“Now then, Miss Fairfax, you may take the second-best bedroom if you like, though I daresay the bed in the master bedroom will be warmer, and big enough for two, besides,” says Bilbo, grinning disarmingly.
I blink. Did he really just say that? Yes, apparently he did.
He winks. “Suit yourself, then,” he tosses over his shoulder as he heads down the hall.
“So, what, you think I’m sexually available just because I’ve appeared out of the blue unaccompanied by a man who can protect me or even a maid for the sake of the appearance of propriety,” I snap at his retreating form. He stops dead.
“I’ve offended you,” he says, without turning around.
“Well, no, not necessarily,” I say, “I’d just like to know what you meant by it, that’s all.” I cross my arms.
“Ah, well, if people mean to talk, we may as well give them something to talk about,” says Bilbo, and continues down the hall. “My apologies.”
The next morning I stumble blearily into the kitchen. Everything’s a bit blurry, but nothing I could possibly have done would have preserved my contact lenses overnight. Guess I’ll just have to live without them. I also don’t have anything new to wear, or any antiperspirant, but on the other hand, neither does anybody else in Middle Earth. They won’t notice the difference.
“Sleep well?” asks Bilbo with a saucy smile.
“Coffee.” I growl.
Bilbo obliges. “Pray contrive to forget my words to you last night, Miss Fairfax; I meant no offense.”
“Is it the custom in the Shire for gentlehobbits to proposition their lady guests?” I ask, piling bacon and hash browns onto my plate.
“It is not the custom in the Shire for unmarried gentlehobbits to receive lady guests at all,” Bilbo replies. “I suppose I ought to have sent you immediately to one of my aunts or cousins for propriety’s sake, though I might have had a job of a time convincing her to take you in, what with your coming from so far away unaccompanied. Now that you’ve spent the night here it will be even harder to get you set up somewhere properly, though I shall certainly try.”
“No, that’s alright. I don’t think I’ll be sticking around here much longer anyways,” I say. So, I might as well have taken him up on his offer, since no-one in polite society will believe that I didn’t.
Since there’s no ketchup I mash my fried tomatoes right in with my hash browns. It doesn’t taste half bad, actually, although it attracts a curious glance from Bilbo. He stops talking long enough to eat, but launches right into speech again as soon as he starts to clear the dishes away. He’s holding forth about which of his numerous female relations would be likeliest to take me in, and I can’t get a word in edgewise to tell him I doubt I’ll be in the Shire much longer anyways.
Well, come to think of it, last night I did rather say that I had come to the Shire looking for someone (though I was careful not to say who), and that I wasn’t sure how or even if I could get back to where I had come from. At any rate, Linda has got too many children on her hands, and Belba is far too much of a high-stickler to even consider taking in an unattached young lady of uncertain origin, but Dora, though she has a considerable portion, has determined to remain a spinster and intends to set up house on her own as soon as she can find a suitable and like-minded companion. I choke on the last of my coffee. Of all the things I thought I might have been offered in life, a Boston Marriage with Dora Baggins was not one of them.
“Shall I write to Dora, then? I am sure she will send me an answer as soon as may be expected. Dora Baggins is an excellent correspondent,” Bilbo says, though with a bit of a grimace, but just then, the doorbell rings, and Bilbo starts, almost comically. His eyes widen. “Good gracious, I invited Gandalf to tea today!” he exclaims. “Do please excuse me while I let him in, perhaps he will know what to do with you –“ and off he goes, down the hall, to meet the first of his dwarves.
Maybe Gandalf will know what to do with me. I cross my fingers. Adventure is all well and good, but only as long as I get to go home at the end.
Bilbo’s eyes just keep getting wider and wider with every new dwarf that arrives. He shoots me a confused and apologetic glance and I try not to let on that I knew this was going to happen. Soon Bilbo is rushing about and fussing in the kitchen, trying to keep up with the demands of the dwarves, who seem to think he’s running some sort of short-order restaurant. Neither the Dwarves nor, much to my surprise, Gandalf, so much as bat an eyelash at my presence – they just sit around talking, and eating, and drinking. Bilbo himself seems stunned into silence and sits on a stool near the fire with his head in his hands when finally the unexpected visitors give him a moment’s peace. Since I don’t seem to be wanted at the table, I sit down on the floor next to Bilbo.
“Confounded visitors!” he mutters for my benefit. “You haven’t got anything to do with this lot, have you?” I shake my head. “Now I suppose my letter to Dora will have to wait, and things will become even more difficult. I do apologise, Miss Fairfax.”
I pat him on the shoulder. “I wouldn’t worry about it. I don’t really need to stay in the Shire anyways. Maybe I’ll travel with these Dwarves for a while, if they’re going somewhere interesting.”
