Title: To Catch a Burglar
Rating/Warnings: Practically gen and full of toothrottingly fluffy ridiculousnessWord Count: 3719
Disclaimer: If I owned the Hobbit everyone would live.
Summary: Yavanna's Children hold many secrets and when the chill winds of winter begin to sweep across the mountain, Bilbo Baggins disappears. (Along with Dwalin's knuckledusters, Kili's wardrobe and Bofur's favorite hat.)
Bofur cannot find his favorite hat. It’s the fuzzy grey one with the ear flaps and the dwarf could have sworn that he put it in the clothes chest with his other cold weather gear. But when Bofur starts making preparations for the coming winter, his hat is nowhere to be seen.
The miner tears his room apart looking for it, dumping all of his clothes on the floor and searching through them piece by piece. Yet even this turns up nothing, his hat is simply gone, and so it’s a rather disheartened Bofur who walks into the dining hall when the bell for breakfast rings.
While Thorin’s former company is rather occupied with the restoration of Erebor, the dwarves try to eat their morning meal together at least once or twice a week. They trade stories and ideas for the next phase of rebuilding, catch up on any changes in each others’ lives, and when Thorin manages to join them, his company reminds him that he need not be the King constantly.
However, this morning the Lord of Erebor and his heir are stuck in court with some foreign delegation so there’s only ten of Thorin’s company sitting around the table when Bofur arrives, Bombur tossing him a plate cheerfully. But the miner can’t respond with his usual smile at the moment and the others are quick to notice the frown upon his face.
So Kíli waves Bofur over to sit on the bench beside him, asking the dwarf what's wrong once he's filled his plate properly. The two of them have become surprisingly good friends since their quest was completed, Bofur’s eternal calm helping to keep the younger prince on an even keel.
For while the archer is a little quieter than he used to be, his earlier recklessness dampened by all that he has seen, Kíli still chafes at the new expectations placed on him. He’s not used to being Royalty when he was just royalty before and it helps to bitch about manners and deportment to someone he can trust.
Thus Bofur’s depressed expression seriously worries Kíli since the miner is supposed to be the happy one amongst their company. He’s supposed to be the one who comforts them instead of the other way around and the prince knows that he’s much less skilled at this. But his rough concern seems to do the job and Bofur takes this opportunity to explain to a sympathetic ear.
“It’s just not fair,” the dwarf says, frowning into his flagon of milk. “I love that hat; it’s the same one I brought with me on our quest and I don’t understand where it could have gone.”
Although his friends have no answers for him, the other dwarves are quick to offer the miner their support during this painful time. Because every dwarf knows the ache of losing a favorite tool or article of clothing and the sting never lessens no matter how often it occurs.
“Why, just the other day, I was looking for my best wool socks and I couldn’t find them anywhere,” Balin says, patting Bofur on the back. “But perhaps this is a message from the Valar that this will be an easy winter and we need not worry about frostbite on our feet.”
“Or we have rats,” Dwalin retorts pessimistically. “Something has been stealing my knuckledusters one by one since Durin’s Day and no amount of traps has made the thieving stop. It’s not just them; I haven’t been able to find the earmuffs that mother gave me either and if some dirty vermin has dared to chew on them, we’ll be having a bit of extra meat in our stew soon enough.”
“Really? Your earmuffs? Because my new scarf turned up missing last Thursday and my wife swears that she packed it in the cupboard with all the rest.” Glóin is the next one to speak up and after that, it seems like everyone has their own tale of woe to tell.
Missing socks, gloves, hats, scarves and capes – enough clothes to dress two whole dwarves between them and it's only once the fervor dies down again that the company realizes one of their number hasn't said anything.
“You've been rather silent, Kíli,” Nori says, looking at the prince suspiciously. “This isn't some elaborate prank of yours?”
“Huh? Oh, sorry. No,” the dwarf replies sheepishly. “I was just wondering where Bilbo is since he's usually one of the first ones here. But actually, my entire clothes chest was empty this morning except for what I'm wearing now. I just assumed that Fíli was messing with me since I tied his braidstaches into bows last week.”
“Everything? The thief took everything?” Ori exclaims, the young scribe nearly fainting with the shock. Truthfully, none of the other dwarves can understand why Kíli seems so unaffected by his great loss; no one but Glóin who knows the signs of a dwarrow with his eye on a much greater prize.
