Actions

Work Header

Falling Leaves

Chapter Text

Thorin wakes in a cold sweat, his hands flying to his chest even as he rolls to the side and into a crouch.  He’s silent, not because he wants to be, but because it is instinct to stifle the scream in his throat.

 

His breath comes fast and hard, his body is balanced on the balls of his feet, and his eyes dart from place to place. He is completely and utterly alert, his heartbeat is pounding in his ears and certain that something is wrong. It takes him longer than it should to place his surroundings, the bed, the door and the bookshelf against the far wall.

 

He is in his room .

 

The room he had left near a year ago, and had not seen since. Should not be seeing now. He...he should be dead . He should be-

 

Why is he here?

 

There’s thundering footsteps down his hall, and Thorin shifts his attention to the door instantly his hold tightening on the throwing axe he had pulled from under his pillow instinctively. He’s got the axe pulled back, ready to score a hit between the eyes of whoever it is headed his way. His lips are pulled back ( -he remembers blood bubbling up his throat, remembers the burn in his chest where he had taken Azog’s spear-)

 

The door opens and Thorin snarls , the noise purely inhuman. His arm has already gone partially through the throw before he registers the face at his door. He jerks his wrist to change his aim, and instead of the hit between the eyes it would have been, his axe sinks into his door frame, quivering from the force of his throw. It misses Dwalin by scare inches, as he had ducked instinctively at the sound of a weapon cutting through the air.

 

Thorin rises from his crouch, straightening his back, and the anger and the rage shifts to shock. “Dwalin what-?”

 

He doesn’t get to finish the question, Dwalin is already barreling into his room to pull him into an overwhelming hug. Thorin stiffens for a moment, before his free arm lifts to curl over his ùhùrud-nadad . The other is still wrapped around his own body, where he had instinctively reached for a wound he no longer had. Something inside him eases, but it hurts.

 

“Dwalin?”

 

His voice rasps in his throat, as he feels the broad shoulders he holds shake. Dwalin is crying, and it is a shock, shock enough that he goes to pull himself out of the male’s hold. Dwalin’s hands tighten and he makes a soft desperate whining noise that has Thorin stilling immediately and pulling the arm from around his own chest so he could hold tighter to his ùhùrud-nadad .

 

Thorin slowly lowers himself down, and takes Dwalin with him, until they are both kneeling on his floors. His mind is blank and the whispers and the screams he shoves down until all his attention is focused on his brother.

 

“Dwalin, what-”

 

You died Thorin. ” Dwalin’s voice is a harsh and broken thing. “I couldn’t get to you. I couldn’t get to you , I had to watch you die , too far to do anything-” his voice breaks and quivers. “I failed. I failed you, and Fili and Kili and Dis-”

 

Thorin tenses in his guard’s arms yanking his body back, his hands on Dwalin’s shoulders as he barks, “What?”

 

Dwalin makes that same painful noise in from deep in his chest before he rumbles with anger and sorrow, “I watched you die, ùhùrud-nadad. You were dead. I couldn’t save you, you died and Azog-”

 

Thorin’s mind reels as it scrambles to make connections as flashes of white and curls of furious acceptance make his hearing go fuzzy, but then there’s a pair of running footsteps down the hall for a second time. It’s a moment before Thorin can even make a move to react, but Dwalin has already hauled him up and shoved him behind his bulk with a snarl.

 

Thorin moves to step around him, but Dwalin’s hold is a vice, and he gets nowhere until the man suddenly makes another pained noise, and all his breath leaves him like he has been punched in the sternum by a troll.

 

Thorin isn’t sure what could have made Dwalin do that until the broken, choked call of , “Undayûy!”

 

He steps aside immediately, and Thorin has no time to brace himself as all the air rushes from his lungs like an emptied bellow. He has no words, only overwhelming emotions and pain , as agonized voiceless sounds escape him a split second before his nephews (-they had died, he watched Fili’s chest cave in and his legs snap, Kili stabbed through over and over with goblin spears-) barreled into his chest and took him clean off his feet and straight onto his back.

 

His arms clench around them like iron bands, and then Dwalin is hauling them all up and pulling the three of Durin’s line into his arms, holding on like they might disappear if he lets go.

 

There is too much in his head and it hurts to think, hurts to remember beyond the ringing of familiar stones and the thundering echo of a mighty voice, who spoke words he couldn’t recall.

 

Thorin can’t stop the tears from falling, but that’s fine because all four of them are crying.

