Billa was whisked to her rooms soon after Khín had finished twitching and the hobbit didn't argue. Once inside she was tackled by small bundle which she scooped up, balancing him on her hip. "Mama..."Frerin gasped, latching onto her shirt.
"Hello badger," she surveyed the toys that littered around. Kili and Ori sat on the floor, each holding onto a wooden orc. Dori, Nori, Dwalin and Gloin sat around one of the small tables, heads bent in conversation.
"Friends," Thorin spoke clearly as the others entered the room, filling the remaining seats, turning and waiting for him to continue. His large hand was placed on Billa's shoulder and she was pretty sure it was the only thing keeping her grounded. "We have been betrayed by our own. Zirok was Dwalin's second in command." The warrior hung his head, shamed by trusting one so foul. "Khín was a valued member of Bifur and Bofur's mining team. We thought we knew them, and they have brought the greatest shame upon their families."
Balin spoke up, "We will question close kin your majesty, but it will do no good to condemn before we have answers."
Thorin only had to look at the red mark on Billa's soft neck and he let out a throaty growl. Fili sat next to his brother on the floor, "Master Balin is right uncle. We need to do this with stealth, precision and with great care."
"The same care as trying to grab poison with your hand?" Oin berated, pouring a cup of chamomile tea and Billa juggled Frerin on her lap as she sat down breaking away from Thorin's grasp. "Something to calm the nerves lass, come, sit." Oin led her to a near by seat at the heart of her dwarven family and she breathed in deeply.
"Thank you Oin, just what I needed."
She placed the cup on the table and ran her finger's through Frerin's hair, he grumbled under her touch and snuggled in closer. "I don't the wee one will be waking up any time soon," Bombur smiled.
"Too much excitement for one day," Nori hummed from where he picked his teeth with a golden knife.
"I wouldn't call it excitement," Dori admonished.
"Neither would I." Thorin said.
"I don't know," Bofur chimed in, "I enjoyed the way he twitched." Bifur grunted and the miner clasped his cousin on the shoulder, "Indeed! Was like he was dancing, a thing of beauty really."
Billa felt a little green as Bombur threw one of the wooden orcs at his kin, Bofur wiping an imaginary tear from his eye. It didn't help that Fili was giving a rather detailed demonstration to Kili, Ori sniggering behind a gloved hand.
"Dwarves," she muttered as Kili spun round, grinning from ear to ear.
"You love us Billa, admit it." She leaned forward and patted him on the head. "I tolerate you dear, I really do." She threw a pointed look at all of them and all but Thorin avoided her gaze. She could almost feel the heat in those blue eyes, a weight settling in her stomach, but she wouldn't be the one to look away. Not this time and she almost smiled as he took a hesitant step towards her.
It took Thorin longer than he would care to admit to remember that they were not alone. Breaking the spell of her stare he coughed, before setting his eyes on Balin, who looked at him with a knowing smirk. "Balin, give me a run down on what happened."
"Zirok attacked one of the council member before he got to Billa, Oin has told me that's quite serious. If Grér recovers he will not be able to return to his position." Oin nodded and Balin continued, "Dis is still with the mothers and children. They were roaring for blood the last time I passed the chambers, worried for their children and for yourselves." Balin smiled as he looked over at Billa, "If it weren't for you lass, well lets just say I think you impressed them."
"Aye," Oin shifted as though uncomfortable with the truths he had uncovered. "That coating on Khín's blade was cerbera." There were gasps as Billa shuddered, not even the tea bringing her comfort. The plant was so toxic it was taught to all young fauntlings that should they spot any growing they were to avoid it all costs. The plants were destroyed immediately, no one trusting it to be left to grow. Death by the little orange pods was excruciating, and there was no known cure, not that you lived long enough to ingest anything else.
Thorin studied Billa, her once immaculate clothes were disheveled and torn. Once again she had saved his life with little thought to her own safety, the same reckless fire he had loved. His mind teased him with images of what could have happened to her had she failed. "Dwalin will begin your training tomorrow," he said after a particularly nasty image flashed behind his eyes, if Nori's blade had missed and the axe had found it's mark.
