dwarf. It was more of a chaste press of lips than anything, because Bilbo was too frightened to give any more in the moment. He pulled back and looked at Thorin, but neither said anything. The dwarf was just staring at him with endless unspoken questions.

"It was a good reason," Bilbo offered.

Thorin gave him the barest hint of a smile.


Bilbo stared into Beorn's lit hearth, watching he flames lick at the wood. One arm was draped across his stomach and his other arm was propped up on the arm of the chair, his fist resting clenched against his forehead. Within that fist was his lost button.

"Come," Thorin whispered to him.

Bilbo followed.

They traveled a little ways from camp in the darkness, ignoring the eyes as a simple enchantment, until they came to a dark little clearing and a small patch of white lily flowers. From it, the light from the camp fire could still be seen, but it was as far as they dared go in the dark and by themselves. As nervous as Bilbo felt, he was still surprised to find Thorin tense like a bowstrong.

"What's wrong," he asked, even daring to lay a hand on his arm. "Thorin?"

Thorin looked at his hand and very slowly took it in both of his. "Forgive me. It has been some time since I last…allowed myself such comforts."

"Well," Bilbo said softly. "Me too, if that matters."

"Do you want this?"

Bilbo nodded silently.

Thorin shook his head. "You need to say as much. I do not want any confus-"

Bilbo extricated his hand from Thorin's hands and took either side of the dwarf's face and pulled him down toward his own. "Yes, I want you. I want us…this-whatever it is."

"Careful, Burglar," Thorin whispered against his lips. "That's an open-ended offer."

"Trust me, Thorin Oakenshield," he said brushing the king's hair back. "If there's something I don't want, you'll know about it. I've been told I have a mean right hook."

Thorin hummed in consideration. "Much as I'd love to make this into a game…that would perhaps be unwise given our current-"

Bilbo smirked against Thorin's lips when he heard the gasp he wrenched out of the king when he moved one of his hands lower. "I never said I didn't like games."

Thorin lowered his lips again to kiss Bilbo, but instead he hovered there. Their noses touched. Their breaths mixed. Then he leaned to the side to whisper in the hobbit's ear. "I did not know hobbits knew how to play with fire."

The button was a golden metal little thing with the embossment of an acorn on it. The vest he'd had made for himself, but after salvaging the buttons from a moth-eaten vest of his father's. He'd mourned the lost of the majority of them after they'd been saved by the eagles, but was still happy that one had come out of the thickest of things with him. It was like a little piece of home he was able to still carry with him. And when he'd lost it that night, he knew in that moment he'd never be the same.

"Oh, damn it, Thorin," Bilbo cursed. "That was the last one!"

"I'll make you a thousand just like it," the king promised against his lips, wrestling the sorry vest and suspenders from his shoulders.

"You'd better," he gasped before his lips were ensnared again.

How easy would it be to just throw the blasted thing in the flames and watch it melt into oblivion?

Thorin's breathy moan was like magic. Just the gentle press and drag of their hips and still clothed selves together was all both could have been happy with from now until the end of time. Bilbo stared down at Thorin's upturned face, eyes clenched shut and lips parted in pleasure. He rocked his hips again in the king's lap and to his surprise and excitement, the moan this time was still different than the several that came before. With a shaky breath, Thorin opened his eyes and forced Bilbo's hips still with his large hands. Had Bilbo not known of Thorin's mutual lust he might have mistaken the look in those eyes for anger. The smoldering fire of those blue eyes was just like the enchantment of the forest, only immensely more welcoming.

It was a trinket, really. Nothing special anymore without the others. Worthless.

Thorin's hands left their iron grip on his hips and tugged Bilbo's shirt free from his trousers. Then one of the king's callused hands traced its way up his bare back. Simultaneous chills and tingles of pleasure ran through Bilbo and he couldn't help but close his eyes against the intensity of the feeling. He sucked in a quick breath and let out a low moan as he tightened his hold on Thorin's braids and hair. Their noses fell together and both hobbit and dwarf breathed together in the dark. Eventually their lips found one another again. And when Thorin moved his other hand beneath the somehow undone front of his trousers-

Bilbo stood up with a wince of discomfort and crept closer to the fire in the hearth. He should destroy it. To finally be rid of it. So he'd never have to remember-

His perfectly haired and muscled chest-

The fire would take it without question.

