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Much Ado About Nothing: Chapter 14

Title: Much Ado About Nothing
Rating: T (rating subject to change)
Fandom: Tolkien's Hobbit
Pairing: Thorin Oakenshield/Bilbo Baggins, more to come
Genre: Romance/Adventure/HumorSummary 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

Thorin panicked. He caught the tiny female when she fell, shouting breathlessly for Óin. The old dwarf was beside him in an instant, moving with an alacrity he rarely displayed, belying his one-and-two-hundred years. Óin first looked over Bilbo’s shoulder, a dark frown twisting his bushy white brows.

“Help me get her pack off,” he instructed, and Thorin carefully leaned her forward into him, gingerly slipping the straps off thin shoulders. He thrust it behind him, and someone took it, as he carefully eased Bilbo back against him once more. Cupping her left elbow, he frowned, looking down at it.

“Óin,” he said helplessly. The old dwarf looked down, his scowl turning even fiercer. he felt carefully around the limb.

“She’s gone and re-dislocated her shoulder, and she’s managed to actually dislocate her elbow.” He looked around. “We need to get a camp set. I need to work, and we won’t be able to move her for a while. Hopefully she didn’t damage it so much that she loses that arm.” The old one said, and Thorin’s blood ran cold. Her injuries were that serious? What had she been doing? Óin looked up at him. “You’re a lucky fellow, to have such a stalwart little rescuer.” He remarked, and Thorin could hardly hear for the blood rushing in his ears.

He’d thought that was a heat-haze hallucination! (A tiny figure, afraid, but stalwart, fierceness to match any dwarf, standing between him and his greatest foe; again, the very vision of Mahal’s gentle Queen Danuk through a haze of pain.) He grasped calmness as tightly as he could, surveying their small band.

“You heard the dwarf,” he said, glancing at Gandalf. “We must make camp. Has anyone found a path down from here?” Nori waved from a short way away, and Thorin noted distantly that he had the halfling’s pack over his shoulders.

“Over here. There’s some crude stairs.” The thief responded. Thorin nodded, and with Óin’s help, carefully hoisted Bilbo in his arms, her damaged arm draped carefully over her midsection. Gandalf led the way down, and Thorin found himself flanked on all sides by Óin in front of him, Fíli and Kíli to his right and left, and when he cast a glance over his shoulder, Ori behind him. They were constantly helping him, making sure he didn’t jar the fragile burden in his arms.

After a long and tedious descent, they had finally reached the ground. The other dwarfs quickly set about making camp at the base of the strangely-shaped pillar, while Óin quickly got a bed assembled. Gandalf departed, saying he would scout for a more hospitable place to take Bilbo to recuperate once she was stabilized, resting a tender hand upon her brow before he departed.

Soon Thorin was bade to gently lay the young female down, which he did with the utmost care. He would soon go to get the full story from Dwalin and Balin, but for now, if what he thought might have happened had happened he was in awe of the little hobbit. To stand between an orc and its prey - he had maligned her honor, and he would do all he could as recompense.

Óin started loosening the laces of her bodice. Thorin yelped and lurched up. The oldster gave him a gimlet glare.

“I can’t fix her if I can’t see what I’m doing, Thorin. She would understand, were she awake.” He explained, with the tone of one explaining to an especially dim-witted child. A flush burned the back of his neck, and he was grateful for his long hair.

“We will stay away, then.” Thorin said, straightening out his coat. Óin sighed, a very put-upon sound.

“I need helpers.” He pointed out. Thorin’s eye went to Kíli.

“Take Kíli for your helper, then.” He more or less demanded, and Fíli stood, coming to his uncle’s side.

“Ori can help as well.” Nori’s voice startled the small group, but Ori nodded, and the two youngsters looked to Óin for instruction. Thorin eyed Nori for a long moment, then nodded and looked away. The oldster rolled his eyes heavenward and shook his head, but quickly set them to tasks. The rest of the company moved a respectful distance away and began splitting up for their usual eventide tasks. It was nowhere near evening, the sun had just come up, but the company hadn’t slept for Mahal only knew how long, and there was an unspoken consensus that a day of rest was needed.

Thorin drew Balin aside as the others went about their tasks; Fíli, Bofur and Nori departing to hunt, since their supplies were all but gone, Bombur and Bifur to kindling a cheery little blaze, Dwalin taking a pair of buckets to find the stream they could all hear near enough by, leaving Glóin and Dori doing a basic inventory of remaining supplies and drawing straws for the digging of a latrine-trench.

“Balin, what happened? I remember being thrown into a rock by that beast, and not much more.” He admitted. It was safe to not be all-knowing around Balin; the oldster was a solid fixture, undeterred by the occasional uncertainty of his young king, a constant voice of advice and reason in his ear. Balin nodded knowingly, clasping Thorin’s shoulder reassuringly.

