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Title: The Other Side of the Coin
Series: A Matter of Perspective
Pairings: Kíli/Bilbo; minor background Fíli/OFC & Arwen/Aragorn & others
Word Count: 7240; (70,237 total)
Disclaimer: If I owned the hobbit there would be more angst
Summary: Kíli just wanted to have an adventure, he never expected to find love as well. (The companion piece to A Terrible Mistake)

Part I: Secrets
Part II: Sabotage
Part III: Sorrow
Part IV: Schism
Part V: Strife
Part VI: Solace


Fíli wrote nothing more, no excuses offered for his actions, and I could hardly believe that this day had finally come. Because this was an unconditional surrender, the first true chance to heal the broken halves of my family and meet the children who bore my brother's face.

But even though this was the peace offering that I had been hoping to receive for decades, I could not accept his invitation without qualms. There were too many years between us, too many old scars buried beneath the skin and I needed to think on what to do. So I left Bofur and my hobbit to catch up with each other, grabbing my bow and quiver off the mantelpiece before slipping out the front door.

Shooting always helped to clear my head, the familiar motions allowing me to focus through the cobwebs in my mind. A breath for each arrow, each nock and draw and flight, and by the time I emptied my quiver, I had decided what to do.

While I would respond to Fíli's overture with a message of my own, an action that had never truly been in doubt, my brother would have to earn my faith again. He had to prove that he was serious, heart and mind and soul, because I could not trust Bilbo's safety to any less than that. Not when he was my reason for waking up each morning and the one greatest treasure in my life.

So although my response was hopeful, there was wariness as well, and I had to wonder if my brother would continue to write once he realized how far he had to tread.


I have waited half my life to hear these words from you and receiving them now makes my heart burst with joy. But neither of us is the person we once were so I wish to hear more about your life before making the long journey back to Erebor.


However, Fíli didn't seem to mind my reticence, surprising me once again with his willingness to work for my forgiveness, and soon we were sending scores of letters back and forth on Mingal's inky wings. He told me of his children, his heir and twin daughters, while I wrote of the life I'd created for myself in Hobbiton. Through those long months of correspondence, we finally grew to know one another as the facade of lies and hatred fell away beneath our pens and I found that I liked the person whom my brother had become.

He was more thoughtful than I remembered and yet also somehow freer, his duty no longer the same crushing weight upon his chest. Now his kingship glowed within him like a beacon, the love Fíli held for his family and his people shining clearly through every word he wrote.

So how could I hold onto my suspicion when my brother spoke of his children as though they were miracles? How could I deny that I wanted to meet this new Fíli for myself?

Because I did. I wanted to hug him tight and plan out pranks like we did in bygone days. Yet even with this new realization washing away the last of my bitterness, it was decades before my desire could be fulfilled, decades before fate finally turned our way.

Whether it was bad luck or destiny which stymied us I cannot say, for it was not just one disaster which ruined all our plans. Instead it was a series of little things: a feud between mining clans that kept Fíli locked in negotiations, a crop blight which nearly caused a famine in the east, and wild rumors of dragons attacking the Iron Hills. Indeed we would overcome one obstacle only for another to appear in its place and I began to think that Mahal did not want my brother to leave Erebor.

But I did not want to make the journey in his place. It was selfish of me, but I wanted to show off how well I'd done without him. I wanted to show my nieces and nephew the beauty of the Shire, to show them that there was joy in peace as well as glory and see their faces at a proper banquet feast.

Though this was not the only reason for my reluctance because while time lay lightly on my hobbit, the years had not passed by without a mark. He was getting old, my Bilbo, and I could not help but worry that the journey back to the Lonely Mountain might be too much for his heart. I worried even though my husband was still able to outlast me and so I contented myself with letters for a time.

However, the desire to see my family was only growing stronger and after several years, Bilbo and I decided that the risk would be acceptable. For my hobbit still dreamed of having one last adventure and perhaps it would be safer for everyone if his young cousins were kept far away from the future king of Erebor. The lads were already chaos personified and adding new blood to the mix might bring the smial down around our ears.