"Beorn gave this to me," Bilbo said, offering it to Thorin.

All it would take was a flick of the wrist.

"Breathe," Thorin whispered gently in his ear. "Relax."

He glared hellfire at the burning logs.

Bilbo gasped and yanked on Thorin's braids when the dwarf had crooked his finger in just the right way. Thorin was staring down at him intently and with no small amount of concern. "Again," Bilbo commanded. "That, again!"

He raised his hand, the button pinched only between three fingers.

In the middle of their lovemaking, Bilbo tried to grab onto something to ground himself-anything to think clearly beyond the overwhelming physical sensations and the frightening hungry desire inside of him that had taken over all his faculties. His hand latched onto the pocket of his discarded vest, reminding him of what magical object was in that pocket.

The fine tremor in his hand grew.

Magic. That was what this was. Primal magic. Feeling and knowing each other's needs and thoughts and heartbeats and breaths and pleasure as if one. The adoration this dwarf showered down on him with just his eyes made him feel so important and cherished and big. In his whole life, he had never felt that before.

The corner of his eyes teared.

Being with such a powerful and passionate creature that was pulling so many new feelings and realizations out of him drove him to silent prayer.

Bilbo clutched the button back into his fist and dropped the hand by his side in defeat.

Please, he pleaded in his mind to whatever power was willing to listen. Please, let me give him something. Anything. Anything in this world. My heart. My soul. Every inch of my body-whatever more I can give.

He couldn't do it. He couldn't justify it. No matter the painful memories that damned button brought up.

There was a rush coming, like a summer storm after a heat wave. He couldn't breathe, could barely moan a strangled warning before it broke over him and then Thorin as well. Afterward they both panted breaths into each other, dragged both their eyes to somehow meet, and laughed.

It was with that thought that he miserably bedded down for his last night in a friend's home.

The next morning, Bilbo was in a foul temper. He'd been nice enough to Beorn before they departed, but he'd forgotten how rough the terrain had been before the bear's refuge of meadows and gurgling brooks. Riding down or up hills and valleys made for sore backs and cranky animals and even crankier hobbits as there were less places to stop for a rest.

"You'll be happy to know we're making good time," Gandalf said as he turned to face Bilbo from his horse up ahead. "We may only delay your return to Hobbiton by a couple of weeks if the weather holds and we keep this pace."

Bilbo rolled his eyes. "You'll pardon me if I don't hold my breath on that."

"That was one little storm passing through before Rivendell."

"And the next one a few days later, in the Mountains?"

"How exactly is that my fault?"

"You're a wizard. Everything is your fault."

"Now, that I take offense to."

"No, you don't. You like it."

"I most certainly do not!" Bilbo gave Gandalf one of his own withering looks, and the wizard added a quieter hum and addendum, "Most of the time."

When they stopped for lunch on an outcrop Bilbo gingerly got off his pony, which he had named Myrtle in memory of the poor pony he had before, and groaned as he rubbed his backside and stood straight to keep himself from actually keeling over to throw up. He'd only started to feel nauseous the last few miles, but it was as if with each passing meter, it only got worse. And he'd only had an apple that morning before they left. As if sensing his thoughts (or dare he think reading them) Gandalf appeared by his side and offered a bag of nuts. Bilbo tried to push it away, but Gandalf persisted.

"Hunger can lead to nausea as you well know-"

"Yes, and you shoving food down my throat won't help matters if it's just going to come right back up!"

Gandalf scowled down at him. "And magic can compound normalcies such as that. Eat."

Bilbo sighed with a scowl of his own as he yanked the bag out of the wizard's offered hand. One smell of the nuts though was enough to turn his stomach all over again. "Don't see the bloody point. I used to love hazelnuts and now the smell is just repellant."

"Hopefully that will change once the magic is undone."

"Hopefully?!"

"Where magic is concerned one can only hope. Certainty, for a wizard, elf, dwarf, man, hobbit, or even object is never assured."