Dwalin nodded as Billa sat open mouthed, not even a thank you! Not that she'd saved his life for that reason but still it would have been nice for her actions to be recognized. Now he wanted her to fight. This was not going to happen, no way, they'd have to tie the sword to her hands.
"No," she fumed. "I know how to handle a sword don't I?" She pointed at the king, the others watching with open mouths. "I saved your life you stubborn mule. I don't want to train, I don't want to get the snot beaten out of me. I never signed up for this when we set out. It just simply isn't done."
Slumping into her chair, Frerin gripping her tightly she heard a small voice and looked over at Fili smiling at her, albeit wearily. "I'll be your training partner Billa."
"Me to," Kili said, never to far away from his brother and hoping to avoid an argument between Billa and his uncle. "We don't want anything to happen to you."
"Boys," Billa pinched her nose trying to ignore the puppy dog eyes. "I'm not a dwarf. It wont be the same."
"Aye, you're not a dwarf," Dwalin grunted and Billa was momentarily worried she had offended him. "But you should know how to defend yourself, next time you might not be so lucky."
The company nodded and Billa watched them. She didn't want to train with Dwalin, the lads had told her horror stories of bruises and broken bones. Still, maybe she could work it to her advantage and she knew her smile was sly as she spoke. "No more secrets then. I will agree to train, but only if I'm told of what's happening, and if you continue to tell me. As soon as you stop, I stop."
Thorin clenched his teeth together so hard he thought they may crack, sneaky, stubborn hobbits. Dwalin gave him a little shrug and he looked around the room, the company were waiting for him and Thorin nodded. "I will agree to those terms." Billa grinned and he scowled. It felt like she had just won a small battle.
Thorin continued to stand as he spoke his arms crossed, "So far we know very little of what we are dealing with, how far this conspiracy goes. This is why we kept up the ruse of my death to see if we could draw them out. Now we need to get ahead of them. Gloin go with Bofur and Bifur. They must inform the families of the traitors." He rubbed his face with a heavy hand. "This news will not come easily to them and we need to be delicate. Fili is right, it will do no good to insult them."
Gloin nodded and led the others away, not before clasping a hand to Billa's shoulder and whispering thank you. Thorin turned to the Ri brothers, "Find out how they got into that room, and find out how we let them work under our noses. Oin, I want to know where they could get cerbera from."
Oin nodded. "Aye, we don't keep any in the mountain, but I'll go to Dale in the morning, have a poke around."
"Take Dwalin and a few guards, ask to speak to Bard can you not get any answers." Thorin demanded as Balin stood before him, "Bring me any news of Grér, his family were loyal to my father. We will see him honoured regardless of what happens." Soon the room was empty save for Billa and Thorin.
Putting Frerin to bed she took a deep calming breathes as she made her way back to the sitting room. She wanted more answers. She had almost been killed, Frerin had been in the room, could have become a target. Billa had also taken a life for the king under the mountain. If he didn't like what she had to say then tough, he would just have to deal with it.
"There are things we need to talk about Thorin," Billa didn't care that her words sounded so hard but she was tired, and frustrated, and scared. Her and Frerin were being hunted by dwarves that could snap her like a twig.
"As you wish," she saw something flash in his eyes but his demeanor was calm as they say opposite each other, painfully aware of how their knees almost brushed.
"First and foremost, how dare you not tell me about the council and what they expect of Frerin!" Billa aware that there were perhaps better things she could have started off with but she wasn't sure where she should start. This seemed like as good a place as any.
Thorin's eyes widened before he rolled them, "Fili, I should have known."
"Don't be mad at him for telling me what you wouldn't." Billa scolded, hands on hips as she sat up straighter. "I have a right to know, and don't avoid the truth."
Thorin looked torn for a moment but he nodded, "My people are aware that you say Frerin is my son and I know it to be true, but the people will not accept him until he has been crowned. Until he has a place amongst them, until you both do."
