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Keeping Safe Is Family Business

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His mind was a loop of What did I do What did I do What did I do since the moment he stepped forward, which could be five seconds or five hours ago, he wasn't sure. Everything seemed to stop around him, no one moved or said anything and the only thing he could hear out of his own mind was his erratic breathing. He would die, he knew that and he was terrified. That didn't mean he regretted it, not for a second, but he could still pray for Gandalf to save them, couldn't he?
He took another step out of what little safety the company could give him and that was when the noises and the movement started to register again. There was cheering from all over Goblin Town and some of them jumped up and down, even bringing their little plattform out of balance, until the Goblin King silenced them with a loud yell that almost hurt as much in his ears as the stench hurt in his nose. Yes, he would die, but it would be with good reason and maybe the others could escape while the creatures around them were entertained with him.

The little boy, because he was nothing more in Bilbos eyes, looked at him with so much fear and terror that the hobbit took a fistful of his cardigan and pushed him back into his brothers arms.
He didn't want to die, but he could pray that the others would escape while he distracted the monsters. There were a few stories he had heard while he was in Bree with his parents, just a little boy himself, hiding under a table at the inn and listening to the men there. And maybe he didn't hear much, because his father found him and pulled him out onto the street by his ear, but he knew enough to know that he didn't want to survive goblin torture either. Not wanting to die, not wanting to survive. He was soft, maybe he would die quickly, but that probably wouldn't give the company any time to escape. He had to try to hold on as long as he possibly could. A thin goblin grabbed his arm and he shut his eyes tight, thinking of his parents, trying to draw strenght from them.
"All dead. No one's gonna care anyway.", he whispered, not registering the sudden quiet from behind him as he more or less willingly came up in front of the Goblin King.

He was rounded and looked at like cattle on the market and it didn't matter that he didn't like it, that his skin crawled and he trembled in fear, because as long as he was only looked at they didn't hurt him and maybe someone in the company was already forming a plan to escape. Didn't Nori escape from countless prisons? Please let him be able to get everyone out of here.
Then, without any warning, there was a sharp pain in his back and not just in one place and he couldn't stop the cry, or the second as the whip came down again. He was a hobbit, a soft, useless little thing when it came to the wild and he wasn't accustomed to pain. But, he thought as he got hit the third time and he managed to choke the scream down, only wimmering a little, he would die knowing that it wasn't sweet little Ori in his place.

There were loud voices and shouting from behind him, but he didn't dare turn around now, he didn't want to see them - but more importantly he didn't want them to see him, because he was crying, it hurt so much, but he couldn't let them see, they shouldn't see that he just wasn't able to buy them a lot of time. The fourth time hit him right on another wound and cut deep down, making him try and fail to keep the scream in. His lip was bloody now and the snot smeared around his nose and it hurt so much more than he could have imagined and the whip came down again and then there was a bright light and Gandalf called them to fight, but Bilbo couldn't even stand up, even as he tried.
Out of nowhere there were arms around him, strong arms he never felt before and he got thrown over a shoulder and then he blacked out a little. He came back to himself to fire and smoke and Dori looking around frantically, trying to see a way out when there just wasn't one and he could feel the world tilt on its axis - or maybe it was just a tree tilting over a really deep cliff and the hobbit couldn't help but wimmer. That brought the silver-haired dwarf to look at him.
"You have to hold tight, Master Baggins! Hold on as tight as you can!", he yelled over the blazing fire and the wind and Bilbo did just that and clung to the tree trunk with all his might. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Dori and Ori, grabbing hold of a branch and was a little eased. They were dwarfs, surely they had the strenght to stay safe.

That was, probably, a little hasty, as he saw the branch just snap and the two dwarfs holding onto Gandalfs staff. And even as he stretched his arm out he couldn't reach them - and he wouldn't be much use, would he? He would never be strong enough to get them to safety onto the tree trunk and he sobbed with the thought of that, because he just couldn't do anything. Without a clue what happened behind him he still tried to reach the two, still cried and looked desperately into Doris silver eyes and it wasn't fair that he just noticed how beautiful he was seconds before they all died. Another sob, then a loud wail as the two brothers fell into the abyss and he couldn't stop screaming, couldn't stop crying and he couldn't believe they were dead. Gandalf said something, yelled something, but he didn't hear him. He just clenched his eyes shut and cried and then he screamed again because there were giant claws dragging his body from the tipping tree and then he was falling, landing and flying and he hated the eagles, because if they had arrived just a minute earlier, if they just -
They sat together on a giant bird, Ori infront of Dori and so very much alive. Bilbo looked around then frantically, because they were alive and then the others probably were too. He counted them all and even if he wasn't sure with Thorin, he knew the rest of them was well and he couldn't help the laugh that bubbled inside his throat, couldn't help the relief he felt and cried of entirely different reasons, because they got out, they were all alive - and please, please, let Thorin be alive too - and he could relax a little again. No goblins, no orcs, no fire and no dying trees and the best of everything - still alive Dori and Ori. He probably would never forget the mental image of Dori losing his grip, of falling deep down, of - no, no, he shouldn't think like that. He could see them and they were fine! The silverhaired dwarf holding his brother tight against his chest and the little one having a yelling conversation with Nori, who was maybe a little singed but as alive as the others and as relief swam his body he completely forgot his pain.

