Touch My World – Chapter Two

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Bilbo Baggins was bewildered and bewuthered and almost to the end of his tether. Gandalf and twelve unexpected dwarves had made alarming inroads on what he had previously thought to be a fairly well stocked pantry, and then there was yet another knock at the door!

How many dwarves would it be this time? His pantry couldn’t cope with much more, and it would be a dreadful stain on his reputation if he had to send any visitors over to the Green Dragon in order to be fed! Most terrible! Why, his ancestors would rise up in their graves at the very thought!

This was not how he had been intending to spend the evening!

Still, he thought, cheering up as he made his way to the door, this would be a good story to tell his Aunt Mirabella next time she was fussing over him and the lack of fun in his life.

No one really needed to know that his trips to Bree often included nostalgic stops in some of the areas he’d frequented as a faunt on his endless quest to find elves.

There was just so much work involved with being The Baggins, work that he really had no interest in. His father had handled the position with grace and dignity – well, at least as much as a hobbit could – and Bilbo had tried to honour his memory but living up to the expectations of the hobbits in Hobbiton was exhausting!

Especially when he spent most of the time wishing he could throw the lot over the fence and take off into the forest for the day, any and all day really.

Then Gandalf comes along and waves an adventure under his nose, like a fresh loaf of bread still warm from the oven being waved in front of a starving hobbit. It had taken every ounce of his love for his father to refuse the wizard. Every second he and those confounded dwarves stayed, Bilbo’s resolution wavered.

Then Bilbo Baggins opened the door and in the space between one second and the next he knew.

There was an echoing knowledge on the bearded face of the quite frankly gorgeous dwarf in front of him. Eames opened his mouth to say something suggestive when Arthur gave him a warning look, pointedly flicking his eyes over Eames’s shoulder towards the passage to the dining area where twelve dwarves and one wizard were listening with all their might.

Arthur made some comment to Gandalf that Eames only caught the end of, distracted as he was by the vandalism of his lovely door. His mother had thought the green looked so smart, so Bilbo made sure it was painted at least once a year, It took him a moment to realise he and Arthur were being introduced. Good.

Before he could say anything, Arthur was asking about his weapons skills, as if he didn’t know exactly what Eames was trained in!

Eames was still feeling a little discombobulated by the whole experience. He had a moment of sympathy for Vulcan!Arthur, having to deal with a non human brain for the first time since they began this past time. It appeared they had both become a bit complacent.

He’d have to think about mixing it up a bit on his next turn.

“Well, I have some skill at conkers, if you must know, although I fail to see why that’s relevant.” Eames said, deciding to have a little fun with the hand he’d been dealt.

Thankfully, he no longer saw the need of boring himself to tears at the behest of a lot of busybody hobbits. Bungo may have been disappointed by his decision, but he had no doubt Belladonna would have approved.

He ignored Arthur’s scathing comment about him looking like a grocer (he’d get him back for that later) and made a few mental notes as to letters he would need to write before bedtime if he wanted to go adventuring with a bunch of dwarves and a wizard.

Or should that be flock of dwarves? A swagger of dwarves? Maybe a harem? Eames nearly choked as he tried to suppress his laughter at the thought. Arthur wasn’t a prude precisely, but for someone who’d been around forever, he was a bit vanilla in his tastes. Still, it was something for later. For when there wasn’t a fucking powerful wizard standing right there, listening to the dwarves talk about a quest.

“You’re going on a quest?” Eames asked, more to remind them that he was there than for any other reason. It was rather obvious that they were going on a quest. Even ignoring the comments Gandalf had been making earlier.

A short time later he was looking over a map, one that showed a solitary mountain with a rather ominous picture of a large red dragon over top of it. Eames began to get a rather strong feeling that this would be important.

Oh, Arthur. What have you gotten yourself into now?

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The next morning, Bilbo sent notification to the Thain that he would be absent for some time recommending his Uncle Fosco as the hobbit to stand in for him regarding all Baggins matters. Fosco (who was actually his second cousin, but in Bungo’s generation and therefore easier to call uncle) and his family had been presiding over Baggins Hall since Bungo Baggins had built Bag End as a wedding present for his prospective bride Belladona Took. It didn’t seem to be too much of an imposition to ask for him to take over some of the hereditary duties that went with the home.

And even if it was, by this point Eames didn’t really care. Let him work a little for his luxury.

If Bilbo made no other arrangements, Bilbo’s covetous cousin Otho and his wife Lobelia would assume they had the right to take over. Lobelia in particular liked to tell everyone that Otho was Bilbo’s heir and would be The Baggins when Bilbo got himself killed on one of his trips to Bree.

When he got back, Eames was going to take great pleasure in informing the both of them that only a Baggins could be The Baggins, and Sackville-Bagginses didn’t count. And also, that his mother’s house was left in his will to one of her relatives, not to a Baggins at all.

They could stuff that in their pipes and smoke it!

In the meantime, he dashed down the lane to drop his key and the entirety of his current funds off with Holman Greenhand, his gardener (as all expenses on the journey were to be paid by Thorin, according to the contract, and besides, he could get more in Bree) and then ran after that blasted Arthur and his larder-emptying dwarves. By the time he caught up to them, he was reconsidering the role he decided to take last night when he was all drunk with happiness that Arthur had turned up and was so incredibly hot.

Arthur was generally incredibly hot but this time? Scorching.

Eames would be itching to take Thorin Oakenshield into the bushes for a little ‘adventuring’ even if he and Arthur had never recognised each other. This lifetime had turned Arthur into a brooding, sexy, dramatic hunk of flesh that Eames really wanted to get his teeth into. Literally.

Maybe not the best thing to be thinking about while riding a pony. He knew what he’d prefer to be riding… and now he was making double-entendres in his own head.

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By the time they’d made it to Bree, Eames was seriously considering murdering Arthur. It was one thing to treat him with disdain as part of his persona of Thorin Oakenshield, but he was also taking noticeable steps to ensure that he was never alone with the only hobbit in the group, and Eames wasn’t the only one to notice.

“Don’t concern yourself, laddie. Thorin just doesn’t trust easily.” Balin had said on one occasion when Eames had tried speaking to Arthur and only been grunted at for his troubles. “I’m sure once he gets to know you a bit better, he’ll be much friendlier.”

Eames had given the old dwarf a rather wan smile of thanks and gone back to his thoughts of revenge.

The plan had always been to stop overnight in Bree, so Eames was able to use the time to call on several of his suppliers to cancel his standing orders for the near future. He had them send all moneys remaining on his accounts to Holman Greenhand, which added to what he’d had on hand should be enough to pay his loyal gardener until he returned.

