Author's Note

This is me trying to reconcile the movie with the book. I've taken some liberties with the lines (the ones from the movie are all from memory, of course) and I've done some tweaking to bring the two closer together. I changed the end of the scene because that's closer to how it happened in the book and how I would have liked it to happen in the movie.

Like all great actors, Mr. Freeman's silences speak almost as loudly as his words, and I was riveted by his turmoil when he confronts Thorin outside the tunnel, and how many times Thorin had to ask before Bilbo would give him the obvious answer.

This one-shot is mostly me venting out my emotions, so if it really sucks, just let me know and I won't bother with any more.

Needless to say, I own nothing. Except the narrative. All characters, scenes, settings and lines belong to Mr. Tolkein and MGM.

Thief

I ran as fast as I could, skittering across the piles and piles of gold, slipping and sliding and sweating as the dragon's fire scorched my back. He couldn't see me if I had the ring, but he could still burn me, and that fire was much too close and much too quick for comfort.

I darted up the stairs of the decrepit old palace and slipped behind a pillar, out of range (I hoped) of the fire. I didn't dare pause for breath, even though it felt like there was a fire inside me as my breath ripped through my lungs.

I was still foolishly clutching the cup I'd snatched, too terrified to waste even a millisecond to fling it away. And—this was, in retrospect, just as foolish a thought—at least I would not return to the dwarves empty-handed. I wasn't a true burglar but at least I could do some things.

Thorin measured the weight of your life, and found it worthless.

No—he's lying. He's a dragon, remember? He's doing that on purpose, bewitching and befuddling. Just like you tried to do, stupid, with all those riddles about your name. Barrel-rider! Why not just blurt the whole thing out? "I came from Lake Town, mighty worm!"

And yet hadn't Thorin said it himself? "He's been lost ever since he left his home…he should never have come."

But he was wrong. He said so himself. Wrong.

They probably promised you a share of the treasure—as if it were theirs to give! A fourteenth share, I suppose, or something like it, those were the terms, eh? But what about delivery? What about cartage?

Well, I…hadn't thought of that, now had I? How to get all that gold back to my little hobbit-hole in the Shire? But the gold was not what I'd come for. Hadn't had much of a choice really, just listening as old Gandalf urged me out: "You will have to run. Off you go!"

Had the dwarves noticed that? Had they considered the carrying of all that treasure? Had they been laughing in their sleeve the entire time? Laughing at me, at how stupid and gullible I was?

Was that what they thought of me?

Why, oh why did we ever bring a wretched little hobbit on a treasure hunt?

I shook the voices out of my head. It was the dragon-fire getting to me; the inhalation of the dragon-smoke. That was all…

Oh, I felt faint, I felt faint.

Leaving the furious roaring of the dragon behind me I scrambled up to the secret door, clutching the golden cup to my chest like some relic of my miraculous survival. My free hand slipped into my pocket and the ring fell off my finger and nestled into it in its familiar place. Was it safe to be visible again?...

"Baggins!"

I yelped in terror, positive that it was Smaug coming after me, but it was Thorin grabbing me by the arm as he darted out from the tunnel.

"We have to get out of here!" I shouted, using his grip on my arm to try and pull him with me. But his feet were like stones planted on the castle floor and he would not move, and he kept me with him. I noticed he had his sword drawn. Who's the fool, I thought, does he really think that's worth anything against the wrath of Smaug?

His eyes darted to the cup in my hand and I saw his eyes blaze with yearning. "Did you find it?" he hissed. "Did you find the Arkenstone?"

I stared at him. Smaug's words spiraled through my head again.

I'm almost tempted to let you take it, thief—to see it slowly corrupting Thorin as he is consumed by his own desire.

"Did you find the Arkenstone?" Thorin rasped, leaning in closer and gripping my arm intensely.

He wanted the Arkenstone, and yet he was willing to let me be killed for it—was that the kind of behavior I condoned? The person before me had no regard for the fact that I was scorched and terrified; all he wanted was that cursed stone. I'd chased that stone through rippling mountains of gold, pursued by the furious dragon. I'd been smothered in gems and smoke, buried in an endless sea of coins, and burned by the trembling phantoms his fire left in its wake.

That, Mr. Baggins, is why you are here.

Was that all I was?

"Did you find the Arkenstone?"

"No," I blurted, "I didn't find it, and we need to get out of here." Thorin wasn't getting that stone, that horrible beautiful thing, if it was what was making him act this way.

I pulled away from him and tried to run up the tunnel, but he blocked me with his body.

And his sword.

"Thorin," I said, flabbergasted. His eyes blazed at me and he took a step closer, bringing the sword with him. "Thorin," I repeated in a squeak, as he made no signs of letting down his sword. I backed away from his fury, unable to grasp it. I didn't have the Arkenstone; I couldn't give it to him; it wasn't my fault. Why was he threatening me?

The blade of the sword gleamed in the dim light and I felt it press against my chest. I was nearing to edge of the balcony. Would he continue to push me until I fell over and tell me not to come back unless I had the stone?

This was not the Thorin who had embraced me after admitting he was wrong. This was not the Thorin who had bowed in gratitude to me when I saved them from the Elf King's dungeons. This was a Thorin…corrupted by greed…

The sweat dripped down my face as for the hundredth time I feared for my life, but this time, it would be at the hands of a friend.

No.

The hands of someone who I thought was my friend.

The hall was shaken by the roar of the dragon. Thorin was shaken as well, it seemed, shaken out of his crazed desire, or at least his desire to deal with me.

"Smaug," I whispered, and I felt the sharpness of his sword drop from my chest.

"Come on," Thorin bellowed, and ran back up the tunnel. I streaked after him as the dragon reared through the halls of the palace, his shriek of fury echoing through the massive chambers.

"THIEF! THIEF!"

I pounded after Thorin up the tunnel and away, clinging to my senses as long as I could and knowing as soon as I returned to the daylight, I truly would faint. At the same time I was cursing myself and Thorin, both of us right and wrong at the same time and about the same things.

He should never have come.

Why, oh why did I ever leave my hobbit-hole!

He looks more like a grocer than a burglar.

I'm not a warrior, I'm not a hero, I'm not even a burglar.

No, I wasn't a burglar. I never had been and I had no intention ever to be one. There was only one burglar in this company as far as I was concerned, and that person, that thief, had robbed me of my peace of mind, my safety, my respectability, and very nearly my life.

And he'd robbed me of my trust—the trust I'd had for him, the respect, the admiration even, that I'd gained throughout this journey. If I'd been given a treasure surely that was it—and if so, Smaug was right after all. There was no way now that I would ever be able to take that back to my little hobbit-hole.