This is a big, big time alternate universe story. It eventually leads to the original quest the way it should so be patient and read if you want to. This will have no slash at all within the tale for those who are not fond of that genre. Please review and let me know what you think, good or bad.
I own nothing. Poop!
Bilbo watched as Bifur fussed over both of his cousins as they slept in the healing tents. Bifur looked terribly worried as he stroked first Bombur's cheek and then Bofur's as he held the brunette's unique hat in his hand. Both brothers were battered, but would be fine and had only been given a sleeping tonic to rest a bit before Bifur had located them. The hobbit looked up as Dori came up beside him.
"You look confused," Dori mentioned as Bilbo nodded.
"It's just…Bifur was introduced to me as the older cousin of Bofur and Bombur," Bilbo said looking up at the silver-haired dwarf, "He just doesn't act like a cousin. He acts more like a…like a…well…um…."
"Father?" Dori offered as the hobbit nodded, "Bifur is Bofur and Bombur's much older cousin, but he adopted both boys when they were very, very young. He is their father and the two are precious to him. No matter what Bifur forgot after that head injury, he never forgot his boys."
"Oh," Bilbo gasped looking at the Ur family with clearer eyes, "So that's what I sensed. I am curious, Dori. He calls most by a guttural version of their name with his speech impairment, but Bofur and Bombur he uses different words that must be your native tongue."
"It is," Dori agreed watching as Bifur looked joyous as Bofur woke and hugged his eldest to him tight, "He is saying terms of endearment for his boys that he used when they were babes. Bofur is Bifur's 'Sweetling' and Bombur is his 'Piglet.' Neither of his boys mind the childish nicknames since the names are special to the lads and the two are happy that Bifur remembers the names still. The old badger threatens anyone else who tries to use those names towards his boys so use Bofur's and Bombur's real names, okay? Bofur's hat came from Bifur. Did you know that?"
"No," Bilbo denied, "Bofur did tell me that his greatest hero gave him that hat and rescued him from a terrible situation that nearly killed him. So he was speaking of Bifur."
"He was indeed," Dori nodded out, "Bofur and Bombur owe Bifur a lot and they adore their adoptive father. I saw them move mountains to care for Bifur after his head injury from an orc attack. Both insisted that Bifur would be fine since their father had sworn he would never leave them ever. Bifur fought hard to recover from that blasted axe for his boys and still earns a good living making his toys even with the impairments that the injury caused. He pitched a fit when he found out Bofur had been working in the mines to earn extra coin for Bifur's medical expenses for several months while he was not really aware of what was going on around him. Heard Bombur and I talking about it and just snapped back into awareness like the clap of a hand one day."
"He did?" Bilbo asked glancing to Dori.
"Screamed in Khuzdul all the way to the mines that his boy wasn't going to be killed by a cave in and went and dragged Bofur from the mines informing everyone that he was going to start carving again. Bifur got into a screaming match with the mine foreman stating that his boy's contract was null and void since the foreman hadn't gotten a parental signature. Bofur was a year away from being of age and Bifur was nearly blowing steam from his nostrils while he threatened to stab the dwarf with his spear," Dori chuckled, "That's when we knew Bifur was going to be okay despite some of his impairments. Bofur learned his carving skills from Bifur and both are very skilled at what they do. The two run a pretty successful toy business and Bifur is known throughout Middle-Earth for his wares. He is the Bifur, even to this day, among parents and children. Bofur is getting a reputation for his toys like his adoptive father. Bifur is one of my dearest friends and my mother made him Nori's and Ori's honorary uncle before she passed into the stone. Nori and Bofur have been best friends since they were both tiny."
"I knew that," Bilbo snorted, "I've seen they own matching necklaces that they never take off and Nori told me it was his first present from Bofur when they were babes. They are quite…precocious when together."
"You mean that they get into mischief," Dori chuckled, "The two always did and always will. Nori tended to lead the way, but Bofur could stand up to my Scamp when he pushed too hard. My brother's thieving nearly caused Bifur to make Bofur end their friendship. The thought of that made Nori straighten up a little. Not a lot, but a little and enough to appease Bifur anyway."
