Series: A Matter of Perspective
Rating/Warnings: NSFW; racism and homophobia
Word Count: 10,179 (18,700 so far)
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
We fell quickly, the company hurtling deep into the heart of the Misty Mountains while goblins snarled at us from the walls. Even as I cursed our stupidity for falling into such a trap, I had to admire the design which funneled us together to land heavily within a wooden enclosure, bruised and battered but alive. It was obviously built to capture instead of kill and moments after the last of us hit the ground, the creatures swarmed us, chittering mockingly to each other in their savage language as they pulled us to our feet.
When the goblins shoved me forward, clawed hands locked tight around my arms, I lost my grip on Bilbo and though I looked back immediately I couldn't see my hobbit anywhere. Don't panic, I told myself firmly, fighting the urge to shout his name. He's probably just behind one of the others and if he has managed to escape you do not want to draw attention his loss. So I gritted my teeth and endured the shoving, waiting for my uncle to call our company to arms.
However, my self-control was sorely tested moments later when the creatures dragged us in front of the grotesque monster who they called king and at his order, stripped us of our gear. This I did fight for what little good it did me and I felt the first stirrings of alarm with each weapon that clattered to the ground.
Once we were unarmed, the Goblin King began his monologue but I was far too busy looking for my hobbit to listen to the words. This is unacceptable, I thought viciously as I glared at the goblins who held us captive, using fury to hold back the fear. I've barely begun courting my hobbit and no filthy monsters are going to keep me from his arms.
Given the way Fíli was also vibrating with rage at my side, our captor was saying nothing kind but only the mention of Azog the Defiler tore me from my thoughts. I had been raised on the story of how the pale orc had perished, his hands stained with the blood of my people and my kin, so if he still lived it would be an enormous blow against the honor of our clan. Indeed the idea alone threatened to shatter my uncle's pride and it would be the duty of all Durins to destroy our old enemy before he made good on his vow.
While I was currently annoyed with my brother, I did not want him or Thorin to die and if Azog were running free upon the earth every member of our company would be in grave danger regardless of the bloodline in their veins. However, there was nothing we could do at the moment, captured and restrained as we were, and as much as I hated to be helpless our best chance was to delay until the wizard arrived. Thankfully the goblins wanted to have some fun before they killed us and every moment that they wasted was one more chance we might survive, even if I could have done without the singing.
Yet I still hadn't managed to catch sight of my hobbit and the worry was making it increasingly hard to stay my hand. I wanted to attack the creatures, to fight, to do something and it was almost a relief when one of the creatures discovered Orcrist and our captors went mad. A short-lived relief since the Goblin King ordered his minions to take my uncle's head and no matter how hard we struggled, all our company could do was watch as the blade descended swiftly toward Thorin's neck.
I screamed his name desperately though I could not hear my voice over the roaring in my ears and then a wave of pressure slammed into my side. It swept through the cavern and knocked us off our feet and as I fell I turned to see the wizard standing there, sword and staff in hand.
When I landed, I landed hard and for a moment all I could do was gasp for breath, trying desperately to fill my lungs. But then Gandalf called for us to fight and Fíli was pulling me to my feet while he threw my bow across my back and there was no time to worry about anything but our survival, even thoughts of Bilbo shoved aside. There was no time for anything but instinct as we ran and fought for our lives through the twisted maze that stood between us and our goal.
With every goblin I cut down, it seemed like three more took its place and yet Mahal must have blessed us for none of our company received more than a scratch, even when I used a ladder as a shield. But for all our luck and skill we were still vastly outnumbered and eventually our race to freedom staggered to a halt as they surrounded us upon a fragile wooden bridge. There was nowhere for us to go, a snarling mass of claws and teeth in every direction where there was not open air and then their leader rose up like a demon from the pit.
The Goblin King taunted us with our helplessness, a sneer upon his face, and Fíli growled beside me as my hands tightened on the hilt of my sword. Yet before we could attack, the wizard stepped forward and I had to grin at the monster's consternation when Gandalf struck him down. Until the bridge beneath us shuddered and we were falling once again.
Fuuuuuuucccck! Was my only real thought as we plummeted down into the abyss but beneath the terror there was a strong seam of annoyance for all this falling was getting rather old. The earth was supposed to stay firm beneath my feet and while I had wanted an adventure, dying from impact really wasn't what I had in mind.
But somehow I survived another landing, squashed though I might be and I could hear the others groaning in the wreckage so I knew they lived as well. I was rather hoping that this would be the end of it but then Bofur had to go and dare the fates and I remembered that Mahal often had a twisted sense of humor.
So we fled, dragging our friends from the remnants of the bridge and sprinting towards daylight, because only that could save us from the hordes that chased us now. For awhile I honestly wasn't sure if we would make it since dwarves were not built for sprinting and if my lungs were burning, how must the elders feel? But somehow we did and I thought the sun might be the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen.
However, my relief dimmed instantly when we took count and discovered that Bilbo was not there.
Even though I knew it might rekindle Fíli's suspicions, I couldn't stop myself from looking around frantically in search of my hobbit and when Nori said that he had seen him slip away, I wasn't sure whether to be worried or consoled. I was glad to know that Bilbo had escaped the goblins' clutches but anything could have happened to him on his own within the mountain; he could be lost or injured or even dying and it seemed like I was the only one who cared.
