Title: Stone Sleep
Fandom: The Hobbit
Prompt: Trope Bingo! Presumed Dead
Warnings: Canon Typical Bullshit
Word Count: 7443
A/N: For Keira. Fixed it!
Royal Sepulcher, Erebor
“Thorin, Fili, and Kili will sleep with the stone until Mahal releases them,” Balin explained as Bilbo stared at the biers holding the Durin’s. “Dáin will keep things steady until Dís gets here to take the throne.”
The grief Bilbo felt at that reminder was like a vat of black pitch bubbling away in his chest. If he gave in to it, it would pull him under the surface and he would drown in it. The only thing keeping him from letting it happen was the heartseeds he carried. They were moving like a flock of excited hummingbirds every time his thoughts turned dark, drawing his attention away from his grief.
The thought of his children solidified something in him and Bilbo nodded once. “I can’t stay here, Balin. I need to return to the Shire.”
“But you are Consort Under the Mountain,” Balin protested. “Your place is here!”
Bilbo reached out and carefully brushed a stray lock of hair back into place on Thorin’s head. “I can’t stay here, Balin. Not while they are gone. If I do, I’ll Fade.”
“Bilbo,” Balin breathed. “You can’t leave.”
“I can’t stay,” Bilbo repeated. He looked at his husband and felt the tears well in his eyes. “I’ll be at Bag End in the Shire. You can send ravens to me weekly. You can send the Company to check on me. But please, don’t make me stay and live without him.”
“I…,” Balin glanced at the bier and nodded once. “Alright. Glóin needs to head back to the Blue Mountains with Bombur to help bring their families up. They’ll escort you.”
Pressing his fingertips to his eyes, Bilbo nodded. He needed to get a hold of himself. He had at least six months of travel before he could safely lose his shite at being a widower before he had really been a spouse. At least his traveling companions would be good at leaving him be.
Bag End, Bagshot Row, The Shire
“What in the world?” Glóin asked as they walked up the path to his smial.
“That’s my mother’s Glory Box,” Bilbo breathed as he watched a hobbit walk off with the box. “Oiy! Where are you going with that!”
“There’s an auction happening. On account of Bilbo Baggins being dead and all,” the hobbit announced cheerfully.
“I’m what?” Bilbo demanded. He stared at the man and realized he knew him. He was a tenant of his, Michael Littlefoot. “Never mind. Don’t wander too far, Michael. You don’t want to have to hike back here to return my things, now do you?”
“By Yavanna, Mr. Baggins?” Littlefoot squeaked. “Oh, my sir. We were all told you were dead and the Sackville-Baggins were your heirs. They’ve been collecting the rent for the last six months. It’s gone up too.”
The temper and emotional blowout Bilbo had been managing since he had handed Thorin over to Mahal hit critical and he nodded once. “That’s it, then.”
Marching up Bagshot Row, Bilbo pushed the magic that made him the head of the Baggins family out before him. The hobbits lined up in front of the auctioneer were pushed out of his way and he stopped it as Lobelia and Otho were revealed. Reaching deep into the well of his magic, he pulled on the blood connection between him and Otho. “What in the actual fuck are you doing, Otho? You’ve known I wasn’t dead. Why are you allowing this?”
“You’ve been gone for more than a year. We didn’t know you were alive. We were just taking responsibility for what you abandoned,” Lobelia sniped.
“I’m not talking to you, Lobelia,” Bilbo snapped. “This is between your husband and I.”
“I…,” Otho stuttered as Bilbo stared at him. He glanced at his wife and winced. “What Lobelia said.”
“Seriously? You married that harridan and now you can’t talk to your clan head without permission?” Bilbo sneered. He glanced over at the auctioneer. “You’re fired. Have your people collect everything you sold today that came out of Bag End and return the money.”
“How do we know you’re Bilbo Baggins?” the auctioneer asked.
“Given that you paid me rent for ten years, Martin,” Bilbo reminded him. “You had better remember who I am. Now, since you had to have broken into my home, you should have had a clue that I was still alive. Is there a Bounder here?”
“Bilbo? Are you okay?” Glóin asked as he reached him.
“I’m fine, Glóin,” Bilbo informed him with a smile. He wasn’t looking at the dwarrow, he was staring at Lobelia and Otho.
“Fine is not the word I would use, lad,” Glóin observed. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this angry. Not even with Thranduil.”
“Thranduil earned my ire. And he’s aware of it. He also knows not to fuck with me,” Bilbo reminded him. When a hobbit stepped up beside him, Bilbo tilted his head. “Adrian, good to see you. Were you aware of this?”
“Only today,” his cousin admitted. He stared at the auctioneer and nodded at him. “You need to return everything. You’ll be going before the Thain to explain this,” Adrian turned to look at the Sackville-Baggins and nodded at them. “You’ll be going as well. I’ll be recommending you be charged with theft.”