Bilbo and Dori looked up as Nori hurried through the door looking worn and bruised.
"Why didn't you tell me you found them? I've been looking everywhere and just heard from Oin that Bofur and his family were in here. Are they okay?" Nori demanded as he rushed up to Dori, "Is my Bo okay?"
"Fine. Look," Dori insisted as his younger brother glanced to see Bofur leaning into Bifur's arms with his customary hat back on as he spoke to an awake, grinning Bombur, "The Ur family has made it through the battle. Where is Ori? He's injured and you left him alone?"
"Of course I'd never leave our Ori alone. He's with Dwalin and Balin," Nori huffed moving towards Bofur, "He said to stop worrying so much, Dori. A broken arm won't kill him and it is a clean break that will heal just fine. Those are his words exactly, Fussbudget."
"'His' Bo?" Bilbo questioned as Dori smiled, "There is more between your families than I know, isn't there?"
"Yes," Dori agreed as Nori and Bofur sat with arms about the other's shoulder and the former thief glared with a twinkle in his eyes while Bifur mussed his hair in an affectionate gesture, "The House of Ur and the House of Ri are very close. The rest of the story is private and not something we bring up in front of Bofur or Bombur. If you ask, I can't promise that Bifur won't go ballistic. He is very protective of his sons, Bilbo, and Bofur, especially, does not need to be reminded of some of what happened prior to Bifur taking him under his wing."
"I think the story has something to do with the faint scars I noticed on Bofur's back, but I won't ask," Bilbo swore, "That story is not mine to know unless Bofur wishes to share with me. I merely noticed the scars when we all bathed in the river and they looked years and years old. Not meaning to change subjects, but I'm sorry for the passing of Thorin and his nephews."
"Mahal's plans are hard to unravel sometimes," Dori sighed looking saddened, "The quest did not end as we all hoped."
"No, it did not," Bilbo whimpered looking away before startling at a shout from Bifur as he snatched what looked like his old coat and his spear from an elf, "Oh. King Thranduil did say he was returning the company's possessions that he took in Mirkwood."
"Good, but what is Bifur doing?" Dori asked as he and Bilbo went over to watch as Bifur frantically searched his old coat pockets and pull out a green wrapped bundle as he sighed in relief before unrolling it, "Mahal! Is that…my goodness."
"All these years," Bofur laughed touching a small, worn, stuffed bunny cradled in Bifur's hands along with what looked like a child-sized blanket, "Ye kept Carrots for all these years and my old blankie, Bif?"
Bifur grunted as he nodded and pulled out a blue bundle out of another pocket that turned out to be a blue blanket and a tiny, teddy bear as Bombur gasped. The older dwarf spoke a few words while Bofur and Bombur slowly began to smile.
"Luck, huh?" Bofur chortled looking affectionately at Bifur before grabbing his face and pulling it forward, "Love, love, love, love."
Bilbo's mouth dropped open since Bofur had kissed all over Bifur's face with each word as the older dwarf chuckled and then Bombur did the same thing.
"What ye starin' at, Bilbo?" Bofur questioned winking at the hobbit, "Haven't ye ever seen anyone kiss their da before?"
"It's quite common among dwarves," Bombur teased as Bilbo went red.
"Of course I've seen…I mean…hey now," Bilbo whined as the gathered dwarves laughed, "I didn't know that you and your brother were adopted by Bifur, Bofur."
"That we are," Bofur agreed as his brother nodded looking proud, "Dwarves don't often share our close family relationships with outsiders in fear that loved ones will be used against us when travelin'. That is why ye weren't told about Thorin's nephews until much later in tha quest. May Mahal take care of all of them within his Halls."
A silence descended then before Bifur gestured to Bilbo and patted Bofur and Bombur each on their shoulder while speaking in his culture's tongue. Bofur's eyes shined as unshed tears filled them while Bombur wiped at falling tears.
