AN: I just want to start by saying, I'm so very sorry for the wait. It's been a stressful month, I was sick with an awful cold for a solid two weeks, and I've also been incredibly busy. Between work, prepping my cosplay for costume con, and bridesmaid duties, my days have been tightly packed. This chapter is perhaps not as long as I would have liked, but it's something. I've received a few negative reviews on some of my older stories, but also some great ones on this one, which were rather encouraging. Thanks to everyone who's reading along! I feel like I've become so invested in these characters…I hope the Hobbit fandom never dies.
Pairings: Fili/Kili, Thorin/Bilbo, Possible Dwori
Warnings: Minor character death, Insanity, Mildly disturbing scenes, angst
Sore Must Be the Storm
It had lasted for the past five hours, the constant raucous sound of his father's manic rambling. Thráin spoke frenzied words over and over again while Thorin stood and watched him, eyes blank and face drawn with weariness. Thráin's disjointed sentences were interrupted only by his interspersed laughs. And no matter how cruel Thráin's words sometimes were, Thorin far preferred them to the grating sound of his father's hysterical laughter that spoke only of his insanity.
The pounding between Thorin's eyebrows worsened with each passing moment, and he wondered how much longer he would be forced to endure such torture. He wanted desperately to vacate the stuffy room, to leave his father's muttering and find solace elsewhere in the quiet halls of the hospital. Even the medicinal smells and beeping of machines would be better, more manageable for his overworked mind. But he could not leave him, not in his last hours.
It was only a matter of time, the nurses insisted, until Thráin finally succumbed to death. His heart was weak; his body drained, as he had refused any kind of nourishment for days. Even the doctors would not venture near for fear of the old man's unpredictable nature. He'd lashed out at Thorin several times, and now the dark haired man stood a good distance away, leaning heavily against the pale green wall of the hospital room. Thorin's eyes remained fixed on his father's face, taking in each word, each movement, no matter how insane. His suit jacket lay haphazardly across the back of a nearby chair, and Thorin did not even acknowledge the creases that now littered the stiff fabric. Had Thráin been more aware he most certainly would have reprimanded his son, not only for his treatment of a good suit, but also for his slouched posture, and unkempt appearance. As it was, Thráin said nothing to his son, merely shouted out incoherent words at random while his wide eyes looked anxiously to and fro.
Thorin was not sure his father even saw him standing within the room; saw anything at all, so absorbed as he was in the visions of his deteriorating mind. And yet Thorin held on to a faint hope that Thráin's eyes would clear, and lock on to his own with some kind of recognition.
He was not sure what he wished for from his father. An apology perhaps, for the way he'd treated not only Thorin, but his grandson and daughter, and anyone who crossed his path in the past few years. Or perhaps a simple acknowledgment, words of love, to remind Thorin that the hysterical being before him was in fact human, was in fact his father, and still held on to some fondness for his own son.
"Traitors, all of you!" Thráin shouted suddenly, sitting up slightly and reaching forward to grip at his coverings, his words more coherent than usual. Thorin fought back the urge to move towards the dying man and settle him back down on the bed. He knew it would only make the other man angrier, and he settled for running his fingers through his scraggly and unwashed hair. The silver strands streaked through his dark locks seemed more plentiful than ever, and they aged his appearance well beyond his years.
"Useless, garbage!" Thráin muttered, and his jaw stretched as drool dribbled down from the edge of his mouth. Thorin swallowed painfully and fought off the urge to slide down the wall and cower on the ground, he could not handle much more of this. Instead he rubbed harshly at the bags beneath his eyes and tried to convince himself that the stinging he felt behind them was not the seething heat caused by unshed tears. He would not cry, not in front of Thráin. Never in front of Thráin.
"Perfection, I need, perfection!" Thráin shouted, and then choked a few times on his spit before laughing loudly and flinging his body sideways. The bed lurched and steel scratched across the tile floors harshly. For a moment Thráin fell quiet, and Thorin thought perhaps it was over. But no, all too soon the old man began to whisper under his breath. Thorin frowned and struggled to listen, then his eyes widened when he recognized the words.
"Frerin, Frerin, where's Frerin?" Thráin gasped and his son cringed and closed his eyes as he remembered his little brother's smiling face. Thráin had always loved Frerin, pushing him to study the sciences, despite his inclination towards more imaginative endeavours. Thorin was nothing in comparison, nothing but a disappointment, no matter how hard he worked, no matter how hard he pushed himself to maintain the business.