But just when we had finally begun to plan our journey, tragedy struck our family and all thoughts of leaving were silenced instantly.

---

For Drogo Baggins and his wife Primula had gone boating on the Brandywine one summer morning, leaving their young son Frodo in our care. The couple often did this when we weren't traveling and they wanted some time alone, the two of us always happy to oblige. After all, their child was adorable and had always been one of Bilbo's favorite relatives due to their shared wonder so it was no hardship for him to spend many rapt hours sitting at my hobbit's knee.

In truth that day seemed no different than any other, my husband spinning tales of adventure in the kitchen while showing Frodo how to peel carrots properly. But just as his story was reaching Bard's climactic fight with Smaug the Terrible, we were interrupted by a knocking at the door.

A soft sound, too quiet for the news it brought, and I would never forget the noise the fauntling made when told that his parents were never coming home. They had disappeared upon the river, their boat washing up almost a league downstream, and Frodo's wail cut through me like a dagger's blade.

Watching him sob in Bilbo's arms, bright curls tangled with dark, I could feel my heart breaking and I could not refuse when my husband turned pleading eyes my way. How could I when the poor child had nowhere else to go, all his other relatives busy with families of their own? I could not have lived with myself if I had been so cruel and even though this choice kept me from my brother, I never regretted making it.

Because despite the terror that filled me at the thought of holding such a young life in our charge, there was also pride and joy in this responsibility.

There was pride in seeing Frodo smile for the first time since he was orphaned and knowing that I had helped to ease his endless grief. There was joy in teaching, comfort in mourning shared, and the two of us adapted to our new circumstances as all new parents must.

Though I have to admit that there were some things I did not adapt to quite so well. For while I could live without the sleeping and the freedom, I sorely missed the ability to claim my hobbit anywhere I pleased. I missed bending him across the kitchen table and licking him open until he was panting beneath my tongue and fingers, begging desperately for anything that would bring him to release.

I missed pressing into Bilbo while he moaned beneath me, hands scrabbling against the wood with every thrust. I missed laying down by the fire and allowing my hobbit to ride me languidly, his skin glowing in the soft light of the flame. But there was something to be said for the thrill of sneaking around as well, stolen kisses when Frodo's back was turned.

So we lived and we loved and we made a new family from the remnants of the old.

I taught the lad archery and Iglishmêk in the evenings while my husband made sure that he could cook and read and write and from both his parents he gained an appreciation for myth and history. This was only heightened by the stories Gandalf spun when he was visiting, the wizard often stopping by for food and fireworks. He would talk about his travels while Frodo hung on every word because the lad was smart and quick and curious and I loved him more than I had ever loved anyone but my hobbit in this world.

“I almost feel guilty about how much I adore him,” I whispered to Bilbo one evening after we had lain the fauntling down to sleep. “I feel guilty that his parents had to die to let our family be complete.”

“I know,” My hobbit responded, laying his head upon my shoulder with a sigh. “And sometimes I feel the same. But their deaths were not of our making and we are honoring their memory as best we can. Drogo and Primula will rest easier knowing that their son is in good hands.”

“I hope you're right,” I whispered, the thought relieving some of my guilt as I leaned down to give him a kiss goodnight. Whatever else we might have said was lost when that kiss deepened into something far more urgent and soon there was only passion on my mind.

But his words stayed with me and I often thought of Frodo's parents during the months that followed, wondering what they would think of the choices that we made.

Until I decided that it didn't matter since the lad was ours by bonding if not blood and my letters to Fíli were as proud as they could be. I probably annoyed him with my gushing but it was fair turnabout for the stories of his son and daughters and the antics of our children gave us much to talk about. For Frodo had a mischievous streak a mile wide and cousins who always led him into trouble while my brother's three were a handful in their own right. Particularly his youngest who seemed to have a knack for finding herself in unlikely situations and some of her adventures had my hobbit and I in tears.

