The moment Bilbo stepped outside into the cold air, he let out a shaky breath.
He took a few steps and found a small bench. He let himself sink down onto it and buried his face in his hands.
What had he done?
He never made promises that he didn’t keep. But here he was, thinking of the best way to tell the dwarves – and Gandalf, damn him thrice! – to find a new burglar.
Well, if he couldn’t think of anything he still had until tomorrow morn.
Yes, that was what he was doing to do. He was going to tell them tomorrow at breakfast. He couldn’t possibly ride home now, so the morning would be a good time.
Yes, let yourself wallow in guilt and pity all night. His mind provided bitterly.
Because he would.
Guilt for leaving and pity for himself. Because even after this day – with all the horrible jokes and rude comments yet kind gestures and exciting stories – he felt like he wanted to go. He longed for the adventure.
But he simply couldn’t leave only because he wanted to see the world.
Bilbo stiffened for a second before his shoulders sagged and he sighed.
He wondered in irritation if storming out of a room meant something other than “I want to be left alone” in dwarven culture.
“Good evening, master Fili.” He replied, his irritation clear in his voice and he pressed his lips together, refusing to look at Fili.
“Is everything all right?” Fili asked, sounding worried. He moved closer to the bench and, when he reached it, sat down next to Bilbo.
Bilbo surly kept his eyes fixated onto the dark landscape ahead of him and resisted the urge to sigh. While yesterday the other’s company was not necessarily unwanted, today Bilbo felt irritated and even slightly angry at the casual breech of personal-space. “Just fine.” He replied curtly. “Nothing to worry yourself about.”
Fili huffed. “When someone suddenly leaves a room it usually means something isn’t fine.” He said.
Bilbo raised an eyebrow and turned his eyes to Fili for a second. Grey eyes laced with a green hue caught his for a second and Bilbo was momentarily stunned at the amount of worry he saw in them. He swallowed and turned back to the rolling hills in front of him again.
“It usually also means the person leaving wants to be left alone.” Bilbo pointed out.
Fili chuckled. “I will, master Baggins, I will. As soon as I am certain everything is all right I will leave you be.”
Bilbo sighed and shook his head. “Even if I wasn’t fine there is nothing you can change about it.” He said stubbornly.
Fili remained silent at that for a few seconds.
Bilbo relaxed slightly, feeling like he won the argument. If the dwarf was insisting on staying, Bilbo was fine with it as long as he didn’t have to answer more questions. He’d rather sit here quietly and break the news to the company in the morning – before running back home.
“I know I can’t change anything.” Fili suddenly spoke, his voice soft and sad and full of unspoken memories.
It made Bilbo wonder exactly whom the other had lost.
“I know very well, I just felt like I had to apologize.” Fili finished and, when Bilbo looked at him with a frown, shrugged with a slightly awkward smile. “I know it’s stupid, but I would be pretty angry if someone disrespected my ‘da like that friend of yours. And then Bofur... Yeah, just wanted to see if you were doing fine.”
“I’m...” Fine. Bilbo almost said automatically. But the other’s – badly hidden – sad demeanour and honest words made him stop. When was the last time someone that could relate to him asked if he was fine? All everyone was worried about was his mother and the good Baggins name.
He sighed and lowered his eyes. “It hurts. But I have a feeling you know that.” He said, glancing at Fili.
Fili smiled sadly and shrugged. “I might. But at least I haven’t lost my ‘ma too.” He said softly, almost guiltily.
Bilbo felt like he’d been punched in the gut. He took a stuttering breath and shook his head. “Me neither.”
His comment was met with a moment of stunned silence. Bilbo felt guilty, although he didn’t quite know why. He hadn’t said his mother was dead.
“What?” Fili asked, eyes slightly widened and sounding surprised. “But I thought...” He didn’t finish his sentence, but Bilbo could imagine what the other wanted to say.
Bilbo fidgeted with his fingers. Fili wasn’t accusing him of leaving his mother behind, not yet. But Bilbo was sure that accusation was to come soon. Especially since the other had lost his father as well, he would probably look down on Bilbo for leaving his mother behind. But at least that would make leaving much easier.
“I know.” Bilbo said softly, keeping his eyes in his lap and refusing to look at Fili – whose eyes were by now burning holes in the side of his head. “I mean, last night... you said –” Bilbo cut himself off before he could start stuttering. “I’m sorry. I should have cleared it up straight away.”
Fili sat in silence for a few moments, processing the revelation and all the while he watched Bilbo. “Well, it would have been nice and perhaps less confusing.” He admitted and then he gave a short laugh, shaking his head. “Although it makes me a bit happy, too.”
Bilbo frowned. He had expected quite a few things to be said but this wasn’t one of them. “Happy?”
Fili nodded. “Yeah, ‘cause it means your ‘ma is still alive. That’s always a good thing.” He said with a small, somewhat goofy grin.
Bilbo gave a small smile at that. “Yes, yes it is.” He said, and although this would be the perfect opportunity to tell Fili that it also meant he couldn’t go with them, the words didn’t come.
Fili raised an eyebrow. “That doesn’t sound very convincing.” Then he leaned his head to the side. “And I don’t think you ever did mention why you ran out on us, master Baggins.”
Bilbo huffed, crossing his arms in front of his chest and shaking his head. “I did mention it was nothing you needed to concern yourself with.” He retorted, wondering why Fili couldn’t just drop this.
Fili frowned. “You’re sure about that?” He asked and then leaned his head to the side a bit, adding: “And do remember that anything to do with this company, is my business. Or rather, my uncle’s business which in turn makes it mine to know and inform him off.” He leaned closer to Bilbo, locking eyes with the other and quite sternly asking: “So is there anything that I should know about, master Baggins?”
Bilbo froze, unable to look away from Fili. The other looked so different now. So much like his uncle and yet there was an emotion underneath the sternness that Bilbo couldn’t read.
Bilbo swallowed. He couldn’t possibly lie now and say there was nothing wrong and then disappear in the morning. He would never be able to live down the guilt he’d feel for betraying the other like that.
“Well, technically you have all information you should need to figure that out by yourself, master Fili.” Bilbo said. He wasn’t sure what exactly kept him from telling the other straight out that he was leaving, but this tip-toeing made him feel very much like a coward.
Another reason why you shouldn’t go with them. His mind provided. No use for cowards on a trip like theirs.
His internal feelings of guilt must have shown on his face, for when Fili spoke next his voice was softer and his tone less stern. “That I might, but I do not have the patience nor the time to figure it out by myself. Guilt is clear on your face and while I must say I haven’t known you for long, it worries me. So please assist me in figuring this out.”
Bilbo fidgeted with some loose threads hanging from his waistcoat as dread filled him. He was quite certain that Fili wouldn’t be nice to him anymore when told that the company had lost their burglar. Bilbo could only hope that Fili would at least be able to understand.
He raised his eyes, staring off into the darkness as he sadly said: “My mother is alive and I am very grateful for that, as you can understand. But she is old, she is weak and... I can’t just leave her. She took care of me my whole life. Just because I feel like seeing the world, it doesn’t mean that I can. I don’t have a lot of responsibilities, not a whole lot of things keeping me here. But my mother... It was foolishness and perhaps a silent wish that made me come with you this morning. I see that now...” He trailed off softly and looked at Fili.
Fili was looking at him with a dumbfound expression. Then, his eyes narrowed and his voice dropped to a low rumble when he demanded: “So you are going to run back home?”