"The company, the company, must-," Thráin continued, and Thorin wondered what the people of Erebor must think of their family now, watching as this man fell from control and turned a powerful company into no more than a joke, while placing the blame on his son. The past few weeks had been a true test of Thorin's will, as he struggled to keep his father away from the business before he made a decision that truly would ruin them all. He did his best not to focus on the monetary reports, leaving those matters to his accountants while he dealt with his father's will and reconstructing the company's image. He'd even neglected his nephew, leaving him in the care of friends while he worked long days and sometimes nights.
"You!" Thráin shouted, and Thorin jolted against the wall, his eyes flying open in surprise. Thráin was looking at him, right at him, not through him or beside him as he had for the past few days. Thráin's eyes were focused directly upon his own, the older man's left arm extended from his body and seemingly reaching out towards his son. Thorin pushed gently away from the wall and walked slowly toward the bed across the way. He pulled nervously on his tie, loosening it in an attempt to ease his breathing. It was becoming a habit of his, yet another visible weakness.
"…F-father?" Thorin whispered hesitantly, and he slowed to a stop at Thráin's bedside. The two men stared at one another for a few moments, Thráin's eyes wide and bloodshot, and Thorin's nervous breathing loud and heavy in the sparse room.
"Fa-," Thorin began, but he gasped as Thráin's fingers reached out suddenly and gripped the collar of his shirt. The older man pulled his son towards him with surprising strength and Thorin grappled against the side of the bed in shock. Thráin leant to his side, and his breath was hot against Thorin's face as his reddened eyes narrowed terrifyingly. Thorin froze beneath his father's stare, and cringed as the grip at his neck tightened further.
"You…failure!" Thráin spat out, the liquid hitting the side of Thorin's face, the younger man flinching at the words.
"You…weakling!" Thráin continued, emphasizing his point with a tug at his son's throat. Thorin watched the muscles in his father's neck work as he spoke, and the sweat dripping down his sickly skin. His eyes grew blurry, the sting behind them worsening.
"You…you don't deserve my company, my wealth," Thráin hissed, shoving Thorin away violently while he thrashed about in his bed. Thorin staggered on the tiles and coughed a few times, reaching up to rub at his sore neck.
"Usurper!" Thráin shouted, the word echoing in the tiny room, and Thorin shivered at the cold tone of his father's voice. He tried to tell himself it was the madness talking, that the other man did not hate him so. But the intensity and clarity in his father's eyes made it difficult to believe such fanciful thoughts.
"Get me Frerin!" Thráin commanded, and he paused, gasping for air and hacking up bloody phlegm. Thorin shifted away unsteadily until his back hit the wall, and then he watched as his father coughed and doubled over on the bed. He could do nothing as the other man suffered and choked on his own air while his frail body finally gave way. He did not call a nurse, he did not try to help, and he did not utter a single word. He just stared blankly ahead. He was grateful, that his mother had not lived to witness her husband's madness, that Frerin had been spared seeing such a hateful man. And he was glad he'd had the foresight to send Fíli out in Dwalin's care, more so the boy did not witness Thorin's own weakness in the presence of his mad father.
"Fre-…Fr, ggh," Thráin uttered desperately before he fell back against the sheets, and his hacking faded until his body lay limply atop the bed. Thorin slumped against the wall, his arms falling listlessly to his sides as he eyed the still form on the bed across the room. It was eerily silent, with the absence of his father's rambling, and Thorin could hear each step in the hallway outside the door, each heavy breath that escaped between his lips. He could even hear the faint clicking of the hands on his wrist watch.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.
The door shifted open next to him and he overheard the soft gasp that came from the nurse as she entered the room and took in his condition as well as the sight of Thráin's dead body.
"Mr. Durin! Are you alright?" the woman uttered moving towards him timidly as though fearful Thorin might lash out at her as his father had so many times before. Instead he barely acknowledged her. His mind was preoccupied by other things, like the cold sweat across his back and the disgusting feeling of his shirt clinging to his skin. Then there was the strange tenseness in his body and the feeling of his teeth grinding anxiously together. His throat was dry and sore, and Thorin blinked once, finally noticing the liquid that clung to his eyelashes shamefully. The nurse muttered a question towards him once again and Thorin flicked his gaze towards her, forcing the sheen across his eyes away as he focused on her worried face.
