Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Hobbit belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Note: This is primarily movieverse.
Sitting on a fallen tree, his share of bread and cheese in his lap and the fading light warm on his back, Bilbo Baggins supposed that he had never made such a terrible mistake in his life.
“Do you know, Bilbo Baggins,” said Gandalf, smoke gusting out from under beard and hat, “that I never thought you such fellow for family
“Yes, well,” said Bilbo glumly, “that may be because I am not. My relatives being what they are, you know.” He had a nice long puff of his pipe. “Most days it seems to me that the Took part hardly makes up for the Sackville
“Hmmm.” Gandalf's eyes were bright under the brim of his hat, and something in the curve of his mouth seemed to hint at a smile, at least to Bilbo. “Still, I was quite surprised, quite surprised indeed.”
“Most people are,” said Bilbo agreeably, “at least when they first get a look at her. I don't know why.”
He did not miss the look Gandalf gave him, but he did ignore it, for it seemed somewhat rude. Belladonna Baggins had been a flower of the Shire, famed as a beauty from Tuckborough to Bree, and the Bagginses tended to engender decent-looking women. Gandalf needn't look so skeptical.
“Thorin is displeased,” said Gandalf at length. “Quite displeased.” The wizard sat back against his own tree.
“Oh, yes,” said Bilbo, lowering his pipe. The sound of Dwarvish swearing came to his ears, and an owl was hooting overhead. “Very displeased.”
He did not know what it was about the word that seemed to him so queer. Displeased
was a fitting term for the expression that had come over Thorin Oakenshield's face that first morning, when she had come riding up behind Bilbo, the very word for the glare that had been rooted in his face ever since. Oh, how he'd bellowed, how he'd roared, and how Bilbo's heart had stopped when she'd laughed in Thorin's face.
Bilbo could well see that the company did not know what to make of her. They looked just as he'd looked the first day she'd come home with a bow and quiver. She'd presented him with the head of a giant wolf, and he'd fainted dead away onto the study floor. Thereafter, he'd made it clear that she was to keep all such horrors in the garden shed, a thing the Gaffer had come running to complain of not long after. Perhaps these Dwarves would not be such doubters, if they'd taken a look into that garden shed, or spoken to any of the hunters of Buckland or Bree.
“You weren't very pleased yourself, Gandalf,” said Bilbo, tapping out his pipe for a new plug. “I recall that you had some very strong words for me.”
“I did,” admitted Gandalf. Those sharp eyes turned, then, in the direction of the fire. “I did.”
The wizard did hate to admit to being wrong. Bilbo followed Gandalf's eyes, and that uneasiness returned.
She made a brave sight. He'd come in his walking coat and trousers, shirt half-unbuttoned. She'd come in her woodland garb, her green and brown and gray, her bow on her back and her knives on her hips. And all that golden hair, bannering out behind her. Seeing her ride out of the woods on her gray pony was a thing to remember.
“You say your mother named her?” said Gandalf, smoke circles drifting from his speaking mouth.
“Oh, yes.” Bilbo looked down at his pipebowl to fill it, but the odd feeling did not leave him. “We found her in a clump of them, you see. A little baby, all dirty and naked. She had them in her fists, and Mother was hysterical that she might have eaten some.”
How many years from then to now, and he remembered it as if it had happened yesterday. That poor baby, raggy-haired and weepy-eyed. He'd been disgusted when his mother first put that snotty baby in his arms, yet somehow by the end of the year he was the one carrying her around on his shoulders, singing nonsense and making faces to hear her giggle.
Perhaps it helped that she'd been a pretty baby, not so fat and squally as the usual fare in hobbit tots. She'd been small and pretty, with pretty golden hair, and he'd enjoyed it when all the neighbors were talking about what a dear thing
and oh she'll be a fair maiden this one
and you have a care now, Mr. Baggins, you'll be beating them away with a stick
. Of course, that had been before anyone could have known how she would grow up. But by then Bilbo could not bring himself to mind, even for the sake of his reputation.
He still remembered how she'd wept when Father died. When Mother followed, she'd clung to him as if she were a baby again, though she'd just come into her tweens, and she'd grieved so long that he'd worried she'd grieve herself sick.
“Now that is
an unaccountable thing,” said Gandalf. “For all my years of visiting in the Shire, I never heard of a hobbit babe with unknown parents. I would have thought that hobbits held their children too dear for that.”
“Ordinarily, you would be right.” Bilbo took the taper that Gandalf handed him. “We looked, you know, looked for quite a while. No one ever sent word. When we saw how small she was, and when her hair began to show, Mother said perhaps she'd come from unfortunate circumstances, if you'll take my meaning. Father said we might let the matter go.” Father had gone to the Mayor himself for the adoption, wearing his nicest coat and carrying a pie, and when people said that Bree-hobbits were well-known for uncommon looks and shoddy record-keeping, Mother had not disagreed.
“And you live alone, at Bag End?” Gandalf lifted a hand. “I would have thought the hobbit lads would be following her around and crowding up your hall.”
“Then you don't know hobbits as well as you think.” Bilbo shook his head. “Aunt Mirabella calls it unconventionalism
, though I know that Lobelia has other words for it. Oh, I had a few hobbits come around, knowing how I live and thinking she would be like me, but when they saw how she really
lives it was usually enough to frighten them off. There was a Took or two who gave me more trouble, but that came to nothing in the end. No, I don't worry about hobbits.” He grimaced. “Now, Men
, Men give me trouble. If I had a penny for every Man I found tramping up to my door...!”
Bilbo had been alarmed almost out of his manners the first time a Man had shown himself at Bag End. And not the average Bree-town fellow either, but grim Men, with rather large swords and coats of scales and rings and a disreputable air. Once Bilbo had answered a knock to find a Ranger
on his step, of all
things, and he'd been so aghast that he'd slammed the door in the Man's face and not opened it again.