"He said, 'These are my boys. This is my Bofur and this is my Bombur and they are tha sons of Bifur. I am their Bif Daddy and was born inta this world ta be so and will never leave until my babes no longer have need of me,'" Bofur choked out, "Bifur is our father, Bilbo, and took care of us from before Bombur can even remember. My brother and I had a wonderful childhood because of our Bif and I guess he can never leave this world because Bombur and I will always have need of him."
"Here, here," Bombur agreed with a beaming smile, "Thorin was a great dwarf, Bilbo, but for Bofur and I, Bifur is and will always be, greater."
"Sons always do believe that about their fathers," Bilbo stated with a nod as Bifur blushed and laid his temple to first Bofur's and then Bombur's forehead with a look of great affection on his face, "I think the whole of the company are great, but I would be very proud of having Bifur as my father as well."
The whole group forgot their woes for a moment to laugh loud as Bifur blushed as red as a tomato. Bilbo sighed and watched the easy way Bofur and Bombur draped themselves about Bifur. Everything made sense now. The hobbit was looking at a father and his sons. From the minute the quest began Bifur had protected his boys fiercely. This wasn't distant relations as the hobbit at first thought, but a tight knit family that had been through much together. That left Bilbo with the hope that maybe in time everything would be alright for the remaining company. They each had family to rely on and even Thorin's sister had her cousins during the grief she was going to feel for a very long time.
"Nori, what have ye done now?" Bofur demanded suddenly as the middle Ri brother snorted, "Now none of that. I know ye backwards and forwards. Ye've been up ta mischief."
"GREEN! Why in all of Middle-Earth am I green?!"
"That was King Thranduil's voice," Dori whispered as Nori shrugged, "Did you…Nori!"
"Who dared to put green dye in my bottle of hair-soap?!" a very green, elven king demanded as he stomped into the tent with his son following looking shocked as everyone stared up at the elf, "Who?!"
"My goodness," Nori pretended to gasp, "Who would do such a thing to a king? I am so sorry, Your Majesty. Your hair used to be such a lovely shade of blonde. I wonder who did this? No dwarf would ever dare attack a person's hair. Hair is sacred in our culture and is only tampered with when a dwarf is exiled. For shame on the culprit."
"Yes. Well…at least you understand," Thranduil snarled, "Damn whoever did this! Legolas, have one of our healers mix up something to get this dye off of me now. Grrr!"
Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Dori, and Bilbo stared at Nori in shock once all elves left the tent.
"He should have been nicer to his guests," Nori sniffed looking at his fingernails on one hand, "You reap what you sow."
"I never want to be on your bad side," Bilbo admitted as Nori winked at him and Bofur nodded his head, "Thorin would have loved to have seen a green, tree elf. Especially that tree elf."
Bifur roared in laughter after choking out a few words as the others soon joined. Bilbo didn't have to know Khuzdul to know that the toymaker had agreed wholeheartedly with the hobbit as he hugged his sons to him while he laughed until he cried. For a moment, everything felt a little lighter as even Dori doubled over in laughter.
Twenty Years Later:
Bifur paced on the gates of Erebor feeling anxious. How did he allow Bofur to talk him into giving his eldest permission to go on this caravan to the Iron Hills without him? What if his Sweetling had been attacked on the way back to Erebor?
"Will you calm down," Dori insisted as Bifur huffed, "We just got the raven saying Bo was fine."
"Don't like this," Bifur snarled in Khuzdul as Bombur chortled nearby, "Hush it, Piglet. You know how my Sweetling tends to get himself in trouble. I should have gone with him."
"Brother can take care of himself," Bombur denied, "Plus, Nori went with him. He'd never allow anything to happen to Bofur."
Bifur had to nod at that and then gasped when he spied the caravan coming up in the distance. Eagerly he hurried to the gates and waited with Bombur for his son to come home. Strangely, it was Nori that arrived first as the dwarf galloped up on his pony and leapt down to hug his brothers.
"Bifur, you are not going to believe what my Bo has gotten himself into," Nori chortled as the older dwarf frowned in concern, "No. Bo's fine. You'll see."
