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Bilbo’s had trouble riding her pony ever since the Shire, where she’d sit too rigidly with a frightened look all over her attractive features. She’d hold the reigns stiffly up near her face and not clutch tight enough with her thighs to keep from slipping over.

For a long while, the dwarves put up with it because they have to, and Gandalf insists she’ll be worth it in the end. But eventually the road becomes too rocky, the ground too uneven, and the poor thing topples off at every hill. Finally Thorin declares she’ll have to ride with someone, to which Bilbo sighs in relief. Until she’s told she’ll have to ride with Kíli, anyway. Intellectually, Kíli knows it makes the most sense—he’s the smallest and therefore has the most room. But the way she winces makes him feel even more awkward than usual about having to ride with a beautiful woman in his lap.

She needs his help to reach when climbing up, blushing furiously the whole way, with her little hands trembling in his. When she spreads her legs around the pony’s back, her skirt hikes up her thighs, and no matter how much she pushes it down, it reveals a fair bit of skin that rubs against Kíli’s slacks. He has to hold the reigns around her small body, bracketing her sides, and it irks him to know that they wouldn’t be touching nearly so much if she were with one of the properly big dwarves. Bombur would be able to hold the reigns around her without touching her body at all, but of course, they can’t all be as properly filled out as Bombur.

For all of Kíli’s confidence and eager nature, he knows he’s the least attractive dwarf in the company. He’s half Bombur’s size, he can barely grow anything of a beard, his hair is too tame and his fingers are too slender. One of the biggest benefits of this adventure is that Kíli might get the chance to run off, just for a bit, on his own—maybe with Fíli, who’s still better looking than him but not by much—and court some nice girl that doesn’t know any handsomer dwarves to compare him to.

Bilbo, however, knows twelve other options, all of which would probably be happy to have her. Even Bombur, who’s happily married, would have an easy time convincing his wife to add her to the rounds. Dwalin’s also a towering sexpot, and Balin, who has perhaps the most luxurious beard of all, seems to have taken a special liking to the hobbit. Though they’re all skeptical of her abilities as a burglar, they’re all already attached to her, and frankly Kíli’s surprised she didn’t outright demand to ride with Thorin or one of the better candidates.

But no, she rides with Kíli, nestled tightly up between his legs with her soft honey hair just under his chin. When he looks over her shoulder, he can see her soft breasts down her shirt, so he tries to keep his eyes ahead. She makes it harder with the way she keeps squirming, occasionally grinding against him, and a few times she gasps when they get jostled together. Once, he’s almost sure he hears her moan. It makes the ride torture for him, particularly because he knows that if he gets stiff, she’ll be able to feel it, so he tries to alternatively concentrate on the road and picture Gandalf—someone way too tall and thin—sunbathing.

By the time they finally stop for food, Bilbo’s leaning back against him, her eyelids half lowered and her breasts heaving with her laboured breath. Her cheeks are as flushed as when they started, and she keeps trembling. She’s always cute, almost unbearably so—easily the cutest girl Kíli’s ever seen—and of course she’s sweet and kind and amusing and all of Kíli’s favourite things, but now she’s gone and transformed into a wet fantasy that is just no good to a dwarf of Kíli’s low appeal.

He helps her off the pony when they stop, and she clings to his shoulders as he sets her down. She immediately clamps her thighs together. Without the breeze rushing past them, he can catch an odd musk on the wind, strangely alluring compared to the usual mass of pungent scents from a group of unwashed dwarves.

As they settle into a little circle to split their rations, Bilbo scuttles away to talk to Balin. Bofur and Nori start up a small fire: just enough to put a pot over. Dori and Ori are sent to the nearby stream to fetch water, and Kíli tries to cower inconspicuously next to Fíli, hoping they won’t be put on guard duty again. Fortunately, Bombur’s sent, which gives Kíli a strange sort of relief. He’s still the ugliest by a count of nine, but that’s better than thirteen.

He almost commiserates with Fíli like he so often does, but looking at Bilbo across the fire makes him hold his tongue. It wouldn’t be fair to talk about her like a piece of meat, when she’s so much more than that, and the last thing Kíli should be doing is thinking too much on someone he can’t have. Under his gaze, she turns to scoop some of the newly boiling water into her cup, and Kíli looks away.

Fíli nudges his arm, grinning to ask, “So, what’d’you say? Have you thought about it more?”

Kíli blinks and asks, “What?” before quickly recovering and replying, “Right! The fountain!”

“Well?” Fíli prompts, looking excited.

“No.”

The excitement instantly falls away, “What do you mean no?”

“I mean I’m not going to waste my gold on a gold fountain—that’s so useless.”

“It’s not useless! It’ll be the pride of Erebor!”

Kíli scoffs, falling quickly into the usual mode of brotherly squabbles, which at least is something he can handle. “Yet you think it’ll cost both our fortunes, and what’s it going to do, just sit there? What about all the things I want to buy with my gold?”