Bilbo pursed his lips and dropped the offending bag of hazelnuts. "I've had it. I've had it-I've had it with all of this uncertainty and danger and adventure-I've had it all and I can tell you with absolute certainty that you made the biggest mistake of your life in choosing me for that blasted company," Bilbo snarled. "I've been looked at like food, covered in webs, soot, and snot, in mortal danger more times than I can count, nearly stabbed, drowned, incinerated, and bludgeoned to death all for some selfish lot's quest to reclaim a decrepit mountain and pit of gold and jewels and treasure that means more to them than their own bloody lives. If you thought for one second that this adventure would make me into this-this-this hero of my age when the next nearest hobbit in temperament to me considers the mountains a fairytale then some poor sod of a Took cousin of mine told you a tale more full of lies than one of the Sackville's could manage on a good day!"

Bilbo sighed and turned his back to the wizard, too tired to even acknowledge the old man's hurt.

"I wish none of this ever happened," he continued. "None of it. Not one measly solitary second of the past several months because it wouldn't have ended in all this heartbreak and pain and with a bloody child in my stomach of all things! I'd be at home reading my books, pruning my garden for winter, and most certainly NOT worrying about any magic or death or childbirth or even how to go on living after all of that-And it's all because of this, this, this bloody stupid ring," he shouted, throwing the ring into the woods and immediately regretting it. "Oh, confound it all."

Gandalf gave him a witheringly unimpressed glance. "Well, that was an entirely sensible outburst!"

Bilbo just waved him off. "I know, I know. Just wait here. I'll get the blasted thing."

Gandalf stood up to follow him as Bilbo started making his way through the brush, but the hobbit whirled on him and held a hand out.

"No, no, just give me a minute's peace! I'll…I'll shout if I'm being mercifully eaten by a warg or a gigantic venomous spider. Again!"

"So testy," the wizard muttered to himself, shaking his head. "One would think he was turning more dwarvish every passing day."

Confound that blasted old decrepit excuse for a wizard! How dare he make such a comment! He'd be lucky if Bilbo didn't tell him exactly what he thought of his damned fireworks after all of this was said and done!

Bilbo stopped stomping through the underbrush and took a breath. As quickly as his anger had come, it had gone. He sighed and put his face in his hands. He hadn't really stopped to think much about the consequences to leaving the company he'd spent so many months getting to know, learning to care about, and needing to be around. Truth be told, Gandalf was sore company compared to Bofur's jokes and Balin's quiet snickering and Dori's mothering and Bombur's cooking and Fili and Kili's antics with Dwalin's scowling and Bifur's grunting and Ori's innocent curiosity with Oin's constant confusion and Gloin's never-ending pride to Nori's threatening smiles. Damn everything, Bilbo was truly starting to miss them all and it hurt so very much when here he was almost on the other side of Mirkwood alone and bereft of so many dear friendships he wasn't even aware he'd formed.

He was completely alone.

Shunned.

Thrown aside.

Abandoned.

And…pregnant.

He looked up to the tree canopy to keep the tears from falling as he blew out a big puff of air.

It was just pure irony that the most impossible thing in the world happens to happen to him, after an impossible relationship, and the impossible things he HAD to do to try and save that impossible dwarf. Bilbo chuckled mirthlessly at himself. He truly was the stupidest hobbit in all of hobbit history. Just as he was about to give up the task and go back to ask for help, Bilbo found the glittering golden ring next to a tree. Bilbo huffed and picked the offending ring up, shoving it in his jacket pocket and muttering choice words to it.

Suddenly, a sharp pain ripped through him, making his legs weak enough to buckle. He caught himself on a tree beside him while his other hand flew to the area below his stomach. Touch only seemed to enflame the feeling more, and the hobbit was hard pressed to not let out even a little moan. Truth be told he felt like screaming at the cramping ripping sensation running through him.

And then he looked down and saw it.

Blood.

Already soaking his pants, and starting to soak the earth between his legs.

He felt himself go stark white.

He'd gotten what he'd wanted.

He'd gotten what he'd wished so fervently for.

But it wasn't relief he felt.

"I can't tell you how much we appreciate this kindness Mr. Bilbo," Bell Goodchild, wife of Hamfast Gamgee said with a tired smile as she gently rocked the newborn babe in her arms.

