Title: A Hobbit's Scorn
Series: A Matter of Perspective
Pairings: Kíli/Bilbo, Lobelia/Otho Sackville-Baggins
Warnings: Lobelia being Lobelia. Minor racism, bitterness, loveless marriages.
Word Count: 6788
Disclaimer: Like I own this.
Summary: Lobelia has never thought much of Bilbo Baggins and her opinion does not improve when he brings home a dwarf.
I am not surprised when Bilbo Baggins runs off into the woods one morning, though I may be the only one who takes the change in stride. But for all his staid respectability and impressive flower garden, that hobbit has always been a fool of the worst sort and I have known that this was coming for quite some time.
Indeed, the first time that I spoke with the older hobbit, I could tell he was the kind of hopeless dreamer that only someone born to wealth can be and I probably should have known that he would refuse to marry me.
In truth, it would have been far too reasonable of Bilbo to accept my proposition but at the time I could not understand why his jaw had dropped like that.
Admittedly, proposing over tea to a near total stranger is not the normal way one does these sorts of things and yet once I saw the inside of his smial, I had to take the chance. For Bag End was everything I'd ever wanted: large, well-furnished and full of expensive treasures, and if I lived there no one would ever look down on me again.
So I asked Bilbo Baggins for his hand in marriage and he choked and gaped and finally stuttered out, “Miss Bracegirdle! That is not appropriate at all! I mean I hardly know you and you're not even of age.”
“An engagement then,” I offered, unwilling to give up on this opportunity. “An engagement until I pass my majority and we may be wed in truth.”
“But why?!” The older hobbit asked me, wringing his hands together in distress. “You cannot truly wish to marry me. I have nearly twice your years and I do not care for lasses, all of Hobbiton knows that.”
“Yes, that is a pity. But while I would have liked a child, you need not force yourself to touch me in order to accept. Indeed you may warm whatever bed you please in the evenings as I long as I have pride of place at your side.”
It seemed a straightforward deal to me and I know of plenty marriages in the Shire that involve these type of deals. Really a name, a home and a warm hearth is all any poor lass could ask for and yet Bilbo's eyes widened with every word I spoke.
He cannot be so innocent with a hobbit hole like this? I wondered, unable to comprehend why my interest seemed to take him by surprise. Perhaps his former suitors had been more subtle, their good manners allowing the hobbit to remain oblivious to how attractive a bachelor he was, but I had cast my hand toward bluntness and I was determined to show Bilbo that he would benefit as much as I.
“I would be a good wife,” I promised, leaning forward earnestly. “I can cook and sew and clean as well as any lass in Hobbiton and I'm a fair touch with roses as well. All I ask in return is your friendship and security.”
It was no more than the truth, my deepest desires laid bare before him, and surely Mr. Baggins would not refuse my plea? However, after a long moment of consideration, he shook his head wearily,
“Miss Bracegirdle... Lobelia. I am sorry but I cannot do as you ask. It would not be right for us to marry without love on either side, not when you still have so many years before you and I swore long ago that I would never marry without my heart's consent.”
Love?! Love is his excuse?! “Love is a myth!” I burst out, my frustration with his denial breaking through my control. “It's a twisted fairytale that entraps the foolish in its talons and I want no part of it.”
Watching my parents had shown me that love was just another way to be manipulated and I refused to allow anyone that much power over me. I would not be my mother who ruled our home through guilt and insinuation, her passion long since transformed into a bitter enmity. Give me a home to call my own; give me security and respect amongst my kindred and I would be at peace. But my best hope of moving up in the world was now being thwarted by this fool hobbit's romantic dreams.
“You should accept my offer,” I told him, trying one last time to make him see. “You should marry me now because you will never find this magic love of which you speak.”
“Perhaps not,” Bilbo replied quietly. “But I will not give up hope just yet and so I am not the one you need.”
There was steel beneath his words and I knew then that I had lost completely, even if his reasoning still seemed insane to me. However, I could have forgiven the rejection someday if not for the pity that I saw in his eyes. This hobbit dared to pity me, he who passed up the chance for contentment on the hope of a fairytale. He dared to think that he was better just because he was a fool and I had never hated anyone as much as I hated him for that.
How could Bilbo judge me for the choices I was making when he planned to sit here in his high smial and waste his life away?