"I'm fine," he voiced scratchily, before pulling his jacket from the chair beside him and walking briskly out the door.
Bilbo peddled gently down the street listening as Kíli sang a silly tune from where he sat atop the bicycle behind him. Glóin had been nice enough to fix his bicycle and add a new little addition, a seat for Kíli, so that Bilbo could take him out on deliveries and errands. So far it was working famously, though Bilbo figured it would not be long before the boy grew out of the tiny chair. There was the matter of schooling as well, which he would have to face eventually, and Bilbo figured no teacher would accept a child that at the very least could not move around on his own. At least not at a school he could afford.
Kíli's voice hitched for a moment as the bicycle lurched over a tiny bump and Bilbo glanced over his shoulder to make sure he was alright. The man had not missed the occasional slips in song throughout the ride, and he noticed the pain shining behind Kíli's bright eyes. Still the boy smiled at him and started singing again, and Bilbo did his best to avoid any extra bumps in the road in an effort to make the ride more comfortable for him. It seemed Kíli was still afraid to voice many of his complaints, even when he was visibly in pain.
Bilbo and Kíli had slowly started to grow accustomed to each other's company, developing a bit of a routine in the mornings and evenings. And Kíli was beginning to open up; to speak out when he had a thought or feeling, but there was much work yet to be done. Bilbo figured the boy would always be shy and tentative when it came to speaking, but he hoped that shyness might at the very least fade away around him.
They turned a corner and Bilbo peddled down a little dirt path, stopping his bike next to a billboard and kicking out the stand. There was a small park just a few feet away, old and decaying like much the rest of the area, but Bilbo knew there was at least one swing still intact and he hoped it was safe enough to use. It was one of many playgrounds that had been left to rot while select ones in prime areas near the outskirts of town had been cleared and rebuilt with plastic slides and jungle gyms. Bilbo would have loved to take Kíli to one of them, watch his eyes take in the bright colours, but the ride would be far too lengthy, and he feared the sight of so many children playing and running might discourage him more than anything else.
Kíli stopped singing and eyed the park with curiosity while Bilbo unlatched the faded green helmet atop his tiny head, yet another gift from their neighbours. Pieces of Kíli's hair clung to the foam as it was pulled from him and he playfully ran his fingers through it before patting the strands down against the braid behind his head. Bilbo smiled as he latched the helmet around the bike before lifting Kíli from the seat gently and kissing the top of his head. The boy giggled and Bilbo twirled him around before walking towards the playground.
"Where are we?" Kíli asked, his dark eyes looking at the site as they approached. There was a rickety structure, made solely from wooden planks and rusted metal. As a whole, the playground was very unsafe, the slide detached at the top and dented precariously in the middle. There was a large hole in the middle of one of the drawbridges, where it looked as though someone had taken a violent tumble through the planks at one point or another. Graffiti covered the remaining intact wood, and nails were scattered around, having fallen from their proper places.
Other parents might frown at Bilbo bringing Kíli to such a place, but there were few locations for fun in his neighbourhood, and when Kíli had asked him what exactly riding a swing was like, Bilbo was determined he find out for himself. The swings were unfortunately just as unkempt as the rest of the playground, one of them completely detached and resting on the ground, another hanging by a single chain. The third swing however still seemed solid enough, the chains rusty, but Bilbo tugged on them with one hand and they stayed strong. Kíli seemed apprehensive, his eyes looking up to where the chains fastened to the metal bar above nervously.
"You wanted to know what it was like to ride a swing, right?" Bilbo asked, glancing at Kíli before sitting him atop the rubber seat. Kíli's hands clenched to the man's shirt and Bilbo held him in place for a moment while he checked the chains more carefully. When he pulled away Kíli gasped and reached forwards to grip tighter, nearly falling from the swing from the action, and Bilbo braced him lightly before kneeling before him. He pried the boy's hands from his shirt and set them on the chains, looking encouragingly into Kíli's brown eyes.
"Hold tight, right here," Bilbo spoke gently and Kíli bit his lip and tightened his grip.
