Series: A Matter of Perspective
Warnings: minor racism and homophobia
Word Count: 8521
Disclaimer: If I owned the Hobbit no one would die
Summary: Kíli just wanted to have an adventure, he never expected to find love as well. (The companion piece to A Terrible Mistake)
Part I: Secrets
I grew up on the open road, raised beneath wood and trees and sky. We were always traveling in those early days and now I know it was a matter of survival, but at the time I just thought that it was fun. It seemed a grand adventure to roam from place to place, never knowing what might be over the next horizon or what the following day might bring.
Indeed I was heartbroken when we finally settled in one town and every morning I would wake up with only Ered Luin to see. From then on I dreamed of the day that I could return to the wider world and my desire to escape only increased when my family decided it was time for me to become respectable.
For now that we were building a new community, everything that I had always done was suddenly forbidden so I would not shame our family's reputation. I was supposed to speak properly and dress properly and only practice the skills that were “appropriate to an heir of Durin's line.”
While I enjoyed forging and weapon-work as much as any dwarf, I was filled with an irrepressible curiosity about other crafts and I resented the idea that I could no longer learn every new thing which caught my eye. Indeed, my family had been grateful many times for my skill with both bow and needle out upon the road so I truly did not understand why everything had changed.
However, the difference that most broke my heart was the change in my brother because Fíli went from being my best friend to being my self-appointed keeper. Although he was only five years older than me, he was very conscious of his position as our uncle's heir and the importance of our family's pride and name. But in the early days, Fíli still found time for joy and laughter and we would explore the world together whenever we could. It was only after we came to Ered Luin that my brother's sense of wonder disappeared beneath the crushing weight of his future duty and he passed that burden on to me.
I could escape our elders' disapproving gazes as long as I performed my duties when they asked and I would often wander the markets to talk with the strangers from afar. Yet somehow Fíli was always there to break up my most interesting discussions and turn aside the friends whom my brother thought weren't good enough for me. Which was nearly all of them.
Sometimes I thought about running away but despite the rules and regulations, my life was not all bad and I loved my family more than anything. So I would need a truly overwhelming reason to leave my kin behind, something far more important than being different from the rest. Thus I learned to compromise instead, to win the battles closest to my heart in exchange for some concessions and remind myself that my family was worth the cost.
So I kept my bow but lost the baking, kept the woodworking but lost some friends and I took my rebellions where I could find them, such as the day I convinced everyone that my skill at archery meant that I had to shave my beard.
The greater the elders' expectations became, the more I learned to hide the facts they could not face because I truly did not wish to cause them any pain. Therefore I never told them that I did not dream of treasure or of glory but only wanted to be content and loved for who I was. I learned to hide the knowledge that I did not actually care about our family's legacy and I preferred the open forest to caves of rock and stone.
When I grew old enough for lovers, I lay with all who took my fancy and simply failed to mention the males or the odd adventurous human who passed my way. Though in truth I think my family guessed some of these secrets, it was easier for everyone to act as if I did not disappoint them and sometimes I wished that I truly was the son they wanted, the son I pretended I could be.
Everyone was happier this way, everyone but me, and it was not their fault that I was a born with a wild soul instead of the standard dwarvish mind. Life was good enough and I meant my oaths when I swore to do my duty as a prince of Durin's Elder Line.
So although I sometimes wondered if I would ever have the chance to live without the falsehood, I could not imagine leaving my family behind forever and the best I really hoped for was that this duty would someday let me wander free.
Thus when our uncle came to us and asked for aid in reclaiming Erebor, of course I volunteered immediately. This was my family's oldest dream and my brother's greatest wish, so how could I refuse to help make it reality? If I was less interested in the treasure and the honor at our mission's end than the journey along the way, no one needed to know where my heart fell.
I never imagined that my uncle's quest would change my life forever and take me to places of which I -always- never dreamed.
When my brother and I rode out to meet Thorin at the start of our journey, I was overjoyed to finally be traveling once more. Indeed I drove Fíli crazy with my hyperactive bouncing but while he was brooding on the seriousness of our quest, all I could think was that I was finally off on another adventure. A family-sanctioned, brother-approved adventure, which was something I might never see again.
Yet for all my anticipation of the open road to come, when we entered the land known as the Shire I felt something in me shift. It was not just that it was beautiful, although it was, lush and green in a way that soothed my soul. I had not seen such fertile lands since we put down roots in Ered Luin for the mountains there supported no such verdant life as this.