“Good day then, Mr. Baggins. It seems my business here is done,” I announced frostily, only my mother's firm teachings holding far nastier words behind my tongue. But her example had taught me that politeness could be the sharpest sword of all and indeed the hobbit's eyes widened at the change in my tone.
Bilbo actually seemed almost hurt by my sudden departure, the idiot never understanding just how deeply he had insulted me. And perhaps the old hobbit didn't mean it. Perhaps he had simply forgotten that the rest of us could not so easily escape from our reality. We had to face the world for what it was instead of hiding away in an ivory tower and as the door closed behind me, I swore to myself that I would have Bag End one day.
Someday I would be the one whom everyone looked up to and I would do it without such silly things as love. You should have accepted my proposal, I thought, glaring fiercely at the door. But I will have this hobbit hole even if I have to trod across your corpse along the way. You are old, Bilbo. You are old and I can wait.
Truly, time could only be my friend and ally because the hobbit would have no heirs given his proclivities. He would die alone and childless, dreaming of a love who never came, and I would be ready when that day arrived.
So I began my planning and really it was only too easy to decide where I should strike. Because while Bilbo's closest relative was already married and Camelia Sackville-Baggins was a disgustingly healthy hobbitess, their son Otho was just about my age. He might not be the brightest hobbit or the most attractive fellow, but it's not as though I required either of those things. I simply wanted someone comfortable, someone steady and hardworking and, of course, related to the bastard who had dared to pity me. Besides, Otho would be the head of two families once the elder Bagginses passed on and I would have married a Took to gain a prize like that.
First I tested the waters with a little casual flirting, enough to be sure that Otho was not bent like his cousin, and then I visited his father to plead my case. It had to be Longo since both of us were underage and I could tell where the power in that family lay. My intended fiancé would do as his parents commanded, which meant I needed to stake my claim before some other hussy dug her claws in deep.
“I wish to wed your son,” I announced after a fine supper, having learned my lesson about proposing over tea.
Though perhaps I should have waited until Longo and his wife had finished chewing because for a few minutes there I thought I'd killed them all. However, once they were done coughing, Otho's parents took my bluntness in stride.
“And why should we accept?” Longo asked calmly, a reaction I much preferred over Bilbo's panicked flailing for I was confident that I could conquer the logical.
“Because your son is an idiot. Otho needs someone sensible to look after him, someone to take care of the niceties so that he doesn't have to think. Practical details are my specialty and I can promise that I won't expect any more than he can give. As long as he's steady and hardworking, I will be the perfect wife and I know that together we'd do fine.”
Neither hobbit bothered to correct my estimation of their son's intelligence and I knew then that I had taken the right tack. Camelia and Longo would be won over by hard facts not pretty speeches, so all I had to do was convince them that I was worth their time.
“That's all well enough for Otho, but your family is hardly wealthy.” Longo replied evenly, a familiar glint of avarice in his eyes. “What could you possibly have to offer us?”
He hoped to rattle me, I think, his tongue searching out a weakness with which to make me crack. However, I was used to dealing with such insults so I just smiled at him sweetly in reply, “It is true that my dowry is not large compared to a Boffin or a Proudfoot but that just means you need not offer a high bride price to win me. My parents will be content with a few small tokens and in exchange I will give you so much more.
For what I lack in goods, I make up in skill and I assure you there is no finer wedding lace in all the Westlands. I will give Otho and this family my utter loyalty, working only to better our name and place within the Shire so that you need not worry about your son when you are gone.”
“Fair points my dear, and Otho does need looking after, but none of that is why you're here,” Camelia spoke for the first time, her voice polite but unyielding. “Tell me what you truly want from my family and perhaps you will receive the blessing that you seek.”
This is a hobbitess whom I could admire, I thought, realizing that I might have misjudged the ruler of this family after all. Because Camelia played the game with a skill that my mother could only dream of and if she taught me her secrets, I could be one of the queens of Hobbiton. There were few things I wanted more than this, indeed only one, and here at last was a family who would not see my ambitions as something to be feared.
So I met Camelia's eyes squarely and declared, “I want Bag End when Bilbo dies.”
For a moment there was silence, long enough that I began to think I had misjudged them after all, and then Longo burst into great bellowing peals of laughter. But before I could storm out of their hobbit hole and declare another feud against the Baggins family, Camelia reached out to smack him upside the head.