"Ready?" Bilbo asked, calmly moving to stand behind the child. He kept close, and held his hands at Kíli's waist, sensing the other's wariness.
"Don't be afraid, I won't make you go too high, and I won't let you fall," Bilbo reassured the little brunette, and finally Kíli nodded slowly. The first push sent the swing barely a few inches forwards, and Bilbo kept his hands at Kíli's sides the entire time. Still the young one's fingers tightened and he jerked slightly atop the swing, the tiniest of gasps escaping his lips. But Bilbo kept the small movements up, eventually easing the swing into a smooth repetitive motion, and Kíli's fingers gradually relaxed as he grew more comfortable with it. Bilbo pulled away, letting Kíli move back and forth on his own, only occasionally pushing him forwards to keep up the momentum. Soon Kíli was smiling and laughing as he got a hang of the balance, turning to look at Bilbo excitedly.
"It's like…like I'm flying!" he shouted, leaning back just a little in the seat. And though Kíli's legs didn't respond, and they hung from the seat like always, Bilbo thought in that moment he looked just like any other child, laughing and playing without a care in the world. Kíli held his body backwards just a bit further, his eyes connecting with Bilbo's as he moved. But the swing toppled and Kíli gasped suddenly, his grip slipping on the chains, and he nearly fell backwards to the ground.
"Woah!" Kíli shouted, landing in Bilbo's secure embrace and the man's amber eyes stared down at him worriedly.
"I've got you," Bilbo whispered, tugging Kíli close to his chest and waiting while he caught his breath. His legs remained caught in the swing awkwardly while Bilbo supported the rest of his weight.
"Thank you Mr. Bilbo…," Kíli muttered, once he was able, and Bilbo smiled at him and bent forwards to kiss his brow.
"Just Bilbo, Kíli, okay?" the man uttered, pulling away and looking him in the eye.
"You don't need to be formal with me," he insisted and Kíli glanced shyly to the side. Bilbo sighed lightly, and pushed Kíli's body up before lifting him from the rubber seat.
"Enough swinging for one day?" he asked, and Kíli nodded before they began making their way back to the bicycle. As Bilbo settled Kíli into his seat, the child looked at the billboard beside them, eyeing the brilliantly blue eyes of a handsome man with a stern but pleasant expression. He caught the glance Bilbo threw in the direction of the man's image as well as the grimace that passed across his features and Kíli frowned. Bilbo's face rarely held an upset expression, and though he often pouted or scrunched up his features while deep in thought, it was nothing compared to the seething anger that seemed etched in his features as he looked at the sign.
"B-Bilbo, who's that? Do you know him?" Kíli asked, stuttering over the older man's name and cowering slightly when Bilbo's angry gaze transferred to him. His eyes softened as they landed on Kíli and he offered a small grin in his direction before fastening the buckles of his own bright blue helmet under his chin.
"He's a bad man, Kíli," Bilbo spoke, reaching to unfasten Kíli's helmet from the metal bars. Kíli frowned and turned towards the billboard again, studying the features and pose, the fine suit, and the bold letters highlighted off to the side. There were some larger words, and after a few focused moments Kíli was able to read them.
'Compassion. Innovation. Trust.
Healthcare you can depend on. Join us as we evolve to create a better future for every citizen.'
-Thorin Durin, CEO
"He doesn't look bad," Kíli muttered as Bilbo secured the tiny helmet atop his head. The boy looked upwards as Bilbo snapped the fastener together wondering what it was about the man on the sign that was so disturbing for his adoptive parent. Kíli saw only a kind face and a positive message. Bilbo however, saw much more, and he paused and took a deep breath while he decided how to explain.
"I'm going to tell you a story Kíli," Bilbo began, placing his hand softly beneath the boy's chin.
"A long time ago, there was a wonderful woman named Belladonna," he spoke gently, his voice more steady than he felt, and already Kíli watched him, completely enraptured by the tale.
"She was beautiful, kind, caring. She had a son, and she loved him very much," Bilbo smiled lightly as he recalled the way his mother radiated with happiness around her friends and family.
"She worked as a nurse for a large corporation called Durin Corp," Bilbo continued, his face falling slightly while Kíli's eyes widened and he turned to look at the billboard.
"That's the name on the sign! Thorin Durin," Kíli gasped, and Bilbo nodded at him, no less impressed by Kíli's keen eyes than ever before.