“She is fair,” said Gandalf, but quietly, almost as if he were talking to himself. A ship of smoke sailed the air around his pipe. “That she is. Fairer than many I have seen.”
“If it were just that,” said Bilbo, “I would not be nearly so worried.”
Gandalf looked at him sharply, but Bilbo did not attend. He was looking over at the fire, bright and warm under the cooler starlight of early evening, casting shadows over their wooded grove, and he did not know what to think of what he saw.
She had removed her hood, and the firelight gleamed on the golden hair coiled about her head. She was taking down the braid and loosing it. She was doing this while she listened to Fili sing, sitting on her bedroll next to where Bilbo had laid out his.
The Dwarves had become considerably friendlier to her after what happened with the trolls. Bilbo could see that some of the older Dwarves, Dwalin, Balin, and Oin in particular, still kept their distance, but Gloin and Dori now spoke to her kindly and the younger Dwarves, Fili and Kili in particular, had taken this as permission to get as close as they liked. He had been watching them all day at their play, jostling to ride beside her, asking her questions about the Shire, and her bow, and her knives, and her deeds back at the troll camp. They'd been telling her stories of the Dwarves, reciting their own lineages and histories and that of Erebor as well, and all the while their eyes on her face, her hair. The hair,
thought Bilbo, it's the hair.
He'd seen their faces when they spoke of the treasures of Erebor, and sang of taking back their stolen gold. The Dwarf's love of that yellow metal was in his blood, in his stories, in his songs. And her hair was like living gold, warm and pleasing to the eye, even shocking to see, like an old story come to life. Natural then, that their eyes should always been drawn to it, that they should like the sight of it.
If only that were the whole of it.
“Dwarves are generally darker people,” said Gandalf—even more quietly than before, almost too low for Bilbo to hear. “Among the Dwarrows, golden hair is considered rare and desirable. Golden-haired women are precious even beyond gems, and are said to bring great fortune. They call it marrying the gold.”
That queer feeling gripped Bilbo again, and he coughed and tapped out his pipe even though it was still half-full.
Kili was the one singing now, all the words in the Dwarven tongue, but he glanced at her as he did, his eyes thirsty. Fili sat beside him, eating his bread and looking at her much more boldly. These were the two that Bilbo noticed most, whether it was because they were the youngest or because they were so much more open than their older companions or both. At first they had stayed away despite their obvious interest in their uninvited fifteenth, daunted by the disapproval of their elders. But now that she had proven her worth, and even Dwalin grudgingly acknowledged that she was no burden, it seemed that their early fascinations had returned twicefold, and they could hardly leave her alone.
Yet it wasn't looking at them them vying for her attention that made Bilbo's stomach clutch itself.
“Yes, well,” said Bilbo uncomfortably. Full night had fallen, and the cold come out with the stars. “We're all grown, here, and if we're not then there's always Thorin and Balin to keep us steady. Nothing to worry about.”
“Oh, yes.” The pipeweed burned red in the wizard's long pipe, and Gandalf's eyes were on Bilbo. “There is always Thorin.” Save me from inscrutable wizards,
thought Bilbo, half-exasperated, and then he could not help but look.
Thorin sat a distance from the fire, on the other side of it from Bilbo and Gandalf and Fili and Kili and her. He had declined to eat, and was glowering at the darkness, one hand on sheathed Orcrist. If he heard the younger Dwarves singing, he paid it no mind, and if he knew she was sitting with her back to him, unbinding her hair, he did not show it.
Oh, Thorin had been wroth
, when she'd ridden up. He'd roared and thundered so that Bilbo had been shaking and sweating and the ponies had been near to bolting. How he'd shouted, no place for women
and what are you fools thinking
and damn you wizard for inflicting hobbits on me
and so forth. Even Dwalin and Balin had shrunk back from him, from the king in his anger.
She'd laughed in his face.
It was the most wonderful thing Bilbo had ever seen. Thorin's face all black and terrible, and she'd looked into it and laughed at him. Thorin had been so taken aback he'd stopped shouting. The other Dwarves had gaped, and even Gandalf had been open-mouthed. You can keep your gold,
she'd said then, and your contract. But if you think I'm letting you take Bilbo into danger without me, you've got a bigger problem than the dragon.
And somehow, despite all that had been happening in that moment, the thing Bilbo remembered most often was the look on Thorin's face.
The king had been cold to her since, and the others had followed his lead until the troll camp. He refused to look at her, or speak to her, and turned away when others did. She had not protested this but ignored him as well, so that Bilbo had felt awkward to the point of embarrassment. But when the trolls were dead, their flesh turning to stone with the arrows still in their eyes, and she was cutting the last of them free, she'd gone to cut open the sack binding Thorin with her eyes on her knives, and so she had not seen the look on his face then either.
By the fire, she'd finished loosening her hair and brushed it out. It lay like a golden cloak all down her back, burnished and shining. Kili stopped singing. She seemed not to notice.
These young Dwarves, with their jokes and their songs and their glances. No, they didn't worry Bilbo.
But the king. The king and his coldness, and her coldness to him. One glaring at the other, when the other wasn't looking. And the look on Thorin's face, each time she did something he did not expect from her. Loyalty. Honor. A willing heart.
Thorin Oakenshield had said that, and when he heard it, Bilbo's first and only thought had been of her.
“You sigh, Bilbo Baggins.” Gandalf peered at him.
“Oh, nothing,” said Bilbo, and sighed again. “Only you would sigh too, you know, if you had a sister like Buttercup. Wizard or no, you would sigh.”