Indeed it was all I could do not to growl at Thorin when he claimed my hobbit must have fled like a coward and my hands tightened into clenched fists by my side. He promised me he wasn't leaving and I believe him. Bilbo wouldn't have abandoned us no matter what you think, uncle, and he only considered it because of you.
Yet everyone else was nodding their agreement and at the smug satisfaction on Fíli's face, I had to grit my teeth in order to keep from punching my brother then and there. I knew he didn't like Bilbo and thought him unworthy of my friendship, but that was different than not caring if he died.
However, before I could work myself into any more of a fury, my hobbit strolled out from behind a tree and I was overwhelmed with relief instead. Alive. He's alive, I thought, wanting to walk over there and hug him, pull him aside and give him the kind of welcome he deserved. But I was still constrained by secrecy and so I didn't move, simply returned his smile and hoped that he could hear the love which filled my voice.
Of course uncle couldn't just leave him alone for once and had to question Bilbo's motives as though he were a criminal instead of a friend. But whatever my hobbit had gone through within the mountain seemed to give him courage and I had to hide a grin as he called Thorin on his shit.
Valar but you're amazing, I thought as the company stared at him in shock and then my hobbit continued, talking of home and families and I thought that I had never loved him more. This was everything I had ever wanted and although Bilbo was talking to Thorin, he was looking straight at me. Our eyes met and when he promised to help us reclaim our homeland, it felt like a declaration at the warmth in his voice. Even if that's not the home I really want.
I didn't understand how uncle and Fíli could still look so suspicious, can't they see the kindness in his heart, but before I could say anything in his defense, a warg howled from the mountain's peak. Panic chased the smile off my face for we had barely escaped the warg pack last time and there would be no elves or mad wizards to rescue us today.
So I grabbed my hobbit and the company ran down the mountainside as fast as we could, the threat of our enemy lending wings to tired feet. Yet despite our head start, the beasts drew ever closer for we were already exhausted from our battle with the goblins and it wasn't long until our strength began to flag. I stumbled over a rock and nearly fell, losing my hold on Bilbo and I reached for him with a cry. But before I could catch his hand again, Fíli pushed me forward, nearly shoving me face first into a tree when Gandalf called for us to climb.
Instinct took over then so I leaped up into the branches, before leaning down to pull my brother up as well. I had barely left the ground before the wargs were among us, and I flinched back as jaws closed just below my feet. This is bad. This is really, really bad, I thought, near to despair for I did not see how we could escape this time. And then the situation grew even worse when Azog the Defiler stalked slowly into view, a feral smile spread across his face.
The pale orc was as formidable as I had always imagined in my nightmares, a childhood terror now brought to life. He taunted us, teeth bared and weapon ready and when he shifted I could see the jagged spike that he had shoved into his arm. What kind of creature would do that to himself? What kind of monster are we facing?
However, Fíli obviously did not share my fear for all I could see on his face was anger, anger and the thirst for vengeance that should have burned as a fire in my blood. Because we were up against our family's greatest enemy, the one who had sworn to destroy us without mercy and when Azog finished taunting my uncle, he ordered his wargs to kill us all.
They charged forward and it was chaos, growls and screaming on both sides as the monsters slammed into our trees and tried bring us down. Moments later we were falling, hurtling once more toward the ground and when the dust finally settled, our entire company was perched precariously in one last pine, swaying out over a long, long drop.
Then our wizard pulled another trick out of his sleeve and we chased the wargs away with fire, the beasts running back to their master with their tails between their legs. Flaming pine-cones, huh? This adventure just keeps on getting better. At least Bilbo was safe for now, as safe as any of us could really be. Which isn't very safe at all, is it? I realized, feeling my heart sink when our last refuge began to fall.
There was death in all directions, our only choice the manner and Thorin must have decided that he would rather die in battle bringing glory to his name. So while the rest of the company watched in fear-tinged awe, my uncle walked unflinching through the fire to face his ancient foe. None of us could deny his bravery as he charged forward, and none of us could believe it when he failed.
Uncle had always seemed invincible, made of something stronger than flesh and bone, but the Defiler matched him strike for strike with ease before shattering his guard with a single vicious blow. Azog refused to even grant Thorin the honor of dying by his hands, ordering one of his minions to claim his head instead. I was watching this scene unfold with horror, frozen in shock at how swiftly my uncle had fallen when I saw movement from the corner of my eye.
It was my hobbit running forward and although I could see that he was terrified, Bilbo did not hesitate before tackling the beast. He was beautiful then, marvelously brave and beautiful in his desperate fury and I knew that I could not let him die alone. So I climbed inch by inch back onto the mountain and then threw myself headlong into the fray, a feral smile spreading across my face. As I ran Dwalin and my brother appeared at my side and we raced toward the foul orcs who threatened those we loved, shouting our battle cry.
We fought through the dust and flames, my sword slicing deep into flesh and scraping along bone as we tried to reach Thorin before another blow could fall. Fíli grinned beside me, sharp and bright, and I could feel some of that same exultation in my veins. But there were too many of them and no matter how I tried I could not seem to reach my goal, that pale monster and his mount remaining always out of reach. Bilbo was there, standing over my uncle's unmoving form and when he collided with the Defiler, I froze in horror until a snarling warg almost took my head. There was no way for me to help him, no way to come to his aid in time while blocked by a churning mass of teeth and claws
However, before I could do more than draw breath to scream his name, great winged shadows descended from the sky. They were eagles, enormous eagles who fell upon our enemies like death incarnate, razor talons trailing blood. I saw one of the birds snatch Thorin from the rock and then I was spinning through the air to land next to Fíli on another and we left the burning mountainside behind.