He didn't feel the heavy gaze of certain silver eyes on him.

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They flew for hours before they reached what Gandalf called the Carrock and even if Bilbo learned to like the flying somewhat, he was still grateful to find his feet again. He curled his toes with a little sigh and tried to ignore his throbbing back. Most were injured from whatever happened as he was blacked out or sobbing on a tree, Thorin the most serious, but the king got back on his feet with a little help from Gandalf soon enough, so he hoped it wasn't all that serious.

"Master Baggins?", came a tiny voice from behind him and as he turned around he saw a pale Ori, biting his bottom lip and tears in his eyes.
"What is it? Are you hurt somewhere? Do I need to get Oin?", Bilbo asked at once, worry apparent, because Ori had always been a sweet little thing. Even if he was shy in the beginning, he always had a smile for him and tried to make him feel included by asking him questions. The hobbit grew to like the boy, being reminded of his lot of cousins and it just wouldn't do for him to be injured.

Beside the little one Dori snorted disbelieving, before he seemed to collect himself - snorting wasn't really polite - and stepped up.
"You saved my brother, Master Baggins. I am in deep debt.", he said earnestly, locking molten silver on sea green and gripping the hobbits shoulder in a tight grip, who promptly started to quiver a little.

"Oh no, really, there is no need, none at all. He's healthy, that's what's important, I would never insist on some debt, Master Dori.", he stammered, suddenly longing to be just a step closer, but it wouldn't be proper, so he stayed back and just looked into the others eyes, that gazed into him with something like fondness, if he could brazenly call it that himself. Please let it be fondness.

"That gesture will not be forgotten, Master Baggins, be assured, but that just proves my right to stay in your debt. You got badly injured yourself in the progress and if there is ever any time you need my help don't hesitate to ask for it, for there will be nothing I will not try my hardest to achieve for you." And yes, maybe his stomach fluttered a little and his toes curled and his brain got mushy, but that didn't mean anything, right, because he just didn't know where that all came from. It wasn't there before the last events, but now he just couldn't unthink it and he was driving himself mad, he could feel it.

"Just don't die on me again. Please.", came now from him in a tiny whisper, not really intented for anyone to hear, because no one should know how desperate he felt at the moment, but he could see pure heartbreak on Doris face and a second later he got pulled against a hard chest, strong arms winding their way around him while still being careful of his wounds and he didn't think about it any longer, he just crawled into the strong form and buried his face in the others neck, fisting his small hands into the others coat and not letting go for what felt like forever.

"Oin got to look at your wounds, before they get infected, Master Baggins.", he heard Doris prim voice from above him, sounding a bit clogged and strained to keep the usual strictness.
"None of that. I'm Bilbo.", he gave his reply, after leaving the strong body more than against his will, but Oin was already shouting behind him and he couldn't stand that for too long. There was a warm smile in beautiful silver eyes, before he got a nod.
"And I am Dori. It is an honour to call you my friend, Bilbo."

And while 'friend' still didn't sit all that well with him he was happy with the new familiarity, because maybe there would be a chance to get more of those hugs.