It was good to know that Fíli had such joy in his life to balance out the hardships since the struggles of kingship never seemed to end. Every year there was an iron shortage or some other diplomatic crisis and his court nearly collapsed when our friends left Erebor to seek their dreams in Khazad-dûm.

So of course my brother could not leave the Lonely Mountain, just as we could not take a fauntling with us on the road. But time moved on inescapably and eventually that fauntling grew up. Frodo grew up strong and capable and my hobbit began to speak of adventuring again. One more adventure before his time on Arda ended; one last adventure before we had to say goodbye.

---

By this time Jilí had also grown enough that Fíli felt comfortable leaving his heir in charge of his kingdom, provided that his wife was there to offer counsel, and between the two of us, we hashed out a new plan.

Though it was Bilbo who decided that we should leave the Shire with a spectacle, a party to remember long after we were gone. Not that I could really judge him for the decision when I was right there with him, going over every detail to make their shared birthday shine. Because this was Frodo's majority and my husband's eleventy-first year and I did not know when or if the three of us would all be home again. For as much as our son dreamed of adventure, his heart was tied to Hobbiton and this trip was not for him.

So while Frodo was disappointed, the promise of Bag End helped to soothe his spirits and he threw himself into the planning with a will. Everyone was invited: Brandybucks, Tooks, Bolgers and Boffins and even Lobelia received an invitation to come sneer at everyone. That's what the hobbitess enjoyed after all and a party should be fun for every single person there.

Our guests certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves once the day finally arrived, food and drink flowing freely amidst the dancing and the song. Though Meriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrine Took proved themselves troublemakers once again when they caused a minor panic with one of Gandalf's wilder creations, a sparkling dragon that soared over the gathering with flame-tinged wings. But our guests were quick to forgive the interruption once the beast burst into a tapestry of light and their gasps of awe helped to ease the pounding of my heart.

“Just a fake, love,” Bilbo whispered, offering me a flagon to ease my twitching nerves. “Smaug is still long dead and buried and there are no dragons here.”

I didn't know how he could be so calm when my instincts were screaming for a weapon but perhaps after facing the true monster, no pale ghost could trouble him. So I allowed my husband to draw me back into mingling and watching him in his element soon set my mind to rights.

For my hobbit was a natural entertainer, always happiest with an audience to play to, and this night was no different from the rest. Though I was thankful that I had managed to rein in some of his more outlandish ideas in the planning stages because there was a fine line between memorable and gaudy, one which Bilbo sometimes strayed across.

Turning invisible and sneaking out of your own party without so much as a goodbye, definitely tacky, particularly when he'd be leaving me behind.

Unfortunately, I hadn't been able to talk my way out of the speeches and all too soon we were herded up on stage before an expectant crowd. Despite how long I had been living in the Shire, I still hated public speaking because I knew that every word I said would be ripped apart during the next day's tea. But Bilbo knew how to soften up his family and they were drunk enough to be forgiving of my mistakes.

So I allowed my husband to pull me forward, taking courage from his quiet strength at my back.

“You should all know by now that I'm not very good at this,” I told the gathered hobbits to a peal of drunken laughter. “But tonight I'm going to try to give you the speech that you deserve. Because I want to thank you for everything you've done over these last decades, welcoming me into your hearts and homes. You have no idea how much it means to call you all my family after being cast out of Erebor and I never thought that I would get this chance. I never thought that Bilbo and I would be granted the joy of a child to call our own and while I am sorry for the circumstances, I have never regretted being here to see the person he's become.

And now it's time for my husband and I to return home for a while, leaving Bag End in our son's capable hands. Please treat him with the same love and care that you always have before and remember us while we are gone. Now, eat and drink and help us celebrate Frodo's majority.”

