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Much Ado About Nothing: Chapter 11

Title: Much Ado About Nothing
Rating: T (rating subject to change)
Fandom: Tolkien's Hobbit
Pairings: Thorin Oakenshield/Bilbo Baggins, Fíli/Ori, Dwalin/Nori
Genre: Romance/Adventure/Humor
Summary Belladonna Baggins, child of Bungo Baggins and Belladonna Took, hadn't much taste for Adventure. More's the pity that Adventure had a taste for Belladonna Baggins A what-if fic.
WARNINGS: Liberal application of gender-swap! As in, always-the-other-gender gender-swap! You have been warned! Eventual explicit scenes, liberal application of fibercrafting, comedy of errors


Chapter warning for medical realism.





She was hanging off the edge of a cliff, eyes wide with fear. Bofur (dear, sweet Bofur, for all his mischief he was a steadfast companion) was immediately on his belly on the cliffside, clinging to her arm, eyes wide with an old fear. Ori was there not a split second later, terror shining in every line of her young, sweet face. Bilbo tried to reach up to them but something was horribly wrong with her right arm, her fingers were growing numb.


Thorin was suddenly there, on the cliffside beside her, hauling her up to the arms of Bofur and Ori. She nearly screamed, because she could now feel her arm, and it was burning. The world greyed out slightly, but she registered Thorin getting hauled up from the cliff himself.


There was bile climbing up the back of her throat, nausea from the pain roiled in her stomach.


“Get her up, there’s shelter up ahead.” Someone said, close by her. She couldn’t really see anymore, and when someone tried to haul her to her feet she made a guttural, animal sound of pain.


“Something’s wrong with her arm - shoulder, I think.” She recognized that voice, little Ori. Such a clever girl. Someone was unceremoniously lifting her, though whoever it was was gentle with her shoulders, and soon enough she was in a slightly warmer, definitely dryer place, surrounded by urgent voices.

“Brace her up, laddie, let me get a good look.” She dully realized she recognized that voice too - awareness creeping back in around the pain. Óin, someone had said he was the healer of the group. She realized in a detached fashion that she was sitting on someone’s lap in a manner that would have been highly inappropriate in any other situation, slumped forward so her face was pressed into a furry ruff as someone poked gently at her shoulder behind her.

“All right. Boys, hold her legs down. Laddie, hold her still. This is going to be more difficult than usual, she’s in a bad way with the cold.” She distantly felt two pairs of hands clamp down, one pair holding each leg down. Whoever was holding her wrapped one strong arm about her waist, and the other about her uninjured shoulder, pinning her other arm to her side, a hand clamping gently over the back of her neck to keep her face pressed to fur. Gentle, firm hands took hold of her shoulder, and a high, thin whine came from her throat in protest.

“On three. One, two -” she lost the world again, in a haze of white pain. She dimly realized that her throat ached because she was screaming, that all of her muscles seemed to have seized.

She was being released, gentle hands were strapping her arm against her chest, but she had not the will to keep awake.

With a sigh, all of her muscles relaxed against the strong, gentle hold, and she slipped away from consciousness.

~

Thorin looked at the lapful of suddenly unconscious hobbit in concern, but Óin merely patted her back gently.

“She’s a fine soldier to have kept awake that long, bless. I’d wager that’s the worst harm she’s ever come to, living in a peaceful place like that Shire of hers.” Óin remarked, packing his kit back up. Fíli and Kíli looked at Bilbo with wide, worried eyes from where they sat on either side of Thorin and the small hobbit.

Thorin shifted the tiny being from his lap, Fíli, Kíli and Ori all gathering around to lay her out gently on a hastily-constructed pallet of sand and the halfling’s blanket. Nori handed Ori his cloak, which the lad folded carefully under Bilbo’s damaged shoulder. They then spread out their own bedding close to her, and Thorin was sharply reminded of cold nights before his people had reached Ered Luin, when he and Frerin would curl close to their young sister for comfort.

He turned away and bedded himself down sitting up against the back wall of the cavern. It did not do to dwell on things long past.

~

Bilbo woke a few hours later, a deep ache throbbing slowly through her shoulder. It was less than the sharp pain she had felt earlier, and she was actually warm, so she felt much better. She opened her eyes and carefully sat up. Ori was bedded down to her left, body curved towards her as if she wanted to cuddle but didn’t quite dare. On her other side was a tangle of limbs and hair that she recognized as Kíli and Fíli, the young blonde dwarf lying closer to Bilbo as the darker-haired dwarf sprawled herself all over her brother. “Snuggly”, indeed.

She felt suddenly overwhelmed. The way the three youngsters woke up long-dormant mothering instincts was exhausting. Especially since two of them were so prone to trouble.

Carefully Bilbo raised herself to her feet, careful to not disturb any of the company. She was good at being quick and quiet, but she was hampered by her arm. She idly picked up her little sheathed sword and wandered silently to the entrance of the cave.

