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Title: The Other Side of the Coin
Series: A Matter of Perspective
Pairings: Kíli/Bilbo
Rating/Warnings: NSFW, semi-kinky sex and Kíli's filthy mouth; Fíli still being a dick
Word Count: 11,913 for both sections (40,936 so far)
Disclaimer: If I owned the hobbit there would be more angst
Summary: Kíli just wanted to have an adventure, he never expected to find love as well. (The companion piece to A Terrible Mistake)

Schism - Section A


Bard had pointed out a number of fine places when showing us to our residence and I led the group to the largest one in town. The owner watched with wide eyes as the fourteen members of our company strode through the door as though we owned it, Thorin calling out for mugs of ale.

A short time later, we were sprawled around a mass of tables with drinks in hand and I threw an arm across Bilbo's shoulders with a grin. The barkeep kept the liquor flowing freely at our demand and we were in the mood to party, so it didn't take long for us dwarves to become a little sloshed. My hobbit was the only sensible one, sipping at his mug slowly while the others slammed them back, and once I had gained a nice buzz, I started to do the same.

As the evening continued, I was rather glad to be no more than tipsy for my companions turned out to be highly entertaining when drunk out of their minds. Because Nori apparently had a thing for dirty limericks and Dwalin liked to egg him on, while Bofur had the bright idea to start building a castle from our flagons as each was drained. We had already created quite a pile by the time the dwarf began and the structure grew quickly, for his hands were remarkably steady given what he had consumed.

Our antics were also gaining an audience as word of our location spread around the town and it wasn't long before Bard and his guardsmen walked through the door. By then Bofur had almost finished his masterpiece, complete with walls, tower and a bailey, and he was standing on the table to add the last few mugs when he nearly fell into the gate.

I managed to grab the other dwarf before he ruined all his work, though only Ori's quick catch managed to save his ale. However, Bofur wasn't about to give up now so after looking around the room, his eyes landed on the tallest man around.

"Bard, Bard the Bowman.” Our friend called out, gesturing wildly with the flagons in his hands. “Come over here and help me out will you?"

"What can I do for you master dwarf?" The archer asked genially, walking over to stand by our company. He had barely managed to finish the question before Bofur shoved the final mugs into his chest and pointed toward a chair, asking the man to put his height to good use.

When Bard assented, the entire tavern cheered wildly and I held my breath in anticipation as the bowman stood up on his toes to place the final mug. But somehow the towering structure held stable, and we were about to toast Bofur's creation when Nori ruined it all.

He hardly meant to of course, but a few too many ales had taken their hold and the dwarf tripped over nothing on his way back from the bar. Arms flailing helplessly, Nori slammed into the table and the castle quickly collapsed into a rain of mugs flying through the air. Bilbo gave a high pitched yelp when one nearly brained him, diving under the table for safety as he berated our companion for his carelessness. So everyone laughed heartily at the affronted look upon my hobbit's face as I pulled him back to his feet and now that the danger was past, the men of Laketown came over to say hello.

They were still a bit wary of our differences but Bard had paved the way and Bofur's antics certainly helped to make us seem approachable. Besides Balin could never resist an audience and when he began to spin salacious tales of myth and history, the men finally relaxed.

So our groups began to intermingle properly while Bard and I continued our earlier conversation in a muddle of shooting tips, architecture and boasting, the Bowman expounding on his young son's skill and his wife's fine embroidery. As we talked, Bilbo listened on with interest for he was fascinated by the cultures of other races and had a hundred questions about how Lakemen spent their lives.

Well at least he's not pining over Rivendell anymore, I mused happily as several of the men began singing, raising their mugs in a raunchy drinking song.

