A/N: This is the first story I've written in nearly three years and the first for this fandom so I'm more than a little nervous!

This story is post-BoFA and is definitely AU as will become readily apparent and has a feminine Bilbo.

I obviously don't own The Hobbit or any of its characters - if I did it sure wouldn't have ended the way it did.

Chapter 1

"You miserable hobbit! You traitorous female! I curse Gandalf for his choice of you! I would toss you down onto the rocks. You deserve no better!"

Bella Baggins, gasping for breath under his choking hold on her, stared through eyes blurred with tears at the man she loved. The rage and hate in his blue eyes as he shook her made her certain that he was going to carry out his threat and cast her down onto the sharp rocks below. She could feel his nails digging into the soft skin of her neck, sure that he had drawn blood.

Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain, the dwarf she had fallen in love with, had made love with, the one she wanted to marry, was gone. In his place was this stranger, spewing hateful words as he dangled her over the battlements located above the great front doors of Erebor. A stranger who, despite his deepest fear, had succumbed to the gold sickness that plagued his grandfather Thror and who now valued a rock, the cursed Arkenstone, more than the woman he claimed to love.

All Bella had wanted was to protect Thorin, protect all her beloved dwarves. She knew what the Arkenstone meant to Thorin - he'd spoken of it often enough on their quest - but all Bella could see was that he was going to be dragged into a war with the men from Lake Town and the elves of Mirkwood. And they only numbered thirteen. Thirteen against two armies. Even holed up within Erebor their deaths seemed a certainty from either a weapon or starvation. Thorin refused to negotiate with the men and elves, declaring he would rather die than give them one single piece of his gold and had sent for his cousin Dain, from the Iron Hills to help him fight if necessary. So Bella took matters into her own hands. There was no way she could let Thorin die, not after all they'd been through to reclaim his home.

When she accidentally found the Arkenstone she had been awed by the gem. About the size of her two fists, it seemed to glow with an unearthly light. Gazing into its depths, Bella could see what seemed to be all the colours of the universe and she was almost hypnotised by the beauty of it. Normally hobbits aren't that interested in things like gold and gems, preferring the beauty of flowers and the love of growing things but something inside her wanted desperately to keep it for herself. Why shouldn't this gem be her payment for her help with the quest? Hadn't she been the one to face the dragon, risking her own life? That it rightfully belonged to Thorin didn't seem to matter at that point in time.

A voice in her head urged her to keep her discovery from Thorin. Already there was something different about him. He had become distant from her, not even wanting to lay with her at night, preferring to be in the vast room of gold while searching frantically for the Arkenstone, the gem he felt provided proof of his right to rule, little knowing that Bella already had it in her backpack. Watching him, Bella felt a sting of guilt at her deception but it wasn't strong enough to make her want to give him the gem.

It wasn't until the men of LakeTown, led by Bard, marched on Erebor to demand their share of the gold for killing the dragon that Bella's heart began to bleed as she saw the lure of the gold sickness begin to take her love. That Bard was accompanied by Thranduil, the Elvenking of Mirkwood and his army of elves simply enraged Thorin even further, practically ensuring he wouldn't negotiate even if the growing gold sickness hadn't been a factor. The days drew on, with repeated demands made by Bard that were furiously rejected by Thorin unless Thranduil returned to his kingdom. They could all see that this standoff would end in bloodshed if neither side backed down.

Meanwhile, the entire Company could see the change in Thorin. He was quick to anger and had even shouted at Fili when his nephew had tentatively pointed out that their food stocks were running low. He was spending hours in the treasury room alternatively either digging through the gold or just sitting and admiring the metal with an unnatural gleam in his eyes. Nothing else seemed to matter.

And here, now, was the culmination of that madness.

It was when Bella had searched in her pack for another handkerchief and had seen the Arkenstone wrapped in her shirt that the idea had come to her. This stone was what was being coveted by the three races, make it four if she included herself. Even as the idea gained momentum in her mind, Bella knew that Thorin would be enraged and would probably see it as a betrayal on her part. Though she desperately wanted to keep the gem, the reality of their situation was getting clearer with every hour and her need to keep her dwarves alive became her main priority.