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Down at the base of the Carrock was a river where they all bathed in. Most were already in, but Bilbo just couldn't bring himself to join them. After the hour long flight the blood had crusted and his shirt sticked to his skin - and his waistcoat probably too, same with his coat. All was shredded on the back, he was getting sympathetic glances from every dwarf that saw his back and it itched and twinged. It hurt every time he moved, but it hurt worse when he tried to remove his clothes.
"Do you need help, Bilbo?", asked Ori from the water, who started calling him by his firstname too, already on his way to him, but before the hobbit could wave him off there was a giant shadow over him.
"Stay inside and get clean, Ori. I'll help Bilbo.", the shadow called, obviously Dori, which caused the little hobbit to blush and stutter.
"None of that, now, Bilbo. You just hurt yourself further trying to get it done on your own and you heard Oin, we need to clean the wound for him to look at it properly.", Dori said primly, pushing the halfling down on the riverbank and wetting what looked like his own tunic, which caused the blush to deepen even more, because yeah, there wasn't anything obstructing his view on a muscled chest anymore. Dori was probably short of getting into the water himself from the looks of it, boots and most of his clothes already off, his breeches the last piece of cloth on his body and Bilbo's mouth watered at the sight. Dori looked fantastic, all hard muscles and silky hair and just the occiasional scar here and there.

The silver-haired dwarf vanished behind him, so he couldn't ogle any further, which was a blessing and a shame, but he pulled himself together and scolded his silly mind. Now wasn't the time to get a crush and it would be absolutely hopeless anyway, why should he open himself up for such hurt on purpose?
There was a sharp pain in his back as the oldest Ri soaked the fabric enough to peel it off, careful not to tear the wound again, but still painful enough to warrant the little hissy sound that left Bilbos throat.
"I'm afraid I can't do anything against the pain, but I will hurry.", came a low voice from behind him and he shivered a little, feeling the warm breath on his raw skin. Dori helped him out of his coat and started again on his waistcoat.

His shirt was the worst and they needed a few tries, but at last it came off and Doris hands vanished from him. He felt self-conscious, being just a little soft around the middle - he lost a lot of weight since the start of their quest - and having practically no muscles to show. Of course no hobbit had much muscles to speak of, but he didn't even had his belly that made him at least somewhat attractive - at least in hobbit eyes. He crossed his arms in front of his stomach and looked at the river that was now mostly empty. Most dwarfs were finished already and set up camp a few paces away, only Fili, Kili and Ori were still inside, playing with each other and that got a little smile from Bilbo, because there was nothing that made him happier than playing children - and yes, maybe they were years older than he was and of age in dwarven standards, but they would be children in his eyes until they started acting their age.
He threw a look at Dori that wrung out his tunic and then took a deep breath and shedded his breeches. Within seconds he was inside the water, but that didn't really help the deep flush that went down his chest. He still wasn't used to getting naked in front of others and to be honest, he hoped he never would be. Somewhere between traveling with dwarves and getting whipped by goblins he still tried to be a proper hobbit.

Once finished with his tunic he heard Dori telling Nori to hang it up to dry, before he saw him stripping out of his breeches out of the corner of his eye and oh Yavannah, he shouldn't look, that wasn't proper at all and he had to resemble one of his priced tomatoes right now, but he just couldn't stop himself, because he didn't know if he would ever have another chance again and Dori was a piece of art, definitly.
"Do you need help washing them out, Bilbo?", Ori asked and he whirled around, looking over with big eyes and flaming cheeks and found himself in front of an innocent looking Ori and two Durin boys that tried to keep their snickers in check, which told him enough about him getting noticed while ogling the older Ri that he just got a shade redder and a whole lot more mortified. He started to stutter a string of what could be seen as 'No's, but Ori simply got the no-nonsense-look he must have copied from his brother, turned him around and started washing his welts with a careful hand.
"Get out and start washing your clothes Ori, they won't wash themselves. I can help Bilbo.", ordered Dori firmly and after a huff and a little chuckle the little one left them alone. Bilbo wasn't sure he would survive this day and that was a sad thought indeed after everything that happened in the last hours. But then there were hands on his naked back and he could feel the dwarfs warmth even though the water was really cold and his breath stuttered to a short stop. He should really get a grip on himself, but he just felt too exhausted to filter any of his reactions right now. He would have time enough tomorrow to be embarrassed about it.


