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An Unexpected Journey of Body and Mind

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Bilbo Baggins was thoroughly content with his life. He spent his days enjoying the sun sitting on his bench smoking his pipe, or sitting by his desk writing or doodling away to pass the time (he loved drawing trees the most, with all their little details making one big. beautiful whole). Sometimes he even had friends and family over for dinner but truth be told he tried to avoid his relatives as much as he could (especially the Sackville-Baggins branch of his family), because then the conversations would always revert back to if he had finally found a nice girl, well woman really, to settle down with. His answer always was and always will be “no” and depending on who was visiting their reactions would either be sad or disappointed because he wouldn’t be producing any offspring anytime soon, confused because they couldn’t understand why he couldn’t just find a nice girl (woman) to fall in love with or just marry for appearances sake. Others, such as the aforementioned Sackville-Bagginses for example (the only example), would be relieved as all of his family heirlooms that he received through him being the only child of an only child could possibly fall to them if only they were nice enough to him.

Sometimes he contemplated just marrying a random girl (woman) and having a child with her for appearances sake (and possibly to stop the dreaded Sackville-Bagginses getting what they want). But whenever he thought about it seriously it just felt wrong. For him to marry someone he didn’t feel strongly about and for her to have to stay with someone who could never give her what everyone deserves. Someone who truly loves her. Sometimes he wishes he could love a woman just to get rid of the guilt of never being able to give everyone what they want. For him to have a nice normal life with a loving woman by his side and with no unnecessary complications. But that was never going to be his life. Could never be his life. That wasn’t what he was destined for.

Even though he has always known that deep down he has been ignoring those thoughts lately. If he is fine with the way his life is now why should he change anything. He doesn’t mind having his friends and family over every once in a while. He enjoys sitting at his desk and letting his mind wander. He might even say he loved sitting on his bench smoking his pipe basking in the last sunlight of the day. Why should he risk disrupting his current comfort with a frivolous search for adventure.

After a long day of arguing with himself he decided to clear his mind on his trusted bench. And it was going quite well up until an unexpected visitor turned up and started philosophising about the simple greeting of ‘good morning’. As he had no idea who this stranger was, he told him to leave him alone and made a move to go back inside where he was safe from any more variations of possible interpretations of good bloody morning. It was much too early for this.

“Don’t you remember me, Bilbo Baggins?”, he asked, almost sounding offended.

“Should I?”

“I had hoped you’d at least recognise me, my name is Gandalf.”

“Gandalf? Yes of course,” his voice now much lighter in tone than mere seconds ago, “weren’t you the one with all those magnificent fireworks at my great aunt’s birthday party all those years ago? My my, that was a lovely evening.”

“If I remember correctly you were the young boy who so desperately wanted go exploring in the woods but wasn’t allowed to. So the little rascal snuck off when no one was looking.”

“Oh yes I remember that. I was such a massive trouble for my parents. They never could keep me in one place.”

“You were merely an adventurous child”, Gandalf added, remembering how he was the one to notice he was gone and tried to find him, “and as far as I can recall we found you up the tallest tree in the darkest part of the forest.”

Bilbo smiled as he thought of that memory. I’ve always been an excellent climber, he thought to himself. There were so many fascinating things that night. Creepy-crawlies everywhere and the strangest types of mushrooms he had ever come across. But that smile quickly soured. He didn’t want to be reminded of what he was trying to forget for the last 40 odd years. He didn’t want to be reminded of all the fun he could’ve had if he’d just never suppressed his desire to see all the amazing things the world could show him, if he’d been allowed to explore at his heart’s desire.

“It has been nice talking to you but I must now ask you to leave,” Bilbo said as he stood up to collect his things from the bench, “good morning,” he added hastily, hurrying up the stairs to avoid another second with the almost-stranger standing by his gate; to avoid all those seductive memories he was reminding him of. He did not need that right now. Not when he's got a family dinner to prepare for.

Chapter Text

A few days after that encounter Bilbo had almost forgotten about it but only because he had no idea that it was by no means a mere coincidence.

As he tucked into a nice light meal he prepared for himself he heard a knock at the door.

That’s odd, he thought to himself, I’m not expecting anyone until at least next week. Unless he wrote down the wrong date. No, his annual family dinner definitely isn’t for another 5 days. So who could be at the door. Hopefully this poor sod is knocking on the wrong door and he’s actually looking for a different door to knock on. Or he’s just lost his way and all he needs is for bilbo to tell him which way to go. After calming himself down from that brief panic he went and opened the door to see what it was he was needed for.

