Title: Baggins’ Books
Author: The Artful Dodger / dodger_sister
Fandom: The Hobbit
Category: AU (human!au), Fluff/Schmoop, Kid!Fic, Romance
Characters/Pairing: Bilbo/Thorin, Balin, Frodo, Fili, Kili, Nori & Ori
Warnings: Thorin is majestic.
Summary: Bilbo enjoys his quiet life with his books and his bookshop and entertains no fantasies of anything more than that. Until Thorin Oakenshield comes along.
Word Count: 6,339 words.
Date Written: June, 2014
Disclaimer: Tolkien’s, Tolkien’s, Tolkien’s, not mine. For fun, not profit.
Feedback: Bring it. dodger_sister / TheArtofDodger@comcast.net
Beta’d: By the always amazing, vikingprincess.
Author's Notes: Written after a two month dry spell of words, for my sister’s birthday. I was going to go Clint/Coulson, but she likes the fluff for them and I like the angst for them and then I thought, “Where do I like my fluff?” and immediately I had an idea for a Bagginshield fic that I knew she would adore. So much so that she ran out and podficced it the next week! I find it flattering as heck that she loved it enough to podfic it herself - she only does that for her very favorite stories.
Dedication: For baylorsr, who delights in all things Bilbo and who won’t shut up about how majestic Thorin is. Happy birthday!
Fic art by dodger_sister. Images from the internet.
Podfic by baylorsr can be found here!
The sign over the door read "Baggins Books". The bell chimed as you walked in. The inside of the shop smelled like leather and dust and time gone by. There were rows of bookcases, lined with books, stacked neatly along the four walls, with a small table in the far right corner and a desk right in the middle of the room itself. It was dark in some corners and bright with sunlight in others. The floorboards creaked as you walked and the fan overhead squeaked out a rusty noise with every third turn.
It was Bilbo's very favorite place in the whole world. And it was his own.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Balin," Bilbo said, as the bell above the door rang out.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Baggins," the greying gentleman replied with delight. "I received your message that you had just the book I was looking for."
Bilbo smiled at his favorite customer and gestured towards the small table in the corner where Balin liked to spend his time.
"I believe it has everything you need," Bilbo told him.
Balin picked up the book in question and turned its pages with reverence. "Sometimes the history is in the book as much as it is in the words themselves."
Bilbo chuckled. "It's true what they say then."
"What's that now?"
"Historians really are a bookseller's best friend."
"And tea really is a historian's best friend," Balin told him, with a twinkle to his eye.
"Oh then," Bilbo said and stepped into the back doorway and shouted up the steep staircase. "Frodo, Mr. Balin would like some tea."
The boy - no more than eleven, small and scrawny, all limbs and bones and big blue eyes - leaned over the staircase railing. "I suppose you wouldn't mind a cup either, Uncle," he said with a smirk.
"Well, now that you mention it," Bilbo said, but Frodo was already retreating back the way he had come, bare feet padding along the upstairs floor. "So much sass from that one," Bilbo said fondly.
"Just wait until he's a teenager. Then you'll know what sass is, I reckon," Balin told him and settled in for a long afternoon of research.
Bilbo hummed over his newest stack of books for a moment before shouting back up the stairs, "And some biscuits, Frodo. If you don't mind."
It was dusk out, the shadows growing longer across the shop floor and Bilbo was putting the last of his acquisitions away, reaching high onto a top shelf from the ladder wobbling beneath his feet.
"You ought to get a new ladder," Balin told him, just as the shop door chimed out a customer.
"This ladder has served me more than well enough for many a year now," Bilbo replied and pushed to his tiptoes.
The ladder rattled under him, swayed and buckled. Bilbo could feel the empty air beneath his feet and then he was falling, crashing downwards.
Something wrapped around his waist and his right arm then, something tight and warm, and Bilbo gasped out and looked up into soft dark eyes.
"Now you've done it," the man said and Bilbo jerked slightly in his arms as the man's long braids tickled across his face. "Balin will use this one piece of advice you neglected to abide by, just to prove to you his wisdom for years to come."