"Excuse the lad. He means well, but he sometimes doesn't know what's appropriate and what is not. Feel free to tell us off if we overstep a boundary.", spoke Dori up after he almost finished washing the cuts and bruises, the only sound outside of the rest of the company the last minutes Bilbos painfilled gasps and grunts. To make up for the pain he was unwillingly inflicting the dwarf stroked the hobbits arm in short intervals, drawing little shivers from the small being. Bilbo was probably just cold, the soft skin of his couldn't possibly shield him against the cold like dwarven skin could, so he shouldn't read too much into it, even with Ori behaving like he did and the princes chuckling beside him.
He just couldn't help himself but admire the small being in front of him, barely coming up to his chin and just half as wide as himself, he still stepped forward to protect his little Ori before anyone else could do something. He wasn't even kin, he didn't owe them anything and they definitily weren't on their best behaviour around him before - shortly, he didn't have a reason to help Ori, to stand in his place and take the brunt of the goblins. And then there was that little sentence that broke everyones heart - Bilbo was lonely, utterly alone without any family and none of them were really nice to him -- save for Ori, bless the lad -- and no one had thought about the fact that the hobbit had lived alone, could just leave everything behind and come after them.
Dori had yelled and screamed and tried to argue, just as the rest of the company, but they were all ignored and he probably would never forget the screams the little hobbit gasped out, tried to keep down and be strong but just failing against the pain. And then he took Bilbo over his shoulder, the male awfully light and he really hoped that that was just typical for hobbits and he fought tooth and nail to keep them all safe.

Hanging on that branch were probably the worst minutes of his life. He tried to hold on, to get them back up onto the tree, but there wasn't anything to do other than looking into the hobbits eyes, that looked so desperate and pleading, hand reaching toward them and a sobbing mess. That was an image he wouldn't forget anytime soon, either. And that wail - he had heard it so loud was it, so utterly broken and desperate and he just wanted to reach out and cradle the small being to his chest and never let go again, but that wasn't proper, so he left it. Until he just couldn't anymore, on the Carrock and even then it was all he could do to let him go again.
No, there wasn't anything to hope about, he decided. He was an old dwarf, just barely clinging to his prime and even if he was fairly attractive by dwarven standards, he was sure those standarts weren't something hobbits looked for.
The little hobbit was just exhausted, physically and emotionally and just leant against him because it was him that just took care of him, not because of him personally. And even if he wanted to close his arms around soft skin and draw him near, he carefully pulled back a little.
"You should go and get out, Bilbo. It was a hard day and you still need to see Oin. And after that you should sleep.", he ordered briskly, trying to hide his want by pushing the hobbit away a little toward the riverbank. And after a little confused glance he did as he was told, pulling his breeches over his cute little bottom and sitting down next to Oin, who checked him over.

It was a while until he could sit himself down, after washing his own clothes and that of Bilbo, getting his little sewing kit out and working on the shreds in the hobbits clothes. They would never again look good and proper, but they would still be functional and that was all that counted on a quest like this. And this was the least he could do, to show him how grateful he was and to show him that he was appreciated.

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His back was on fire as he woke and he sat up in alarm, startling a gasp from his swollen lips. He needed a second to remember what happened yesterday and then he sunk carefully back onto his bedroll. He couldn't sleep again, but most of the camp was still lying down, so he would just enjoy the last moments of quiet before they would start their day.
With a blush he saw that he wasn't wearing his shirt, just his breeches and then was a little confused why he was still warm and not frozen solid from the always dropping temperature, until he saw a purple coat now pooling over his hips. His blush intensified tenfold, because there was no way the coat belonged to someone other than Dori and by Yavannah, he slept under Doris coat and how many dwarfs exactly do you think are awake already to see it if I burrow my nose in it? But he could hear steps behind him, because even if dwarfs tried to be quiet they just weren't so he smothered the impulse, he would never hear the end of it otherwise and they already laughed enough about him.

The presence behind him stopped and then there was a hand on his naked shoulder. He could feel callouses from hard word and there was a distinct shiver down right into his belly, where it fluttered and Bilbo really needed to get a grip on himself. He sat up, because he couldn't just roll over onto his back and then looked right into Doris molten silver eyes and yes, he probably lost his mind in the Goblin cave, because there was no way he felt that way before and now all off a sudden he wanted to crawl into the safety that Dori emanated and never ever come back to the real world again and he just didn't understand why, didn't really care all that much to be proper - because every proper hobbit would have asked himself why there were feelings all of a sudden and he would have found an answer, but he guessed a proper hobbit didn't fall for a dwarf either, so he was somewhat excused.
"Good morning, Master Dori.", the hobbit stuttered and got a pointed look for it. Ducking his head, blushing again he murmurmed a little "Dori", which seemed to please the dwarf enough. A bundle of clothes was laid in his lap and he recognized his own shirt, waistcoat and coat, as clean as they would ever get again and sewn. Bilbo gaped at Dori, not really believing that the other one would sacrifice so much of his time for him, because he had seen that his things were absolutely shredded, it would need skill and patience to repair them.
"I hope you slept well, Bilbo. Oin gave me the salve for your wounds, so please turn around so I can see to them.", said the dwarf briskly, but Bilbo hoped he saw what looked like a little smile on his face and in a daze he turned his back to the other and tried to even his breathing. He definitely wasn't awake enough for this, for all of this, because he was close to tears again that he needed so supress with all his might. It wouldn't do to start crying in the middle of the camp, the dwarfs didn't need any more reason to think him useless on this quest.