However, it was more than the prosperity that spoke to me, there was a joy within the earth beneath our ponies' feet. I could feel it in my bones and when I breathed in deep, the air was free from the miasma of wronged despair that hung about my family's home. Fíli was too busy sneering at the hobbits' lack of battle prowess to notice the difference but I was entranced by the easy happiness and simple cares I saw. I was entranced by what I felt.
For the Shire called to me, called to the wounds and shadows on my heart. A siren's call that filled my soul with yearning and I finally understood how uncle felt when he spoke of Erebor, for a place like this could be my home.
This is not to say that I was no longer excited to go on our journey, because I still loved the thought of traveling and my oath bound me to see our quest accomplished. Yet for the first time, I also realized that there were places in the world where I might actually belong and maybe there could be a home for me, if not here then somewhere else when our purpose was complete.
Perhaps I would not be left haunting the halls beneath the Lonely Mountain when my duty was fulfilled, yearning for the sight of stars and wishing to be free. Or if that was too impossible a dream, at least I might return to the Shire from time to time and find solace in their peace.
However, I kept this revelation to myself because I knew that Fíli would not understand it, my brother with his proper dwarvish dreams. We rode on this way through the rolling hills and quiet paths that led to our goal, he with contempt and me with envy at the land that we passed by. But for all my delight in the scenery, we had to arrive at our destination eventually and what a lovely place it turned out to be.
Like all the homes we had passed, it was built into the hillside but this one was a step above the rest in size and positioned near the top in pride of place. From the rows of windows, I could tell that it stretched far beneath the ground, but there was also a magnificent garden off to the side and everything was neat and tidy and obviously well-loved.
My brother and I were near the first of our companions to arrive and we dismounted to tie our ponies on the fence next to the two already there. Once they were secure, we walked up the steps to the green door on which a dwarvish rune glowed brightly and rang the bell.
Shortly after, a rather disgruntled hobbit stood before our eyes.
I had never believed in love at first sight and I still didn't really, but lust yes and the possibility of something more. For he looked nothing like any dwarf I had ever seen and the differences between us fascinated me now that I was seeing them up close: the smooth, beardless face, his fuzzy feet and those blonde curls which I just wanted to tangle in my hands.
My brother and I introduced ourselves with a bow but I was so caught up in staring that I stumbled over my words. “You must be Mr. Boggins,” I said and made Fíli wince where he stood by my side. However, the hobbit didn't seem to care about my mistake because instead of correcting me, he just tried to turn us away into the night.
The idea that our quest might be over before it had even begun was horrifying so I shoved the door back open and asked in desperation, “What? Has it been canceled?” Not my one chance to see the world again! And when the hobbit stammered his denial, I smiled at him brightly in relief.
He seemed flustered as we entered so I tried to put him at ease by complimenting his home and in fact, the house was rather masterful: warm and cozy and just about my size. Not that my words seemed to help, for Mr. Baggins only became more annoyed the longer that I spoke and when the others of our company arrived and started emptying his pantry, I thought that he might faint from aggravation. Still even when he was yelling, he made the cutest faces and surely he would not have had so much food if he were not expecting guests.
Maybe I can convince him to follow me to some dark corner and take his mind off things, I wondered but before I had the chance to ask, I was distracted from my staring by the incredible feast laid out on the table. Though perhaps such a meal was the norm for Shirefolk because the hobbit didn't join us in eating, just stood in the doorway and looked horrified.
To be fair it was raucous gathering and if you weren't used to us, twelve dwarves and a wizard could be a lot to take. So I made sure that Fíli and I started the group cleaning with a song and before long we had the dishes washed and the room back spic and span.
The hobbit seemed impressed by our skill in spite of himself and some of his anger eased, but before we could straighten up any more, uncle finally arrived and there was naught but serious business to be had.
It was ill news for our cause that none of our kin would aid us because while I understood their hesitancy, I knew that Thorin would try to kill Smaug anyway, even without an army at his back. So I hoped Gandalf might have some experience to offer but when this turned out to be a false assumption, our company quickly descended to squabbling and angry accusations were flung across the room.
Finally uncle roared the group to silence and under his stern glare every objection seemed to have an answer, though I did wonder how much of that was simply denial of the truth. But soon Balin was handing Mr. Baggins our contract for his perusal and I was impressed to see him read it over carefully. Smart and pretty, I thought with admiration, for I knew many who would have blithely signed away their lives without a second glance.