"The Durin family owned the big company, and they charged incredibly high prices for healthcare, prices that many could not afford. They paid their workers little, and grew richer each day while others suffered," Bilbo explained, and Kíli nibbled on his lip as he imagined the world described to him. It was not a difficult feat. Kíli had but to glance at the streets and homes nearby, or envision the deteriorating orphanage he'd spent so much time at to understand what it meant to be poor.
"Belladonna spent years helping others recover from illness, she never turned anyone away. Even when the people she worked for refused the poor, she would help them secretly; do what she could outside of work for anyone that came to her. And after so many years helping others, one day she grew ill herself," Bilbo voiced sadly, his eyes wet with unshed tears and Kíli clenched his fingers tight in the fabric of his shorts.
"She was…okay right?" he asked hesitantly, fearing this story did not have a happy ending like many of the others Bilbo often told him before bed at night. The man merely smiled painfully and continued his tale.
"She had little money, and struggled to care for her son alone. But with the high costs of her medicines and appointments, and the increasing days off from work, she found herself in a tight situation. Belladonna had to ask for help, from the people she worked for, to treat her. But they wanted more money. So she sold her house, and many of her belongings, but still it was not enough," Bilbo struggled to continue, knowing that Kíli was upset, but he needed the child to understand.
"Belladonna had barely a cent left to her name, and she could no longer afford to feed herself and her son. So she fed only her son and slowly withered away. And no matter how much she begged and pleaded with the Durins, they gave her nothing for free," Bilbo stated before securing the tiny belt on Kíli's seat.
"What…happened to Belladonna?" Kíli asked hesitantly, unsure if he wanted the answer.
"She passed away, in her sleep," Bilbo responded before turning away and sitting atop the bicycle. His posture was slouched and he breathed in and out unsteadily a few times, his hands resting lightly on the handlebars.
"And…her son?" Kíli probed with a shaky voice.
"He was sent to an orphanage," the man explained as he kicked the stand up, bracing a foot against one of the pedals.
"Like me," the boy uttered and Bilbo turned to look at him with worried eyes. But Kíli seemed less interested in his own affairs, still engrossed in the story.
"I-is he…alright?" Kíli queried, innocent eyes searching for at least some happiness within the tale and Bilbo chuckled softly.
"Yes, he is quite alright, and though his story is a happier tale, he is left with a sad one to tell," Bilbo admitted, looking into the boy's inquisitive stare.
"Were you her son?" Kíli blurted out, and Bilbo's breath caught in his throat.
"Yes," he whispered, before turning back around and pushing the bicycle forwards as he peddled down the dirt path. He spoke over his shoulder while Kíli glanced back at the billboard.
"You mustn't be fooled by false kindness. People wear masks every day to hide who they really are. Though Mr. Durin looks friendly at first glance, it doesn't change the fact that he owns a large corporation that refuses care to those that need it each and every day. His company has a new name, and he's the new owner, but it's no different than it was before," Bilbo insisted and Kíli frowned in confusion. He understood what Bilbo spoke of; for he was sure he'd seen it before. False kindness hidden in the eyes of men and woman that walked through the walls of the orphanage. In the words of the nuns that looked after him. Still, he couldn't help but wonder, as he gazed at the penetrating blue eyes of Thorin Durin, if the man behind the mask was good after all.
"Have you ever met the man on the billboard?" Kíli asked, gripping his seat as they strolled down the path.
"No, I haven't," Bilbo admitted, glancing back quickly, his eyes shifting from the large poster to Kíli, then back in front of him again as he steered around rocks and bumps.
"Then how can you be sure?" Kíli whispered. Bilbo heard the soft words, but he did not acknowledge them, unsure how to respond. How could he be sure? How could he tell Kíli to judge this man, based on the actions of others, based on appearances, when he taught Kíli it was wrong to do so every other day? Bilbo tried to ignore the urge to glance back at the billboard, but as they turned the corner his eyes betrayed him, slipping to the stern figure plastered against the sign. Even from a distance, the man's strong features managed to unsettle him, and he frowned, unable to place the nagging feeling in his heart.
AN: Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave any thoughts/comments, I love hearing from you all. And even if you just want to chat about general Hobbit things, I'm down for that too! Anyone going to Costume-Con 32 by any chance?