He did spend a few coins on a small bag of ground rose hips, something often used by faunts as itching powder. A certain snotty dwarven King was going to be doctored if he didn’t mend his ways pronto. One thing living as a hobbit for fifty years had taught Eames was how to sneak successfully.

Because he was only annoyed and didn’t actually hate Arthur, he decided to wait until they were close to some sort of civilisation before pulling his prank. The two young brothers, Fili and Kili, would be the perfect scapegoats as they were constantly pulling amateurish pranks on the rest of the company. (Eames had been a bit disappointed out to find it was a company of dwarves. He rather preferred the harem idea himself.)

It was well after they’d left Bree that Balin told them all about the Battle of Azanulbizar, about how Azog the Defiler had killed Thrór (Thorin’s grandather), and vowed to defeat the line of Durin. Balin also told them how Thorin’s younger brother Frerin had perished in that battle, and how Thrain (Thorin’s father) had disappeared.

Eames was horrified. What with dragons and orcs and whatnot, it seemed that poor Arthur had endured a miserable life while Eames had been safe in the Shire.

Sure, Bilbo’s life wasn’t completely devoid of tragedy. The Fell Winter had been hard. His father had never been properly well after it, and eight years after her husband’s death Belladona had finally lost the will to continue, leaving Bilbo on his own.

But Arthur! Arthur who would have felt guilt for the decisions made by his forebears. Arthur who would have taken the plight of his people as a personal insult and as entirely his responsibility. Arthur who likely worked his fingers to the bone since their banishment from their mountain to make life better for his people.

Eames wondered if it was such a good idea to prank Arthur after all. If only the broody bastard would stop avoiding him!

And then it rained for a week.

And then Arthur thought it would be a good idea to make camp in a place where there had obviously been some recent devilry, and Gandalf stomped off in a huff when his strong-arm tactics only made Arthur did his heels in. (Eames could have given the wizard a few hints on how to handle intractable, stubborn fellows who always thought they knew best but he was still annoyed at the wizard for dropping thirteen dwarves on him without so much as a by-your-leave, and chose not to.)

A little later, Bofur sent him off to take Fíli and Kíli (who were given the task of watching the ponies) their dinner.

Eames may have entertained a few naughty fantasies about bedding both young dwarves (sometimes at the same time) and although he would never act on such a thing (they really did seem a bit too young) he didn’t really mind being sent out to spend time with them both.

It was lucky that they were handsome young things because they didn’t appear to have a working brain between them. When he got there, they were contemplating missing ponies but didn’t want to alert the others which was surely the reason to have a watch placed in the first place. Then upon the discovery of three trolls about to eat Myrtle and Minty, the brothers seemed to think sending a hobbit in on his own was a good idea.

Eames felt like patting them both on the head like faunts. Their lack of age and experience was never more apparent. This was the kind of plan he could have expected from his cousins Dodinas and Dinodas, who were not only Tooks on their mother’s side (as was Bilbo) but Brandybucks on their father’s! A potent cocktail if ever there was one.

Still, he was rather fond of his pony. She’d been a real champion, putting up with him and his stupid allergies, and he didn’t want to watch while she got eaten. But his luck deserted him, and he was used as a troll’s hanky (the presence of which, considering the trolls general lack of other attire, might have been an interesting discussion for a later occasion, such as when he wasn’t been dangled like a scrawny kitten). Next thing he knew all the dwarves had arrived and there was a rather one-sided fight going on.

Eames was starting to wonder if their time in Middle-Earth might be coming to an end rather before they got to the dragon when a comment from the trolls reminded him that he only needed to keep them occupied until dawn in order for the lot of them to get out of the mess. With that in mind he proceeded to try and keep the trolls talking, hoping to distract them.

Arthur eventually caught on to what he was doing, and then Gandalf finally let the sun into the glade, turning the trolls to stone.

Fíli and Kíli had apparently been a little decorative when describing the situation to the other dwarves and everyone seemed to think that Bilbo was the one who’d run off without thinking. Which, okay, he had run off but he had also thought about it. For a whole minute even, before deciding.

Still, Eames no longer felt the slightest bit of guilt about his plan to use the two troublemakers in his plan.

And then there was a brown wizards.

Shortly after they were running from orcs and wargs (some of the ugliest creatures Eames had seen in a number of lifetimes).

They ended up in a valley heading towards Rivendell. Arthur didn’t even seem to be putting on an act when he spoke of Elves and Eames was really interested in finding out the full story there. Bilbo had wanted to meet Elves all his life, so Eames was delighted to see the beauty before him.

Arthur had done a brilliant job when crafting this world, it was a pity that he couldn’t seem to enjoy it.

And since this was civilisation – Eames had to hide his smirk as he hefted the bag of ground rosehip still in his pocket, where he had been keeping it ready for when an opportunity presented itself.

They were shown to sleeping quarters and given washing up things. Eames waited until Thorin had chosen a sleeping area and departed before sneaking back to the room and doctoring his blankets. Since he knew exactly what the antidote was (and he’d made sure that there was plenty of the correct plant around), he went ahead and coated his own hands lightly before making sure to find an excuse to brush his hands against Kíli’s and then Fíli’s.

When he was certain they were contaminated, he popped outside and made sure he was alone before washing his hands and smearing them with a thin layer of the cool soothing gel that came from the aloe plant. It did the trick and then he only had to wait a few hours for the powder to start working, being careful to remain in sight of Arthur, or rather Thorin, at all times.

It would really be a good idea to get used to calling him Thorin or he was going to slip up. Luckily, completely different bodies meant that it was highly unlikely that he’d be calling the sulky dwarf ‘Spock’.

Eames glanced down at his small and rather soft body with a sigh. He wasn’t ugly by any means, but he missed having a body that was a well honed machine, ready to do his bidding and competent with both armed and unarmed combat.

Still, his hair this time around was really quite lovely.

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Perhaps pranking Thorin while in Rivendell wasn’t such a great idea after all. Arthur seemed to have lost every last speck of humour Eames had been growing in him over time and was only too ready to blame the elves.

Fíli and Kíli showed the intelligence they’d previously been seeming to lack and didn’t show anyone their own stinging hands. It was only Oin’s sharp healers eyes that noticed the redness and stopped a war from being declared whose outcome would have been very one-sided indeed.

None of the rest of the dwarves seemed to see anything wrong with a party of thirteen dwarves declaring war on an entire city of elves, and Eames was left to wonder just what spending his life as a dwarf had done to Arthur’s orderly nature.

Gandalf seemed to spend his time with Thorin trying to scold him into better behaviour, as if that would work. Did the wizard not realise that he was dealing with grown, stubborn creatures who didn’t take kindly to being ordered around? The other dwarves were following Thorin’s example, and Eames found the whole fountain thing highly amusing.