When she snuck out and offered the gem to Bard of Lake Town so that he may have a bargaining tool that would hopefully avoid bloodshed, she expected that she would incur the wrath of Thorin. That he may hate her for a while. The lure of the gem seemed to fade to nothing more than a guilty memory when faced with the reality of their situation. Bella held a faint hope that Thorin would somehow understand her reasoning for what she was doing. It seemed like wishful thinking yet she would rather a live Thorin hate her than for her to mourn for a dead love who had died so needlessly.

Bella never believed that Thorin would kill her for her perceived treachery.

"Uncle, NO!" yelled Kili, snapping out of the stunned paralysis that seemed to take hold when Thorin grabbed Bella and held her over the drop. He had seen Thorin in a rage before, but this was beyond that. This was madness.

Kili's voice seemed to rouse the rest of the Company from its shock as both Fili and Kili moved to grab Thorin, each taking hold of an arm and attempting to drag both him and Bella back from the edge.

"Uncle, don't do this," pleaded Fili.

Something in his voice seemed to penetrate the murderous fog clouding Thorin's mind. He took a step back, loosening his hold a fraction, just enough for Bella to take a ragged breath.

"Why should I not toss this traitor down to the men and elves she so loves?" thundered Thorin. "She stole from the King which is punishable by death."

"But uncle, you love her," replied Kili, his voice thick with unshed tears.

"Love? How could I love a treacherous rat?"

"Please uncle, let her go. You are hurting her," pleaded Fili in despair. "Please."

To everyone's relief, Thorin took a couple of steps back before dropping Bella onto the floor with enough force that Bella winced in pain. Her hands went to her throat as she took great gulps of air and could feel the tenderness that would become bruises. Looking down at her fingers she could see blood mixed with her tears and yet, none of that hurt as much as the pain in her heart.

"I'm…I'm s…sorry, Thorin," she rasped, her voice raw from her tears and from her bruised windpipe. "I…I just didn't…want any of you…to die. I love you."

"So you would steal from me, like those wretched elves? You would see me appear weak before their eyes?" he roared in fury.

"No! I…I just wanted to…prevent a fight. Over… gold," she replied, her sobs making it hard to speak.

"That is MY gold!" he thundered. "MINE!"

"Listen…to yourself, Thorin. The people of Lake Town…they…they deserve help to rebuild."

"That was not for you to decide! The Arkenstone belongs to my people and you dare give it to my enemies. You truly are a lying, thieving burglar, just like Gandalf said, curse him."

"Bard will return it for a fair share to help his people and rebuild his city," she pleaded.

"Be quiet, thief! I will not kill you, though you deserve it. Be gone from my sight and my mountain. If I ever see your face here again, you will be killed." Thorin turned away to return inside.

"Thorin!" she cried.

"Get the thief off this mountain," he instructed the dwarves. "NOW!"

Bella's last sight of her beloved was the angry line of his back as he stalked back into the mountain, no doubt to relieve his anger amongst his precious gold. Grief overwhelmed her and she barely noticed when she was gently pulled to her feet. Looking up, she looked into the tear-filled eyes of Bofur.

"I'm sorry, lass. I…I wish…"

"I…I know, Bofur," she tried to reassure him through her tears. It wasn't their fault and she could not blame them for having to carry out Thorin's wishes, however much it pained them.

"Bella!" cried Kili as he hugged her, tears running down his face. "I…I hate him," he mumbled.

Gasping, Bella took his face in her hands. "No, Kili! He's your uncle and you love him, just as he loves you and Fili."

"That's not my uncle. I…I don't know who that is, but it's not my uncle."

"Lass, I'm sorry, but we have to lower you down," interrupted Balin gruffly. Bella could see the sadness in his eyes and nodded slowly.

