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The Quest for Ourselves

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The night before, while a little foggy, had been nice. When Kíli had kissed her, Ro’s mind had gone blank. Then it had grown deeper and deeper until it felt like she was drowning. It... it was so different from Caspian or Durin. So very different. 

And then what came after. 

She had only Durin for reference. 

It had been nice but so different and so very new and Ro did not know how to feel about it. Yet, she hoped. Kíli acted like Durin on many occasions. He was headstrong and enjoyed teasing her slightly. There was that same sense of pride, the hair. Not the eyes of course. 

How Ro missed those eyes. 

Even so, it had been nice. 

He had held her in his arms like she meant something. 

I never loved you. The last words Durin ever spoke to her, echoed in her mind. She didn’t believe it. She knew him. She knew him. She hadn’t been a mistake. She hadn’t. 

She fell asleep curled next to Kíli, not content, but something. 

***

Ro was jerked awake as she was shifted suddenly onto the ground. She groaned slightly, sore from the night before. She looked up at the dwarf she’d given herself to.

It was strange. Even though she knew what a first time would be like as Völva, it was still weird having a first time again. 

“Mm?” She rubbed her eyes. “Kíli?”

He turned to look at her. He looked a bit like Durin although she knew him to be Kíli, the eyes, the stubbles chin—which had felt wonderful against her skin—her Kíli. 

When he didn’t answer, Ro pushed herself up to get a better look at him. “Kíli?”

He looked away from her quickly and stood up and away from her.

“Kíli?”

“This was a mistake,” he said as he yanked on his trousers. 

Ro’s heart seized in her chest. 

I never loved you. Durin’s words pounded into her head like a hammer.

“A mistake,” she repeated carefully. 

“Of course it was.” He managed to tuck his undershirt in and grabbed his blue overshirt and yanked it on over his head. “I mean we… we aren’t like that.”

“We aren’t,” the air became stale in her lungs. Breathe. She couldn’t breathe. But not breathing was the only thing keeping her from crying.

“Exactly.” He nodded. “I mean, Mahal.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “I was…” his cheeks turned a little red. “I was thinking about someone else when I first kissed you.”

Ro’s eyes widened. 

Durin had married someone else. Every time. Someone else. Someone else. Someone else. 

“Not that it wasn’t good,” he assured her, assuming that was what had shocked her. “I mean, I knew it was you it’s just…” he buried his face in his hands. “Mahal, this is awkward.”

It had been awkward. But wasn’t that what most first times were like? Awkward. 

“Just… let’s just act like it didn’t happen. We don’t need to tell the others. Mahal, they’d all murder me.” 

He gave her one of his cheeky grins and Ro was forced to smile back even though she felt like her entire world was crumbling around her. 

“I’m glad Beorn set up a separate bath for you and your mum. I’ll head out to the guys bath.” He leaned down and kissed the top of her head like a final nail to the coffin containing Ro’s heart. “I’ll see you at breakfast.”

Then, he was gone. 

Ro sat there for a long moment. She wasn’t sure how long, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to stay there for much longer. After taking a deep, shaky breath, Ro collected her clothes and went to the bath that Beorn had set aside for her and her mum.

The bath was always at the perfect temperature, not too hot and not too cold, but Ro doubted she would be able to feel a difference if it were boiling. She set her clothes aside and pulled her shift over her head. Ro looked down at herself and felt her chest tighten. Beard burn had rubbed parts of her skin raw and she could see bruises 

on her hips and between her thighs. She could see the slight smear of blood. Ro shot her gaze up and climbed into the bath, wrapping her arms around herself for a moment as she healed her bruises and just let her body loosen in the water. 

Mistake. 

I never loved you. 

Someone else. 

Tears began to slide down her cheeks. Was she so unloveable? Was she so… no, Kíli cared about her. She knew he did. 

Just not the same way she did. 

It ripped her heart to shreds. It was like how it had been with Fíli all over again, but this time it was worse. 

Fíli had never made explicit promises. And he was the crown prince. She was just… she was just a hobbit . That’s how Adrina had described her once, wasn’t it?  She’d buried her feelings and let herself dream that Durin would find her in this life. Kíli… She’d let herself believe that Kíli was… that he…

Ro thought he loved her. 

The way she felt safe in his arms. The way he didn’t mind her shouting for herself. The way he encouraged her.

She’d felt comfortable sharing herself like she’d only shared herself once before many ages ago. 

This was a mistake. 

I was thinking about someone else. 

She was so stupid. 

Why would they ever love her like that?

Hadn’t she learned her lesson?

Hadn’t she learned that no one would love her like that?

She was a mistake. 

She was a fill-in for someone else. 