"Oh when I was a little lad my honest mother told me,
That if I didn't kiss the girls my lips would grow all moldy,
So I chased the bonny lasses round and caught one to be my wife
And now when I go kiss the girls she pulls out a bloody knife"

When they finished this rendition, the guards lifted their mugs in challenge and our company could hardly back down from that, not when creating such verses was practically an art-form in our clan. So we raised our voices high and sang in response:

"The legends say that dwarves are born from air and rock and stone
For whenever we go traveling we leave your wives alone
But it's the beards we think are lacking on your ladies tall and fair
We're not used to seeing women who have quite so little hair"

This rhyme was met with raucous laughter and the tavern quickly descended into a contest of dirty lyrics tossed back and forth. I joined in the first few verses, throwing out every filthy suggestion that my hobbit whispered to me, before letting the others step to the fore.

Looks like everyone is going to be here for hours... I thought to myself muzzily, before sitting bolt upright as I realized that everyone was going to be here for hours.

This was obviously the opportunity for which I had been waiting and I had absolutely no intention of wasting it. So I grabbed Dori to replace me in conversation, not that the drunken Bard actually noticed the exchange, and then took my hobbit by the arm.

“Let's get out of here,” I whispered to him with a wink and Bilbo was only too happy to oblige. I was drunk enough that it was difficult to keep my hands to myself as we slipped out of the tavern and by the time we returned to our borrowed house, I couldn't resist the urge anymore. So I kissed my love right there in the entryway, using my body to press him hard against the wall.

After necking for a moment, we began to stumble up the stairs, lips locked together in a slick embrace. We nearly toppled over several times before we finally reached the landing, but letting go of Bilbo was inconceivable when he was making such lovely sounds.

My hobbit was moaning into my mouth, tongues flicking out to tangle with each other and I could not bear to spend another moment without skin. So I worked my hand underneath his tunic, sliding up the soft curve of his belly to trace across his chest. When I ran across his nipple with my thumb, Bilbo arched toward me with a gasp, grinding his half-hard cock into my thigh. Of course I gave him what he wanted, rolling that hard nub between my fingers and shoving my leg up higher until his head slammed back against the wall.

With this motion, the taut line of his neck became irresistible and I licked my way across that pale expanse. He shuddered again when I nipped at his jaw, whispering sweet nothings against his skin and savoring the taste which I found there. Then I bent my head against to suck a mark into his shoulder as one of Bilbo's hands buried itself in my hair.

My love held me to him, clawing at my back with every soft press of lips and it was my turn to moan when he dug his nails into my scalp. Soon we were grinding together, both groaning with every roll of my hips and I was starting to forget why making it to a bed had seemed so important.

Until we were interrupted by someone yelling furiously, "What are you doing? Are you crazy? Someone could see you!" and I lifted my head to see Fíli staring at us in horror.

Bilbo squeaked adorably at the interruption but I held onto him tightly, refusing to back down from my brother now. Not when I was drunk and horny and had one thing on my mind. "There's no one here but you, Fíli, and the rest won't be back for hours. We have plenty of time to do what we want with none the wiser."

However my words only seemed to make my brother angrier and he began shouting about his pride again, running over the same tired arguments that he had given me before. "You swore to me! You promised that none would discover your disgrace and this is how you plan to keep that vow? Parading your dishonor in the halls for all to see."

"You and your dishonor. I swear you care more about my reputation than I do, but I know, I know, I'd hurt the family name." I replied bitterly, having had quite enough of my brother's disgusted glares.

Why can't he just leave us alone? I know he hates me now but would it kill him to give us this? What with how we might be about to die and all. "You realize that if we kill Smaug, I could keep a harem of elves and the songs would still sing our praises until the light finally fades from the world? But yes, I remember my promise that no one would know. And no one will, because if you would just leave us be then we'd be done before they return, and even if we weren't do you honestly think any of them would notice, drunk out of their minds?"

Fíli was struck speechless by my acerbic words, still surprised when I won't bend to your whims? So as he stood there spluttering, I returned to kissing my hobbit, Bilbo moaning filthily beneath my roaming hands. But of course, my brother couldn't just leave things at that and interrupted us once more with a shouted, "Mahal's fury, do you have to do that in front of me?"