But if someone stole the prince's entire wardrobe then he must have been the focus of their interest and that gives the company a place to start. For they are going to bring this thief to justice now that their exile has ended and they don’t have to grin and bear such insults anymore.
So eleven dwarves walk into the royal wing of Erebor to search for the culprit and discover that Kíli's room is just as empty as he'd claimed. Nothing else was touched, his sword and bow still hanging on their rack in pride of place, but his clothes chest is as bare as the remaining patches of Smaug’s desolation out on the mountainside. This is a clue of sorts since there are far nicer prizes to tempt a thief than the prince’s well-worn leathers and none of the dwarves are sure what to make of it.
Instead they hem and haw and clomp around the room as though they actually know what they're doing and the perpetrator is just going to pop out of the shadows if they look hard enough. Of course, this doesn't actually happen and eventually Balin speaks up with a sigh.
“Well, obviously we need a burglar if we’re going to catch our thief,” the old dwarf says and none of the company can argue with the wisdom that he speaks.
Only no one has seen Bilbo that morning or, as the dwarves realize to their growing worry, any time that week. In fact, the last person to see their hobbit was Kíli, the prince meeting Bilbo for luncheon last seven-day, and no one has heard a whisper from him since. The mystery of their missing burglar quickly makes the company forget about their lost gloves and caps and knuckledusters since his safety is far more important than any piece of clothing, even a favorite hat.
So the dwarves look for Bilbo in all of his favorite places: the library, the kitchens, Dís’ herb garden and the hobbit's own patch of late autumn flowers on the southern slope. But Bilbo is nowhere to be found and soon Thorin's court is interrupted by a dozen panicked shouts.
“Uncle!” Kíli yells as he runs into the throne room, shoving the ambassador from the Iron Hills aside. The old dwarf had been rambling on about trade rights in pewter gobletry before the company interrupted him, but Thorin silences his complaints with a wave of his hand while Fíli goes to his brother's side.
“Leave us,” the king commands, keeping his stately face in place until the last of his visitors exit the room. The he hops off his throne like a dwarrowling, removing his crown and tossing it on the seat behind him with a sigh. “I swear that thing gets heavier every day. Not tell me what in Mahal's name is going on.”
The story comes out in bits and pieces, every member of the company yelling over top each other in order to be heard, but Thorin has a lot of practice at understanding shouting dwarves.
So it only takes a few moments to bring the dwarf king and his heir up to speed on the current catastrophe, Thorin racing into action as soon as the need is clear. He orders his guards to search every corner of the kingdom for their burglar, one member of the company leading each squad in case Bilbo is injured and needs a friendly face to comfort him.
However, even Dwalin's fabled tracking skills cannot find their hobbit, not when the last trace of him is more than a week old. For Gandalf had not been joking when he said that the small folk trod upon this earth quietly and Bilbo walks like a shadow on the stone.
When the company is finally forced to admit defeat, they are no closer to tracking down their friend than they were when they began. So Thorin calls the great raven Roäc to his side and sends him to ask for Gandalf's aid. Surely the Grey Wizard must be able to offer the dwarves some wisdom, perhaps a spell of finding to lead their burglar home.
Perhaps it is a slim hope given the way that the wizard wanders, but it is something and Erebor needs hope now that the kingdom does not seem to have a hobbit anymore. Because everyone loves Bilbo, he has made friends with his quiet smiles and unselfish kindness, and Kíli is not the only one who takes the loss to heart. Though the archer is still struck the deepest by their hobbit's disappearance, Fíli and Bofur spending many hours trying to ease the young's dwarf's mind.
Fíli reminds his brother that Bilbo is resilient and far sturdier than most people realize and he probably just went out picking wild river greens and lost track of time. Their burglar loves water cress and other leaves with a passion that few dwarves understand and he could easily have ended up straying into Mirkwood's hospitality.
“For a week, brother?” is the only response before Kíli sinks back into depression, wracking his memory for anything that might give a clue to the hobbit's whereabouts. But while Bilbo had been a little sleepier than usual and ate a bit more than his normal fare when last they supped together, he hadn't said anything that the archer thought was odd. They had been discussing the weather for Mahal's sake, how the frost was starting to last longer and winter's chill would soon be sweeping down the mountainside.
“Wait, Fíli! I think Bilbo knew that something was about to happen,” the archer exclaims suddenly as one more brief memory comes to light.