I had to blink away tears when I finished, a wave of love rushing over me for my adopted kin. However, it was our son's beaming smile that threatened to ruin the last of my composure and I buried my face in his dark hair as he returned my hug. Though he was adult enough now to be embarrassed by such parental attention, shoving me off after a few moments with a mortified cry of “Dad!”

I'm going to miss you, kid, I thought with a pang, but this was the best thing for everyone. Particularly for my hobbit who had been in a strange mood the last few years, his personality flipping between his usual good-natured cheer and an obsession with that ring he'd found.

This fixation worried me because it was too much like my uncle's madness and I did what I could to take his mind off of the thing. But there was something inescapable about that damn gold circle, something which drew the eye like a beacon, and the avarice it woke in my own heart disturbed me all the more. Thus I was overjoyed when Bilbo swore that he would be leaving it behind.

Though for a moment I thought that his resolve would fail us because it took Gandalf's intervention to make him let the treasure go. Ever so slowly my love opened his fingers and the metal landed with a thud that chilled my bones.

That sound shattered the last web of longing in my spirit and I wrapped my arm around Bilbo to lead him out the door. My hobbit looked back only once before Bag End passed out of sight, one last glance at the home we had created before he turned toward the future with a whistle and a grin. His steps were lighter, his smile brighter than I had seen in months and I joined in when he broke into song.

“The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”

---

The trek east to Rivendell was slow and peaceful with no hint of urgency to dog our steps this time. Instead we spent our evenings wrapped up in each other and our days remembering the many reasons that the two of us fell in love.

Though as blissful as the journey was, I could not deny being nervous when Elrond's house began to near. For while the elf lord had been kind to us during our previous meetings and I was looking forward to making his people blush again, the anticipation of seeing Fíli kept me twisted up inside.

Yet the nerves were nothing compared to the joy of my brother's arrival and I barely had time to worry before I was wrapped up in his arms.

Fíli hugged me tightly, a soft stream of apologies whispered in my ear, and I held onto him just as fiercely until we finally drew apart. He had matured over the six decades we were parted, his beard now full and regal and a proud gleam in his eyes. But I could still see my brother in the quirk of his smile and I knew then that we would be all right.

We would be family again and I drew Bilbo forward to reintroduce them properly. Though at the sight of the hobbit, Fíli flinched back sharply and I could understand his shock once I looked at my husband through a stranger's eyes.

For while his aging had been a gradual thing to one who saw him daily, there was little to recognize of our burglar now. Sixty years had made him ancient by a hobbit's standards even as my brother and I were only in our primes. But while it must have been a harsh reminder of the fate that I was bound to follow, Fíli managed to pull himself together quickly, reaching out to hug Bilbo as well. If his gaze held a hint of sorrow when he looked at me over my hobbit's shoulder, I could not hold that against him, not when I still felt the same shadow in my mind.

Besides, it did not truly matter if he still wished that my choices had been different because I could not begrudge my older brother the need to spare me pain. What mattered was Fíli's acceptance of my hobbit despite his misgivings and over the journey back to Erebor, he and Bilbo tried.

The two of them would probably never be close friends, but they gained a new appreciation for each other and by the time we reached the Lonely Mountain, I no longer worried about leaving them alone. For whatever my brother had done to sabotage us in the past, there was no risk of this anymore.

Although I had to laugh when we arrived at the gates of Erebor and Fíli's wife took to Bilbo like the best friend he'd ever had. Helva was a lovely dwarrowdam, stocky and graceful like a queen should be, and she looked at her husband with a quiet love that was more powerful than any grand declaration in my eyes.

Beautiful and formidable as she took charge of our road-worn party, though not before wrapping my hobbit and I into a warm embrace. When she released me with a kiss upon the cheek, I turned to meet my nieces and nephew and the sight of them took my breath away. For while his daughters were as different as night and day, both his girls were beautiful and wearing the pendants I had made. Jilí too was a handsome lad in my completely biased view, biased because I could see Fíli in all three of them – his eyes, his nose, his stubborn chin. Though that last might have been from Helva because there was a hint of steel beneath her friendly gaze and I knew that my brother had chosen his queen well.

