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Bilbo Baggins and the 13 Dwarves

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"Why're you looking so glum, Mr Boggins?"

Bilbo startled, looking up to find the younger of the Durin lads standing before him, smiling easily, his face open and curious. The lad didn't mean anything by the misuse of his name, that was clear, there was no hint of a tease in his voice. In fact, he looked like he was trying to be polite, make conversation with the hobbit who was sitting by himself. Bilbo sighed, shaking his head and looking back down at the food he'd hardly touched as he mumbled, so not as to seem completely impolite.

"If you aren't going to get my last name right, you may as well call me Bilbo."

Kili opened his mouth uselessly, frowning for a long moment before moving to awkwardly sit at Bilbo's side without a word. Bilbo glanced at the young dwarf, he said young but in truth he believed Kili was older than he was, and Kili glanced back, tempting another slight smile. Bilbo was hardly in the mood for company, but Kili didn't seem to mean any harm. The dwarf fidgeted slightly, unsure of his welcome, letting the silence stretch between them for a long while.

"Bilbo, then. So... Why so glum?" Kili tried again eventually, a little softer this time and with concern on his face rather than a smile. Bilbo met the dwarf's gaze this time, almost searching as if to see if this was some sort of joke between the youngest Durin and his older brother, who seemed to be constantly up to something, but he was just watching Bilbo evenly in return and seemed to genuinely want to know why the hobbit had been sitting, moping, by himself. Bilbo set his bowl of food aside, there was no point in pretending like he wanted to eat it, then he quirked his mouth, casting the dark haired dwarf one last glance before admitting,

"If you must know, I miss my home."

Kili looked surprised for a moment before nodding slowly like he understood. Kili rocked a little where he sat, still nodding his head as he replied in a firm tone. "I don't blame you. It's not been the easiest so far."

Bilbo frowned at that, wondering if Kili knew he was trying to sound like his Uncle whom the lad seemed to admire so much. Still, he gave a quiet scoff, actually smiling. "That seems like an understatement."

Kili laughed despite himself, the bravado that ill-suited him falling away as fast as he'd put it on, shaking his dark head. He absently reached into his pocket and drew out a little stone that Bilbo had seen him toying with sometimes when he seemed to think no one was looking. Rolling the smooth pebble between his fingers, Kili glanced around himself for a moment, seeing his brother pestering young Ori, while Thorin and Dwalin were seated together, conversing in hushed tones. Kili swallowed, glancing down at the token he bore before quietly murmuring to the hobbit,

"Truth be told, I... I miss my mum."

Bilbo's eyebrows shot up in surprise despite himself, and Kili shook his head hard, stuffing the stone back into his pocket and standing abruptly, clearing his throat. He looked ashamed, embarrassed, like he'd admitted too much, made himself seem weak, but all Bilbo could think was he'd been right to think of the lad as young. He missed his mother, of course he did, Bilbo still missed his own dearly departed mother even when he wasn't on some grand adventure that had so far done nothing but try to kill him.

Kili drew a steadying breath, releasing it slowly before looking back at Bilbo with pleading eyes. "Please don't tell Fili or Uncle Thorin I said that."

Bilbo silently shook his head, and Kili nodded his thanks before moving to return to his brother's side without another word. Bilbo watched him go, moving to pick up his bowl and attempt another spoonful of the stew within. He wasn't the only one missing his home, and Kili had helped remind him of that.

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Bilbo's yelp of pain was enough to draw the attention of all the company, 13 hair faces turning to look at him where he was hopping on the spot, pain radiating up his leg.

"What is the matter, Master Baggins?" Thorin called from the front of the line, irritation at the interruption clear in his voice. Bilbo spluttered, giving a wide gesture at the plant he'd just tripped on.

"I merely brushed this plant!"

Bilbo looked down at his leg, seeing a raised, speckled rash beginning to spread across his skin. He made a noise in distress, wondering to himself if he was maybe allergic to whatever the plant was, only to have Bofur call out to the others,

"Bilbo stepped in the burnin' weed!"

That caused an instant commotion amongst the dwarves who all seemed to pack in around Bilbo, who was standing there, aching and trying to contain his horror. Burning weed? He'd never heard of it! It sounded most unpleasant and felt even worse. He was still hopping where he stood, looking around at everyone as they muttered amongst themselves, pressing to look at the rash on Bilbo's leg.

"What kind of fool steps in burning weed?"

"He slipped, I saw it-"

"Looks like a nasty sting..."

"We should put mud on it!" Dori suggested suddenly, sounding like he thought that suggestion was a helpful one. only to be pushed aside as Oin shuffled forward, shaking his head even as Dori bustled aside looking terribly affronted.

"Mud? Nonsense. I have something fer burning weed stings!"

The healer's assurance seemed enough to placate Thorin for the moment, and he gave the grey haired dwarf a nod of consent before looking around at all the others who were all watching their leader expectantly. Thorin cleared his throat.

"I suppose everyone can take a moments rest while Oin treats our burglar."

Bilbo bristled slightly at the dwarf King's tone, but was distracted by Oin taking hold of his arm with a surprisingly strong hand. "C'mon, laddie. Best get that seen too. I'd say it twinges a bit."

Bilbo looked at him incredulously, because twinges a bit seemed like an understatement, but he let himself be steered over to a log, and forced down onto it. Oin stood before him, he pulled off his thick mits and took a moment to rub his swollen knuckles before nodding to Bilbo's stinging leg. "Give us a look at yet leg, then."

Bilbo didn't think much of dwarvish healer's bedside manners if Oin was anything to go by, but he did as he was told, wincing as he lifted his leg for inspection. Oin took a hold of his heel with a suddenly gentle hand, squinting down at the rash, looking it over and clicking his tongue.

"It's not the worst I've seen, still... Sill thing, stepping into a burning weed like that."

Oin released Bilbo's leg in favour of hunting through his satchel for the right treatment for Bilbo's burn even as Bilbo huffed in response.

"We don't have that plant in the Shire!" He replied defensively, but it was obvious that Oin hadn't heard him, muttering instead to himself as he sorted through the various salves he carried with him. He kept pulling jars out, frowning at them and putting them back, fishing out a new one and Bilbo had to wonder just what purpose all these things had. Not all of them were salves, either, some appeared to be various containers and herbs...

"Aha!" Oin exclaimed so suddenly that Bilbo jumped, hissing at the pain in his leg for a moment before he was distracted by the jar now clutched in the dwarf's hand. It was filled with a thick, clear substance and Oin looked pleased, giving a low chuckle. "Aye. This should do the trick."

"What sort of cream is this?" Bilbo wondered despite himself, and Oin seemed to hear that just fine because he drew himself up looking a little proud. He gave the jar a little shake though it did nothing to disturb the thick jelly in the jar.