A wave of relief washed over me and it was all I could do to sheathe my sword with how much my hands were trembling. I had almost died today, we had all nearly died more times than I could count and it made me realize what really mattered in my life.
It is time to end the secrets, whatever the cost may be, for how can I face my death knowing that my only legacy is lies? If I fall in battle I want to be remembered as I truly am, not as this mask I wear. I want to live for the things I actually believe in: wonder, love, and family, not just gold and glory and perhaps I can show the others the value of another way.
Besides, now that Bilbo has saved Thorin's life, the others must have finally seen my hobbit's merit for his bravery shone like a thousand suns tonight and our family owes him a debt that we must pay. If uncle acknowledges this, none of the company will be able to harm Bilbo even if they want to and there will truly be no reason for secrecy anymore. Though I should probably tell my brother first since it will be far easier to convince uncle to grant us his blessing with Fíli standing at my side.
Once I came to this decision, I felt as though a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders and I realized that it was the weight of expectation. For once in my life I was going to fight for what I wanted and this time I thought that maybe I could win. Maybe I could follow the call of my heart without losing all else that I loved and even if I failed, this would be far better than living with the knowledge that I was too much of a coward to chase after my dreams.
So I was hopeful, hopeful and exhausted and I found the smooth motion of our eagle rocking me to sleep. When we landed, I would talk to Fíli; I would try to tear the blinders from his eyes and show him the wonders that existed to be seen.
I woke slowly, dragged from my slumber by my brother's insistent nudging and when I opened my eyes I saw that we had started to descend. So I gathered myself together as the great birds began to land on enormous stone spire in the valley before us, a spire which appeared to be carved into the head of a bear snarling at the rising dawn.
Our eagle circled this rock and when we were close enough to jump, Fíli and I leaped lightly from its back, running toward our uncle who sprawled motionless upon the stone. Thorin looked so fragile, so deathly still and I had to support my brother's weight as his knees gave out.
Uncle cannot be gone, he can't! I thought desperately, trying to see if he still breathed and I was terribly afraid that our miracle had arrived too late. But then Gandalf knelt by his side and though I could not hear the words our wizard muttered, my heart eased when Thorin finally stirred. He opened his eyes with a groan and Fíli and I rushed forward to help him as he tried to stand for we understood the warrior's need to reach his feet.
However, once he was upright uncle shrugged off our support and stalked towards my hobbit, tearing into Bilbo without reason or sense. How dare you?! I thought furiously while my uncle proved himself an ungrateful bastard, dredging up old doubts and insults against one who'd saved his life.
If Thorin had been in reach I might have attacked him then and damn the consequences but before I could lose my temper completely, uncle changed his tune. He swept Bilbo into a hug, admitting just how wrong he had been and the rest of the company broke into a cheer. The hobbit blushed furiously as he downplayed his heroics, but I could see how pleased he was to finally be accepted and I thought that my heart might burst from love and pride.
This is it then. Now there is truly nothing to stand in our way for uncle cannot harm him and how could anyone still disapprove of my choice when the Elder Line of Durin owes him such a debt. So tonight, after I talk to Fíli, we will announce it to everyone and I can finally show Bilbo all the love that he deserves. Tonight.
When Thorin released my hobbit from his embrace, his eye was caught by something to the east. He walked over to the edge of the spire and stared out into the distance where a solitary mountain rose into the sky. He named it Erebor, he named it home, and the longing in my uncle's voice brought tears to my eyes.
Whatever doubts I might have had about this quest, whatever resentment I had always carried toward the legacy that bound my dreams, I knew then that our journey would be worth it. If I could help put such warmth back in my family's eyes, if I could help them lay the ghosts to rest, I would do my duty gladly and with a smile in my heart. The Lonely Mountain might not be the home which I had dreamed of but it was theirs and perhaps they could find some measure of peace when they walked its halls again.
And then maybe I can find a home and some peace of my own, I thought, smiling fondly at my hobbit where he stood by my uncle's side. For the first time since our trip began, Thorin and the rest of the company were treating Bilbo as an equal and I was sure that things would only get better from here. A good omen indeed.
However, omens or not we needed to keep moving and so our company started to descend the trail of stairs carved into the stone. Although no one other than uncle had been seriously wounded in the fight, neither were we whole and our injuries made the trip take far longer than it should.
Yet we reached the valley floor without further mishap and there Gandalf informed us that he had a friend who lived a few days away. While I did wonder with some annoyance why the eagles could not have dropped us closer, this news still cheered my heart because our company sorely needed a safe place to regroup. Sturdy as he was, uncle's injuries would not benefit from sleeping on the ground and we had lost most of our supplies within the goblin cavern, leaving only our weapons and those items that we carried within our clothes themselves.