"I will do no such thing," Balin said indignantly and when Bilbo looked from the man who was still holding him, to the corner where his friend sat, Balin just shrugged and said, "Alright, perhaps I will."
Then Bilbo was set down onto the ground, his feet scrambling under him until he was upright once more.
"Bilbo Baggins," Balin said with grand flourish, "May I present to you my cousin, Thorin Oakenshield."
"Oh," Bilbo said and that was all he could muster in the face of this man.
Thorin was taller than Bilbo, by nearly a foot, and had a dark beard to match his hair, though the beard was much shorter than his long locks were. He was wearing a pair of black jeans and a black leather jacket over a dirty white t-shirt and Bilbo tugged at his own freshly ironed, brown sweater vest in self-consciousness.
"I've just come to retrieve my cousin from this shop that time forgot and bring him out into some sunlight."
"First I must pay for this book that I’ve been scouring through all afternoon," Balin said and Bilbo waved him off.
"You can pay me tomorrow, Balin. It's no trouble."
"Are you sure, lad?" Balin asked him and Bilbo smiled at his friend.
"Of course. If I can't trust you, then whom can I trust?"
"Now that is a truth if I ever heard one," Thorin said and nodded his head at Bilbo.
Bilbo felt quite warm all of a sudden.
"Very well then," Balin said. "A good-night to you, Bilbo. And a good-night to your nephew, wherever he has gotten off to."
"Wherever, indeed," Bilbo said with a snort.
Thorin held the door open for his cousin and Bilbo could hear them as they headed out of the shop.
"You didn't bring the motorcycle, did you? I much prefer the Jeep, you know."
"Getting so domesticated in your old age, cousin," Thorin said and it was like a rich smooth velvet rumbling out of his chest. "We must really do something about that."
Bilbo stood in the middle of his shop, fingers still holding tight to his sweater, for a long moment after they were gone.
"I definitely think we need the large popcorn," Frodo said, as they walked up to the concession stand inside the old movie house.
"Is that so?" Bilbo asked him with one quirked eyebrow and the hint of a smile on his lips.
"I am a growing boy, after all," Frodo said and Bilbo wanted to object, because Frodo did not seem to be growing at all these days, but even now, after a year of having the boy with him, he still found it hard to say 'no' to him.
"I'll indulge you as ever," Bilbo told him with mock-disapproval and Frodo just smiled at him, a bright and gleaming sight that could light a dark room.
"That's why you're my favorite uncle," he said and Bilbo shook his head at the boy.
"Flattery will get you nothing more than a large popcorn."
"No? Not even a soda?"
Bilbo stuffed a wad of bills into Frodo's palm and gestured at the counter, where the teenaged worker was waiting to take his order.
"They're very good at that, aren't they?" a smoothly rumbling voice said, closer to his ear than Bilbo certainly expected while waiting in line at the movie theater.
It was not an unpleasant sound though, if he were being honest with himself.
Bilbo turned around to find Thorin standing in line behind him, braced on either side by two boys of his own.
"What's that?" Bilbo asked and clenched inside at the squeaky way in which the words came out.
"Kids. Good at getting what they want out of you."
"Bollocks!" the older of the two boys said. "You never give me what I want."
"I want candy," the younger boy said.
"Knock it off!" Thorin barked at them - there was no other way to describe it - and the boys both glared at him and went back to looking at the candy section of the counter.
"My nephews," Thorin said with that same sort of mock-begrudging tone that Bilbo so often used himself when speaking of Frodo. "Fili and Kili," he said and gestured at first one boy, then the other.
Fili was perhaps thirteen, blonde hair down to his shoulders with two little braids right in the front. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt over a tee of some rock band or another and a pair of denim jeans with holes strategically placed throughout. Kili, the younger of the two, was about eight and had long wavy dark hair, down past his shoulders, and was dressed conspicuously like his uncle, all black t-shirt and dark jeans, though his black jacket was denim and not leather like Thorin's.