"This, laddie, is no cream. It's what I like to call an ointment, named after meself, of course. It'll do the trick fer yer sting, and works well for other conditions of the skin, some conditions of the mouth, minor burns and, would yeh believe it, constipation."

Bilbo's eyebrows shot up, wondering how one little jar of goo could possibly do so much. Still, he easily held out his leg, letting the healer apply a thick dollop of the ointment, wincing at first at the touch of thick fingers against his irritated skin only to be surprised to find the pain seemed to fade almost instantly. He looked up at the deaf dwarf in wonder. "That's amazing! What is it made of?"

Oin looked surprised, before seeming to preen slightly under the praise, lowering himself down next to Bilbo. "Well, laddie, I use different plants depending on the ointment, but this one I use-"

Bilbo listened avidly as the dwarf talked through the plants he used, the hobbit in him coming out to be talking about plants. It was nice to talk about something close to home, and Oin had a vast knowledge of plants and was pleased to talk about it. Bilbo didn't even mind when Thorin finally barked at the company that it was time to move on, as the ointment had helped his leg greatly, though he made sure to ask someone to point the burning weed out so he knew to avoid it for sure in future, ointment or not.

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Dwalin made Bilbo nervous, there was nothing else to say on the matter. Huge and glowering, he didn't seem particularly fond of Bilbo in turn, and that only made the tiny hobbit more anxious around him. At the same time, the tattooed dwarf didn't seem overly fond of most of the others, which bolstered Bilbo's spirits a little to not be the sole cause of his gruff displeasure. Dwalin did seem to spend a lot of time watching Nori with a curled lip, or glaring at Bofur when the cheerful dwarf got too loud. He'd snapped at Fili and Kili more than once when they had been acting foolish, and Bilbo had seen him pick a fight with Dori over his fussy behaviour just the other day. He even argued with his own brother, Balin. In fact, the only dwarf Dwalin didn't glare at was Thorin, and that was because he was Thorin's right hand...

No, Bilbo realised with a start, Thorin wasn't the only dwarf Dwalin didn't treat with some level of disdain. There was one other... Ori. Their unassuming little scribe who wanted so badly to be a warrior like some of his travelling companions. Bilbo frowned to himself. He had always assumed that Dwalin wasn't fond of him because he was slow going and ill-prepared for adventuring, but some days it didn't seem Ori was any better prepared than him. It was very odd, but the bald headed dwarf seemed to dote on their young scribe. He was always urging him on, or wondering what he was drawing, or just generally keeping an eye on him...

It was sweet, really. Such an odd thing to think of that gruff old dwarf as sweet, with all his tattoos, and even more scars. But the more Bilbo thought about it, the more the little hobbit decided that the dwarf couldn't be as terrifying as Bilbo had originally thought. If sweet little Ori felt safe, then surely…

Dwalin was on first watch that night, though as the others settle down for rest, Bilbo was surprised to see Ori trot up to Dwalin, hugging his drawing book to his chest. Ori seemed shy as they conversed, but Bilbo was more surprised to see a smile crack Dwalin's stern features as they talked, his eyes kind and his posture almost relaxed. Bilbo had to admit that the sight of a smile, especially one so rare, seemed to take years off of Dwalin, and made him seem that little bit more approachable, which was what Bilbo intended to do.

Taking a deep breath to settle his nerves, he approached the tattooed dwarf, settling beside him and taking out his pipe. He packed it, lighting it and taking a deep draw without a word to Dwalin, who was just sitting stock still beside him, staring off into the dark. Finally, Bilbo attempted to broach the silence, clearing his throat softly before speaking.

"I think it's very sweet that you're so kind to Ori." Bilbo stated softly, glancing over to see Dwalin cut him a look. Bilbo was tense for a moment, wondering if he'd said the wrong thing, before Dwalin actually chuckled softly. The sound was such a surprise that Bilbo let out the breath he didn't know he was holding in a huff. Dwalin turned to face him, an almost smile curling the corners of his lips as he considered the slightly flustered little hobbit.

"Noticed that, did yeh?"

Bilbo gave a slight nod, attempting to continue the conversation, managing, "He really looks up to you."

Dwalin scoffed a little. "Aye, s'ppose he does. Could maybe use a better role model."

Bilbo looked surprised, he wasn't expecting to get any sort of response at all from the usually strong, silent dwarf, let alone something so honest but Dwalin merely followed this statement with a heavy shrug of his shoulders, falling silent again. Bilbo took another puff on his pipe, facing forward and feeling Dwalin's gaze still on him even as neither of them spoke. He was wondering if maybe he'd over stayed any small amount of welcome he'd had, when Dwalin muttered again,

"He's a gentle soul, more like yeh're kind. Not suited for this sort of adventure." Dwalin considered Bilbo again, Bilbo flushing a little at Dwalin's honesty again telling him he didn't suit adventuring. He knew that, he didn't need telling, after all. Dwalin snorted, turning away again to look back out into the trees. "Still... He’s faring alright, and… Yeh haven’t died yet, so I s'ppose that shows how much I know."

Bilbo faced forward, giving a few short puffs on his pipe, trying not to smile. That was almost a compliment, as far as Dwalin went, that was obvious. So, Bilbo would take it, he decided, giving a firm nod. He looked up at Dwalin, though the dwarf didn’t meet his gaze again as the hobbit stated stoutly, "I hope to continue to prove you wrong."

Another gruff chuckle. "Aye."

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Bilbo took the bowl offered to him, follow the vague gesture over to where Bifur standing somewhat away from the rest of the company. Huffing a resigned sigh at being stuck with serving duty again, Bilbo made his way over to the lone dwarf with measured steps. Bifur seemed to be staring off into space as Bilbo approached him, somewhere above the height of the trees, anyway, and it took a moment for Bilbo to get his attention.

"U-uhm. Sorry. Bifur?" Bilbo stuttered out, unsure of how to best do it. Bifur was often very vague, and Bilbo wasn't even sure if he understood the common tongue any more as he didn't speak it. Still, he didn't want to startle him by just coming up right beside him. Giving a quiet cough, he tried again. "Bifur?"

Bifur seemed to startle, regardless, upon realising he was being addressed, turning to squint at Bilbo, who quickly forced a smile on his face to seem unthreatening. Bifur didn't always know what was going on around him, that much was clear, so it was better to be safe than sorry in Bilbo's mind. Appear friendly, as it were. Bifur considered him for a long moment before nodding. "Vemu!"

"I, uhm..." It felt a little ridiculous to be talking to Bifur like he understood, but Bilbo was always taught to be polite. Therefore, just in case he did understand, Bilbo was going to explain himself, though he held out the bowl for extra emphasis as he spoke. "I've brought you some stew. Bombur made it."

Bifur looked from the hobbit to the bowl and back again before his face broke into a smile. He came forward, taking the bowl from Bilbo's hand.

"Menu gamut khed!"