Indeed Jilí and Frísa both took after their mother's subtle strength, a proper prince and princess of Erebor, and I listened with interest as they told me of their lives. But it was Freyda in whom I could see a true kindred spirit since there was something wild within my niece's heart.

Something wild and unique amidst the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain and her gaze was wondering as she looked up at me. I knew that I must be quite a picture in my strange hybrid clothes but the only thing on her face was admiration for all the places I had seen. Because this was a lass with dreams of adventure and she was going to run Fíli ragged before she was done.

Indeed Freyda's current preoccupation was stealing Thranduil's steed on his next diplomatic visit and using it to sneak into the Mirkwood beneath his guards' watchful eyes. So I listened happily to her chatter as she expounded on all the different methods that she had tried already, offering suggestions here and there while her siblings strode on more tamely at my side.

But for all her enthusiasm, my niece's glee paled in comparison to the cries of our companions when they caught sight of my hobbit and I. Bofur was the first to reach us, sweeping Bilbo off his feet with the force of his embrace, and I nearly toppled as well when Dwalin reached my side.

Soon we were lost in a sea of laughter and introductions while each of our friends drew forth their families and their wives. For Bombur and Bifur and Nori and Dori had all found dwarrowdams with whom to share their lives and even those of our companions who had not married looked far more content than before. Peace was good for them, peace and the chance to be useful, and I was only sorry that Balin and Ori were not here to see this day. However, while I missed the friends who had gone to Khazad-dûm, the chance to see Gimli and my mother helped to ease the sting that their absence left behind.

In truth, the only sour notes of the morning were the expressions on some nobles' faces when Fíli announced Bilbo as my husband and I was not too worried about that. Because decades in the Shire had taught me well and compared to deciphering Lobelia's hidden insults, the court of Erebor was child's play.

We actually made a game of it with points scored for every old bigot that we could make apoplectic and double for each that changed his mind. Thus a few months after our arrival, even those who hated us had learned to mind their tongues and while my hobbit won our contest, I was not all that far behind.

Like lambs to slaughter, was the only way to describe it and I found great amusement in watching Bilbo slice each potential challenger to shreds. They would stagger away beneath the onslaught of his clever tongue, dazed and confused by what had just happened, and no one could deny that we earned our place at Fíli's side.

Although I think everyone was still relieved when we didn't claim it very often, only throwing on our finery for the most important diplomatic meetings and holy days. Because even my new found skill did not make me interested in the maneuvering of government and, quite frankly, velvet itched.

Instead Bilbo and I would wander around Erebor with my nieces, Freyda always happy to help us explore some new tunnel, and it was amazing how much my brother had repaired. The only signs left of Smaug's long occupation were a few stubborn scorch marks on the treasury's high ceilings and a claw embedded deep within his throne.

Dale too had been rebuilt upon the ashes of its glory and Bard was justifiably proud of all that he had done. The man gave us a tour of his city soon after our return, although not before drawing me into a bone-crushing hug. For Girion's heir was still strong despite the weight of years on his shoulders and obviously ruled his people well.

Although I wasn't sure what kind of tales he had been telling because the men of Dale greeted Bilbo and I like heroes out of legend and I could have sworn that I heard at least one ballad mentioning our names. Even the revelation of our relationship didn't seem to dim his people's fervor, generations of taboo dismissed as some weird cultural thing before the bards went back to their songs.

Not that I minded the reprieve from judgment, but I had to wonder why the only thing that dimmed their admiration was Bard's defeat at my hands. Apparently his skill at archery was a matter of great pride to his people, as it should be with Smaug's death to his name, and when I was the victor in our competition, they did not take it well. But at least their king was a gracious loser and the men of Dale warmed back up to me eventually, once a few quiet whispers reminded them that two of Bard's lifetimes had honed my skill.