Finally the Dwarves finish eating, and much to my astonishment Bilbo invites them all to supper. I’m trying to be a good guest, so I get up with Bilbo to help him carry the empty dishes to the kitchen, but the Dwarves have beat me to it, singing cacophonously about all the dreadful things they are not going to do to Bilbo’s nice things. Funny. I always thought dwarf songs went rather more like “Gold gold gold gold gold…”
[outtake: Because a true Mary Sue should be able to enchant all of her companions with her fair singing voice.
After that there’s some smoking, and some singing, and at that point the Dwarves and Gandalf do take notice of me, and ask if I might like to sing something too.
I open and close my mouth. “I don’t know any songs about lost treasure,” I say. “I only know bawdy songs.”
As if I needed to evince any further evidence, besides my being alone and unaccompanied in the house of an unmarried gentlehobbit, that my virtue is questionable.
“Let’s have it, then,” says one of the Dwarves – I hope I may eventually be able to keep them all straight – “A bawdy song is better than no song at all!” The other dwarves make similar comments of encouragement, and so I stand up in front of the fire and sing “The Widow of Westmoreland’s Daughter”.
The dwarves seem not much discomfited by my song and turn immediately to the business of discussing their adventure, but Bilbo looks at me with a queer gleam in his eye.
“It seems you have some knowledge of what you speak, Miss Fairfax,” he murmurs, and I suddenly realise that when we’re both standing he’s at exactly the right height to have a very advantageous view of my cleavage.
“Purely theoretical!” I snap.]
After that there’s some smoking, and some singing, and Bilbo and I sit down again by the hearth to listen. Bilbo leans his head against the wall, still toying with the stem of his pipe between his teeth. “How grand!” he says suddenly in an undertone so as not to interrupt the singing. “Imagine going off like that, into the Blue, and seeing mountains, and caves, and jewels, and dragons!”
I turn to look at him. “Thought you didn’t want any adventures?” I tease.
Bilbo sits right up, a guilty expression on his face. “Good heavens, no!” he exclaims. “Perhaps we’d do better to hide in the beer-cellars until this lot go away. Come on!”
He’s on his feet, tugging at my hand to get me up. I glare at him. I’m less than convinced that his motives are beyond reproach.
“Do get up!” he pleads, but we’ve drawn attention to ourselves.
Thorin asks sternly where we’re going, Bilbo makes some half-hearted excuse, and the dwarves tell us in no uncertain terms to sit back down again. Bilbo is so flustered that he sits back down in the fender instead of his stool, knocking it over with a crash. Gandalf hushes us and Thorin begins to speak. Actually, it’s more like what I would call “speechifying” – holding forth at great length with impressive volume and overblown, flowery language.
Bilbo sits with his head in his hands where he has fallen, muttering incoherently to himself and twisting his fingers tightly around his russet curls. I glance at the dwarves, who seem to be paying no attention to anything except their illustrious leader.
“Bilbo,” I whisper hesitantly, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Bilbo, calm down.” I rub my hand up and down between his shoulder blades. He’s trembling from head to foot. “It will all work out for the best, I promise.”
But my words don’t work, and suddenly I’m sure he’s having a nervous breakdown right before my very eyes. He falls flat on the floor, babbling.
That gets the dwarves’ attention.
“Are you quite alright, Mr. Baggins?” asks one, bending over him solicitously. Bilbo keeps babbling. The dwarves look at me.
“I’m sure this is all very surprising for Mr. Baggins,” I say, standing up. “If you leave him in peace a moment he is more likely to recover.”
I help Bilbo to his feet and lead him to the drawing-room, where he sprawls on the sofa, covering his face with his hands and moaning.
“Would you like me to bring you something to drink?” I ask. I’m sure I saw a snifter of brandy somewhere in here earlier. Bilbo moans. “I’ll take that as a yes.”
I pour him his drink, but as I’m heading back towards the dining room he grabs my wrist.
“What are you doing?” he hisses, looking up at me in the half-light. “Those dwarves are half mad! Why, if you listen much longer to their talk you might end up going off with them, to their dreadful dark mountains, and caves, and –“
“I’m already having an adventure,” I interrupt, “and as I don’t think I’m quite ready to set up house with your cousin Dora I rather think I shall go off with them!”
And I walk – alright, flounce – back to the dining room just in time to hear the tale of how golf was invented. The dwarves go on at some length and my attention wanders. I admire the finely carved wooden panelling on the gently curving walls, and the intricate embroidery on Thorin’s tunic before turning my attention to the delicately patterned china plate mounted above the door to the drawing-room. I notice Bilbo, peering wide-eyed around the door, but pretend not to.
Just then Gloin puts in his opinion that Bilbo is more like a grocer than a burglar and Bilbo bursts into the room, bristling with indignance and in full chatter mode once more. There is a bit of back and forth and Gandalf defends his choice of Bilbo and then maps are rolled out on the table and plans are made.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.