"Well you could leave, and then you wouldn't have to see anything would you?" I bit out snidely, thoroughly sick of these delays. Yet to my surprise my brother winced beneath my words and when he spoke again, he seemed subdued.

“At least go in your room, will you? In case one of the others comes back." Fíli said in surrender, reaching over to shove open my door. Though I didn't really understand the reason for his capitulation given that he still looked just as disgusted as before, I was hardly going to argue now. So I pulled Bilbo through the opening and slammed the door shut behind me, locking it and then shouting, "Now go away!"

“You know he's still out there right?” My hobbit whispered, looking vaguely uncomfortable when I leaned in once more.

“Of course he is, but just ignore him until he goes away,” I replied, pulling Bilbo toward the mattress. “I doubt he'll hold out long and tonight is about you and me.”

“I suppose that's true,” He answered seriously before giving me a wicked smile and pushing me to sit back on the bed. “Which means that it's my turn to have some fun.”

My hobbit waited only until my knees had hit the mattress before sinking down onto my lap, his arms twining around my neck to pull me into another kiss. It felt as though he were trying to devour me, tongue delving deep into my mouth as he ground our hips together. By now my length was hard as iron, every motion a burning line of pleasure and I sighed gratefully when Bilbo finally worked a hand between us.

His small fingers slipped into my trousers with ease, encircling my cock firmly and I had to bury my face in his shoulder when he began to stroke up and down. It seemed only fair to return to favor but before I could reach skin, my hobbit pressed me down to lay upon the bed.

“Stay,” He ordered and I did as asked, though I couldn't resist the urge to trace my fingers along the fine bones of his hips. Still the view was worth it as Bilbo sat up to draw his tunic over his head, the blue fabric sliding ever so slowly across his skin. He was pale and soft, with hardly any scars and a hint of chubbiness which was adorable. In short, he was nothing like the dwarves whom I had bedded and my hobbit flushed slightly beneath my hungry gaze.

Valar, the things I want to do to you, I thought as Bilbo brought our mouths together again, my lover squirming as I ran my hands down his back. For a moment I teased him, tracing my fingers along the dimples in skin before shoving them into his trousers to grab his ass. My hobbit fit perfectly into my grip, each cheek round and firm beneath my touch, and his breath caught when I gave a gentle squeeze.

Then I shoved his clothes down farther and pulled him hard against me, his flushed cock trailing a wet line down my stomach. Bilbo groaned my name, panting against my neck as I rolled our hips together, before sinking his teeth into my skin.

The bite sent fire sizzling through my nerves and my head fell back against the mattress, allowing my love to gain the upper hand once more. He sat up, thighs gripping me tightly as he practically tore the shirt from my shoulders before leaning down to nip at everything that he could reach. My hobbit seemed particularly focused of my scars, lathing the raised lines with a tenderness which made me shudder and bites that made me swear.

That hint of pain and possessiveness was everything I wanted and I knew that I was babbling by the time he reached my waist. “Fuck, Bilbo, come on. Own me, make me scream with it, ride me into the ground,” I gasped as he untied my laces and released my throbbing cock into the air.

But the damn tease only licked me once from root to tip before moving downward, pressing soft kisses into the inside of my thigh. When I moaned in frustration, reaching out to tangle one hand into his hair, my hobbit just looked up at me with a smirk. His eyes were dark with lust, lashes lowered coyly and his tongue left wet streaks upon his lips.

That sight left me burning so I dragged him up to taste him, licking my way into his mouth without mercy or relent. I held his head in place while I pressed in deep, Bilbo opening to me easily while my other hand fumbled toward the table by the bed. I had left my weapons there, strewn across the wood, and it took me a moment to find what I sought. But when that small jar of oil finally fell into my grasping fingers, I drew it to me even as I urged my hobbit up the bed.