Late in the day after the fountain incident ( two days after all the welts had finally healed), Eames at last managed to get Thorin to speak with him privately. Well, as alone as they could be in a place that belonged to others, and which they had not properly explored.

The elves seemed to leave the dwarves to their own devices a lot but Eames had no doubt that eyes were upon them at all times. It was only sensible, after all, so his conversation with Thorin would have to be slightly coded lest they be taken up as lunatics.

“What exactly is your problem?” Eames hissed when Thorin refused his offer to take the opportunity to share what was wrong.

“My problem?” Thorin replied in a low voice that sent a tingle through hobbity ears all the way down to his feet. “My problem is that I had a perfectly lovely world set up where my talents and nature would be needed, but not too much, and somehow you’ve gotten into it and ruined it! A dragon, Eames, a bloody great big dragon! It killed my mother, you know, and my grandmother. That’s two mothers in a row I’ve lost far too early, two! And that wasn’t anywhere in my plan so you must have had something to do with it!”

Well. It appeared that they weren’t going to be talking in code after all. And if Arthur truly believed that Eames had been responsible for all of that, well then, that explained the way he’d been treating him.

“Arthur,” Eames began, about to tell him that he’d had nothing to do with it, but Arthur wasn’t listening.

“It was bad enough when I was a prince in exile, not knowing if my father was dead or alive with one sister, two nephews, and me, all that was left of the once strong line of Durin. I had a plan, crazy and insane though it was, and I had a group of dwarves that believed in me, and we were going to do this or die trying.

“But then I come face to face with you, living the high life in the Shire without a worry to your name, in a cosy little house that keeps you warm in the winter and quite clearly enough food so that you’ve never had to worry about starving, and I realised that it was all for nothing. Nothing! There is no point! What else have you screwed up for me, Eames? What else is going to go wrong?

“I thought we’d got past this stage in our existences, I really had, but you just can’t resist, can you? You just can’t resist showing off and making a fool out of me. Well, congratulations! I hope you’re happy!”

And then Thorin (Arthur, whatever,) broke down into harsh sobs, and it was more than Eames could cope with. He pulled that bearded face down to his smaller chest and held it there It was a habit he’d fallen into when Arthur was Spock and liked to listen to his heartbeat whenever Jim was hospitalised after yet another near death experience.

“I promise,” Eames whispered into the ear nearest his mouth, “I promise I did nothing, Arthur. I wouldn’t do that darling, I swear. I have no idea how this is happening, I really don’t.”

For a few moments there was only the sound of Thorin’s weeping to disturb the tranquillity of the quite place Eames had found for them. He hoped fervently that his assumption that they would be watched at all times was paranoia. Otherwise, he and Thorin were going to have a lot of explaining to do.

Probably sooner than was good for him, Thorin’s sobs tapered off but he remained where he was for a moment, just breathing into Eames (thankfully clean) shirt. After a minute or two of that, he sat back looking only slightly sheepish. Sheepish wasn’t a good fit for that handsome bearded face, so Eames cast about for a distraction.

“So, a sister and nephews, you said? That’s good then, isn’t it? How old are they then? I take it they’re waiting in Ered Luin to hear the outcome of the quest?”

Arthur stared at him.

Fíli and Kíli are my nephews, or as dwarrows say, sister-sons. That’s something you might want to remember, Eames. The plural of dwarf is ‘dwarrows’ here, not dwarves. I’m going to have to remember that too. I’ve been using the term ‘dwarrows’ for almost two hundred years now, it would be highly suspicious if I all of sudden started saying ‘dwarves’.”

It was Eames turn to stare.

“Two hundred years? Two hundred ye-” he broke off when he realised the volume of his voice was increasing beyond what he would prefer, given this conversation was supposed to be private. “I’m fifty, Arthur, not all that far away from fifty-one. How the hell can you be two hundred years old? What the hell is happening?”

“Well, not two hundred exactly. More like a hundred and ninety-five.” Thorin said, a familiar looking frown beginning to crease his brow. “Still, that’s nearly one hundred and fifty years difference.”

“Thank you Arthur, I mean Thorin. I haven’t forgotten how to count.” Eames said waspishly as he considered how they could have been born so far apart. “Maybe you did it unconsciously? I mean, hobbits don’t actually live for two hundred years, you know? I’ve got maybe another fifty left in me, a little more if I take after my maternal grandfather but about a hundred is standard for hobbits. How long do dwarves, sorry ‘dwarrows’ live? You’ve a little grey here and there, but you don’t exactly look like you’re getting past it or anything.”

“Standard life span, barring violent death, accident or epidemic, is somewhere between two hundred and fifty and three hundred and fifty years.” Thorin replied. “And physically, we don’t start to decline until our last decade.”

“So, how old is Balin then?” Eames asked, a bit staggered.

“I’m seventeen years older than Balin.” Thorin said, with a hint of humour arching his eyebrow. “And before you ask, I am the oldest dwarf in the company. Kíli is the youngest, and he is twenty-seven years older than you.”

“Kili is seventy-seven?” Eames could feel his mouth gaping open in what was likely a very unattractive manner. He closed it, hearing his teeth click together.

“Aye.” Thorin responded with a sigh. “He doesn’t technically reach his majority for another couple of years, but his brother was coming and if I’d tried to leave him at home he would have followed on his own. They’re good lads, both of them, if a little impetuous and untried. Of course, by the time I had reached my majority the dragon had come, I had lost my grandfather, father, brother, and many other good friends at Azanulbizar, and I had been the de-facto leader of my people for twenty-seven years.”

“Oh, Thorin,” Eames whispered, an unfamiliar tightness in his chest. “I swear to you, I haven’t meddled at all. I would never put you through that kind of grief darling. Most especially not in the life directly after what happened to Vulcan.”

“I know.” Thorin sighed. “I don’t know if I even really thought you would, it’s just you’re the only one I can talk to about this, and blaming you is easier than blaming myself. The life span thing… I thought I’d sorted that out. Our two peoples were going have a similar number of years, if not exactly the same. Maybe twenty to fifty years either way. Not a difference that amounts to three life times. That must have been an error I made, and I took it out on you.”

“Do you know what would make you feel better?” Eames asked, letting his usual cheeky self peep through all the seriousness that had just been happening. Too much angsting on an empty stomach gave him indigestion and he still hadn’t had an opportunity to sample dwarf flesh. Well, not quite no opportunity since Bofur had given several indications he’d be up for a bit of fun, but Eames had been holding out for the majestic Thorin himself and now looked like a good time to collect.

Plus, Arthur knew just how he liked it, there was no need to start training someone up from new when an expert was just round the corner.