The exclamation in Khuzdul was followed by a pat on the back hard enough to send Bilbo stumbling forward with a yelp of surprise. He straightened himself, unnecessarily dusting his clothes as he did, looking back at Bifur with a weak smile.

"You're... Very kind." Bilbo mumbled, Bifur nodding to him before moving to sit on a log by himself. Bilbo shook his head, adding softly under his breath, "Though I have no idea what you're saying..."

"T'was a compliment." Bofur interrupted as he made his way past Bilbo with his own bowl of stew, moving to sit with his cousin who was staring into the stew the hobbit had bought him. Bofur sat down with a heavy flump, giving Bifur an affectionate nudge for all the attention the other dwarf paid him. "Said ye were wonderful, more or less."

"Oh! Uhm..." That flustered Bilbo greatly, because he was not used to such compliments. He frowned at Bifur, who was now studiously picking any bits of meat out of his stewing and tossing them away over his shoulder, before returning his attention to the dwarf's cousin, giving a nervous little flutter of his hands. "All I did was bring him dinner!"

Bofur chuckled. "Aye, but Bifur seems to have taken a shine to ye."

"Oh." Bilbo honestly didn't know what to make of that. Truth was he found Bifur to be a little alarming, especially at first, how could anyone not be after all? Crazy eyed and with his wild hair parted by the gnarled orc axe buried in his skull. Bilbo would have expected such a blow to kill, but he'd listen to Bofur explain that it merely made Bifur a little... Unstable, and unable to communicate in anything other than the dwarven language. Khuzdul. That took some getting used to as well, because Khuzdul was such a strong language, and it was somewhat jarring when you didn't understand a single word of it...

Bilbo gave a stiff little bow. "He's very kind, and most welcome for the stew."

"Hear that?" Bofur wondered, turning to the other dwarf and swatting at his hands when he realised his odd cousin was wasting the meat from their stew, Bilbo using their distraction to go get his own dinner, sitting off by himself as was usual. He ate quietly, letting his mind wander as he did, looking up from his food only when he heard a slight commotion. Bifur was approaching him through the crowd, ignoring Bofur calling out to him for abandoning his dinner, only to stop in front of Bilbo again. Bilbo frowned, this was the most attention the dwarf had shown him for the whole journey as far as he was aware.

"Bifur?"

Bifur held out his hand wordlessly, shaking it for emphasis when Bilbo didn't immediately reach for what was being offered. Bilbo only hesitated a moment longer before dutifully holding a hand out, wondering what on earth was going on here. The dwarf pushed something into his palm, and Bilbo gasped when he realised he'd been gifted a finely carved bear. He looked at it with wide eyes, then back up to Bifur, wondering in a voice filled with disbelief,

"Is this for me?" A grunt and a nod was all he got in return, but it seemed Bofur was right, Bifur had taken a shine to him, and despite all his other peculiarities, the carvings he did were beautiful, to be gifted with one... Bilbo smiled a little. "Thank you. I wish I could put this up on the mantle in my home, it would be the envy of all my family, I'm sure."

Bifur gave another nod, whether he understood Bilbo's words or not, then left again to return to his cousins whom he, understandably, seemed to feel the most comfortable with. Bilbo shook his head, giving a little chuckle as he looked back down at the bear. Bifur was an odd one, indeed, because who would have thought serving duty would have earned him a fine little dwarven ornament gifted from one of the strangest in their company?

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"Keep up, Master Baggins! We need to make better time."

Bilbo grit his teeth, but picked up his aching feet, forcing his sore legs to walk faster. He was barely lagging, really. Thorin was just picking on him, he was sure.

Every time Bilbo heard his name said in that tone he couldn't help but bristle with indignation. He was getting rather fed up with the dwarf King's attitude towards him, really, forever barking at him to keep up, or watch himself, or generally talking to him like he was a child. He was not a child, and he thought he was doing very well to keep up on this so called adventure, considering.

It wasn't fair. Nothing he did seemed to be good enough to earn a compliment from their leader. Still, he supposed, Master Baggins said in such a condescending tone was better than when he had really seemed to earn Thorin's displeasure. The snap of "burglar" made him cringe every time. Huffing a sigh, Bilbo's shoulders slumped as he worked up to keep with the brisker pace of the dwarves longer legs.

Bilbo had seen Thorin be kind towards his kin, especially young Fili and Kili. He did not dote on his nephews, as such, Thorin would never deliberately place them above any other member of the company but there was an obvious fondness with which he dealt with them. A little smile, gentle eyes and generally kind words gave away his affection towards them. As it did towards Balin, the oldest of the company, the wisest. Thorin respected him and took his council as you would a father, a mentor. Then, of course, there was Balin's brother Dwalin. He treated Dwalin as almost a brother, though the hulking dwarf acted like a body guard most of the time...

Bilbo huffed. It wasn’t even that he wanted to be treated like the dwarven King's family, he would never be so presumptuous, he merely wanted to be treated with the same sort of respect. Bilbo didn't know why Thorin always looked down his nose at him. Did he pick on Bilbo because he thought he was ill-suited for their journey? Was it because he was quiet, and fussy and so very un-dwarven? Did he just not like him? It didn't bode well for the rest of the journey if Thorin truly hated him. If it was a case of proving himself, Bilbo could deal with it, work towards it like he was doing with Dwalin but... He just didn't know.

"We'll make camp here tonight." Dwalin called from the front, Bilbo distracted from his thoughts and sighing his relief as it meant he wouldn't have to be walking any further tonight. He dumped his pack with the others, meaning to perhaps attempt to help Bombur with dinner, only to falter when he saw Thorin approach him. Thorin stopped short of Bilbo, looking down at him and the hobbit swallowed, looking up to meet the dwarf's stern face, not even attempting a smile. Thorin considered him for a moment before inclining his head towards the trees.

"Master Baggins, walk with me."

"Y-yes, of course." Bilbo agreed, wondering just why the dwarf King wanted his company, if he'd perhaps done something wrong. Thorin didn't further elaborate, however, turning and walking off into the trees, Bilbo hurrying to catch him up. They walked slowly in silence for a long moment, Bilbo lagging ever so slightly behind Thorin as things ran through his mind. Was Thorin going to tell him that he was not needed, that he should head home? That he was a burden? Bilbo didn't want to go home, not after everything, though he did not want to be a burden either...

Thorin hummed thoughtly after a while, looking over at the clearly nervous hobbit and arching an eyebrow.

"Do I make you nervous, Master Burglar?"

Bilbo looked up at him, meeting those ice blue eyes and giving a clumsy shrug, admitting, "I just don't honestly know why you wanted me to walk with you."

"Ah." Thorin nodded his understanding, things going silent again for a moment longer before he finally stopped and turned to the hobbit. His face was serious, though he seemed to struggle slightly with just what he wanted to say. "Well. I wanted to thank you, for... Stalling, I suppose. With the trolls. It was very quick thinking."