“Do be quiet, husband mine. You know how fragile a child's pride is at that age.”
“I know, my darling, but I simply couldn't help it. She's just like you used to be.”
“I suppose you're right,” His wife replied and now it was Camelia's turn to look me over critically. “A bit too blunt at the moment but we can work on that and she's pretty enough that no one would question Otho's choice. All right then, my dear, I think you'll do. Welcome to the family.”
I barely had time to blink before my new in-laws swept me into me into a flurry of preparation and although I was not complaining, I was actually rather startled at how fast they adopted me. However, Camelia explained later that her eye had been on Bag End for quite a while and I had stumbled into the middle of her plans. Because the hobbitess needed a wedding before she could push her claim, one the Shire thought was romantic and oh so very proper, but the lasses were not exactly lining up for Otho's hand. Thus I had been a blessing from the Valar, for surely Bilbo could not refuse his cousin future claim on the smial once we were married and I would ensure that Otho did not forget what he was due.
So I left my parents happily, moving in with the Sackville-Bagginses for a properly chaperoned engagement of at least three years. I was prepared to wait a lifetime if I had to and yet it takes barely a full turn of the seasons before we are granted our opportunity.
Because that fool dreamer Bilbo has finally cracked just as I knew he would, disappearing one sunny morning with nothing but one small travel pack. Personally, I think the hobbit finally realized that there would be no love for him in the Shire and rather than give up his hopes of romance, he decided to leave instead. Honestly I would almost admire his persistence if I did not hate him so fiercely, but I am far more interested in his smial than I am in Mad Baggins' state of mind.
Of course it would be unseemly to simply move in this instant, particularly if the old fool should stumble back this way. However, after several weeks with no news of Bilbo, Camelia and I decide it's safe to begin our campaign.
“It's such a pity to have that lovely hobbit hole abandoned,” We murmur to his neighbors while trading recipes and allow them to draw the logical conclusion for themselves.
“Such a shame that Bilbo has no close family who can look after Bag End while he is gone. I just hope he does come back since we’ve all heard stories of the dangerous world out there. Why my great-uncle Hrothbert nearly lost his head to a goblin only two generations back and my dear cousin is not the fighting sort.”
Camelia truly is a master, her implications subtle but inescapable and soon half of Hobbiton is convinced that Bilbo's dead in a ditch somewhere. The older generation whispers it amongst themselves, the rumors spreading from market to well to hobbit hole until no one remembers just where they began. I take care of the younger crowd in a similar manner and while I lack my mother-in-law's finesse, I see my duty done.
Though this is only the first stage of our battle and the Thain is not so easily convinced. After all, Bilbo is a distant relative of his and the old fusspot will not declare him dead without an argument.
Indeed it takes Longo and Camelia months of promises and flattery before Fortinbras will hear our case and even longer before he agrees. But after the elder Baggins has been gone an entire year, even the Thain's hope is dwindling.
So it is a joyous morning when our lawyers can finally declare Bilbo Baggins deceased and all of his possessions defaulted to his nearest relatives. There is some slight grumbling at this, mostly from a few minor cousins and the hobbit's gardener, but our campaign has served us well. Because Bilbo's neighbors are now terrified of Bag End falling into ruins, the once grand smial turning into a disaster right next door and they would accept anyone who promises to stop that from happening.
Idiots, the lot of them. Too blind to see that the Gamgees would never allow it, not when they've been caring for that hobbit hole for years. But their stupidity is my gain and I can only smile smugly as all our plans come to fruition, even if some of the older hobbitesses still look down on me.
“Low class,” they call it, snickering behind their polite smiles when my back is turned. “Tacky and improper to move in before seven years have passed. Particularly when the young couple isn't even married yet.” However, their spiteful tongues are quickly silenced when we decide to hold an auction, for even the most crotchety old lady can be bought by the chance to claim Belladonna's silverware.
Obviously we do not plan to sell everything since half of the smial's charm is in its antiques, but Bilbo was something of a hoarder and all his memories must go. I want nothing there to make me feel guilty, only that which marks my victory, and although Otho does not understand it, he gives in when I ask.