Thorin was currently giving him the same exasperated look Eames had seen him give Fíli and Kíli.

“Oh come on, you know you want to.” Eames wheedled, giving Thorin his best come-hither eyes. One of his fellow hobbits had told him that he looked like sex on legs when he did that, and given Arthur’s prudish nature, it was likely a very long time since he’d gotten laid. “How long has it been for you, anyway?”

“I’m a king, Eames, I mean Bilbo. I’ve got to be a little more careful than the average dwarf, you know.” Thorin was giving off a shifty vibe that Eames had only seen on a few occasions but never when Arthur had reached anything close to two hundred years old.

“Thorin… you’re not a virgin, are you?” Eames said it carefully, Arthur could be touchy about the subject.

“Of course not!” Thorin blustered, “I’ve had sex loads of times!”

“In this lifetime?” Eames asked sceptically. Arthur was a terrible liar.

“Well, no.” Thorin said defensively, as though he expected to be laughed at. Eames had never laughed at Arthur’s tendency to lack sexual experience so this meant that other dwarves, sorry, dwarrows, had been the ones to put that shame there. “There really hasn’t been time for that sort of thing. The dragon came when I was only twenty four, you know, and I was king in all but name by fifty three. Unless I wanted some random paramour to claim Consort status, it was best to…”

“I get it.” Eames sighed. “You know, the more I hear about how things have been for you, the guiltier I feel about my relatively happy life in the Shire. Still, nothing we can do about that now. For now we have to play the hands we’re holding and unless you think that I plan to wrest the dwarven throne from you? No? Then a bit of extracurricular fun shouldn’t be an issue. Come on.”

“Sorry, what?” Thorin was so cute when he was trying to deny his interest. Unfortunately for him, Eames was close enough to see that his pupils had dilated and that was enough for him.

“You, me. Some sort of comfy bed and that lovely lotion the elves have been leaving for ‘personal use’.”

“That lotion is for-” Thorin gave a choke, and then for the first time since Bilbo had known him, the dispossessed king gave a shout of laughter.

It made the hobbit feel all tingly, and he started pulling the laughing dwarf by one of his hands towards the room he’d been given.

The elves must have felt he might enjoy some privacy and the option of sleeping separately from the noisy dwarrows. Either that or they were giving him his own love nest, Eames didn’t really care which.

“Dori’s been using it on his face!” Thorin managed to gasp out, and then they were both laughing, almost falling over themselves as they rounded a corner and ended up smack dab in the middle of a group of extremely concerned looking dwarrows.

The concern changed to shock as they saw their perpetually grumpy leader chortling away with the company hobbit, a sight that was probably only slightly more surprising to them than if Thorin had been laughing with Elrond.

Thorin gave a dismissive wave of his hand, bursting out into fresh gales of laughter as he saw Dori amongst those gathered in front of him.

“Carry on, my friends! I have some important business to discuss with the hobbit. In private!”

Thorin allowed Bilbo to steer him towards some stairs a fair bit away from where the company had their quarters, through a door into a reasonable sized room with a lovely big bed in it.

“They gave you a bed?” Thorin stared at the sturdy but elegant looking four poster with slightly widened eyes.

Some of us were perfectly polite when we got here and not insulting at all.” Eames informed the dwarf standing before him, who was wearing far too much complicated clothing. “How long does it take you to get in and out of this gear each day, just for my own curiosity?”

“I don’t.” Thorin shrugged. “Not on the road, anyway, or not often. Neither do you, for that matter. But at home? Oh, about ten, maybe fifteen minutes, depending on the formality. Slightly less if I’m in a hurry and unconcerned with each items longevity.

“Well, hurry up!” Eames exclaimed, hurriedly shucking his jacket, breeches, shirt and small clothes. “I saw you in the fountain earlier, and I plan to take full advantage of the bed and the fact that we’re both relatively clean for one of the first times since you knocked on my poor vandalized door.”

Thorin was methodically undoing buckles here and there and Eames watched impatiently from his perch in the centre of the bed as that hard, strong looking, dwarven body was revealed to him, all up close and personal.

When Thorin was finally naked, he turned to the bed and spent some time gazing at Eames.

Eames felt a distinctly unfamiliar level of nerves. The body of a hobbit was quite different to that of a dwarf and this was the first time in a long time that Eames had come to their bed with less musculature that Arthur. Oh, Eames had a fair amount of muscle as far as hobbit standards went. He’d been told off by enough relatives over the years about his lack of padding to make him aware of that, but compared with Thorin?

But Thorin didn’t seem to see anything wrong with the naked body in front of him. In fact, given that particular reaction, he was quite happy indeed.

Eames was so horny he was trembling, his mouthwatering in anticipation of what was surely to come.

He was pleased to see that despite the height and body-type differences, Thorin wasn’t all that much better endowed than some of the larger hobbits Eames had been with. On a par with himself, actually, but then Bilbo had a reputation for being rather blessed in that area.

Not that Eames minded a huge cock, quite the contrary. It’s just that given the nature of their journey, anything over ‘big’ would make for too many difficulties later. There would never be enough time and privacy available for the care that was needed when one wanted to have a huge cock inside them, and while frotting together was all well and good, Eames was already making plans for the road ahead. Including taking some of this lovely lotion.

When Thorin touched him, Eames was unable to hold back his moan of pleasure at the feel of those work roughened fingers on his soft, hobbity skin. Eames loved big hands, and Thorin was running his two everywhere, dipping into all the secret places, finding out what made Eames sigh and gasp. Including the spot on his side that prompted a fit of the giggles and the area two centimetres below that triggered a full body quake.

Eames reached his own hands out to return the favour only to have both wrists captured and held gently to the bed above his head. The gentle domination was enough to bring Eames out in goosebumps. Arthur usually preferred to be the one on the receiving end of bed play like this and that small signal was enough to nearly send Eames through the stratosphere.

Judging by the smirk on that gorgeous bearded face, Arthur knew exactly what he was doing. A moment later, all that lovely (only slightly coarse) facial hair was being rubbed over Eames’ nipples. His involuntary jerking, pulling at the hand holding his wrists in place, made Thorin free him and sit back.

“This isn’t going to work.” Thorin rumbled, pulling Eames out of his shock and into dismay. When the dwarf king made his way back to his clothing, Eames finally found his voice again.

“Arthur, darling? What’s wrong? I thought it was going quite well?” There was a plaintive tone to his voice that Eames didn’t quite like but it was loo late now. At least he was getting a lovely view, as Thorin had bent over to pick his things up off the floor.

Arthur turned around from where he had been rummaging through his gear, and held up two long, supple leather belts of some kind.

