Painted And Pained
Bluebell Took did not grieve like the other hobbits.
In the trail of desolation left behind by the Fell Winter, when the snow finally softened, and the ice dripped away to lush green grass, the hobbits of Hobbiton, old and small and all alike, those who survived, pulled together.
They held solemn services out in the fields, catered of course, with fine bunting and paintings lined of those lost. They chattered, they danced, and they reminisced about the good of their lives. They wept openly, leant upon another's shoulders freely, and it was beautiful in a tragic way.
Or so Bluebell was later told.
She did not know personally.
She did not go.
Instead, on the day of the service, when Bluebell should have been clad in her finest dress, hair combed and pinned with fresh flowers, lilacs; her mother's favourite, she found herself locked in the bathroom of Bag End. When she came tumbling out an hour later, her hair was shorn short, barely a lock left to curl between her slightly large rounded ears.
Lobelia shrieked at the sight when she spotted the young girl the next morning picking up her post. Although, to be entirely fair, Lobelia ordinarily squealed at the sight of Bluebell.
In the end, Bluebell did not know why she did it. She had not planned to either. She had simply gone for a bath and then, well, she was in front of the mirror and the scissors were in her hands, tears in her eyes, and her vision blurred, and curls fell in flutters of gold and-
And it felt… Right. The thorny grief inside, the sudden defeat she felt, the silence, more than anything, felt deafening in a smial too big for one tall Took. It did not seem honest, not entirely, to feel such wreckage and ruin, such loss, and not have it show on the outside.
So her hair, the very hair her mother had so loved to comb and braid and pin, the very same curls Bungo would pat and ruffle and jostle with a smile, went sailing down the drain.
If only they could take her grief with them, but life, sweet and sour, was never so simple.
Bluebell did not leave Bag End for months. The farthest she travelled was to the letter box and back again. Even when spring soared in force, with honeybees and daisies and little lambs bleating, when the rest of Hobbiton began to slip back into something ordinary, but never quite the same, Bluebell did not leave.
She dreamt of wolves howling in the night, and she awoke to a terrible cold, her skin gooseprimpled, and she thought she was drowning in the Brandywine River and-
Bluebell Took did not leave, instead she festered like a great open wound.
She spent days sitting in Bungo's chair, his favourite one with plush pillows, right by the fire, perfect for reading he used to say and would never say again, and she bowed her head into the cushion, and she snuffled like a truffle pig, trying desperately to smell the smoke of his pipe still lingering.
She cried something fierce the day she could no longer taste the heady scent.
She spent hours in the kitchen, counting out Belladonna's westfarthing pottery, and ironing her mother's doilies, and polishing her glory box, and none of it felt like her mother, none of it smiled so kindly at her, none of it hugged her so tight, none of it…
None of it filled the sudden colossal hole she had in her life, in her chest, in her.
With nothing else left to have, Bluebell took to wearing her ghosts, holding them as close to her as death would allow. She wore her mother's travelling breaches, though the hem, too short for her stature, stopped almost indecently at her calf. She buttoned up Bungo's waistcoat, buffed his gold buttons until they gleamed, and, when the ache felt utterly too heavy in her chest, she fingered the velvet as if she could feel him there, between the stitches, holding her together.
It made her feel better, to be painted in her parents things, to have some part of them, if she could not have them themselves, by her, with her, around her.
She carried them with her, with each step and each leap and each tumble, they followed.
Bluebell didn't think she would have it any other way.
Her aunt, Donnamira, came visiting one evening, and begged to take Bluebell back to Tookland to be with her grandfather and cousins, less as all families were after the Fell Winter.
"It's not right lass, to be here, in this big smial, all by yourself. Don't you get lonely? No. Not right at all. Nothing but a child drifting alone in this place… If Belladonna was here she would-"
But Belladonna was not there, and Bluebell said as much, not cruelly, but detached. Her mother was buried somewhere in the flower fields by the Brandywine River, alongside the little pieces of Bungo they found, and that was where she would always be, forever and a day more.
Neither was Bluebell a child, not a tiny defenseless one without a tooth to snap with. Bluebell was twenty and five, and only seven years from her age of majority by hobbit standards.