Thus Bilbo and I carved a place for ourselves in Erebor and although I sometimes missed Frodo dearly, the years practically flew by. Because we had friends and family and I could have asked for nothing more than the chance to watch my brother's children thrive.

---

Yet time was inescapable, a river that flowed in only one direction and my hobbit's time was running out. My Bilbo was ancient now, hair graying and muscles turning frail, and he wanted to see our son once more before he died. That was the simple truth of it though he phrased it much more gently, my husband ever watchful to the anguish of my heart.

And there was an ache to know that my hobbit was slipping through my fingers but that was nothing to all the love that we had made. So I could smile reassuringly when my brother drew me aside for a private farewell and I tried to ease some of the pain in his eyes.

"I've known this was coming from the beginning, Fíli. I've had time to make my peace and I do not regret the life we've had. Now help me find that wild daughter of yours so I can say a proper goodbye."

But my brother still worried about us, a lifetime of habit not that easy to assuage, and he saw to it that we would travel in good company. Because Lord Elrond had called a meeting in Rivendell, all the leaders of Middle Earth summoned to discuss the growing darkness in the East, and while Bilbo and I were not part of Fíli's official delegation, there was no reason not to share the burden when we walked the same road.

Besides, Glóin and Gimli were both attending the elf lord's council and I must admit that it comforted me to have their axes at my side. So it was a sizable party that left Erebor one morning, a leave-taking which could not have been more different from the first.

For Bilbo and I were no longer outcasts, slipping away from the Lonely Mountain without notice or memory. Instead we were sent off like heroes, the entire kingdom lining the gates to watch us go, and mine were not the only misty eyes. It hurt to leave again knowing that I would probably not return, at least not with my heart unbroken, for I had come to love the Lonely Mountain almost as much as I loved Hobbiton. Yet the Shire would always be the true home of my spirit and my hobbit wanted to die where he was born.

A wish that really should not have been so hard to grant.

But somehow once our steps had led to Rivendell, the two of us never seemed to leave the elf lord's hall. First there was Frodo, tumbling upon Elrond's doorstep with a dagger toward his heart and all other desires paled next to the need to heal our son.

We spent hours by his bedside as the Elrond and his healers struggled to remove the evil blade and I had never been so terrified in all my life. For while I was used to facing danger, this was different because this time it was my child who was threatened and I was helpless to do anything at all. I was helpless to do more than pray to the Valar and watch Frodo's face grow paler with each dawn.

Yet the elf lord's fame was well-deserved and after three nail-biting days, our son opened his eyes again. He had grown in the long years since Bilbo and I left the Shire, maturity giving him a strength that had not been there before, but when he smiled I could still see the wide-eyed child he had been.

For despite his rough introduction to the harsh dangers of the world, Frodo's innocence somehow remained untarnished. Perhaps it was due to his companions, Merry and Pippin and Sam Gamgee's cheerful presences helping to keep the dark at bay. Certainly his cousins barely seemed to realize that something evil was brewing, something that would change the fate of history just as our quest had done those years ago.

And what will be the cost this time? I wondered, watching Elrond's council descend into bickering and I was sure that Bilbo's ring was to blame. Because the metal's voice had only grown stronger in the years of our separation, a whisper which wrapped around the minds of those nearby.

Only the hobbits seemed relatively unaffected by its seduction, their hearts focused more on home than power, and I could not say I was surprised when Frodo volunteered to see the ring destroyed. That was our son, brave and loyal to a fault, and always one to do what was right. Even when it was foolish and dangerous and he should never have considered traveling to Nargûn.

But if this truly is the One Ring of Sauron then there is nowhere far enough to run, and in truth my fear was mixed with pride.

So I tried not to let the worry show as Frodo prepared for his journey, offering him what advice I could and praying that Bilbo's blade would keep him safe. His blade and the mithril armor that I had taken as my inheritance from Erebor. Though even knowing that my forefathers would be watching out for Frodo did not stop me from making secondary plans.