Eames’ erection got harder, if that were even possible.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to last,” he said, swallowing convulsively as his whole body went into overdrive at the thought of being tied down by leather while Thorin fucked him. “You don’t happen to have a cock ring in there as well?”

“Sorry,” Thorin didn’t sound sorry at all the bastard, “if I’d known before we set out I could have made one. It would need to be a good size, though. You’re not small everywhere, are you?”

“What?” Eames replied intelligently. The thought of Thorin carefully crafting a cock ring with those skilled hands was doing things to his brain.

Arthur secured Eames’ wrists to either side of his head, attaching the leather to the two top posts, making sure that they were fitted snugly but not too tightly. There was enough slack so that Eames could either bring his hands together or rest his hands just above his ears but not enough so that he could touch his own shoulders.

“If you want me to let you go, just say so.” Thorin reminded him.

(Arthur had never been interested in pain and punishment as bed play (beyond the odd playful spanking), and previous attempts by Eames to introduce safe-words hadn’t gone well. If Eames asked Arthur to stop, Arthur stopped, regardless of what had been agreed beforehand.

“I just can’t continue if I hear you say ‘stop’.” Arthur had said, looking a bit shamefaced. Eames had smiled, and told him not to concern himself, there was still plenty they could do, and kissed him. Things had progressed from there, no safe-words required.)

Then Thorin’s hands and beard were everywhere and Eames was writhing on the soft sheets as Thorin’s facial hair was run over all his sensitive areas.

“I’m not going to last either,” Thorin muttered when he saw Eames’ steadily leaking cock “and since I want the first time I come to be inside you, this one is going to be quick. Hold on.”

And then those large fingers were working at Eames’ hole, the lotion easing the way as first one, then two, then three fingers entered him and got him ready.

Arthur took care to avoid brushing his prostate for which Eames was thankful. Holding off from his peak was difficult enough without that to cope with as well.

Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before Eames felt Thorin remove his fingers, leaving him empty for a few moments. He could hear the sound of Thorin lubing himself up and turned his head to look.

Thorin was staring at him hungrily as his hand slowly fisted his glistening cock. The sound of wet flesh was obscene in the otherwise silent room.

And then Thorin was back between Eames’ legs, and the head of his cock was nudging at his stretched hole, and Eames was whining in the back of his throat with want. He just wanted to feel it, feel filled up, wanted all the power and strength in front of him to be focused on thrusting inside him.

Thorin held him in place and began entering him in one smooth (but ever so slow) motion. So slow that Eames could feel every millimetre as the entrance to his hole was stretched further than it ever had been.

The heat and fullness inching inwards was incredible. The feeling was so intensely pleasurable that Eames didn’t even register the stress Thorin was under until he heard Thorin’s deep groan.

He looked up to see Thorin’s eyes were closed and his jaw was set. Eames would have said something but just then Thorin’s cock started rubbing past his prostate and his ability to think and form coherent sentences flew out the window as his balls drew up tight against his body and his whole body tightened with readiness.

After what seemed like an eternity, Thorin’s balls came to rest against the curve of Eames’ arse, and they both remained motionless for a long moment.

Eames was holding his orgasm back with an effort that had his fingernails digging into the skin of his palms and his heels into the muscular thighs they rested against.

Thorin opened his eyes and Eames had no idea what he saw, or what he was looking for, but he evidently found it.

Rather than withdraw and thrust, as Eames was expecting, Thorin pushed Eames’ knees towards his chest and then ground his pelvis hard against the exposed and filled hole, driving his cock in deeper and rubbing insistently along Eames’ internal walls.

It was enough to push him over the edge.

Eames’ whole body shuddered as his untouched cock jerked and released, his hole spasming around the hard cock deep inside him. Before he’d even finished coming, Thorin was giving short hard thrusts into him that only increased his pleasure. Then the cock inside him seemed to swell even more, and as he was coming down from his high, Eames heard Thorin’s strangled cry and felt him shudder.

A few more half-hearted thrusts and Eames could feel Thorin’s come overflowing out of his stretched hole. Thorin came to rest against him, kissing him for the first time since they had met in this strange and wonderful place. Eames wanted to run his hands through that long dark hair, but he was still tied to the bed.

Thorin raised his head to look at him, and Eames was glad to see that some of the darkness that had been lurking in those eyes had been banished. He was thinking of asking to be freed from his bonds when Thorin graced him with a rare smile and he was struck dumb for a moment.

“Are you comfortable enough to sleep like that?” Thorin asked in a deep rumble that managed to convey the sleepy satisfaction of a lion who had just eaten very well indeed.

“I could be…” Eames answered, curious and a little bit thrilled at the possessive glance roaming his sated body and coming to rest consideringly against his bound hands.

“I want to leave you like that all night,” came the low growl as big hands reached out to him again. “When I wake in a few hours, wanting you again, I want to just be able to slide on in and really give you the hard fucking I know you want. Maybe I’ll let you come, or maybe I’ll just spill inside you and then suck you off in the morning. Maybe I’ll have more energy than I know what to do with and I’ll bring you right to the peak and keep you there, writhing on my cock and maybe my fingers too, until you feel like you’re going to die if you can’t come. Then I’ll pull out and leave you hanging while I jerk off and come all over your throbbing cock.”

Eames’ body was too old to let him get hard again so soon after coming but those words in Thorin’s deep delicious voice, accompanied by the fleeting touch of those strong, calloused hands were enough to make his body give a valiant attempt, his hole contracting around Thorin’s softening cock (which seemed to be taking quite some time to recede).

He gave a sigh of disappointment as Thorin withdrew from his body. Then shifted up the bed a bit to get comfortable enough so that he could lie on his side. No way was he going to ask to be let loose, not with Thorin’s words echoing in his ears and thrumming all the way down to his toes.

Thorin did a quick clean up and then curled up behind the tired hobbit, two light fingers rubbing gently over the stretched and gaping hole he’d left behind so recently.

Eames couldn’t wait to get to sleep. He was very much looking forward to being woken up again. A smile crossed his face as he closed his eyes. He was probably going to be a bit sore in the morning but it was going to be so worth it.

v^v^v^v

The next morning, Thorin was back to being grumpy and standoffish but at least now Eames was aware of what was bothering him. And really, Thorin was that way with everyone, not just Eames. Even his nephews got the grumpy face when they wished their uncle good morning.

It might have been his imagination, it might have been wishful thinking, but Thorin looked slightly more relaxed than he had been.

Eames looked with satisfaction at the marks left on his wrists and enjoyed the twinges he got when sitting down. Whenever Thorin looked his way, he made sure to shift a little as if feeling discomfort and was delighted at the reaction it provoked.