When his brother rushes to his side, Kíli explains his revelation excitedly, certain that their hobbit must be all right after all. The younger prince had been telling Bilbo about his love of snowfall and the games that he and Fíli used to play in the winter and of course, he had invited the burglar to come along.
However, Bilbo had just smiled fondly and said that he'd make it if he could. “Only I'm overdue, you see. I stayed awake last winter due to all the excitement with Smaug and rebuilding Erebor after the final battle, but I'm old enough that I can't afford to skip two years in a row. So it will probably have to be a spring mud fight rather than the snowballs you're thinking of.”
Kíli hadn't understood what the hobbit was talking about at the time; to be honest, Kíli still doesn't know what Bilbo's words could mean, but they must have something to do with why he's disappeared.
Indeed the prince comforts himself with the thought that their burglar had not seemed worried about what was coming and this is the only thing that stops the rest of Thorin's company from tearing Erebor apart stone by stone before Gandalf's reply arrives.
This is several weeks after the dwarves first noticed that their hobbit was missing and when Roäc flies back into the Lonely Mountain, the entire company gathers to hear the raven's news.
Do not worry about your burglar, Gandalf's letter reads. Bilbo is a hobbit and Yavanna's Children are full of surprises even now. For just as the trees and flowers must fade away every winter in order to bloom again in spring, so too do hobbits renew themselves. When their bodies tire, our small friends build nests in which to sleep the winter months away, recovering their strength until the call of spring awakens them.
So you will find Bilbo deep within the mountain, somewhere warm and hidden from casual passerby, and I would be very surprised if you do not find your missing clothing there as well.
“How did Gandalf know about the scarves?” Ori asks in confusion, his older brother shushing him as Thorin continues reading the letter that Roäc brought.
I am sure that many of you have lost items of apparel recently because hobbits' nests are made from materials belonging to those they care about. The deeper a hobbit's feelings, the more items he will steal, which is how I knew that Bilbo was born to be your burglar. In fact, a little bird told me that you should go down the western passage toward the lower foundry, take the second left after you see Thrór's hideous gold statue and then follow the right hand path until it finally dead ends. I think that you will like what you find there.
While the rest of the company is busy wondering where the wizard managed to get such detailed information, Kíli takes Gandalf at his word. The prince runs out of the throne room at full speed, repeating the wizard's directions to himself as he careens through the halls.
Far behind him, the archer can hear the others calling his name, Fíli's voice rising above the rest as his brother shouts for him to wait. The other prince is bound to chew Kíli out for being reckless, but he can deal with that better than he can deal with the lack of Bilbo by his side. After all, he's had a whole lot of practice at the former, while the latter feels like a missing piece within his heart.
“Western passage... Western passage,” Kíli mutters, vaulting an elderly dwarf noble on his way down the stairs.
Obscene Khuzdûl follows the prince around the corner and he knows that this is bound to start another round of grumbling about his lack of proper conduct amongst the more traditional members of his uncle's court. But Thorin has yet to listen to his nephew's detractors and Kíli will damn well sprint through the halls of Erebor if he wants to right now.
Which he does because he's getting closer and the dwarf's pace doesn't falter as he runs past the ridiculously gaudy statue of which Gandalf wrote. Thrór had definitely had a thing for gold and gemstones and no one had taught the prince's great-grandfather about the merits of restraint.
Before he disappeared, Bilbo had spent many a long hour trying to convince Kíli that you could read the entire history of Erebor in its sculptures, each king's personality visible in the adornments that his statues wear. Thrór's are decorated to the point of tackiness, while Dáin I's are smaller and more sensible since they had been carried to the mountain when his son took it back. Then there are the older ones, legacies of Thráin I's long years of rule and this part of the story is where Kíli always started tuning out.
Because the archer was always far more interested in watching Bilbo, his face alight with enthusiasm as he explained all the little details of Erebor's history. The hobbit was fascinated by the people behind the legends and Kíli was just as entranced by the smile on his burglar's face.
Truthfully, Bilbo had distracted the prince from the beginning and he knows exactly why he always blushes when his friend grins at him. However, the dwarf had never planned on saying anything about his feelings, though Kíli's pretty sure that Fíli knows; he had been content with his silence until Bilbo disappeared.
But these last weeks without the hobbit have been some of the longest of the archer's life and Kíli can't stand the thought of spending years with this same sense of loss burning in his chest. He's going to be brave; he needs to be brave and tell Bilbo exactly where his heart lies.