However, the hobbit's incredulous, “Lacerations...evisceration...incineration?” made me worry that this fascinating person would decide to stay behind. So I shot Bofur a glare when he started describing Smaug in all his terrifying glory, but it was too late and Mr. Baggins passed out on the floor.
Most of the others snorted dismissively at this and though I could see the disdain in uncle's eyes, I stood up from my seat to carry the hobbit to a chair. Poor thing. Gandalf obviously hasn't told him anything. It's no wonder he was so confused when we arrived and we've hardly been the most polite of guests. I guess I can't blame him if he chooses not to join us on our mad journey, not with a home as nice as this.
Yet as I stared down at Mr. Baggins' face, I hoped that he would decide to help us try and kill a dragon anyway, against all common sense or reason. There was something interesting about him beyond my deep attraction and I wanted the time to discover what secrets lay beneath his soft facade. But I also did not think it likely that the hobbit would join our company, not unless uncle Thorin put out some actual effort and indeed when he woke, Mr. Baggins refused us all.
So it was with disappointment that I joined the others by the fire to sing the song of our people's endless sorrow and the broken land that was our home.
“Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To find our long-forgotten gold
The pines were roaring on the height
The winds were moaning in the night
The fire was red, it flaming spread
The trees like torches blazed with light...”
As always the music filled my heart with yearning, not for the mountain lost so long ago or grand halls filled with gleaming treasure, but simply for a place to call my own. When the last verse trailed off into silence, the wizard informed us of our lodgings for the night and gradually our company began to trickle out the door.
I stayed until the last, drafting Fíli to straighten the rooms and clean up our messes for it seemed terribly impolite to leave such a lovely house in disarray. Considering the fine hospitality that we'd received and the fact that uncle would leave no payment for Mr. Baggins' trouble, it was the least that I could do. And he's definitely not going to change his mind if we make him clean all this up.
Yet even after we had finished and Fíli was waiting impatiently outside, I simply could not bring myself to leave. It was such a warm house, a warmth that spoke clearly of real love and family and I just wanted to soak the feeling deep into my bones.
So I was leaning on the doorjamb and watching the hobbit sleep, wondering if I dared to discover whether his lips were as soft as they looked, when he stirred and opened up his eyes. He startled at the sight of me and I spoke quickly to calm him down.
“Hey, easy, it's all right. It's just me Mr. Baggins. The others have all left already and my brother and I cleaned up as much as we could.” I said, smiling gently as he relaxed.
“Oh, you didn't have to do that. And you can call me Bilbo, you know.”
“Of course I did. We may not have know that you weren't expecting us but this hardly excuses the way we just barged in and turned your house upside down. So I couldn't leave it like that, especially not when it's such a beautiful place.”
He must have heard the honest admiration in my voice for Bilbo's face brightened as he replied, “Well thank you then, I do appreciate it. Bag End has been in the family for generations but while it's well-built, it is a little large for just one person and the cleaning can be a pain. It is Kíli, isn't it?”
“Yep, that's me. Kíli son of Jilí at your service.” I said with a short bow before moving to sit on the edge of his bed. “Are you sure you'll be all right? We kind of cleaned you out.”
“It's fine, really. I may not have been expecting you but it was kind of nice to have the company, once I stopped worrying about the chaos anyway. Bag End gets a little lonely sometimes now that it's only me.”
At these words I felt a spark of hope and I leaned forward intently to argue our case. “You should come with us then. See the world and meet new people. This house will still be here when you return and you never know, you might find someone to bring back with you when you come.”
“If I return.” He replied, shaking his head. “I always wanted to see the world when I was younger but I'm hardly a hardened warrior and I know I lack the skills needed for your quest. It's the coming back part that worries me and I'm too much of a coward to take the risk.”
I scooted closer, laying my hand lightly on his arm. “Of course you'd return. I wouldn't let anything happen to you, not if I could help it, and even if uncle doesn't like you, he would never let you die. And I don't think you're a coward, you're just untested like me. You haven't had the chance to be brave yet and I think you would surprise yourself when the time for courage came.”
While I knew that it was selfish of me to try and convince him to come along on such a dangerous journey, I was not lying in my words and if he was happy here then nothing I said would change his mind. I liked him and I wanted to know him better and if he were truly lonely then perhaps we could help each other find what was missing in our lives, for I had a strange feeling that this might be my only chance.