My dear fiancé knows that he's not the brightest star in the sky and he's happy to let me handle the scheming as long as I allow him to have his fun sometimes. Truly we seem to complement each other better than I had hoped and while I will never love him with any sort of burning passion, I think we will be comfortable. Comfortable and respected in that hall beneath the hills and I hope that Bilbo's spirit chokes on its regret.
I hope he’s watching as I sell off his greatest treasures, the heirlooms of his family thrown to the greedy masses who have gathered on his stoop.
However, the auction has barely begun when there is a commotion near the back of the crowd and all my worst nightmares come true. Because that is Bilbo riding forward, much thinner and dressed rather strangely, but unmistakably alive. He is alive when his corpse should be rotting on the Great East Road somewhere and although I wanted him to see my victory, I did not want it like this.
“You were gone for a year, cousin, you can hardly blame us for assuming the worst, particularly when you ran off with dwarves. So while it took some time for the Thain to agree, you can check our paperwork yourself and I assure you that the firm of Grubb, Grubb and Burrows filed everything properly.” His eye twitches when I call him cousin, a petty vengeance that does little to ease the sting when Bilbo tears my argument to shreds just as I knew he would.
To be fair, he has the right of it, still living as he is, and yet I am too consumed by bitterness to concede easily. I was this close to having everything until that bastard ruined it by living, this close to achieving my greatest dream.
So I order our lawyers to find a loophole, refusing to accept it when they just shake their heads at me. In truth, I might never have let Grubb, Grubb and Burrows convince me it was hopeless if Camelia had not tapped me on the shoulder and whispered urgently, “You are being unseemly, my dear. Best paste on a smile until we have another chance.”
However, while I allow the hobbitess to lead me down the steps, I cannot keep from glaring as we make our retreat, too focused on Bilbo to notice the other new face in the crowd. It is only days later, after we are licking our wounds in the Southfarthing that I learn how truly screwed we are. Because Bilbo did not come back alone and I never would have thought I could hate him even more.
But somehow the hobbit found himself a dwarf prince and they are so in love it hurts.
Really they are absolutely, positively fucking smitten with each other and every time I see them together, I have to fight the urge to retch. Their relationship is everything I cannot stand about romance in fairytales, their star-crossed love story all anyone can talk about.
Yet hate is a strange thing and no matter how I try to stay away, my feet keep leading me back to Hobbiton. I have to know the truth of it; I have to know whether Bilbo somehow found his miracle.
So I watch them, lurking in the shadows and hoping that I will find a lie beneath their happiness. But while the dwarf is obviously out of his depth in the Shire, he never seems distressed by our vast differences and his persistent sunniness soon has the entire neighborhood eating out of his hands.
I just can't understand it. He's tall and skinny and too hairy by far and why can't anyone else see how inappropriate this is? Even his name is stupid, Killi or Kelly or something, so how can one ridiculously charming smile overcome generations of insularity? Even Edel Proudfoot seems to like him, Edel who does not like anyone, and I cannot be too surprised when the hobbit sells his forge for a fraction of its worth.
Suddenly Bilbo's dwarf is a fixture in the marketplace, ruler of a small corner next to Lyra Brownlock's woven cloth and he seems happy working with his hands like a commoner. I guess dwarvish princes aren't as high and mighty as the tales would have us think, or perhaps this Killy fellow is as strange amongst his own folk as he is to ours.
However, no matter how much I dislike the idiot on principle, I cannot deny that he has skill. For the ring that Kelli makes for Bilbo is the most beautiful piece that I have ever seen, a woven band which shines like starlight and makes every hobbitess burn with jealousy.
Soon the dwarf's business is booming, even my mother-in-law finding an excuse to drop by, and only my pride stops me from joining her. Pride and a lingering bitterness over the pair's besotted grins.
Though, in truth I have nothing to be jealous of; my fiancé is a good hobbit if not one who sparks passion, my in-laws adore me even if my mother never did and one day that fine smial shall fall into my grasp. What is a fairytale romance compared to that? Somehow it sounds less convincing every time I ask myself this question, particularly when Bilbo's wedding day begins to draw near.
For while the gossip had died down after a few months of the dwarf’s presence, this new event has every tongue wagging once again. It's all anyone can talk about: the party, their clothes, the banquet planning and I have to admit that my curiosity is peaked.