"Scamp, what's going on?" Dori asked as his younger brother grinned, "You know something."
"Nori always knows something," Ori giggled as Dori sighed and nodded.
Bifur watched eagerly as another pony galloped up carrying his son and…and something else.
"Look, Treasure," Bofur called as he slid off his pony with a tiny dwarfling in his arms, "Look. We're home. Let's go meet Grandpa Bif and your uncles. Remember all tha stories I've been tellin' ye about your new family? They can't wait ta meet ye."
Bifur stared as little, blue eyes glanced up at him while Bofur carried a toddler no older than two or three over to him. The babe had long, golden locks and…were those bruises? The tiny dam had bruises on the hands that were hugging her stuffed pig tightly in what appeared to be clear anxiety. Bifur shared a look with Bombur as Bofur beamed down at the child.
"Bif, this is my daughter. Isn't she beautiful? I adopted her from a small, dwarrow village we didn't realize was so close by. Her name is Leefa of tha House of Ur and she just recently turned three years old," Bifur's son cooed as the babe held to him tight and looked back up at Bofur with adoring eyes, "Leefa, these two are your Grandpa Bif and your Uncle Bombie. Grandpa Bif found me just like I found ye, Treasure. Remember that I told ye that I too had a family that didn't know how ta love right before Grandpa Bif found me?"
Bifur gaped when the child nodded as her eyes filled with tears. The bruises! Could this child have been what he was thinking she might have been?
"No, no, Treasure. It's okay. Grandpa Bif loved me and became my Bif Daddy just like I told ye about. He took care of me just like I'm goin' ta take care of ye," Bofur gushed as the child glanced over at a smiling Bifur.
"Grandpa Bif took care of ye? Just like ye became my dada and made all tha owies go away?" Leefa asked in a little bell-like voice.
"That's right, Treasure," Bofur agreed gently as the child relaxed a little, "Give Grandpa Bif love, love kisses."
Bifur hesitantly reached and lifted the baby girl into his arms. The tot looked up at him curiously and the toymaker smiled at her when he noticed Bofur had carefully braided her mane and placed his old family beads into her hair. The child was a beautiful, little dam. Bifur frowned at seeing the bruises on the babe and instantly lifted the small hands one by one to kiss all the marks that shouldn't be there. The dwarfling gasped and looked up with shining eyes at Bifur as he stroked a hand on her cheek. Leefa shyly returned his smile and suddenly leaned up straighter.
"Love, love, love, love," Leefa giggled kissing Bifur on the cheeks with each word, "Hi, Grandpa Bif. Dada told me a lot bout ye."
"Hello, my granddaughter," Bifur spoke as his eldest translated for him, "I love you too. What a beautiful granddaughter I have. Leefa is such a pretty name. I am so glad to finally meet you. We'll start teaching you how to speak in Khuzdul so I can talk with you and tell you stories. Give your Uncle Bombie love, love kisses. Look. He can't wait to meet his new niece."
Leefa looked up at the round dwarf and giggled when he made a funny face at her. Bombur swept the babe up and kissed all over his new niece's face as the tot beamed at all the attention she was getting. Dori and Ori looked stunned as they stared at the scene.
"How?" Bifur demanded in a whisper so not to upset the babe as he moved closer to his eldest.
"That village had one family that believed in tha Balance system and I accidently stumbled upon tha home when I get a bit turned around tryin' ta find town square," Bofur explained in their native tongue, "I found my daughter sobbin', injured, and starvin' because her House made her a Balance. I was livid. Leefa was too weak ta even defend herself anymore and I was near ta murderin' her sire when I caught him whippin' her out of mean spite. Only Nori was able ta calm me down ta think rationally. I pitched a fit with her family and paid a large sum ta get their permission ta adopt my Treasure. Leefa is my daughter now legally and I knew she was mine tha minute our eyes met. She is not a Balance anymore. Leefa is my lassie. My daughter! I'll destroy anyone who tries ta harm my child again."