Bilbo laughed in self-deprecation even as he gave me a shy smile which set my heart to pounding. “I think you have too high an opinion of me, but I promise I'll consider it.”
“Good,” I said, smiling brightly at him and I felt victorious when his cheeks pinked beneath my gaze. “Balin left the contract on the table and I do hope you change your mind. See you tomorrow then.” I added hopefully, unable to resist tucking a wayward curl behind the hobbit's ear and my grin grew wider when his flush deepened.
By now I knew that Fíli would be looking for me so I said farewell and opened the door beneath my brother's impatient knock. He looked at me oddly for a moment and I realized that I still had a fond smile plastered across my face but I was in such a fantastic mood from the conversation that I simply did not care.
This cheerful mood lasted through the night and into the next morning so when Nori started taking bets on whether or not Bilbo would show up, I placed my money firmly on the hobbit's side. Even though he had not promised he would come, somehow I was certain that we would see him running down the path and when Fíli asked, I just said I had a feeling for it was true. It was only hours later when uncle finally convinced the wizard that we must leave without our burglar that I felt my hopes begin to die.
I guess he decided to stay at home after all, I thought sadly to myself. While I could hardly blame him for his choice, I mourned the chance to make a friend that might have understood me and now I would never know if he could have been more.
As we rode away, I could not even bring myself to continue smiling for I knew that I would probably never see this place again. Even if we somehow succeeded in our mission and I managed to return to the Shire someday, there would be no one here to welcome me. I doubted that Bilbo would remember one young dwarf above the rest and while I had hardly known him, I felt lonely at the thought.
But then there was a voice crying for us to wait and I turned in my saddle to see the hobbit sprinting toward us, contract trailing in the wind.
“I signed it,” He said proudly when he finally caught up and soon Balin was welcoming Bilbo into my uncle's company before we lifted him atop a pony of his own. As I watched him ride in front of me, staring at Myrtle as though she were a terrible monster, I could not keep the beaming smile off my face. I knew that Fíli thought my joy was due to the money that I'd won but all I was really thinking was that I would have my chance after all.
Over the next few days we traveled onward through the Shire and initially I joined in when my brother and the rest teased the hobbit about his fears. Such jokes were common practice to break in the new member of a company and besides, Bilbo made the most adorable expressions when annoyed.
However as uncle's scorn continued unabated, the others kept their distance long past the normal time and I stopped laughing when Fíli's jokes gained a crueler edge. When that friendly light which so enticed me began to disappear from the hobbit's eyes, I decided that I would not allow it anymore. Since the rest of the company was apparently never going to come to their senses, I would become Bilbo's friend without their support and take their disapproval on myself instead.
Whatever happened to just wanting loyalty, honor and a willing heart, uncle? I thought angrily as I comforted the hobbit after another of Thorin's contemptuous tirades and showed him how to saddle his pony right. Bilbo didn't grow up on the road like me and Fíli so it's hardly fair to judge him on things he wasn't taught. It'd be like hobbits expecting us to farm.
In fact, he was a fast learner and eagerly soaked up everything I showed him so I could not understand why everyone insisted on treating him like scum. Probably more rules about propriety but our station shouldn't justify being awful, even if he's not a dwarf. Whatever, it's their loss.
And indeed it was because the more I found out about Bilbo, the more I liked him, because what he lacked in experience, he made up by being smart and stubborn with a wry sense of humor and an interest in everything he saw.
As our company traveled onward, I told him stories of my childhood in Ered Luin and out upon the road while the hobbit talked of living in the Shire and we soon discovered that we were kindred souls at heart. We were both dreamers who had never quite fit in with the rest of our people, both lonely and in need of a good friend.
Though I soon decided that friendship was not enough because my attraction only grew with everything I learned and some nights it was all I could do to keep my hands to myself. My feelings for him were already stronger than any infatuation I'd ever had before and I knew I needed to find out where he stood before my pining drove me mad.
However, I was afraid to ask him outright in case he agreed with the more conservative members of my race or those kingdoms of men where one could be executed for desires such as mine. So I resigned myself to pining until I could figure out a plan and then Bilbo went and made the whole thing moot.
The hobbit was in the middle of another story about his wild younger days when he casually mentioned crashing his cousin's wedding, a wedding between two male hobbits and yet he didn't bat an eye. “Males can marry each other?” I asked in surprise because that was more than I had ever dared to hope.