Because there are dwarves in the Shire again, a veritable swarm of them come to visit Bilbo's fiancé. There's even a lady dwarf, proving once and for all that their race does not spring from rock and stone like the legends always say. It is her presence which breaks my resolve and so I find myself slinking around Hobbiton in the hope of a glance.
After all, it's not every day that one sees a dwarvish princess and I want to know what their womenfolk are like. Though at first sight she seems disappointingly normal if a bit hairier than I expected, hardly worth the shame of giving in to all the fuss.
Thankfully my slip goes unnoticed by everyone but Camelia and my mother-in-law cannot throw any stones, not when she has been trying to copy the dwarrowdam's intricate braiding ever since she arrived. It's utterly ridiculous how obsessed the entire Shire is with Bilbo's wedding party and after I recover from my moment of weakness, I refuse to acknowledge it at all.
Let the hobbit and his dwarf have a grand celebration; let them teach the fauntlings that love is possible. I will be here when it all comes crashing down around them; I will be watching when they finally prove me right.
This promise keeps me warm at night, helping to buffer the hurt when I'm not invited to the party, not that I would have attended anyway. Instead I have to listen to my sewing circle natter on about it afterward, each and every one of them swearing that it was the loveliest wedding they’d ever seen. Marigold becomes positively teary-eyed just thinking about it, describing the ceremony in such overwhelming detail that I actually feel sick. So eventually I ban all mention of Kelle's clothing from the Sackville-Baggins hobbit hole, the merest mention of velvet fabric enough to make me twitch.
It takes another season for the furor to die down, months of gossip and high-pitched giggling before Ruby Hobson runs off with the butcher and gives me some relief.
Over the next few years I become quite good at ignoring Bilbo's existence, wrapping a cold shield around the twinges in my heart, and soon enough it is time for my own wedding, a much smaller affair than my new cousin's effervescent spectacle but one that suits me fine. For it's simple and elegant and only the best and brightest members of the Shire are invited to stand witness to our vows.
We will send our guests home with lace doilies as wedding gifts, the intricate knot-work standing as proof that I deserve their regard. For my family's poverty is still a sore spot and I will have no one believe that this is a pity match.
Even if I do not love my husband the way that the stories say I should, I have grown fonder of Otho in the time since we were affianced. He truly does need looking after, his ambitions in no way rooted to the ground, and I do not mind running both our lives in exchange for his loyalty.
So as I stand before Otho to be pronounced his wife, I cannot find it in me to regret the choices I have made. There was never a grand romance in the stars for me and my husband's kisses are sweet in their own way. A bit unpolished, yes, but we will figure these things out together and I am rather looking forward to practicing. Indeed we do quite a bit of fumbling in the days that follow and while my dream of owning Bag End still burns within me, it does not consume every waking moment as it did before.
Which, perhaps, is why Bilbo manages to catch me off guard.
I come home one afternoon to find a letter waiting for me, an invitation to tea such as that which started this whole mess, and I must admit I am intrigued. Well, at first I'm infuriated by the hobbit's audacity, but once the red haze leaves my vision, I end up replying in the affirmative.
My greatest weakness has always been my curiosity and I cannot help but wonder what Bilbo has to say to me. I want to know whether he has finally come to his sense and I would endure far worse than some awkward conversation to learn his love's a lie, because surely his wide-eyed infatuation must have worn off by now.
However, to my surprise, I quite enjoy myself. For while the older hobbit may still be a damn smitten fool, and he is, his conversation is remarkably erudite nonetheless. Indeed his insults are nearly as polished as mine and he deflects my most pointed barbs with little more than a smile and a new pot of tea. His equanimity intrigues me since the Bilbo to whom I had proposed was much more easily flustered and the knot of hate inside me pales next to this mystery.
For even if his journey didn’t manage to squash that annoying streak of romance, it honed him down into someone far more interesting.
I think I actually like this Bilbo and so when I receive another invitation I accept eagerly. Although I tell myself that these visits are about reconnaissance for my eventual triumph, because if we were actually friends, I would have to treat him much differently. I greatly prefer to see the hobbit as my eternal rival, allowing my tongue to be vicious and my grudges powerful.
But now the dwarf bears the brunt of my glaring, a public show of enmity to remind him of his place since Kalli will never be a hobbit no matter whom he married and you'd think that he'd remember this before trying to turn our lives upside down.
