The talk has gone on far into the night when Bilbo suddenly stands up, claps his hand to his forehead, and says, “Now where am I going to put you all?” He starts rushing about the smial with linens and quilts, chattering about spare-rooms and sofas and chairs. The dwarves slowly clear out of the kitchen as I inspect the last of the coffee beans in the crockpot, wondering if there will be enough for one last pot for me for tomorrow.
“Miss Fairfax,” says Gandalf suddenly, appearing behind me from out of nowhere as he apparently is wont to do. I jump, barely managing to catch the crockpot before I spill the coffee on the floor.
“Yes, sir?” I ask. I hastily set the coffee on the table and fold my hands in front of me. I feel like I’m about to get the “Kate, we’re so disappointed in you,” speech.
“Your presence here is rather unexpected, to say the least, young lady,” says Gandalf.
Tell me about it. “I’m sorry. I don’t know quite how I got here,” I say. “Of course I won’t join the quest if you think I’ll throw a wrench into the works.”
Gandalf sits down. He’s a good foot and a half taller than I am and seems absurdly out of place inside Bilbo’s snug little smial. “The power that sent you here is beyond my reckoning,” Gandalf says, “but I do not doubt that you were sent here for some purpose. It is clear you have some part to play, for good or ill, before the end.”
Great. The last person I heard Gandalf say that about was Gollum.
“So, you think I should go?” I ask hesitantly.
“Yes, of course,” Gandalf replies. “Now you had best be going to bed. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow.”
“You, um, don’t know of any ways that I can get out of here, do you?” I ask. “You know, so I can get back home, to where I belong?”
Gandalf shakes his head solemnly. “I do not,” he says, “but if you like, I shall discuss the matter with Elrond when we come to Rivendell. I have not seen the like of this before.”
“Well, you’d better figure it out before –“ I begin, but am momentarily not sure how to continue. Before the Lord of the Rings starts? That won’t make any sense. “Before the end of the Third Age,” I finish. “You may find a lot more random girls dropping through plotholes into Middle Earth, and sooner than you think.”
Gandalf raises one bushy eyebrow at me. “You appear to have some gift of foresight, Miss Fairfax. Pray use it sparingly. It is not always well to know one’s own future too closely.”
“I’ll try to keep what I know to myself,” I reply, though more to reassure Gandalf than anything else. I wasn’t really intending to go blabbing what I knew of Middle Earth’s future, especially not anything about that damn Ring. No sense in anyone knowing any more about it any sooner than absolutely necessary. As I leave the room, it seems appropriate to curtsey to Gandalf, and so I do.
I head back down the hall towards the second-best bedroom, but when I open the door I get an eyeful of rather more dwarf than I ever hoped to.
“Sorry,” I mutter, and close the door again as quickly as possible. I glance at the closed door one last time – yup, there was definitely a dwarf in there – and head to the master bedroom.
Bilbo opens the door immediately, cutting off my angry pounding. “No need to break the door down – ah, Miss Fairfax. Is there something the matter?”
“You’ve given my bedroom to a dwarf?” I suggest.
“Oh, dear me!” Bilbo runs his hands through his hair distractedly.
“Now where am I supposed to sleep?” I demand.
Bilbo is going on about “Every room in the house…all the linens, even the old threadbare ones, gracious, they’ll think I haven’t any manners,” but he stops short, and looks up at me suddenly. His tired and distressed expression has been replaced with the same saucy smile he had given me several times before the Dwarves’ arrival. “Did you say you hadn’t anywhere to sleep?” he asks, cocking his head at me.
“Bilbo Baggins, of all the impertinent –“ I sputter, “You did this on purpose, you little –“
Bilbo waves his hands back and forth in a gesture of denial. “No, no, I didn’t, I clean forgot, gracious, what a dreadful host I am…” he trails off, looking distressed again.
“Alright, well, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, but only because we have a long road ahead of us tomorrow and I want to get as much sleep as I can. But if you try anything, buster, you’re toast!”
With that warning, I turn my back to him and start to undo my laces. I can hear him sitting down heavily on the bed behind me. “I am not really so impertinent as I seem, Miss Fairfax. What you must think of me –“
I’ve thrown my bodice onto the chair and I’m stepping out of my skirts and petticoats. I can’t be completely sure, but he sounds sincere. “Never mind. I said I believed you. Just go to sleep. You might not get a nice featherbed for a long while after tonight.”
After some hesitation, Bilbo decides that I meant what I said, but he reaches out and snuffs the candles before removing his breeches and sliding into the bed next to me, carefully not touching me.
“What a dreadful day,” he mutters into his pillow. “Quite the most awkward Wednesday I have ever had!”
I awaken to crashing and clattering from the kitchen and hastily don my clothes. If I hurry, maybe I can catch the last of the coffee. Bilbo is still sound asleep.
“Ah, good morning, Miss Fairfax,” says Thorin pompously as I enter the kitchen, giving no indication that I might have walked in on him naked last night. Good. Let’s keep it that way. “Ready to begin?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I reply. One of the younger dwarves, Fili or Kili, sets a large plate of breakfast in front of me and I tuck in. Thorin, I notice, has taken the last cup of coffee. Bastard.
“What about this Mr. Baggins of yours? Is he up to it, do you think?” Thorin asks.
