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What Price Memory

Title: What Price Memory
Pairings: Gen, past Bilbo/Durin of your choice
Rating/Warnings: ANGST
Word Count: 1043
Disclaimer: If I owned the Hobbit it would all be slo-mo death scenes
Summary: Some wounds do not stop bleeding; Bilbo knows this well.


A Baggins never cries in public; it would not be proper. But when Bilbo Baggins leaves Erebor, he does not cry at all. His eyes are dry and his heart is numb with the weight of tragedy. For hobbits are not meant to bear such sorrow on their shoulders and Bilbo has already encountered too much grief. The death of Thorin and his nephews may be the straw that breaks him if he lets the truth sink in. He does not want to laud their lives or the manner of their passing; he does not want to remember that they're dead.

Indeed Bilbo says little on the journey home, finding solace in the silence where the dwarves had soothed their grief with tales of better days. He focuses on the present moment because he cannot let himself remember; he doesn’t have the strength to remember and make it home again.

But eventually the high crags of the Misty Mountains give way to the green plains of the Westlands and then the rolling hills that Bilbo knows so well. Gandalf leaves the hobbit at the borders of the Shire and though they part in friendship, the farewell is bittersweet. For Bilbo does not know if the wizard will ever pass through Hobbiton again.

So too does Bilbo mourn the loss of his distraction, Gandalf happy to fill the silences that the burglar could not. The wizard had understood his sorrow without need for explanation and he had allowed the hobbit to pretend that all was well.

Perhaps he had not approved, but he had not challenged Bilbo either and that was all the hobbit could have asked. But now Bilbo has only his own stubbornness to hold the pain at bay.

Of course, much has been made of hobbits' stubbornness and for good reason, this hobbit walking back to his smial with steady strides despite the looming wall of grief. He is going home and nothing will be allowed to stop him, particularly not his scheming relatives. Bilbo drives them off with firm words and the simple truth that he is still breathing, the hobbit snatching his silver spoons from his cousin with a growl.

Then he walks into Bag End and shuts the door behind him, looking around the hobbit hole with a neutral eye. While Bag End has been stripped of all that could be carried, the chaos is not as bad as first glance would make it seem. His furniture will trickle back when news spreads of his survival and a few good hours of cleaning should make his smial spic and span.

So Bilbo walks into the living room and lays his pack down in front of the fireplace before picking up the painting of his mother from the floor. He hangs Belladonna on the wall by her husband, letting out a sigh as the tension in his shoulders slips away. I am home again.

And then at last, Bilbo Baggins breaks.

The hobbit crumples to his hands and knees with a desperate cry, his whole body shaking from the weight of grief. Tears stream down his cheeks as his face twists in sorrow and his every breath's a choking sob. For there is a knot of agony within his chest that he cannot hold back any longer, a knot that does not ease no matter how he cries.

He just weeps and weeps until his throat is burning and his cheeks begin to ache. Then Bilbo collapses onto his side, wrapping his arms around his knees and holding on as tightly as he can. Because there is no one else to hold him; there hasn’t been anyone to hold him in a long, long time. And while the hobbit had dared to hope for companionship before his journey ended, that hope was slaughtered on a bloodstained battlefield.

Now there is only loss and this endless sorrow; three more names added to the litany of dead. Bilbo does not know how he will bear the lonely future that he sees stretching out before him, the hobbit sobbing harder at the thought.

He weeps. He shakes. He trembles. He curses all the Valar and his lost beloved’s name. He cries until he has no more tears to offer and then exhaustion claims his mind. Bilbo falls asleep on the floor, curled up amidst the scattered remnants of the life he left behind.

When he wakes that evening, the hobbit's eyes are sore from weeping, a few stray tears still running down his face. He cries as he pushes himself to his feet and begins to clean his smial, putting his home to rights as best he can. Bilbo cries as he sweeps and dusts and straightens until he is finally satisfied. By then the burglar has finally stopped weeping, although his grief remains a cold ache in his chest.

No amount of time makes that sorrow disappear. Years may pass but Bilbo's grief still strikes him at random moments, as strong and sharp as it was when he first left Erebor. Perhaps he sees a sunset and wishes that Fíli were there to see it with him or dreams of curling by the fire with Thorin at his side. Or perhaps it is simply the memory of brown eyes and a cheerful smile that breaks his heart again.

Some nights Bilbo isn’t even certain why he’s crying, only that it hurts too much to keep his tears inside. These sobs are wordless wails of loss and longing that rip free of his chest to echo off the walls.

For some wounds will never heal completely. Some wounds do not stop bleeding and Bilbo knows his never will. But even such grief as this cannot be all-consuming and the hobbit's dead would not wish him to throw his life away. They would wish him to live; to experience the world in all its pain and glory no matter how it hurts.

So Bilbo does. He writes and laughs and weeps in equal measure, the memory of his journey both bright and bittersweet. For Bilbo may not be the same hobbit who once left the Shire – he may be wiser, stranger, and heartbroken – but he cannot truly regret joining Thorin's Company.


End