Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Hobbit belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and J.R.R. Tolkien.
Notes: This is primarily movieverse.
Thorin stayed for long hours after Buttercup closed her eyes again, sitting by the bed and holding her hand. He watched her closely, untiringly, as if she would cease to breathe unless he stood guard and made certain that she did. Though he must have been weary, bruised and exhausted from battle and three days without sleep, he neither complained or even spoken of it, and the haggard look of his face and eyes had fled the moment her eyes had opened, however briefly.
Bilbo tried to match him, yet he was no Dwarf, and after three days of keeping watch over her it was only a matter of laying his head down just for a moment on the bed, her hand in his, for Bilbo to doze off. There followed a deep, soft sleep where if he dreamed he did not later remember it, what seemed like only a few minutes, and then he woke with a start.
The light behind the shuttered window was the full brightness of midday. Nothing else had changed. Buttercup still slept, though her breaths came easier and were less faint. Bilbo could hear voices outside, through the window and the door, but the room itself was quiet. Hunger gnawed at his belly.
Thorin Oakenshield was looking at him, Buttercup's left hand still firmly in his.
When he spoke, Thorin's voice was the heavy scrape of stone against stone. “Bilbo Baggins, you and I must speak.”
Suddenly, Bilbo was reminded of what he'd shouted at Thorin three days earlier, when the king had first tried to come to Buttercup's side. Shame filled him from head to toe. “Oh, Thorin, I'm so very—”
Thorin held out a hand. “No, my friend. I want no apologies. I earned those words by mine own deeds. Though you showed me nothing but friendship and she...though I owe the both of you my very life many times over, when I beheld the treasure halls of my fathers, I...”
He was struggling to speak, his face pained. Bilbo saw how difficult it was for Thorin to not only think on his late doings but to speak of them, for he felt the shame more sharply than any injury of the body. Bilbo could not help thinking quite fondly that this was so like Thorin, to be utterly convinced of his being right until the last possible moment and even somewhat past that and then to turn completely around and blame himself more harshly than anyone.
“But don't you forget, Thorin,” said Bilbo, “that it was you who opened the Gates just when we needed you to, and it was you who rallied us at the most important time.”
Thorin shook his head but did not deny it. He looked at Buttercup, at her sleeping face. “That blow should have struck me. Not her.”
Bilbo's heart shrank to remember, but he had been there, the memory of the expression on her face was still bright in his mind. “She did not think so.”
Then Thorin looked at Bilbo, and his face was just the same face he used to have when he spoke of Smaug and the Lonely Mountain, the same implacable countenance. “I tell you now that it is my intent to remove her from you, Bilbo Baggins.”
Bilbo opened his mouth, and then he closed it.
“I have done you much wrong,” said Thorin. “I have insulted you and treated you ill, despite all bonds of friendship and battle, and I know that you are opposed to parting with her for any man's sake, much less mine. I know all these things, yet I'll have none but her. I'll have Buttercup for my queen, or there will be no queen in Erebor so long as Thorin is king.”
There was a queer and inexplicable feeling rising in Bilbo's heart. He'd known that this moment would come, had been waiting for it and dreading it for much longer than he'd realized, and in some sense he knew that the most important part of it had already happened, had already come to pass earlier that morning. Yet now Thorin was looking at him, was speaking of his intention to take Buttercup for his own to Bilbo's face, and though Bilbo had known it was coming, had been expecting it, he found himself entirely unprepared for it. With that unpreparedness came something else that surprised him, and this was an abrupt and overwhelming reluctance
Only, that ought to be natural, oughtn't it? After all, Thorin was not a young Dwarf, quite old, in fact, or at least too old for a maiden like Buttercup. And the Lonely Mountain was indeed a huge distance from the Shire, so that visiting would be nearly impossible and the two Bagginses would be separated for years and years, even perhaps forever. And Thorin had
been quite rough with them, particularly with Buttercup, who'd taken so much more hurt from it than Bilbo had. And Bilbo did not
, in fact, want to part with Buttercup for anyone's sake.
And yet Bilbo knew Buttercup's heart, and wanted more than nearly anything for her to be happy, and these conflicting feelings confused him so much that Bilbo was left not knowing how to reply.
“Oh,” Bilbo heard himself say, “er...oh.”
Thorin's eyes were the reflections of light down the length of a blade, but then he turned away and looked down at Buttercup again, at her small, fragile hand in his. The two hands were as different as a flower and a branch of some thick and gnarled wood, except that the nails of both were grimy with dirt and blood.
“I must go,” said Thorin quietly, and Bilbo was not quite certain whom he spoke to. “There are things that need doing, and I must speak to my kinsman Dain.” He looked at Bilbo. “I will return by morning,”
Bilbo found his voice. “Yes, of course.”
Thorin took his hand from Buttercup's with such unwillingness that it almost seemed to hurt him. Then he stood, and came around the bed to Bilbo, who looked up at the Oakenshield from his stool.
“Think on what I have said,” Thorin told him, “for I am set in my purpose. I will not ask for your pardon, since I do not ask for your permission, but for my part you are my friend and my brother, and for so long as Thorin Oakenshield is the king in Erebor, you are honored there.”
Then Thorin turned and went out of the room, throwing open the door before him and leaving it ajar behind him.
