A gift of hope in the darkness
The awful sickness that had plague her for weeks had decide not to subside the moment she was able to curl up in a warm pallet or eat her weight in soft bread and lovely, thick honey. If anything her sickness seemed to have intensified to the point where the mere look of the once godly food had her pelting outside to be sick somewhere in the Beorn's beautiful garden.
She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand as she swayed back and forth on her feet, despite her repeated attempts to stand as still as possible, hoping that with stillness, her belly might decide to settle and not betray her again.
No, she appeared to be over her sickness for now but she made sure to walk slowly and evenly as to not upset it again as she headed back to Beorn's home.
She was being a truly awful guest, even worse than the travelling companion she had been previously. At least when they were travelling, her throwing up over the limited food supplies wasn't too dreadful or rude – though it was a waste of food.
But here, in Beorn's home with his freshly made and grown food, it was truly horrid way of showing how grateful she was for all his care and hospitality.
"I'm fine Gandalf, truly." She muttered trying to ignore the awful scratch in her throat when she swallowed.
"You clearly are not." The wizard said crossly as he moved to her side on the veranda, leaning down to gently lay a hand upon her forehead.
"You are warm, but I see no sign of fever. Your head wound has healed remarkably well, considering all things, so your illness is not from infection…"
"It's just a bug. I've simply picked up a bug." She grumbled as she brushed the wizard's hand away.
"Then it is a very serious bug indeed for you to have had it from almost the moment we found you." The wizard retorted, his tone very cross now. He reminded her vaguely of her father, when, as a very small fauntling, she had come home well after dark, trampling mud into the carpet and sneezing everywhere because she had caught a cold from falling into some pond or other.
"What would you have me do?" She questioned in low voice, unable to meet his piecing eyes. She didn't have the energy to feel upset nor angry; she felt those emotions often enough when she was trapped alone in her own mind, thoughts that left her empty and weak. "What would you have me say?"
Gandalf stared down at her, his grey blue eyes blazing as if they could see right into her very soul.
"I would have you heal." The wizard replied softly, "I would have you talk to me, for talking helps with healing and your bug, your bug I believe has more to do with your emotional state than you wish to believe."
She looked away from him, blinking back a sudden assault of fire-y tears that burned behind her eyes.
"I do not know what you mean." She muttered, "How can my emotional state have any affect upon my health?"
She refused to think that she was like her father in that respect. To fall ill, emotionally and mentally, from the loss of a love, a great, irreplaceable love, like her father had after her mother's passing. She had no wish for that life, for her father's life, to become her fate. Her emotional state had nothing do with her current state of health. And if it did, it was only, maybe, adding to the longevity of the bug.
"In many ways, believe me." Gandalf replied gruffly, "your bug is the result of heart-sickness and severe emotional trauma and distress. I can help you cure it, if only you will talk to me."
She shook her head.
"I don't want to talk about it, Gandalf." She growled, tears starting to trickle down her cheeks, "I don't want to think about!"
"And why is that, my dear girl?"
"Because it hurts! It hurts to think, it hurts to even breathe! I cannot talk about it because just thinking about it makes me want to shatter and die! It's hurts so terribly much; there are times I don't know how I'll make it through the day." She pressed her face into her hands and sobbed a heart-wrenching sob.
She felt Gandalf's large arms wrap around her, pulling her into his warm chest, speaking soothing words into her hair as she cried.
"I am sorry, my dear girl. So very, very sorry." He whispered and Bilbo could hear the sadness and tears in his voice as he spoke.
"Will it ever," she hiccupped, "will it ever… ever stop hurting?"
"No," she flinched at the harsh word that was spoken in a kind, gentle tone, "but you will learn of ways to help cope with the pain."
She hiccupped again and allowed for Gandalf to sooth her as if she were but a very small child before letting him guide her back into Beorn's home.
