Summary: The first night Fili met Bilbo Baggins he learned that Hobbits planted flowers atop of the graves of their dead. It struck him as odd, nothing more nothing less. He could never have guessed then how much he'd come to hate that tradition.
Never in his life would Bilbo Baggins ever trust information he got from a book again.
Books told stories and even when they seemed to contain facts, they were complete and utter creations of the writer’s imagination.
He’d once read in a book that dwarves were a honourable, merry folk.
Ha! Bilbo thought. Nonsense!
They were rowdy, disrespectful and oh-so stubborn. Not listening to a word he said, oh no they didn’t. No proper greeting either! And along the way they were destroying all of his possessions; cleaning their filthy boots on his mother’s precious glory-box, throwing his mother’s fancy dishes through the air like they were toys and his pantry, his poor pantry that had fallen prey to a pack of hungry dwarves. Dwarves that apparently didn’t know the words thank you and called him a grocer, called him soft and weak. They should be grateful he hadn’t gotten Hamfast and his pitchfork to forcefully chase them out of his house!
The nerve of these dwarves, sitting at his table and drinking ale like it was tea and loudly singing – if it could even be called that – songs like it wasn’t well past midnight! Oh what must his neighbours think?
Those were his thoughts as he made his way out of his front door, just about remembering to snatch his pipe with him as he went. If the neighbours weren’t there to demand an explanation, a calming smoke was something he desperately needed right now.
When he stepped into the cool, evening air he didn’t find an angry mob of hobbits at his fence, to his great relief. Luckily it seemed that everyone in Hobbiton was sleeping peacefully as all houses in his neighbourhood were dark.
Good. He nodded to himself. He still had a reputation to uphold, after all. Even though these dwarves might be feasting through the night and be gone on their adventure in the morning, he would still be here as there was no way he was going with them. He could hardly do that, now could he? He couldn’t leave his mother, not now. And he was a proper and respected gentle hobbit, and that meant he wasn’t going to run off with a bunch of dwarves. Besides, who would look after the house while he was gone? Someone had to make sure Lobelia Sacksville-Baggins didn’t steal all the contents of his house.
He left the front-door open – best to get some fresh air in the house before everyone passed out drunk – and slowly strolled down a path in his yard. The path led to a small garden, laid out at the left-side of the hill that was his smial.
In that small yard lay a bed of flowers and stood a stone bench. It was the neatest, most looked after part of the garden and Bilbo spent many a afternoon sitting on the bench and smoking his pipe. Not because this part had the most sunlight, because he would have to go to the other side of the hill for that. No, this was the place where his mother and he buried his father, after his death.
Bungo Baggins had died at the age of eighty, which wasn’t very old for a hobbit, but it wasn’t very young either.
He himself had been thirty-six when his father passed away, and he remembered it like yesterday. His father had been sick for a little while, but no-one had expected him to just not wake up anymore one morning.
It was the saddest morning of his life.
Not only had he woken up without a father, he had lost his mother as well.
She was alive and after a few initial hours of shock had mournfully set to preparing her late husband’s funeral. But when they buried Bungo in the garden, his mother’s heart was buried with him. She hadn’t even been able to plant the flowers on his grave. Instead, Bilbo had done it and he cared for them even now. His own personal treasure.
Sitting on the stone bench he prepared his pipe, keeping half an eye on the flowers.
Yet as he stuffed his pipe with Old Toby and lit it, his mind wasn’t on his late father, nor on his now old and weary mother.
No, his thoughts were on the dwarves gathered inside. Impolite they were, loud as well, and most definitely not the kind of folk a Baggins – or any respected Hobbit – should be talking with.
But Bilbo couldn’t help but admit they were a sad bunch as well. He could hardly imagine what it would be like to lose his home, let alone to fight a dragon – a dragon! – to get it back. It was the most foolish, life endangering yet brave thing Bilbo had ever heard of. He was certain that if they succeeded, there would be many a story about their quest. Stories he would happily read in his comfortable chair, with a cup of tea and opening a window to enjoy the spring air.
Because there was no way that he was actually joining these dwarves in their mad quest! It just wasn’t done, even if a part of him felt inclined to help these poor dwarves out.
But no, he was a hobbit and that meant he was not going to run off with a pack of dwarves whenever it would strike his fancy. He’d give them a roof for the night – they’d take it anyway, so best pretend you were offering – and food to leave with in the morning – if by then they hadn’t raided his entire pantry already. But with a place to sleep and supplies to take with them, he’d send them off on their merry way and to never come back, thank you very much. They had probably tarnished his reputation a great deal already so yes, it would be for the best if they stayed away. That way he could go back to his quiet, uneventful life.
The fall of footsteps against the ground disturbed Bilbo’s quiet musings.
He stubbornly ignored it – for now – and relaxed back against the bench, enjoying his pipe. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, enjoying the smoke filling his lungs and the taste it left in his mouth.
The footsteps halted, the person most likely standing next to the bench.
Then: “Nice flowers.”
Bilbo nearly chocked at the comment, coughing loudly as the smoke went down his windpipe. The dwarf who had spoken was next to him within seconds, patting his back with so much vigour Bilbo feared it would leave bruises.