Fíli rolls his eyes and grumbles, “You’re not going to waste all your coins on expensive clothes and smarmy gifts for women, I hope. You’ll already be a prince, Kíli—don’t overcompensate. A fountain is way more practical.”

“A regular fountain, okay, but I can’t spend molten gold!”

Fíli’s just about to snap back a reply when they both stop abruptly, because Bilbo has shuffled in front of them, holding out a little cup towards Kíli. Steam is billowing out of the top, and Kíli can see a well-laid array of herbal leaves clinging to the edges. She mumbles, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I thought... ah, if you like tea, that is...”

Kíli, feeling dumbstruck, just asks, “For me?” Behind her, the other dwarves are watching him, mostly looking bizarrely exasperated, or perhaps jealous, because Bilbo clearly only made one cup. Tea isn’t the usual dwarf drink, but it doesn’t surprise him that hobbits would like it. As Kíli would probably take anything Bilbo gave him, he lifts his hands when she nods. She passes the cup into his thicker fingers. The ceramic’s warm in his hands.

Halfway across the circle, Glóin says, “Just come out with it already!” Bilbo spins to look at him with wide eyes, while Kíli’s brows knit together in confusion.

To his shock, Fíli says, “Try to be patient; I don’t think he got it until today with the pony thing.” Kíli’s head swivels sideways.

Dwalin growls menacingly, “That or Kíli’s smartly being careful, because he knows what we’d do to him if he hurt Bilbo.”

Kíli, having never been threatened like that before, looks wildly at Thorin. He’d never hurt Bilbo. But Thorin has the same stern look on his face, and all Kíli can do is squeak, “What?”

“I think they should go talk without all of you barging in,” Balin suggests, smiling kindly. Bilbo’s face is now completely red, and she takes an awkward step around Kíli.

Kíli puts the tea down and dazedly stands to follow. Mostly to avoid their baffling stares, he takes the lead and marches quickly away, Bilbo hurrying behind.

They pause once they’re safely out of earshot from the others, but Kíli still tries to be quiet when he hisses, “What’re they talking about?”

“I’m sorry,” Bilbo mumbles, which doesn’t help at all. Kíli stares at her blankly, unsure how to respond when he doesn’t know what the problem is. Bilbo fidgets, takes a deep breath, and then bursts all at once, “It’s just that... that I’ve never seen anyone so handsome before! I know you’re really far out of my league, but I can’t help being interested in someone so rugged and gorgeous and just... devastatingly attractive! N-not that I don’t like anything else about you, I do—even if you were a little rough with my dishes—but they all were, and in a way I do admire your spirit of adventure and your fire—you’re so exciting! And so hot. I’m sorry. I’ll do my best to stop staring at you if it makes you uncomfortable, I promise. Just say the word, and I’ll try really hard to put you and your ridiculously sexy looks right out of my head.” She makes a gesture with her hand to emphasize, them abruptly runs out of words, and Kíli just stares at her in shock.

Then he mumbles, “Me?” Incredulously, he stabs a finger towards his face. Bilbo vigorously nods her head, and Kíli can’t stop himself from asking, “Not one of the others?”

Shuffling her feet, Bilbo says, very quietly, “The others... I mean, they’re all decent people. And yes, Bofur’s quite fun and Fíli’s also exciting... and Balin’s so kind to me; he’s the one that told me to try and court you, but... they’re not...” Squirming in place, she tries to explain, “They’re not exactly the hobbit standard. I know it’s shallow, but... I’m just not attracted to them.”

“But you’re attracted to me.” It comes out numbly.

Bilbo nods. Then she shakes her head aside, muttering, “Very.” She grabs the hem of her skirt and starts twisting it in her hands. Kíli spends a moment ogling her, because this can’t be real; she’s too good to be true, and if he’s not mistaken, he’s just been given an opportunity to gobble her up.

He still makes himself ask, “Courting?”

Bilbo nods harder and says, “Making tea for other hobbits is... it’s an offering of sort. And I’d be very happy to make you more.”

It sounds weird. It just does. But Kíli’s still smiling, and he mumbles, “Thanks.” At his grin, the corners of her lips twitch up, and Kíli is suddenly struck with how wildly lucky he is.

He ducks down to kiss her, overcome, and to his delight, she surges up on her little feet. Her stout arms throw themselves around his neck, and Kíli’s tugged in, their lips pressing together, warm and soft and a little wet. The smell of her is enthralling, and he finds his arms tightening around her little body, crushing her against him. Even though it stays chaste, their mouths closed, there’s a fire in Kíli’s stomach that claws to get out—he can tell right now that he’s going to have a lot of fun with their proper but thrill-seeking hobbit.

When he pulls away, he’s breathing hard, and the side of his neck tingles. He turns to see all of the dwarves watching him, and his cheeks turn as pink as Bilbo’s. Evidently, they’ll have to appreciate each other’s looks later.

He slips his hand into Bilbo’s and guides her back to the fire, while she asks him whimsically, “What kind of tea do you like?”