Bilbo blinked at the dwarf, bewildered. That was nothing of what he was expecting the dwarf to say. He never expected a thank you, not at all. He'd just... Done what he had to do, but he realised from Thorin's expression that it was an important thing for the dwarf King to be thanking him. He shook himself before nodding hurriedly. "Of course, I did my best."

Thorin actually chuckled at that, the sound pleasantly foreign. Bilbo had never heard him chuckle before, not even when dealing with others. "Well, if suggesting adding seasoning is your best, I would hate to see your worst."

Bilbo faltered at the almost casual comment for the dwarf King, unsure of what to say in return. Thorin looked away at the resumed silence, reaching out and patting the hobbit on the shoulder, the touch brief and the gesture stiff and awkward before he turned and began walking back in the direction they had come from, not casting Bilbo any further glance.

"Yes, well. We should get back to camp. Thank you for the talk."

"I... Any time?" Bilbo replied dumbly before he hurried to walk in Thorin's wake back into the camp. He still had no idea where he stood with the dwarf, but from their abrupt... Talk, Bilbo could at least say Thorin didn't hate him, and that, he supposed, was something.

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Bilbo was shuffling past Gloin, having just added his dinner bowl to the pile to be washed and now returning to his seat by the fire, only to catch sight of something in the dwarf’s hand. An angular metal case sat open in his palm, the dwarf staring down at the fine little drawings within. Bilbo felt himself falter, his curiosity peaked by this intriguing little object. He was sure he knew what it was, but he'd never seen it's like before. It was a finely made object for sure, silver with etchings in around the edges, while the drawings themselves were painstakingly shaded and delicate. Bilbo couldn’t help himself, wondering,

"Is that a locket?"

Gloin stiffened at being spoken too, bringing his hand into his chest to hide what he was holding as he looked up at the little hobbit that stood before him. After a moment of consideration, the red haired dwarf gave a slight nod, though he seemed unsure of the hobbit's intentions. "Aye."

Bilbo smiled, so it was as he thought. He persisted, interested now. "And... The images inside? Are they your family?"

It was instantly clear that Gloin was keen to talk about his family if the hobbit was interested, his whole posture straightening and becoming more open. He nodded again, more enthusiastic this time. "Aye. My wife, and my wee lad, Gimli."

Bilbo moved, settling himself down next to Gloin, leaning over to look at the locket as it was held out for his inspection. The picture inside was of a dwarven lady and a young one. The lass was drawn with her beard done up in fine braids, drawing up into her head, her hair braided and twisted into buns over her temples and at the back of her head. The lad on the other hand had a mass of curly hair and the beginnings of his own beard and was pictured holding an axe. It was very dwarven, and when Bilbo looked to Gloin again, he looked very proud. Bilbo smiled.

"Your wife looks charming!" He said, and he meant it. He'd never seen a dwarven lady before, and it was clear that for all the care dwarven men put in their beards, ladies went a step further. He was sure Gloin’s wife would be a sight to behold if the drawing of her did her even half the justice. As for the lad, he was so different from a hobbit child, with his beard and to be pictured with an axe... You would never see that sort of thing in the Shire. "And Gimli takes right after his father, I'm sure."

"Aye, well. My wife is renown fer her work. One of the finest jewellery makers, she is. And a fine mother te our lad. She's the love of my life, and the prettiest lass in all the dwarf kingdoms." Gloin said grandly, reaching up with his free hand to stroke his beard as he nodded. "And Gimli, aye. He's goin’ te make a fine miner one day, and maybe even have a beard to rival his da's. He's already off to a fine start, born with a head and chin covered in hair as red as mine, yeh know? And he's handy with an axe, too. Very keen te learn!"

"A fine sounding lad indeed!" Bilbo hummed, sounding impressed, and Gloin practically swelled with pride. He sat side by side with Bilbo, talking long into the evening about his son and wife and their little family. He spoke about his wife's fine jewellery which sounded magnificent, about his son's various endeavours into mining and learning to fight with an axe and sword like the other young dwarves. He spoke of how he and his wife met, and how his brother had been the one to birth his son, who had been one of the biggest babes born in a long while. As Bilbo sat there, he realised he had never heard the ginger haired dwarf talk so much in the whole time they'd been travelling together, but he was happy to listen to a proud father talk about his family.

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"Cheer up, Mister Baggins. Give us a smile."

Bilbo gasped as he received a firm pat on the back, turning to look at the blonde princeling, seeing him grinning back. Bilbo huffed. He was tired and sore and completely uninterested in smiling for anyone right now, thank you very much, though he didn't say so. Instead, he gave a slight smile to appease the blonde dwarf, relieved when Fili gave a laugh, casting Bilbo a cheeky wink.

"See, much better. You're quite charming when you smile."

Fili trotted past, moving to his brother's side again, leaving Bilbo to slouch in his wake. He had no idea how the young dwarf could be so full of energy after another day's walking, but he always was, always walking with a swagger in his step.

Fili was an interesting one, that was for certain. Young and sure of himself, he was all pomp and swagger. Bilbo had been aware of just how highly the price thought of himself since he'd first sauntered his way into Bag End. He took great care in his appearance, Bilbo having watched him painstakingly braid his facial hair one morning to tidy it up where it had come loose, for all that it was only the company that would see him for the foreseeable future. It was not that Fili was vain, perse, he just took a great pride in his appearance. Yes, he was handsome and he knew it, but it was how he held himself with a confidence that set him apart. His confidence in himself was rivalled only by his Uncle. In fact, he really held himself like a prince should. Bilbo was sure he was an heir Thorin could be proud of…

But Fili was not just a prince, he was more than that. He was a fine warrior. He was one of the best armed of the dwarves in the company, putting even Dwalin to shame. He had knives hidden everywhere, places Bilbo would never even thought to holster a weapon, he had them. Tucked in his collar and boots... When Bilbo had first realised the extent of Fili’s personal armoury, he believed it was ridiculous. When Fili had been piling Bilbo up with all of his weapons, warning the hobbit not to damage any of them, Bilbo had wondered just why anyone would need so very many knives. Still, he knew now just why and more than once had been glad for Fili's preparedness.

Well kept, confident and armed to the teeth seemed to sum up the blonde dwarf perfectly. Fili was, in Bilbo's mind, everything that could be desired outwardly in a dwarven prince.

“Bofur, I hope you’ve got some of that fine leaf left. I am going to need a pipe by the end of this.” Fili called back, and Bofur tipped his cap at the dwarf prince with a cheeky smile.

“Aye, reckon I can spare ye some, lad.”

Fili laughed at that, a smile on his handsome face, and Bilbo realised it was more than outward appearances that made Fili such a fine prince to his people. Of course, the other dwarves respected him but it was so much more than that. He moved well amongst them, talking easily with his kin and kind alike, enough so that Bofur felt welcome responding so cheekily to the prince’s request. There was a way he had with them that was so different from his Uncle. Bilbo knew well that Bofur would have never replied to Thorin like that, but Fili took it with a laugh and a smile, and often he would respond in kind. Also, for all he teased Bilbo he seemed to try his best to include him unlike some of the others of their group.

