Title: The Gold Zone
Author: Alania Black
Fandom/Genre: The Hobbit
Relationship(s): Bilbo Baggins/Thorin Oakenshield
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Explicit sex, canon-typical violence
Summary: In a world where the Dwarves exiled from Erebor stumbled into the warm embrace of the Shire and built their new homes in the hills surrounding it, Thorin Oakenshield has grown into one of the strongest and most well-respected Alpha Sentinels the Dwarven race has ever had. But the King Under the Mountain has never taken a Guide amongst his kin, and after almost 100 years of struggling with his gifts on his own, his people grow concerned for his mental well-being.

Meanwhile, tucked safely away in his Smial, Bilbo Baggins has grown accustomed to his quiet, respectable life. Until the day a Wizard emerges from his past with promises of an adventure Bilbo never asked for and doesn’t want, and Bilbo mind awakens gifts that no Hobbit has ever had…

Chapter Two

Bilbo Baggins hummed quietly in happiness as he snipped another daffodil at the base and carefully added the stem to his small pile, stroking the barely-open bud gently. Eight was enough, he decided, looking over the rest of his patch. The missing stems would not be noticed among the cloud of yellow and cream flowers that would wave merrily at passers-by for the next few weeks and remind everyone that spring was under way and the winter had passed.

He paused to admire his door, tentatively running his free hand on the freshly-painted wood, before pushing on inside and scrounging up one of his mother’s vases for the flowers. He popped the vase onto his kitchen table, where he would be able to admire the flowers as the closed buds popped open over the next day or two and added some much-needed cheer to his quiet home.

He put his garden shears with the rest of his small collection of garden tools – he was not a gardener at heart, and Hamfast Gamgee had been caring for his gardens longer than Bilbo had been master of Bag End. But on occasion he did join Hamfast in the garden, and liked to keep the tools his mother had commissioned for him from the dwarves clean and sharp. After a quick wash, Bilbo headed to his study to work on his papers.

He settled down at his desk with his quill and ink, and pulled his accounts book towards him. A few moments later he sighed and put the book aside – there was nothing he really had to update in there and he could hardly work up the enthusiasm for the dull task now. He frowned at his other papers and finally pulled a fresh sheet towards him. If he was not up to the tasks of his accounts, perhaps he could finally find some inspiration for the book he was struggling to write.

But a few blank sheets of paper and more useless ink-blots than he’d like later, Bilbo gave up and strode away from the desk with a disconsolate frown. He wandered out of his study, feeling frustrated and irritable and lonely. There was nothing he had to do and no one to do anything with. He decided that taking a turn with his pipe might help, so he returned to the kitchen to fetch his pipe and matches. He summoned a small half-smile for the daffodils, the yellow petals already peeping through.

Bilbo took a slow stroll outside and sat on his favourite bench with his pipe between his teeth, just watching the residents of Hobbiton go about their daily lives for a time. A group of fauntlings were playing in the field – Elves, if his childhood memories were correct – while older faunts watched over them and giggled and, knowing some of them, plotted pranks and mushroom raids. A few Hobbits moved around at speed, clearly carrying out some duties – Holman Cotton was probably out delivering some of his milk, going by his basket; Jessamine Bolger was clearly out on the rounds of her home-bound patients. Willa Cotton hurried past as fast as a lass of her advanced pregnancy could, likely off to visit her family while she had the chance before the baby came.

As he watched, one of the Took faunts broke away from the rest of the group with one of the small balls they played with. She – Rosamunda he was sure – dropped the ball and chased it into the main roadway as it rolled away. She neatly avoided several of the Hobbits around her as she followed her ball, but then bumped straight into the armoured leg of one of the two dwarves currently patrolling the area. She landed on her bottom and promptly began the soft wail that only faunts of her age – three or four, no more than that – could manage.

The dwarf she bumped into winced, which made Bilbo think he (she? He never could tell but he was sure the lady Dwarves had thinner beard hair) was the Gifted one, but carefully picked her up and dusted her off anyway. The other one fetched her ball and handed it to her with a soft pat to her head, and the return of her ball cheered her up enough to feel free to tug on the jewelled beads on the Gifted one. Bilbo blew a few smoke rings as he watched the Dwarf kneel so the baby faunt could tug on the beads in his beard braids and giggle.

Later, much later, he would blame this incident for not noticing the Wizard sat on the bench next to him until a well-aimed smoke cloud destroyed one of his smoke rings. He stared at his un-asked for companion for a few long moments, before returning his gaze to the road in time to watch Rosamunda race back to her cousins with the ball and a delighted shriek. The Gifted Dwarf winced again, but neither looked particularly unhappy as they continued their patrol through the high road of Hobbiton. He blew another smoke ring, and frowned as it was once again destroyed by the Wizard’s own smoke. He risked another glance at the man and found he was being watched.

“Good morning,” he said finally, the words coming out as more of a question than a greeting. And thus began the most unusual and frustrating conversation of his life – even including every meeting he had with Lobelia Sackville-Baggins. The upshot of the whole thing was that he was left sitting on his bench several minutes later with words like ‘adventure’ and ‘journey’ ringing in his ears. He couldn’t help but think of his mother, who had once been friendly with Gandalf. She was always thrilled by the Dwarves, and often spoke of the wild adventures she wanted to go on. She had been, at heart, truly a wild and free Took.

But Bilbo was a Baggins through and through, and his mother had been dead these last seven years, leaving him alone in Bag End. He shook away the conversation with the Wizard Gandalf, and blew the last of his smoke before putting out the pipe. “No, we definitely don’t want any adventures here, Mr Gandalf.” He muttered to himself, before hurrying back into Bag End.

Suddenly, spending several hours going through his accounts did not seem overly dull, after all.

Chapter Three