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Keep the Coat

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Thorin woke to the sound of alarms and groaned aloud, hauling himself out of the warmth of his blankets into the frigid night air.

Throwing a pillow at Dwalin, who was still asleep on the lower bunk- how he could sleep through this noise Thorin would never know- he fumbled around in the dark in search of his heaviest coat. Last year it had taken the maintenance staff three hours to shut down the alarms and let the students back into the building. And if there really was a fire for once- well, Thorin would rather not take the chance of being without a coat in this weather with odds like that.

He graciously held open the door to the hall for his cursing, bleary-eyed roommate, making sure to lock it behind him as he fell into step with the sea of pajama-clad students heading down the stairs. 

Among some loud complaints about living on the top floor with the elevators being out of the question, a clique of younger students were gossiping amongst themselves in much too loud a tone for this hour of the morning, reveling in their overactive imaginations- swearing they could smell smoke, or claiming to see flickering glows down the hallway on each and every floor. Thorin resisted the urge to roll his eyes, kept his mind on the stairs under his feet and wished he was back in his warm bed. Dwalin had no such restraint, and drew himself up to full height, snarling wordlessly- effectively silencing the crowd around them. Thorin shot him a half-hearted reproachful glance, the shameless fear-mongerer. Dwalin ignored him, his eyes lingering longingly on the coffee maker in the student lounge as they passed it on their way out the front entrance.

An icy blast of air met them and a chorus of groans ran through the group as they moved through the doors. 

This dormitory housed mostly upperclassmen, so the cliques formed promptly despite the fact classes had only just begun this semester. They stood together in the alley while waiting for the firetrucks to arrive, the cliques forming protective circles against the cold and the boredom. The few freshman among them were scattered around, looking cold and lost until they grouped together timidly. Thorin and Dwalin placed themselves away from the general hubbub, leaning against the short brick wall which bordered the parking lot across the street from their dorm. Neither of them were given to idle chatter, so none was offered as the first hour ticked by. Thorin's mood became poorer and poorer as the cold seeped through his boots to his toes. Dwalin began to nod off. Shaking his head fondly at his cousin- could sleep through the end of days, that one- Thorin looked around at the state of their fellow students.

He took comfort in the fact he seemed to be one of the few left standing. Of those who hadn't abandoned the cause and headed for refuge in other dormitories, very few were in a better way than Dwalin- curling up on the curbs as close to others as they could get within the bounds of propriety, which, for a bunch of twenty-somethings, did not exclude much.

Thorin averted his eyes from one couple who seemed determined to make their own warmth... only to land on a short, chubby freshman who was shivering violently, dressed in nothing but a pair of shorts and a thin, translucent tee-shirt. He was at the edge of the crowd huddled against the wall, trying to escape the cut of the wind and failing epically.

Another round of shivers racked his body as Thorin removed himself from his perch. He didn't notice Thorin's approach, so wrapped up in his shivering was he, until a thick coat was dropped around his shoulders. He yelped, a sound a bit like a small dog might make.

"Oh, no," he tried to argue. "Please, I'm fine, you mustn't-"

"Yes," Thorin cut him off. "I must." He swallowed heavily, seemingly entranced by something for a moment before opening his mouth to argue again- so Thorin stopped him. "I could see you shivering from across the street."

Unable to come up with a valid argument against that, the man simply huffed, wrapping the coat more firmly around himself and burrowing more deeply into it until his nose was pressed up against the collar.

He looked even smaller wearing the big coat, Thorin observed. The auburn color of his hair was set off prettily by the deep blue of the polyester. The silence stretched on as he recovered some of his composure, rubbing his ungloved hands together vigorously and cupping them around his mouth to blow warm air into them. Thorin snuck a glance, only to be met with slate grey eyes peering up at him through unruly curls. Clearing his throat, Thorin resolutely did not look back at his companion again until the silence was broken.

"I take it you're a student here," the shorter man stated in a dry tone, and Thorin glanced at him.

"Yes," he provided, staring out into the night at nothing in particular.

"What do you study?"

"Geology, with a minor in Politics," Thorin stated, sighing inwardly.

"Oh," the smaller man replied, clearly a little put off by Thorin's irritated tone. "Those subjects seem a little… disparate, if you don't mind me saying."

"Not so much as people believe," Thorin began his much-used speech. "All land is owned by somebody. Each time a new site containing resources or something of scientific interest is discovered, a debate begins as for who owns the land, how far down their property goes, what constitutes ownership, and so on. As someone with knowledge in both fields, I will be able to see both sides of a debate more effectively than someone with just a geology major could."

The smaller man simply gaped at him for a moment. Thorin quirked an eyebrow at him and he seemed to shake himself from his reverie, a little self-deprecating chuckle escaping his lips. "And to think," he mumbled. "I haven't even really chosen a major yet."

Thorin smiled in spite of himself. "Sometimes I wish I hadn't chosen so quickly."

"Oh," the man peered at Thorin curiously. "When did you decide?"