 

They’re still crying when Balin bursts into the room, calling Thorin’s name as the door flies back. They are still when the older dwarrow falls to his knees before them and crushes the three royals between the brothers, only shifting their hold to include him in their embrace. Dwalin joins his voice when the elder whispers prayers and thanks to Mahal.

 


 

 

It doesn’t take Thorin long to realize that his entire company remembers.

 

Nori had almost gotten himself killed when the thief snuck into his room that first night, half an hour after the sons of Fundin had joined him.

 

It was only Thorin striking Dwalin’s wrist to push the throw off course- and Nori’s quick reflexes- that saved him.

 

Thorin had pressed their foreheads together and closed his eyes, his grip on the thief’s shoulder tight enough that his knuckles had turned white. Nori had gripped his shoulder with one hand, the other at his neck (and if Nori’s fingers were pressed into his pulse, Thorin said nothing-). Nori released him only when he spotted his nephews behind him, and then the two boys are greeted the same way.

 

Oin and Gloin had thundered over to him the next morning, having been further in the mountain, too far to bust in his room that night. Nori had been on their heels bringing Dori and Ori with him that time since he had been the only one with the skills to get into the royal wing without getting caught the night before to check on their Melhekhel. He’d gone in to assure himself and his brothers that Thorin, Fili, and Kili lived.

 

Bombur, Bifur, and Bofur had been waiting  as close as they could get to him, being of non-royal birth and unable to get close to him with nothing tying the three of the Ur clan to the line of Durin. Thorin had gone looking for them as soon as the thought had crossed his mind that they would not have any reason they could use to come to him. Sure enough, they had near tackled him as soon as he came into sight, and the only reason they didn’t was the very real possibility of getting stabbed by guards that didn’t know to not . Thorin had made up for it by hugging each of them, and pressing their foreheads together where they couldn’t. And if their holds were just this side of desperate that was fine, because so where his.  

 

They remember his madness, how he clawed his way free of it, and the way they charged into war. (-they remember being the last ones standing-)

 

Which of course brings the question to light: Does Bilbo remember them?

 

Does their hobbit, who sacrificed so much for them, and their kingdom remember their shared past?

 

The Quest has not come to pass yet- it was to take place at the end of the week after their supplies had been gathered up. With a shared look between them, the thirteen dwarrow agree to hurry in the last of the supply gathering so that they can get to their bâhel.

 


 

Bilbo had a panic attack the day he woke in his bed. A full on panic attack, that darkened the edges of his vision, sent his limbs to shaking in fear, and closed his throat, squeezed until he thought he would never breathe again. Once he had gotten over the shock of seeing his younger body that did not ache with age, he had gone looking for the actual date.

 

Not immediately of course, he’d had to convince himself that he was not insane first, that he really was younger, that he was not dreaming. He’d had to talk himself out of his bed, searched his smial- so different and yet exactly the same - It was like nothing he had ever suffered before.

 

He’d looked outside and seen hobbits he knew had died.

 

That’s when he’d gone looking for the date. He was not dead, but people he knew had been were living . He only had one insane impossible thought in his mind then.

 

And as soon as he found it, he had thrown up. He’d been sick on his knees as he remembered a quest, a war, the Ring , his nephew- the son of his heart- who had suffered so much, whose eyes were so dark -

 

Bilbo had spent over fifty years holding onto the Dark Lord’s Ring of Power .

 

He’d collapsed beside his bed, barely having the presence of mind to avoid the sick on the floor. He’d sat there, trembling like a leaf, fighting the hyperventilation that continued to try and take his breath. It was a miracle that he didn’t pass out.

 

His mind has never been so clear . Or rather, it has not been so since shortly after the Misty Mountains. He heaves again when he finally sees how the Ring had affected his mind over the years.

 

Yavanna help him, but Bilbo barely holds himself together.

 

And then Bilbo has a thought.

 

Frodo -

 

Thorin, Fili and Kili-

 

His friends, his family , he had-

  

Had the Ring made the Gold Sickness worse, there at the end? Had it influenced the dwarves and compounded the Dragon’s Curse? How had it corrupted his mind without his notice?

 

The thought crystallizes.

 

He needs to destroy the Ring.

He cannot let it exist in the world any longer. He cannot let Frodo- his boy, his lad, his son in every way that mattered- carry the burden that should have been his. Would have been his had he only realized what he held at the time.

 

The Ring he no longer carries, the curse that sits lost in the Goblin Caves of the Misty Mountains.