Bilbo looked over at his own nephew - dressed in a pair of brown corduroys, a yellow polo shirt, and his father's old wool lined jacket - and wondered when children started to adopt their own style and how many horrendous ones they would have to get through before Frodo settled on something reasonably acceptable.
"I didn't know you...had nephews," Bilbo said and then winced at himself.
He hadn't meant to say it like that. He just hadn't realized that Thorin liked children. Or was involved in any children's lives. Or that he went to the movies. Or that he existed outside of Bilbo's bookstore and the possible fantasies rolling around inside his head.
Thorin shrugged, but his shoulders seemed tense in the motion. "My sister's children. I help where I can."
"Well, that's quite good then," Bilbo said and thought about Frodo's own parents, passed away four years earlier.
"Family is family," Thorin told him, but he relaxed considerably and met Bilbo's eyes.
"Indeed," Bilbo said, just as Frodo tugged at his arm.
"What is it?" Bilbo asked and tried to keep the edge from his voice. It wasn't Frodo's fault that Bilbo just wanted to stand here all day and make small talk with Thorin, no matter how awkward it seemed to be at times.
"It's cheaper to get the family pack. That comes with candy."
"Cheaper?" Bilbo asked. "That doesn't seem right to me. I suppose so long as you have enough money from what I already gave you, go ahead then."
"We want the family pack too," Fili said and there was an air of stubbornness to his voice that said Thorin was going to have a fight on his hands.
"What is a family pack?" Thorin asked him with a scowl and Kili's hand shot up like an arrow.
"It comes with candy!"
Thorin rolled his eyes and held up a single finger. "One, of whatever that comes with. You'll share. Understood?"
They nodded solemnly and then proceeded to throw themselves at the candy counter.
"I want Raisinets!" Kili cried and Bilbo was starting to wonder if that boy knew how to say anything without sounding like he was screaming for the ice cream man all the way down the street.
"Too bad," his older brother told him. "We're getting Milk Duds."
"That's not even fair!" Kili hollered and punched his brother solidly in the arm.
"I got Raisinets," Frodo told them, stepping away from the counter with the box of goodies in his arms. "You can have some of mine. If you'd like."
Bilbo was so busy beaming with pride at what a young gentleman his nephew was that he almost missed the implication that came along with Frodo's statement.
"Frodo..." he started, but the boy just turned that sweet innocent face on him - Bilbo knew the truth behind that expression, to be sure - and smiled at his uncle.
"Your friend is sitting with us, right, Uncle Bilbo?"
"Dude, we're seeing the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie," Fili told Frodo. "Is that what you're seeing?"
"Duh," Frodo told him and grinned at the older boy.
"Then I want some of his Raisinets!" Kili said and even Bilbo could see the boy's fingers twitching for them.
"Then hurry up and get your food," Frodo told him with exasperation and cut Bilbo a knowing smile. "It's so nice of your friend to join us."
"Let's just go find some seats, shall we?" Bilbo told him and guided Frodo by the back of his neck away from Thorin and his nephews. "You're incorrigible," he whispered to Frodo and the boy just giggled.
"And you have a crush, Uncle. Aren't you a bit old for that?"
"I take offence at your use of the word 'old'," Bilbo told him, but he couldn't deny that the lad was right. It was quite possible that Bilbo Baggins had a small wee bit of a crush on one Thorin Oakenshield after all.
The three boys were all lined up at the diner counter, swiveling on the old fashioned red stools and giggling ferociously at Kili's attempts to blow bubbles in his milkshake without dripping the ice cream over the side of the glass.
"You'll clean that mess up yourselves, boys," Thorin called to them from the small table he was sharing with Bilbo.
"Rightly so, Frodo," Bilbo added and then looked back at his own milkshake.
He felt enormously conscious of the fact that he had an overflow of chocolate ice cream while Thorin was sipping dark black coffee.
"Are you sure you wouldn't like to share?" Bilbo asked him for the second time. "It's far more than I can eat myself."
That was a lie, of course. Bilbo could pack away a shocking amount of food for such a small man.
"I think I'll stick with the coffee," Thorin told him.