He was confused by what I wanted and I was too far gone to be coherent, so I simply pulled him forward until he was straddling my chest. Now I could reach that lovely ass again but what truly caught my eye was Bilbo's length, flushed and gorgeous and jutting out proudly, and I bent my head to take his cock between my lips.

“Oh my lord, Kíli,” he gasped as I teased my tongue across his slit, savoring the slightly bitter taste it left behind. Then I took him in deeper even as I trailed slick fingers down the cleft of his ass and circled his entrance, the tight ring fluttering with every touch.

Bilbo couldn't seem to decide whether to thrust forward or back as I slipped one digit inside him, mirroring the motion with my mouth. So I choked for a moment when his hips stuttered and his cock jabbed into my throat, but after a shift of angle he slid smoothly on. His length was a good size and my jaw was stretched wide by the time I had swallowed him down, but the sight of my hobbit's face flushed red with pleasure was worth the ache.

I gave a little hum of satisfaction, my love shuddering again and digging his nails into my shoulders when I drove two slick fingers into his entrance as far as I could reach. I began to bob my head in time with my thrusts, alternating the rhythm so that Bilbo had no time to recover his control. There was only the wet heat of my mouth surrounding him and my fingers working him open for my cock.

But it had been awhile since I had been in this position and my neck was starting to ache from the strain, so I pulled my hobbit higher up my chest and nudged him to take over. He braced his hands against the wall for leverage and I let him use my mouth as he began to thrust in earnest.

No matter how much I loved taking my lovers apart, there was something about laying back and being used that drove me wild in a different way. To see Bilbo losing control, his only thought seeking his own pleasure in my flesh, made my cock ache for friction of its own. However, my hands had been busy, three fingers now driving into my hobbit's entrance and I knew I'd found my goal when his body jerked taut above me.

How could the Valar hate those with our inclinations when Mahal gave us this? I mused, teasing at the soft spot within my lover until he'd lost the strength to thrust. Bilbo was shaking now, gasping every time I ran my thumb around his entrance, feeling how the ring was stretched around my hand.

Yet he was much smaller than any of my previous lovers and I did not wish to hurt him, so I groped for the oil one more time. When four fingers began to press into his ass, my tongue still teasing along the vein of his cock, my hobbit finally couldn't take anymore. With a choked scream, Bilbo shoved back, driving my hand in past the second knuckle as his seed spilled into my mouth.

Then he collapsed onto my chest, hole clenching tight around my fingers while he panted my name. I drew my hand out slowly, every movement making my hobbit whine, before I rolled him over carefully onto his back.

“Bilbo, can I?” I murmured, nudging my length against his hip as I leaned in to kiss him again and let my love taste his gift upon my tongue. Although he was practically boneless beneath me, my hobbit found the strength to wrap one arm around my neck and pull me closer, whispering his assent into my mouth.

So I shifted over until I could press my aching cock against his entrance, lifting one of his legs to wrap around my hip. Then I pushed forward, forcing myself to go slowly no matter how much I wanted to simply pound away. Because Bilbo was still so tight, his inner walls clinging to me like a glove as I pressed inside. Eventually I bottomed out, my stones nudging against his ass and I swallowed his whimpers with my tongue.

“Relax love,” I whispered, rolling my hips gently as I waited for him to adjust. “You can feel it, can't you? How I'm so very deep inside you? My cock is filling empty places you never knew you had and no one else will ever compare. You're mine now, mine as long as we both live, and you'll need this soon enough. It hurts right now but soon you'll crave it, you'll beg for me to fill you again and I'll be only too happy to oblige. Because I want to drive in deeper than you've ever known, make us one in body as well as heart. I'm going to claim you, split you upon my length until you scream my name in joy.”

But finally my hobbit began to loosen around me and I could begin to move as his winces became moans. Though I kept my thrusts long and slow at first, making him feel every inch when I pressed relentlessly inside. However, as Bilbo relaxed further I picked up speed until both of us were seeing stars with every stroke.