Indeed having a goal that was within reach lightened everyone's spirits and even Thorin joined in when I began whistling a jaunty marching tune. Only Fíli was still obviously disturbed and I assumed his brooding was a reaction to how close our escape had been and the realization of how soon he might be king if everything went wrong. But one we stopped for the night my brother seemed to shake off his dark mood, helping me start a fire for dinner while Óin checked on our uncle's wounds.
When our duties were finished, I dropped down next to Bilbo and threw an arm around his shoulders, reveling in the fact that I now could without receiving glares tenfold. “You were amazing last night,” I told him in a whisper, grinning at the way my hobbit blushed.
“It wasn't... I was terrified out of my mind, really. I just couldn't let him die.”
“That's what makes you brave, you know. If you weren't scared you'd be an idiot instead.” I replied with a grin. “And uncle's finally seen how great you are, so the journey should get easier.”
“That will be a relief, though I still say I didn't do anything special. Are you... do you think that we should tell them?” My hobbit asked, lowering his voice so no one around could hear.
However, before I could explain what our ordeal had made me realize, Fíli called my name.
“Kíli, come gather wood,” My brother ordered, nodding toward the trees, so I whispered “Later,” and patted Bilbo goodbye on the shoulder before following Fíli away from camp. Considering that the fire had fuel enough for hours, I assumed he needed to discuss something important with me where the others could not hear and perhaps I could use this chance to talk to him as well.
"Is something wrong?” I asked him when he finally stopped, worried by the dark look that had returned to his face. Perhaps our uncle was more injured than I had thought or he had seen a sign that our enemy was on our trail. However, I couldn't sense anything malevolent out in the dark and surely it would take the Defiler some time to track us down again. So I turned to Fíli with a question in my eyes.
“Yes, brother, something is wrong. Kíli, you have to stop this." He said, staring at me with a disappointed frown.
Huh? “Stop what?”
“This thing with the halfling. You are not subtle as you think you are and you must end it before the others notice.” Fíli snarled and I recoiled at the anger in his voice.
He already knows about us? But then why hasn't he said anything before, and why does he sound so unhappy? Shouldn't Bilbo's actions last night have changed his mind?
My first instinct was still denial, to run and hide from conflict as I had always done before, but I had promised myself that there would be no more secrets. So for once I refused to back down and compromise, for once I was going to fight for what I wanted and try to make my brother understand.
“It's not a thing! And why should I stop? I know no one thought much of him at first but he's more than proved himself by now to all the ones who matter. Besides, Bilbo doesn't mind and there's no harm in anything we've done.”
“Anything you've done?” His eyes widened as though with fear and he grabbed my arm tightly, fingers digging hard into my skin. “You have not bedded the hobbit?”
“His name is Bilbo!” I answered, pulling back angrily against my brother's hands. “And what is your problem? Why would it matter if I did?” Not like I'm a virgin anymore.
"He is not acceptable." Fíli declared with a growl. "And you have not answered the question."
Yeah well neither have you brother, not really, I thought in frustration, unable to understand the extreme hostility I faced. But I knew that Fíli would be more willing to listen to my arguments if I appeared to cooperate with his demands and so I tried to keep the anger from my voice when I replied. “If you must know we haven't done anything yet. But I still don't understand what business it is of yours. I have lain with males before, as have half the members of our company, and it is common enough among the Shire folk- I made sure of that.”
This conversation really wasn't making any sense. While I knew my brother had ridiculously high standards for whom he considered “worthy,” if Bilbo had not met them by now then no one ever would, and Fíli had never seemed to despise those who slept with males the way our parents did. Indeed he had tried to break up my “unsuitable friendships” whether I was fucking them or not and I had trouble believing that my brother could not tell the difference since I had not been very subtle when I was young.
So I had assumed that his disapproval was just some sort of misguided protectiveness based on his obsession with our name and his crazy idea that our family was somehow better than the rest. But even if I didn't always agree with his reasoning, my brother had never hated someone for no reason at all and I knew that he wished me to be happy. So I had thought that when I finally gave away my heart to one who proved their merit, Fíli would accept them no matter whom they were. Yet as his face twisted with fury, I started to wonder just how wrong about him I might be.
“You were younger then, some experimentation among youths is to be expected, but things are different now. A male dwarf would be bad enough, though perhaps acceptable for a commoner, but you are one of Durin's line and soon we will have regained our throne. You must be prepared to marry well and sire heirs for the sake of our people, not tie your heart to a fruitless union. For I know you brother and I know this is not some casual liaison that you will cast easily aside; you believe you are courting the hobbit as your one and only and that cannot be borne.
And he is not even a dwarf. Think of the disgrace to our uncle once people find out, think of the disgrace to you. How can you expect to command the respect of our people with a hobbit at your side, brave though he may be? No they will scorn him and scorn you for falling so far outside our race. And how can you expect him to happy, separated from his people and living in the halls of Erebor?”
His words shocked me to silence for a long moment as I finally realized just how deep the poison ran. No matter how many times my hobbit showed his bravery, no matter how many times he saved our lives, it would never be enough, because he was not a dwarf, he was not female and he did not fit into the life that my brother had planned out. Fíli truly hated Bilbo and he truly did not understand me; he could not see past the surface and he had never even tried.
It was there in his eyes, in the way he talked to me as if I were a stranger and I knew that nothing I said would ever change his mind. He was as bad as our elders, maybe even worse and I would find no support for my cause from him. Perhaps my brother would someday realize that there was more to a person than their honor or their name, but I could see now that this would take a miracle and so I had a decision of my own to face.