“Bilbo was declared dead six months ago!” Lobelia screeched.
“No, he wasn’t,” Adrian reminded them. “The Thain declared him missing. You were the ones to say that he was dead.”
“And rob me of rents it seems,” Bilbo announced. “You’ll be paying those back too. You’ve known for years that you aren’t my heir, Otho.”
“He should be,” Lobelia complained. “Otho is the only one of his relatives qualified to be his heir!”
“He doesn’t have the magic needed to support the Baggins family,” Adrian said after glancing at Bilbo. “But that’s not something we need to go into in public, Lobelia. You and Otho are in the wrong, and you know it.”
“Glóin, Bombur, head up into Bag End. I’ve still got some things to take care of,” Bilbo said as he started to shrug out of his pack. The chest from the troll horde was put on top and he eyed it with disgust. The damn thing smelled horrific. But the coins inside could be washed easily enough, and then spent on everything Erebor would need. The last caravan from the Blue Mountains wasn’t expected for another six weeks at minimum. Plenty of time for Glóin and Bombur to make it to Ered Luin to meet up with their families.
“Right, lad,” Glóin grunted as he picked up the chest and headed up the stairs. “You deal with your family. We’ll start cleaning up the mess they made of your wee home.”
“If they’ve left us anything to cook with, I’ll start dinner,” Bombur offered as he picked up Bilbo’s pack and followed Glóin,
“Thank you both,” Bilbo called. He waited until they had both entered Bag End and then encouraged the smial to close the door. Once the obvious non-hobbits were out of the way, he smiled at Otho and Lobelia. “Once you get done with the Thain, I will be having a meeting all of the Baggins at my grandmother’s smial. I’ve let you get away with this bullshite long enough.”
As Lobelia opened her mouth to argue, Bilbo cut her off. “Shut up, Lobelia. Otho, go home. I’ll send the announcement around,” he directed. He turned to look at the rest of his neighbors holding his belongings. “If you bought something of mine, return it. If you are a Baggins and bought something, or are just here to watch, I’ll be talking to you after I meet with the Thain. I’ll send a runner around to announce when I have that meeting. As for the rest of you? Have a good day and get off my hill. Now.”
Bilbo leaned his will into his words and the crowd started to disperse. He turned to look at his cousin and raised an eyebrow at Adrian. “Go tell Grandfather that I need to talk to him. If he wants, I’ll go meet with him, but I’m not all that sure that I’ll be leaving Bag End for a few days.”
“I’ll let him know,” Adrian confirmed.
“Also, let my grandmother know that there will be a family meeting soon. If she wants to see me, I’m available to her at any time,” Bilbo added. He turned around and started up the steps to the door of Bag End. “My directive included you two as well, Otho, Lobelia. Leave.”
“You have nothing to eat in here,” Bombur called as Bilbo closed the door.
“I didn’t think so,” Bilbo sighed. “When I ran out of here, I told my gardener to take everything left in the pantries and use them for his own family. I’ll need to either send a runner for the Green Dragon for dinner or hope that the Gamgee’s can spare a bit of dinner. Since we ate the last of our supplies this morning.”
“Not like we were expecting to see you declared dead,” Glóin bitched as he checked out the fireplace flue. “Looks like all the fireplaces were closed up right by someone.”
Bilbo chuckled as he started picking up the stray paper littering the floor. “It wasn’t me. Had to be Hobson. He’s going to be getting a hell of a thank you for his work.”
“Your man took good care of things,” Bombur announced from the kitchen. “There’s a closed and locked door back here. Doesn’t seem to have been disturbed by the hordes out there.”
“There wasn’t a door back there before,” Bilbo muttered as he started walking the central hallway of the smial. He paused as he reached the heartstone his father had placed and touched it carefully. “Oh.”
“Oh? Lad, what is ‘oh’?” Glóin asked as he peered over his shoulder. “How did we miss that?”
The heartstone was the size of a small beer keg and made of a solid piece of obsidian. “It was hidden from anyone who’s not family,” Bilbo told him absently as he placed a hand on the stone. “The whole Company will be able to see it when they visit. No one else, though.”
The heartstone went over everything that had happened in the smial since he had left. Most of it was easy enough to parse, but sometime in the previous spring, it had decided to expand the smial. The locked door was another cellar. And it seemed that there were more bedrooms and most of the bathrooms. He needed to furnish everything, but that was simple enough.
“Okay, I figured out what was going on,” Bilbo explained after he thanked the smial and took his hand off the stone. “Hobbit smials, when tied to the magic of the family that lives in them, can grow as the family does. And so long as they have the room to do so. Bag End added enough room for the Company to visit. That includes pantry space. The door now leads to a deep cellar that I can store goods that need to stay cold.”