“Are you not feeling well, Bilbo?” Kíli asked early in the day, watching with concern as Eames pulled a face upon sitting down to breakfast.

Bofur let out a great shout of laughter at that and refused to explain to the youngest dwarf what was so funny. Bofur had taken one look at Bilbo that morning and rolled his eyes good naturedly, only asking to be assured that ‘it wasn’t one of those poncy elves, Bilbo, please’.

Eames didn’t know what Thorin did or didn’t want known by the company, so he gave an evasive answer that didn’t reassure Bofur at all.

Thorin was sitting there, his face a lovely shade of soft pink as he tried to ignore the antics of his fellow dwarrows.

Luckily, Gandalf arrived and saved the dwarf king from his eagle-eyed advisor. Balin had put two and two together and was looking concerned.

Unluckily, Gandalf was coming to tell them that Lord Elrond’s scouts had discovered that the orcs they had encountered earlier were chasing Thorin and his party on the orders of ‘The Great White One,’ which could be either Azog or another of his line, all committed to the same task by their master, to rid middle earth of the Line of Durin. This caused a great deal of discussion regarding the route that had been chosen and the best way to stay ahead of such a large pursuing force.

A few days later, Thorin finally told their other companions that he and ‘the hobbit’ were knocking boots (Kíli said, ‘But Bilbo doesn’t wear boots!’ to the hilarity of the rest of them) and to mind their own business. By then only the youngest three hadn’t put together the absence of their leader and their burglar and come to their own conclusions. Mainly because the thought of Thorin engaging in sexual activities had never occurred to them, what with him being so old and all.

By the time Gandalf told them it was time to leave, Thorin had relaxed considerably and Bilbo was seriously thinking about naming himself Consort despite his previous comments to the contrary. Fucking a dwarf was amazing. Last night, Thorin had discovered how sensitive Eames hobbity ears were while Eames was simultaneously discovering that tugging at a certain part of Thorin’s beard had much the same effect. The sex was becoming more and more addictive.

Those leather straps of Thorin’s had come in handy indeed. It was a pity that they weren’t strong enough to be used on their owner. Unfortunately, Thorin was far too strong and would likely break them unintentionally. Thorin had spoken of crafting some fur lined steel manacles when Erebor had been retaken and Eames just could not wait.

Their trip over the mountains was interrupted by some stone giants playing a game where they threw hulking great big stones at each other.

Eames was entranced. How in carbons name had unimaginative Arthur come up with all of this? The variety and complexity of life on this world was astounding. When he was a faunt, he’d heard tales of the stone giants. He’d thought them a myth but with this sight before him, he was now prepared to, at any time, come across walking, talking, trees. It was like all his birthdays had come at once!

Bilbo was still in a state of euphoria due to the rather good seeing to he’d given Thorin only a few hours ago, so rather than huddle under the overhang with the others, he stepped out and waved his hands above his head, calling out to the large figures as loudly as he could,“Hie! You, over there! You! Yes, you!”

As unlikely as it was, one of the great figures either heard or saw him! The nearest giant called something out over the valley and the stone throwing stopped for a moment as the hulking great figure made its heavy way towards the group on the path.

“Why, if it isn’t one of Mistress Yavanna’s little hobbits! Hello, little hobbit! And in the company of the Master’s dwarves, oh, they will be pleased to see everyone getting along together!” This close up, the giants eyes were kind, and it’s voice echoed through the air like stone upon stone.

Eames was thrilled, and smiled his biggest, best smile at the huge creature. “Hello, mister giant! My friends and I are travelling to the other side of the mountains, you see. There’s a group of orcs and wargs hunting us and we were hoping to keep ahead of them, but it’s quite dangerous while you lot are throwing your rocks around. Since we don’t wish to be eaten or squashed, I don’t suppose you could help us across?”

“Bilbo!” hissed Thorin angrily from behind him, “What do you think you’re doing?”

Eames just flapped his hand behind him in a dismissive manner, and waited for the giant to have another brief conversation with his friends.

“Come, little hobbit, little dwarves, my kin and I will carry you to the other side. We were playing mah-strunk because we had nothing better to do, but once we’ve left you we might go and see if we can find these orcs you spoke of!” It gave a booming laugh that echoed off the peaks like thunder. “The Master and Mistress will be pleased with us, indeed! We’ve missed you, little hobbits. Life is lonelier now that your people have left us.”

Soon more of the giants approached and they were being carried through the storm, cradled in large hands. They travelled for what seemed like hours. When the giants put them down, they were well on the other side of the mountains, at the edge of a valley that led towards a swift river with a large stone bridge fording it.

A number of the dwarrows were looking rather green about the gills for some reason, and Thorin (who had been escorted separately from Bilbo) was looking particularly murderous.

“There you go, little hobbit, there’s your bridge. My kin and I are off now to find some orcs! And maybe some goblins too. We have left our duties sadly idle in the time since your people left us. Perhaps it is time to begin again. Goodbye, little hobbit, and the Makers blessings on your journey.”

Before Eames could say anything (he’d taken the opportunity of the travelling to have a little nap, to the horror of all three of the Ri brothers and Bombur who had shared his travel accommodations, and it left him a little slow) the giants all raised their faces to the sky and let out an echoing cry that made Eames very glad that he wasn’t an orc or a goblin that night.

The ground shuddered with their footsteps as they moved away, back towards the mountains. Eames turned from watching them go, only to find that he was the focus of thirteen pairs of eyes. One pair of which was very angry indeed.

“What?” he said with his best innocent look. “We’re out of the mountains, aren’t we? We’ve actually made pretty good time, I think, and those stone giants are going off to look for orcs and goblins, and that can only be a good thing. Right?”

“You could have gotten us all killed!” Thorin shouted, eyes flashing in rage. “You had no idea those giants would be friendly! And yes, we made brilliant time, thank you Master Hobbit! Now, if only we had any idea where on middle earth we were!”

“Do your people not have legends of the stone giants?” Bilbo asked curiously. As a faunt, he’d lapped up all the stories his mother and all his Took family could find. “They were said to be friends of my people, when we lived in this area, before the land was poisoned. I didn’t think they were real until tonight but I was sure they wouldn’t hurt us. Not on purpose, anyway. They might’ve hurt us accidentally if they didn’t know we were there, so of course I called out to them. They seemed rather pleased to see us, don’t you think?”

The dwarrows continued to look dumbfounded. Thorin continued to glare.

“And as for where we are, well, you heard the giant. That bridge once belonged to my people, and I know exactly where we are.”

v^v^v^v

They had been following the path that Bilbo had pointed out for almost a day when Gandalf caught up with them, flying on the back of one of the great Eagles of Manwë. The wizard regarded them all suspiciously but said nothing until they had settled down that night. Over dinner the Wizard demanded to be told how they had made it this far so quickly.

