AN: I don't own any of the hobbit characters I am just taking them out of Tolkien's toy box and playing with them.
Warning there will be more references to the dwarves' pasts in this chapter, if you haven't read Punishment please don't kill me for this.
In response to a couple of PM's I got concerning this story, and I won't name names since they obviously weren't brave enough to leave a review. I will not apologise that the story is not following the path you think it should. I am writing this and while I do lie to receive constructive criticism, I do not appreciate you flaming me about the pairings I have chosen...I do give a warning in the story's description. Also I am aware that the dwarves' back stories are painful to read, but they are integral to how I have chosen to write this story, as is Bilbo's. Since I have also given warnings when I am going to be more detailed about what they have suffered then you cannot say you were not warned. My apologies to the rest of my readers and I hope my response to a couple of people who rather annoyed me wont put you off leaving me reviews. I do like reading them, even if you don't always agree with what I have written you have not been rude about it. It is rudeness and condecention I cannot stand. Your reviews make me smile so please do keep leaving them.
FanFiction Queen: Hmmm you worry me slightly. Just slightly as it would be hypocritical of me to be worried lots. I think Narrator and Queen need to have a sit down talk. Okay leather, Loki, Necromancers, Benedict Cumberbacht and Gandalf's hat? Meh, if you say so. I hold power? I like the idea of holding power (I think). You must have a different telly to me, mine never has enough decent shows on to be able to spend the whole day in front of it…although I have watched the three extended editions of LotR back to back before. I am glad you liked the last chapter I wasn't completely happy with it, but I still can't figure out what is making me disgruntled with it. Ah well hopefully I will like the end product of this one. I thought it was lovely to see it, but it has come back thinking of more than my writing, I really can't afford to start any more stories until I have finished the ones I have got going. Also I don't want to think about work when I am not there. It came back all adulated and I don't like it. Ah well WGW is just over a month away so it will go back to normal soon.
Chapter Forty One – Hope and Healing.
When Bilbo awoke his eyes felt gritty and his head was stuffed up. It took him several moments to recall why he should feel that way, and when he did he let out a muffled curse. A heavy warm arm was pinning him to a settee and he tilted his head so he could figure out who was lying next to him. His bad mood evaporated when he saw it was Dwalin who was using him as a cushion and a gentle smile flitted across his face as he raised his free hand to card it through the unbraided sections of the dwarf's hair. He lay enjoying the peacefulness for several long moments until the strange quality of the light in the room caught his attention. He realised as he glanced around the communal area that while it might not yet be night the shadows were long and the breeze rapidly cooling. He pouted as it occurred to him that he'd spent what had promised to be a warm afternoon sleeping, before chuckling when he realised that he would get to cook for the company again. His chuckle awoke Dwalin, who grumbled softly into his shoulder.
"It's okay Dwalin, I'm just going to start the evening meal," Bilbo wriggled free drawing a whine from the warrior, "You don't have to get up yet, in fact you'd be better off going to sleep again." He draped one of the freshly mended blankets that were lying around over Dwalin and pressed a soft kiss to the larger male's forehead, chuckling softly at the soft snore he got in response.
Bilbo stretched before he ambled over to the kitchen area and started to rake through the cupboards to find something to eat. He was non-pulsed with what he found and growled at the seemingly random collection of food items the elves had seen fit to refill the cupboards with this time. Huffing Bilbo leant back against one of the benches as he stared at the pile on the table top, as he ran his hands through his curls he wondered if their hosts were trying to make a point, because in the Shire what they had left them would have been considered the height of bad manners. He shook his head as he realised what he had just thought, in the Shire the hosts would not be leaving their guests (uninvited and unexpected or not) to fend for themselves. He narrowed his eyes, well if the elves thought he wouldn't be able to make a decent meal out of what he'd found they would be sorely mistaken. A spark of mischief came into his eyes and he set to with new found enthusiasm.
He was nearly finished when noise from the communal area told him that most of the company were back. He stuck his head out the door and smiled as he counted heads, apparently everyone was back. His smile fell when he saw the pale face of Nori and the tired eyes of Bifur, he was suddenly glad he's made his grandmother's broth and cheesy-potato scones, those two needed comfort food. Wondering how to get everyone's attention he stood leaning against the door frame for several long moments watching everyone interact. Boundaries and walls had definitely fallen on the journey and had anyone told him that cautious, fearful bunch of dwarves that had landed in Bag End could be this boisterous he would have either laughed them out of the Shire or shook his head sadly. His eyes landed on Bofur who was whistling softly to himself and found a way to get everyone's attention, so instead of dwelling on dark thoughts Bilbo raised his hand to his mouth and let out a piercing whistle. Thirteen heads turned in his direction, and he sighed softly as he noticed the tension carefully hidden away when they realised it was him. History obviously still had them all in her talons and was in no hurry to let them go. Shaking his morbid thoughts free He smiled at them, "if you want food, I've cooked." He laughed as the excited clamour and felt the need to warn them, "It is nothing special, just soup and scones."