I could give in and let the lies become reality, give up that last spark of hope and become the Durin that my family wanted, the Durin who was miserable within his hollow soul. Or I could follow my heart. I could fight for what I wanted and fight for my own happiness as I never had before.
The choice was not difficult at all.
"Do not speak to me of Erebor! You have asked me to think of Bilbo and our family and I have, but now I must ask you to think of me. What use have I for a mountain or its treasure? Why would I, who was born upon the open road and raised under wood and sky, yearn for the cold embrace of stone above my head. I know you dream of the gold and glory of our grandfather, and when the time comes you will serve our people well, but that is not my dream. That has never been my dream.
I dream of the chance to earn an honest living and of a home to return to when the long days are done. I dream of a simple life filled with love and laughter, and I will take it where I have found it no matter who approves. I am on this quest only for love of you and Thorin, not for any other reason, and I swear that I will see my duty through. But I will not sacrifice my heart to do it, not for all the gold in Erebor."
Fíli stared at me with wide eyes as the truth of my desires came pouring out and yet I could see that my brother still didn't understand. So when he started to protest I cut him off before he could say a word.
“No, brother. I will always love you but I cannot grant you this.” Though I could at least grant him secrecy to ease his peace of mind. He was still my brother and I felt I owed him that, if only to keep our company from tearing itself apart before our journey was done. But I would live this lie no longer than I must and once Erebor was reclaimed, all bets were off.
“Do not worry though,” I told him. “I will protect our family's honor for your sake. Even if Bilbo accepts my troth none shall know before our quest is finished, and afterward I do not think that it will matter anymore.”
Then I smiled at him sadly for I knew that these words were the beginning of the end and that in my mind I was already planning our goodbye. I would still try to change my brother's mind before our journey ended, hopeless though it may be, but I had seen the strength of Fíli's conviction and I feared that I would have to lose him after all. Because if I could not love Bilbo with my family's blessing then I would love him without it, even if I could never show my face at home again. But it could not truly be home without my hobbit at my side and so as long as my brother forced me to choose, there was only one decision I could make.
So I turned and left him there, walking back to the fire where my heart still waited. I could answer Bilbo's question now.
It was surprisingly easy to keep my promise to my brother, but this did nothing to ease the burning anger in my chest.
Although I did not truly hate Fíli because I knew that his reaction was not entirely his fault, I was still furious and I wanted him to know it. I wanted him to realize that I was not the only one who would pay the price of his foul hatred and I hoped that this knowledge might make my brother think twice about what he had done. Because I also knew that I would forgive him if he only tried.
But every time he opened his mouth, Fíli only spewed more venom and I saw no reason to subject myself to his company if he could not control his hate. Thus while he was still my brother and I would probably always love him, by the time we reached the hall of Gandalf's friend we barely talked at all, though I could feel him watching me as I walked at my hobbit's side.
However when our company entered the wooden hall and the wizard introduced us to Beorn, I was briefly distracted from my problems by the conundrum of this enormous, quiet man. Our host was intriguing, rough and feral in a way I'd never seen before and yet there was a kindness underneath the surface that I didn't think the others saw. Yet, as fascinating as I found the man, I was far more interested in exploring his home with Bilbo for I hoped that this would allow us to deepen our relationship in ways which we could not on the road and I hoped that the size of it would allow me to avoid Fíli's continual attempts to interfere.
While I could not avoid my brother entirely, it was easy enough to keep my distance and even when uncle assigned us to work together I did not have to speak. There was no point in responding anyway for all he spoke of as we cleaned and repaired gear was of the mistake that I was making and while Fíli tried to make it seem that he was only being logical, I could see the disgust buried in his eyes.
It hurt to know what he truly thought of me and so as soon as we finished working I would slip away to find my hobbit, follow him out into the gardens and dream of better days. With just the two of us together I could pretend that no one would judge us harshly and I needed this reminder of what I was fighting for.
Yet even though it pained me, in a strange way I was almost grateful for Fíli's resistance because every argument taught me what my love could overcome. Because I knew that our relationship would face challenges and if we were going to survive them, I could not hide my head in the sand and pretend that everything was fine. I had to make my choice with open eyes so that when our love came due, I did not resent the price.
And I didn't, for no matter what my brother threw at me it was never worse than the thought of losing Bilbo, which is how Fíli almost broke me in the end. I had known about our age difference but I had never realized just how far the scales were tilted until I learned the age that hobbits died.
“Because you know he'll be dead in about fifty years anyway,” My brother told me, almost offhand on the third morning before getting into all the other reasons why I should marry a woman of his choice. But my mind stuck on those words, that casual deadline added to Bilbo's life and as soon as I could escape I thought it over and realized that his statement was true. Now that I was looking for it, I could see confirmation there in my hobbit's stories, in the remarks to which I had paid little attention at the time.
I wanted to scream then, scream at the injustice of it all. For no matter what I did, no matter how hard I fought to make my family understand, I was still going to lose Bilbo too soon in the end. And because I was only flesh and blood I wondered, I wondered if it was worth paying such a high price for a love that could not last.
Yet even as I thought this, I knew that I could never give him up for doing so would not spare me any pain. It was far too late for that and whether I broke his heart now or broke mine later was the only choice I had to make. So I resolved to treasure the time we had together and never waste another chance.