“Dwalin, at your service”, the strange tall man announced.

“Bilbo Baggins, at yours…”, he trailed off as Dwalin entered his home and hung up his thick cloak on a hook. Without asking.

“So where’s the feast?”

“What feast?”, bilbo was starting to wonder if this very large man was just pulling his leg. Or maybe if he was just plain mad.

“Aah yes there it is”, he said triumphantly as he spotted Bilbo’s dinner.

---------------

Both men were sitting at the table, but only Dwalin was eating. Bilbo didn’t have the heart to tell him that he wasn’t prepared for visitors. And that he was eating his meal he prepared for himself and only himself to eat.

“Is there any more?”, Dwalin asked. Bilbo looked around his kitchen and spotted a bowl full of rolls of bread.

“Here you go”, he said, handing it to his unexpected guest, but not before taking one of the rolls and hiding it behind his back.

As soon as Dwalin started eating his bread rolls there was a knock at the door.

“Ah, finally, this must be the others.”

“Others, what others?” Bilbo’s head shot up. Why do there have to be others? Bilbo went to open the door, fearing what was waiting for him on the other side.

“Balin, at your service”, the new, slightly shorter (but still taller than Bilbo) and significantly older looking man said. Well at least he looks a little kinder than the other one. Bilbo gestured to him to come in. He also hung up his cloak on a hook.

“Balin!”, the first visitor shouted from the kitchen. Bilbo couldn’t tell if he had food in his mouth or if he was just mumbling. He really hoped it was the latter.

“My Gods, its so good to see your ugly mug again, Dwalin.” Both men walked towards each other and at first Bilbo thought they were going in for a hug, but no they headbutted each other. Who are these people and why are they in my house???

“Were going to be needing more food in here, Bilbo! I see more visitors.” And as if by magic there was a knock at the door. How many more are there?

As it turns out two

“Fili.”

“Kili.”

“At your service”, they say in unison. Well these two don’t seem so bad.

“You must be Mr. Boggins.” Never mind.

“No, sorry, you’ve come to the wrong house. There’s no Mr. Boggins here”

“Has it been cancelled?”, the one called Kili asked with a clear note of panic in his voice.

“No one told us.”, the other one said, notably less worried and more doubtful.

“No, nothings been cance- “, Bilbo try to close the door on them but Kili put his hand in the way.

“Well that’s alright then”, he said, barging in. The other one, Fili, quietly apologized his companion’s behaviour and followed his friend into the hallway. They both took their cloaks off and hung them on a hook each. Bilbo was now officially out of hooks. The blond one asked him where to put all of his knives (and there were a lot of knives), but Bilbo couldn’t think of anywhere so he just took them and planned on looking for somewhere appropriate.

“So where’s the feast?”, Fili asked. Bilbo didn’t know how to respond, so he just led them to the pantry. As soon as they saw all the food he had they just took any and everything that took their fancy with no regard for what they were actually allowed to eat. Not that Bilbo would’ve been able to tell them that he didn’t want them eating any of his food. How they hadn’t noticed this is anybody’ guess. Just as Bilbo stopped Fili from taking the bowl of his precious truffles into the kitchen, he heard a knock at the door. He temporarily put Fili’s knives down on the chest nearest to the door before opening it.

“I have had enough. If this is another one of you I swear I'll kill him and then myself”, he muttered to himself as he went to open the door, “I’m sorry there’s no m-“, he started but was rudely interrupted by a bunch of large men falling onto his floor almost crushing him. He was speechless. After everyone had gotten up and taken their cloaks off, there wasn’t anywhere left to hang them, so they just put them on whatever surface they could find. Bilbo thought he could mention that they could hang them on the backs of their chairs. But then he spotted the man responsible for all this.

Gandalf.

If Bilbo didn’t know any better, he would’ve said that Gandalf’s face looked apologetic.

Chapter Text

“What’s your name, Halfling? Mine’s Bofur”, one of the new arrivals asked.

“Hobbit”, Bilbo corrected him.

“Hobbit?”, another one whispered to the one standing next to him.

“Sounds a bit silly if you ask me”, the one standing next to him replied, equally quiet.

“No, you misunderstood me. I’m not a Halfling, I’m a Hobbit.”

“What’s a Halfling then if its not a Hobbit?”, the one called Bofur asked, confused but seemingly genuinely curious to know the answer. A few others murmured in agreement.