Bilbo looked forward again, seeing Fili reach out to cup his brother’s chin, giving him a little shake and a chuckle. “Why, brother, look at your beard. It’s coming along nicely. I do believe you’ve almost got yourself more of a beard then young Gimli!”

That earned a growl from his younger sibling, who’s stubble was clearly a sore point, for he shoved his brother away from him, trying to glare for all Fili laughed in response, moving away from the dark haired dwarf to give him time to sulk. Exchanges like that seemed to be the only time where his princely front seemed to slip was when he was with his brother. Those two always seemed up to some mischief or other when they were together. They hadn't been much help at all with the loss of their horses, after all, though Fili easily handled the fight that followed...

“Ori, can I look at your newest drawings this evening when we make camp?” Fili had moved on to chat to Ori, the little dwarf blushing under the prince's attentions, though he was nodding his agreement to Fili’s kind question. Bilbo sighed. Fili was still young, still perhaps a little over confident and mischievous, yes, but he would definitely be a good leader, given time.

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Dori was a mother hen of a dwarf. He fussed over everyone and everything. He was very prim, and very proper. He didn't like to have so much as a hair out of place if he could help it, and refused to let anyone else's be out of place either. Bilbo found even he received the fussy dwarf's attention from time to time, Dori making sure he was eating enough and taking care of himself. It was sort of nice, really, having someone fuss over him, but he only really experienced it in passing, unlike his siblings.

For a start, Dori was fiercely defensive of his baby brother Ori. His fussing over the little dwarf clearly drove Ori to despair, he spent half his time trying to shoo his older brother away as he picked on his hair, his clothes, his behaviour. Dori also spent a lot of time glaring at Dwalin on his little brother's behalf which seemed to bother Ori more than the fussing.

 

"Dori, honestly. It's fine. He's just watching out for me-"

"Oh, is he now? He's definitely watching you, and not if I can help it." Dori growled back, ushering his brother away from the tattooed dwarf who merely curled his lip in distaste in response, shaking his head at the eldest Ri brother's animosity. Ori, however, struggled against his brother's pushing, looking up at him with beseeching eyes.

"Dori, no, you're overreacting-"

"Ori. Shush."

"Doriiiii!"

 

Then there was the way Dori behaved towards their middle brother, Nori. Nori did not get fussed over, he got told off more often than not. Still, he often shrugged off his brother's dark looks and sharp words with all the care of someone who'd been treated this way all his life and long since stopped really caring, which, of course, infuriated Dori all the more. Bilbo was sure the telling off was meant with good intentions, he wanted Nori to be respectable, he often told him so. For the sake of their little family.

 

"Nori, you're shameless. Taking all those things from the elves! What sort of example does that set?" Dori hissed at his brother, only to receive an impatient huff in reply.

"Told you, was just some souvenirs, Dori. Give it a rest already." Nori retorted with a shake of his head, and Dori bristled at starred-haired dwarf's disrespect.

"I will not give it a rest! Nori! Don't you walk away from me!" Dori snapped, but it was too late, his brother had already turned and was walking away with a vague waving gesture case over his shoulder that said the subject was dismissed.

 

It was happening more and more as the journey went on, Nori just shrugging him off when Dori tried to admonish him, and when the words and looks didn't work for him, Dori resorted to other means. It soon became clear to the hobbit that Dori had also firmly perfected the art of showing his emotions through his hand crafts.

Bilbo didn't think it was possible to angrily knit something, but that was what Dori was doing right now. He was knitting beside the fire, needles clicking forcefully together as he glared at Nori across the fire. Ori was almost cowering at his side despite the fact his brother's anger was in no way directed towards him. Bilbo had to wonder just what Nori had done this time, it was always something or other. Encouraging Ori's timid rebellious streak, stealing anything not otherwise tied down, generally acting like a bit of a rogue. The things Nori did best were what seemed to make Dori the angriest.

Bilbo looked at Ori and the way Dori looked like he might just snap the needles from how tight he was holding them, and timidly approached them to wonder softly, "If you don't mind me asking... What are you knitting there, Dori?

Ori looked alarmed that the hobbit was brave enough to address his clearly furious eldest brother, but Dori looked up at Bilbo and seemed to soften slightly. He straightened his posture from the angry hunch he'd adopted and tried to look a little more dignified. He held up what he'd been knitting with a slight air,

"Ori will be needing new mittens soon with the way this journey is going, I thought I best get started now."

"Wonderful." Bilbo smiled, moving to sit on Dori's opposite side. "For all my attempts, I never did quite manage to get a handle of knitting."

"Don't know how to knit? That won't do!" Dori looked truly scandalised by the idea of someone not knowing how to knit, but instantly launched into a lesson for Bilbo's benefit, sufficiently distracting him and Bilbo could see the way Ori seemed to relax over his big brother's shoulder. Bilbo nodded, concentrating on what Dori was telling him. He had kin like Dori at home. When they got in a mood, you just had to give them something else to fuss about, it was easy. Not to mention, you never knew when learning how to knit could come in handy, dwarves seemed awfully fond of it after all.

Chapter Text

"E-excuse me, Mister Baggins..."

Bilbo looked up, surprised to be so formally addressed, thinking he was well past all of that only to see the youngest of the company standing before him. Ori seemed nervous, clutching his book tightly to his chest like he did when he was feeling uncertain about a situation. Bilbo wondered why he'd be feeling uncertain now, he thought they were becoming good friends. That in mind, Bilbo smiled kindly, having to remind himself that in dwarf years, Ori was still young and got easily unsettled sometimes.

"Please, Ori. Call me Bilbo."

"Oh." Ori drew a breath, dithering for a little before giving a decided nod. "Alright. Bilbo."

"What can I help you with?"

"Well, uhm. I was going to ask if you'd mind sitting for me... For... You know, a drawing?" Ori held out his book for emphasis briefly, before hurriedly adding, "I don't want to be a bother, and if you're busy, I understand."

Bilbo, however, was quick to agree. "Of course! I'd be delighted if you wanted to draw me, Ori!"

The relief was clear on the young dwarf's face, a smile finally gracing his features. "Oh, good. I know not everyone likes having to sit for it. I know I've only ever managed to draw Dwalin from a distance..."

Bilbo had often seen Ori huddled to one side, drawing feverishly in his book, watching the other dwarves go about their business, but there was no denying he did focus on Dwalin more often than not. It was sweet, really, the little dwarf's admiration of the warrior. But Bilbo didn't say anything on that. He honestly didn't know why anyone wouldn't want to sit for Ori. Ori was a very talented artist, passionate and focussed. It was really something to watch him draw, cross hatching and shading and getting everything as right as he could get it.