When I came to this decision, I went to find Bilbo and lead him toward Beorn's gardens, determined to make good on my vow. We had spent many hours there already, trading tales and kisses and as soon as we were out of sight I leaned down and pressed my lips to his again. His mouth was soft and warm as he melted into my embrace with a contented sigh and I savored the heartbeat that I could feel against my chest. Alive for now. Alive for as long as I can keep you.
“What's gotten into you?” My hobbit asked me with a crooked grin when we finally drew apart. “You're usually a bit more cautious than that.”
I didn't want to tell him about my revelation so I just shrugged and wrapped an arm around his shoulders while I led him deeper into the maze of plants. There was no need for him to know how his death would hurt me when it was not in his control and I did not want to scare him off. I could tell that he was starting to return my feelings, but I hadn’t yet told him just how much he meant to me. “Can't I just be happy to see you?”
Bilbo scoffed, ducking under the leaves of Beorn's raspberry bushes in order to reach our hideaway. “You're always happy to see me, but I wasn't complaining. Just surprised.” There was a sort of grotto here, a sheltered clearing between the plants and the house walls where no one could interrupt us and it was our favorite place in the gardens to sit and talk.
Although I had been trying to hide it, my hobbit must have sensed my melancholy mood for he sat down and leaned back against the wall before reaching out a hand. “C'mere love,” he said gently and I let him pull me forward, ending up sprawled across him with my head in his lap.
His warmth was comforting and I didn't say anything for a moment as I enjoyed the feel of him and the way his hand stroked slowly across my back. I wanted to tell him that I loved him and that I was in this for as long as he would have me, but I didn't know how to begin such a declaration so I fell back on a well worn request instead. “Will you tell me more about the Shire?”
"Again?" Bilbo laughed softly and brushed hair away from my face. "Haven't you heard enough yet?"
Never, I thought with a bittersweet pang in my heart as I curled toward him, tucking my head deeper into his lap. I will never have enough of you. But I tried to keep these dark thoughts from my voice when I replied, “I like listening to you, it's soothing. And it seems only fair, since I've told you everything important about me already.”
“Somehow I doubt that greatly. If it were true you couldn't keep surprising me so well.” Bilbo said fondly, before giving in as I knew he would. “But if you want a story, let me think. You've already heard all about Bag End and the Party Tree and my relatives, both dear and not.”
“Heh, yeah. I would love to see uncle Thorin meet those cousins of yours, the Sackville-Bagginses, maybe he'd finally have to change his expression.” Mahal knows uncle could use someone to put him in his place and maybe then us Durins would finally see the dangers of letting pride and greed rule where hearts should lead.
That thought brightened my mood slightly and Bilbo also stifled a chuckle at the image, running his hand gently through my hair. He had talented fingers and although I could hear him talking, I just let his voice wash over me, truly relaxing for the first time since Fíli had nearly broken me apart. However, my hobbit could tell that I wasn't really listening and he poked me in the side with his other hand, regaining my attention in time to hear a statement with which I heartily agreed.
“But it's a beautiful place as I'm sure you saw, all rolling green hills and swift-running streams.
The market in Hobbiton is the largest in the Shire and hobbits from all the neighboring towns such as Bywater and Needlehole come there to do their shopping every day. You can buy anything you could possibly need: fruits and vegetables, meat and eggs, pipeweed, clothing, flowers and jewelry. And on the major market holidays everyone comes from as far as Hardbottle in the North, Gamwich in the South, and across the Brandywine to the East, because that's when people sell bigger items like cows and furniture.
In the spring and summer wandering pedlars who sell rarer odds and ends often appear, that's how I picked up most of my books and maps, and the news of them always travels far and wide before they arrive. Getting metalwork has been harder since the old smith passed on, but Old Boffin's quite handy with a knife sharpener and we can always send up to Bree for pots.
Although of course everyone always says that no one has a gift for metal like the dwarves so whenever your people pass through on their way to other places, hobbits come out of the woodwork with things they want repaired. All the delicate and complicated metalwork is saved for your skilled hands and it's always quite a crowd. I have this old clock passed down from my grandfather that I'd been meaning to get fixed for years but I could never make it through the crush...”
The more Bilbo told me about his home the more wonderful it seemed and it almost scared me how clearly I could picture it in my mind. I could see us there together building a new life, see myself sliding easily into the role of smith and husband and some of that longing seeped into my voice when the hobbit finally drifted off. “It sounds lovely. As fine a home as you could want.”
He smiled down at me and I heard the same yearning in his words when he replied. “It is. I think you'd love it there.”
I had to look at him then, shifting over onto my back to see his face and the love I saw there gave me the courage to finally ask the question which had been stuck in my throat. “Do you think... maybe when this quest is over, I could come back to Hobbiton with you?”
“Of course, love. Of course you can.” Bilbo answered, leaning down to hug me tight and I returned the embrace nearly lightheaded with relief. However, when my hobbit drew back there was worry on his face as well and he asked me with concern, “But are you sure? I mean you're a prince and I don't want you to get in trouble with Thorin or anyone.”