She looked around at the Company, wanting one last look at the dwarves who had become her family and were so dear to her. Dwalin, Gloin and Nori all stared at the ground, unable to look her in the eye, discomfort visible in their faces. Bifur, Oin and Dori were shaking their heads in sadness and disappointment. Whether in disappointment at her actions or Thorin's, she couldn't tell. Fili, his eyes red, held her backpack, Bombur wringing his hands next to him.

Hearing a whimper, Bella turned her head and saw Ori, leaning against Kili, crying his heart out. Lovely, gentle Ori whom she had come to see as almost like a child .

Unable to help herself, Bella took him into her arms. "Oh Ori. Please don't cry," she whispered. "I'll be alright."

"I don't want you to go, Bella," he sobbed. "You… you belong here."

"I have to go, Ori. Thorin has commanded it and he is the King."

"But…but it's not…right. He's…not…"

"Shush," she stopped him, not wanting him to defy his king. It was one thing for her to defy Thorin, but Ori was a dwarf and this was his home and she would not have Thorin's anger rain down on him for going against his leader's wishes. "I don't want you to get into trouble, Ori. I will miss you and if…if you ever…ever pass by the Shire…" She didn't finish her sentence.

Ori nodded sadly. "I will miss you too, Bella."

"Lass, please…" reminded Balin, his eyes suspiciously moist.

Bella let go of Ori and nodded. Fili gave her the backpack before hugging her tightly.

"I'm sorry Bella," he whispered. "I worry about Uncle."

Bella gave him a watery smile. "It's not your fault. You will be a fine ruler one day." She kissed him on the cheek and whispered, "Look after him," before letting go. Fili simply nodded.

Balin wrapped the rope around her waist as she secured the backpack. Dwalin and Dori moved forward to lower her down. With a last look, she sat on the battlement, waiting for the first drop. Normally that would terrify her, but now she couldn't even bring herself to care.

Dwalin ordered them to hold on to the rope securely and Bella was just about to push herself off when Kili ran forward and engulfed her in his arms. Bella couldn't help the slight wince where Thorin's dropping of her had given her bruises.

"I love you, Bella," he mumbled.

"I love you too, Kili," she replied, her tears beginning again. "I have to go," she insisted when he shook his head, not letting her go. During the journey, she had grown close to Kili, who in her eyes was little more than a teenager. He had told her stories about his mother, Dis, who was Thorin's sister and how he missed her and somehow he had come to see Bella as something of a substitute mother. His sunny nature reminded her of home and he had quickly found a place in her heart. At times during the beginning of their journey, Bella had often felt that Kili was her only friend. Leaving him hurt.

"No, it's not right."

"I have to, Kili."

"Then I'll come with you."

Pulling back a little, she looked at his eyes, red-rimmed from crying. "Please, don't make this harder for me," she pleaded, not sure if her heart could break any further. "You need to stay here. This is your home now. Fili needs you. So does your uncle, even if he doesn't know it right now."

Kili, after a long moment, nodded slowly and released her. Her pain was so clearly etched on her face and in that moment he truly hated his uncle. Thorin was supposed to protect and love her and instead had nearly killed her. All for some stinking pile of gold and a rock. He didn't know how he would ever look at his uncle with the same respect again.

With a nod to Dwalin, Bella signalled that she was ready to be lowered. She took one last look at her dwarves and with a small wave of goodbye to the Company, she pushed herself off the ledge.

Bella looked up as the rope lowered her inch by inch. All the dwarves, except for Dwalin and Dori who were carefully holding the rope, were looking over the battlement at her, their faces showing varying degrees of sadness and grief.

Every foot carried Bella further away from her dwarves, from Thorin, and she didn't know if she would ever be able to fill the chasm in her chest where her heart once resided.

A/N: I'd like to thank lizajay12 for her help with this story - her insights have been invaluable. She has a fantastic story called "All About Thorin" which you should have a look at - a great, fun and well-written read.