“Well yes, of course.” If anything Bilbo seemed confused by my outburst and he looked at me with concern as I gaped at him in shock. “I mean... I read that some men forbid it but the elves don't care and neither do we. It's not like we have a population problem and love is love, isn't it? Do dwarves not... you know?”
I gathered my thoughts, trying to find a way to explain the most common position among my people without making him think we all agreed. “No, it happens. But a lot of dwarves really don't approve of it at all, especially the older ones. I think there used to be actual laws against it but there's so many more males than females these days that most people turn a blind eye as long as you're discreet. Which is good for me, I guess.”
That last slipped out by accident and I watched uncertainly for his reaction in case he turned out to be more like my family after all. However, Bilbo didn't even react to my confession, just smiled at me as he replied.
“I've never thought about that before since it's not an issue in the Shire but it seems that I'm lucky to be a hobbit. When I finally fall in love no one will blink twice and I can always name one of my many relatives as heir.”
He went on with his story after that but I was rather distracted by the euphoric delight welling up within me at his words. That sounded like he meant.... Mahal is smiling down on me today.
Though our increasing closeness did not go unnoticed by the rest of the company, I believed that I had managed to hide my desire for the moment and this is how I wanted it. While I knew that some of the others had bedded males themselves, and a few had even bedded me, this did not mean that they would support my choices if it came down to a fight.
As for my family, I was pretty sure my brother had to know but uncle and Fíli had been in denial of my preferences since I was old enough to have any, and it wasn't worth the risk of breaking through that wall. The two of them sent me enough disapproving glances just for being Bilbo's friend so I was actually slightly afraid of what they might do to him if they ever found out.
While I planned to court the hobbit anyway, it would have to be in secret, at least until he proved himself worthy in their eyes. I was not very happy about this decision because I'd always resented the need to hide half my paramours, and yet the night our company made camp next to an abandoned farmhouse, Fíli proved that it was right.
Uncle had set the two of us to guard the ponies, but after we had tied them up my brother took me aside and proceeded to give me one of the most self-important lectures of my life. The more he talked the more I could not believe my ears for while I had known that Fíli believed in the importance of our house, I did not realize that he had become such a pompous bastard. Not only did he think that I was only using Bilbo's friendship to increase his loyalty but my brother dared to say that I should leave the task to the commoners, as if Ori were worth any less than me.
After listening to him go on and on insulting my friends in this manner, I could not take it anymore and I burst out with, “What makes dwarves so much better anyway? Or royalty, considering what a dick you are?”
Although this made me feel better for a moment, it might have been a mistake because it also caused Fíli to lose his temper. My brother always was a vicious fighter and of course he went straight for the jugular, bringing up all the ways in which I was a disappoint in his eyes. So I retorted as only a younger sibling could and we might have come to blows if the shriek of our ponies hadn't stopped us dead.
There was something out there, something large, and the threat of danger ended our argument as if it had never been. While I would not truly forget his words, I knew I would forgive him just like always and we had far more important things to think about.
When we snuck over to the source of the noise, we found the trees uprooted and two ponies gone and I winced because this was not going to help bring Thorin over to my cause. Fíli was in a similar state of shock, though probably more worried about uncle's disappointment, and my brother and I were trying to think of a plan when Bilbo arrived with dinner in his hands.
After we had explained the situation and discovered that three mountain trolls had stolen our ponies, my brother suggested that the hobbit sneak over there to steal them back. While I was suspicious of his motives, Fíli's suggestion was actually sound for Bilbo moved more quietly than any dwarf and this was an area in which he might excel. So I urged him toward the fire, whispering that this was his chance to show his skills and win my uncle's favor and promising that I wouldn't let anything happen to him if it all went wrong.
My brother gave me a strange look when we moved back to let the hobbit work but I assumed he was wondering why I had agreed and I brushed off his glance. I was far more interested in watching Bilbo and at first it seemed he would be successful because he was as quick and quiet on his feet as Gandalf had promised.
It was only when he began to fumble with the ropes and I realized he did not have a blade that I became sure that this would not end well. He should have said something, it's not like we don't have knives to spare. Or I should have noticed. Some friend I am.
I turned to my brother and ordered him to bring the others, armed and swiftly, growling him into motion when he just stared at me aghast. Surely Fíli did not think we should simply let our burglar die, and I was still fuming as I watched this disaster unfold before my eyes. For a moment it seemed that Bilbo might get away but then one of the trolls grabbed him and I was warmed by his attempt to hide the presence of our company even as I feared greatly for his life.