Bilbo moved to sit in front of Ori as directed for the best light, the little dwarf opening his book and setting up his inks and quill. He smiled at Bilbo, still seeming a little shy. Bilbo smiled to try and ease Ori's obvious nerves, joking softly as he fussed slightly over his mussed curls.

"Just... Try to make me look a little tidier than I actually am."

Ori straightened, seeming to take the comment to heart. He nodded diligently. "O-oh. Of course!"

"I am joking, Ori." Bilbo shook his head a little, Ori relaxing again with a shy laugh. Bilbo chuckled back. "I saw the drawings you've done of the others. You captured Fili perfectly the other day, and that drawing of Bofur you did was very charming..."

The compliment was enough to make Ori beam at him, all nerves seemingly gone. He hurriedly set to his work, his quill darting smoothly over the parchment, while Bilbo sat patiently for reference.

 

“Why were you so worried about asking me to sit for you?” Bilbo wondered softly after a while of sitting and watching Ori draw. The little dwarf glanced up from his book, pinking slightly before refocussing on his work.

“W-well.” He gave a vague sort of shrug. “I… I’m used to asking the others to sit for me. Fili regularly offers, as does Kili and Bofur took it all very well, but… Not everyone likes having to do it. I wasn’t sure how you’d take it…”

Bilbo smiled easily. “Anytime, Ori. Anytime. It’s an honour to sit for one of your drawings. You’re very talented.”

“Thank you very much, Mister- Uhm. Bilbo.”

“Well, surely I’m not the only one who’s noticed. I mean, if Fili gets you to draw him so often… And I know Mister Dwalin is often asking to see your latest drawings?” Bilbo couldn’t help the slight lilt that came into his tone as he said that, and Ori flushed.

“Please don’t let Dori hear you say that, I will never hear the end of it.” He whispered, and there was a desperation in his tone as he said it. Bilbo regretted unsettling the little dwarf, and hurried to lighten the mood.

“Believe me, that one is staying between us. I don’t need another knitting lesson.”

Ori looked surprised, before he smiled slightly and leant back down over his book. Bilbo leant up, trying to see it, only to have Ori move to hide it with his mitten covered hand, casting Bilbo a glance and a cheeky little smile. That was enough to have Bilbo settle back with a laugh.

 

"And... I think I'm done." Ori gave one last little flick of his quill on the paper, before looking up at Bilbo expectantly. Bilbo couldn't keep the smile of his face as he got to his feet and approached the little dwarf. Ori tugged nervously at one of his beard braids, watching Bilbo's face as Bilbo leant over to inspect the drawing of himself. Bilbo leant over with a smile only to gasp in surprise.

"Oh, Ori..."

"Is... Do you not like it?" Ori wondered, nervous again in an instant, only to have Bilbo smile at him. Ori gave a little laugh, looking so pleased when Bilbo exclaimed,

"It's marvellous!"

Chapter Text

Bilbo found he was somewhat wary of Nori. Nori had never really given him cause to be so, but the way the other dwarves spoke and joked about him made him sound like something of a rogue. They made Nori sound like the sort of person that good gentlehobbit's would never associate with, and Bilbo still found it hard to get past his hobbity sensibilities.

The situation, of course, was not helped by the definite fact that Nori was a thief. Even if everything else the others said was false, about his cheating at pub games, his dodgy business dealings, coming and going at all hours of the day and always returning home with a surprising amount of money considering the shortness of his absences, Nori was decidedly a cunning thief.

That was confirmed for Bilbo when they had passed Bree and were truly heading forward into the wilderness. They were riding on slowly, Nori had been slightly ahead of him, chatting companionably to Bofur, when something shiny jiggled loose of one of his pockets and fell to the ground. Bilbo pointed it out before he knew what it was.

"Nori, you dropped something..."

Nori twisted, looking back at whatever was on the ground, his braided eyebrows shooting up. He gave a sharp shake of his head. "It doesn't matter, leave it."

"No, its fine-" Bilbo was assuring back, drawing his horse up beside the little object and squinting down at it. It was silver, long, and it took Bilbo a moment before he realised he recognised it. Bilbo straightened, his eyes cutting over to the dwarf with the star hair, seeing Nori looking back with a sheepish expression, which confirmed Bilbo's horrified suspicions. "That's one of my spoons! One of my good spoons!"

"H-how do you even remember one little spoon?" Nori replied despite himself, looking incredulously at the increasingly furious hobbit. Bilbo pointed accusingly at Nori even as he hopped down off the horse so he could pick up his stolen piece of cutlery.

"What else did you take!?"

"Nothin'! Swear it!" Nori held his hands up defensively, but before Bilbo could express his disbelief and push the issue further, a call came from the front of the line.

"What's the hold up? Keep moving!" Dwalin shouted, and Nori gladly took the excuse to move on, leaving Bilbo to mount his horse, fuming and holding his little spoon.

 

Bilbo was not pleased about being forced to leave Rivendell and head for the mountains, already missing the comforts the elves had given them. He was just considering turning around and heading back when someone sidled up beside him with a hiss.

"Psst. Bilbo."

Bilbo instantly recognised the intricately styled, star-shaped hair and huffed a little, though he aimed for polite when he spoke. "What can I do for you, Nori?"

"I... I came to apologise. For takin' your spoon, right? I swear it was the only thing." Nori stated, straight out once he got going, flopping down next to the hobbit where he sat. Bilbo sighed, he knew holding a grudge about a single spoon that he now had back was stupid, but he couldn't find it in himself to give in so easily. Nori waited a long moment to see if he'd get any reply from their stubborn little 'burglar', before finally pushing a little further. "I got you somethin'. From those elves."

That peaked Bilbo's curiosity, it was very hard for a hobbit to turn down a gift. "Oh?"

"Yeah. See?" Nori reached into one of his many pockets and pulled out a light covered fabric. He handed it gingerly over to the hobbit, Bilbo taking it only to gasp. It was a pocket handkerchief, or... What elves would consider to be one, it was a little big for Bilbo, but it was beautiful. There were delightful little flowers stitched in the corners, and the edges were embroidered with a delicate pattern. It was beautiful. Nori let a crooked little grin tug up the corners of his mouth. "Knew you'd like it, the fuss you made about not bringin' one of your own."

"It's stunning, I-" Bilbo began only to pause, suddenly looking at Nori with accusing eyes, Nori instantly cringing. "How did you get it?"

"Asked, they gave it." Nori gave a slight shrug, but Bilbo wasn't buying it for a second. He narrowed his eyes at Nori and the dwarf threw his hands up. "Alright, I lifted it!"

Bilbo groaned, he knew it was too good to be true. He bundle the fabric up and tossed it back at the dwarf before getting up with a huff. "Honestly, Nori!"

"Like they're goin' to miss it!"

"That is not the point."