"But you're not a hobbit, are you? Not really lass. You have dwarrow blood in that body of yours, and Yavanna only knows what ages they reach, or what year is proper, or when or how-"
Bluebell blinked, and blinked, and blinked some more.
"Dwarrow? What do you mean I have dwarrow blood?"
Her aunt flushed furiously, mottled red and purple, suddenly strangled, suddenly spluttering, and Bluebell would have found it entirely funny if she had not been too entirely confused to be anything else.
"Well, I-… Your mother never told you? Why did you think you were so different? Why you have to wear those strange shoes everywhere? How-… I… Why, I never!"
Bluebell knew Bungo was not her father, even if he was the only thing she had ever known to be anything like a father, or what she imagined a father to be. He had not married her mother, and her mother had not loved him as a wife loved a husband, but they had grown fond of each other. Fond in the way life-long friends were fond, soft and gentle and prolonged.
And Bungo had loved Bluebell.
Loved her enough to leave her Bag End, despite the vulgar and raucous fuss the Sackville-Baggins had unleashed at the reading of his will.
Wasn't that what was important? Love not blood?
Bluebell thought so.
Dwarrow blood or not.
"It does not matter what blood swims through me. Bag End is my home. I am not leaving."
Donnamira, with all her good intent, left quickly after that. She did come back, however, with Bluebells grandfather, and her cousins, and her other aunt and uncle, and each and every time, Bluebell told them the same.
"Bag End is my home. I am not leaving."
She did, in fact, leave, not five moons later.
Curiosity nipped at Bluebell like a hungry dog, and she told herself that was all it was. Curiosity in need of an answer, nothing more.
What was a dwarrow?
Her mother, Belladonna, had many escapades she used to beguile Bluebell with readily, as she tucked the boisterous child into bed at night. Tales of elves in treetops, and great grand cities called Rivendell. Fables of men, so different in shape, small or tall or round or long, slogging through the streets of Bree. Stories of distant hobbit cousins, who sailed across rivers on rafts made from reeds, unafraid of drowning.
Yet, not once, not ever, had her mother mentioned dwarrow.
What was a dwarrow?
It became a thought that plagued Bluebell. She thought it in the morning, spreading jam on toast. She thought in the bath, scrubbing her soft-soled feet. She thought it in the garden, and she thought it over the stove stirring stew, and she thought it in bed where sleep evaded her.
What was a dwarrow?
She looked to her mother books first, all those tomes Belladonna collected in her travels, and Bluebell found only a small thing, a little book battered and bent and lovingly read. Her mother had scribbled notes in the margin, and it was all Bluebell had, for the rest of the book was written in symbols wholly unfamiliar.
She did, however, learn a word.
Nothing else, particularly not this allusive dwarrow, so she pocketed the book and carried on her search. Bungo's study offered little more than the small book. A map of Arda, a gift from Belladonna, and a great big book on history. It was in those aged pages, a slight-not-much paragraph, that Bluebell found her word.
Dwarrow, also known as Khazad in their native tongue, Naugrim meaning 'Stunted People', and Gonnhirrim 'Masters of Stone', are beings of short stature; though perhaps not as small as a hobbit, who are typically blacksmiths and stoneworkers by profession, often unrivalled in their arts. While there are several Houses of Dwarves, the most prominent of those are the Longbeards. A secretive race, not much is known or can be accurately documented, and their abodes, typically hewn from mountain ranges across Arda, lends itself to this isolation and secrecy.
Unexpectedly, Bluebell did not have only one word, she had several, dwarrows and Khazads and Khuzduls and Naugrims, and with those words came a hundred more questions, and thirst unbridled.
Bluebell took a long while staring at the map that evening. She traced the mountains etched in ink, blackened points on white, so many, too many, and she imagined.
She imagined quite a few things.
She imagined a people, buried so far deep in the mountain that they never knew sunlight.
She imagined snow caps, and drift winds, and great towering halls of granite.
She imagined people like her, with rounded ears, tall folk but not too tall, with small dainty feet and broad fingers and square shoulders, who could lift a cart with one arm as she could, or swing a hammer too, or shoulder their way through a smial wall as she had when she was but eleven.