She was just a warm body to find release in. 

She was just Ro. 

Just Ro. 

Stupid. 

Ro slipped down under the surface of the water and screamed. 

***

Kíli acted as though nothing had happened, but he barely looked at her. Ro was able to plaster a smile on her face and act as though she wasn’t breaking with every breath she took. One more day and then they would head out the next morning. To Erebor. To the dragon. Ro felt like being incinerated by a dragon would hurt less. 

They began their pre-packing. Ro took off the necklace Kíli had given her, it burned against her skin like fire, and tucked it carefully away in her back.

The Ring felt heavy on her skin. She’d thought about asking the others to come with her as she journeyed to Mount Doom after they got the Arkenstone, but now she wasn’t sure. Who was to say the Ring wouldn’t destroy what little relationship she had with them. Maybe Bifur, Bofur, and Bombur would be alright since they were not of the Line of Durin. But what about her parents? What if they didn’t want her anymore?

What if they have a child of their own blood someday?

Ro let go of the Ring like it was on fire. 

She slipped out of the house and went to the gardens, staying far from the shed she had given herself to Kíli. 

This was a mistake. 

She sat amongst the flowers and looked out amongst the darkening fields as the sun began to set. It was tiring. Pretending that everything was okay. Pretending as though her heart hadn’t been torn out of her chest. Tears began so slide down her cheeks as she realized how stupid she had been to think that this life would be any different. 

I never loved you. 

“Ro?”

Her head shot up and she quickly wiped away her tears as Fíli came closer. 

“Ro?” He kneeled down in front of her. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

His soft voice was what broke her. He always was the one to find her first. 

She threw her arms around him and began sobbing. He froze for a second before sitting down and holding her close. Fíli rested his cheek against her head as Ro buried her face into his neck, letting the hot tears go, not caring what she looked like. He cradled the back of her head with one hand and rubbed circles on her back with the other. Fíli rocked them both carefully telling her it was okay, that she was okay, that he had her.

She wasn’t sure how long they stayed like that. But they stayed like that for a long time. Ro’s tears began dry against her skin, catching on her eyelashes. She slowly pulled herself away from Fíli and he let her go gently. He examined her and cupped her face tenderly in his hands, wiping away the unshed tears with a calloused thumb. 

“Feel better?” he asked softly. 

Ro sniffed and nodded. 

“Are you okay?”

She opened her mouth to tell him, but quickly shut her mouth and looked down at the ground between them. She would not get in between the two brothers. She loved both of them, even if they didn’t feel the same exact way about her. Even so, Fíli has always been protective of her, ever since they were children. He would get into a fight if he even thought Kíli had hurt her if he knew that she had given his brother her maidenhood and the wolf prince had called it a mistake. 

“Ro?”

She looked back up into his blue eyes. Ro looked back down again. “I’m okay,” she whispered. 

“Ro,” he said softly. “I know you. And you are not okay.”

Ro looked back to him. “It’s just… it’s been a lot. The caves. Azog.”

He smiled at her sadly. “I thought I’d lost you in those caves.” She remembered his panicked scream as she fell. Fíli leaned forward and pressed his forehead to hers. “I don’t think I would have been able to live with myself, knowing that I lost you.”

Ro put her hands over his. “I’m okay.” She pressed her forehead against his own, her nose brushed against his. “I even used your dagger to stab Azog in the eye.”

Fíli laughed, the sound rumbling through his body and he squeezed Ro’s face tenderly at the movement. “Not exactly what I had in mind when I made that for you.”

Ro smiled. A genuine smile. “What did you think I’d use it for?”

“I actually have no idea. I just felt like you needed it.” He still hadn’t taken his face from hers, but he had closed his eyes. 

Hesitantly, Ro cupped his face in her hands as they rested against each other. “Well, I did. My elven letter opened didn’t do much.”

He smiled. “It did quite a bit more than Tharkûn probably hoped you would do.”

“True.”

Fíli sighed and leaned back and away from her. He opened his eyes and still held her face in his hands. “Do you feel better now?”

Ro nodded. 

“We should probably head inside soon.”

This was a mistake. 

“Could we stay out here just a little longer?”

Fíli looked at her for a moment before nodding. He settled down next to her and they looked up at the darkening sky. Ro leaned against his side and Fíli put his arm around her, radiating his usual warmth. 

Fíli reminded her of Dvarin a bit in the way that he cared for her, always protected her. Put her and her unborn children first. Fíli made her feel safe. She trusted him. Even if he didn’t return her feelings, she knew he would never willingly hurt her. She closed her eyes and rested her head against him. 

Ro wondered how things might have been different if Völva had fallen for Dvarin instead.