“You are going to protect my child, aren't you Gimli?” I demanded, cornering my friend in a hallway on the eve of their departure. “I am going to hold you personally responsible for his well-being and any wounds that he receives will come out of your hide.”

I gave this same warning to each of my son's companions and I was pleased to discover that I could still threaten with the best. For while they had given their word to see Sauron's Ring destroyed, I wanted to ensure that they remembered to protect Frodo as well. He was more than the Ring-bearer, he was my one and only child, and I would not let fate claim him without a fight.

But this was not my quest so there was little else for me to do once the others had all promised to guard him in my stead. The eight of them would have to do what I could not and although I was not impressed by Thranduil's snotty brat, I trusted Gimli and Gandalf to keep the elf in line.

I held to this trust tightly as Bilbo and I watched our son leave Rivendell, the smile on my face barely covering the tears.

---
---
---

These last months have been the longest of my life because we have had no news of Frodo since that time. No news but rumors of death and battle in the east, of armies falling before the endless orcish tide. Erebor is under siege, Rohan nearly fallen along with Gondor and Khazad-dûm is a graveyard of our friends. All is falling into darkness and there is little hope left in my heart.

Even the elves of Rivendell have begun to lose their glow, that ethereal light beneath their skin turning sallow with sorrow and regret although the war has thus far passed us by. But Elrond has spent long hours poring through his library as he searches for some small advantage to pass on to our allies and his daughter's choices weigh heavy on his mind. Because Arwen has given her heart to the rightful king of Gondor and when time claims his body, it will claim the Evenstar as well.

Yet while I can understand the elf lord's sorrow better now that I have a child of my own, his daughter's love is true. She made her choice with eyes wide open just as I did and her heart will not be swayed.

Though this does not stop Elrond from trying, badgering Arwen with dire predictions of the future until she begs me to intervene. For the Evenstar and I have struck up an odd sort of friendship, united in our determination to follow where love leads, and I do what I can to make him see.

In truth only Bilbo has somehow kept his spirits high, his faith in Frodo unbending as he puts the finishing touches on our tale. His book is nearly complete, the story of our quest laid down for the next generation, and while my hobbit has left out much of the darkness and the danger, I hope that it reminds the world to dream.

This account of mine is rather more personal, started on those endless nights when sleep simply would not come. Writing it has helped to keep my fears at bay, spilling my darkest thoughts onto the paper so that they do not fester in my mind and it helps to think upon the past.

There is peace in remembering the exact road which led us here and the reasons behind the choices I have made. For while there are moments which I could have handled better, I cannot regret the way my life turned out. Even with Bilbo slowly fading and our son risking death or torture in Nargûn, there is no other path that I could have taken in the end.

Because I am Kíli, son of Dís and Jilí, husband to Bilbo Baggins and father to Frodo, and there is nothing else to say.

Nothing but a prayer of thanks to Mahal for protecting my family when Rivendell finally receives the message that we won. Sauron has been defeated, his armies scattered to the winds, and there is time for joy once more. Even if my son returns to us bruised and broken, one finger missing and shadows in his eyes, at least he is alive for us to hold once more. Frodo and his cousins, who run into our arms like the children they once were, the children they will always be to me.

Though our reunion is tarnished by Saruman's continuing treachery, the remnants of his Uruk-hai marching west toward home.

They fall upon the Shire like starving wolves and although I am not there to see it, it breaks my heart to think of those green fields trampled red with blood. Yet I cannot leave Bilbo and he cannot travel into battle at his age, so we must wait in Rivendell while our friends and family fall under attack once more.

I hate this. I hate waiting to be told such dire news, I think bitterly as I watch the road for some sign of a messenger. I hate imagining all the ways my kin might die.

Though given the word that comes from Hobbiton, some of those kin I would not miss. Because it seems that Lobelia's son is rotten through and through, siding with the invaders for the chance to put himself above and I am sure that even his mother is ashamed of what Lotho has become. Despite her general unpleasantness, Lobelia loves the Shire dearly and she would never let it be destroyed.