I could hear the doubt in his voice and I could not bear it so I leaned up to kiss him again. My hobbit had reason for his caution since I had mentioned Fíli's disapproval in order to explain the continuing need for secrecy but I wanted him to know that I still had no regrets. I wanted him to understand the truth as I saw it and while I may have downplayed my family's reaction slightly, I needed to remove the worry from his eyes.
“I may be one of uncle's heirs but I'm the spare and everyone recognizes that. Mahal knows my family has always despaired of my ever acting like a proper representative of Durin's line. So while my relatives won't approve at first they should get over it eventually, and I don't care about what anyone else thinks. Being with you is worth it.” And it is, it's worth everything and maybe it won't cost as much as we fear. Maybe over the course of this journey my brother will come around, but even if he doesn't, you shouldn't feel guilty over the choice that I have made. There is no need for you to bear the brunt of Fíli's hate.
“So I am sure, I promise. I want you, more then anything.” Reassurances made my mind turned to more pleasant things, and I could not resist a bit of teasing, a promise of things to come, my voice going husky at the wicked thoughts that filled my mind.
“I want you and I would have you already if I could. Kiss you senseless as I undress you oh so slowly, button by button revealing your soft skin. I'd worship you with hands and mouth until you're begging me to take you and I would, eventually. Once I've worked you open and you're writhing on my fingers, so overcome with pleasure that all you can do is gasp my name. I'd kiss you then, lick my way into your mouth and swallow your cries as I finally push my way inside you. And you'd accept me greedily for you'd want it, you'd need me to fill you to the brink.”
Bilbo made a hungry noise at these words, a growl to match my own and leaned down to claim my mouth passionately. I loved him like this when his desire outweighed his sense of propriety, rough and demanding against my lips.
We broke for air, no more than a brief gasp before I pulled him back to me, thrusting into his mouth as I wished to drive into his body. Although we lacked the supplies and privacy to do what I truly wanted, there was plenty left for us to explore and our tongues tangled, hot and wet. My hobbit moaned and wrapped an arm around my neck while I shimmied upright so that I could straddle him and press him back into the wall. He was soft and warm and welcoming as I ground against him, kissing fierce and desperate before tracing a line down his throat.
“You drive me crazy you know that? You drive me absolutely mad. You're all I can think about when I'm laying awake at night, the itch to touch you burning in my veins.” I whispered as sucked a mark into his neck and slipped my hand beneath his shirt to get at skin.
“I lie there and wonder if you feel it too, if you would be as hard as I am if I reached out to touch. If you would moan and shudder and come apart beneath my hand. I've thought about it, about covering your mouth and stroking you beneath the cover of darkness, where one wrong sound would give us away. Or you could wear your ring and ride me by the fire, hidden to their eyes but not my touch. You would have to stay quiet, bite back your cries as I pressed you open and lowered you down upon my cock. Could you do that? Could you keep silent while I drive into you, deeper than you've ever known?”
Bilbo trembled against me, every word making his heart hammer and his pulse jump under my tongue. I rocked forward as I kept talking, our hard lengths grinding together in a slow burn which sent sparks sizzling beneath my skin. He moaned, a breathless gasp and then it was my turn to shudder when my hobbit wrapped small fingers around my aching dick.
“Valar but you're beautiful like this,” Bilbo murmured against my ear, stroking firmly and it was all I could do to return the favor. I covered his hand with mine and grabbed our cocks together, rubbing them together in a slick and filthy slide. With every stroke our fingers tangled and the pleasure coiled higher, messy kisses dissolving into frantic licks as we rutted against the wall. It only took a few more moments before both of us were coming, my vision flashing white behind my eyes as I slumped against his chest.
“One of this days we are actully going to find a proper bed,” I said with a grin when I could finally think enough to speak.
“I'm holding you to that.” Bilbo told me, poking my cheek and laughing when I wrinkled my nose. “If my hands are sticky then it's your fault and you know it. I do hope you had some sort of plan to clean us up.”
“Hmm, maybe. You still have Bofur's handkerchief?” I asked and had to chuckle myself at his disgruntled look.
“I would not call that a real handkerchief, but yes. A proper hobbit would never be without one and this is the closest thing I have. Maybe Beorn has something better that I can nab before we go.” He replied, pulling it from a pocket and wiping off his hands before handing it over so I could finish cleaning us up.
“Planning to be a real burglar now, are you? Though I wouldn't count on finding anything you like. Our host doesn't seem like the type for frills and what he thinks of as a handkerchief would probably be blanket-sized on you.”
“Are you calling me short, Master Dwarf? Because I'll have you know I'm quite a respectable height for a hobbit. Positively tall even.” Bilbo raised an eyebrow and frowned in mock offense for a few seconds before we both lost it, dissolving into helpless laughter. Still giggling I eventually managed to push myself off his lap and settle against the wall by his side, nudging his arm with a raised eyebrow of my own.
“I think tall may be an overstatement, but you're not short, you're the perfect size for me. And I think it's my turn to tell a story now.” My hobbit nodded his agreement and laid his head on my shoulder before asking about dwarven myths and legends and soon the pair of us were off in a discussion which easily wiled away the afternoon.
The next days passed far too quickly for my tastes even though I recognized that time was running out and so I was disappointed when Gandalf and Thorin gathered us together to declare that we were ready to move on. Everyone else cheered before the meeting quickly dissolved into a flurry of packing and preparations because honestly, a little more warning would have been nice.