See, I told you that you would be brave when you had the chance, I thought in admiration before jumping out to take my hobbit back. “Drop him!” I demanded, sword drawn and ready and I could see the relief on Bilbo's face that I was there.
Then the trolls threw him to me and I had barely a moment to revel in the feel of him in my arms before the others were charging out of the trees to engage our enemy in battle. I nudged the hobbit gently to the side, telling him to free our ponies before picking up my sword and joining the fight. From then on it was a blur of strikes and dodging and I was relieved to find that despite our differences, Fíli and I could still move as one.
But then I looked up and Bilbo had been captured once again and it was only uncle's tight grip on my shoulder which kept me from running to his aid. To be honest, I knew that it was foolish and I could not take the trolls down before they killed my hobbit, but that did not mean I was happy when Thorin surrendered to save his life.
So we found ourselves tied up in sacks, watching helplessly as our companions were slowly roasted over the fire and then Bilbo spoke up. At first I thought that he was trying to buy us time until Gandalf returned, but then he started giving our foes advice on how to cook us better and I felt betrayed instead.
I would have died for you, I thought furiously as I fought against my bonds. I trusted you!
This treachery burned within me more than any I had ever known and even in my pain, I had to acknowledge that I had fallen for him hard. I could have loved the hobbit and I was so caught up in my grief over what might have been that it took uncle kicking me to make me see the truth. Bilbo was just buying us time after all and I admit I may have gone slightly overboard in my relief. However, it all worked out in the end because Gandalf saved us with the dawn and soon we were free dwarves again.
Once untied I couldn't help but fuss over Bilbo, checking to see that he had not been injured and thanking him for saving all our lives. Even if Thorin wasn't going to acknowledge his cleverness, I would and hopefully this would make some of the others see him in a better light.
Fíli and I left to gather up our ponies while the rest of the company explored the trolls' cavern and when we had finished, we returned to find Gandalf talking with another wizard, one even stranger than him. Radagast brought ill tidings by the shadows in his eyes, but before I could ask what was going on there were more immediate threats for us to face.
Wargs attacked us from the trees, perhaps the same ones we had heard out on the road, and although the company killed two of them, we knew that the full pack would not be far behind. So we ran.
We ran on foot, our ponies having bolted once again in panicked flight, and I spared a thought to their safety as we sprinted for our lives. Even with the brown wizard drawing off our enemies, it was difficult to stay ahead of the orc pack and our group had to take a circuitous route to remain out of sight.
Despite our best efforts, one of the wargs eventually caught our scent and while I managed to stop its rider from sounding the alarm, my arrows failed to bring him down. The noise of our fight alerted the rest of the pack and soon we were surrounded, the orcs stalking us like cornered prey. Uncle yelled at me to shoot them and I killed as many as I could but we were seriously outnumbered and if it came down to a fight, I was not sure that we would win.
Just as I was losing hope, Gandalf appeared again, calling for us to hide within the stone and the others ran for cover while I guarded their retreat. Uncle and I were the last two to jump down into the crevice and I was relieved when I looked across our group to see that my hobbit and my brother were all right.
Only a short moment after I leaped to safety, there was the sound of horns from up above and screams rang out as horses ran the orc pack down. One of the creatures tumbled through the opening with an arrow in its neck and from the style, I could see that our rescuers were elves. I had known that we were nearing Rivendell but since uncle refused to seek their aid, I had put it from my mind and truthfully our leader seemed rather annoyed now that we were in their debt.
Indeed, when we discovered that Gandalf's crevice led directly to the hidden valley, Thorin looked like he might die of anger and the rest of the company muttered dark imprecations. Yet what else could we do but ask their hospitality, road weary and supply-less as we were?
I hadn't yet decided what to think because while I knew the sort of irrational hatred that ran in my family, this did not always mean their fears were wrong. Besides Bilbo's awestruck glances were annoying me because he'd never looked at us dwarves like that and I wondered if he'd be so appreciative when he saw our ancestral home.
However, the elf that greeted us seemed nice enough if a bit disdainful and too impolite to speak in the common tongue. The wizard did not seem happy about whatever he was saying in that lilting foreign speech but before we could ask what was going on, Lord Elrond and his lancers thundered down the path.
I grabbed Bilbo and pulled him back within the company as the elvish horses circled round and for a moment I feared that our companies might come to blows. However, thankfully Elrond ignored uncle Thorin's rudeness to offer his hospitality and I shot my brother a relieved smile as I steered my hobbit into the elf lord's house.
