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Bilbo sighed softly, getting a bit more comfortable on the bench he had claimed a short while ago. Finding quiet and privacy while residing in the Great Smials of Tuckborough was a difficult challenge, but the hobbit had been determined since the noise had been getting a bit too much for him. He’d slipped out of the smial after second breakfast with his pipe, needing to get away from the din that was normal for his family’s home.

Blue-green eyes looked up at the sky, idly tracking the wisps of clouds as they floated across the deep blue color that heralded a gorgeous morning. The bit of his pipe tapped slightly against his teeth as his mind raced over the various events that had changed his life so much in the course of under two years.

While the quest to reclaim Erebor had definitely been a period of time in his life that he could consider changing, the biggest alteration came when he’d realized that Thorin was his cariad. That had been a serious shift because Bilbo had spent decades thinking he would never find his soulmate and to find it in one stubborn dwarf had been a shock. That shock had turned to joy when he found that Thorin had felt the pull to him as well, acknowledging him as his One.

The hobbit had stayed in Erebor after the Battle of Five Armies, something he still had nightmares about because he’d nearly lost quite a few of the dwarrow he’d learned to call family over the journey. Thorin had courted him in earnest, creating a home for both of them that blended hobbit and dwarrow tastes into a warm set of rooms where Bilbo could cook and do other things that delighted him during his free time. The wedding gift from his new husband had been an open expanse on a large ledge where a series of green houses had been built for the hobbit to garden to his heart’s content. He had no idea how long it had taken the craftsmen to create them; they were nestled against the mountain, protected by walls and enchantments so no one could reach the ledge.

To say that Bilbo had been incredibly touched by the gift would be an understatement and the seclusion time given to newly wedded couples had been even more passionate due to his joy at the proof of his dwarf’s understanding of his need to connect to Yavanna through gardening. What made the gift even better was that Thorin had ensured the green houses were like small gardens and had areas for both of them to sit and enjoy the evenings in the safety of the warm structures. They were often found there once their duties for the day were done, enjoying each others company.

Becoming the consort had taken a bit of an adjustment for Bilbo, and he had thrown himself into both his studies as well as his duties with everything he had as he wanted to do his best by his husband. With the bulk of the Longbeards still in the Blue Mountains, he’d had time to learn what he needed to and almost a year had passed before word had reached Erebor that the convoys were ready to leave. That was when the Valar had thrown another serious change into his life.

When the message from the Blue Mountains had arrived, another bird had arrived alongside it. The message it bore had been for Bilbo from his cousin in Tuckborough. Messages between Erebor and the Shire had flown freely since the hobbit had settled into his new home. He’d sent the Thain instructions about Bag End and what needed to be packed up for when the convoys left the Blue Mountains.

This new missive from his cousin, Fortinbras, had born ill news, and Bilbo had sought his husband out once he’d read through the rather lengthy letter.

Seeing his consort’s distress, Thorin had quickly dismissed his advisors and nephews and read through the correspondence from the Thain. His heart had ached for his husband when he read that his favorite cousin, Drogo Baggins, was having serious health issues and was concerned for the fate of the unborn child his cariad was pregnant with. If Drogo lost his battle with his health, Primula would swiftly follow her cariad into Yavanna’s Gardens once she gave birth.

Knowing of the closeness between Bilbo, Drogo, and Primula, Fortinbras had entreated his cousin to return home if possible. The Thain had written that the soon to be parents had legally entrusted their unborn child to Bilbo as his plentyn ysbryd; custody would fall to him once Primula followed her cariad into death.

Bilbo hadn’t even had to ask; Thorin immediately made plans for the pair of them to return to the Shire as swiftly as possible. He’d set Balin and Fili in charge, sending letters to the Blue Mountains to warn Dis that the royal couple and one baby would be joining the caravans when they stopped in the Shire to pick up Bilbo’s belongings. After that, he’d chosen Kili and Gloin to come with the pair for support since he knew his One would be emotionally devastated by the loss of his two favorite cousins. Another letter went out to find Radaghast, explaining the situation, and the wizard had come through for them. Several days later, the great eagles had arrived to take the three dwarrow and one hobbit back to the green lands that had birthed the consort.

Their return to the Shire had been celebrated by the Tooks; Bilbo had agreed to stay in the Great Smials with them since Bag End was now home to another Took family who had need of it. He’d signed it over shortly before marrying Thorin, sending the documents to Fortinbras so he could make the decision who would live in the home that had been gifted to Belladonna.

Right after their arrival, Bilbo had headed to find Drogo and his wife; the meeting had taken every ounce of his will to hold back his distress at the sight of his favorite Baggins cousin. Drogo was too thin for a hobbit and pale; the coughing racked his body despite trying to hold it back. The consort knew he’d arrived barely in time because even he, who was not a healer, could tell that the younger male was leaving this life to join their ancestors in Yavanna’s Garden.