To say that he was shocked by their tale of the stone giants would be a gross understatement but he soon recovered and took the opportunity to rib the still fuming Thorin.

“I told you that he had a great deal more to offer than any of us knew. How right I was! The only question now, is which way you will choose to take? You are off route by some way and far closer to the Old Forest Road than the Elf-path you had originally been planning to travel.”

Arthur knew he was glowering at everyone but he just couldn’t help it. This day had not gone to plan, not at all! He was bad with unexpected change, Eames knew that!

He didn’t recall making any stone giants, and he had no idea what or who these ‘makers’ it referred to were, other than the mystical Valar? He had believed in them wholeheartedly until his awakening. After that he had excused them as mere inventions of the people of the land like most religious figures. (People who worshipped Order or Chaos were actually right, but that was more good luck than good management.)

And they were huge! So incredibly big that they could have crushed the lot of them with very little effort indeed.

Okay, so maybe it had all worked out, and they saved over two weeks’ of travel and rations. And maybe the Old Forest Road was actually a much safer path than the one they had been going to take, and Gandalf assured him that they could buy or hire a vessel to convey them by way of the River Running all the way to Long Lake. That wasn’t the point!

Bilbo came to sit next to him all big eyes and apologetic looks but Arthur wasn’t having any of it! It was all very well for him to say ‘but I knew it would be alright darling’ when Arthur knew perfectly well that the truth was that Bilbo had been flying by the seat of his pants the entire time!

He was always doing it! More often than not it worked out for him. In fact, Arthur couldn’t remember the last time when Eames’ risk taking didn’t ultimately leave them in a better position than they started from. That just made the whole thing more infuriating!

And no big eyes, or sad looks, or gentle hands stroking through his hair and beard were going to improve his temper.

“Would you like to share these mushrooms I found?” Okay, maybe the mushrooms would improve his temper.

One thing hobbits and dwarrows had in common was a love of mushrooms.

v^v^v^v

They made camp for several days before entering Mirkwood. They spent their days roaming far and wide, ensuring they were prepared for three weeks without foraging, for Gandalf had warned them not to eat anything from the darkened forest and not to stray from the past lest they be lost.

“The Sindarin Elves have treaties with all races to allow travellers to pass unmolested so long as they do not stray.” Gandalf said, his face and voice heavy with implication. “However, even as you dwarves have no love of elves, they have no love of dwarves. You will probably be watched. So stay on the path!”

“Are you not coming with us, Gandalf?” Bilbo asked, his quick mind reading between the lines.

Arthur figured it out moments later. Why would he need to make such a strong impression on them now if he would be travelling with them? Really, the wizard spent more time flitting about on wizard business than as a member of the company. No wonder he declined being named as the fourteenth member.

“I am afraid I have business elsewhere for a time.” Gandalf replied, sounding very sorry indeed. “I will catch up with you before you get to Erebor. I must counsel you, Thorin, not to enter Erebor until I am with you. It’s most important!”

Arthur wasn’t going to promise anything. “I understand, Gandalf. Believe me, I’m in no hurry to get up close and personal with a dragon.”

Gandalf looked at him with a curious expression on his face, and Arthur realised that he needed to be a little more careful how he worded things with the wizard around. Tharkûn was altogether too inquisitive and had spent too much time around Thorin before Arthur had awakened.

It seemed to take forever to make their way through the gloomy forest, and Mirkwood seemed a fitting name. As they progressed, the company grew quieter, and even the more boisterous members huddled together in their family groups.

Bilbo shoved his way unceremoniously in with Arthur and his sister-sons. Neither Fíli nor Kíli seemed to have any objections, allowing the small hobbit to braid their hair and beards in the way their mother did. Arthur chose not to think about the implications of that.

They met no other travellers on the path, and though Arthur could feel eyes watching him at all times from the shadows, they remained unmolested as Gandalf had promised.

Their food was enough to last them but the water rationing was very strict. Dwalin had been the one to take that duty when it looked like there would be arguments. Arthur knew he could trust Dwalin’s sense of honour and didn’t let the matter concern him past getting his daily allowance.

When they finally made it to the small village that stood where the River Running intersected the plains and Mirkwood, the entire company was more than ready to be out from under the trees.

Arthur let Bilbo and Balin do the negotiating for a vessel to take them downriver, and it wasn’t long before a man by the name of Rolen had ushered them aboard his craft, a supply vessel bound for Lake-Town.

The first few hours on the river was spent back under the trees. They were all grateful when they emerged back out and under the starry sky again.

Arthur made sure that two of the company would be awake at all times and then allowed himself to rest properly for the first time since entering the cursed woods.

It took them two days by river to get to the Long Lake, a journey that would have taken well over a week on foot. Arthur refused to give Bilbo any credit for the ease and swiftness of the journey, and for their entrance to the area surrounding Erebor weeks before Durin’s day.

Their arrival in Esgaroth was an eye opening experience.

Arthur had spent the last hundred and seventy years focussed on what his people had lost to the dragon, and on how the Elven King Thranduil had betrayed them in the aftermath. He had given little to no thought about the plight of the Men of Dale or what had become of them.

Lake-Town was a miserable looking place with signs of extreme poverty everywhere the eye could see. There were a number of men going about in some kind of uniform, but they seemed more concerned with being officious than keeping the streets peaceful and safe. While Thorin’s company was still some distance away, they were clearly able to see how the guards ignored any ruckus that was of no interest to them.

The townspeople treated the town guards with fear, rather than respect, and that told its own tale.

The arrival of thirteen dwarves and a hobbit on the scene caused a great commotion. The whole group was quickly brought before The Master, who was clearly the ruler of these people.

Arthur wanted to condemn him for the way he feasted while his subjects went hungry but there was a small voice in his head that sounded rather like Jim Kirk. It reminded him of how things had been in Erebor under a gold-mad Thrór. Of how he himself had always had plenty while other dwarves were left to eke out a pitiful existence not five hundred lengths away.

Since his awakening, Arthur had found many things he had taken for granted in the past required reconsideration. It had hurt more than just his pride to reflect that his upbringing had so coloured viewpoint as to make him an unreliable narrator when it came to events that contained more than just his own people.

Some of Bilbo’s comments had forced him to see that Thrór’s relationship with Thranduil was damaged irreparably long before Smaug came, and that the error had been on Thrór’s side. When he tried to recall the plea his father had sent the Elvenking while their people had been in their greatest need, he realised that he only had his gold-mad grandfather’s word for what had passed between the two rulers. It wasn’t beyond Thrór to demand the Elvenking’s aid in retaking the mountain rather than the healing aid he later spoke of to Thorin.

