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Worry Not!

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Bilbo huffed as they walked, blowing a few strands of stubborn hair out of his face in the effort. He lifted his eyes up, glaring as his honey curls bounced back into his line of vision as if to taunt him. He was about to ask Bofur, who was idly chatting next to him, for a pair of shears so that he might fix his predicament, but Thorin chose that moment to bark orders at the Company, telling them to set up camp for the night. Bilbo huffed and puffed once more, but did as he was told and helped set up stones for their dinner fire. As he did so, he surveyed their surroundings and happily noted that they had settled close to a small forest's edges. Bilbo's ears, as sensitive as they were, picked up the trickling of a stream within the woods' covering and he stowed away the information for later.

Supper passed with lively talk to distract everyone from the rather bland stew Bombur had cooked up that night, though it was hardly his own fault. Their rations had been running low and the surrounding area offered little edible plants (just mostly flowers and medicinal herbs) for seasoning and spice, so the rabbit Kili skewered with his arrows went plain and unflavored except for its own natural gamey taste. Still, the stew was filling and quick to warm the body, so Bilbo was not keen on complaining. He did however, internally groan at the length of his hair as he gave Fili his bowl to clean. Something still had to be done about that!

Bilbo thought back to the forest behind them and its stream and then padded over to Bofur, lightly tapping the hatted dwarf on the shoulder and smiling kindly when the dwarf turned around, his own mustache curling as his lips pulled into a grin.

"Well now, jus' what can I do for ya, Bilbo?" Bofur grinned at him, turning around in his seat and placing his hands on his knees.

"Well Master Bofur, I was hoping you would be in possession of a pair of shears, ah...some scissors if you would." As he requested the item, Bilbo ran a hand through his unruly hair and chuckled, hoping Bofur would get what he meant. It took a moment, but the dwarf grinned again and went rummaging through his sack, returning moments later with a gleaming pair of scissors.

"Yer in luck! I managed to keep these with me all through the goblin caves! Be careful with em' now," he said as he handed them to Bilbo, the blades pointed towards himself. "Wouldn't want ya poking yerself. Jus' return em' when yer done."

The halfing, happy to finally have a way controlling his rather uncontrollable mop of hair, hurried off to the stream and sat down at its bank, careful to not lean to far over. It may have been a shallow stream, but Bilbo didn't want to take his chances. Hobbits and water were quite like wood and flame. When they mixed, the results were never good. With his shaky reflection staring back at him, Bilbo began the task of cutting a few inches off. The act was so familiar to him that he hardly needed the water as a makeshift looking glass, but it was nice to have either way. Besides, he even had enough time for a quick wash before the dwarves decided to haul him back to camp!

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Bilbo shuffled back into camp refreshed, clean, and neatly groomed just as Thorin voiced his concern over Bilbo's whereabouts. Thorin was facing Balin, so his back was to Bilbo as the halfing walked over to Bofur and handed his scissors back with a quiet 'thank you'. Fili and Kili were standing close by to Bofur and heard the hobbit walk up, but merely glanced at him for a brief moment. Bofur, ever smiling, took the shears back and nodded to Bilbo before making to turn back to his pack when he stopped dead in his tracks. He looked up at Bilbo from under the flaps of his hat and dropped his shears, the blades stabbing the ground and silencing all conversation. So confused was he by this turn of events that Bilbo failed to notice Thorin's startled curse as the king turned to him. (Thorin was just a tad surprised by the halfing speaking right behind him when not a moment before he was no where to be seen.) Bilbo cocked his head to the side and crossed his arms, brows furrowed as he assessed the almost frightful look of the dwarves.

"Just what has gotten into all of you? Is there something on my face?" Had he missed some strands of hair? Or did he cut too short? Bilbo was very tempted to ask Bofur for his shears again and run off to the stream just to make sure. He didn't want to be made a laughing stock simply because of a bad hair cut.

"Y-Your hair..." That was Ori, his voice trembling with what Bilbo could only describe as fear, though he knew not why Ori would be afraid of hair, of all things. He would've have asked if Thorin had not roughly gripped his shoulders and turned Bilbo towards him, his eyes shining with fury and rage as he took in the hobbit.

"Who did this to you, Bilbo?!" His grip tightened and Bilbo winced, an action that Thorin must have mistaken as fear or some other similar emotion tied to traumtic events.

"Did what? You mean my hair? I just-"

"Look how he quakes and shakes!" No Fili, that was a wince of pain because your uncle dearest is trying to crush my bones into dust, Bilbo thought dryly. "I can only imagine the monster that did this to him!" Fili cried, holding Kili who looked close to tears as he gazed at Bilbo's hair. "He must have been terrifying!" 

"More so than Azog!" Kili chipped in his two cents, as tear-filled and wobbly his voice was.

Bilbo made to argue this stellar observation, but was silenced as Thorin pulled him to his chest. He grumbled about the rough treatment, his cheek pressed uncomfortably into Thorin's furs and armors, but went unheard as Thorin held him all the tighter.

"Aye! Very astute, my nephews!" The brothers puffed up with pride at that and Bilbo as surprised they didn't start preening on the spot. "Worry not, Bilbo Baggins, you will be avenged!" Thorin seemed to pause for dramatic effect, taking his time in looking at every one of his dwarves.

"I swear on the Halls of my Forefathers," He began, voice low but still every bit filled with (unfounded) rage. "I will hunt down the beast that did this to you. Loyal dwarves! To arms!"

The campsite erupted into yells and hollers declaring war, each of the dwarves taking up arms against a very fictional enemy. Bilbo would have been more than happy to tell them this, but his mouth was otherwise full of fur. When Thorin finally made to unsheathe his own weapon, he passed a very confused Bilbo to Balin who opted to stay out of the hunt and went to stand at the edge of camp. The dwarves followed him, each of them pausing as Thorin looked back to Bilbo, eyes blazing and looking every bit as majestic as he did when facing Azog on the burning cliff. Illuminated by the light of the fire, Thorin locked eyes with Bilbo, his lips set in a thin, determined line. 

"Consider this my first attempt to pay back the debt which I owe you, Bilbo Baggins, and also my official announcement of my desire to court you." This earned another round of cheers from the Company, most notably Fili and Kili who yelled 'For Uncle Bilbo!'. "I will bring back the head of the heathen who did this atrocity to you as a gift." 

With that, Thorin turned and started a stiff march into the forest, soon breaking out into a full blown run with the usual dwarven war cry. The other dwarves followed him, weapons held high and screaming both in Dwarvish and the Common Tongue threats of all manners. Even young Ori held his sling shot as he ran into the woods, screaming obscenities that he should not have known.

Confused beyond all belief, Bilbo threw himself down onto the ground. He was soon joined by Balin who placed a hand on his shoulder and patted him reassuringly. The old dwarf gave an amused smile and chuckled. He of course, knew the differences between Hobbit and Dwarf hair customs from talking with Gandalf, but declined to share this information with the rest out of pure amusement.

"There, there, laddie. They will realize soon enough just what happened."

Bilbo let out a strangled sound and covered his face with his hands, giving up all hope on stubborn dwarves. The rest of the night featured the pack of twelve running around the small forest like chickens with their heads cut off, all shouting and yelling themselves into coughing fits.

The halfing had no mercy for them the morning after as they hacked and wheezed in their efforts to speak, often making them repeat themselves with their hoarse voices and sore throats. Balin and Gandalf (who had mysteriously disappeared the night before only to return as the sun rose) chuckled at the hobbit's antics and shared a laugh or two at their traveling companions' expense.