“That’s different,” Glóin observed as he stared down the hall. “I didn’t know you lot could do that.”
“I watched you lot build and then smooth out, the new wall where that massive bell went through. And it was three times as thick as when you started. It still only took two days,” Bilbo reminded him. “Don’t talk to me about different. Every race has their specialties. Dwarrow work with stone, Hobbits grow things, and I have no earthly idea what the elves do.”
“Me either,” Bombur offered as he opened the door to someone knocking. “What do you want?” he asked the hobbit standing on the other side.
“I…I…I’m here to return what my family bought?” the hobbit stuttered.
“Pile it on the porch then,” Bombur directed. “Did you get your money back from the auctioneer?”
“Yes, sir, we did,” the hobbit sounded a bit surer of himself now that Bombur didn’t seem upset with him.
“Good,” Bombur picked up the first cask and started carrying it in. “Where does this go, Bilbo?”
“Third room down the hall, on the left,” Bilbo directed. He peeked out and saw that there was a line of his neighbors dropping their purchases off. Scanning the crowd, he smiled as he found the person he was looking for. “Hamfast, lad! Come up here!”
“Right away, Mr. Bilbo!” Hamfast called as he hopped the fence and walked up the hill. “What can I do for you?”
Bilbo reached into the pouch still tied to his waist and pulled out some coins. A quick glance confirmed there was enough there. “Three full meals from the Green Dragon, lad. Two with ale fit for visitors and one for me. And if there’s enough there, dessert. Also, ask the brew mistress to come to talk to me about delivering a keg of her best ale and another smaller cask of visitor ale.”
“I’ll let her know that you want them and you’ll pay for them when she gets them up here sir,” Hamfast promised. “And I think the Green Dragon was making roast today, so that’ll be good.”
“Good to know, lad,” Bilbo confirmed with a smile. “Go on with you now.”
“Why is the ale for us different than what you’re getting Bilbo?” Glóin asked as they started ferrying household goods inside.
“We’ve found out the hard way, that non-hobbits can’t handle our ale, wine or liquor. We can easily make stuff that can be drunk by all the races of Arda, but anything specifically for a hobbit will make you sick,” Bilbo explained. He settled the writing desk he was carrying into place in his father’s study.
“Fair enough,” Bombur allowed as he walked past with an armful of pot and pans. “I remember how the kitchen was organized. I’ll get into place and you can fuss over it later.”
“Sounds good,” Bilbo called.
“Do you want to talk about what happened out there?” Glóin asked.
“No,” Bilbo snapped. He could feel his anger bubbling under his skin and took a deep breath. While he thought his level of anger was justified, he was a bit too quick off the mark. Brushing his fingers over the small pocket his wee ring was sitting in, he frowned at the feeling of wrongness he got off it. Opening the center drawer of the desk, Bilbo smiled to see the hobbit pouches his father had made still sitting here. Opening one, he pulled the ring out and dropped it inside. The feeling of wrongness lessened. Whatever his little ring was, it was not good.
“There’s a part of my family that is full of arseholes,” Bilbo said after he placed the pouch back in the desk drawer. “They’ve wanted what I’ve had for the last ten years. I didn’t think much of it since they weren’t in a position to be able to do anything. I’ll be talking to the Mayor of Hobbiton about this. Something for me to do when you head off to Ered Luin.”
“Will you be okay here by yourself?” Bombur asked as he peeked around the corner from the kitchen.
“I’ll be fine,” Bilbo reassured them. He had some plans bubbling away in his mind and he had a very short time to get things done. Dís would be with the last caravan leaving the Blue Mountains and he needed to be in Hobbiton when she came through.
“If you say so,” Glóin murmured as he picked up another piece of furniture. “Where does this go?”
Bilbo pushed his worries away and concentrated on what was going on right then. The future could be dealt with in the morning.
Tuckborough, The Shire
“Grandfather,” Bilbo settled into his chair and stared at the Thain.
“Grandson,” Gerontius Took murmured.
“Want to tell me why you declared me missing?” Bilbo asked.
“You left rather quickly, grandson. And we had no idea when you would be back. When you didn’t reappear with the spring, well,” Gerontius waved a hand at something. “We needed to make a decision.”
“And when you couldn’t get into Bag End? When no Baggins stepped up to become the Baggins? Why did you let your decision stand?” Bilbo asked. He leaned back in his chair and watched the Thain as he thought about his questions.
“I didn’t know if you would ever come back,” his grandfather admitted. “And Laura…”
“She didn’t ask you to name a new Baggins,” Bilbo snapped. “You are the Thain because you are the Took and the Took’s have always been Thain. But you’ve never been the ones to determine who is the head of each Family. Yavanna and Magic do. You had no right to try to override either.”
