A shuffling noise from the bushes on the other side of the fire quickly brought Bilbo to consciousness. He made to grab his sword as he looked up but he was rooted to the spot by a rather odd sight. A sight that made him rub his eyes free of the image.
Nope, still there.
Thorin was sitting on a fallen log with Fili sitting cross-legged facing away from him, which of course wasn't the odd thing. The odd thing was that Thorin was, of all things, braiding Fili's hair.
Now all dwarfs braid their hair, so that wasn't shocking at all for Bilbo. It was that Thorin, himself, was doing the braiding. Which caused Bilbo to rub his eyes yet again.
Again, still there.
Bilbo couldn't help but watch, swallowing hard, as Thorin slowly threaded his fingers through the dark gold locks, stopping every now and then to remove an errant twig or leaf.
His eyes were pulled from the entrancing dance those fingers were doing as they intricately plaited the golden locks when he heard
Thorin grumble at Fili, "Fili, I swear, by Durin's beard, that every single time you sleep on the ground, you wake up a mess. What do you do, boy, roll around in the grass on purpose?"
Fili shrugged, "It's not on purpose. I swear."
"Yes it is." Kili piped up as he walked up behind Thorin and sat down to the left of him, smirking at Fili's head.
"Is not, Kili." Fili shot back.
"You and I both know it is." Kili replied just as quick, his smirk melting into a snarky grin.
Fili mumbled under his breath something about brothers and idiots, causing a rumbling, mirthful laugh to fall from Thorin's lips.
Bilbo had to clamp a hand over his mouth to keep from gasping aloud at hearing Thorin laughing at the childish bickering of the two brothers. 'He laughed! Thorin laughed!'
"That's enough you too. I swear, you still act like such dwarrows at times."
Fili snorted, "Yeah but at least one of us doesn't still look like one."
Kili's shoulders dropped and he hung his head at his brother's words.
Bilbo felt sorry for the young dwarf.
All this trip thus far, he had been constantly teased for his lack of beard.
'Beardless,' is what Dwalin, Oin, and Nori called him. Bombur didn't say much. Bifur, well, hardly anyone knew what Bifur was saying half the time.
'Little dwarrow,' is the term Gloin and Dori called him. Bofur used either term on occasion.
Balin and Ori, with the exception of himself due to the fact he wasn't a dwarf, were the only ones that never said anything of the sort to Kili out of respect for Thorin.
The hobbit flinched as he saw Thorin give a sharp tug on the braid he just finished fastening with a metal bead.
"Ow! Hey, what was that for?" Fili yelled in response.
"Well, it's true."
Thorin gave an exasperated sigh, plaiting another section and fastening it with a similiar colored metal bead and patting Fili's shoulder, indicating he was finished. Fili stood up and dusted his trousers off before he sat back down to the right of Thorin.
Thorin laid a hand on Kili's shoulder and spoke once again, "Do not feel so distraught, Kili. Each dwarf grows their beard at a different rate. I, myself, did not have much of a beard at your age. You will come into yours when Mahal deems it your time, as I did. Now off to bed."
He turned and stopped Fili before he could get up, "I will take watch tonight, Fili, go off to bed and sleep close to your brother, there will be a strong chill tonight. And do try not to ruin your braids so quickly this time."
Fili nodded and grabbed his bedroll, laying it down close to Kili. While Thorin turned to the fire again and threw another large piece of wood on top. He stoked the fire for a while, just sitting there and staring into the flames, until he moved to stand up, grabbing Orcrist and a spare blanket.
Bilbo was rooted to the spot at what he just seen and heard. It wasn't possible. This wasn't Thorin, it couldn't be Thorin. Thorin was moody, had a sharp tongue, and didn't show any favoritism of any sort to anyone. Right?
Then who was this kind and caring dwarf that spoke with a softer tone? Bilbo shook his head, hardly able to believe it himself, if he wasn't seeing it for himself.
Then all of a sudden a thought hit him that made him open his eyes again, just in time to see Thorin pause close to where Fili and Kili were sleeping close to each other and gently drape the blanket over them both, securing it more tightly around the sleeping duo.
'Who's to say he can't be something other than what he shows on the outside. Perhaps there are many layers to Thorin Oakenshield than I had first thought.' Bilbo thought as he settled back down into his blanket.
Bilbo fell asleep easily, with a soft smile on his face, warmed by the thought that when it came to his nephews, the majestic and fierce warrior Thorin Oakenshield had a soft spot larger than a mountain itself.