“Your husband wants to what?” I exclaim over my teacup one spring morning when Bilbo mentions his husband's plans. “We are hobbits not fighters! Who does your dwarf think he is?”
“Even hobbits can be dangerous,” My host replies with a private smile before his eyes turn sad. “And if you remembered the Fell Winter like I do, you would know that being able to protect ourselves is nothing bad.”
“Except that it will ruin everything and that's what we have rangers for,” I say with an edge of bite and although the hobbit tries to convince me of his logic, this path is simply unthinkable. So when he will not agree to speak with Kali, I storm from the smial in a huff, swiping a handful of silverware along the way.
For weeks after this I return Bilbo's letters unopened and spend all my time trying to convince my fellow hobbits of his husband's impropriety. But even those who agree with me will do nothing to stop the dwarf from forming his militia as long as he only takes volunteers. It is madness, young hobbits and hobbitesses learning how to kill, and this is exactly what happens when adventures become popular. Soon people will be running off willy-nilly just like Bilbo until our whole society collapses into ruin and regret.
So I make sure to glare at Killy with extra spite every time I see him and if I cannot stop him, maybe my hate will make him ill. However, as the months pass without the disaster I predicted, I start to think that I may have overreacted just a tad.
Because little changes where it really matters: those whom the dwarf trains still love food and friends and family above more warlike things, and I miss sparring with Bilbo almost as much as I miss the taste of his cranberry scones. It's his mother's secret recipe and it seems a shame to end our acquaintance before I manage to recreate it bite for bite. So by the time he and his husband return from their latest jaunt into the wild, I've decided where I stand.
“I still think you're crazy, the both of you,” I announce from Bilbo's porch when the pair rides up. “But it would be poor manners to deprive you of my company just for that. So I will continue to grace you with my presence as long as you keep anymore such brilliant ideas to yourself.”
This pronouncement is met with astonished silence before the dwarf throws his head back and guffaws, his husband's giggles starting up soon after. I wait out their mirth patiently, fighting back the urge to punch them until Bilbo finally adds with a grin, “It's a deal, cousin. We can stick to insulting my neighbors' fashion senses and leave all talk of change for other ears.”
“Good. Then I will see you for tea tomorrow,” I say with a resolute nod before strolling back down the steps.
“Bilbo. Dwarf,” I give the couple another nod as I pass them by, though my cousin-in-law just lets out a chuckle at the slight.
“One of these days you are actually going to call me Kíli and I will die of shock,” the dwarf says cheekily and I raise one eyebrow in reply.
“Well we wouldn't want that, would we? So I shall have to protect your fragile spirit and continue calling you Master Dwarf for now.” That is the end of the discussion, the couple waving farewell as I walk down the path. But to be honest, this is the first time I've really thought about my habit of addressing Bilbo's husband as everything but Kíli and while it started as an insult, I'm not sure if that's the reason anymore.
Because even I have to admit that the dwarf is an annoyingly pleasant person and I don't know why I cannot bring myself to say his name. Perhaps it is a way to keep my distance since in my heart of hearts I still cannot believe that their love is real. I am still waiting for this fantasy to collapse around them even after all these years and I refuse to get attached.
After all, Kanli is the one who is going to leave when that moment comes and maybe I can leverage Bilbo's sorrow to finally reach my goals. Surely that is the only explanation for the surge of protectiveness I feel at the thought of his heart broken, that last bit of dreaming torn to shreds.
But until that day arrives, life in the Shire trundles along just as it always has before.
Every few weeks I stop by Bag End for tea and conversation, nicking a bit of silver here and there on principle. Though in truth my heart is hardly in it anymore, all the antiques I lusted after worthless compared to the warmth that fills the smial from wall to wall. It had been missing when I first met Bilbo, the hobbit hole cold and steeped in grief despite all its finery.
So while I still plan to claim this home someday, I often wonder if it will feel the same once Baggins and his dwarf are gone. Because it is the small touches that make it beautiful: the carved chess set in the corner, the wooden bow above the mantel and, of course, the rosy flush on the hobbit's cheeks when his husband kisses him goodbye. For I may not believe in love but these two make me wish I did sometimes.
Which is why it's such a shock when I walk into Bag End one morning and find a haze of depression hanging over everything.