"I don't want him to be accepted because of what he wears on his head." Billa frowned. "You've not mentioned anything to me. When we came here I didn't even know you were alive, or that we'd even be allowed to step foot in the mountain and now you're planning all this without even consulting me? That somehow I have to convince every dwarf under this mountain that he is actually yours?"
"It's the way things are done." He muttered and Billa bit her cheek to stop herself from smacking him.
"Don't you dare give me that. Do you really think Dis would let you make any decisions about Fili and Kili without running it by her first? What she would have done if you'd told her she has to prove to others that their father is who she said he was?"
Thorin tensed his fists in his lap, knowing that if he had done the same to Dis she would have punched him. With a rock, then laughed over the body. Then she would have quite happily smashed an axe into the faces of those that would dare say such things.
He had wanted so badly to include them in his life he had done everything except talk to Billa. Even now he wanted to grab her, to kiss her and make her call his name as she had done long ago. Thorin knew he couldn't, he knew that he had lost that right the moment he had denounced her as his chosen. Now when he was making choices for those who could speak for themselves. Speaking for the people that should be seen as his equals, not subjects.
"I've been a fool." He sighed, "Would you ever have come back if you'd known the truth about my death, would you have told me about him?" It had been a question that had been running through his head since they had returned to the mountain.
Billa could do nothing except twist her fingers together. This was a question she did not want to answer, not to this Thorin who she did not know how to deal with, she had expected his unwavering stubbornness, arguments and shouting. This Thorin, who answered questions honestly, who looked so tired and lost had won her heart so long ago, and destroyed it just as easily.
Remembering the words he had spoke to her gave her the strength to answer truthfully. The answer she had never wanted to admit to herself, "No." Then it was as if everything came to the surface at once, five years of grief and anger and hurt rushed out of her and she forgot her perfectly planned argument. The anguish in his eyes fueled her fury, she would not be blamed for this. This was not her fault dammit.
"How dare you look at me like that! For nine months I carried him, and when I birthed him it was like nothing I had ever experienced before." She shot up and leaned over him, their noses almost touching but he did not draw back.
"I wasn't alone, the elves, don't you dare pull that face," she snapped. "The elves gave me a family. They held Frerin like he was their own flesh and blood, but for every moment of every hour all I could think was that you were missing. Now you're alive and you've been here all the time! Now you make choices without asking! As though you've been in his life all along, as though you've earned the right!"
"Don't you dare Billa me! I am so angry," she seethed, "Angry at you, angry at whatever dwarf drove me from here in the first place, angry at whatever dwarves are trying to kill me and my son now. That I have to fight or die. Most of all I hate the gold. It turned you Thorin, you have forgiven everyone but me. Why?" He could see heartbreak under her fury, "Why can't you forgive me? You don't speak to me, you can barely even bring your self to look at me. Everything I did was to protect you. Why can't you forgive me?"
Billa didn't expect an answer, she had insulted him, told him she would have denied him his child and when he stood she expected him to leave. That he had no right to his own flesh and blood. Thorin had no reason to speak to her now. She had saved his life, she was owed a few answers, but no more than that. So when he took a step towards her she drew back, knees hitting the back of her chair as his hands gripped her shoulders.
He took her mouth with his own. His weight dragging her down to the floor, knees still sore from earlier connecting with stone. She hardly felt it, overwhelmed by Thorin, his fingers coming to curl up into her hair. His warmth spread through her, and she wanted this, oh she wanted it so badly it was unbearable but she couldn't. She couldn't be used like this again, it had almost broken her the first time and she's not sure she can do it again.
"Billa," her name halted any movements, stopped her before they could break apart. Thorin pulled away from her and she saw her own pain reflected in his face, devastated and exhausted.
"I am sorry. I am so, so sorry. You were right, everything you've said to me. Everything you've ever said to me. I let the gold control me and there was nothing I could do, it took nearly losing everything for me to realize. When I did you were already gone." He shook his head, dark hair falling in front of his eyes. She reached up and brushed it back and Thorin, king under the mountain, heir of Durin shuddered under her touch.
"By Mahal I was a fool." He choked, holding on tight, afraid she would leave if he loosened his grip. He hated how weak he felt in this moment but he wouldn't lose her again. Didn't think he could survive again.