His grandfather sighed softly before he ran a hand over his face. “I know. And I knew when I did it that there would be issues with your family.”
“That’s one way to put it,” Bilbo allowed. His next appointment on his calendar was to deal with the Sackville-Baggins. It promised to be hellish. “My tenants were abused by Otho and his wife for six months, Grandfather. My home was broken into and all my possessions were sold. I’ve not gotten everything back, but that will change in the next day or so.”
“That is unfortunate,” his grandfather sighed. He shifted slightly and tapped his fingers on his desk. “You brought dwarves back with you?”
“I don’t know if I even want to tell you, since you reacted so badly to me leaving,” Bilbo teased after pushing his irritation aside. He would deal with his grandfather on a more detailed level later. Right now, he just needed to make sure his union to Thorin was recorded before he started his Garden.
“What happened while you were gone?” his grandfather asked.
“I found my Heartsmatch. And I married him in the traditions of his people,” Bilbo rubbed his chest and sighed. “We have seven heartseeds that need to be planted.”
“Your dancing around things,” Gerontius observed. “Must be the dwarves. Is your spouse the large one? Or the one who carries the ax?”
“Neither,” Bilbo shook his head. “Although he was the cousin of Glóin, the one with the ax. He’s dead.”
“Ah, Bilbo, I’m so sorry,” Gerontius sighed. “You haven’t Faded?”
“I have our children to raise,” Bilbo touched his chest again, trying to soothe the movement of his children. “He was Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain, and died in the Battle of the Five Armies late last year.”
“Oh, lad,” Gerontius was silent for several moments. “That would be why the dwarves of Ered Luin are moving.”
“Call them Dwarrow, Grandfather. Dwarf is rather akin to halfling for them,” Bilbo explained. “I’m considered the Dowager Consort Under the Mountain and when I wanted to come home, I got a bit of an escort.”
“Do they know about the children?” Gerontius asked.
“No,” Bilbo admitted. “Glóin and Bombur are on their way to Ered Luin. They’ll be back in roughly six weeks with the last caravan. It will be a good time for everyone to trade for goods, food, and the like.”
“While trade is lovely, grandson, I need to know if you are going to tell the people you married into that you are carrying the heirs to their throne,” Gerontius questioned.
“Not immediately,” Bilbo sighed. “I need to deal with Otho and Lobelia and then I have a chore I need to get done. Once I have that done, I’ll be settling in to Garden and raise my children.”
“They will be half Dwarrow,” Gerontius mused. “We can’t be sure which race they will take after in lifespans.”
“I’m owed several boons,” Bilbo said with a shrug. “If I need to travel to Rivendell to get the answer, I will. But only once all seven have emerged.”
“You know you’re going to have a longer than normal lifespan for a hobbit,” Gerontius reminded him. “Took’s are long-lived.”
“And as the Baggins, magic will help keep me going as well,” Bilbo said with a nod. “I’ll likely be around long enough for all the children to reach their majority as Dwarrow if they follow Thorin. I expect there will be a large number of Dwarrow coming in and out of the Shire for the next seventy or so years.”
Gerontius started laughing at that. “That’s going to drive certain parties into a complete tizzy.”
The grin that crossed Bilbo’s face felt vaguely evil, but he didn’t really care. “I know. I’m looking forward to it. Decades of entertainment for the offing.”
“Remind me to come over for tea then,” Gerontius requested.
Bilbo started laughing at that. “Yes, Grandfather.”
“Otho, Lobelia,” Bilbo settled into his chair in the clearing behind his grandmother’s smial. The whole of the Baggins family was gathered around them, staring silently as he stared at his cousin and his wife.
“We shouldn’t be here!” Lobelia declared as she glared at Bilbo.
“You’re here because you attempted to move into my home, steal my belongings, sell what you didn’t want, and steal from my tenants. Exactly why do you think you should get away with that?” Bilbo asked. He let his magic unspool slowly, tying every single Baggins together to allow them to feel the truth of the matter.
This was one of the ways that Hobbits kept the peace within the Shire. Family Heads were chosen, not because of blood, but because of their strength of magic. Bilbo was the strongest of his generation and had stepped up when his father had died. He had carried the Family for more than sixteen years without issue, even while he had been in Erebor.
“Otho should be the Baggins!” Lobelia waved at her husband. “Since you ran away and left the family, we stepped up! We made sure that the tenants paid what they should. And selling your belongings was just good business.”
The Family stirred at that. The feeling of wrong at the thought of Otho being in charge of the Family moved through them. Bilbo tried to parse the emotions moving through him. Anger, disappointment, disbelief, and more, all moved through them like a black tide.