But it was hard, because he felt the careful finger on his back and a stroking hand in his neck and there just wasn't anyone taking care of him in almost twenty years, not since his parents died and he wanted to keep that close and never let go again, but he knew he couldn't, knew Dori just did it because he was feeling guilty and it would be forgotten soon enough. His fingers grabbed the fabric of his clothes, trying to ground himself, doing his best not to let on how much he enjoyed it, despite the pain it dealt him and then it was already over and the hands vanished from his skin and he couldn't shake the disappointment at that.
"There, all finished. Don't dress yet, it has to dry a little first. Stay put and I see what I can get you for breakfast.", the prim dwarf said, taking the salve back to Oins pack, but leaving his coat for the time being on the hobbits legs and Bilbo curled his toes underneath it, relishing in its warmth and the knowledge that it's Doris. Mind still reeling a little - because when exactly did the camp came to life, he really couldn't remember but all where up and going already - and silently reminding himself that the dwarf just didn't know any better - he was fetching him food, Bilbo had to control himself not to hope for anything, because Dori just couldn't know, didn't know -- and if he knew he wouldn't do it -- that that was the first step in hobbit courting and no one had ever fetched Bilbo his food, because he was always the odd one out and no hobbit wanted to marry anyone odd. Dori came back, bread and hard cheese in hand, enough for three and then Ori sat down on his other side, grabbed his food and started to chatter about everything he still had to write down, even as he wrote most of last night already until his eyes started to hurt and don't worry, Bilbo, everyone will know you the hero you are, I will make sure of it, and no matte how much the hobbit spluttered to that he couldn't get a word in.

On his other side sat Dori, thigh against thigh and yes, maybe he was acting like a tween, but he was never in love before, so he hoped he could be excused. He was silent, a little smile on his face as he ate and looked over the hobbits head to his brother and Bilbo could understand that, could understand the pride he felt for little Ori, because that one was a really fantastic dwarf, as far as he was concerned and he would be a proud big brother too.
Bilbo ate in silence, listening to Ori and trying to stop his racing heart from jumping out of his chest. He got distracted as Nori plopped down next to his younger brother, food in hand and started to exaggerate the story of the orcs until all Bilbo and Ori could do was giggle helplessly as 'Nori the Nifty' saved the day and their whole quest, and their king too of course, because that one definitly needed saving. A growl showed them that the story didn't stay with them, but the whole camp now and that Dwalin wasn't amused about it, but Fili and Kili were leaning on each other chuckling and Bilbo guessed that it was the best start into a day since they started.

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It was so dark around them that they couldn't even see their own hand, so they made camp as good as they could - they just sat down where they stood and kept their packs close to their body. The last weeks were hard with so little food and the poisonous forest around them, sending them in circles and clouding their minds. No one really talked in the last days, just a call from Thorin in the morning to start walking and another when it was dark to stop. Moral spiraled downwards, dwindling as fast as their food and when there was talk it was never anything nice. Families kept together, knit closer than before and it started to show early that Bilbo planned to just stay on his own, like he didn't expect anyone to put up with him. Dori wouldn't have that, he made sure that the hobbit was always within reach and to sleep he got cocooned between Dori and Ori, with Nori behind his little brother. It hurt a little to see the surprised look on the hobbits face whenever he got pulled into their family and he probably looked like that everytime, they just couldn't see him. Bilbo obviously still couldn't grasp the large debt Dori was in - not that that was the real reason he always kept the smaller being close, but it was a brilliant excuse - and even if he somehow could even that debt by saving his life, for example, he didn't think he wanted to stop.

In the forest was nothing really clear. It was always dark and the air was thick, glowing eyes in the bushes just outside the path and creepy noises at night. It wasn't easy to keep his mind, to stay clear in the head enough to remember that the smaller ones needed more food, to give Ori and Bilbo more of his own share and seeing the middle brother doing the same. It was easier when he reminded himself who he was - hardworking head of the family Ri since their mother died - , who he had to take care of - sweet little Ori, much too young for such a dangerous quest but smart enough to know what he wanted and sign the contract first before telling his overbearing brother - , in which debt he stood - not just a debt, but it started with him saving his little brother and how could he not fall for someone so selfless, who sacrificed himself for a dwarf he wasn't kin of - , who always made trouble - and then stood in the kitchen of their small house without ever using the front door, a bag of much needed coin in one hand, new ink and a beautiful feather in the other and an impish little grin on his sharp face, always helping and loving and never ceasing to make trouble.
It was a few days later that he saw Bilbo sneaking some of his food to Ori, making the little ones portion almost decent and Dori fell again, fell hard and he didn't think he would ever recover from it.