My hobbit babbled encouragement against my ear, hands clutching at my shoulders to pull me in deeper and there was nothing so enticing as the noise he made when I found his sweet spot again. By this point his legs were wrapped around me tightly and his cock hard once more, every motion making it drag across my skin. Bilbo was truly irresistible like this, face flushed and eyes half-lidded with pleasure, broken moans spilling from his mouth. Though when he reached down to tug at his length, I swatted his hand away.

“No, you'll release from me or not at all,” I growled against his throat, holding his arm above his head as I thrust in harder. “Because I know you can, I know you're aching for it already, every thrust making you want to scream. The pleasure is coiling within your gut and you're going to show me how much you need my cock inside you. You're going to show me how much you want me to fuck you raw.

Beg for me darling. Beg loud enough that my brother can hear you, that everyone could hear you if they were there. You want them to know, don't you? I want them to know how good I make you feel and remember what they'll never have again. So you're going to do this for me because I can stay like this for hours until you give me what I want. Would you like that? For me to keep you on the edge until morning, until you're gasping and trembling on my cock and you want nothing more than to find release. Until every stroke is as much pain as pleasure and you're gagging for it like the slut you are. Would you let me carry you outside like that, throw you down across the table and fuck you hard for everyone to see? Let them watch but never touch because you belong to me.”

While I would never do any of this, the fantasy made my blood boil and Bilbo clenched tighter around me with every word. He was so close now, caught upon the brink of ecstasy, and I leaned down to nip at his ear. I had discovered their sensitivity early on, how touching them was guaranteed to make my hobbit crumble, so now I curled my tongue around the point.

With a gasp this sent him over the edge again, his back arching as he finally screamed for me and I rode out the waves of his pleasure until I could breath again. When Bilbo collapsed back against the bed, I began to chase my own release, gripping his hips tightly to thrust in as far as I could go.

My hobbit was soft and pliant beneath me and it didn't take long before I was spilling my seed within him, every nerve singing as white light burst behind my eyes. Then it was my turn to slump forward, panting into my lover's shoulder while I tried to regain control. Eventually I found the energy to pull out, the drag of oversensitive skin making both of us groan, and I flopped down beside him with a sigh.

“We should probably clean up or we're going to be disgusting in the morning,” I said after a moment, trying to convince myself to move, but Bilbo just grunted next to me.

“Later,” He ordered, throwing one arm around my waist and tucking his head against my neck. The sight was so adorable that I couldn't being myself to move him, instead pulling him in closer and trying to ignore the wet spot beneath my hip. I was tired enough that this wasn't too difficult and soon enough I drifted off into pleasant dreams.

---

I woke content, my hobbit draped across my chest in a boneless sprawl and a pleasant ache in muscles I hadn't used in weeks. Bilbo was still asleep, face soft in repose, and I wanted nothing more than to kiss those soft lips. Wake him with a kiss as I slipped back inside him, his body welcoming me home.

But I could hear groaning through the walls of our room and we were still covered in the fruits of last night's entertainment. While I doubted any of our company would rise very early considering how much they had consumed, I couldn't risk running into one of them before we'd gotten clean. So I nudged my hobbit awake despite his protests, stripping the dirty cloths from the bed and wrapping them around us like cloaks.

Then I ushered Bilbo down the stairs, keeping an eye out for any watchers along the way. But thankfully the halls were empty, the company laying abed as I had hoped, and we made it to our destination without running into anyone.

One convenient thing about Laketown was the excess of water and unlike most villages I'd seen, there was a washroom attached to the side of nearly every house. Once there I stripped quickly, tossing my sheet into a wooden laundry basin and then pouring a bucket of water over my head. I felt somewhat bad about leaving it there for someone else to clean, but we needed to move quickly and a soak would probably do it good.