"Yeah but it's your soup and scones!" quipped Kili as twelve of the dwarves rushed into the kitchen. The brunette dwarf's words brought a round of laughter and allowed Bilbo to slip over to the only company member who hadn't made a rush for the food.
"Fili?" Bilbo kept his voice soft so as not to startle the blonde or alert the rest of the company. Blue eyes turned to him and he winced at the half-hearted smile he received. He pulled the young dwarf to his feet, "Come on," he muttered, leading an unprotesting Fili away from the company quarters and snagging a blanket on their way out, "you need someone to talk to lad."
He kept his silence as Fili allowed himself to be towed along without a fuss. When they reached a torch lit courtyard with stone benches around its edges Bilbo came to a stop and manoeuvred Fili to sit on one. He carefully wrapped the blanket around the blonde dwarf's shoulders before he sat down next to him. "What's wrong Fili?" When the dwarf beside him merely shook his head, Bilbo repressed a sigh and wrapped an arm around the broad shoulders. "Look I know you still can't trust me completely yet," he ignored the start he got in response, "I honestly don't know if you ever will, but I do care about you. I care that you are upset and hurting and if you'll let me I will try my best to help in any way I can," he paused, "even if it is just being there to listen when you want to talk."
Fili snuggled deeply into Bilbo's side. The hobbit's words had at first shocked and then angered him, before he had had to fight the urge to cry. There was honesty laced into every word spoken and he wanted to spill his heart to the curly haired man sitting next to him, but he didn't know where to start or how to put most of what he was feeling into words. "I actually slept today," he breathed, wondering if Bilbo could hear him with how quiet that had been, the fact that the hobbit might not be able to hear what he was saying gave him courage. "I know that doesn't sound like much but there is a reason I keep watch at night in the hours just before dawn. There is a reason I don't take naps when others choose to. Yet when I was sitting beside Bofur today I managed to sleep for almost six hours straight without the terrors. I didn't wake up screaming, or crying or in a cold sweat. I woke up with a smile on my face and more rested than I have been since we were at your home." Beside him Bilbo twitched slightly, but Fili was comfortable and didn't want to look up. Instead he wrapped his arm around Bilbo's waist and snuggled further into the hobbit's warmth. "You are wrong to say I don't trust you, you know. I would never think of you as Uncle Bilbo if I didn't trust you. The instinct to draw back is a kind of ingrained response to a situation I don't fully understand, but it has nothing to do with you." He paused and took a shaking breath, wondering why he was still talking and yet not wanting to stop. "I nearly begged you to let me stay behind at Bag End when everyone left, it was so nice not having the terrors, but then I realised it was only because I felt you could and would protect me in your home that they receded. I don't know what to do about them Uncle Bilbo, I don't want to keep dreaming memories and what ifs. How do I make them stop?"
Fili hadn't realised he'd been gripping Bilbo's shirt with all his strength, until warm fingers untangled his own from the fabric and enclosed them in a firm but soothing grip. "Unfortunately there is no guaranteed way to make night terrors disappear," Bilbo's voice sounded sad and Fili wondered what experience the hobbit had had with said terrors. Before he could ask Bilbo was talking again, "I wish I could offer you worn platitudes about time making everything better, that you just need to be strong and you will defeat them. Unfortunately I will never lie to you and life is not that simple. I still suffer from my own occasionally, I haven't figured out what triggers them or why they suddenly descend to haunt my dreams but they do and I can't stop them." Fili wrapped his other arm around Bilbo's waist and squeezed, "watch your strength Fili I'm not a dwarf," there was no reproach in the hobbit's voice so Fili didn't loosen his arms and Bilbo continued, "However now I think on it I haven't had a recurrence since I met you all."
Fili knew he probably shouldn't ask, but couldn't help his curiosity, "what are your terrors of?" he whispered.
Bilbo closed his eyes for a second as Fili's question sunk in, he'd hoped to not have to share anymore of his history with the dwarves but yet Fili was putting his trust in him and he couldn't disappoint the young blonde. He just hoped he didn't give him more terrors. "Me?" he asked rhetorically, "They differ. I have the day I lost my mother. The night I lost my father. The day I got the scars on my back." He swallowed, "and the massaca of the Fell Winter." He rubbed soothing circles on Fili's shoulder when he felt the young dwarf tense up, "don't dwell on it Fili," he crooned, "do you want to tell me what haunts your dreams?