They were free again and of course they had Bilbo to thank for it, spinning a tale no one could follow about how important it was that they went to the Iron Hills as fast as possible and excuse me, your Highness, don't you think it a little narrowminded to just assume that no hobbit ever leaves the Shire, because obviously I am here and I want an adventure, thank you very much, so if you would be so nice to just let us get on our way. He must have talked for hours, always polite and a little prissy, like a proper hobbit should, but he got them out and in the inn in Laketown they laughed about an Elvenking that got talked in circles by a little hobbit.
They got five rooms that night, one for each family and Dori couldn't believe that Bilbo still stood in the middle of the hallway, looking a little stuck without knowing where he should go.
"What are you waiting for, Bilbo?", he called from the door to their room and saw the handsome face light up. In the room he saw one bed already occupied from Nori and Ori, who he sent a heavy glare, but got only bright grins in reply. Without saying a word about it, he didn't want to make Bilbo any more uncomfortable than he probably already was with sleeping in the same bed as him, he undressed to his smallclothes and tunic and lay down onto the bed.

A little rustling later and the bed dipped a little. It was a bed for men, so it was big enough to house them both comfortably without even the need to touch each other, but he could feel the body warmth of the smaller being coming nearer, as he tried to wriggle himself over as inconspiciously as possible. Without bothering to control his smile he wound an arm around Bilbo and pulled him against his chest, from where he heard a low, contented sigh.
"Good night.", Dori called and got responses from his brothers, before he blew out the candle on the nightstand. A cheek got rubbed against his chest, another sigh and than a small whispered answer, before a leg wound himself around his and the hobbit crawled impossibly closer. The dwarf was pretty pleased with that, because even if Bilbo just seeked comfort after the last hellish weeks, he still looked for that comfort with him. And maybe, old dwarf or no, he was allowed to hope a little.

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He couldn't find them and he was going crazy with worry, he knew it, could almost feel himself crack as he flitted through Big Folk legs and around dwarfs at work and he still couldn't find them!
He got knocked out at the battle as he tried to reach them, tried to help them, to show them how sorry he was, that he didn't want to betray them and please forgive me, I just wanted to do the right thing, I didn't want you to fight and get injured and why can't anyone see that? Ori was holding himself good with his warhammer, he could see that, but he wasn't fast enough and there was an orc right behind him and please let me run a little faster, I need to get to him, but he never reached him as he got hit over the head and blacked out.
Since he woke he searched the camps for a familiar face, invisible to most because no one really minded someone as small as him and he didn't want to draw attention, because he was still hated and he just needed to make sure they were alive before he would go back to the Shire, they wouldn't even need to see him, he just needed to look at them and know they didn't die out there, please don't let them be dead.

His head was swimming and he had to stay still a minute, trying to get it under control before he looked further. He knew he was bleeding, but he didn't care, because what mattered anymore when the only beings in the entirety of middle earth he wanted to call his family hated him and were probably dead and he just couldn't help them, wasn't fast enough and so useless it hurt -
He ran against a barrel and knocked a few weapons down that lay on it, nicking his shoulder a little on a knife, but he didn't care and just stumbled further, until a few seconds later there was a hand on his shoulder and how the hell could he be seen, he didn't want to be seen, but everything was forgotten as he turned around and saw Nori, blissfully alive Nori and he couldn't stop himself, he wrapped his arms around the others middle and sobbed, because even if he would be pushed away he could still touch him and make sure he was alive.