 

Bilbo pushes himself to his feet. He needs to prepare. He sways and then forces his spine to straighten. He would do this. He would do this , his lad would not be the one to hold the weight of Arda on his shoulders.

 


 

 

Bilbo is restless the day he knows the dwarrow are to arrive. Gandalf had already been by (in grey once more, no longer clad in bright white-) and his kitchen is full of food. Partly because he has thirteen dwarrow to feed, but also because Bilbo stress cooks, and he has never been so stressed in his entire life(s) .

 

He’d gone to his Took cousins in the week he had to prepare, gotten travel clothes and supplies, daggers and throwing knives. He blessed the Took House connections regularly over that week as he abused them to be prepared quickly enough. And as soon as he had all he could fit on the Took Pony he had borrowed he brought her back to his smial.

 

He was sure Hobbiton was entirely ablaze with rumors and gossip about him, but he just doesn’t care . He’d already been Mad Bilbo Baggins for longer then he’d lived in the Shire (according to the actual date anyway) so what did it matter if the rumor started earlier than the last around?

 

As soon as he made it home, he had began stress cooking once more, and kept his eyes on his windows the entire day, despite knowing none of the dwarrow had made it to his smial until later that night.

 

So it was a surprise when, down Bag Shot Row, he saw thirteen dwarrow trekking their way down the road around lunch time instead of dinner. He takes one look at them and he can see something is different about the Company than the last time. They seem... closer than the last time he had first met them. They move like a well oiled machine, aware of each other and responding to silent cues they shouldn’t know yet, not like this. Their eyes are looking around, and there is familiarity in their faces, all of them continue to glance at his door regularly, and something is off .

 

He still rushes for his door all the same, waiting only long enough for a heavy fist to knock before he opens it.

 

Thorin stands at the door, front and center (still breathing, hale and whole , he’s alive- ) with Fili and Kili (they’re not dead , Bilbo is not ready for this, his chest is tightening again -)

 

He makes a choked, agonized noise, and staggers back from the door. He has no power to stop himself, no hope to hide his reaction. His legs fold and then all three of the Durin Sons are rushing into the door as they cry-

 

“Bilbo!”

 

He is trapped in an embrace on all sides, and his chest is tightening as thirteen dwarrow who know who he is rush into his home and shut the door behind them. He has no words, making wounded noises in place of those as his fingers dig into the Durin sons crouched around him. His hands flutter from dwarrow to dwarrow unsure who he wants to cling to more.

 

Fili? Kili? Thorin?

 

He doesn’t have enough hands to grab each of them, and he is much to small to grab ahold of them all, which only make the pained noises he can’t stop even worse . Thankfully for him each of  the boys all seem to realize that, and are perfectly willing to envelop him in their hold.

 

The others join the huddle one and a time, and when all thirteen of his dwarrow are touching his back, shoulders or arms, he nearly breaks.

 

“You died ,” he moans into Thorin’s shoulder even as his fingers dig into Fili and Kili’s arms.

 

“I know,” Thorin rumbles into his curls, grief and joy mingled in his tone.

 

“You all died, and I woke up here alone-”

 

“Shhhh, bâhel . We are here now, you are not alone. We are here, and we remember .”

 

Bilbo pulls in a shuddering breath and whispers, “How much?”

 

Thorin’s brows furrow as he stares into his eyes.

 

“How much what, bâhel?”

 

Bilbo takes another breath to steady his nerves, pulling in the combined scent of his dwarrows, which he had quite forgotten until just this moment.

 

“How much do all of you remember? I know you three-” his voice breaks, but he soldiers on, “I know you three won’t remember anything past the battle, but- The rest of you?”

 

Glances are shared amongst them before Thorin answers.

 

“We only remember up to the battle,  and the others the aftermath of it. Everything beyond that is...blackened. Blocked out. How much do you remember, Bilbo?”

 

And oh , that hurts.

 

That hurts more than he expected, and he makes another choked noise. They remember the battle and directly after it, but not later? He knows a good number of this Company had lived beyond the battle, and still lived when The Ring’s War had come to pass. And yet…

 

And yet he alone remember Mordor, the War of the Ring, his nephew who gave up so much for his mistake-

 

He moans like he has been dealt a death blow, and he knows he worries his friends- the friends that had become his family- but he cannot help it. He cannot stop it as he curls into his dwarrow’s strength and sobs .

 

He cries for them , for the loss of their King and Princes, for Dis, who had lost them all and been left alone. For the Company who had been left standing in their home with a price too high to pay. He bawls for Frodo and all the marks of his quest that Bilbo had seen in his last days. For all the loss caused by Sauron and his war. For himself , and all he had seen and done. For the mind that had deserted him near the end of his life, that had made it difficult to focus on anything , to remember questions or problems that he should have.

