The Hobbit ficlet: Overheard [Bilbo/Dori, general]
Title: Overheard Author: celandineb Fandom: The Hobbit Pairing: (future) Bilbo/Dori Rating: general Length: 700 words Summary: Bilbo overhears something that proves to be significant. Note: For di_daydreamer, who asked for Bilbo/Dori, domestic, gossip.
"You'll be settling down with the burglar next!"
Bilbo frowned. That had been Nori speaking, he was almost sure, and "the burglar" had to be himself, but what on earth did Nori mean, and to whom was he talking? The fog this night was too dense to make out more than dim shapes against the flickering flames.
Backing a few dozen yards further away, Bilbo deliberately whistled as he again approached the fire and set his armload of wood with the rest that had been collected.
"That should last the night, I think," he said in a cheerful tone before turning.
Nori was there, as Bilbo had surmised, and next to him stood Dori, his purple hood thrown back, his face drawn into a scowl.
"Is there something wrong?" Bilbo asked.
"No, nothing wrong," said Nori. "Just passing the time with some conversation."
Dori glared at his brother. "Gossip and insinuation, you mean. I've heard enough of it for tonight." He whirled and stalked off into the darkness towards his bedroll.
Bilbo stared after him for a moment. "Gossip and insinuation? What did Dori mean?"
Nori looked uncomfortable. "Oh, nothing. I was only chaffing him, but he took it the wrong way. He'll come around."
Bilbo supposed Nori was probably right, but it niggled at him until he decided to go find Dori and ask for himself what he had meant.
Tonight Dori had positioned his blankets further from the other dwarves than usual for him, almost beyond the reach of the firelight. He was not yet asleep, though, for Bilbo could catch the faint gleam of reflected light from his open eyes.
"Dori?" he said quietly, so as not to disturb Fili or Kili, who were closest, and did seem to be asleep.
"Bilbo." Dori's sigh was clearly audible. "Don't worry. Nori likes to make a millstone out of a pebble, that's all."
"I don't understand." Bilbo sat tailor-fashion near Dori's head, where they could speak in whispers and still hear one another. "I heard him saying something about 'settling down with the burglar,' but what did he mean by that?"
Dori froze. "I wish you hadn't heard that," he said at last.
"Well, I did." Bilbo wished he could see Dori's face more clearly. He had always liked Dori, who was as good a trencherman as himself and played the flute with surprising delicacy, and the more so since Dori had helped him in the goblin-tunnels and in their escape from the Wargs. "So what did Nori mean?"
"He meant…" Dori seemed to be trying to think of what to say, or perhaps just how to say it. "You may have heard it said that there are no dwarf-women?"
"No," answered Bilbo honestly. "I would have thought that ridiculous if I had."
"Well, some among Men say so. It isn't true, you're right, but there are fewer women among us dwarves than there are men. Perhaps because of that, many of us never wed… and some of us do not care to. Do you understand what I mean?"
"I think so." Bilbo remembered his uncle Isingrim Took, who had also never married, and ended up being succeeded as Thain by his brother Isumbras. "Yes, I understand."
Dori propped himself up a little higher on his elbow. "Nori was insinuating that I… that you and I…"
"Oh," said Bilbo, feeling the blood rush hotly to his cheeks. "Oh, I see."
"Not that I would ever… I respect and esteem you as a member of the Company," Dori added quickly, but his voice cracked a little on the last few words. "I hope you are not offended by my brother's imputations."
Bilbo swallowed hard. He put out his hand and touched Dori's cheek above the roughness of his beard. "Far from it. Rather I am flattered… and pleased."
He would never have admitted that truth even to himself, had Nori's taunts not suggested that Dori might harbor feelings toward Bilbo beyond simple comradeship.
"You are?" Dori took Bilbo's hand and brushed his lips over Bilbo's fingers. "You really are pleased?"
"Yes, I am," said Bilbo firmly, as the new possibilities opening out before them sent a thrill down his spine.