Most of all, she imagined a man that covered her mother's blanks, those little bits Bluebell had that was not her mother, who had Bluebell's too keen smile, and perhaps her love of toys, and copper spice in his hair, and gold in his eye, and-
She turned Bag End upside down that night, scavenging for more, always more, and that was when she found it.
The little drawer in the pantry.
The pouch was old and bare in places, where it had been continuously rubbed. Inside was a handful of beads, beautiful beads, some gold and silver, some emerald and square, others so very alien that she could not tell you what they were made from, but no less beautiful. Most were inscribed with those strange symbols-
Khuzdul, Bluebell reminded herself.
They were engraved with Khuzdul, and beneath that little pouch sat a stack of letters.
Letters never sent.
Some were yellowed with age, written many years ago, some were still pristinely white, written before her mother drowned-
Bluebell did not open them.
They were not addressed to her, only to this… Bombur and Bofur, and her mother had always said it was rude to open letters not addressed to yourself. Bluebell did not want to be rude, not in the way that horrible silver-spoon stealing Lobelia was, and so, she left them sealed, but she saw the names, and crucially, she noticed the address.
Ered Luin, Thorin's Hall, The Ur Brothers Toy, Figurine, and Puppet Emporium.
Well… It was similarly courteous to see unopened and undelivered letters to where they belonged as it was rude to open letters not addressed to you, was it not? And Belladonna had raised a polite daughter, most of the time, hadn't she?
And the beautiful beads… Did they belong to this Bombur and Bofur? And if so, would they not wish to see such lovely things returned?
And perhaps, in this half-mad, half-hopeless journey, Bluebell learned more dwarrow words, and took more questions, and fed those too, could that not be reasonable?
Bluebell spent an agonizing night over the old map, tracing the path from the Shire all the way over to the swath of peaks labelled Ered Luin. It was a short journey, brief compared to the rest of the map, and it would not take so much time, with her freakishly long Took legs, and… And.
Bag End was her home.
A home that would still be there, when she got back, as dark, and silent as it was these days.
The silence, oh the silence, how it was deafening and… And lonely.
Bluebell was lonely.
More so then she had ever been, but even then, with her mother, and Bungo, and all her Took cousins, she had still coasted in that emotion most of her life, mute and withdrawn and...
There were others like her, perhaps not so very much like her, as the hobbits of Hobbiton, but they were like her in some regard, they had to be, and wouldn't that be wonderful? To see something familiar and new?
Bag End was her home.
But Belladonna Took was her mother.
Bluebell Took left on a Sunday morning. She packed a bag, donned Bungo's waistcoat and her mother's travelling breaches under a cloak, pouch of beads in her pocket and letters by her breast, locked the door of Bag End, told Ham Gamgee she was off to deliver some letters and should be back in a moons tide, and she…
She just left.
It was all rather anticlimactic in the beginning. One step in front of the other, one boot thud and then one more, and she was walking out of Bag End, and then the street she lived on, and then even further, out the Shire itself and into the woods beyond.
She just kept walking.
An inch at a time, a step a day, bit by bit.
It was around Bree that it all went so horribly wrong.
A.N/ I had a reviewer who was worried about the age gap between the main pairing. Just to clarify, Bluebell is young in this, but, that said, she does not meet, let alone have any romantic entanglements, with Thorin until much later, at a very appropriate age. I just wanted to be very clear on that. The two will have a bit of an age gap, but nothing, at all, happens until both parties are well and truly above board.
This fic is going to be quite long, and, especially in the beginning, it focuses not on romance, but on identity, self-discovery, family, both found and blood, and what it means to grow up as something different and something seen as strange. I want Bluebell well situated and explored, what differences in this fic has changed her from Bilbo to Bluebell, and what has stayed the same as the core of the character, before we even touch on the Hobbit, or introduce Thorin. This way, the AU makes sense, and the changes I have taken from canon later will be more clear and have solid build up.
I hope that all makes sense, as I am horrible at explaining things lol.
Well, here is chapter two! I hope you all liked it, it was so much fun to write, and I have some good stuff coming up that I hope you all look forward to! As always, if you wish to see more, or have a spare moment or two, don't forget to drop a review! They feed the nattering muses. Thank you for the follows and favourites, and I will hopefully see you all soon. Until then, stay beautiful ~AlwaysEatTheRude21