She could almost feel herself on a plateau of pain, leveling out enough for her to be completely, abnormally peaceful. Outside it rained still, water sheeting past the cave entrance. She turned a little and saw Bofur.

She was oddly reminded of her grandfather in that moment, the miner whittling something as he idly smoked his pipe. She sighed, suddenly very tired, and sat on the sandy floor next to where he was perched and laid her head against his hip. He looked down at her, startled, but tucked his whittling away into his clothes somewhere and dropped a hand to stroke her wayward curls.

“May I ask, why were you so very scared when I almost fell?” Her voice was as soft as she could make it, and not a soul seemed disturbed for all her voice sounded ridiculously loud in the sleepy silence. Bofur’s hand stilled, but quickly resumed its gentle ministrations.

“Do you know much about dwarfish marriage customs?” He asked quietly. She shook her head, and he sighed. “Usually when two dwarfs decide to be married it is because there has formed a love, a commitment to each other. Dwarfs are very selfish in love, and will not love another once they have decided the one that they will love. It is a lucky thing when the one you marry is also the one you love, and all dwarfs seek that kind of partnership.” He sighed heavily, and Bilbo reached up with her good arm to clasp her small hand over his large, calloused one. He smiled at her, a pale shadow of his normal cheerfulness.

“I was married, Miss Bilbo. For thirty-four years I was the happiest dwarf alive, it felt.” Bilbo’s face crumpled in sorrow.

“What happened?” She breathed, barely daring to make a sound. The smile he gave her was one of a broken heart, and her own heart clenched in fear. She had seen those smiles before, gracing her own mother’s face for those eight years before she died of it.

“He died.” She barely even startled at the pronoun - male couples were not unheard-of in the Shire, though they were kept discreet, and it wasn’t so much a marriage, but an understanding. “We were working to stabilize a series of mine-shafts, but a beam fell and he toppled over the guardrail. His lifeline snapped. There was nothing I could do.” His smile turned slightly bitter.

“Please, Bofur. I watched my mother die of a broken heart after my da died. I don’t want-” She choked on the words, but Bofur seemed to understand, stroking her hair again, before he carefully removed his hat with the hand she wasn’t clutching. She saw four beads in his hair. They were warm-colored wood all over with carefully burned patterns, two at the top of each of his braids, inset with red stones. He slipped up the cuff of his left sleeve and about his wrist was a bracelet of alternating wood and red stone.

“When dwarfs marry there is an exchange of jewels - it’s called bejewelling your spouse - each in the other’s clan color. Kilred gave me these, the most precious treasures I possess, no matter that they aren’t practically speaking very valuable.” A finger stroked her cheek, and she realized she was crying. “Don’t cry, dear lass. It’s been nineteen years, and the ache gets less sharp every time I manage to remember him fondly, with love, all the good times that we had.” He settled his hat upon his head once more and flipped his sleeve down.

“What’s that?” He asked her, eyes cast down to her lap. She looked down and eased the little blade from its sheath an inch or so. The space between them was filled with blue light and her heart lurched in her chest.

~

Thorin was startled by his own reaction when the halfling dropped down next to Bofur and he stroked those lovely bronze curls. Fierce jealousy curled up underneath his breastbone. He couldn’t quite hear their lowly-murmured conversation, and it rankled badly.

Why was he jealous over the halfling, though? It made no sense. The tiny, soft grocer had snuck into his heart and made a nest there, and he was struck cold with fear.

The memory of her tiny form in his arms, how she seemed to fit perfectly there attacked his mind with no mercy. He realized he would like to have her there once more, but without the pain of the dislocated shoulder that had put her there. He would like her to come to him willingly, enthusiastically, even. But really. What were the chances of that? He’d not been kind to the halfling, and she seemed to hold kindness like Bofur’s in highest regard.

He looked again, and Bofur took off his hat.

Where those marriage beads in his hair and about his wrist? They had to be - both Bombur and Bifur wore peridot (Bifur alongside the same amethyst that the Ri brothers wore - there was a story there that perhaps one day he would learn), but that was red carnelian. So where was Bofur’s spouse? Faint light reflected off tears on the hobbit’s face even as the gentle dwarf brushed the tears away, and his blood ran cold.

Bofur was a widower.

Shame replaced the jealousy beneath his breastbone, even as relief made his head light. He felt genuine grief for Bofur, but at the same time there was a tiny voice in his head that exulted - it wasn’t me, I haven’t loved and lost like that.

The halfling looked down, pulled her little dagger-sword out of its sheath slightly - blue light threw a harsh glare across her face, and Thorin's heart sank like a stone. The floor was too flat, even as he looked sand was pouring through cracks that hadn’t been there before and -

Everyone up!” He roared, but it was no use, the floor collapsed inward as it was designed to, and they tumbled head-over-heels straight into a trap.

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