“She was a sight to see, my lord. The white orc had ordered you executed, and she was gone. She’s a quick-footed creature, and I swear it was like she did not even feel the embers she ran over. She tackled your would-be executor to the ground and stabbed the creature until it was quite dead. Then she stood between you and the white orc with that tiny blade Gandalf gave her, like a mother wolf protecting her cubs. We were all rather shocked, so I’m ashamed to say it took us a time to actually come to her aid, but we did. She was terrified, I could tell, but she was as fierce as a winter gale. She’s a remarkable creature, Thorin, truly.” Balin told him, in close confidence. Thorin’s gaze darted to where the three dwarfs were busily gathered around the prone form of the hobbit and felt as if someone had punched him in the sternum.

She had done that for him? She had done that for him the same day he had maligned her honor. How could he even...

Balin patted his shoulder and went to help Dori inventory their supplies. (Glóin had apparently lost the straw-drawing. Thorin suspected that perhaps Dori had rigged it.)

Thorin had some thinking to do.


The sun was high in the sky by the time Óin seemed to be done, rising from his place at Bilbo’s side. Ori darted over to Nori, claiming the hobbit’s pack, and shuffled through it.

“Nori - your cloak.” The child sounded surprised, but the cloak that he withdrew was indeed Nori’s own. The star-haired dwarf took it with a puzzled expression, and Ori made a high-pitched exclamation of surprise and joy. He withdrew from the hobbit’s pack (it had looked oddly overfull, come to think of it) a worn patchwork bag, which if Thorin remembered correctly, the young dwarf kept his knitting in.

Two blankets came out next, and finally Ori found what he had been looking for, a soft-looking, plain, almost threadbare nightshirt, and clutching the shirt and the patchwork bag to his chest he hurried back over to where Kíli waited beside Bilbo’s blanket-covered, small form. They quickly had the hobbit decently attired, though they still covered her with a blanket in the early autumn chill.

Thorin couldn’t help but notice how horrifyingly vulnerable and delicate the hobbit seemed, arm strapped securely against her chest so she couldn’t move it at all beneath the thin fabric of her nightshirt, white bandages carefully wrapped about her small skull.

“Óin, how badly is she hurt?” He inquired, ignoring how the entire camp went deathly silent, listening.

“She ought to keep the arm, Mahal’s blessing providing. She dislocated her elbow as well as popping that shoulder back out, but it didn’t feel broken. We should just have to keep it bound down for, say, two weeks or so, and limited use until I feel it’s up to snuff. She’s cracked a couple ribs, so I bound them, and she’s got impressive bruising all over her back and left side. Hit her head again, poor mite, but it felt like just a concussion. Wouldn’t be surprised if she slept the rest of the day into the night, she’s had a bad couple of days. I’ll be monitoring her for shock, it’s pretty likely.” He said, tone matter-of-fact. Most everyone looked about as horrified as Thorin felt.

“I’d like to know what the mite was doing in those caves, though. That bruising is from a fall, if I’m any judge. It’d explain a few things if the mite fell off of one of those rickety platforms of those damn goblins.” Thorin rubbed at his temples.

“Yes, I suppose that it would.” He muttered weakly. Óin looked at him - he was particularly adept at making Thorin feel approximately Kíli’s age, and he didn’t like it.

“Now I want to look at those ribs of yours. Warg bites, even if they didn’t get through your armor, are no laughing matter.” He pinned Thorin with a glare, and Thorin submitted with ill grace.


She was running a fever as night fell. Thorin watched as Óin fussed quietly, carefully wiping down her sweating face with cool water. The old dwarf had discovered a sprained ankle that had bypassed his earlier examination and wrapped it soundly.

Gandalf walked back into their little camp finally. Thorin hoped against hope that the old wizard had actually found a place better for the hobbit - no, for Bilbo’s recovery. The infuriatingly mysterious man had other priorities, first, though, and made a beeline for Bilbo’s sickbed. Thorin moved close as well, wanting to catch Gandalf as quick as he could.

This meant he had the perfect view of cloudy, fever-bright eyes as they opened and regarded Gandalf in dull confusion.

“Granda, why are you out of bed?” Her voice was whispery, a bit of a croak edging in, but getting stronger. She tried to sit up and was pressed back down by a gently insistent Óin. Gandalf frowned. “You’ve not been well, and you know it, Granda,” she tried to rise again, batting ineffectually at the old dwarf with the arm not strapped down.