"Yes, yes, calm down, for fuck's sake. Do we have to do this cuddling-thing?", Nori grumbled and that was enough to make sure Bilbo let go of him as if he got burned, because he couldn't risk making them even more angry than they already were and he tried to choke down his sobs, because Nori wouldn't like that either. The dwarf regarded him with an unreadable expression, eyes narrowed and mouth pinched and of course he was still mad, but hopefully not mad enough to deny him answers.
"Dori? Ori?", Bilbo gasped out, voice panicked, because he just couldn't calm himself until he saw them and even if he was afraid of the answer, he needed to know.
"Dori dislocated his shoulder and got a cut on his chest, big but shallow, so nothing serious. Ori got hit on his head and twisted his ankle, pretty sure both at the same time, but he's already awake again. We got lucky. No one in the company is injured enough to really worry about them. But we have been looking for you. I was just on my way to ask the men if you left already for the Shire, but I guess I can leave that now. Dori's with the elves right now, asking the same. I bring you to the tent Ori lies in, Dori will come there when he's finished.", gave Nori information and Bilbo couldn't help but sag a little in on himself as he heard that, relief flooding his entire body. Halfway through his little speech Nori had grabbed his arm and pulled him with him through the masses of people that made up the giant camp.

After stepping into the tent he saw that it wasn't just Ori lying there, but the whole company and he grew rigid with unsettled fear. Before Nori could say anything he freed himself and slipped back out, around the corner and behind a barrel. He could still hear them from there, but they wouldn't know he was there and so he still had the chance to see Dori before they send him back to the Shire. He knew that Ori was alive, because he could hear his voice, making fun with the princes.
"What did they say, Nori? Did he leave?", the king boomed, making everyone shut up and Bilbo grew tense again. He could hear Nori making a little exasperated sound in the back of his throat.
"He didn't.", was his answer, even so he never really talked to them, but it wasn't a lie either, because the redhead knew exactly that he was still in the camp. The hobbit started to tremble a little, because now Thorin would explode and be angry that he was still there somewhere and would order everyone who saw him to send him away and he didn't want to leave! He loved Erebor, even if he didn't have the best memories of it, it was beautiful, so very beautiful.

"Then not everything is lost and we still have hopes to make amends.", the king murmured, well Bilbo thought he did, but he couldn't really, could he? Why should Thorin want to make amends? He banished him because he betrayed him and even if he did it with really good reasons - and keeping his family safe was a good reason, even if it was just the family he wished he had, not his actual one - he still betrayed the king of Erebor.
He heard the flaps of the tent rustle and then there was Doris voice, a little clogged but oh so definitly alive and he wanted to stand up and just touch him, but it probably wouldn't be welcome, so he stayed a little longer outside of the tent.
"The guard captain said she last saw him on the battlefield, but he didn't came back to their camp. If he isn't there then it is likely that he is... that he... I will go out now and look for him. He doesn't deserve to lie between orcs and elves." and Bilbo probably misheard again, because he couldn't fear him dead, right? But his voice had cracked and sounded hoarse and no, the hobbit couldn't stand to hear him like that, so he stood up and drew a deep breath - or six - before slowly walking to the entrance of the tent.

"That won't be necessary.", he said with a small voice, gaze directed at the floor after making sure that it was indeed Dori he stood in front of, alive and almost healthy Dori, with just an arm in a sling, who gasped now and then there were steps. He jerked back a little, afraid beyond reason that it was Thorin, but then there was an oh so familiar arm winding around his body and pulling him against a chest, careful of the sling, but without hesitating.
"Do you have any idea how worried we were?", the prim dwarf huffed, drawing him a little nearer and burying his face in short curly hair. Around them were ten dwarfs exclaiming - Nori already knew, of course, and was just smirking in a corner and Oin was outside being useful- but they both ignored them. A little hesitating shake of his head was enough to get pressed even more against the other - and yes, he would love to crawl into the others arms, but he needed to breath, so he pulled back a little. That however gave Dori enough reason to really look at him and there was a horrified gasp, before he got turned around, even with just one arm strong enough to do everything he wanted with the little hobbit - and didn't that thought send a shiver down his spine, despite the situation?

"You are injured! Nori, go and get Oin, he has to examine him and bring him quick. Does it hurt, Bilbo? Come, sit down, a head injury isn't anything you want to mess with. Is your head spinning? Do you feel sick?", Dori asked rapidly, shooing an only a little injured Bofur from his cot and sitting the hobbit on it, kneeling beside him.
"I'm...I'm alright?", Bilbo answered, more of a question than an answer, but he was unsure how to tread right now and he could see the realisation on a few faces. Dori stood back up, turned to Thorin and rammed him his index finger into his chest - wounded, too, but Dori wouldn't tell anyone about the satisfaction the little pained gasp brought him - and glowered him down, even if he was smaller.
"This is your fault, so you're going to him and make it right again, did I make myself clear? You will apologize and beg him on your knees to forgive you and to stay here, because if not with Mahal as my witness I will make that pale orc look like child's play and Fili will become king!" Dori didn't yell or scream at the other, he almost whispered and that just made it sound even more dangerous. Thorin spluttered indignantly, not being used to being talked to like that and Bilbo was short of disagreeing, because Dori shouldn't get himself in trouble just because of him and did the silver-eyed dwarf really just threaten the king under the mountain for him? But before he could do anything Thorin drew a long breath, sent Dori a withering glare and growled.
"Again with that tone and you will regret it, Master Dori.", he said coldly, but still turned to Bilbo, with obvious hesitation. It was more than clear that he didn't want to do this, especially not with the rest of the company in the tent but he was a king now and it was his duty to make amends when it was needed.