Indeed when the final battle comes, the hobbitess is at the front of the militia as my students acquit themselves with honor and with skill. But then again, they are fighting for their homeland and even the most kindhearted hobbit is ferocious in the defense of what they love.

So at last the war is over; at last there's peace once more.

The rebuilding is slow at first for the earth itself has been tainted by Saruman's foul creatures and half the houses lay in smoking ruins where fine-carved wood once stood. But although this is not the homecoming that we had imagined, it is good to be needed again. The feel of wood and stone beneath my fingers is both a fond memory and a promise of potential while the chance to build something that will last for generations is a balm upon my spirit after the stress of the past months.

Bilbo too finds a new passion for creation, writing down the myths and stories that were destroyed by the invaders so this knowledge won't be lost. It is good work for him now that his body is beginning to fail him, his mind still sharp despite the weakness of his bones, and somehow two years pass.

But the war carved scars upon my son that will never leave him and when he comes to Bilbo and I one evening, I know what he will say.

Our Frodo is leaving Middle Earth on the last ship to Valinor because there is no place on Arda for the Ring-bearer anymore. Indeed the land is changing, the ancient magic seeping from the world now that Sauron has been defeated, and I cannot be too surprised when Gandalf invites Bilbo to come as well.

Though I am startled by the rush of feeling which swells within my chest when my hobbit turns to me and asks, “Kíli, what do you say? Want to see the land of the Valar where no mortal soul has tread?”

Always together, huh, Bilbo? Always one, whatever road we walk. Of course my husband wants to accept the wizard's offer, always drawn by the wonder of far horizons even if it means that he cannot be buried in the land of his ancestors. And of course he will not go without me just as I still cannot imagine life without Bilbo at my side. So in truth, the question is not difficult at all.

I am going with him across the western ocean; I am going with my hobbit to Valinor.

Though it hurts to say goodbye to my brother once again and see the pain in Freyda's eyes. My niece doesn't understand why I have to leave her, the only dwarf she knows who's dreamed of wild things. But Fíli will ruin anyone who tries to cage her spirit and in this new world of theirs, I am sure that she will meet other dreamers soon enough.

"He is my heart, how could I let him go without me?” I tell Freyda, pulling my niece into my arms and burying my face in her dark hair. “You will understand one day and I am only sorry that I will not be there to see it.”

This truly is my one regret, knowing that I will not be there to see my brother's children grown and I wish that I could meet the people who will steal their hearts away. Because they are sure to be extraordinary, their spirits burning like the stars of Varda in the sky, and I know our world will flourish in their hands.

I give Freyda my bow then, the one I carved myself so long ago, and she accepts it with an awed look in her eyes. My niece holds the weapon carefully, promising to take care of it forever, before stepping back so I can draw my brother to my arms.

Fíli is better at hiding his sorrow than his daughter but the King Under the Mountain cannot mask the tremble in his hands. They dig into my shoulders tightly as he pulls me against his chest and for a moment, I allow myself to relax in his embrace. It's like being a child again, hiding from the nightmares in my older brother's bed since I know that he will keep my fears away.

However, those days are long past us and our lives can no longer intertwine as they once did. Because Fíli must return to Erebor and rule over his people while I have a far different path to tread.

But perhaps this will not be the end of us no matter how it seems. Perhaps my brother and I will meet again in the halls of our Father once the last sun dawns upon the world and although it is bittersweet to ride away without him, I do not allow my tears to fall.

Instead I look toward the future where my hobbits are waiting with the ship that will carry us beyond the sea.


Finis




Author's Note:  Yes, it's finally done!  Thank you to everyone who's stuck with me this far and there will be at least 4 more oneshots in this series because I'm not quite ready to give it up just yet.

Onward to Lobelia's version of events: A Hobbit's Scorn