He could feel the tremors running through Fili's frame and wondered if the dwarf would pull away from him. Instead the blonde curled his fingers into his shirt again and buried his face into his shoulder. His voice was muffled and slightly shaking when he spoke, but Bilbo's hobbit ears picked up the words easily. "I dream of the night father didn't return, how familiar faces were turned into monsters with grief, blood and icky stuff. I remember when that frul went after Ki. I dream that Gloin didn't reach us in time and I was too weak too small to stop it happening." Bilbo tightened his arm around the dwarf's shoulders, feeling the warm tears starting to soak through his shirt as Fili went on, "I dream of when Amad became ill because she had given up one to many meals so we could eat. I dream of watching Arik being torn to shreds by hunting dogs because he turned back to protect little Gilst when she had fallen when we had to flee from one of the human towns. I wake up feeling his blood splatter my face as I stood in front of Kili and Gilst, I dream of the agony in his eyes because he wouldn't let himself scream even as he died in case it upset his niece. Or I wake up in a cold sweat when I have dreamt of looking into the hound's eyes as it turned to me next. I…I…" His voice trailed off into sobs and Bilbo pulled him closer, turning so he was able to wrap his other arm around the now shaking dwarf.
He wanted desperately to say something, but knew words were useless and so made soothing noises as he let the young dwarf sob his pain out. His hands rubbed soothing circles onto Fili's back as his mind drifted, fighting the urge to find Thorin, Balin and Dwalin to scream at them. He knew it wasn't their fault but that boys such as Fili and Kili had gone through something no child should broke his heart. Thorin, Dwalin, Nori and Balin had chosen to go to war. Fili and Kili had no choice in what they had had to face, he tightened his grip even as he fought back tears, but then none of them had had a choice about the dragon or man kinds' inability for kindness. Unconsciously he started to run his fingers through Fili's hair in the same soothing gesture he'd used at Bag End. It seemed to work as the sobs became less, it wasn't until he heard the snuffley snores that he realised Fili had actually exhausted himself and had cried himself to sleep against him. Bilbo marvelled at the similarities between family members, but didn't stop the soothing motions he had been doing. Kili would come looking for his older brother soon enough, and he wouldn't wake Fili especially since the dwarf had just admitted that he hadn't been sleeping.
The moon was bright in the dark sky when the peace of the courtyard was finally disturbed. "Master Baggins?" Bilbo snapped his head towards the voice, tensing before he realised it was merely Bofur.
"Master Bofur?" he asked just to be sure, even as he attempted to shake loose his own bad memories.
"Aye," agreed the dwarf, Bilbo narrowed his eyes as the miner stepped out of the shadows looking shifty, "I came to find Mister Fili as his brother said he'd missed food."
Bilbo raised an eyebrow and Bofur scuffed his feet, "is he okay?" he finally asked, putting his nervousness to one side.
Bilbo ran his fingers through Fili's gold hair and sighed, "No Bofur he isn't but it isn't my place to tell, if he wants you to know he will tell you."
Bofur put his hands out in the universal sign of peace, "No, no, no Master Baggins you misunderstand me. I don't want you to tell me anything I was just hoping you'd had a gossip and he'd dozed off. He doesn't deserve to be upset, he has such a big heart."
Bilbo narrowed his eyes again, "Oh!" he stated calmly, "How do you actually see Fili?"
Bofur raised an eyebrow, "Huh?"
"Oh for the love of…" Bilbo trailed off as Fili stirred before snuggling back down and snoring lightly again, "Do you see him as a child? A friend? Someone you could fall in love with? A warrior? A crafter? A diplomat? A prankster? Do I need to go on?" he hissed.
Bofur's confused look relaxed, "I see him as friend, a very good friend. I see him as a great dwarf, he is someone I could happily call king if I had to. He has a kindness sin him, a lightness that many dwarves are missing now. He is a quick learner and good with his hands." Bofur sighed and Bilbo smiled to himself as he realised the miner was staring at a sleeping Fili, "He didn't deserve what he's been through, mind you I still think poor Ori had it worst out of the lot of us poor laddie."
Bilbo closed his eyes and counted to ten before he came to a decision. "Mister Bofur would you stay with Fili? I don't want to wake the lad up."
Bofur nodded, "Of course Master Baggins." Bilbo smiled wanly at him and detangled himself from Fili's grip indicating Bofur to slide onto the bench when he was free. Fili stirred but latched onto Bofur and soon settled. Patting the bemused miner's shoulder Bilbo slipped away into the darkness.