“Halfling is just the name Big Folk have given us, but we don’t like being called half a being. I’m not half anything, I’m a full Hobbit. It’s not my fault everyone else is so big”, Bilbo added. To his relief the new arrivals chuckled at his last comment. Big Folk have been known to not take kindly to the suggestion that a word they thought was harmless could actually be seen as offensive. “My name is Bilbo Baggins.”

“Oh yes, Baggins. I remember now. My name’s Bombur, pleasure to finally meet you.” Well that makes a change at least. “Has the feast already begun without us.” Never mind.

Everyone else introduced themselves after that and Bilbo wasn’t sure if he could remember them all of them. Or indeed if he heard them right. They definitely weren’t like any Hobbitish names he’s ever come across. Presumably because they weren’t Hobbits. He’d already ruled that out from the start because, well, they had beards. But that didn’t exactly narrow it down. Bilbo also knew these couldn’t be Humans as those would be taller. The same height as Gandalf in fact. He couldn’t come up with anything that made sense.

“They’re quite a merry bunch, don’t you think”, Gandalf said to Bilbo after all the newest guests entered the kitchen to greet those already settled in. From where they were they could hear a lot of cheering and greeting and also some smacking. Bilbo presumed they were headbutting eachother. Again? What is wrong with these people? Merry bunch my arse.

“Gandalf, what’s going on? Who are these people?”, Bilbo demanded. He’d had enough of all this mystery. “And what are they doing in my home?”, he added in a slightly more hushed tone.

“Oh, you’ll find out soon enough, my dear Bilbo.” If it weren’t or the laws of this land Bilbo would surely have strangled Gandalf by now. That and the slight height difference.

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Bilbo’s pantry was getting more and more empty by the second and there was nothing he could do about it. That doesn’t mean he didn’t try though. But all his attempts only led to him finding out really disturbing thing about his strange, unusually tall guests. For example, one of them regularly eats whole blocks of cheese in one go. And they all apparently enjoy throwing their food around the room just to see if someone can catch it. They obviously have no qualms about walking on tables either. And one of them doesn’t even know that croquet and crochet aren’t the same thing. After Bilbo came to the conclusion that nothing could be done to stop these visitors, intruders really, from doing anything and everything they wanted he sat on a rickety chair in a corner of his kitchen and zoned out as they made this room messier and messier and messier. The weirdest part was that Gandalf didn’t seem to mind it. It even looked like he enjoyed it.

Occasionally one of them would get up from the table to get something else from the pantry and it felt like everyone shouted their orders at the one standing up. Most times all items could be found without assistance or even permission. This was not one of those times.

“Bilbo!”, Balin shouted into the kitchen from the hallway, “Where’s your drinks cabinet? I can’t seem to find it.”

Bilbo debated whether or not he should lie. He didn’t want to lose his wine to these people. They wouldn’t truly be able to appreciate it. But something in him decided he wanted to be honest with his visitors. So he went to show Balin his special secret Alcohol Cabinet. He never thought another living being would ever get to see it, especially not one he’s only just met. But something about the kind, old man made him feel like his collection wouldn’t go to waste. Even if it wasn’t just him drinking it.

“Well, well, well. Don’t you have a nice selection”, Balin said to himself while admiring all the differently shaped bottles with liquids of various colours inside them. “What would you recommend, laddie?”

“Well, that depends on what youre looking for. Something strong? Fruity? Something that tastes terrible but gets the job done? Or simply ale?”, Bilbo asked, mentioning any type of beverage he has. “To tell you the truth I’ve never realised how much I have in here.”

“I believe Fili and Kili have already found your ale, for which I feel I must apologize for on their behalf, but you wouldn’t happen to have any wine, would you? I’m sure Dori would like that.”

Bilbo went to grab a bottle from one of the lower shelves. “This one should do it. It’s almost the same age as me, you know.” Bilbo chuckled to himself. Was he really going to give his oldest bottle of wine to people he’s only just met? “Anything else?” Yes, he was.

“You mentioned something strong, didn’t you? A few of us would enjoy something strong, I’m sure.”

“I should have something somewhere.” He thought for a moment and then lunged into the dustiest part of his little collection. “I’d almost forgotten I had this. But I must give you the same warning I was. Never drink it neat. Not just because of its strength, but also because the taste is quite frankly terrible. I saw what it did to my good friend Gilbe-“

“My dear Bilbo, we dwarves are used to drinking Shelkel. I think we can handle this”, Balin said before leaving to go back to the kitchen to show his companions what he had found.

 

Oh theyre dwarves. That explains a lot.