“T-that’s about enough.” Bilbo wheezed, looking up at both his attempted murderer and saviour. It was one of the younger dwarves – one of the prettier ones, too. Kili? His mind provided. Or maybe it was Fili…
Whichever it was, he had complimented the flowers. Considering the dwarf probably didn’t realize that it just wasn’t a mere flower-bed, Bilbo should probably extend a proper thank you to the dwarf.
He looked up at the blond dwarf – wasn’t Fili the blond one? – and gave him a small smile. “Thank you.” He said, nodding his head to the flowers.
The other grinned. “You are very welcome, Master Baggins. They look very… pretty.”
Bilbo chortled softly at that, amused. “You don’t know the first thing about flowers, do you?” He asked, barely able to contain his smirk.
The dwarf seemed to take his comment as an invitation, for he sat down on the bench next to Bilbo. He even nudged his hips against the hobbit’s to make a bit more room for himself.
Bilbo was surprised at his lack of irritation at the action. Normally, he’d be out of sorts but apparently, he was warming up to the dwarves that were currently tarnishing his house and reputation.
Meanwhile, the dwarf contemplated his question – something Bilbo hadn’t expected. “What is there to know about flowers other than that they look pretty?” He then asked and when Bilbo turned to look at him, he was preparing his own pipe for a smoke.
Bilbo resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Dwarves truly knew nothing of these kinds of things. “For dwarves I’m sure that’s all there is to know.” He said, choosing his words less carefully than he would’ve liked and hoping the other took no offence.
Fili – yes, he’d settle for that – watched him for a few moments with a small frown. Then, he seemed satisfied with what he found and shook his head with an amused expression. “True indeed. Us dwarves, we do not care much for flowers and the, how shall I call it, comfortable way of life of you hobbits.”
“Or manners,” Bilbo huffed and then flushed when he realized he’d actually said that out loud. “I- uh, well, I am sorry. Terribly sorry, yes. I didn’t mean that at all. You are, after all, making an effort and I –”
Bilbo was cut off when Fili chuckled, raising his hands. “Peace, master Baggins.” He said and when Bilbo didn’t continue speaking, they both sat in silence enjoying their pipes for a moment. Then, Fili turned to look at Bilbo with a smirk. “I do even agree with you. Compared to your propriety, us dwarves must look like barbarians.”
Bilbo pursed his lips with a small frown, taking another drag of his pipe. “There is nothing wrong with a bit of propriety, you know.” He pointed out.
Fili shrugged. “Of course not! We dwarves aren’t true brutes, you know. We know about being polite and being proper in the right situations.” He grinned at Bilbo. “You just take it to a whole new level.”
Bilbo felt a bit taken aback by the comment. He knew that in the eyes of the dwarves he might be overly proper, but in the Shire he couldn’t afford not to be. “I am a Baggins, I’m expected to live up to my Father’s good family-name.” He shrugged.
Fili made a none-committal sound at that but didn’t say anything.
Bilbo, surprised at the lack of reaction, turned to Fili. The dwarf was watching the flowers with a thoughtful expression. Obviously something about what he’d said had gotten Fili thinking.
He wondered what it was but didn’t ask. That would be rude.
So instead, he settled back and lurked at his pipe, eyes settling on the flowers as well. Gosh, what would his father think of all of this? He couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought. He knew very well his father would be freaking out, whereas his mother would be a bundle of excitement. His amusement was quickly replaced by sadness, a sigh passing his lips as he lowered his eyes.
Long gone were those days.
“They aren’t just flowers, are they?” Fili suddenly asked, an almost gentle expression on his face when he looked at Bilbo.
Bilbo shook his head. “Flowers are important to us. Every flower has a meaning and so they are carefully planted in a garden. A garden reflects the family living in the house and you won’t find a single hobbit family that doesn’t have a neat and cared for garden.” He explained. “And of course every garden has a private patch as well. Usually no-one but the family themselves is allowed to come there.”
Fili was silent for a moment and then stood up.
Bilbo’s head whipped around to watch the dwarf, frowning at the other’s sudden movement.
Fili bowed his head. “I am sorry, master Baggins.” He said and his eyes turned to the flower-beds. “I did not mean to trespass.”
Bilbo blinked and then realized his words might’ve sounded like an accusation. “Oh,” he mumbled and shook his head. “You aren’t trespassing, I can assure you. I maybe should’ve explained it with different words. Come, sit down if you still wish to.”
Fili hesitated, not convinced at all.
Bilbo sighed. The only way Fili would understand would be if he knew the true meaning of these gardens. Bilbo was surprised to find that he wasn’t unwilling to share that part of hobbit culture with him.
“I don’t know how dwarves... care for their dead. But we want to keep our loved ones close, even in death. So we bury them close to our homes and plant flowers on top of their graves. It’s like a memorial, the flowers representing the deceased’s personality, their life. It’s not that others aren’t allowed to come here. It’s just that many don’t, out of respect.” He was silent for a moment, swallowing the lump in his throat and in a saddened tone admitted: “It’s not entirely undesirable to have some company here once in a while, though.” He turned to Fili and smiled, although it probably looked forced. “It makes the place a bit less sad.”
Fili looked shocked, although in his eyes Bilbo could also see a sad sort of understanding. “I’m sorry for your loss.” He said, sounding mournfully.
Bilbo was about to shrug and wave it off with an ‘it happens’, but something in Fili’s eyes told him that such words would most likely upset the other. So instead, he smiled carefully. “Thank you.”