It took him two bells but he finally tracked down Dori to a quiet alcove in the library and he took a moment to reflect that the three Ri brothers had more in common than they thought, and then another to growl mentally at the injustice of it all. "Master Dori?" he asked, careful not to startle the older dwarf.
Dori jumped slightly, "Ah Master Baggins, must you sneak so?"
"Sorry Master Dori, I don't mean to sneak it is an unavoidable trait of my race, and an occupational hazard." He gestured to the free chair beside the grey haired dwarf, "Can I join you?"
"Of course Master Baggins," Bilbo winced at Dori's cheerful acceptance, "I am always happy to have your company."
"You might not be when you find out what I am here for Master Dori." Bilbo decided on honesty as he sat down, rubbing his face tiredly as Dori's face took on a suspicious expression at his words. "There is no delicate way to put this so forgive me for my bluntness." He took a deep breath and fixed Dori with an unblinking look, "What has Ori gone through that made him so scared to eat the food I had spent all day preparing even after I had asked him to eat?"
Dori flinched and Bilbo knew then that it had been bad. "I…What do you mean Master Baggins?" Dori's eyes were hard and his voice cold.
"Really Master Dori, I have given my word to protect Ori how can I do that if you make me ask him what has happened?" Bilbo knew it was an underhand tactic but at this point he would resort to any measure to make sure he didn't have to dredge up the memories for Ori.
"I…I am sorry Master Baggins, trust is hard earned by my family now, but I really should at least start to trust you." The grey haired dwarf passed a hand over his face, "It wasn't pretty in the slightest and I tend to get very defensive when I think about it. I failed him massively and it always surprises me that he has ever forgiven me." Bilbo nodded and placed a reassuring hand over Dori's where it was lying on the table top. The dwarf took a deep breath and fixed his eyes on Bilbo's. "When Erebore fell myself and Ori wandered for a couple of years not knowing if Nori was still alive. He was a bright young thing and learnt quickly to avoid questions that would upset me. It wasn't until we had settled on a human estate, barely scrapping by that Nori found us, it was only thanks to his light fingered ways that we ever had enough to not be thrown out on our ears. The minuscule provisions we were supposed to survive on – between the two of us mind you- were barely enough to feed a small human. Nori made sure that the small wage I earned went on food rather than rent. Ori was a fast learner and managed to stay away from the humans most of the time, yet still managed to get his share of the work done. The work was hard and he shouldn't have been doing such for at least two decades more, but we took what we could. I looked after the young dwarves that weren't clever enough to learn that our employers (and believe me I use that word loosely) were cruel and devious. I tried to keep it from Ori but he probably knew, he always knows and I always try to protect him." Dori groaned, "I had to leave on business to another human estate and leave Ori by himself. I hadn't realised that my actions with the young ones had been noted, but the humans weren't stupid enough to take on a full grown dwarf, even one as weakened as myself. I personally think the only reason they didn't come after me was because my strength had been noted, they did something worse in the eyes of any dwarf. They went after my young."
Bilbo's eyes hardened as did Dori's voice. "They dared go after my Ori as punishment for my taking care of children of my race. I was away several days when Ori was called up to the big house for work. He was already exhausted having taken on my share of the work as well as his own. He had also taken it on himself to look after the children I had been taking care of. Lack of food and sleep probably paid a part in the fact he ate the food laid out in the kitchen and was caught. They came after him four on one. Four fully grown humans, well fed and well rested against one under aged partial starved and exhausted dwarf. He gave as good as he got when they first went after him, even after spraining his ankle when he'd jumped up in shock, but in reality he didn't stand a chance. They forced a charcoal mixture down his throat, as if his stomach wasn't raw already." Dori stopped taking a deep breath, hazel eyes as hard as slate, "They obviously decided that since I wasn't there to step in they would go all out because once he'd stopped retching they dragged him out into the centre of the square and stripped him of his shirt and boots. Now a lash shouldn't have any effect on a healthy fully grown dwarf other than stinging slightly, but to the state Ori was in at the time it managed to bruise and cut the flesh. He didn't cry out once and when they were bored they dragged him to the jail, which was a windowless room in the cellars of the manor house. I hope they didn't know about a dwarf's ability to tell the passage of time without light or fresh air."