Less than two weeks after his return to the Shire and introducing Thorin, Kili, and Gloin to his family, Drogo lost his battle with his health and left behind a grieving family and a fading caraid. Bilbo had been shattered but kept his emotions in check so he could take care of the heavly pregnant Primula.

Fortinbras had immediately moved her into the Great Smials so that she could be near Bilbo as well as her Took cousins. Lalia, the Thain’s wife, had immediately taken the grieving widow under wing and tended to her as the end of her pregnancy came closer. The other Took women had flocked to her side, offering support and doing whatever they had to do to ensure Primula kept the unborn child healthy.Primula’s mother had moved in as well, leaving the Brandbuck Halls so she could spend time with her daughter before she gave birth and then left this life.

Bilbo and Thorin were grateful for their assistance and while the king had experience with young ones, his consort had only watched over fauntlings after they were old enough to be separated from their mother. So the time waiting had been spent learning how to take care of a newborn, and he learned how to change nappies, how to mix up a special drink that an orphaned baby needed as mother’s milk was not available, as well as how to tend to various ills and moments that came with raising a fauntling.

The couple had spent as much time with Primula as they could, listening to any wishes she or Drogo might have had regarding the raising of their child. She had told them that she wanted their child to be raised as an honorable hobbit, fearless and brave while respectful and polite. In truth, she’d made her cousin cry when she had told him that she wanted the baby to be like him and her aunt Belladonna.

Primula had admitted that they had not been able to think of a name for the child and had told Thorin and Bilbo that the honor of naming the little one was theirs. She instructed them to raise their plentyn ysbryd as their own blood, just asking that the baby grow up knowing he or she was gifted two sets of parents by the Valar.

Thorin had been humbled by the request, knowing she had granted him the same rights of a tad ysbryd as Bilbo had been granted. He promised her that he and Bilbo would adopt the baby and ensure the little one had a happy childhood.

Primula had managed a tiny laugh, knowing this meant the child would grow up as a prince or princess, and she took a measure of joy in that. It meant this little one would have a loving family, and she had a feeling that this was certainly meant to be. A part of her heart wondered if it meant the baby she was carrying would find his or her cariad in Erebor. It would not be a problem since hobbits took on the life span of their cariads once bonded.

When she had mentioned that to the couple, both had been very touched by her words and promised they would do all they could to ensure the child’s happiness. The matron gave a tired nod, relaxed a bit more now that she knew that Bilbo’s cariad would ensure that her cousin and the baby would be happy.

Primula had more reason to believe it with the arrival of several scrolls that Balin had sent to the Shire via raven. The scrolls had adoption paperwork, and she signed it willingly. The rest would be filled out once the baby was born and gender known so the name could be chosen by the new parents.

It had been a lot for Bilbo to take on, but he’d done his best to learn and offer support. The changes were difficult, but he was facing them with help from his husband as well as Kili and Gloin. He was grateful to them as well as his hobbit family; all of them knew that he was struggling with the loss of Drogo and the future loss of Primula.

The worst and best change came not a month ago, late at night when Primula went into labor. The males waited in the parlor, drinking what had to be an unhealthy amount of tea as they waited for news. Bilbo paced while Thorin, Kili, and Gloin were praying to Mahal for a healthy bairn.

Morning dawned and soon, his aunt Mirabella entered the parlor with a bundle in her arms. All eyes turned to her, spying the tears on her cheeks and the shaking of her head that silently told them that Primula had rejoined her cariad. The matron said nothing, simply setting the bundle into Bilbo’s arms before gently kissing her nephew’s forehead.

“Congratulations, Bilbo,” she said softly. “You have a daughter.”

Thorin rose, going to his consort’s side and looking down at the tiny newborn. She opened her eyes to reveal that she had the blue-green Took eyes that she shared with her tad ysbryd, and he felt himself fall head over heels in love with his adopted daughter. His deep voice shook slightly as he greeted her.

“Welcome to the world, Ásta Primrose Baggins, princess of Erebor,” he said softly.

The name, which had been the one chosen for a daughter, had brought a teary smile to Mirabella. She knew her daughter’s memory would live on through her daughter and that these two would see to it.

That smile had been the last one he’d seen on his aunt’s face before her departure to Brandybuck Hall. She’d insisted on it, needing to be near her other children and husband, and he’d promised to visit so she could say goodbye to them before they left with the caravans to Erebor.

Before Bilbo could think about any other changes to his life, a beloved deep voice pulled him from his thoughts and his eyes turned to spy his husband sitting beside him on the bench.

“A sapphire for your thoughts, umralamê?”