However, first the archer has to find him and he slows to a walk as he nears the end of the right hand path. This passage is dim, lit only by a few distant torches and Kíli doesn't want to walk by their burglar on accident. So his steps are almost hesitant, one hand trailing along the rough of the wall until he spies a flash of color near the floor. When the dwarf kneels down, he sees one of his own tunics sticking out of a large crack in a stone and Kíli reaches out to pull it aside with one trembling hand.
His hobbit is there, curled within a nest of stolen clothing, and Bilbo does not stir as the archer looks down at him. Indeed, the burglar is sleeping more deeply than Kíli has ever seen him, a sharp contrast to the much lighter doze that was common on the trail.
So the dwarf takes this moment to admire the other's features, tracing Bilbo's form as he had never allowed himself to do when their friends were around. The hobbit looks comfortingly healthy, skin warm and glowing despite the weeks that he has spent underground, and Kíli finally releases the last remnants of the worry that he has been carrying.
The prince whispers Bilbo's name, the word almost a prayer upon his lips as relief washes over him. Yet the hobbit still isn't waking and Kíli doesn't know what to do now that Bilbo's found.
Instead he hovers awkwardly, his cheeks flushing when he notices that his favorite tunic is clutched tightly in the burglar's hand. For while the dwarf can see items belonging to each of his past companions built into Bilbo's nest, Kíli's clothes have pride of place and maybe the prince isn't the only one who has been pining dramatically. Maybe he has a chance for love as well as happiness and Kíli needs Bilbo to wake up right now.
However, before the dwarf can do anything stupid, his brother's voice stops him in his tracks. “Kíli, wait! Gandalf said that he must wake on his own.”
Fíli's shout makes the archer jerk backward guiltily even though he hasn't actually done anything just yet. But he was definitely thinking about it and Kíli would never have forgiven himself if he'd gotten Bilbo hurt with his impetuousness again.
Thankfully, Fíli caught up to his brother before he did anything stupid, the rest of their company following close behind. They gather around the hobbit's den, each dwarf exclaiming when he spies his own garments among the rest. Though even Óin's old eyes can't miss the way that Kíli is represented twice as often as his fellows, the archer blushing furiously beneath his friends' and relatives' knowing grins.
Most of them had been oblivious to Kíli and Bilbo's awkward pining before this moment, but the younger prince's reaction to Gandalf's letter had been rather telling and dwarves are always ready to give each other a hard time. However, Thorin's companions are too relieved at finding their burglar safe and sound to crack too many jokes about the archer's feelings, particularly when they're so obviously returned.
So Kíli only has to deal with a few guffaws and a cackled: “I think he wants you naked, brother,” before the other dwarves begin to head back upstairs. They've been neglecting their normal duties in the search for Bilbo and Balin has quite a pile of paperwork growing on his desk.
Eventually Fíli, Kíli and Thorin are the only ones left, the king and his heir holding a murmured conversation about logistics while the archer sits and smiles at Bilbo sappily. All it takes is one glance at his brother for Fíli to be certain that dragging him away from their burglar is going to be nearly impossible. But there are some benefits to being part of the ruling family and it doesn’t take long for Thorin and his heir to work out a plan for the months ahead.
It’s a relatively simple matter to bring the youngest Durin a bedroll and Kíli has certainly slept in worse places through the years. Bombur agrees to supply the archer with meals each morning, while Fíli drags his brother off to the baths whenever he starts to smell a bit too much.
“You want to make a good impression when Bilbo wakes, little brother,” the blond prince laughs, this argument convincing Kíli where all others fail.
But other than such short breaks for necessity, the archer stands constant vigil over his hobbit even as each member of Thorin's company drops by to visit from time to time. They sit quietly or chat with Kíli as befits their personality, Ori always coming with a stack of books for him to read. Bilbo had always liked history so the dwarf reads the texts aloud, the tales of his forefathers helping to while away the long days until he can see those dear eyes open once again.
The archer still doesn't know what he's going to say, but he knows that he's going to say something and he's determined to be the first person that their burglar sees. So the youngest Durin waits almost patiently as the chill winter wind screams across the plains, warm and cozy in Erebor's embrace.
He waits for his hobbit and one bright morning, after the first buds of spring have bloomed upon the mountain, Bilbo finally stirs.
“Kíli,” the burglar murmurs softly, opening his eyes and giving the prince the sweetest smile that he has ever seen. “Kíli, I dreamed of you.”