 

The dwarrow, his Company crowd him, worried cries, and rushed questions escaping them, but Bilbo doesn’t have the strength to answer them yet. He leans harder into Thorin, Fili and Kili, into the hands that tighten on him and just keeps crying the way he didn’t have the mind to do at the end.

 

He cries until he can’t breathe , until his voice gives out, and all he can do is heave for breath,  and shake silently. He whimpers into the tunic in front of him, until he cannot even hold himself up and it is only the multiple hands on his person and the chests he is leaning against the keep him upright.

 

He knows he is causing the Company to panic in the very back of his mind, as they forgo Western entirely in their worry, Khuzdul spilling from their lips. Still he keens, swaying in place as his legs finally give out under hum. He would have tumbled to the floor, except Thorin, Nori and Bofur are reacting almost before his legs finish giving out beneath him. They lowered him down slowly and their Khuzdul becomes faster and more panicked as Bilbo tries to blink the grey out of his eyes.

 

Oin shoves the others back, and leans over his form. Bilbo stares blankly at him (Oin had died of old age, Bilbo had gotten the Raven from Nori on his 97th year.) and it takes longer than it should have for Bilbo to hear any of the questions Oin has been asking him.

 

He blinks hard when Nori leans over Oin, and smacks the side of his face twice, lightly but hard enough to pull his attention. To jolt him out of the panic attack. His eyelashes flutter and then he pulls in what feels like the first real breath he’s taken since he opened his door.

 

“There you are, Bilbo.” Nori’s voice is soft and soothing, even as his eyes are wet, “Stay with us, come on keep breathing. That’s it...easy, easy azaghîth. We have you.”

 

Bilbo involuntarily chokes on his next inhale and he answers Oin’s questions absently now that his mind has been jolted from the pit of memory.

 

When Balin leans closer and asks, “Are you alright Bilbo?” He is nearly swept under again.

 

He remembers, in startling clarity now that his mind is his own again, speaking to Frodo about his journey. He remembers his joy when Frodo mentioned visiting Moria. The joyful “Did you meet Ori and Balin then?”

 

And he can recall how Frodo’s face crumbled.

 

Ori had written him, before he had Balin had left on their newest adventure. They had kept in touch as often as they could over the years, and Bilbo remembers the last letter he had gotten from his friend.

 

(Balin and I are going to try and reclaim one of our mountains again. We figure we’ve done the impossible once right? And the Lonely Mountain just- It hurts to be here some days, when I look at Dain and know that it should have been Thorin, or Fili and Kili. So Balin and I are going to go. What can be worse than a dragon right?)

 

He had frozen when Frodo told him in haunted, shaking tones of the tomb he and the Fellowship had discovered. He had cried until he had no breath left when Frodo explained Balin had been entombed in stone ( drums in the deep, we cannot get out) , but Ori , Ori had died fighting in that room, his last moments recorded in a book that Gimli carried back to his people. And when he had made sure Frodo left him, and he was alone, he had screamed until his voice gave under the stress.

 

His hand darts forward and clenches hard around Balin’s arm. He shoots upwards, his other hand reaching for Ori who hovers nearby, just behind and to the side of Nori. His grip is tight as soon as he gets ahold of the scribe, and he is helpless as he cries, “You cannot go to Moria!”

 

He knows his words make no sense to them, but he has to say it, needs to warn them, to have them swear they will not. “You can’t go, you can’t. Swear to me, Balin, Ori, that you will never step foot in those halls trying to reclaim them!”

 

“Bilbo what-?”

 

Balin’s voice is shocked, as the hand of the arm he grips lifts to grab ahold of Bilbo’s own wrist like he can ground the hobbit.

 

Bilbo’s eyes are wild as he snaps, eyes focused and voice hard, “Swear!”

 

Ori and Balin look to one another, both confused and shocked and worried. They don’t understand the desperate plea in Bilbo’s voice but they answer it all the same.

 

“Of course bâhel , but why? We will not step inside, but what makes you so adamant?”

 

Bilbo’s breath shakes, but he begins in halting tones.

 

“I- My nephew he- There was a war. There was a great war, elves, men, dwarrow, and hobbits stood together to stop it. After- After . My nephew was among those who stood to fight this evil and he traveled to Moria.” Bilbo breathes, closing his eyes and focusing on his dwarrow to anchor himself in the now , “You two- Balin and Ori- you both left on a quest in the years before, to attempt to reclaim that place.”