 

Bilbo quickly followed Balin to make sure they used the right glasses for their drinks. He didn’t want them doing it wrong. Not if he had anything to do with it.

“It’s so nice to be able to have a proper drink again. I haven’t had one in ages”, the one with the ridiculous hat, Bofur, Bilbo reminded himself, told anyone who was listening. “The last time must’ve been ooh about three years ago now. Bombur you remember your 162nd birthday party, don’t you.” Bilbo definitely wanted to hear this story. “When Adad got you some of that Shelkel from the Iron Hills. And we finished the whole bottle that very night. The ridiculous things we…-“ he stopped talking.

“Bilbo.” Fili said as Bilbo turned to Bofur to see what made him stop. “Don’t move.”

“What?” Bilbo lowered his voice, “What is it?”, he asked fearing the worst.

“There’s a spider on your arm”, Kili replied, trying to sound calm as to not upset Bofur any more than he already was. Bilbo noticed he had lost a lot of the colour from his cheeks and his face was frozen.

Bilbo looked down and, unsurprisingly, there was a spider. Slightly larger than ones he usually gets around his hobbit-hole but not massive by any means. It must’ve been in my drinks cabinet, he thought to himself as he took the spider into his hand and started to walk out of the kitchen.

“Can someone open the door for me, please?”, he shouted when he realised he couldn’t open it with this spider in his hands. A moment later Balin appeared by his side and reached for the door. As Bilbo put the spider on the large shrub just outside his door Balin interrupted the silence.

“I’m very sorry about that, he’s never particularly liked spiders.”

“That seems like a bit of an understatement to me.”

“I guess you’re right”, he added with a chuckle.

“It’s fine, really, I’m used to it. I have a friend who reacts the same way whenever he sees a bee.”

“Do you also always carry bees away when needed?”

“Well bees are harder, because they just fly about, but I do try to. Don’t you try to carry away spiders?”

“Most of the time one of us just squishes it, to be honest, just to get rid of it as quickly as possible.”

Bilbo nodded in understanding as they neared his kitchen again. There he could see Bofur looking slightly better than just before, but still rattled. Fili was sitting beside him with a comforting hand on his shoulder.

“It’s been taken care of”, Balin told the room as an answer to Bofur’s fearful look in their direction. His whole body relaxed as soon as he heard that.

“I think he might need that drink now, Mr. Boggins”, Kili said, trying to brighten up everyone’s mood.

"You know what, I think you're right", Bilbo said as he filled one of his glasses to the brim with his strongest drink.

Chapter Text

Even after a hefty swig of Bilbo’s strongest drink it took a while for Bofur to be back to his usual jovial self, but that was to be expected. It isn’t exactly easy to recover from seeing the thing that absolutely terrifies you. One thing, however, was not expected. And that was that Bilbo, after having a glass or two of his wine, started joining his dwarven visitors’ conversations and actually started to agree with Gandalf. They were quite a merry bunch. If a little odd, but Bilbo wasn’t about to complain about people being a little odd. Not with his reputation.

The things he found out about them now were less disturbing by far than the thing he found out before. He now knows that Dori truly appreciates his wine, probably even more than Bilbo or any of his family and friends would’ve done if he’d waited for a special occasion to open it. Possibly even more than Gandalf, which is saying something. Fili and Kili are both excellent entertainers and can coordinate any kind of trick with only a look (most notably standing on opposite sides of the table and juggling various vegetables back and forth and seemingly without warning throw an item at an unsuspecting spectator). Both Bifur and Bofur were toymakers by trade, though have not always been as evidenced by the bit of metal sticking in the former’s head (from an axe apparently), whereas their cousin Bombur was a cook. As for the others, well, at least he was starting to get the hang of their names.

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“Bilbo, can I have a brief word with you? If you wouldn’t mind”, Gandalf asked, interrupting the conversation he was having with Balin about nothing in particular.

“Sure”, Bilbo said hesitantly, looking at Balin just to make sure he was also alright with cutting this conversation short, ”what’s the matter?”

“Oh no, nothing’s the matter. But could we take it into the hallway? It’s a bit too cramped in here for me.” At that Bilbo got up from where he was sitting at the table, looked at Balin in apology and followed Gandalf.

Upon seeing a seemingly very anxious wizard standing in his hallway Bilbo piped up.

“Are you sure nothing’s the matter. You seem a little on edge.”

“No, nothing’s wrong, I just need to tell you something.” Gandalf paused for a moment, his eyes looking in no particular direction, clearly trying to think of what to say or how to say it. “This isn’t all the company you’ll be having this evening.”

