“The House of Durin is in your debt, Miss Baggins,” Dis said gravely, shaken. “I doubt we shall ever be able to fully repay you for what you have done.”
Wreathed in bandages and blankets, Bilbo blushed and ducked her head in embarrassment. “It is not necessary, princess, truly. I am simply relieved the company survived. And I’m staying until at least the rebuilding of Erebor is completed.”
Behind her beard Dis smiled at the way the arms hugging the lass tightened possessively and a low growl ruffled her honey-colored curls (causing the creature to flush for different reasons). Kindly the dwarf woman did not comment on either and simply nodded in thanks.
“If you find you need a place—”
In an instant the stool Dis had been seated on toppled over and in another moment she was clenching Fili to her chest in a fierce hug (mindful of his arm in a sling), rocking him back and forth as he clung to her just has hard. Finally! Here was her baby! It felt like an eternity since she had last seen him.
“Fili! Fili, my boy!” she exclaimed.
“I missed you, Mama!” Fili cried at the same time.
Then Kili burst into the tent. “Mama! You’re here!” His smile burned brighter than the sun.
Without releasing Fili, Dis extended one arm to her younger son and all three with enveloped in a group hug, laughing and crying.
“My babies, my precious babies!”
“We love you!”
“We have so much to tell you! Trolls, giants—”
“—goblins, spiders, the dragon!”
That caused their mother to lean back just enough to fix the two with an intense look. “Are you alright?”
Kili nodded. “Alive and well!”
Dis frowned pointedly at Fili’s sling. His reassuring, “Could have been worse,” only made her frown darken.
At the tent entrance stood Thorin flanked by Balin and Dwalin.
“Brother!” the dwarven princess said, crossing the tent in three long strides. Abruptly she halted a hand’s length from Thorin, her gaze sweeping over him searchingly before focusing on her oldest cousin.
Balin nodded. “He is fine.”
“I’m not made of glass!” the dwarven king spluttered. “Would take more than an army to bring down a dwarf like me!” he grumbled.
“Oh, good!” Dis’s voice overflowed with relief. “Then I can do this!”
Thorin opened his arms expectedly only for his head to jerk back from the force of his sister’s hard slap. Stunned, he gaped at her.
“You thick-headed idiot!” she shouted, delivering two more sharp slaps. “That is for promising to take care of my babies and failing!”
“Ow! Wait, Dis! OUCH that hurt!”
She went on yelling, “I did not let Fili and Kili go off with you for you to try to get them killed, Thorin! I ought to put you over my knee for pulling such a stunt!”
The king attempted to get away only to be tackled to the ground and unsuccessfully tried to dodge the rain of punches and kicks.
“Fool! Moody imbecile! Majestic peacock! Nearly got my boys killed, repeatedly no less! You are not the center of the universe! Do that again and I will kill you. King of the Mountain, my foot!” Dis spat, her fists flying.
From her place on the cot a bug-eyed Bilbo Baggins watched the unfolding scene. She considered trying to interject. Yet the nonchalant observance of the others – as though they’d seen this happen before – made her hold her tongue.
A deep chuckle in her ear gained her attention. Sighing she relaxed against the warm broad chest acting as her pillow.
“So,” she murmured, “before we were so rudely interrupted…what happened to the miner and the princess?”
“Hmm?” Bofur hummed absently.
“Your story. How does it end?”
“You don’t already know?”
Bilbo tilted her head back to meet the fur-hatted dwarf’s dark eyes. “Should I…?”
His face softened. “The princess rescued the miner and they both lived happily ever after,” he replied, unmistakable tenderness in his voice and warm eyes.
“Oh.” She blinked. “A happy ending.”
“If you like,” he hastily added.
“I think I would like that,” she admitted shyly.
Bofur’s face lite up with tender surprise, and Bilbo contentedly cuddled closer to him. Warmth washed over her as her miner placed a whiskery kiss on her brow.
Happy endings for all, she thought, giggling at the still arguing dwarves.
Sergeant Broadbeam pulled his car up in front of Bilbo Baggins’s apartment building. Putting the vehicle in park, he looked over at the woman in the passenger seat.
Quiet during the entire ride from the police station, Bilbo had nervously tapped her fingers against her jeans. Bofur could practically hear her thinking. Seeing her so subdued and pale, turning up for the eighth time at the station had made a muscle in his jaw twitch. (And Dwalin had cast him a significant look, silently reminding him to focus on the task at hand.)
Now the woman fumbled unbuckling her seatbelt, glancing at him. “Thank you,” she said apologetically. “I could have gotten a cab back.”
“Detective Fundinson’s orders,” he reminded her, his normally cheery smile dim. “Remember, there will now be round-the-clock surveillance on yer apartment.”
She nodded shakily, something like helplessness in her look as she gazed at him with wide green eyes, seeming so small and vulnerable. (Like the first time she turned up at the station, and the sergeant’s first impression had been she was what a real-life hobbit lass would look like with her mass of curls and freckled pinch-able cheeks. An adorable hobbit.) Bofur tightened his grip on the steering wheel.