 

There’s a harsh inhale from the dwarrow around him and Nori and Dori have moved to crush Ori between them even as Dwalin makes a harsh pained noise, and his hand clamps down on Balin’s shoulder.

 

Bilbo lifts his head.

 

“You both failed . Ori asked me- he asked me in his letter what could be worse than a dragon,” his swallows hard and stares into thirteen pairs of slowly widening eyes, “ Durin’s Bane, ” he spits the name like blood in his mouth and snarls, “do any of you know what it is?

 

The dwarrow look at each other, their faces pale and slowly turn back to Bilbo where Thorin answers shortly, “No. There were no surviving records of those who may have seen it.”

 

Bilbo laughs and if it is a little hysterical- well. He has reason enough to be. “It’s a Balrog of Morgoth , Thorin. A creature of hellfire and rage, of destruction and death.”

 

The dwarrow cry out, hands latching onto the nearest family member, all those left standing end up on the ground as their legs fold.

 

Dwalin has picked Balin up, and pulled his smaller, but older brother into his arms, clinging like Balin will blow away in the wind. Nori and Dori have done much the same to Ori, the two younger brother’s ending up in Dori’s lap. Thorin sways, and Fili and Kili swallow hard, their eyes wide and unseeing as they stare through Bilbo. Bofur, Bifur, and Bombur had all curled together in a bloodless, shaking pile of dwarrow. Oin and Gloin have collapsed against each other, and Gloin is muttering curses under his breath while Oin had a deathgrip on Gloin’s arm.

 

“A-” The words stick in his throat and Fili swallows again, “ A Balrog?”

 

Bilbo tries to breathe quietly for a moment, using the short moment to gather his thoughts. Some details are blurry in his mind, some things Frodo would not tell him, but still, he had enough.

 

“Yes. And that’s not even all of it. The entire mine is infested with goblins. There is nowhere they are not. Balin- Balin died earlier in the attempt to reclaim it. He fell to the goblins’ army, but Ori...Ori was one of the last to perish. He had written everything down. They had- The goblins had barricaded the doors. They could not get out . They forced all those dwarrow- Ori fought, but he- They had been starving, pushed into the great hall and barricaded inside. The goblins were endless . Ori died there. I- Frodo told me, after he returned.”

 

The group on the floor migrates closer together, Bilbo in the center as he reaches for both Balin and Ori. Thorin reaches out gripping shoulders or wrists of each of his Company, foreheads are pressed together, and murmurs pass back and forth in quick but soft tones.

 

Eventually, the question is asked, “Bilbo? What- what war?

 

Bilbo stills in his place at the center of the dwarrow. He swallows hard and stares forward in silence for a few moments as he struggles with his words and memories. With the loss and darkness of the time leading up to this burden he had given to Frodo.

 

When he looks up from his knees, into his family’s eyes, they flinch a little. Bilbo has never looked so- so broken as he does in that moment. He looks old . But they have asked, and Bilbo will answer them.

 


 

 

 

Bilbo gathers up all the pillows, cushions, blankets and quilts he had in his house to make a large enough little nest for the Company to share. He will not be able to share this story without being surrounded by his family, without being able to to lean into their strength.

 

Once he is satisfied he settles himself directly into the center of the nest, and beckons the others. Thorin, Fili and Kili are the first to pull their boots off and join him in the mass of blankets. Dwalin and Balin are followed by Ori, Nori and Dori, and Bofur, Bombur, and Bifur are a step behind them. Gloin and Oin are the last to join the group on the floor and the dwarrow are silent as they wait for their burglar to gather his thoughts.

 

It takes him a bit of time, but eventually he takes a deep breath and leans into Dwalin who sits at his back. “I suppose I should start at the beginning. On this quest of ours, I found something. My ring. You all remember my ring correct?”

 

Various nods greet him and Bilbo breathes. “I..I kept it, even all those years later, after our quest had ended. If I had known- If I had any hint of what I carried, I would have destroyed it. I swear, I would have tossed it into fire, watched it melt into nothing, and celebrated its destruction.” He shakes against the dwarrow and tries to hold himself together as he works up the nerve to explain what he had caused.

 

“I suppose, it started on my birthday. I used my ring to play a bit of a prank, and was getting ready to head down to Rivendell. Stretch my legs, get out of the Shire...I had planned to give my ring to my nephew, pass it down as a heirloom of sorts. It was useful to me after all, had saved us quite a few times hadn’t it? Frodo could use it to help himself, what need did I have of it?”