She curled up by the fire pit after that, staying by it for the rest of the afternoon, staring into its empty depths, determined not to think for a single moment of the last time she was in this remarkable place.
She tried not to think of much of anything that afternoon, spending most of it simply counting the rocks that made up the sides of the fire pit, and when the rocks started to remind her to greatly of things she wished to forget, she rolled on to her back, and started counting the rafters in the roof and when that task was complete, counting every single detail of whatever caught her eye.
To say the very least, it was a very long afternoon. But to say that she was grateful when she finally fell into a slumber would not be a kind thing, for her dreams were full of nightmarish things, blood and screams, with her running, always running, desperate to get to him, to them, to save them, to save all of them but in the end it was too late, always too late to save them.
And he made sure she knew that too, as his hands twisted in her hair and his rings and nails dug into the back of her neck as he shook her, snarling at her over and over again that it was her betrayal had killed them all, that their blood was upon her hands.
She tried to explain, to apologies but he only shook her harder, his fury drowning out everything else. And then he was gone, dead too, his head being held aloft by Azog and then she was screaming as the world turned to black.
She woke with a sob in her throat, her head hammering and belly churning.
She pushed herself off the cushions she had been laying upon and ran a hand through her tangled hair. Her cheeks were wet from the tears she had shed during her sleep but this was hardly a new state of waking for her.
Too many times now, she had woken from slumber, from her nightmares to find her cheeks wet, head pounding , center around the newly healed wound that cut its way down the side of her forehead to the bottom of her ear, her heart clenching painfully.
"Little bunny is awake."
Bilbo twisted her head around to see that Beorn was sitting upon his great chair at the end of the room, Gandalf smoking silently by his side.
"But not well rested, no."
"I rested well enough, thank you." She replied politely as she rolled awkwardly to her feet. Her joints protested and a new wave of nausea crashed through her.
Oh, why did she have feel so awful?
She clutched her belly and squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the nausea to pass. It did, eventually and she moved with unsteady feet to join the skin-changer and wizard at the table.
"Little bunny needs to eat." Beorn spoke the moment she joined them, pushing towards her a plate of fresh bread, soft cheese and fruit. Her belly gave a tiny heave and she was quick to push the plate away.
"No thank you. I am not hungry." She said with a forced smile. The skin-changer raised his thick eyebrows at her as he stared down at her heavily.
"Little bunny needs to eat." He repeated gruffly, "little bunny needs her strength or she will become too weak to take care of the little one."
Bilbo frowned up at the great man.
What did he mean? Take care of whom? There was no one for her to care for out in the wilds of the world.
"Beorn?" Gandalf asked on her behalf.
"The cub." Beorn replied simply, "if little bunny doesn't eat, than the cub will not grow and will die."
"Cub? What cub? What are you talking about?" Bilbo asked impatiently. She was too tired, too ill and altogether too unhappy to bother trying to make sense of the skin-changers words. Gandalf, however, had obviously understood the great man's words as he was now choking upon his pipe as he stared at her with wide eyes.
She stared back at him crossly, not even bothering to dignify him with a spoken response.
"Billanna Baggins, are you with child?" Gandalf cried out so loudly that Bilbo startled in her seat.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Are you pregnant?" The wizard repeated and Bilbo gagged.
"Pregnant!" She screeched jumping from her seat, "Pregnant? Have you both gone mad? I'm not pregnant! How could I be pregnant? How could that happen? I mean, I know," she waved her hands about her wildly, "I know how that happens… and…" her brain suddenly froze as very personal and intimate memories that she had been trying to forget suddenly invaded her mind.
"Oh…" she breathed and she swayed dangerous, catching hold of the wooden table and digging her nails into to the solid wood to keep herself upright, "Oh… no."
She stared at the two them, the wizard and the skin-changer, both staring at her with concern.
"Nope." She shook her head and let go of the table as her world went once more spinning out of her control. And once again she allowed herself to be completely pulled along with the spin.