So I focused on scrubbing the dried flakes off my skin and although Bilbo complained a bit about the icy nature of the water when he began to wash himself down, I managed to warm him up well enough. We returned to the house a while later, hair damp and smiles on our faces, shoving the door open in time to see the first of our companions stagger from their rooms.

It took us ages to leave that morning for everyone had overdone it and even Thorin wasn't moving very fast. But while Dwalin broke into periodic fits of swearing every time he bumped his aching head and Fíli refused to look in my direction, our company eventually hit the road again.

The Master of Laketown met us at the causeway to say farewell, he and uncle trading tight-lipped pleasantries while the rest of us tuned them out. Truthfully most of the others were too busy wincing at the sunlight to pay any attention, though everyone perked up a bit when Bard stopped by as well. He must have made a lot of friends last night since he greeted half our company by name, but I think I was still his favorite, fellow archers as we were, because Bard clapped me on the back and swore that we'd have our contest when next we'd meet.

Then Thorin led our company back to shore and onward toward the mountain. It was another lovely morning, if almost afternoon, and as much as I dreaded what might be coming, it was hard to feel too distressed beneath that brilliant sun.

Soon Bofur started singing and the brothers Ri joined in, each trying to come up with the most ridiculous verses about how Smaug would die. But their cheerful music cut off sharply when we crested the ridge east of Esgaroth and the plains of Erebor stretched before our eyes. For what was once lush fields of grass and flowers had been burnt black by dragon fire, a poisoned circle stretching out from the Lonely Mountain's base.

There was nothing: no plants, no animals, not even insects to buzz around your ears and I had never seen such endless death as this. Even in the rocky heights of the Misty Mountains life had managed to find a way, yet here the dragon's shadow fell upon us all.

Desolation indeed, I thought, shifting closer to my hobbit and the hopelessness within me was mirrored on the faces of my companions. But not on Thorin who must have taken this destruction as a challenge because a terrible fury ignited in his eyes and I could have sworn that they were shining with a fell golden light. For it seemed that I was right and it was not love which drove him, it was vengeance against the creature that dared to take our people's lives.

Yet while this change filled me with foreboding and I exchanged wary glances with my hobbit, the other members of our company watched their king in awe. His rage swept through them like wildfire, those warriors who had fought and bled for our kingdom now burning with the same need to avenge it loss.

All I could do was watch as even my brother fell under this strange euphoria and twelve dwarves marched gleefully toward their doom. Bilbo and I were the only ones unaffected and we hurried along with them, unwilling to let the others leave my sight while some dark power controlled their minds.

For this was worse than any simple greed or fury that I had ever seen; this was vengeance twisted into madness and nothing that I tried broke the spell. So Thorin drove us onward, our company marching through the day and long into the night, only allowing us to rest when his legs gave out. Though despite the way my skin was crawling, some of his urgency was justified because Durin's Day was drawing nearer as every moment passed.

I did not want to think about what would happen if we missed this deadline for I doubted that my uncle would be willing to wait another year. He would be more likely to stand by the gate and challenge the dragon to a duel, refusing to leave until the beast awoke and killed us all.

So I discussed the matter with Bilbo after the rest of the company had passed out from exhaustion and we decided that the best thing we could do was continue with the plan. Help my uncle find the door and if the dragon still lived, pray that Smaug's defeat would free their minds. There was nothing else to be done while my oath still bound me, and I could only be grateful that my hobbit understood. Understood and supported me in what I had to do.

We went to sleep then, managing only a few hours before uncle roared everyone awake and dragged us back on the road. Indeed his mania only increased the closer that we came to Erebor and as the first light of Durin's Day crept over the horizon, our company finally reached the Lonely Mountain's base.

Thorin ordered us to make camp quickly before sending everyone out to search, though of course the whole idea of a secret entrance was that it was hard to find. Indeed, despite Nori's observation that the door must be somewhere on the west face of the mountain, the task that faced us seemed nearly insurmountable. How were we supposed to discover the correct grey stone amidst the many when there was nothing but grey as far as I could see?