 

He lifted his head and met every pair of eyes around him. “It was the hardest thing I ever did, leaving that ring behind me. I almost didn’t- couldn’t . It was my precious.” He hissed the word, none of coveting need he had carried the last time he called it that, hatred and agony mixing in its place.

 

“I left it with Frodo only because Gandalf was there to ‘remind’ me. It- I didn’t know it then, but it had its claws in my mind by that point. Had for over fifty years. It had poisoned me, twisted my thoughts, my memories in regards to itself. I almost attacked Gandalf to keep it, and later on, my own nephew for ‘taking’ the ring away from me though it was I who had given it to him.” Bilbo turns to look at Thorin, and sees his own horror reflected back at him.

 

“Yes,” he nods, “much like the time you threatened to toss me from the wall. I understand now, what might have been going through your head. How it all makes sense, that everyone is a threat, and the burning rage that sits in place of logic and love.”

 

He burrows into his blankets, sprawled over the dwarrow and snuggling against their warmth like it could stop his shaking and ease the emptiness in his chest.

 

“It was not until much later that I learned that tiny little ring I carried...it was Sauron’s Ring . The One Ring . I had carried the Dark Lord’s Ring for over fifty years, and it had chipped away at my own mind, twisted certain thought patterns...changed me.”

 

The noise level at his reveal of what exactly he had carried is thunderous. The hands that reach for him are numerous, and he finds himself passed between each of the dwarrow, foreheads pressed into his, prayers and curses escaping each of them. He clings back to them just as hard as they cling to him.

 

“My nephew, my chosen son , he had to take the Ring to Mordor. He and eight others. And then...and then not even halfway to his destination, the Fellowship had to split apart. Gandalf perished in Moria to save them from the Balrog. Boromir perished after, trying to protect Merry and Pippin from an attack of uruk-hai once he regained his mind from the lure of the Ring.”

 

Bilbo swallows hard, running a trembling hand through his sweat soaked hair. “Frodo and Samwise were the only two to walk towards Mordor, two of the nine that started this quest. The others...they chased orcs and uruk-hai across the planes to save Merry and Pippin Took”

 

He shudders against Dori’s chest, as the dwarrow had gathered him into his lap when Bilbo began to shake uncontrollably. He tells them in halting, mourning tones of the quest his Frodo had been made to take for his mistake.

 

He falls apart in the circle of dwarrow and they hold him together when he has not the strength to do it himself. He speaks on how broken his lad had looked when he finally made it back to him. And he screams about how his mind had been failing him then, how he had known something was wrong, but his mind could not- would not - hold itself together long enough for him to understand what it was.

 

Not until he had woken here, and all his memories were left to him, without the fog of age and the haze of the Ring’s influence.

 

He whispers in shaking words, how he thought perhaps his mind had been so broken at the end, because the Ring had sunk itself so far into him, that when it was destroyed, it left gaping wounds in his head. Wounds he didn't have the awareness or strength to fight at the time.

 

When he finally stops, finally runs out of words, he just sits. He is still and collapsed against the dwarrow who have all piled together as closely as they can, so that they are all touching one another.

 

He says nothing, only taking shaking breaths as he relishes in the silent support of his little family, and tries to come to terms with their sudden second chance, alongside the fact that he is the only one to remember the years beyond their shared quest.

 

And then the quiet shatters, and it is Thorin who gives voice to what every dwarrow in the room is thinking.

 

“You plan to destroy the Ring this time, don’t you?”

 

Bilbo swallows, but doesn’t even think to lie to the only King he has ever called his own. “Yes. I will not make the same mistake as the last time. I refuse.”

 

A shared glance over Bilbo’s head, and thirteen voices rise together in harmony.

 

“We will go with you.”

 

Bilbo swallows hard in the face of that loyalty. “You realize this is Mordor, right? One does not simply walk into Mordor, muchless thirteen stubborn dwarves and a hobbit!”

 

Bofur scoffs, his hands twisting his hat around, as he answers disbelief etched into the lines of his face. “You cannot expect us to let you go alone Bilbo!”

 

The hobbit shakes his head “I didn’t expect you to-”

 

Thorin interrupts, his voice commanding and harsh, blue eyes level with Bilbo’s own.


“We will join you on your march to Mordor. You will not go alone Bilbo Baggins. Yours is a kurdulu belkul , and you are our bâhel . We will follow you, and see this done.”