"Bilbo? My dear girl." She stared up at an upside down Gandalf who was leaning over her, her head obviously resting in his lap.
"Stop the world," she muttered, "I want to get off." She pushed herself carefully into a sitting position her hand coming to rest upon her belly, which apparently was now carrying a tiny life within.
Oh… she clapped a hand to her mouth as she fought back a sob.
"You said… and they said… I never thought there was the possibility." She stuttered over her words, her mind unable to form coherent sentences. "How… how can I be pregnant? And why?" Hot tears flooded down her cheeks, "I can't be pregnant." She whispered, "I can't! I'm barely surviving as it is. I can't… how am I going to survive this?"
"You will," Gandalf replied softly, "for your child."
"My child? Gandalf… I am too broken to have a child, too broken and ruined. I will not be a good mother to this baby… I will…"
"You will be, Billanna Baggins. You will be a wonderful mother."
"Your child needs you, Bilbo. Or it will die. And so, I think will you. You need each other. Your baby needs you to survive and it will be what, I believe, gives you the strength to keeping fighting and living on."
Bilbo nodded slowly, her hands pressing gently against her belly, thinking over the tiny life that grew there.
She was so lost within her own world that she missed whatever Gandalf had said next.
"Sorry, Gandalf, but what did you say?"
The old wizard gave her a small smile.
"I asked you, if you don't mind an old man's curiousity, who the father is? The father of your baby?"
Bilbo's heart stuttered to a stop as she stared back at the wizard whose gentle featured transformed into a look of concern.
"You-you don't know?" She squeaked in disbelief, her eyes blurring with tears and pain.
"No, dear girl, I do not." He paused, "Bofur, perhaps? He was a good dwarf, if a bit blunt of tongue."
She let out a small wail.
How could he not know? And Bofur? Of all the other dwarves he could have suggested, why did he have to choose Bofur?
"He lives, dear one." Gandalf soothed.
"No," Bilbo wept, "Bofur… Bofur isn't the father."
"He isn't?" Gandalf sounded genuinely surprised which hurt her more deeply than she liked to think too hard upon. How different, how easy everything might have been if she…
"Then… one of the younger lads? Not Kili surely. Ori? Or Fili?" she only sobbed harder as Gandalf listed her dwarves one by one.
"It is the one known as Oakenshield, aye little bunny?" Bilbo jumped and stared at Beorn from where he stood by the door way of his home, his body turned towards his garden.
"Thorin?" Gandalf choked.
"Aye." Beorn rumbled, "can still smell him on little bunny. He is the father of the cub she carries." Bilbo watched the big man walk way, disappearing into the night while Gandalf choked
"Thorin?" Gandalf choked out again.
Bilbo gave a small miserable nod as she stared down at her hands.
She jumped when Gandalf let out a long string of curses in Sindarin. She didn't know a great deal of Sindarin curses, they had never come up in her lessons with her mother, but what parts she did understand of what Gandalf was growling made her ears burn.
"Gand-Gandalf!" She squeaked.
She had never heard Gandalf speak so furiously and she had seen the wizard angry on multiple occasions, but they were nothing, nothing compared to the fury that was before her. His eyes were dark and almost murderous, his whole body shaking with his rage.
"Gandalf?" She yelped again as he suddenly stood up and stormed out of Beorn's hall leaving her feeling utterly alone in the world.
She knew that Gandalf was angry with Thorin, for the choices he had made, for falling prey to the greed of the Mountain's gold, for his treatment of her… her hand moved without thought to the back of neck, where she can feel the scars caused from his fingers nails and rings cutting into her neck as he threaten to cast her over the battlements and down upon the rocks below, killing her… and their child.
Her heart stuttered and a new wave of tears washed down her face. Gandalf was wrong! She would not find the strength to survive; she was utterly alone in the world, for even Gandalf seemed to have now abandoned her. Would he transfer his anger towards Thorin on to her?