The thump made Bilbo start, and the fresh air that blew in through the door made him look down at himself as if with new eyes. It was four days since the battle, and it occurred to him that Buttercup and he needed baths and changes of clothing as soon as they could get them. Now that the threat of death did not hang over their heads quite so imminently, other pressing concerns were crowding in on Bilbo, the first of which was that he was starving and the second of which was that he could not even begin to think of how he was going to get Buttercup bathed.
Just as Bilbo was beginning to fret, Gandalf appeared in the doorway.
“Bilbo!” Gandalf was smiling. Bilbo had been afraid that the wizard would be angry with him, and to see him smiling was a relief. “It seems that you and Thorin have made amends. Well done.”
“Oh.” Bilbo shifted. “Yes. Yes, well.” Gandalf raised an eyebrow, and Bilbo hurried on. “I mean, do you know where I might find some, some gammers, if they have them here, to help me? Buttercup is still too hurt to do it herself, but I know she would sleep better if she bathed. And some food wouldn't go amiss, I am quite faint with hunger.”
Laketown did not in fact have any gammers, but Gandalf found two women, one young and one old, to come in with a basin and towels and buckets of hot water and soap. There was clothing, too, ill-fitting clothing made for the children of Men rather than for hobbits but better than nothing. Bilbo shifted for himself in the other room with a bucket of suds while the women bathed Buttercup with much sympathetic murmuring, and by the time Bilbo was as clean as he could get in a bucket and dressed in his shirt and trews, his ring tucked into a sleeve for lack of a pocket, it was mid-afternoon and Gandalf had come back with a loaf of black bread and a pot of stew.
“The rumor has begun to go about,” Gandalf informed Bilbo, who was using the bread to spoon down stew, “that there are two halflings in this house, and one with long golden hair. The new King of Erebor has been seen leaving here with his kinsmen, and they say that he had a black look to him.”
“No smoking, please,” said Bilbo around a mouthful. Gandalf frowned. “It makes Buttercup cough. Pipes go out-of-doors.”
Gandalf harrumphed, but put away his pipe. “Meanwhile, I have been tasked with watching the house. As if wizards have nothing better to do!”
There was more, but Bilbo did not hear it for he could barely keep his head upright. He watched through heavy eyelids as the women came out carrying the laundry, to be paid in coin by Gandalf's hand. Gandalf and the women were still speaking when Bilbo got up and went back in to Buttercup.
Still asleep, Bilbo saw, but the women had done their work. Buttercup's hair had been washed and combed, the singed parts even cut away. Her skin was pink with scrubbing, her soiled greens changed for a girl's white shift, and then they'd even laid a new sheet over the straw mattress before laying her down and arranging a blanket about her. The burns on her arms were salved and the bandaging changed on her wound.
She looked so very well that to Bilbo it looked almost as if she had only settled down for one of her naps, and she could have as easily been lying in the window seat at Bag End as on a straw mattress in Laketown. Bilbo tiptoed closer, to pull the blankets up about her shoulders.
As he did, Buttercup sighed, and her eyes opened very slightly. “Bobo?”
Bilbo hadn't heard that babyish muddling of his name for many, many years. “I'm here.”
“'m sleepy.” She tried to frown. “Why'm sosleep.”
“It's the drink the Elf gave you, Buttercup. For the pain.”
Buttercup's eyes closed, and Bilbo was just beginning to think she'd fallen asleep again when she murmured, “Thor'n?”
Bilbo pressed her hand. “He's well, Buttercup. He was here, but he had to go. He will return.”
Buttercup sighed again.
Bilbo held her hand and watched until he was certain she was asleep. Then he tucked the blanket in about her shoulders, like he'd often done when she was a little girl, and then he thought that he hadn't cleaned Sting, or Buttercup's bow and knives, but three long days of sitting up and the stew were catching up to him. Before he quite knew what he was doing, Bilbo was stretching out on the floor beside the bed, his head on his arm, and then he slept.
He slept the same deep, soft sleep as before, a sleep free from worry or fear, and while he slept he dreamed. The dream was of Bag End, and he was sitting on his bench outside his round green door, smoking his pipe and looking down the Hill. The air was sweet and warm, the light clear and sparkling, and he could see the long green expanse of the Shire right down to the Water and even beyond, all the round doors set into hills and the gardens and farming fields and the gabled roofs of grass and flowers.
He dreamed that he was sitting at his door and smoking when he happened to look down the Hill, down the path from his door, and there, close to the foot of the Hill, he saw Buttercup. He saw Buttercup as she'd been when she was still a little girl, almost still a baby in her shortdress, and she was walking down the hill, up to the waist in the tall grass. Then Bilbo put down his pipe and stood up and called to her to come back. Buttercup did not turn, did not even seem to hear, and so he began to walk down the Hill after her.
Yet though he walked, nothing around him changed. Bilbo walked and walked, but he was still at the top of the Hill, just beside his own door, and Buttercup was getting farther and farther away. Then Bilbo began to hurry, calling after her, rushing down the road, but there was his green door only just behind him and here was still the top of the Hill, and now Buttercup was only a white shape in the distance, never having turned, still not looking back. Then Bilbo was running, running as if giant spiders were after him, and still he was at the top of the Hill, still there was Bag End, still Buttercup was getting farther and farther away toward the Mountain, and then Bilbo woke, his face wet with tears. The room was gray with a new morning, and the horns of Laketown and the drums of the Dwarves were calling that Thorin had come.