“Otho doesn’t have the magic to support the Sackville-Baggins, let alone the whole Baggins family,” Laura Baggins snapped. She was sitting in her armchair, knitting something. “Drogo is next in line to lead the Family. If Bilbo had stayed with his Dwarrow in Erebor, the Family magic would have moved to Drogo due to distance, not death.”
“You can’t be sure! How can you know?” Lobelia asked. She seemed both desperate and resigned as she questioned Laura.
“Because I carried the Family Magic until Bungo was old enough to take it over,” Laura snapped. “You don’t have the magic for it either, so don’t try to say you do. We’re all tied together right now and can’t lie without everyone knowing.”
“It’s not fair,” Lobelia crossed her arms over her bust and glared at him. “Bilbo runs away to do who knows what and he still gets to keep his position? He marries some barbarian and you accept it? By Yavanna, why do you accept him?”
“Because he holds the family gently in his grasp,” Drogo called from his place in the rear of the gathering. “He’s not trying to control every aspect of our lives. If he was, you can be sure and certain that he would be controlling the amount of avarice you’re oozing all over the place.”
“Well, I never,” Lobelia gasped.
“Lobelia, hush,” Otho sighed. “Bilbo has every right to push us out of the Family for our actions, but he’s not going to,” he said, resigned. He turned to look at Bilbo and nodded. “I’ll be returning the funds from the rents to you and everything Lobelia picked out for herself before we let the auction happen.”
“Good,” Bilbo said, satisfied. “And Lobelia? You’re going to learn manners, I swear to Yavanna.”
“I’m not teaching them to her,” Laura called.
“I’m not either,” Bilbo sighed. “If I didn’t think it would make you even more of a harridan, I would make you spend the next year at home. Will anyone take on the task to teach her?”
“This is a Baggins problem, so whoever does it should be Family,” Drogo called.
“I will,” Belba Baggins said, raising her hand. She sounded resigned.
“Aunt, are you certain?” Bilbo asked.
“Not like I’m doing a lot now,” Belba reminded them with a shrug. “Rudigar is dead and Andigar has started his family. Our smial has enough room for them and I can live with Otho and Lobelia while we work on things.”
Lobelia pouted but nodded once in agreement.
Bilbo let the offer move through the Family and analyzed the emotions. Satisfaction was weaving its way through the fabric of their magic. “So shall it be,” Bilbo decided. “Thank you, Aunt, for the work you will be doing. Lobelia, take this time seriously. We’re done here.”
The Family was silent for several moments before they nodded and started talking amongst themselves. What had started out as a Family meeting was now just family talking and trading gossip. Bilbo watched and smiled as he settled into place and let the magic that tied the family together fade.
“You’re planning something, lad,” Laura leaned over his chair to speak in his ear caused him to start.
“Just a small thing,” Bilbo promised. He’d found a raven and sent a message to Gwaihir, asking for his assistance.
“And then what?” Laura asked.
“And then, I will live in Bag End, grow my Garden and raise my children,” Bilbo said. He took a deep breath let it out slowly. His grief pulled at him, but he pushed it to the side. He didn’t have time to indulge in it. “Maybe make a few trips with them, but live my life out here until I die.”
Laura patted him on the shoulder and left him be.
Garden Terrace, Bag End
Bilbo closed the drawer he was restocking with linens when Bag End let him know that Gwaihir was waiting on his back terrace. Thankfully he’d had several days since the family meeting to put together his supplies. Three hobbit pouches, a long coat that was based off of what Thorin had worn and Sting. He was as ready for his trip as could be.
Walking up to Gwaihir was daunting. The Wind Lord was a massive being who utterly dwarfed him. Bowing carefully, Bilbo tried to think of how to go about this. Pulling out his Sindarin, he gave it all he had. “Thank you for coming.”
“It’s not often that we get asked for something, youngling,” Gwaihir informed him in perfect Westron.
“I do speak Sindarin if that’s more comfortable,” Bilbo offered before he waved a hand to brush that aside. “And you’re right. I did ask you for help.”
“And promised that we could nest on Erebor if we did this for you. How can you promise that?” Gwaihir asked.
“I’m the Dowager Consort Under the Mountain. I may not live there, but you certainly can if I say,” Bilbo explained. If his Dwarrow were going to hang titles on him, he was going to use the influence when he needed to. “Hell, you can nest here if it would suit,” he said, meaning the Shire.
“Not enough mountains,” Gwaihir said after looking around. “What do you need, young Hobbit?”
“I have something that I need to take back to Mordor,” Bilbo said after several moments. He tapped the pouch the Ring was in and tried not to shiver at the thought of it in his hand. “It can’t stay in Middle Earth any longer.”
“And Mordor is still reeling from the Battle of the Five Armies,” Gwaihir mused. “It may be the best time to do this. Why me?”
