Days after Bilbo settled back into Bag End, having chased away Sackville-Bagginses and tracked down his property, although he'd needed to get sharp with the news owners, he'd expected the routine he'd enjoyed before a wizard had shown up at his front gate to reestablish itself in all due course.
He longed for it. He grown to miss the mindlessness of days spent smoking Long Bottom leaf, of tucking into seven meals a day, of having little to do but fill his hours with long walks, thick books and map making during his travels back to his home. He was back where he belonged in his safe and cozy hobbit hole in the Hill, in Hobbiton, living the typical life of any well-to-do hobbit.
But, it wasn't long before he realized that it wasn't as simple to settle back in as he'd thought. He found himself struggling to begin any task he set for himself. His routine had been shattered, like fine porcelain, or glass, and although he'd put it back together again, it wasn't the same. It would never again be the same because fragments were missing.
Yet at first Bilbo didn't notice the difference as he was determined to become a proper hobbit again.
The fractures of his life began as a nagging feeling, similar to the certainty that he has misplaced some valuable object. So Bilbo would check his storerooms, pantries and every closet and shelf. Looking for the missing item until someone knocked at his front door and distracted him. Only the feeling persisted, returning until he looked again and again through every nook and cranny until he found himself pacing his halls in the middle of the night with an oil lamp in one hand as he went through all of Bag End, from front door to back exit.
But everything was where it should have been. Nothing was missing. Nothing had been misplaced.
Yet as the days passed the nagging feeling of wrongness, of being off balance grew. Deepened. Widened, hollowing him out and emptying his heart with every breath he took, with every day that went as the missing thing remained lost.
Then the day came when Bilbo found himself standing on the East Road and looking in the direction of Bree-land without knowing how he came to be there. Yet he doesn't really see the road, or his fellow Hobbits, who passed by with scurrying movements and wary eyes. Bilbo only saw what lay beyond the sight of his eyes but not his memory's recollection: Rivendell, the Misty Mountains, Carrock and Mirkwood. Until at last, at last, he let himself remember vaulting glory of Erebor, of his friends.
Of Thorin Okenshield.
And his heart beat hard in his chest, as if it had awoken from a slumber. And the longing which flooded him threatened to send him down to his knees in the dirt.
It overwhelmed him. He'd discovered what he'd been missing, yet it remained lost to him.
Bilbo had raced back to Bag End and locked himself in, hiding beneath his bed covers like a child, but for Sting clasped tightly in his hands, not because he sought the protection of the blade, but more to remind himself why he'd chosen to return.
He doesn't leave Bag End for four days, until the concern of the Gamgees forced him to reach for whatever remained of the tatters of his courage. And he made the choice to ignore the way the East called to him.
He'd lost too much to dwarves as it was. He couldn't afford to lose more without losing all of himself.
Yet the sweet scents of his mother's flowers remained stale even as Spring made them bloom. The golden oak wood of Bag End looked dim no matter how well he polished it after his eyes had known the brilliant gold-veined halls of the Lonely Mountain. The taste of his prize tomatoes are wooden shavings in his mouth without the company of stout, loud friends. The porcelain of his tea cups are too delicate, until he became convinced they would crumble under his scarred hands. His bed felt cold not matter how high he stoked the fire or how many blankets were piled on it without a beloved to share it with.
Until Bilbo realized that he could longer put off thinking of Thorin, whom he left behind after knowing he had survive the battle. Who Bilbo had apologized to without waiting for reply.
Thorin, who'd stolen his heart from him before Bilbo ever took the Heart of the Mountain. Thorin, who nearly killed Bilbo, and had exiled him from Erebor, never to return upon pain of death.
'Inflicted with madness', his neighbors whispered at the sight of him. A cautionary story for all hobbits who dreamed of leaving home.
Bilbo doesn't ever bother to argue with them.
After all, those gossips were right. He was inflicted with a form a madness and he would suffer with it for the rest of his life until his heart found another reason to call an empty hobbit hole a home.