"I will be at your side," Bifur insisted with a firm nod, "No one will touch my newest grandbaby. Piglet, give me back my grandchild. I want more love, love kisses."
"Kiss Grandpa some more. He needs more love, love kisses, Treasure," Bofur cooed to the tot as she did as asked once Bifur cuddled her close again, "Grandpa Bif loves ye so much and is not goin' ta let anyone hurt ye ever again. He'll stick them with his spear if they try ta do anythin' just like I'll do what?"
"Squash them with your mattock," Leefa chirped relaxing among what was her new family and lifted her stuffed animal up for Bifur to see, "Grandpa Bif, look at my piggy. Dada gave me my piggy and said I could have lots of toys like other dwarflings. Her name is Oink and Uncle Nori says she keeps tha nightmares way ever and ever. Oink says she likes ye lots."
Leefa beamed when Bifur shook her pig's arm in greeting and then she squealed as her grandfather gave her a gentle toss. The babe was way too light, but Bofur had bought her fine clothes to wear. The tiny, green dress looked so pretty on the wee dam. The tot truly was a lovely, little dam and Bofur was going to have to beat the boys away when she came of age. Leefa giggled and snuggled against her grandfather as Bifur hugged her close. This was his newest babe to care for and already she was firmly in his heart. No one would ever leave marks upon Leefa ever again.
"Princess, this is your Uncle Dori and your Uncle Ori. They are my brothers," Nori informed the tot leading his brothers over as she leaned up to see the new dwarves, "Dori, Ori, this is Leefa. She is my Bo's daughter. Leefa, Uncle Dori makes the yummiest stew ever and he's going to help you get a nice, fluffy belly."
"Hi, Uncle Dori and Uncle Ori" Leefa offered before hugging tight to Bifur again as she looked to her father, "I gets ta eat stew, Dada?"
"So much stew," Bofur agreed as the child beamed again, "From now on we eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Treasure. No more hungry days."
Bifur scowled at the thought that Leefa had experienced "hungry days." Dori looked a bit shocked before nodding his head at some decision he had come to in his mind.
"I'll get started on that stew right now," Dori hummed with a nod eyeing the too small girl, "Fluffy bellies are very important in both our Houses, Pretty One. Ori, can you get me some onions and potatoes for our new niece?"
"Sure," Ori agreed turning to leave, "It is so nice to meet you, Leefa. I'll come back and draw your picture."
Leefa blinked and looked shyly up at Ori in fascination. The young scribe smiled gently at the tot as Bofur perked up excitedly.
"Ooh! A drawin'? Draw a real nice one that I can frame and hang on my wall. I want one for a locket too so I can show off my Treasure, if ye would please. No one has a lassie as pretty as mine," Bofur voiced as Ori nodded eagerly and took off with a skip while Bombur smiled indulgently at his older brother knowing he had reacted the same way with his own children, "Dori, Leefa is allergic ta carrots. Oin figured that out when Leefa had a bad reaction ta eatin' some soup with carrots on tha trip here."
"No carrots," Dori nodded out, "Enough said. I'm on it. Let's go make a family meal to welcome Leefa home with her dada and my scamp of a brother. Off we go."
Nori rolled his eyes as Dori marched away. Dori never changed and though Nori would deny it, the younger brother loved it. Bifur handed his granddaughter back to Bofur when she yawned and reached for her father. The older dwarf felt content to see his oldest son handle the child with expert care as he wrapped the babe in his traveling cloak. Bofur looked happy and whole as he chattered softly with his brother while the group started to head inside of Erebor.
"Told you that you wouldn't believe it," Nori snorted as he walked beside Bifur as the two followed behind the group, "You would have been proud. Bo was just as fierce as you ever were to protect his Leefa. You taught him well."
"Leefa as skittish as my Sweetling was at first?" Bifur signed in Igleshmek.
"Just around tall, blonde males because of her sire," Nori bit out in clear anger before calming, "Bofur has soothed a lot of her initial flinching. Seems that his experience as a Balance helped him speak and react to the babe in a way that sets the lassie immediately at ease. Leefa loves Bofur dearly and seems just as smitten with you."