“I suppose I could do this by walking over Middle Earth to drop the damn thing in Mount Doom, but I’m going to be honest and say I don’t think I’d make it,” Bilbo admitted. “I’m small, there are a great many things out there that think I’m edible and I don’t have the time or the patience to make the trek. Since you live in this world too, I was hoping that you would be willing to help me shove this thing down Old One Eye’s throat and make him choke on it.”
Gwaihir stared at him for several moments before he started laughing. Bilbo eyed the large creature in askance. The Wind Lord had never seemed like he had a sense of humor when they had met in Erebor, but he did. “Glad I could amuse you.”
“Oh, Consort, you amuse me greatly. Not many are willing to call us on our habit of staying out of the day to day lives of Middle Earth,” Gwaihir admitted. “Only occasionally will Gandalf ask us for help.”
Bilbo tilted his head as he thought that over. “You aren’t Middle Earth’s ferry service is how I’ve heard him explain it.”
“We aren’t,” Gwaihir agreed. “But if I want to raise nestlings without worrying that Mordor will come for them, I need to do what I can to keep the world safe.”
“So, we’re agreed?” Bilbo asked.
Gwaihir nodded once. “We are. Are you ready to go?”
“I am,” Bilbo patted his pouches. “I have food and water for you, for me and the damn Ring.”
“Climb on then,” Gwaihir said, offering Bilbo his shoulder. “We will move quickly then.”
Bilbo eyed the expanse of feathers before him and sighed. The things he did for his Dwarrow. He kept his touch light as he climbed aboard Gwaihir and tucked himself between the Wind Lords wings. Reaching out, he directed Bag End to close up tight. If everything went to plan, he would be back in a seven day.
“We are back little Hobbit,” Gwaihir called as he settled into place on the back terrace again.
“Thank you, Gwaihir,” Bilbo sighed as he slid off his shoulder. As his feet hit the ground of Bag End, he could feel the magic of the Shire reach out to soothe him. “Do you need anything?”
“No,” Gwaihir shook his head before he peered down the hill. “I will be going back to my nest and my mate. You, I think, need to deal with Mithrandir.”
“Oh, bloody hell,” Bilbo muttered as he turned to see Gandalf walking down Bagshot Way with a thunderous expression on his face. “Best get going then. I’ll send a raven to Dáin to smooth the way.”
Gwaihir chuckled softly before he gathered himself and leaped for the sky. Bilbo watched him go for several heartbeats. He would never enjoy flying with the Wind Lord, but he certainly respected him. And he would do everything in his power to make sure that he and his people had a safe place to nest. It was a very small price to pay for what they had just done.
“Bilbo Baggins! What have you been up to!” Gandalf called as he stood at the gate leading up to Bag End.
“Stuff, Gandalf,” Bilbo said as he pinched the bridge of his nose. Mentally nudging the smial, he requested it let Gandalf in. The feeling he got back was grudging, but the gate did open. “Let’s go inside. I don’t need to shout my business for the whole Shire to hear.”
“Humph,” Gandalf grunted before he walked into Bag End and headed for the kitchen. “Did you leave any ale here before you went off to do something ill-advised with Gwaihir?”
“I did,” Bilbo said as he dropped the three hobbit pouches off in his study before making his way to the front pantry. All three pouches were empty and he was going to destroy them before the day was over.
His keg was exactly where he had left it and he quickly pulled a pint for himself before pulling a stein for Gandalf. “Come get your serving, Gandalf. I’m too tired to try to bring you your serving. And it’s hobbit strength ale. Don’t break the Shire when you get drunk.”
“I’m not sure if it was good that you spent so much time with the Dwarrow. You’ve gotten rather abrupt recently,” Gandalf muttered as he leaned in the pantry to pick up the stein Bilbo was filling.
“It wasn’t the Dwarrow that made me abrupt,” Bilbo said with a sigh. He reached over and pulled a sausage down from the ceiling along with some of the hard cheese he had set by. With some of the apples that were in a bowl in the kitchen, he would have a decent enough meal to end the day.
“Oh?” Gandalf settled into place at that table and watched as Bilbo started getting his meal ready. “Will you tell me?”
“It’s not a good tale,” Bilbo warned. “And it doesn’t paint any of us in a good light.”
Gandalf took a deep drink of his ale and seemed to shrink slightly as he got comfortable. “How bad was it, Bilbo?”
“I carried the One Ring for almost a year, Gandalf,” Bilbo informed him. “And I used it while we were on the Quest. I used it during the Battle of the Five Armies and in Thranduil’s Palace. No one noticed and I would have continued to use it, but with the loss of Thorin, I needed to come home. I’m planting my Garden and the unease I had over my little gold ring led me to check it. I know my legends and when I saw the writing, well. Gwaihir was kind enough to take me to Mount Doom where I chucked the damned thing in.”