But Thorin had been a young lad of only twenty four at the time, in deep shock over the tragedy that had befallen his people, and with a father rendered incapable by his grief. The elves had been an easy scapegoat for Thrór to point him towards, and Thorin had taken the bait and run with it. His hatred of elves had been nurtured for so long, it had taken weeks of careful prodding before he was even able to admit that he might have been wrong. That Thrór might have been lying then, as he had lied so many other times.

Despite his repugnance at both The Master’s excesses and the greed that had lit his eyes at the thought of getting his hands on the gold of Erebor, Arthur accepted his offer of hospitality. After all, there was still almost a month before Durin’s day and it was time his company made some plans about how to deal with the dragon, if he still lived.

They settled into the lodgings given to them, and for the first week went out to see what information they could pick up with regards to dragon sightings, legends and whatnot. Some of the younger inhabitants of the town clearly thought that Smaug was a monster created by their parents to scare them into good behaviour. There were others, however, the oldest of the men to be found in the alehouses, who could describe the dragon in detail as they remembered seeing it in the sky when they were small boys.

Thorin’s company carefully repeated all such stories to their leader but it was the duo of Bilbo and Nori that came up with the true gold, so to speak.

“There is a fisherman living in the town with his family, a man known as Bard. He is the heir of Giron, the last Lord of Dale, whose wife and son escaped the carnage of the dragon and fled to Esgaroth.” Nori reported.

“He’s considered to be a good man, if somewhat grim,” Bilbo said. “He’s known to give the less saleable but still edible parts of his catch away for free to the poor and hungry. The Master keeps a careful watch on him at all times, in the fear that he will rally the people to rise up against him.”

“He’s not the type.” Nori added. “He’s not a happy man, and he’s not blind to the injustice of this place, but he seems inured to the situation and is resigned more than resentful.”

“How could you discover all this in such a short time?” Arthur asked, hoping that Nori’s answer would give more insight than Eames’ usual ‘I just can’.

Nori shrugged. “You just need to ask the right people the right questions,” he replied, “and then know when to stop asking, so that they don’t find you threatening.”

The idea of asking for Bard’s assistance with this last part of the quest was discussed at length. In the end it was decided that given The Master’s paranoia over the man, it might be best to leave things as they were until after Erebor had been taken again.

“And then we can speak about the reconstruction of Dale.” Arthur said to the clear surprise of his oldest advisers.

“This is a change of heart!” Balin remarked, only slightly in jest.

“I have been blind, and a fool.” Arthur replied, deciding that it was best to get this out. “Our people were not the only ones affected by the dragons desire for the hoarded gold of Erebor. It is our duty to put to rights as much as possible of what Thrór’s greed brought this whole region to.”

The majority of dwarves looked dumbfounded but Fíli and Kíli were gazing upon Thorin with pride and familiar hero worship. It made Arthur uncomfortable but at least this time their admiration was based upon an admirable plan, rather than the idiotic one where thirteen dwarves and a hobbit would take on a fully mature dragon.

“Well said!” Bilbo said, clapping his hands together enthusiastically. “Now, before we continue, is anyone up for a spot of lunch?”

v^v^v^v

When Durin’s day came, Thorin’s company had arrived at the mountain. It was Bilbo who worked out the riddle hidden in the instructions and, as they looked into the dark passageway that opened up before them, Arthur was all of a sudden aware that this might be the last he was to see of Eames in this lifetime.

The twelve other dwarrows rather obviously turned their backs to allow their king and his hobbit some privacy to make what farewells they chose. They were still in earshot, though, so Arthur could not say the words that he all of a sudden wanted to say.

Bilbo just grabbed him by the braids on each side of his face and kissed him noisily. “I will return.” he said before smiling cheekily, “And I’m a much better kisser than Uhura ever was.”

Then he was gone. Leaving Arthur to try and deflect the enquiries of some very interested dwarrows as to who ‘Uhura’ could be and how both the king and the hobbit knew the same person.

v^v^v^v

When Bilbo returned some hours later, he came empty handed. The dwarrows groaned, but Arthur recognised the look in the hobbits eyes and he just knew that Eames had thought up some outlandish plan.

“What if,” Bilbo began, even as he tore into the food that Bombur had handed to him upon his exit of the tunnel, “we could trick the dragon into staying here and guarding the gold and your people? It’d mean taking a much smaller cut than the contract offered us, but on the other hand, no incineration or evisceration and only minimal lacerations, if we play our cards right.”

“Do you suggest that we bargain with the creature that killed so many of my family and friends?” Arthur asked in his most thunderous voice while his companions stepped back slightly as if hoping he wouldn’t notice them. “That we attempt to befriend the creature that was the instrument of my people’s suffering for over a century and a half?”

“Yes?” Bilbo answered not intimidated in the slightest.

“I thought that’s what you meant.” Arthur said relaxing back into his usual conversational tones. He heard several sighs of relief like a small chorus of very quiet wind instruments.

He sat and listened while Bilbo outlined his plan. It was a ridiculous plan. It counted on the dragon being willing to share the mountain and treasure with dwarves and agreeing to spend his aggression against any who came as foes against the mountain. Like orcs and goblins.

“Look, it will work!” Bilbo said when the majority of the dwarrows expressed their belief that their burglar was in actuality a lunatic and that there was no way such a plan could ever succeed.

Arthur remained silent. He agreed with his fellows. The plan was insane. Bilbo was insane to even think of it, let alone give the idea of it working any credence.

If Arthur had merely been Thorin Oakenshield, son of Thrain son of Thrór, he would have no doubt dismissed the whole thing out of hand and that would have been the end of it.

But Arthur had been adventuring with Eames for several thousand lifetimes now (okay, 5,629 since they made the agreement, but who was counting?) and this was just the sort of thing that Eames excelled at.

“All right then, Master Baggins,” he said finally. “You may try your luck with the dragon. While you’re there, you may wish to enquire about the properties of the Arkenstone. It has recently come to my attention that my grandfather only succumbed to the gold-sickness after the stone was found and displayed over his throne. I would be interested to hear if there is any correlation.”

“Great!” Bilbo said, giving them all a beaming, Eamsian smile. “I told him I could get you to listen to reason! Thanks for lunch, I’ll see you all a bit later.” And then he disappeared off again, up the tunnel.

Arthur just shook his head at the looks he was getting. They no doubt thought him mad, but he had seen this happen before. It would all be fine. His people would have a home again, and so long as they abided by whatever agreement Bilbo was cooking up with the dragon, they would remain safe from orcs, goblins, and other dragons.

He couldn’t wait to see Gandalf’s face when he arrived.

v^v^v^v

Story Main Page / Part One / Part Three

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