"It's not a problem," Bilbo reassured. "I've told him more than once that if you ever needed any help with errands or such to let me know. It's not like I've got much else to do and with five little ones now I can't imagine how going to the market can actually be a successful affair"

Bell chuckled. "They're Gamgees and born to be a handful. Thank you again for-Oh no! I think I've burned those biscuits, would you mind holding him, just for a moment," she asked, pushing the sleeping babe into Bilbo's arms.

"Hold-Uh-I don't know if-"

"Just for a moment-" Bell begged as she successfully deposited the child into his arms and ran to the kitchen. "Just one moment!:

"Alright-if you're…sure," Bilbo weakly replied. He dared a look down at the babe who was just beginning to wake in his arms. Panic started to set in and he almost ran to Bell in the kitchen to thrust the poor thing back into his mother's arms before he discovered he was with a stranger. But then, Samwise Gamgee opened his soft eyes and stared up at Bilbo Baggins, and didn't cry. "Hello there…" Bilbo whispered.

It was horror and terror, not for himself and not for what he was about to lose, but who.

"No," he gasped. "No, no, no, no, no! No! No, stop-I want you-I want… Mmmm! I take it back. I take it back! Just stop, please! Please, stop!"

He was getting dizzy.

He was starting to feel cold all over.

Call for the wizard.

"Gandalf," he called, weakly at first, then stronger with each painful moment that passed. He lost count of how many times he called the wizard's name. What he did know was when Gandalf did find him, the pain was starting to dull into a terrible and deep ache. Large hands on his shoulders woke him out of his stupor. Immediately he grasped onto one like a lifeline and tried to guide the other one down to the blood, decency the farthest thing from his mind.

"H-Help me-Help it, please-do something. You have to do something-please, do something-make it stay-I want it-please!-Make it stay-!"

Bilbo had never seen Gandalf with the stark look on his face as he saw him now, not even when they were up in the trees fending off Azog. "What in all of Arda have you done?"

"I don't know-I don't know! Please fix it! I can't lose it!"

But that wasn't entirely true. He'd wished and prayed for this moment to come. And when it had, he'd never imagined it hurting this bad or feeling like such terrible heartbreak all over again. He'd never stopped to consider the thing in his belly as a person. For one day it would grow into a person, have it's own personality, make its own choices, spread its own love and laughter and life.

Gandalf put his hand on Bilbo's slightly protruding stomach and pain blossomed outward, like one of the old man's fireworks. Bilbo whimpered and grabbed onto the wizard's arm as another shiver broke over his whole body. What if he actually died here? It wasn't that uncommon of a thing, mothers dying in childbirth. In fact, it was still rather common. And it wasn't as if his body was made for this thing in the first place.

"I'm sorry for what I said-I didn't mean any of it-"

"I know, my friend."

"Baggins curse, I guess," he murmured. "…we all die alone in the end… silly to think I'd be any different."

"You are not dying, Bilbo Baggins. So you can stop talking such nonsense."

"Where's everyone gone? They'll…Thorin'll box your ears for… leaving us… nearly gotten eaten by… spiders…and elves…I'm dizzy…Feel like…before, at home…"

"Blasted hobbit, stay awake!"

Awake? He wasn't dreaming? This whole journey hadn't been a dream?

He turned his head to the side and found himself staring into those sharp blue eyes he'd drowned within since he left Bag End. He'd been afraid of seeing them since he'd been banished. Seeing them now didn't fill him with terror or heartache. They filled him with peace. If this was what death was like, Bilbo was well and truly buggered.

That was the last thought he had before darkness took him.


A/N: I swear this is the last cliffhanger for a while…I think. Apologies again for the delay in this chapter. I sort of belatedly realized this chapter would have to be much larger than originally planned given the build up to the big moment. And I kind of fell in love with Bilbo-take-no-shit Baggins in this chapter. Which just means there's bigger and sassier fireworks planned for Bilbo and Thorin much later in the story, hehehe. And for the record we're about to have a switch in narrative soon, which will hopefully reveal some more about Bilbo and Thorin's relationship in the early days.

Thank you so much to all my reviewers! Your kind and generous words are awesome to hear. Again, thank you for your patience as I work out the kinks with my writing schedule. I actually sat down and fleshed out the skeleton of the ENTIRE story, and it's a doozy. Stay tuned for the next installment and let me know what you thought, or if you've got any suggestions.