“Are you all right?” I ask hesitantly when I find Bilbo sitting at his kitchen table, face buried in his hands. He raises his head as I sit down across from him and I can see that he's been weeping by the redness of his eyes.
“Oh. Lobelia. I'm afraid I won't be very good company today. I've rather fucked things up.”
My first instinct is to flee from his raw sorrow for I have never been very comfortable with other people's pain. Which is why I'm just as surprised as the older hobbit when I ask, “Do you want to talk about it?”
However, after gaping for a moment, Bilbo shrugs despondently. “There's not much to tell. We've been fighting lately, stupid arguments about stupid things that just keep spiraling out of control.” A bitter laugh. “We nearly came to blows this morning over how he takes his tea and I may have said some unpleasant things about his family before Kíli stormed off. Not that Fíli doesn't deserve it for everything he put his brother through, but none of that is why we fight.”
“So what is then?”
“Fear I think. Fear of being alone after I'm gone. Because Kíli could easily live another two hundred years and I am going to die while he's still in his prime. Dwarves only love once, you know, their hearts aren't built for second chances like a hobbit's is. So sometimes I wonder if his brother was right and Kíli would have been better off without me in the end.”
There is obviously more to Bilbo's love story than I had ever imagined, more than wine and roses and romancing. But my curiosity matters little compared to his absurdly selfless worry and in this instant all of my doubts crystallize. For this is love before me in all its exquisite agony and, “That is the stupidest thing that I have ever heard. Your dwarf cares about you more than anything and I know you feel the same or you wouldn't be so broken up right now.”
I could never believe their hearts were true because it seemed too easy, but this? This is real. This is painful and messy and far more beautiful than the fantasies that the epics sing about.
“Which is why you're going to find a way to work things out. You are going to enjoy whatever years you have together and if you allow this fear to ruin you, then you are far stupider than I have always claimed. So talk to your dwarf and don't give up until you've made things right.”
Not the most inspiring speech but Bilbo seems to take my words to heart and while it's not immediate, eventually the couple is back to grinning blissfully again. He thanks me once, pulling me aside at one of Ruby Mugwort's dinner parties when his dwarf is up on stage. Killi has quite a skill with music, his fingers flying over the strings of his violin another form of magic, and I can hear the joy in every note he plays. So I take Bilbo's gratitude as no more than my due, even if I am privately pleased to see my foolish cousin smiling once more.
It is only much later that I realize I should have been thanking him for making me believe in love again. For I am sure he and his dwarf would have worked out their problems without my intervention, but I might not have survived the coming years without the revelation they granted me.
It gives me hope to know that such love exists when tragedy tears Bag End from my fingers and while Frodo deserves a home after all he's suffered, I can't help a twinge of bitterness. So I pour myself into raising my own child, my son Lotho the greatest gift that my husband ever gave to me. The day that Otho dies, Bilbo and his dwarf are the ones who support me and even though the hobbit's hair is grey now, their hearts still burn true.
Their stubborn romance keeps me fighting when darkness comes and Lotho rips out my heart without a care, though the couple has been long gone by then. But I wish they were here when my son sides with the wizard, turning his back on everything that I've taught him for the chance to rule our small corner of the world.
Though he seems surprised by my disapproval and perhaps I should have been proud considering that advancement is the Sackville-Baggins way. But there are some lines you do not cross, some things for which even a proper hobbitess will go to war.
So I do because I bow to no one, not even my son. Though I am not alone in my fighting, the dwarf's volunteer militia earning their battle scars in those dark hours, and that is one argument I am very glad I lost. Yet no matter how many young lives we lose to the wizard's monsters, no matter how much it hurts when my own child imprisons me, we never give up on our home and eventually a better day must come.
Eventually we stand triumphant and in the weeks that follow I have never been so proud to be a hobbit as everyone bands together to rebuild our homeland, all lines of class and feuding forgotten in the need to set things right.
And it is beautiful to see young love blossoming from the ashes of destruction; it gives me joy where once I would have scoffed. For while I will never experience the kind of love that burns so brightly, I want to live in a world where it is possible.
I want to live in a world of fools and dreamers who never stop believing, even if I will always think them slightly delusional. But we need them to remind us that some things are worth the struggle and when Kíli and Bilbo finally ride back into the Shire to help with the rebuilding, I greet both of them by name.