“What do you mean?,” Bilbo asked quickly, and as a realisation dawned on him he added in almost a whisper, “How many more are coming?”

“Just the one, Bilbo, don’t fret. It’s just you might find him to be a little … different compared to the rest.”

“What do you mean ‘different’?” Bilbo was strangely more worried now than he was a mere two seconds ago when he was imagining another 20 dwarves assaulting his already empty pantry.

“Oh nothing really … uhm … oh Ori, what can we do for you?” Bilbo almost jumped at Ori’s sudden presence next to him. Almost.

“I’m sorry to interrupt. But I was just wondering what I should do with my plate.” Bilbo didn’t know what to say to that. Not because he couldn’t say that he could just put it by the sink and he’d take care of it later, but because the way this young dwarf spoke made him seem so innocent. And nothing like the dwarves that were throwing their food around. Just as Bilbo opened his mouth to say something another dwarf appeared on his other side.

“Give it to me, Ori. I’ll take care of it,” Fili said as he snatched the plate from Ori’s hand.

Taking care of it apparently meant throwing it to another dwarf standing by the doorway to the kitchen.

“Don’t you dare, that’s my mother’s china. You’ll break it.”

There was some stomping coming from the kitchen. And some scraping.

“What are y-… You’ll blunt them!”

“You hear that lads, he says we’ll blunt the knives.” His voice had an air of humour that Bilbo did not like one bit. One thing he liked even less was the sound of one of them starting to sing. About blunting his knives.

If Bilbo was being completely honest, he didn’t really know what was going on. He was too distracted by his crockery and cutlery flying through the air. Crockery and cutlery that had been passed down to him by both his mother and father, Yavanna rest their souls, which was both precious to him and priceless to any hobbit with any knowledge of finer things. He couldn’t bear the thought that his family’s heirlooms could end up either smashed on the floor or bent beyond recognition by these brutish dwarves. They even seemed to be enjoying themselves. Doing everything he hates, as they so nicely put in the song.

Bilbo tried grabbing at his possessions as they were flying through the air, but could never seem to even touch any of them. Part of the problem could have been that his reflexes were too slow. Another could have been that there was too much going on and he was starting to panic just a little, which wasn’t good for his reaction time, come to think of it. As the song was coming to an end (hopefully) Bilbo was nearing his kitchen again and when the dwarves had sung their last ‘that’s what Bilbo Baggins hates’ he turned to face his table. On it he saw stacks of bowls and plates. Unbroken and clean bowls and plates. Behind it he saw dwarves who looked very proud of themselves, almost presenting their work to him with expecting and hopeful looks on their faces. It felt like as if the coil that had being getting ready to snap back at any moment suddenly lost all the tension that it had been holding.

“What did you do that for? You scared the living daylights out of me,” he said as he practically collapsed into the nearest chair, burying his head into his hands to stop him from losing what little composure he had left.

“We’re very sorry Mister Boggings, but it’s the only way the host lets us clean up our own dirty dishes,” one of the younger members of the gathering (probably Kili) said.

”Only usually they don’t react quite so negatively,” the one next to him (possibly Fili) said. So much for finally having their names figured out, “usually the host realises that we know what we’re doing.”

“So this was planned,” Bilbo stated, still not quite believing what just happened. At that most of the dwarves nodded. Some more enthusiastically than others. Some even looking a bit sorry.

“Bilbo, I’m very sorry,” Gandalf said from behind him, “we thought this might cheer you up a bit.”

“You were a part of this as well?”, Bilbo asked. Rhetorically. He might as well have accused him of betrayal of trust. But Gandalf understood what was meant.

Bilbo buried his face in his hands again and took a few long, deep breaths to keep his emotions under control. He thought he was doing pretty well, but then he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Are you alright lad?”, the oldest guest (definitely Balin) asked. Even though he sounded concerned, Bilbo was comforted by this stranger’s gesture.

“I’ll be fine, I just- I just need a moment.” Bilbo smiled at Balin as thanks.

But sadly he didn’t have a moment, because as soon as he said that there was a knock at the door and everyone fell silent. This must be the dwarf Gandalf was talking about. He would’ve liked to just walk up to the door in peace. But all the dwarves got up from where they were and followed him all the way there. He could feel the tension rise exponentially the moment he opened the door.

Bilbo did not know what he expected this last dwarf to look like after Gandalf’s extremely vague description but it certainly wasn’t that.