Thorin clenched his jaw, a darkness falling over his countenance. "When I was ten."

Seeming to catch the hint, the man did not press him. Instead, he said, "Well, when I was ten, linguistics was the last thing on my mind." Thorin shot him a quizzical glance and that was all the prompting he needed. "That's the program I'm in now, you see. They make you choose one when you accept enrollment into the school, which is silly if you ask me. How can you choose between choices which you know nothing about?

"But when I was ten, I fancied myself the bravest boy north of the equator. I wanted to be a professional adventurer, and was certainly not considering spending my life contemplating the difference between intonation and inflection. My mother was a terrible influence really, she was always encouraging me into the most outrageous situations. Made my father worry incessantly…"

He went on to spin the most ridiculous tale Thorin had ever heard, including a particularly rude cousin, a live chicken, and a sad fate for a christmas pudding. By the end of the tale the two were inconsolable with laughter where they sat on the curb side by side.

They received more than a few cross glances from the sleepy people nearby, but neither of them paid the onlookers any heed as they lapsed into companionable silence. A few stray giggles escaped occasionally as they stared up at the thin spatter of stars visible through the campus' light.

Despite all his efforts to hide his discomfort, Thorin could no longer hide his shivering. The man favored him with a chiding look before opening up the coat wordlessly and motioning Thorin closer. Thorin, unused to being so friendly with people he barely knew, hesitated.

The man gave a put upon sigh before scooting himself closer instead, doing his best to drape the coat around Thorin's far shoulder with his considerably shorter arm span. In the end Thorin took pity on him, wrapping the coat around his far shoulder and crossing his arm behind his companion, resting his hand on the cold concrete just beside his hip.The man stiffened slightly at the feel of Thorin's warm breath ghosting over his curls. Inwardly, Thorin reflected that the other had insisted on sharing the coat... he could get away with a little bit of teasing.

"I know who really ruined your tenth family christmas dinner," Thorin said softly. "But I still don't know your name."

The man laughed breathily before pulling away just enough to turn and meet Thorin eyes as he replied, "Bilbo. Bilbo Baggins."

Thorin leaned forward till the tips of their noses were just brushing- taking the fact that the man, that Bilbo, didn't flinch away from him as encouragement....and since when was he so open with strangers? He had hardly known this man for an hour and yet he couldn't bring himself to slow down. Not if it meant he had to sacrifice the taste Bilbo's short breaths on his lips, the feel of his heart fluttering like a bird's under Thorin's gentle fingers.

"Hello," Thorin exhaled. "Bilbo Baggins."

The creaky grate of metal over concrete announced the opening of the dorm's doors and the security guard appeared, shaking the crowd of students from their sleepy stupor and beginning to usher them back inside. Most of the crowd was gone up the stairs in a flash, back to their warm rooms and their soft beds.

Thorin nearly groaned, pulling back from Bilbo- who coughed awkwardly. The moment was gone, but Thorin was determined not to let this be the last. He refused to let Bilbo slide through his fingers in some forgotten chance encounter on a drowsy winter morning. But Bilbo seemed to have other ideas.

"Well, um," he stuttered, gently extracting himself from Thorin's hands and the warm coat which he had bestowed on him, shivering anew when the cold air met his skin. "It was nice to meet you- ah, well, yes we did just meet, and... oh, dear, I'm afraid I never caught your name either, oh how terribly rude of me…"

"Let me walk you to your room," Thorin offered, draping the coat back over Bilbo and wrapping an arm around his shoulders, guiding him towards the door to the dorms.

"Oh, okay- if you insist," Bilbo fretted, allowing himself to be led to the elevators. It didn't take long to reach his door and he fumbled through his pockets frantically for his key. When he finally fished it out, he turned to Thorin in a moment of bravery, and said sincerely, "Thank you so much. I probably would've caught cold if you hadn't saved me."

"It was my pleasure," Thorin said, and he did not wait for a reply before pressing his a chaste kiss to Bilbo's lips.

Thorin pulled back at just the wrong moment, leaving Bilbo bereft- leaning slightly forward, mouth still agape, blinking slowly as if waking from a dream.

"It's Thorin, by the way," he told Bilbo, smirking as he backed away. "Thorin Durin."

"You," Bilbo sputtered, cheeks reddening as he moved to pursue. Thorin danced away from his grabbing hands, slipping down the hall towards the stairway. "Keep the coat," he shouted in his wake, not bothering to conceal his bark of laughter as he heard Bilbo shouting behind him- something about being 'a terrible tease'.

Dwalin was already asleep when he entered their room, or so Thorin believed. He climbed onto the top bunk- which seemed a bit of a let down after his recent occupations.

"How was your date," Dwalin drawled. "I'm surprised to see you here. I fully expected a proper walk of shame in physics tomorrow morning."

Thorin was so caught up in the afterglow of his meeting that he couldn't even bring himself to be properly irritated. He merely laughed, pulling the covers over his head as he tried to settle down enough to catch some sleep before his alarm went off. "Good night, Dwalin."