"So," Bilbo started and then stopped, because he suddenly didn't know what to say.
There was an awkward pause, wherein Bilbo alternated between staring at Thorin and trying to avoid being caught staring at Thorin.
"What do you do for a living?" he asked at last and tried to remember he had a milkshake melting in front of him.
"Construction. I have a small crew."
"Oh. That must be interesting. Moving job to job, things must never get dull."
"This is true. It affords a lot less security though."
Bilbo nodded, though truth be told, book sales mattered very little to Bilbo's own security. His family was rather well off.
"Mattered less before the boys came along," Thorin said and focused intently on his coffee.
"It is good of you to look out for them and your sister. Family is important."
Thorin looked over at the boys, now spinning Kili in circles on his swiveling stool as fast they could, the squeak of the metal echoing out around them.
"Your nephew seems..."
"Too smart for his own good?"
"Well," Thorin said and there was something close to a twinkle in his eyes, "I wasn't going to say."
"He was running a bit amuck, to tell you the truth. Ever since his parents passed," and Bilbo closed his eyes briefly, thinking fondly of his cousin Primula, Frodo's poor mother passed away in a car crash that took the boy's father as well. "Lad was being bounced around from home to home. It was no good for him at all. I hope there can be something more permanent here, with me."
When Bilbo looked up, Thorin was watching him intently, his dark eyes clouded over with thought. Bilbo held fast to the gaze, despite the shiver of something else rushing though him at it all, and after a moment, Thorin nodded his head at Bilbo and went back to his coffee.
"My cousin says you went on a date."
"What?" Bilbo cried and promptly dropped the stack of newly acquired 1960's hardcovers he had found at a flea market over the weekend.
"Interesting reaction, Mr. Baggins," Balin said with something that could only be described as a smirk.
"He said no such thing," Bilbo muttered and collected his books once again.
"Of course he didn't," Balin told him. "Thorin would never use a word like 'date'. But he did mention you ran into each other."
"We went for milkshakes after the movie. The boys seemed to be getting on so well and all."
"Yes," Balin said, that damned smirk back on his face. "The boys seemed to get on so well."
"You are far too comfortable in my shop," Bilbo told his friend and headed for the staircase leading up to his apartment.
The bell over the door chimed suddenly.
"Hello, Thorin," Balin greeted boisterously.
"Very funny," Bilbo called back to him.
"Hello, cousin," that memorable deep rumbling voice answered. "Hello, Mr. Baggins."
Bilbo stopped mid-motion, one foot half raised, froze and then fell backwards down three steps, his books scattering everywhere.
"Dude. Wicked fall," another voice said and Bilbo cringed and closed his eyes in an attempt to wish himself invisible.
It did not work.
"Need a hand there?" that velvety, smooth voice asked him and Bilbo peeked one eye open to see Thorin standing over him, looking down at him with something like disbelief and fondness. "You seem to fall down rather a lot."
"It's genetic, I think," Bilbo told him and scrambled to his feet quite ungracefully, cheeks flushing.
Thorin started to scoop up Bilbo's fallen books and Bilbo waved a hand briskly at him.
"Don't bother yourself," Bilbo told him. "I've got it."
"I lifted fifty-four kilograms of concrete steel today," Thorin told him. "I think I can manage a few books."
"Really?" Bilbo asked, startled. "Fifty-four?" and his eyes snapped up to the bit of arm muscle he could see peeking out between the open front of Thorin's leather jacket and the line of his white tank-top.
Thorin simply stared at him with those dark knowing eyes until Bilbo looked away again.
"Stop touching everything in the store, Kili," Balin chided and it was then that Bilbo realized both of Thorin's nephews were with him.
Kili rolled his eyes at Balin and Fili grabbed his brother by the back of the neck and shoved him in Bilbo's direction.
"Is Frodo home?" Fili asked.
"Oh yes, I believe he is on the balcony. Doing...something. Goodness," Bilbo said and glanced at the clock. "It's been three hours since I've seen him, who knows what he has gotten up to in that time."