But just as my hopes were failing completely, Bilbo found us a miracle. Somehow his keen ears heard the thrush when all of ours could not and my hobbit ran off down the path, shouting for the company to follow.

We raced after him, my heart beating like thunder as I crested the rise to see a rough alcove in which a small brown bird was perched. The rest of the company fanned out behind us just as evening fell, the sun disappearing in a brilliant burst of scarlet fire and the cold silver moon rising in the sky. Their rays merged and mingled, casting light upon the mountainside and revealing a keyhole in the stone. At the sight uncle leaped forward, pulling Thráin's key from his tunic and slipping it into the lock with a triumphant shout.

Everyone watched with bated breath when Thorin began to turn the key, but it moved easily and with a soft click the way into Erebor slid open. The stone moved to reveal a tunnel stretching into the rock and while the company cheered, I allowed myself to swing my hobbit around once in my arms.

“That was brilliant,” I whispered, smiling down at him softly while the others celebrated, lifting their caps to our success.

“It was just luck,” He replied, dropping his eyes modestly. “If I hadn't heard the thrush, I wouldn't have been any help at all.”

Still can't see how magnificent you are, can you? I thought with a fond shake of my head. Saved us all thrice over and you still believe that you're the least important here. But before I could try to convince him of his worth to us once more, the celebration stopped dead as the mountain trembled and a strange rumbling echoed in the deeps.

This noise was accompanied by a blast of warm air, carrying with it the scent of overheated iron and dragon fire and this woke my companions from their stupor as nothing else had done. The euphoric gleam in their eyes was momentarily overwhelmed by panic at the knowledge that Smaug still lived and even Fíli seemed rather at a loss. But not uncle, he barely faltered before reaching out to grab our burglar's arm.

"Go scout, Bilbo, do the task for which we brought you. Return to us at the camp when you have discovered something useful." Thorin demanded, shoving my hobbit toward the entrance with a growl.

"You can't send him alone," I protested, aghast at his willingness to risk Bilbo's life. My uncle owed him a debt and I had thought that there was some respect between them, but now all of that was gone. Everything was secondary to his vengeance and I had a horrible feeling that Thorin would think nothing of sacrificing the rest of us as well.

For while I had known that my hobbit would be expected to sneak into the mountain, part of me had still been hoping that Smaug was dead and my heart was crying its refusal now. Surely we should take a moment to think up a proper plan instead of throwing Bilbo into the fire without a chance to prepare. Because as amazing as he was, my hobbit would be barely a mouthful for the dragon if he was caught and I could not stand the thought of losing him. "What if something happens and he needs to send word to us? At least let me stay here and keep guard."

But once again my hobbit proved to be braver than I, for he took my hands in his and gently shook his head. “It will be all right, Kíli.” He promised, smiling faintly though I could see the worry in his eyes. “You know that I have some tricks of my own and I'm the only one who may be able to slip beneath the dragon's notice. So go back and wait with the others until I return; I don't want you nearby if everything goes wrong.”

What could I do but let him go, even if it pained me? Even if watching Bilbo walk alone into that mountain was the hardest thing I'd ever had to do.

Once back in camp, I found myself pacing back and forth, my muscles tight with dread. The longer that my hobbit was gone, the greater my sense of panic and after an hour had passed I was nearly ready to do something insane. However, before I could lose my cool entirely and charge in after Bilbo, our burglar finally strode back down the path.

“I brought your uncle something,” My hobbit told me when I ran over to greet him, patting his pocket with a mischievous grin. “Maybe this will finally make him relax.”

“One can only hope,” I muttered in reply, wrapping my arm around his shoulders as the rest of the company gathered around. Everyone was talking over each other, a score of questions about what Bilbo had seen inside the mountain and he couldn't get a word in edgewise to actually answer anyone.

