Tea is at Four
On September 21, 2946, at precisely 4 o'clock in the afternoon, Bilbo heard a strange noise in his hallway.
Bother, he thought to himself, squinting as he looked out to the atrium from his study. Who would be intruding upon him today, of all days? He had a birthday party to prepare for, after all. His birthday was tomorrow, and though it was only his fifty-fifth—hardly a significant day—he had planned a lovely party for a decent fifty or so friends and relatives. More than had been invited would surely turn up, of course; Bilbo's only hope was that the Sackville-Bagginses would keep their good distance. In fact, if that was them in his hall...
"Who goes there?" he called, standing to his feet and stepping out into the atrium and making his way towards the entrance hall. The noises grew louder; Bilbo heard clinking and clanking and two quiet voices speaking amongst themselves. He put his hands on his hips and turned the corner, reading to give an earful to whoever had forgotten the decency of knocking, only to find two familiar Dwarves in his entrance hall.
"Bless me, Fíli and Kíli!" he cried, his scowl immediately turning to a wide grin.
"Told you he wouldn't be upset about us not knocking," Kíli said, elbowing his brother. "Hello, Bilbo!"
"Hello, welcome, come in!" Bilbo said, rushing forward to take their traveling cloaks and hang them neatly on pegs.
"Careful with mine," Fíli called. "It's—"
"Probably bristling with weapons, I know," Bilbo said, handling Fíli's cloak with special care. "And if you've got any more on you, you can take care of them yourself. Just put them on the glory box, if you'd like. Mind you don't scratch it!"
"You wound me, Bilbo," Fíli said with a playful glitter in his eye. "Kíli is the one who—"
"You can keep quiet about that, Fíli—no one needs to remember it," Kíli interrupted, a blush creeping up his face. "Just mind you don't damage his dear old mum's glory box, won't you?"
"All right, both of you," said Bilbo, smiling and shaking his head. "Come sit in the dining room, let me see what I've got to feed the two of you that isn't saved for tomorrow…"
"Oh, the others are behind us, too," said Kíli, pointing a thumb at the round green door. "Make sure you get enough for them, too."
Bilbo blanched. The day before his birthday, and all thirteen of this lot were showing up at his door, unannounced? How was he supposed to feed them all? He didn't mind their company, of course, but the day before his birthday…
Kíli burst out laughing, pointing at Bilbo and looking back at his brother, and Fíli started to laugh as well.
"The look on your face!" Kíli crowed. "I'm just kidding, my dear Bilbo—we would have sent word if there were more of us, I promise you."
Bilbo instantly relaxed and rolled his eyes at the two of them as they continued to laugh. Of course they would. He had nearly forgotten how fond they were of seeing how gullible he was.
"We are on our way to Ered Luin for the winter," Fíli said, "and we thought we would stop and say hello and take you up on your offer of tea."
"We'll be coming back this way in the spring with a group of Dwarves, but we probably oughtn't bother you then, so we decided to come today," Kíli added.
"We did think you would have tea ready, though," said Fíli. "It is four o'clock, after all, and we remember how much you like your meals…"
"Gracious me, is it already that time?" Bilbo cried, pulling out his pocketwatch. Sure enough, it was already after four o'clock. "Well, sit yourselves down and get comfortable—I'd better start the kettle straightaway!"
"We'll clean up afterwards, if you'd like," called Fíli after Bilbo as he scurried to the kitchen.
"No, thank you," Bilbo muttered to himself, thinking of the last time he had harbored Dwarves in his home. "I'll clean my own dishes, thank you very much."
Still, a smile grew on his face as he recalled the sight of twelve Dwarves tossing his dishes around and singing. To their credit, they had not broken a single plate or bowl, nor had they damaged any of his silverware.
"Blunt the knives, bend the forks…" Bilbo sang quietly to himself as he put the kettle over the fire.
"Smash the bottles and burn the corks!" came Fíli's cheerful voice from the other room.
Bilbo grinned wide and shook his head. As silly as these Dwarves were, he had missed them—especially Fíli and Kíli—and he was glad to see them again, even if it were only for a day.
Though it was not customary for Hobbits to receive gifts on their own birthdays, Bilbo felt as if he had gotten one this year.
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