"You didn't come for me. You were alive and I heard nothing." She thought back to her first months in the shire. With Frerin's constant crying and her grief that wouldn't seem to end.
"I didn't think you would want me." He said truthfully, "If I thought there was any chance...any at all I would have come. I would have abandoned my throne and come for you. When I saw you under that dwarf I wanted to snap his neck. How can I lose you both when I've only just got you back?"
Billa stood without a word, leaving him there unable to move. He heard stone rub on stone as she returned quickly a small parcel in her hands, face unreadable as she handed it to him.
Taking it gently he unwrapped it, knew what it was before the familiar glow greeted him. "I have to show it to you. That this whole mess is about this, and I can't handle knowing it could get Frerin killed. I have to know if it means more to you. I wont let it destroy us again."
The arkenstone, the symbol of his house, the symbol of his destruction. It no longer held any power over him, not when Billa had used the word us. Folding the fabric back over it he placed it on the floor out of his reach. Refusing to look at it, not again. He had tasted the gold sickness, knew what it was like to be driven mad and he would not bow to it again. "I asked Fili to give it to you. It means nothing to me. Not anymore. I do not know if it's what those dwarves desire but I do not want it."
Billa knelt in front of him, the only sound were the crickets on the balcony. She studied him with her hands in her lap and he made no move to stop her. Could only hold his breathe as he awaited her judgement. Slowly she kissed him, hands resting over his heart and it started to beat again just for her. Only her, as it was always meant to do.
"I am sorry," he ground out around her lips.
"I know you are." She didn't move, and they knelt there, clinging to each other. "I'm trying to forgive you, but it's hard."
Thorin closed his eyes and pulled her close, thankful when she allowed the embrace. He didn't speak, didn't trust himself not to say something stupid. After awhile when his knees had gotten stiff he thought she had fallen asleep.
"Billa," he whispered as she moved to look up at him. "I can't feel my legs." She chuckled as they moved to the bench together, worried that if they were to break apart they would not get the courage to embrace again.
"No more lies Thorin," Billa said, brushing the hair away from his face. "I'm not sure what this means for us, but I'm serious about Frerin. Picking out his clothes is one thing, but if you organize something so large without consulting me I will take him back to the shire."
He knew she was serious and he nodded but couldn't quite help the smile as he felt her skin under his own. "I would simply chase you down and bring you back,over my shoulder if I have to."
She raised an eyebrow, "Yes, because nothing would ruin my reputation more than being chased by a dwarf." He hummed as he kissed her face, breathing in the scent of soap.
"I think it's a little to late for reputations don't you think?" He laughed as she smacked his shoulder, "I mean it in the best of ways!"
"I'm sure you didn't," Billa said, leaning her head on his shoulder.
"You're probably right." He agreed, resting his chin on her hair. How had he managed to continue without her in his life? "I would like to see my son crowned Billa, it is...something I would never have thought possible."
"I never said I didn't want that for him. I don't want these things decided behind my back and I don't want him to be a target."
"I shall inform the council, and I promise I will talk to you from now on," He took her hand and squeezed. "I will find them, this I also promise and I will have their heads for it."
"I've seen enough violence to last awhile." She sighed against his chest. After all this time they still fit together and she felt her eyes starting to get heavy. "Why are they after us Thorin? What do we have?"
She could feel his voice rumble through her body, "I don't know. I wish I could tell you. We have always believed that there were those who were not happy that me and my kin survived the battle of the five armies."
"Could it be your heir?" Billa asked feeling Thorin shake his head.
"No, Dain is loyal to us and he has his own mountain. Your arrival has only sped up their attacks." He paused, his thumb rubbing the back of her hand, "There have only been two Kings overthrown in Dwarven history, and none in Erebor. It is a difficult thing to achieve, taking decades, if not a century, whoever is behind this is spooked. They will not succeed."
They sat there in silence, listening to each others heartbeats. Neither of them heard the movements in the walls behind.
Yay! New chapter, I LOVE all the reviews! I'm also planning my wedding so updates may get a bit slow but the story will continue!