Nori clicked his tongue, stuffing the handkerchief back into his pocket, the pair falling back into silence. He might mean well, but it was clear that Nori’s ways would never quite fit in with Bilbo’s hobbit sensibilities.

Chapter Text

Bilbo never thought he would find a dwarf charming... Well, at least not like he found Bofur to be charming. He had kind eyes and a warm smile that drew Bilbo to him despite himself, managing to help bolster Bilbo's spirits when he needed them the most, whether Bilbo was aware of it or not.

Yes, Bofur had teased the hobbit at first, just as they all had, but there was a playfulness to Bofur's teasing that some of the others lacked. He wasn't attempting to be cruel by his actions, it just seemed to be the way Bofur was. That was confirmed for Bilbo the more he watched the dwarf, with his upcurving braids and curling moustache. He seemed to tease everyone, from little Ori, to the young princes, even to old Balin.

Bofur had often ridden at Bilbo's side, chatting about everything or nothing. He had a good range of knowledge on lots of very odd subjects, and Bilbo often found it fascinating to chat to him, he was a good distraction and always seemed pleased when he got the hobbit talking with ease. More than just chatting though, Bofur would come up with some of the worst jokes Bilbo had ever heard.

"Alright, so... How about this one… What does a grape say when ye step on it?" Bofur wondered cheerfully as they rode side by side one day, and Bilbo had looked at him warily. He still didn't trust Bofur's jokes since the one about facial hair growing on him. Finally, after Bofur smiling expectantly at him, Bilbo gave in with a sigh.

"What?"

"Nothin'. It just lets out a little wine." Bofur gave the answer with such relish, and it was such a ridiculous play on words that Bilbo couldn't help laughing. Bofur laughed as well at his own joke, smiling widely at the hobbit. "It's nice to hear ye laugh."

Bilbo had startled at the sudden compliment, staring at Bofur only to have the dwarf quickly change the subject with another joke. "Alright, what do you call someone who hasn't got a body or a nose-?"

The dwarf's constant attentions had helped Bilbo's spirits early in their journey, keeping him from dwelling on his aches and his homesickness, Bofur always managing to show up when Bilbo was feeling the most down. Bilbo truly believed they had been becoming good friends, for Bofur was the only dwarf that seemed to be treating him just like he was one of the others, just like he was one of the company.

Bofur had even said so, when Bilbo's homesickness and Thorin's unkind words had proved too much. Of course, Bilbo then had to go and put his big hairy foot in it. Why would he have to say something as awful as that? Say that dwarves didn't belong anywhere. To the kindest dwarf in the company, no less. He'd seen the way Bofur's face had fallen, the hurt in his eyes and now the guilt gnawed at him. There was such fuss getting away from the wargs, then with Thorin's speech and sudden embrace, and then the hard trek down the Carrock... Bilbo hadn't had much time to think on it, but now they had made camp at the great stone bear's base, and Bilbo found himself with all the time in the world to fixate on it.

It must have shown on his face, too, because he shortly found himself with company. Bofur had made his way over and sat himself never to the little hobbit without Bilbo giving even a hint he was aware of the dwarf's presence, and Bofur found he had to be direct about getting Bilbo's attention. Bofur gave the hobbit a gentle nudge to draw his attention, smiling that wide, cheek dimpling smile at him when Bilbo looked to him. "Ye right there, lad?"

"Oh. Uhm. Yes, I'm quite fine, thank you." Bilbo agreed, flustered now in the dwarf's company, embarrassed and guilty. Bofur, however, took no heed of Bilbo's stumbling words, whether as a kindness or mere obliviousness, Bilbo would never know, but he merely nodded back.

"Good. Pays to check. Wanted to make sure ye weren't plannin' on trying to leave us again." That earned him a more pointed look than the simple kind smile from before and Bilbo quickly shook his head.

"O-oh. No. I... I won't be making that mistake again."

Bofur seemed to relax at that, much to Bilbo's surprise, his charming smile easily back in place. "Good, 'cause I meant it when I said ye were one of us. I'd hate to lose ye now..."

"Even after what I said?" Bilbo wondered, and he could have hit himself. Why did he have to bring that up when Bofur had been kind enough not to bother. Bofur could have said all manner of things to him in retaliation for Bilbo's previous careless slip, even though he had not bothered with a retort at the time, he could have now, but he didn't. He merely frowned at Bilbo for a moment before finally speaking,

"'I'd never hold that against ye, Bilbo. I... I just wouldn't." Bofur seemed shy now, distracting himself by searching for his pipe, Bilbo moving to do the same when he realised the dwarf's intentions. When Bofur offered him some of his strong dwarven leaf, Bilbo merely took it with a quiet thanks, lighting his pipe so they could smoke together in silence.

Bilbo gave a little huff after a moment, unable to just let it go, shyly looking down at the pipe he held in his hands. "You are too kind, you know?"

"Nonsense. I like ye, Bilbo. I really do." Bofur replied easily, smiling that smile of his, though he didn't make eye contact with the hobbit when Bilbo looked back up at him. Bofur took a puff on his pipe, looking out over their camp. "Ye didn't mean it like it came out, so why should I let it bother me? Friends forgive friends their errs. S'all there is to it."

Bilbo frowned at the dwarf, catching something in Bofur's tone that suggested there may actually be more to it than that, but he finally let himself smile. Bofur made him feel more comfortable than he'd thought would be possible on this journey and Bilbo was happy for his companionship, he had truly been frightened of losing it with his brash words but even know it seemed like it was just water of a duck's back to the cheerful, charming dwarf. Bofur saw the hobbit's smile and tilted his head slightly as he wondered softly,

"So... We're all good now, then?"

Bofur leaned over and nudged the hobbit again with his shoulder, Bilbo making a noise in surprise, looking up to see Bofur smiling around his pipe. Bilbo frowned, before gamely pushing the dwarf back with his shoulder, earning himself a chuckle even as Bilbo agreed.

"Yes. Yes, of course."

"Good."

Chapter Text

"I thought, maybe we could-" Bilbo began, only to be cut off by a huff from Thorin.

"Yes, thank you for your input, Master Baggins. But I think we will be able to handle this." Thorin looked to Dwalin, who as usual was standing with his arms folded to Thorin's right. "Come, Dwalin. We need to decide our plan of action."

Bilbo huffed a sigh, glaring at their leader's back as he retreated with his body guard to discuss their situation. Thorin was still proving difficult to deal with, sometimes treating Bilbo like one of the company, other times treating him like little more than a child. It was truly frustrating. Bilbo was startled from his dark stare by a soft chuckle behind him.

"Such an angry stare from someone so small. Yeh put a sulking Ori to shame."

Bilbo turned to meet old Balin's kind smile and flushed a little in shame. He opened his mouth to try and excuse himself, but it seemed Balin didn't need it. He followed Bilbo's gaze to Thorin's retreating back and sighed, shaking his head. He looked to Bilbo again, his eyes understanding.