“Oh, I’m very sure of it,” I say around a mouthful of eggs. I choose not to address the implication that I belong to Bilbo (or perhaps the other way around). If the dwarves think that, they’re a good deal less likely to decide I might like to belong to one of them.
Thorin glances down the hallway. “He is still abed,” he comments.
“Well, maybe you’d better leave a note for him, then. If you want to get on the road now, I’m sure he’ll be along later.”
Thorin dashes off a note (with Bilbo’s own pen and paper) with great flourish as the last of the dwarves and I finish our breakfast. Then there is a great bustle at the door of dwarves putting on their hoods and cloaks and packs. I shrug into my own cloak and look down with distaste at the sandals I arrived in. Silly flat little things with nothing but two thin straps across the top. Whyever couldn’t I have come to Middle Earth wearing a nice long pair of wool socks and a sensible pair of sturdy boots? Oh, yeah, that’s right. I was pretending to be a hobbit. Good job I ended up with any kind of shoes. I slide them on, thinking of the Empress Josephine’s shoemaker, who, when confronted about a pair of slippers that had fallen apart said, “Ah, madame, I see the problem: you have walked in them!” Hope these things stand up better than that.
As we head out the door, one of the dwarves says, “Miss Fairfax, you are forgetting your pack.”
“I haven’t one,” I reply, rather more shortly than I had intended. My lack of any kind of supplies whatsoever is seriously stressing me out, and in addition I can feel the familiar pinching sensation at the base of my neck that will soon turn into a full-blown migraine. Anyone who wants to tell you that caffeine isn’t addictive has obviously never tried going cold turkey. The last time I tried to stop drinking coffee I was flat on my back on the floor for two days the withdrawal pains were so bad. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen this time.
“Well, we shall have to outfit you in Bywater, then,” says Thorin, just as shortly. What he thinks of my coming along on this venture I still haven’t guessed, though I suspect he thinks me a bit of a nuisance and not at all up to the hardships we may face. For all I know, he’s probably right.
“I haven’t any money, either,” I mutter, and Thorin sighs.
When we get to Bywater, Balin goes into the Green Dragon to wait for Bilbo, while the others all go off to buy ponies and supplies for the journey. I don’t seem to have been invited to join them, so I stand around waffling in the street for a moment. Then, throwing away yet more of my reputation, I follow Balin into the inn. I hope I can get one of the barmaids to give me some rather more personal supplies than I feel like asking the dwarves about.
Heads swivel as I walk in, and there is a moment of stunned silence before the patrons turn back to their drinks with a low buzz of conversation. I hear a few snatches of phrases like “- taken up with Mr. Bilbo Baggins –“ and “ – shameless – “ but I brazen it out and glide over to the counter with as much dignity as I can muster. Even Balin looks surprised that I’ve come inside.
A rather plump hobbit lass is behind the counter, polishing a mug with a threadbare towel. She looks up at me – waaay up. Bilbo is apparently quite tall for a hobbit – he reaches almost to my shoulder – because this lass is barely as high as the bottom of my ribcage. I lean way over the counter.
“I suppose you’ve heard that I’m the Big Person who took up with Bilbo Baggins,” I say.
She nods, eyes wide. “Yes, ma’am,” she says timidly. “Didn’t reckon ye’d be such a fine lady, though, miss, if you don’t mind my saying.”
Now what’s given her that idea? I suppose all the embroidery on my chemise, and the state of my clothes. Her own bodice seems to be wearing thin around the seams, and her skirt is stained and patched.
“Thank you, that’s very kind. Now listen, I need you to help me with a few, er, supplies.”
I explain what I’m after, and she leads me through the kitchen to a tiny room in the back, barely big enough for a mattress and a wooden chest. I have to hunch over to get in.
“You might be wantin’ some of this, too, miss,” says the maid slyly, handing me a pouch of some kind of dried herb.
“Why, what’s this for?” I ask, sniffing suspiciously.
“So he don’t get you with child, of course,” she replies. Well, really. I hadn’t been planning to give him the chance to try.
“Don’t think I’ll need it,” I mutter, “but thanks anyways.” I tie the pouch to the bottom of my laces and slip it into my skirt.
“It’s them eyes, miss,” says the maid somewhat dreamily as she leads me back to the common room. Don’t I know it. “I ain’t yet met the lass as could say no to Mr. Bilbo, not when he –“ but she trails off, because we’ve reached the taproom again, and Mr. Bilbo himself is lounging in the doorway, eyes sparkling at me and the maid mischievously.
“Thanks for everything, miss,” I murmur, patting the maid on the shoulder before following Bilbo and Balin out the door.
“I see young Flora saw fit to warn you about me,” says Bilbo cheerfully.
“Yes, well, I didn’t need to hear it,” I reply with some asperity. “I knew you were dangerous the moment I set eyes on you.”
“Never in life!” Bilbo replies, eyes flying wide with false innocence. Oh, he knows it too, alright.
“Up you two get, and off we go!” says Thorin sternly. Bilbo starts guiltily, but goes to mount his pony.
I swing into the saddle of my own pony, ignoring the stares I get from Bilbo and the dwarves. Skirts or no skirts, I am not riding sidesaddle all the way to Rivendell.
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.