His shoulders sagged and Bilbo watched guiltily as Dori closed his eyes. "I was gone for nearly two weeks. He'd been caught eating four days into my first week away. They hadn't fed him after his second day in the jail, hadn't refilled his water jug after the second day of the second week. The jail was beyond freezing and they had only provided him with a thin piece of material I won't design to call a blanket." Bilbo felt his eyes sting as Dori's voice wavered and the dwarf's tear filled hazel eyes met his. "Nori made sure they paid badly for what they did to my baby brother. He was barely able to open his eyes when I found him Bilbo," gasped Dori, "The only reason I knew he was alive was the barely there rise and fall of his chest. The wounds on his back were infected and he had gotten pneumonia, we couldn't treat him there and I had to carry him a full day and night, following behind the company of dwarves that Nori had refused to leave behind, stating that they were also only children and he wouldn't leave them to the human's wrath. Bilbo how can Ori have ever forgiven me this?"
Bilbo once again found himself trying to sooth an almost hysterical Dori. His jaw was clenched and he was finding it hard not to start raging. When Dori finally pulled back the sky was a light silver along the eastern horizon and something in Bilbo's expression must have caught the dwarf's attention. "Master Baggins?"
Bilbo snapped his eyes to Dori's face, "Please it is just Bilbo. I see Ori as a younger brother so it is Bilbo." He paused, "What was the name of the human estate that this happened upon?" he almost growled.
Dori looked taken aback for several moments, "East Bight." He blurted, "Land was owned by the family of Hildor."
Bilbo's smile was anything but nice, "We will pass near it on our journey yes?" Dori's face contorted into a mixture of pain and longing. Taking that as a yes Bilbo stood, "Hobbits may not be warriors but I promised I would protect Ori in whatever way I could." He stood and looked a suddenly much calmer Dori in the eye. "If you can distract the rest of the company long enough you can be assured they will pay." He nodded and left the library and Dori behind him.
Dori sat staring after him for several long moments. The room was starting to be painted in a warm glow when Nori found him, "Brother, what has happened?"
Dori looked at him, "They will pay!"
"Who? Dori what is…" Nori's face suddenly became dark, "You told Bilbo." He breathed as he collapsed bonelessly into the empty chair. Dori merely raised an eyebrow. "His mother was Belladonna." Stated Nori wordlessly, "There is a reason the guild never touched the Shire. Ever!"
"Yes," agreed Nori, "and you've just sent her son after the bastards that hurt our Ori."
Green eyes met hazel and dark laughter filled the library. Lindïr shivered as the sound reached him as he was passing on his way to meet with Elrond, there was no joy in that laughter just the promise of pain and revenge.
Bilbo stumbled back into the wing the company had been given for their stay, eyes flitting to the sleeping dwarves. Apparently they had decided to spend the night in a similar way to their second in Rivendell and had stayed grouped in the common area. Fili was curled up between his brother and Bofur. Ori was at Kili's other side, one arm slung casually over the brunette's waist, the other cradling the back of his head as Kili cuddled into his chest. Thorin was sprawled out across two cushions, an open book of elvish tales propped open on his chest. Balin was curled into a little ball between Gloin and Oin, an assortment of parchment, weapons and herbs scattered around them. Bombur was asleep beside Bofur, one arm thrown over his eyes. Bifur was curled up apart from the rest, Nori's cloak draped over his huddled form. A hand on Bilbo's shoulder made him jump, spinning as he did so. "Dwalin," he breathed in relief.
"Aye," agreed the dwarf, "Now where did you get to?"
"I had a talk with Fili and then one with Master Dori." Muttered Bilbo, allowing himself to be dragged over to one of the settees. He curled into Dwalin's lap and tucked his head under the dwarf's chin, "Would you teach me to fight?"
"I already said I would Bilbo," breathed Dwalin, "so why are you asking again?"
"No would you start teaching me today?"
Dwalin paused wondering at the angry-despondent tone Bilbo was using, "You know you won't be anywhere near trained by the time we leave Rivendell right?"
"I know that," sniffed the hobbit curled into his chest, "I just have this gut feeling that we are losing time in which to teach me even the basics." Dwalin wrapped his arms around Bilbo's waist and spun them both so he was lying on the settee with Bilbo resting on his chest. He wished he knew words that would help but he knew that the hobbit was learning about their pasts.
"I will start to teach you today if you want Bilbo, if you sleep now."
"Keep the dreams away Dwalin?"
Dwalin felt his heart clench wondering if it was learning of the dwarves' pasts that were giving him dark dreams or his own past, he hadn't forgotten Bilbo mentioning he'd lost both parents or the fact he had faced an orc slasher. He ran a hand into Bilbo's curls, "I promise." He cleared his throat, "Sleep now. I will keep watch."
Bilbo merely muttered sleepily and Dwalin felt a lone tear slid down his cheek and he closed his eyes. Apparently the two of them needed to talk again.
AN: Please leave me a review and let me know what you think. I hope it is living up to expectations.