"Yeh have to be patient with Thorin, laddie. He's a tough one to deal with, but... He has his reasons fer being so."

"I... I do... I know that, he's just..."

"Frustrating? Aye. But it takes a lot to gain Thorin's trust, and yeh're almost there." Balin smiled, reaching over to pat Bilbo on the shoulder. Bilbo took a deep breath, letting it out in a big sigh, shoulders slumping and Balin clicked his tongue. "You will get there, laddie. Thorin has just had a hard life, and it makes him a bit bristly."

"Bristly seems a very kind word for it." Bilbo added helplessly, and that was enough to make Balin laugh.

"You may very well be right there."

Bilbo glanced at Balin, eyeing the usually jovial and kind dwarf for a long moment before wondering tentatively. "You... You were there too, though? When... Smaug came."

Balin looked surprised, and Bilbo wondered if he had over stepped his boundaries. He knew they didn't like talking about what happened, but when everyone passed Thorin's prickly personality off as his hard life following the destruction of Erebor, Bilbo had to wonder. Balin had seen the same, suffered as much as any that was there, but he was still such a pleasant dwarf to be around, wise and kind. Balin considered him for a long moment before he nodded, suddenly solemn.

"Aye, I was there. I saw the dragon come, watched Dale set a blaze, my home destroyed and my people left in ruin." Balin agreed, grimly, and Bilbo cringed. He shouldn't have brought it up, he knew that, but he had to go and put his foot in his mouth yet again, he was getting entirely too good at that. Balin looked away from the hobbit, continuing on in soft tones. "We from Erebor have all had a hard life, yes. I have suffered as we have all suffered. Some of us carry our suffering well, young Master Hobbit, but not all of us have had to lead our people through this time as Thorin has been forced to do. So you wonder why I behave differently from our King when I have seen the same hardships? It is because I am merely an old dwarf, an old warrior, advisor to the King at best, and not the King himself."

The blush on Bilbo's face deepened in his mortification, but Balin was not looking at him with anger, but the kindness that was ever present. Balin smiled again at last, Bilbo relaxing a little.

"So, Bilbo. I ask you to be patient with Thorin, but... If he does continue to bother you, let me know and I will remind him that we would not be were we are in this journey if it wasn't for our burglar." There was a twinkle in his eye as he said it, and Bilbo smiled shyly at the old dwarf, trying not to puff up at the much needed compliment.

"Thank you, Mister Balin."

Balin chuckled. "I speak the truth, laddie. Only the truth."

Chapter Text

Bombur was the cook of the group, a trait given away by his large size and larger appetite. In a hobbit's books, you couldn't be so large and not be a good cook... Or at least have a partner who was, Bilbo supposed. Still, he learnt quickly that Bombur was the company's chef for a good reason, because even with their limited supplies, nearly no vegetables, and whatever meat the lads could find, he was a damn fine cook.

Though there was never quite enough for a hungry hobbit’s belly, Bombur’s meals were fit to please even a fussy hobbit, though Bilbo had never been particularly fussy about his food. Living alone, he had the time and the income to come to appreciate the finer things when it came to eating, but there was nothing that beat a good home cooked stew, and those were Bombur's specialty.

And Bilbo, as any good hobbit was, was drawn to food. Bombur was cooking the company's dinner, and Bilbo would do his best to silently help. He'd carry what he could and chop their vegetables without being asked, pleased to find himself in some way useful. He tipped the chunks of their last carrots into the stew, leaning over the pot as he stirred to take an appreciative sniff of the bubbling liquid within.

"Ye're a fine cook, Master hobbit."

Bilbo startled, turning to find the rotund dwarf standing behind him, smiling from behind his impressive, braided beard. Bilbo smiled back after the moment of shock, because Bombur didn't often speak. Usually he let his louder brother do the talking for him, just nodding along, and when he did speak it was so soft that it always managed to take Bilbo by surprise.

"Thank you, I just... Well, there's little more us hobbit's like than food."

That made Bombur's smile broaden, and that was an unusual sight too. He patted his round belly with an understanding nod. "Aye, that I know. Think I might have made a good hobbit, really."

"You may be a little hairy." Bilbo tried with a smile, and Bombur looked taken aback for a brief moment before bursting out laughing. He moved to pat Bilbo on the back, smiling as he returned his attention to the stew he was cooking. Bilbo watched him go about with a neat proficiency he only ever seemed to show when he was cooking. The others made fun of Bombur for being slow, and large, and while it was all in jest, Bilbo was quite convinced they all would have starved to death by now if it wasn't for the ginger bearded dwarf. Bofur knew a little from cooking with his brother, but other than Bilbo none of them showed any interest in the food until it was ready to be eaten.

Bilbo watched Bombur add some spices for taste, and wondered softly, "Do you... Work as a chef? Back in the Blue Mountains?"

Bombur looked at him then nodded. "Aye, 'bout the only work I could get. Bofur already works makin' toys to make ends meet, and I was never much good at crafting, and there's not much need for miners with so many dwarves about, but there’s always need for food."

Bilbo nodded, fascinated. He had to remember that not all dwarves were crafters or miners, professions most associated with dwarves, they had to do other jobs too. Of course there would be chefs, they undoubtedly had bakers and tailors as well, jobs Bilbo knew well from the Shire and would never have thought about a dwarf working in, but that was naive of him. Bombur hummed thoughtfully.

"Seeing as I was always a good cook, I thought why not. Me mam taught me how to cook, and she was one of the best. But I needed the work when we got to the mountains, my wife was carryin' our first and I thought to myself, well, I can cook... May as well put it to use."

Bilbo made a curious noise, considering Bombur in this new light. "You're married? And have a child..."

"Oh, aye. Love of my life, my bonnie lassie. And my three little ones, now, with more to come if I can help it. I just hope to bring them back enough gold to give them a better raisin' than me and Bo' had." Bombur nodded, like he hadn't said anything sad, before looking back at Bilbo and taking up his spoon. "I think this is done, can ye taste it? Tell me what ye think."

Bilbo nodded hurriedly and came forward to take the spoon. He blew on the hot stew to cool it, trying to give the food his focus rather than then information the quiet dwarf had just revealed about himself. Bofur was always so cheerful, and Bombur so quiet, Bilbo had never really thought about the fact they weren't rich like the others. He never thought about why this quest would be important to them. It wasn't a matter of pride, a reclaiming of their homeland, it was about the riches that would come with that. Bombur wanted to look after his family, that’s why he dragged himself on this grand, difficult mission. He was so much more than the fat dwarf the others teased him for being.

Bilbo realised he was taking too long, and quickly stuck the spoon in his mouth only to make a blissful noise, his hobbity mind returning to food. "Oh, it's perfect."

Bombur beamed at him, looking very pleased. "Well, now. That is praise comin' from a creature who likes food almost as much as me!"