"Can't have been anything too terrible," Balin told him. "I haven't heard any explosions."
Kili started up the stairs, but the older boy yanked him back by the scruff of his shirt.
"May we go up?" he asked and Thorin nodded his approval at the boy.
"Oh. Yes, yes, of course," Bilbo said and gestured up the stairs. "The balcony is the door at the top of the steps and Frodo's room is the one on the left."
Fili nodded at Bilbo - so much like his uncle - and both boys went tearing up the staircase at full speed.
"They want to invite Frodo to Kili's birthday party next week," Thorin told him, setting the stack of books down on Bibo's desk.
"Oh, that'll be quite good. Frodo hasn't made a lot of friends since being here. Just the gardener's young boy down the street. And with his cousins so far away, I do worry he spends too much time hanging around this place."
"Good. Kili’s party may be a bit young for him, but I was hoping he would come and keep Fili out of trouble for the day."
"You'll be there?" Bilbo asked and then wished once more for a chance to turn invisible. Of course Thorin would at his nephew's birthday party - he doted on the boy like no other.
"I will be there," Thorin told him. "And I hope you will be too," and it was matter of fact, but there was still something under it that caused a spark in Bilbo.
The bell over the door chimed once more and Bilbo was grateful for a chance to look at something other than Thorin Oakenshield's intense gaze. Strolling into Bilbo's shop then was a younger man - perhaps eighteen, perhaps not - with hair spiked up into some kind of odd mohawk, the likes of which Bilbo had never seen before.
"Welcome to Baggins' Books," Bilbo declared. "May I help you find anything?"
"Just browsing," the young man said and then looked at Thorin with a small smile.
Thorin just scowled back at him.
Bilbo found he was not sorry to see Thorin reject the intended leers of another man, even if the reasoning behind it had nothing to do with Bilbo at all.
"Uncle!" Frodo yelled, quite suddenly, from the top of the stairs.
Bilbo sighed out. "Frodo, please be more barbaric in front of our company."
"I'll try, Uncle," Frodo quipped and then, "May they stay for a bit? Fili and Kili?"
"Well," Bilbo started and then looked at Thorin. "That would be quite nice. If it's alright with Thorin."
Thorin shook his head. "I'm afraid I can't stay. I have to meet with a prospective client from the Blue Mountain Company."
"I can take them home, after. If it would be alright," said Balin.
"As long as you don't lose track of the time, as usual," Thorin chided him.
"Well, time is often lost, isn't it, cousin?" the historian asked and Thorin shook his head at him in dismay.
"It's quite alright with me if they stay until Balin is finished for the day," Bilbo said and Thorin looked at him with something almost akin to gratitude.
"The gesture is appreciated," Thorin said and then, with the shortest of nods in Bilbo’s direction, walked briskly across the room to the other customer, who was facing a corner bookcase with an intense appreciation of whatever he had found there.
"Nori," Thorin said and the boy jumped with a quick start.
"Oakenshield," the boy said and there was something in his stance that made Bilbo feel uneasy.
"Will your brother be at Kili's party next week?"
"I believe so, but that kind of thing is usually left up to Dori, you know."
"Hmm," Thorin said. "Very well. Just see to it that whatever gift he brings Kili is not stolen. If it's not too much trouble."
Nori nodded his head in understanding and then pushed off his feet - easy to do with the stance he had been holding - and made a dash for the door. Thorin picked him up quite readily from the ground by the collar of his long trenchcoat before the boy could even get two steps past him.
"Hand it over, lad," Balin said and Nori - still dangling from the floor by Thorin's massive grip - pulled a rather large book out of the inside of his jacket.
Bilbo had no idea where he had been hiding that thing in the least.
"Growing Plants Out Of Their Natural Climate," Balin read off the front of the book. "Really, Nori, are you taking up the family business?"
"It was for Dori. A belated birthday gift," the boy said sullenly.
"Yes, I suppose what every big brother wants for his birthday is to bail his little brother out of jail," Thorin said, the smooth rumble of his voice transformed into a rather menacing growl, and then dropped the boy quite suddenly to the floor.