"I have wronged you badly.", he started and that was a good beginning, because now Bilbo could be really confused that the grumpy dwarf was apologizing. "You have only tried to help us, I can see that now. I was...blinded and I regret my actions deeply. The banishment is of course lifted and you may stay as long as you like in Erebor." Now finished he seemed to right himself before turning without waiting for an answer and leaving the tent, muttering something about kingly duty. The hobbit still sat frozen in his cot as Oin came in to examine him.

Chapter Text

The rebuilding would still take years to come, but the mountain was habitable again and dwarfs from all directions came to live there. The company were heroes now, the heroes of Erebor, the bringer of homes. They were nobility, even that curious little hobbit that outwitted a dragon. There was nothing they couldn't buy now with all their gold, nothing they still had to wish for.
Well, if you looked at material things, at least. They lived in a big house near the palace, with rich tapestries and furniture and more comfort and luxury than either of them could have imagened. Two years ago was the Battle of Five Armies, as they called it now, and Erebor glowed again in beauty and gold and dwarfs that worked to make everything even more beautiful.

Ori worked in the great libraries, a big responsabilty for someone so young, but the little one was more than able to measure up to some of the older dwarfs working there. Nori on the other hand worked directly for the king, even if no one gave that job a name or a description or told his brothers anything about it, but the older was sure he wouldn't like it if he knew, so he let it slide for now. Dori, the oldest of the brothers, had opened a little teashop. He may like the new luxury they could afford now, but he still liked to work and this was what he always wanted to do - would have done in Ered Luin too, if he hadn't needed all the money he could make for Oris apprenticeship. It was relaxing and fulfilling and he loved every day in his little shop. And not only because of a hobbit that flitted around the little kitchen in the back, making pastries and cakes and cookies and humming songs under his breath.
It was good as it was, Dori told himself everyday, because he shouldn't ask for more, not after Mahal already granted him so much. He had two brothers - more or less well behaved, but equally lovable -, he wouldn't need to worry about money anymore - like, ever -, he could fulfill his dream in his little tea shop and he had a really close friend in a hobbit that lived together with them in their house. He shouldn't ask for more, because they were content and that was more than they had most of their lives, but his thoughts still often went to 'What ifs' and 'If onlys' he always tried to forbid himself.

There were moments when he thought there was something between Bilbo and himself, moments where he almost ducked down and kissed those plump lips, but there was always something ruining the moment, so he left it and lived on.
But how could he now, with the two of them the only ones still sitting in his little teashop, a cup camomille and a plate chocolate chip cookies in front of them and just being content in each others presence, like they always were, shoulder on shoulder and thigh against thigh and like always he just wanted to turn around and kiss the smaller being, take him into his arms and never let him go out of his reach again, but he didn't dare to destroy what they have, so he just gazed into sea green eyes and didn't even register that they came nearer, until the door banged open and they both jumped back a little.
"Yer still got some of those cookies?", Dwalin boomed, even though the room wasn't exactly big and they would still hear him if he whispered, but the guard wasn't exactly a quiet type, so they were used to it.


But getting interrupted for cookies? Again? It was the third time now in the last months and Bilbo really couldn't stand aside again, because it was exhausting to always gather his courage and try and then have some idiot barging in and ruining everything, so no, he wouldn't stand for it again. He took one of the cookies and threw it right against Dwalins forehead, before huffing annoyed and determined turning back to Dori, hoping with all his might that he wasn't just seeing things over the last two years, hoping that the dwarf felt the same and then he grabbed the others beard and kissed him smack directly on his lips.
Dori was kind of frozen and right as Bilbo wanted to pull away, disheartened, there were arms around his waist and a disgusted gagging sound in the background and alright, maybe you shouldn't ask Mahal for more when you already got so much, but in those cases, in the matters of the heart, there was always Yavannah.