“And shook the world in the meantime,” Gandalf murmured. He was silent as Bilbo started to eat and only stirred when Bilbo finished his meal. “I would have come with you if you had asked.”
“I had no idea where you were,” Bilbo reminded him. “You wandered away sometime around Rivendell and the three of us got here. I just didn’t say anything while Glóin and Bombur were here. I didn’t need their drama on top of my own.”
“Will you tell them?” Gandalf asked. He drained the last of his ale and stood up to get more.
“No, I don’t think I will,” Bilbo admitted. He leaned back in his chair and cradled his own ale. “The Ring had been lost for hundreds of years. And unless someone talks, our trip will be missed.”
“I don’t plan on talking, but you know the White Council will need to know,” Gandalf warned. He settled back into his chair with his refilled stein. “Those of us who wear a ring of power will know that something happened.”
“I figured,” Bilbo admitted. “But I couldn’t let it stay in the same world as my children. They already have enough issues with the possibility of gold sickness and the sheer stubborn nature of the Durin’s. Letting the Ring survive in the world I want for my children wasn’t going to happen.”
“Only you, Bilbo, could carry the Ring without issue and then dispose of it as if were the merest rubbish,” Gandalf murmured before he took another sip of his ale.
Bilbo rubbed the Heartseeds in his chest. “I had reason.”
Gandalf nodded once and then leaned back. “So, what will you do?”
“It’s too late in the year to plant a Garden,” Bilbo said as he traced the pattern of the wood under his fingers. “But I can get things ready for spring.”
“Why here, Bilbo?” Gandalf asked. “Why not Erebor?”
The shudder that moved through him was too hard to miss and Bilbo could feel the tears slip from his eyes. “Please don’t ask.”
“As you wish, dear Bilbo,” Gandalf said, voice soft with understanding.
Neither of them said anything else for the rest of the evening.
Bilbo looked up and smiled as Glóin walked up Bagshot Row. He was feeling…better after several weeks at home. As he had promised himself, he’d gotten very drunk as soon as he had the privacy to do so. That had not been a good week.
“Hello, Glóin!” Bilbo called back. He shaded his eyes to see who was walking with his friend. Whoever it was walking beside Glóin wasn’t Bombur.
Glóin bounced up to the gate and pushed it open. “I brought you a visitor!”
“Welcome to Bag End!” Bilbo said with a smile. He looked up and froze. “Thorin?”
“No, I’m Dís, his sister,” the Dwarrow said. “At your service.”
“Oh, Yavanna,” Bilbo breathed before he sat down in the dirt of his garden. “Thorin told me you two looked alike, but I never thought it would be so close.”
Dís knelt before him and placed a hand on his knee. “Glóin told me what happened.”
“I’m so sorry,” Bilbo said. While he had lost Thorin, Dís had lost her sons.
“They are sleeping with the stone,” Dís reminded him. “I knew it was a possibility when I sent them with Thorin to retake Erebor.”
“While a possibility, I don’t think any of us expected that all three of them would be the ones sleeping,” Glóin murmured. “Should I get you some tea, Bilbo? Or do you want some ale?”
“I’m off ale for a bit,” Bilbo said, waving a hand. “Tea would be great.”
“I know you traveled with Glóin and Bombur, but I have to ask…” Dís trailed off as she looked around the terrace Bag End was situated on. “Will you be staying here?”
Bilbo stiffened and then relaxed. Dís wasn’t him and she had more than one reason to go to Erebor. “I can’t.”
“I’m going to want to talk to you about that,” Dís said before she offered Bilbo her hand. “Come, show me this home Glóin and Bombur have spent the last few weeks talking about.”
“Well, it’s not Erebor, but then, nothing else but Erebor could be,” Bilbo said with a wet chuckle. He reached into his pocket for a handkerchief and carefully blotted his face. Tucking the little bit of cloth away, he watched Dís start exploring his home. Lifting his voice, he made sure that Glóin could hear him. “Thank you for taking your boots off.”
Dís looked over her shoulder as she peeked in his study. “None of you wear shoes, I expected that bare feet would be the way to go in your homes.”
“You’re doing better than the whole of the Company then. They all missed that lesson,” Bilbo told her, amused.
“Not to say that Thorin’s not thick as the oak he gets his name from, but… There are days,” Dís said with a chuckle.
Bilbo froze as he worked to understand what Dís had just said. She sounded like… “Dís, Thorin is dead.”
“No, he’s sleeping with the stone until Mahal releases him,” Dís disagreed. “So are Fili and Kili.”