Nori landed rather gracefully there, not unlike a cat.
"Go on then," Thorin told him. "Run along, before I hinder your ability to do so."
Nori rolled his eyes, but he was gone from the store before anyone could utter another syllable.
"That boy was stealing from me," Bilbo said in disbelief.
In all his years running this shop, he didn't think anyone had ever stolen from him. He supposed used books were not quite a shoplifter's brand of merchandise, but even so, it was all rather a shock.
"Nori will steal from anyone," Balin told him, sadly. "He refuses outright to get an actual job."
"Don't let him back into your store," Thorin said and Bilbo looked up at him.
"You make rather impressive security," Bilbo said, with an air of humor. "Perhaps I should hire you."
"You couldn't afford me," Thorin told him and Bilbo turned a bright shade of red once more.
"No doubt," he squeaked and Thorin looked at him in confusion, before snorting.
"Good day, Mr. Baggins," he said and this time there was absolutely a smile on his face, small though it was. "Good day, cousin."
And then he was gone, the bell over the door chiming after him.
The birthday party was at three on a Saturday afternoon. Bilbo spent nearly an hour just deciding what to wear. He might have been grateful to Frodo for not mentioning it, except Frodo's knowing look said more than words ever could have.
Bilbo at last decided on his gold vest with a pocket handkerchief over a white button-up shirt. He took his long red coat - a rich, smooth color that complemented his coloring - on and off several times before supposing it was getting too warm out for jackets these days anyway.
Though he still hoped Thorin would be wearing his. It suited him well.
They arrived at the party at five minutes past three and Frodo shifted nervously outside the gate of the enclosed park. There was a small play area and a row of picnic tables that had obviously been pushed together for the occasion, as well as a smattering of balloons tied to a tree, next to a hanging piñata of a red and gold gleaming dragon.
There were also a lot of people mulling about.
"Pursuing it with eager feet, lad," Bilbo told him and Frodo nodded hard and pushed his way through the gate.
Bilbo followed after him, holding a wrapped gift in one hand and clutching a thermos of tea in the other.
"Mr. Baggins," Balin greeted him with a vigorous shout. "Come and join us."
Bilbo found his feet moving in that direction without his say-so, as his mind was currently otherwise occupied. For Thorin was standing next to Balin - and a few other men Bilbo did not know - and he was wearing those same old black denim jeans and a black tank top. But there was no leather jacket over it this time and Bilbo could see every bit of arm muscle and the tattoo of a large dark anvil peaking out from under the line of it all.
It was a better look for him than even the leather had been.
"Kili, come and take your gift and thank Mr. Baggins," Thorin called out and the boy came bounding over, all dimples and grins, and reached out for the gift, looking up at Bilbo through his long eyelashes.
"Thank you for my gift and for coming to my party," he said, like he had been rehearsing it all day.
"You are very welcome, lad," Bilbo told him. "And a happy birthday to you, Kili."
Kili looked over at his uncle for approval and when he had been given the customary nod of satisfaction, he raced back toward the group of children, all playing a game of sword fight with fallen sticks they had found under the tree.
"Youngsters these days," Balin said with a sigh. "Runs me ragged just watching him,"
Bilbo laughed, because it was a truth he hadn't known until Frodo came along.
Someone caught Bilbo's eye then and he turned to see the same young man who had tried to steal from him just the week before. He was standing with a younger boy, perhaps six or so, and the lad was pressed against him and watching the bigger boys play with wide eyes.
"If you'll excuse me for just a moment," Bilbo said and made his way over to them. "Nori, is that correct?" he asked and the teen looked at him with recognition and distrust.
"Why?" the boy asked.
"I was told not to let you in my shop again," Bilbo said and Nori cast a wicked glance in Thorin's direction. "But you rather seemed to want that book. So, if you are inclined, come to my shop twice a week and make deliveries to my regular clients for me, for one month, and the book shall be yours."
"I have no need for a job," Nori told him. "I get what I want at any rate."