I lost track of my hobbit in the chaos and when he returned awhile later he was strangely subdued, but he would not tell me what was wrong. However I assumed that Bilbo was simply worried about heading back out into the dangers of the world now that he had seen how close our deaths might come.
It hurt to see him this depressed and so I allowed myself to hold him close that night, wrap an arm around him in the corner where no one else could see. Beorn's house had been a dream for us, a lovely dream, but now we had to wake up and I could only hope that the harsh reality of our situation would not bring us down.
In the morning, our host loaned us ponies to carry our company to Mirkwood and Bilbo seemed to be feeling better, cheered by the crisp air and brilliant skies. If he still looked at me with worry periodically then I tried not to hover for I knew that I could not protect my love from everything, not if I truly wanted a partner in my life. However, this did not mean I had to abandon my hobbit to his brooding so I would ride next to him whenever I could, spinning tales and jokes to keep him occupied and keep my mind off Fíli's glares.
Because while my brother had stopped trying to convince me that I was wrong, he still refused to believe that I was right and where there had once been love between us now there was only a bitter spite. For all that I did not regret my choice, this rift still bothered me and I hoped that when Fíli cooled off enough to listen we could at least come to some kind of middle ground.
By this time everyone had noticed the chasm in our hearts and uncle tried to talk to me about it in all his awkward glory. He warned me that the company could not afford to be divided as we headed into the evil of the Mirkwood and practically demanded that the two of us make up.
I told him the truth instead.
I told him that the next move must be Fíli's and though Thorin would have protested, I cut him off with a promise that we would not let our disagreement endanger our quest. While I meant this vow, the fact that I had to make it left me in a foul mood and when we finally reached the forest's edge, I was ready to just call it a day. But then my hobbit grabbed my hand with a smile and I decided that life was looking up.
He led me off into the darkness and as soon as we were out of sight of the camp, I took him in my arms and kissed him, walking him back against a tree. “I've missed you,” I whispered against his mouth before Bilbo tugged my head forward to meet his lips again. We kissed until neither of us could breathe and while there was a strange desperation in the way he moved against me, I was distracted by the sweetness of his mouth and the heat under my hands.
However, when we finally broke for air, my hobbit pushed me away and his face was grave when he told me to wait. “I need to talk to you,” Bilbo said and I felt a chill wash over me for those words had never brought good tidings.
“Is something the matter?” I asked, trying to keep the fear out of my voice.
Yet he didn't answer, just stared at the ground and the longer he refused look at me, the deeper my dread grew. Until eventually he mumbled his response and I felt the world grow faint. “No... or rather yes. We need to end this relationship.”
“What?! Why? What did I do wrong?” There must be some mistake, I thought in horrified disbelief as a knot of panic formed within my chest. You love me, I know you do and you promised that we would make a home together when my duty was fulfilled. Why would you change your mind?
“Nothing, it's not your fault. It's just... You're so young and you have so much life ahead of you, you deserve better than a middle-aged hobbit who's going to die of old age when you're barely in your prime.” Bilbo replied and my heart faltered to hear him speak my greatest fear aloud. Yet I had conquered it and I had made my choice, so all I had to do was make him see.
“But that's what I want! You don't have to protect me from this sorrow because I know what I am facing and loving you is worth it.”
My hobbit was crying now and the sight of tears dripping down his cheeks almost made me miss the words that spilled like daggers from his mouth. The words that were trying to destroy everything that I held dear. “You can't know what you're saying. You think you're in love with me now, but how will you feel when you've given up everything for me? When your family disowns you, your people hate you and then my death breaks your heart. I can't hurt you like that, I can't! It's not fair to you.”
“Bilbo, I don't care. This is my choice to make and I would rather spend fifty years in joy with you than two hundred with a severed heart. Please, you don't have to do this.” I begged him frantically, trying to make him meet my eyes. If he would only meet my eyes then he would have to see my sincerity and he would know the truth of how I felt. I didn't understand where this was coming from, why he refused to believe that I could love him, but I needed him to understand that he would spare me no pain like this.
“Can't you see it's better this way? You'll have your family and your people and someday you'll find love again and you'll grow old together. You will.” Bilbo was pleading now and the anguish in his voice was more than I could bear.
This must be my fault somehow. Maybe if I had just told you the truth earlier we wouldn't be here now, I know you don't want to leave me either or you would not be crying. Please just stay so we can work this out.
“No, no I won't!” I told him desperately. “I know I hadn't told you yet but I love you and I know you feel the same... Bilbo, please.”
“It's for the best,” My hobbit whispered and then he left me, ducked under my arm and ran as though Azog himself were on his heels. He left me, taking my heart with him and leaving only a gaping hole within my chest, a wound that would not heal. All I could do was stare into the darkness where he had vanished, frozen with the hope that if I just waited long enough Bilbo would reappear. But he didn't return and I couldn't, I couldn't breathe when the future spread out before me, a barren wasteland with no reason to go on.
Then I was on the ground for my legs would no longer hold me and I buried my head in my hands as I rocked back and forth muttering my denial. My heart was bleeding out, my hopes naught but jagged shards within my chest and I knew then that there was nothing left for me. There was nothing left but sorrow, no light to fill my world, and I wept in mourning for the dwarf who'd dared to dream.
Part III: Sorrow