Our stay in Rivendell was a peaceful and welcome change from the long and dangerous days out on the road, and my uncle's hatred of the elves began to seem unfounded after all. Though I might have liked them better if Bilbo's admiration had waned at all while we were there.
But it did not, and the more my hobbit went on about how wonderful the elves were, the more I seethed inside and increased my efforts to make him notice me. Despite my jealousy, these attempts seemed to be working, for although both of us were often called away to council, while we were together his smiles were fond and his hands would linger. So I had high hopes that when our company left the hidden valley and we could finally be alone, my advances would not be rejected.
Unfortunately, that solitude was hard to find, because once we were on the trail again my brother decided to make a nuisance of himself. Suddenly every time I turned around, Fíli was always underfoot and Bilbo and I could barely start a conversation before my brother was between us.
At first I thought that his timing was simply incredibly poor since he'd shown no sign of recognizing how I felt and probably preferred to live in denial anyway. However, as the days passed and Fíli showed no signs of easing up on his odd attention, I began to be reminded of other times when my dear brother had acted just like this.
It was a habit of his when we were younger to become my shadow whenever I made a friend outside our clan or class, a shadow who had conveniently driven them away. But I had hoped he was over such ridiculous behavior, though I'm not sure why I thought this would be true considering the rant about our family’s pride that I had received just a short time before. But maybe, once Bilbo had proved himself and I could tell them all that he was my one and only, maybe then Fíli would learn to accept the choices I had made. Surely my brother wanted me to be happy more than he cared about our name?
However until that moment came, I knew there was no point in fighting Fíli over this directly, for a confrontation would only make him dig in his heels. I had to come at the problem sideways instead, so I stopped arguing with Fíli about his intrusions and waited for him to drop his guard. I had learned over the years that as long as I presented the appearance of compliance, my family would rarely look beneath the surface and my brother was rarely more observant than the rest.
He had been once when we were children, back then he had known me well. Until our mother and uncle taught him how they thought the world should be and he stopped seeing what was there.
Thus when I acted as if I didn't mind my brother's interference, he assumed that my friendship with Bilbo must be waning because of course someone like that could be so easily forgotten. This assumption annoyed me greatly but Fíli's growing inattention allowed me to sneak off and promise my hobbit that I still held him dear. Thankfully he was understanding about the situation, even if he still thought that it was only our friendship that my brother tried to kill.
While I was prepared to wait forever for the opportunity to make my feelings clear, Mahal smiled upon me and my chance came sooner than I'd hoped. The longer we traveled up into the mountains, the fouler the weather became and we had been trudging through a rainstorm of epic proportions for several hours when the peaks around us came alive.
Stone giants they were and at first I had to simply stop and stare in awe while they rose from the crags as if the very earth itself was climbing to its feet. How could I not want to travel when the world held marvels such as this? How could I be happy locked up in a mountain when there were still so many natural wonders to explore?
Though I admit my admiration was dampened slightly when the path beneath our feet began to split as well, one more giant rising up to battle in the storm. Uncle was ahead of me and we jumped quickly to safety but I watched in horror as Fíli was torn from my grasping hands.
I cried his name desperately when he disappeared into the storm along with half our company, for while he pissed me off, he was still my brother and I would be devastated if he died. He had been there with me my entire life and I did not know how I could survive without him at my side. Not without support so the moment I realized Bilbo was also missing, panic filled my heart. To lose them both was unthinkable and that my hobbit might never know how much I loved him was more than I could bear.
But all I could do was watch helplessly as the giant fell against the mountain, a strangled cry leaving my throat at the loss of nearly all that I held dear. We rushed forward, expecting to see them crushed or worse and my knees buckled with relief to find them whole and hale.
Except Bilbo was not there amongst the others and it seemed a cruel joke when I saw him hanging from the very edge of the cliff itself. I was too far back to aid him and the others could not reach and I had to look away in anguish for I could not watch my hobbit die. So when uncle jumped down and pushed Bilbo back onto the path, my joy was only slightly dampened by the vicious lecture he aimed at the life he saved.
Too close. That was too close, I thought, sagging against the side of the mountain in relief and while I saw the hurt on my hobbit's face as Thorin's words struck their mark, I was just glad that he was breathing. However, this event also drove home the fact that our quest was truly dangerous and I resolved to seize the moment now.