"Very well," Bilbo said. "But while the offer stands, you should know that I keep a fireplace poker behind my desk, so if you come into my shop for any reason other than to work, there will be an issue between us."
"Are you threatening me?" Nori asked and he looked rather amused by the whole thing.
"I do know how to handle myself amongst thieves," Bilbo told him. "I have cousins that routinely try to steal my silverware. But no, I threaten no man. The job is yours if you wish it," Bilbo said and smiled reassuringly at the small boy at Nori's side before heading back from where he had come.
"That was a rather bold and generous gesture," Balin said. "I think that Frodo is making you go soft, Bilbo, dear," Balin told him, once he had rejoined the group.
"Is that true then?" a man in a winged pilot's hat asked him. "That your cousins try to steal your silverware?"
"Would walk right out of my house with it in their pockets, if I let them," Bilbo replied and next to him, Thorin laughed a deep rich resonant of amusement.
It was a glorious sound, as far as Bilbo was concerned.
"Uncle, we want to do the piñata now!" Kili yelled from across the way. "Come and help us."
Thorin sighed out "I am afraid I must go slay a dragon now, gentlemen."
"Do you know a lot about that then?" Bilbo asked. "Slaying dragons?"
"More than one would think," Thorin told him with a wink and then caught the large wooden staff that Fili tossed his way, twirling it deftly between his fingers and striding off towards the tree.
It was a stirring sight, like a majestic hero's shot in a movie, and Bilbo found he was going to have to upgrade that wee little crush to something more along the lines of 'unexpectedly smitten'. Indeed.
It had been far too quiet all day. With Frodo out of town and Balin having not shown up to take his seat in the customary corner table, Bilbo had been alone most of the day. Once upon a time that would have suited him just fine. He enjoyed nothing more than the quiet of his own books. But as of late, something was stirring in him. Some sort of longing that he hadn't felt in many a year.
Now Bilbo might say that this was something that had happened once Frodo had come along, as he had grown accustomed to the constant padding of the boy's feet overhead. But the truth was that this strange pull lay elsewhere, directly at the feet of one Thorin Oakenshield.
It was a rather disturbing thought, because Bilbo Baggins liked the simple things and there was nothing about the gorgeous, intriguing Thorin that was simple at all.
Certainly when the bell over the door chimed, Bilbo was glad for the distraction from his own thoughts.
"I'll be right there," he called from the back room.
There was no reply, but when Bilbo came around the corner into the front room, there he was.
He was standing stock still, but when Bilbo entered the room, Thorin turned to greet him and Bilbo felt everything in the air shift, as if that strange tugging inside of him was pulled taut as a piece of twine.
"Mr. Baggins," Thorin said. "How is business?"
"Rather slow," Bilbo told him. "Balin is not even here today." Then he stopped, looked keenly at Thorin and asked, "Are you looking for him?"
"I am not," Thorin said.
"Oh," Bilbo answered, then, "Frodo is not here either," though Thorin's nephews did not seem to be in tow. "Now that summer is upon us, he has gone to stay with his cousin Merry for a few weeks."
Thorin chuckled softly. "I am most certainly not here to see Frodo," he said. "I have come to see you."
"Oh," Bilbo said again, only this time no more words followed, all caught up in his throat as they were.
"If business is not booming at the moment, perhaps you would care to close up shop and come with me for a ride?"
"Oh," Bilbo said again and when Thorin furrowed his brow at him, Bilbo jerked back with a start and said, "I mean, yes. Yes, of course. Quite right."
Thorin gestured towards the front door then and Bilbo grabbed his brown jacket from the peg and stepped outside. It was only in that moment that Bilbo remembered Thorin drove a motorcycle, more often than not.
And sure enough, there it was, black and silver glinting in the sunlight, and Bilbo felt his heart race and jump into his throat at once.
"I promise not to let you fall," Thorin murmured, up close to his ear. Bilbo nodded, swallowed hard, and followed Thorin onto the motorcycle.
It was warm pressed against Thorin's back and the helmet fit snugly over Bilbo's untamed hair. Thorin reached behind himself, moving Bilbo's hands up until they were wrapped tightly around his chest, where Bilbo could feel the thump-thump-thump of Thorin's heartbeat.