“Uhm,” Bilbo eyed her warily and tried to remember how Thorin had looked when he had finally lost his grip on reality. Dís didn’t look like that at all, but he wanted to be better safe than sorry. “I distinctly remember seeing them being placed in a crypt and Balin said that they were in Mahal’s embrace?”
“Lad, what are you on about?” Glóin asked as he walked into the hallway from the kitchen with a mug of tea for each of them.
“You lot told me that Thorin was dead and Dís is disagreeing with me,” Bilbo took one of the mugs and gripped it tightly. “That’s why I came back to the Shire.”
“Okay, lad,” Glóin passed of the other mugs to Dís before he turned his attention back to Bilbo. “Explain, exactly, what Balin told you about what’s happening with Thorin, Fili, and Kili.”
Bilbo took a drink of his tea and tried to remember what Balin had told him before they had left. “He said,” he hesitated and then nodded. “He said that ‘Thorin, Fili, and Kili will sleep with the stone until Mahal releases them.’ Since none of them were breathing and they looked dead, I took that to mean that they were dead.”
“I’m going to thump Balin and Dwalin with the biggest battle ax I can find,” Glóin muttered before he ran a hand through his beard. “Lad, the wounds that the three of them sustained would have killed any other Dwarrow, but the line of Durin has an advantage. They can be placed into the stone of their ancestors and months later, will arise, healed. We call it a stone sleep. We couldn’t do it in Ered Luin or Khazad-dûm, but Erebor was ours again. The stone accepted them and your husband only sleeps until he’s healed.”
For a second time that day, Bilbo could feel his knees give out. “Oh, Yavanna,” he breathed before breaking into tears.
“Bilbo!” Glóin placed his mug on a side table and gathered him to his chest. “Lad, if any of us had known that you hadn’t understood, we’ would have told you so you didn’t have to grieve so.”
Bilbo buried his head under Glion’s chin and tried to control the sobs shaking his body, but it wasn’t happening. The rush of emotion wasn’t grief, it was relief. He wasn’t going to live the rest of his life alone, only to Fade. Thorin was alive.
Thorin was alive.
“I need to go back to Erebor,” Bilbo announced after taking a deep breath and holding it for several seconds. “But first I need to pack.”
“We’ve got a week,” Dís said from her spot on the floor. She was sipping her tea and looking around Bag End. “I’m sure we can get most of this stuff in a wagon or two.”
“Ha!” Bilbo snorted once before he dug in his pocket for his handkerchief. Blowing his nose smartly, he patted Glóin on the shoulder. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Glóin said with a small smile. “I’m still going to thump Dwalin and Balin with an ax.”
“Ask Ori for his. It’s bigger than Dwalin’s,” Bilbo reminded him. He turned to look at Dís as Glóin started laughing. “I’ll be bringing my own wagon. And a hobbit, when given the right amount of time, can pack a truly amazing amount of stuff. Make sure everyone knows that the merchants around here are ready for them to shop for the trip and eventual settling? There’s a great deal that will come in handy.”
Bilbo stood up and shook out his waistcoat. “Right, you two can stay here if you want. Glóin, you know where everything is. I’ve got errands to run and only so much time to get started,” he threw over his shoulder as he started for the door.
Front Gates, Erebor
“Things look better,” Bilbo observed as he maneuvered his wagon into place before the main gates of Erebor.
“They do indeed,” Bombur murmured as he glanced around. “All the corpses are gone. I wonder what they used for that?”
“Balin mentioned using a shipment of black rock to burn them before we left?” Bilbo offered. He pulled his horses to a stop and signed. “I just hope that whatever they did, didn’t pollute things further.”
“I’m sure Dáin took good care of that chore,” Dís called as she rode by.
The large wings of the main door to the kingdom cracked open and Bilbo hopped down to walk towards the entrance. Glóin had promised that he and Bombur would look after his wagons while he went to check on Thorin.
Bilbo’s breath caught in his chest and he stumbled forward. He had clung to the hope that Glóin had raised in him so hard that he had to be sure. Sure that the voice he was hearing actually belonged to Thorin.
“Here, brother,” Dís called as she dismounted. She glanced around and waved at Bilbo to stand with her.
“Did you go by the Shire?” Thorin sounded broken to Bilbo’s ear and he made a wounded sound. Thorin’s head whipped around and he moved through the crowd quickly. “Bilbo!”
“Thorin,” Bilbo grabbed Thorin and held on tight as he was lifted off the ground and cradled close. “Oh, Thorin.”
“Mizimelûh, my kidhuzurâl,” Thorin’s voice rumbled under his ear and Bilbo wrapped his legs around him in an effort to get closer. “Oh, my ghivashâlh. I am so very glad to see you again.”
Mizimelûh – My jewel of all jewels
Kidhuzurâl – Golden one
Ghivashâlh – Treasured one