"What did you find?" Thorin interrupted with a scowl as he shoved his way to the front of our company and glared the cacophony to silence. "What of the dragon?"

"Smaug still sleeps, and he sleeps atop a bed of treasure." My hobbit replied, pulling a large golden cup from his tunic and placing it in my uncle's hands. That will certainly help to keep him happy. "But even asleep I saw no way for us to kill him. He is armored with scales thicker than steel and his undersides are crusted with gold and gems. Yet my father always said that every wyrm has a weak spot so if I return again perhaps I can find out more."

This was just like Bilbo, to volunteer himself for more danger in order to help his friends, but that was part of what had drawn me to him from the start. So I escorted him back to the passage, taking this chance to give my lover a quick kiss for luck.

The waiting wasn't any easier the second time and I couldn't understand how the rest of my companions were so calm. Each of them appeared to be in a daze, their former glee replaced with a kind of stupefied exhaustion which worried me. Even our fearless leader just sat there, stroking the cup in his hands as though in a dream, and he seemed more like a stranger than the uncle I had known. Indeed I was starting to wonder if I had been living in an illusion for my brother had already turned out to be a bigot and now Thorin was transforming before my eyes.

But before I could try to speak with my uncle, I heard Bilbo calling us and I turned to see him running toward our camp.

"I found it," He shouted, grabbing my forearms in excitement. "I found Smaug's weak point. There is a patch of scales on his chest as bare as a newborn babe, where one could surely strike his heart. It will be difficult, but I think a skilled enough archer could manage it."

My hobbit smiled at me proudly and my heart warmed as I realized the focus of his thoughts. Bilbo had found a way for me to prove myself to my family, prove that my useless 'hobby' was worth the time I'd spent. Oh you beautiful creature, I thought as our company let out a cheer, because even if I was finally planning to chase the life I'd wanted, this was an old wound that had not healed. I was tired of being overlooked as the strange and wild child, the one Durin who could not live up to his name.

So for all that I was not driven by glory, something in me thrilled to the idea of placing my mark on our people's history before I left. Thus even if my relatives agreed with Fíli, and given the changes in my uncle banishment was looking likely, no one would be able to forget what I had done. They would never be able to look at Erebor without remembering that it was I who claimed it back.

Yet just as our company began to plan our assault on the mountain, I heard a deafening roar and the earth beneath us began to shake again. I looked up to see a burst of fire upon the battlements and Smaug's roar echoed off the stone, "Barrel-riders! Lakemen! Thieves!"

The dragon clawed at the rock in his fury and boulders began to tumble down onto our camp, one narrowly missing Bifur's head. For all my brief dreams of glory, the distance was farther than I could shoot and we were far too unprotected here. Smaug would kill us all before he ever came in range so I had to recognize that I was beaten and I shouted for our company to flee.

So we ran for our lives, dodging the falling rock as the great wyrm leaped into the sky, his enormous scarlet wings blocking out the light. In this strange twilight our company took refuge in the secret passage, Thorin pulling the door shut behind us and we huddled together as the world rained down.

When the shaking finally stopped, the entrance was blocked by a mass of rubble which would have taken days to move. Not that uncle even acknowledged this option, instead lighting a torch as he ordered Bilbo to scout the treasure room and ensure that Smaug was truly gone. Despite Thorin's presumptive tone, my hobbit went willingly and when he returned with the news that it was clear, the company traveled onward through the gloom. This time I was sure that my uncle's eyes flashed golden, the sight sending a chill through my body and I stuck closer to my hobbit as we walked.

However, while I worried that my companions had fallen into some evil possession and that we would never be able to defeat the dragon without the advantage of surprise, this was not the thought which consumed my mind. No, all I could think as we moved deeper into the mountain was, So this is how the dwarves of Erebor return to their homeland. Sneaking in like thieves and cowards in the dark.


Part V: Strife