“Peace, my girl,” Gandalf said, pressing a hand against her good shoulder to aid Óin in keeping her down. “Can you tell me what my name is, and the year? You’ve been very ill. I want to make sure you’re feeling better.” Thorin admired the old wizard for his trickery, if nothing else. Bilbo frowned at him uncertainly. Thorin noted that most of the dwarfs had come within earshot.

“You’re my granda, Gerontius Took, and it’s the year thirteen-forty, Shire reckoning.” She answered irritably. She suddenly looked faintly confused. “Wait, that’s wrong somehow.” She looked at Gandalf, and her eyes tracked over to Thorin. He held her gaze, wondering why it hurt that there didn’t seem to be any recognition in that fever-bright gaze. She looked back at Gandalf, then over to Óin.

“It’s not thirteen forty,” she said, slowly, with the air of someone struggling to remember. “It’s thirteen forty-one and you’re dead.” Her face had crumpled, and she was looking at Gandalf like someone had just broken her heart. “I buried you under an apple tree, in the same grove that Mum and I buried Da in, and that you and I buried Mum in.” Thorin turned his eyes down in shame. She was an orphan, who had lost her grandfather just a year ago, if his interpretation of the times was correct.

“I miss you, it’s so lonely in our smial now. No one comes to visit anymore.” Tears were glittering in her eyes, overspilling and wetting her hair. Gandalf tenderly wiped them away. Thorin thought guiltily of that surprisingly large house tucked into the hill, how strangely empty of life it had seemed when he had been standing alone in the door in the predawn chill before they had departed.

“Be at peace, my darling girl,” Gandalf murmured softly. “You will see me again.” Thorin’s mouth twitched. Strangely thoughtful of the wizard, to play along with the hallucinations. Then again, it was keeping her still, and the wizard was far fonder of the little hobbit than he was of the dwarfs. She smiled hazily, despite her tears, and fumbled about so she was weakly clasping Gandalf’s large, weathered hand. He wrapped his other around it, dwarfing her tiny hand within his.

“We can till the Green Lady’s fields together,” she murmured. “I’m still planning on beating you, old man. A hundred and fifty’s your record, right? Oldest hobbit in recorded history. I told you I’d beat you and first frost I will,” her eyes were drifting shut, but Thorin wasn’t even noticing that anymore. White noise had filled his ears - one hundred and fifty, the oldest in history? That feeling of having been given a swiftly brutal blow to the sternum was back. Vaguely he noted Gandalf laying the hobbit’s arm back over her midsection - she’d fallen back to an uneasy sleep.

Gandalf stood, and met Thorin’s gaze levelly.

“To get this out of the way quickly, hobbits age much like the common folk of men do, only with a longer expected life.” He told the company quietly. “Dear Bilbo is, if I am not mistaken, about to turn forty-one. Before you raise a completely unnecessary fuss, hobbits come of age at thirty-three, and are expected by their society to get married soon afterwards.” Balin nodded, stepping forward.

“I conversed with our burglar when we were at Rivendell about this. The hobbit’s thirty-three is our seventy-five. They mature much more quickly than a dwarf and,” here he leveled the rest of the dwarfs, including Thorin with a stern and level stare, “if you start treating her as if she is not an adult, there will be consequences.” Everyone nodded, if somewhat reluctantly, and slowly returned to what they had been doing before. Thorin moved to Gandalf, having given himself a moment to get his wits back together.

“Gandalf, have you found a place we might rest?” He inquired, and tired blue eyes met his.

“Aye. The master of the lands lives close by, half a day’s walk by my standards, slower with injured folk. He’ll take us without much persuasion, he’s a soft spot for females.” Gandalf eyed him tiredly. “Don’t you bristle at me, Thorin Oakenshield. Beorn will take no fancy at any of the company. He is kinder towards females because he is a chivalrous soul, though fierce.” Gandalf turned away, to fetch a supper from Bombur’s cooking-pot, and Thorin subsided moodily. He was swiftly accosted by Óin, who pressed a bowl of rabbit stew into his hands and harried him into sitting beside Bilbo’s sickbed.

“I want both my patients close-by,” he informed Thorin tartly. “You’ve cracked those ribs, and I don’t want you doing anything strenuous or you run the risk of breaking them.” Thorin grumbled at him, but soon enough Fíli and Kíli were done with their evening meals and creeping over in what they apparently thought was a subtle manner, eventually ending up planted on either side of him. He set his bowl aside (he’d finished most of it, anyhow) and opened his arms to them. They gladly curled in close, and Thorin suddenly felt exhausted. He’d been awake for almost three days, though, so he supposed it wasn't that surprising...

He fell asleep between one thought and the next, propped up against a tree, with the warm, familiar feel of nephew and niece curled close and safe.


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