“Detective Fundinson is working hard to solve this. We are going to catch whoever is behind all this,” Bofur told her. “If he – anyone touches a hair on yer head they will be dealt with.”
Bilbo turned away. “Don’t make promises you may not be able to keep,” she protested, thinking of the latest victim, and shivered.
He nodded jerkily. “I know. But that doesn’t mean I won’t do everything in my power to protect ye.”
He closed his mouth a moment too late, the words already out, blunt and earnest. And the woman looked back at him, surprised, comprehension growing in her face. Heat rose in his cheeks and he coughed awkwardly.
“…Thank you,” the words came out a whisper. Bilbo held his gaze, shy and gentle, her eyes free of shadows. Pausing a long moment, she added, “I trust you, Sergeant Broadbeam.”
A sweet smile touched the corners of her mouth. Then she opened the door, stepped out of the vehicle, and fled up the walk to her building.
“I trust you.”
It was a simple statement. Yet Bofur’s heart skipped a beat, and some of the tension weighing on his shoulders lifted. His smile briefly flashed bright and fierce.
He wouldn’t let Bilbo Baggins down.
Orpheus and Eurydice
Mandos sighed heavily as he strode toward the end of the massive hall. Now he understood the cause of Khubar’s amazed and helpless look while he stammered over his words. The Doomsman could only shake his head, feeling a tad startled himself.
“Lost again, little one?” he asked, coming to a stop and folding his arms over his chest.
The tiny figure facing the large closed double doors spun around with a gasp. The grim Valar observed the gaping creature’s shocked expression change to surprised recognition.
“I little imagined seeing you. Did you come on purpose?”
Bilbo Baggins blinked her green eyes at him. “No! At least, I’m not sure? I was wandering and got lost.”
The eternal being quirked an eyebrow, stated, “Again.”
She nodded. “However I was in the western part of the mountain instead the northern part this time.”
(Mandos felt the beginnings of a headache. He was going to have words with Aule about this.)
“Why such forlorn wandering now, Halfling?” the Doomsman spoke in his booming voice, expression growing stern. “Thrice you have appeared in my halls. And thrice you did not leave empty-handed. The Lonely Mountain is now filled with rejoicing.”
The hobbit bit her lip thoughtfully. “I do not know how I am here, despite what you may think. As for why…” Bilbo stared up at the being with a mixture of vulnerability and dawning wonder. “If I may be so bold as to make yet another request, for the miner Bofur Broadbeam.”
This time both eyebrows of the Valar went up. “Thorin Oakenshield and his nephews I permitted you to take. But a simple miner who died among thousands that day…” He waved a hand and the lass started to slowly grow transparent. “Go back to the world of the living, Halfling. Your time has not come yet. You should not have entered my domain a fourth time.”
“No!” the hobbit said desperately as she continued to fade. “I love him! Please!” her voice grew fainter.
The eternal being was silent.
“I won’t leave without him! I’ll fight to find my way here again, sir! Will never stop trying! I don’t want to go back if Bofur is not there with me! Bofur, Bofur, Bofur!” she chanted.
“Fare thee well, Bilbo Baggins.” Mandos waved his hand a second time to finish the magic.
Oddly, the hobbit did not disappear, remaining a shadowy yet defiant figure. No matter how much the Doomsman commanded his powers they met with resistance. As the minutes ticked by, Bilbo’s voice gradually grew stronger, alternatively threatening and pleading, her shade slowly coming back into focus. Until finally Mandos lowered his arms, and Bilbo Baggins stood panting before him, determined, angry, crying, here.
She rasped, “Please.”
Hobbits really are remarkable creatures, a deep voice echoed in the Valar’s head.
This is how it is to be then? he silently questioned.
A deep long sigh escaped the Doomsman (and Bilbo felt it in the pit of her stomach).
“So be it,” he proclaimed gravely.
The lass peered at him with guarded hope. Then with confusion when Mados lifted his hand and for a second time she began to disappear. “Wait…what—?”
She was gone.
Bilbo Baggins gasped and her eyes flew open. Her attempt to bolt upward was hindered by a pair of arms holding her.
“Steady on! Easy, easy!” a voice soothed.
Freezing, the lass’s vision cleared, and she stared at the face hovering over hers. “Bofur?”
The dirtied, bloodied toymaker smiled, his eyes shining with unshed tears. “My Bilbo,” he breathed, leaning down to rest his forehead against hers. “My brave Bilbo. Ye kept yer promise.”
“I couldn’t…,” her voice broke on a sob.
“I know. I was hoping, waiting for ye.”
For a moment the two gazed at each other with wonderment that morphed into understanding and finally love. Through her tears Bilbo smiled before her lips met Bofur’s in an ardent (long overdue) first kiss.