After our hard day's journey and near brush with death, everyone was exhausted so when I volunteered to take the first watch not even Fíli questioned my sudden charity. The other dwarves all dropped off quickly but I could see Bilbo laying awake and I called him over softly to my side.
“Don't think too much about uncle's words.” I said, wrapping my arm around his shoulders and trying to ease the depression in his eyes. “It is he who is lacking if he cannot see your worth.”
“I don't know,” he replied and my heart ached at the doubt within his voice “Maybe I should just go back to Hobbiton after all. I don't think I'm suited for a quest like this.”
“No!” My cry ripped out of me, sharp and anguished and Bilbo looked up at me with startled eyes. “No, please don't go. You've been adapting well and I know that few of the others have been treating you as they should but surely the journey hasn't been all bad?”
I cupped his cheek in my palms and stared down at him pleadingly, for while I wanted to tell him how I felt, I couldn't lay that on him if he truly wished to leave. It would not be fair if he only stayed because I loved him and I cared too much to make him choose such risk for me.
So I waited anxiously for the hobbit's response as he thought it over carefully. “Well Rivendell was amazing, I've always wanted to see real elves...” Seriously, the fucking elves. That can't be it.
Those words almost had me ready to give up then and there, until Bilbo glanced up with one of the sweetest smiles I had ever seen. “I've enjoyed the traveling as well, if not the parts that tried to kill me. But I think the best part has been you. I've never had a... a friend like you before and I think I would always regret it if I didn't see this journey through. So I guess I'm staying after all.”
I hugged the hobbit tightly, hope rekindled in my heart and at the firm touch of his body, I could no longer resist the desire that I'd been keeping locked inside. So I took Bilbo's face between my hands and kissed him passionately, pouring all my love against his lips.
The hobbit's mouth was as soft as I had imagined and it was a long moment before I managed to pull myself away. Only when I opened my eyes again did anxiety strike me and I bit my lip uncertainly as I waited to see what he would do.
“Kíli? You really feel that way, for me?” But I needn't have worried for there was only surprised pleasure in Bilbo's voice and the glance he gave me mirrored the joy I felt within.
“Of course,” I told him, taking his hands in mine. “You're amazing and I've felt this way for awhile now. I just haven't had the chance to tell you before this.”
“I like you too. You're the best friend I've ever had and I think we could be more.” Bilbo replied, stroking my cheek gently and for a moment I was the happiest I had ever been. “But what about the others? You said most dwarves don't approve of males together and I don't want you to lose your friends or family over me.”
This was a harsh reminder of the reality of our situation and my joy dimmed at the knowledge that he was worth more than I could give.
“I want to shout my feelings from the mountaintops so that everyone can hear, only I don't know how the others would react. Some of them are just like us but uncle is conservative and I doubt they would support me in the face of his disapproval. However, if that was all I would tell them anyway because I'm used to his disappointment and if the rest abandoned us then they'd be no friends of mine.
But if Thorin decided to blame you instead, he might try to hurt you and I cannot gamble your life upon those odds. So we would have to remain hidden until I could be sure that no harm would befall you and I don't know how long that might take. I'm sorry, you deserve better than to be my dirty secret and I'll understand if it's too much too ask.”
Yet Bilbo just kept smiling and patted me gently on the arm. “You are worth more than that as well and while your uncle is admittedly terrifying, I want to be with you anyway. Besides it might be fun to steal kisses in the dark and there's no point in causing a fuss until we know if we'll stay together.”
My feelings were mixed at this pronouncement but eventually joy won out. While I was disappointed to know that his love might not be as strong as mine, my hobbit had agreed to be with me and this was enough for now. Anything more would come with time and I was his for life.
So I leaned down and kissed Bilbo as a pledge to our future and when he melted into me, I could not resist deepening the kiss. I lost myself in the warmth of my hobbit's mouth and the slide of skin on skin and I do not know how much time passed before I caught a flash of blue from the corner of my eye. It was Bilbo's blade, shining fiercely in the dark and at the sight all thoughts of romance fled.
“Uncle,” I shouted in warning, lunging for my gear and he was up in an instant at my call. Thorin woke the others to face whatever danger neared our camp but they had barely staggered to their feet before the entire cavern split in two. The company spilled into the spreading gap and I could see jeering goblin faces down below, an enemy that would not stand and fight.
So I could do nothing but hold my hobbit tightly as the ground disappeared beneath our feet and we tumbled down into the russet gloom.
Part II: Sabotage