"We shall see how you are in the wilds now, Mr. Baggins," Thorin called back to him and then the motorcycle roared to life and Bilbo felt his feet leave the ground.
He was flying along the road, like on an eagle's back, and Thorin was right there beside him the whole way.
He did not know how long they rode, but it was getting toward dusk by the time they stopped. They had climbed what seemed like forever, up what seemed like the side of a great mountain, and then they were looking down at the lights of the town below, like a thousand spots of glittering jewels.
"I have lived here for so long, I forget the beauty of it more often than I should," Bilbo said in reverence, as he settled down on the large rock next to Thorin.
"I did not always live here myself," Thorin told him.
"No?" Bilbo asked and could not ignore the way Thorin's arm was pressed against his own.
"No," Thorin said and looked out, past the town, to something farther away. "My family came from money and land, did you know?" and Bilbo could not tell if it was boasting or anger in his voice. "But my grandfather...my father said he had a sickness."
"Oh dear," Bilbo said. "I am sorry."
"It was not that kind of sickness," and Bilbo could taste the bitterness in Thorin's words. "He gambled away all of the family money. And then, when it was all gone and my grandfather had passed from a heart-attack, my father ran off and abandoned us. We came here, my sister and I, to make the best of it that we could."
Thorin stopped talking suddenly and stared straight ahead, the muscles in his jaw flexing under it all. Bilbo watched his profile, waited for Thorin to relax under his eye.
"I had thought to rebuild my family's glory someday. But perhaps I have been going about it all wrong," and his eyes were softer when he turned them on Bilbo.
"My family too came from money. But my parents have passed and now it is just me, with 'the trunks of gold', so they say, and nothing to do with it."
"But now you have Frodo," Thorin reminded him.
"Indeed," Bilbo answered and looked back out at the town lights below.
"It is why you tried to help Nori, isn't it?" and though it seemed like a question, Bilbo knew Thorin already had the answer. "Even though he is a thief."
"You'd be surprised what thieves lie among us," Bilbo told him with a glint of mischief in his eyes.
"Come now, Bilbo Baggins is no thief," Thorin said, as if that was the end of the matter.
"Tell that to the elderly gentleman whose fireworks I used to snatch right off the back of his traveling stand of a wagon."
"But I thought you came from trunks of gold," Thorin teased. "Are you just a kleptomaniac then, Bilbo?"
Bilbo snorted at the idea, but when he thought of it, the young Bilbo Baggins was somehow closer to that imagining than he was the man who sat here on this rock. There had been a time when Bilbo had dreamed only of adventure. Though - and he was growing more and more used to the idea - that younger self of his did seem to be in there still, stirring under it all.
"My father wouldn't let me have any fireworks," Bilbo told him sullenly, like it had happened all of yesterday and not twenty-five years ago.
"My, the things I did not know of you, Bilbo. Perhaps there is more than meets the eye here after all.
"More than one would think," Bilbo told him, but instead of winking at the man the way Thorin had once done to Bilbo, Bilbo found himself leaning upwards.
He pressed closer to Thorin's side and stretched until his top lip met Thorin's bottom one and then shifted ever so subtly against him.
There was a brief moment, a pause of nothing but time standing still, and then Thorin was tilting his head, lowering his face until their mouths closed over one another completely and then they were kissing - soft, slow, Thorin's beard rubbing against Bilbo's face, burning and igniting and lighting him aflame.
It was with a soft 'hmm' that Bilbo pulled away and found Thorin looking down at him with dark hooded eyes.
"The road goes ever on and on," Bilbo muttered to himself and Thorin raised a single eyebrow at him. "There's no knowing where you might be swept off to and all that," Bilbo added and Thorin nodded his head slightly in Bilbo's direction, eyes showing something far beyond the simple gesture.
"You, Mr. Baggins," he said, "Have some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure."
"Oh," but that was as far as he got, because they were kissing again, and not even fire raining from the sky could stop them now.