She rubbed her chest as she wept silently.
How had this become her life? How did her life become such a mess? Why did she ever think running out her front door, in hopes of an adventure, was a good idea? Because she was a fool! Yes, indeed she was, a fool of a Took!
It took her a number of hours to build up the courage to go and find Gandalf. She needed to make sure he would still take her home, for she feared she would not survive the wilds without him, even if the return journey would be a miserable one, what with him being so furious with her and would probably not speak with her for the rest of the journey.
She found him out in Beorn's garden, chewing heavily upon his pipe, still looking quite grim with the world.
"Gandalf?" She called softly, giving a shaky little wave to catch the wizard's attention. Which he gave to her almost immediately, something Bilbo cautiously took as a good start. However, her original questions died upon her lips as he looked at her and instead she blurted out, "Are you angry with me?"
Gandalf face turned from one of grim contemplation to an expression of surprise and concern.
"Angry? At you? My dear Bilbo, heaven's no."
"I am angry and upset with the situation, your situation, but no," he shook his grey head, "never angry with you, my dear girl."
"Oh… good. I feared… I feared that you might be, considering… everything."
"Do you love him?" Gandalf asked her simply, even though his question was far from simple and it caused her to choke as her heart seized.
"How… how is that important? Relevant?"
"It is a simple enough question to answer," Gandalf said gently.
She licked her lips and looked away, tear prickly behind her eyes.
"Yes," she whispered, staring up at the sky, fighting back the tears, "and I thought… I thought he lov… I thought he cared about me too." She swallowed and took a deep breath, "obviously I was wrong."
"Then I am not angry with you." Gandalf replied sympathetically, "How can I be angry with you for loving someone?"
"Because I was an absolute fool about it?" Bilbo muttered, crossing her arms across her belly.
"Love makes fools of us all," Gandalf said with a small bitter laugh. "I must admit my dear that not in all my years was I expecting this. Nor heard of anything such as this ever happening. A hobbit falling pregnant with a dwarf's child? Never before, I'm sure, has such a thing occurred. And if it has, it has been kept very quiet."
"Not surprisingly." Bilbo muttered before sighing, laying a hand upon her belly. "Gandalf… What should I do? I don't know what to do?"
Gandalf lay a gentle hand upon her trembling shoulder, "For now? I believe the best course of action for you is to simply take each day as it comes. And love your child. Other than those two things, the rest can simply wait."
"Will you help me back to the Shire, back-back home?"
"Of course, dearest one, if that is where you wish to go. Yes, I do believe returning you to Bag End will indeed be the wisest ending for this particular road."
She simply nodded, too relieved to say anything more, too tired to think truly. She took Gandalf advice to get some rest, even though she dreaded the thought of sleep.
She cuddled herself in amongst the cushion she had rested upon earlier by the now lit fire-pit, staring into the warm glow of the fire as it burned merrily in the pit. It was strange, staring into the fire, with one hand resting upon a belly that she now knew contained a life that was connected to her own but was not her own at all, waiting for the darkness to come and the nightmares with it, how such a bright and burning thing could bring so much… hope.
She ran her hand over her belly. What was growing within it was… hope. Yes, there was also pain, and grief, and a good many of other emotion she wished not to dwell upon but ultimately, the little life growing within her was hope.
Thorin's last gift to her (though it may very well have been his first gift to her) was hope. A new start, a fresh beginning, a being to unconditionally love and… and a family, a child.
She may have lost him forever, though he still lived (thank the Valar), lost his love, his respect, his friendship, his… well his everything. But she hadn't, not everything of him was lost to her. For something of him was now growing inside of her and for that, she was would be grateful for him forever.
He once promised her riches beyond measure but what he had given her in the end was worth more than any gold, trinket or bloody jewel, he had given her a child of her very own, to love and cherish, to remind her of him, of the happier times they once shared. The most precious of treasures, a hope in the darkness.