“Just pondering over how much my life has changed in under two years,” he answered, leaning a bit against his dwarf. “Before a group of dwarrow invaded my smial, I was certain I’d never find my cariad or have a family again. Now I have a husband, family, and a daughter to love and raise.”

“The Valar have been generous,” Thorin agreed. “I hate that we have had to face so many losses, but it means we treasure the gifts that much more because of it.”

“Very true, annwyl,” Bilbo agreed, looking up at his cariad’s face.

Thorin was sweating, slightly red in the face, and the hobbit shook his head. As a concession towards both the weather and where they were, the dwarrow had foresaken wearing their heavy armor and weapons. It helped a bit, but they were all used to cooler temperatures than what they were experiencing here in the Shire.

“You look miserable,” he said, shaking his head. “Change into something light and rescue our daughter from Gloin. I’ll pack a light luncheon.”

“What are you planning, kurdel?”

“I know of a place where we can rest in the shade and do a bit of swimming to cool off from the heat,” Bilbo said, getting up. “Do not tell Kili or Gloin about this. I’d rather this be a small outing for now.”

Thorin was quick to agree and headed into the smial to follow his husband’s orders. Bilbo walked behind him, heading to the kitchens first to pack a meal for the pair to share as well as making up some of the special drink for Ásta. He filled the bottles carefully before applying the teats to the nursing bottles, packing them into the basket once done.

After he was finished, Bilbo went to change, snagging towels and a blanket, and then smiled as he met his husband and daughter at the smial’s front door. Like the hobbit was, Thorin was clad in a tunic and trousers of light linen. Ásta was sleeping in the wrap that he wore, snuggled against his chest.

The hobbit set the basket onto the floor, carefully checking the ring that held the material in a tight grip as he didn’t want the metal ring allowing the fabric to slip. He nodded in satisfaction, knowing their little princess wouldn’t be able to slip from the carrier that Lalia had gifted them shortly after Ásta had been born. The fabric was a lovely shade of blue, embroidered with primroses in silver and white.

“I think she’s comfortable,” Bilbo said with a laugh.

“Ingenous device,” Thorin said, following his husband as they left the smial. “I have a feeling Dori will be copying the design for mothers once he sees it.”

“They come in handy,” the consort agreed, leading his husband down a path to another area of the gardens that weren’t frequented as much. “I know my mother always lamented when I grew too old to be carried in mine. She often said it was the best way to keep me close; Papa just laughed and said I had my mother’s curiosity.”

“I have a feeling we will be regretting it too once she’s old enough,” he agreed, walking beside Bilbo as the hobbit led them through a small wooded area.

“Somehow, I don’t think that will be a problem,” the other chuckled. “I have a feeling we are going to have to fight for cuddle time once she meets the rest of her family. As it is, Kili and Gloin keep running off with her.”

“Very true,” Thorin laughed, knowing his husband was very right. “She’ll be lucky she learns to walk at the right age because everyone will want to carry her.”

They conversed about possible issues regarding their daughter and the company, knowing Ásta was most likely going to be spoiled rotten. It would take patience to ensure she never acted as such, but they knew they would have a strong support system.

The pair soon ended up in a small shaded glen where a creek had ended into a small pool. The grass was soft here, and the temperature had gone down to a more comfortable level due to the shade.

Thorin breathed a sigh of relief, helping Bilbo put a blanket down before undoing the ring for the sling. He handed Ásta to his husband, who stripped her of everything but her nappy, and frowned.

“Are you taking her into the water too?”

“Babies love to swim; Took and Brandybuck mothers will always introduce their babies to water early in life,” Bilbo said with a bright smile. “Grandmother Adamanta and Mama took me swimming often in the summer. It helps stimulate their senses, and it’s a good way to bond. The pool here is cool enough to comfortable but also warm enough so Ásta will be happy. Do dwarrow not swim with their babies?”

“Not until they are much older,” Thorin said, slipping out of his boots and tying his hair up. “Most mothers will wait until they’re walking well enough before attempting this.”

As the king watched, Bilbo carried their little princess out into the pool. Thorin smiled, wishing he could draw well enough to preserve the memory to paper as he watched little Ásta open her eyes to look at the water. He could hear Bilbo chuckle as he supported her weight in the water and the tiny splashes as her hands moved around.

The hobbit looked back at his husband, smile widening as he called out.

“Are you joining us, annwyl?”

Thorin stripped out of his tunic before heading towards Bilbo, and the smaller male mused to himself as he watched the linen start to cling to the strong dwarven figure the deeper the king got into the small pool.

No, change wasn’t always a bad thing and despite the losses, the hobbit was swift to send his gratitude to Yavanna and Mahal for the blessings in his life.