Bifur watched as his son cuddled the babe close and hummed softly as she drifted to sleep. Leefa's eyes caught Bifur's for a moment and she gave him a small smile before her eyes slid shut.
"He's a good father," Nori complimented as Bofur turned to glance back at them.
"I thank ye for that compliment, but I learned from tha best," Bofur bragged as Bifur blushed, "Thank ye all for helpin' my lassie settle in. Leefa relaxed almost immediately with all of ye. I'm very pleased. My Treasure is a resilient babe."
"You should have warned us ahead of time that you were bringing your daughter home," Bombur fussed, "Bif and I could have had a room set up for her."
"Not for Leefa," Bofur denied as everyone stopped to stare at him in confusion, "My lassie's a designer and will enjoy doin' her own decoratin'. Ye should have seen how meticulous she was in pickin' out her clothes."
"Bo's right," Nori grinned out, "Leefa will want to design her own room. Dori, she's going to be a seamstress. I think Bofur has found you an apprentice."
"Ah," Dori breathed looking pleased, "She's got nimble fingers from what I've seen so far. I can see that she would do well in my trade, but she is just a toddler. Why are you so certain she's a seamstress-to-be?"
"My Leefa sewed her clothes from rags as tiny as she is," Bofur bragged as he pulled out a worn tunic from a pouch at his belt, "She taught herself since there was no other choice for her. Look at my lassie's dainty stitches."
"Ooh," Dori sighed examining the garment, "She is a seamstress. Finally, a child that I can teach something to though Ori is pretty decent with his knitting needles. I'm so glad you found your daughter."
"I didn't find her," Bofur beamed rubbing his babe's back, "Mahal sent me my Leefa just as he sent me my Bif and tha rest of my family."
"Praise Mahal and his plans," Bifur prayed as most bowed their heads, "This is a good day. Finally, my Sweetling and Piglet are both safe at home and I have a new grandbaby to spoil along with tha rest of my Piglet's brood. I guess I still have a reason to stay on Middle-Earth."
"Damn straight," Bofur huffed, "I can already tell that Leefa has begun bondin' with her Grandpa Bif. Ye are needed here with your family."
"Without a doubt," Bombur insisted quickly.
Bifur reached and stroked his eldest's cheek and then Bombur's before stroking Leefa's tow head. Yes. He was still needed here. There was another babe and Bombur's lot that he needed to watch over.
"Sounds good," Bifur agreed stroking his more silver-than-black beard contentedly, "Let's go home. My Leefa needs to be tucked into a bed for her nap."
"'Your' Leefa?" Bofur chuckled, "I like that, Bif. I'm so glad ye see what I see in my lassie. I knew she was meant for our House from tha minute I saw Treasure."
"No question there at all, Brother. I can't wait for Leefa to meet my babes," Bombur gushed as Bofur nodded looking ecstatic while cradling his daughter.
"We'll have ta write our Bilbo and tell him tha good news," Bofur decided, "Bif's right. Let's get home so I can tuck Leefa inta bed. She's had a long, last few days. My Treasure is not used ta travelin' like this."
Bifur watched his boys walking towards their home with fondness as Nori and Dori followed looking content before Nori jogged ahead of the group to greet a new resident to Erebor. Nori was still in love with Efie after all these years and she loved her Nori just as strongly. The two were soon to be married. Dori was in wedding-planning delight. Things had a funny way of working out in life even with the ups and the downs that came with a mortal's existence.
"Thank you for all of your blessings, Mahal," Bifur thought as he followed his family home, "Forever will I praise your name for all that you have gifted me with. I am a happy dwarf. Amen."
I hope you enjoyed the tale of a different relationship between Bifur and his cousins. This was a joy to write and I hope you liked seeing family interactions between the House of Ri and Ur. Let me know what you thought and thank you to all the readers and reviewers. Special shout out to Sofia for reviewing every chapter and being a great support. You all rock!