Bilbo remembered when he was little and how his mother used to tell him grand stories about love and acceptance, about how he'd be swept off his feet and well cared for. His father would scoff and remind him that nothing came without hard work. That life was cruel and would only take and take and take. When he joined the company of dwarves he met Thoron, and for a split second he remembered what his mother had said, but the man himself had squashed those thoughts and spat on them for good measure.
He didn't know what he'd done to earn Thorin’s scorn, other than existing in the mighty dwarf’s presence.
He soon learned nothing would be easy on this journey, they walked without rest, ate very little, and were in constant danger. A fragile creature such as a hobbit should not have to put up with this, yet here Bilbo was. As they went on, Bilbo felt like he was the only one not being pulled into Thorin’s majestic dreams and promises, like he was the only one keeping his head and remembering that they all had a much higher chance of dying horribly and painfully than completing their goal; he was far too terrified to voice this worry though, what with the zero fighting experience he had and the heavy weapons the others had.
Little by little, hurdle by hurdle, Bilbo’s mind was swayed and it was as if a sunbeam had burst from behind a cloud cover, and Thorin actually smiled at him, laughed with him, protected him. And again Bilbo felt that chance of love. Hope started to blossom within his chest.
Thorin himself was wonderful, not letting how much his people were suffering beat him down, not letting how much his quest seemed hopeless get to him, how everyone had given up on him and his quest before he even began. But he kept going, kept pulling his party literally and figuratively through it all, as if it was all he could do.
They fought a dragon. Actually fought and won against a dragon of all things. A dragon who had been intelligent and who had taunted them, reminding them of the dwarves’ downfall, of the end of the age of prosperity, of how fragile and fleeting hope and happiness were. But the company persevered, and Thorin stood strong as Bilbo watched in awe. No matter the beast, Thorin was going to restore his people, give them back their hope.
Bilbo watched in despair as Thorin started to decay from within, the seductive call of gold and power rotting his senses. Now it was only Bilbo he had small smiles and kind words for, but Thorin didn't know the true location of the Arkenstone and Bilbo did. It was a betrayal that would cost him his blossoming love, but would save too many for it to even be a choice.
So Bilbo started a war. And for a good long while, Bilbo saw no way out but the death of Thorin, until the amazing man came to his senses, saw the suffering of his people, of his friends, and set aside greed and paranoia to come to a glorious rescue before running off after the leader of the Orc forces, Azog.
Bilbo arrived too late, he was no wizard after all. Thorin was collapsed to the ground, blood brighter and more precious than any ruby running out of the broken body. Bilbo’s shaking hands held no comfort and his tears held no sway. He watched as his love slipped away with a small smile on his lips and gentle love in his eyes. Bilbo’s hope was crushed.
His mother had been right. He'd found love, and that love had provided for him. Bilbo would never want for anything ever again. But his father had also been right, and the work to get where he was had not been enough to pay the price life took from him, it never would.