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Title: Relatives & Family II
Author: Flakedice
Fandom (Hobbit/LOTR/SIL/crossover): Hobbit
Characters/pairings: Bilbo Baggins/Thorin Oakenshield
Rating/warnings/etc: PG. Nothing worse than the book or the movies
Summary: Lobelia is seeking to ruin what remains of Bilbo's reputation in the Shire. Torn by grief and guilt, Bilbo is doing little to stop her. But not everyone is willing to let Bilbo fade.

Green Hills:

Relatives & Family II

Bag End had seen better days. Gerontius took in the wilting flowers beneath the windows and the stray weeds that had sprung up unnoticed near the bench. There were scratches on the door in front of him and some sort of rough symbol had been carved deep into the paint. It had been there when Bilbo left and he hadn't bothered to remove it when he returned.

It was alarming considering the fuss Bilbo had made when the door had been repainted just over a year ago.

Lobelia was right in that sense. Bilbo had changed.

Suppressing a sigh, Gerontius reached out and pulled the bell chain hanging beside the door. A pleasant chiming sound rang out. Gerontius waited, listening intently.

There was a distant thud. Gerontius waited, straining for the sound of approaching feet. The silence lengthened. Gerontius reached out to pull the chain again-

The green door swung open. Bilbo peered out around its edge.

"Bilbo!" Gerontius was caught off-balance by the abrupt appearance of his nephew. And deeply concerned when the state of him registered.

Long gone was the sharp-eyed and perfectly attired gentle-Hobbit. There were few traces of the fine adventuring clothing in which he returned. Bilbo wore his short pants and shirt as if they were a strange, too large costume that he had forgotten how to wear.

Bilbo himself had faded. His hair had lost its lustre, his gaze dulled by misery. Beneath his tan, his skin was sallow, almost pallid. It was clear that he had lost weight. The only hint of defiance was a small braid, strangely short in the rest of his too-long hair. And even that was fraying from the rough cord he had used to tie it.

He had, Gerontius began to fear, left his grandson alone for too long.

"Uncle Gerontius." Surprise had widened Bilbo's bloodshot eyes. He stepped back from behind the door, no longer holding onto it as if it were a shield.

Gerontius raised an eyebrow. "No need to look so surprised. Can't an old man visit his grandson?"

Something shifted in Bilbo's eyes. Some dark thought that lingered. Bilbo took another step back, pulling the door open wider.

Disturbed, Gerontius decided to take that as a welcome. He scuffed his feet on the doormat and stepped inside.

If the sight of Bilbo had been a shock, the hallway of Bag End was another. The hall was gutted, bare except for Belladonna's glory box and a few other items Bilbo had reclaimed.

Gerontius had heard of the auction of Bilbo's belongings, but he hadn't seen it for himself. It was terrible seeing the shell of what Bag End had been. It must have been even worse for Bilbo.

Bilbo padded silently down the corridor and Gerontius followed in his wake. Gerontius silently noted the large shield propped up against the wall, what looked to be a short spear leaning against a chest.

Bilbo led him into the dining room which looked much more familiar, though there were still empty spaces where some of Belladonna's West Farthing plates had stood. His daughter had placed them in pride of place, so they could be viewed by her guests. It didn't look right with several of them missing. Gerontius made a note to help track them down.

Gerontius sat down and watched as Bilbo retrieved a cup from one of the nearby shelves. A tea pot and half-filled cup were already on the table. Bilbo poured some tea into the new cup and placed it on the table before Gerontius.

Steam rose from the cup, the heat of the liquid radiating through the ceramic. Gerontius gingerly cradled the cup in his hand, watching Bilbo closely. "I received a visit from Lobelia yesterday."

Bilbo grip loosened on the teapot, setting it down with a clatter.

"Lobelia." His voice was flat.

Gerontius nodded, a slow considered gesture. "She said that you'd threatened her with harm."

"I don't suppose Lobelia told you she was attempting to steal from me at the time." Bilbo's voice was hard, uncompromising.

He glanced up at Bilbo, unsurprised to see the unrepentant expression on his grandson's face. He nodded uneasily. There had never been any love lost between Bilbo and Lobelia. But there had never been a threat of harm-

Well, Gerontius considered some of Lobelia's past actions, no threat of physical harm.

Gerontius hummed, eyeing his tea. Avoiding Bilbo's heavy, silent stare. "She also seems to be under the impression that your health is at risk. And your soundness of mind."

Bilbo's eyes flashed. "Lobelia's been under that impression for a long time. I don't see why-"

"Lobelia isn't the only one to bring your behaviour to my attention." Gerontius cut in before Bilbo had the chance to work himself into a temper. "Gossip is spreading like wildfire. You're said to roam the hills at night, armed and accosting fellow hobbits. Others say you've been too long in the company of dwarves and become, like them, a hater of light." It was a terribly insult among hobbits, who thrived on sunlight and its bounty.

A flash of anger darkened Bilbo's face and Gerontius hurried on before he could speak.

"Word in the markets is that you've become unsociable and distinctively unHobbitish. I'm afraid it's starting to impact your standing in the Shire."

Bilbo raked a hand through his hair as he paced back and forth. "Who cares if I choose to stay inside all day or take a walk at night?"

"You're the Baggins of Bag End, Bilbo. As such you can see why people are starting to wonder." Gerontius said quietly.

"But I am also a Took." Bilbo spoke just as quietly.

Standing tall and refusing to look away, he resembled Belladonna so much it was heartbreaking. Gerontius had seen that same look on her face when she had announced she would wed Bungo Baggins. A quiet confidence backed by a will of iron that would bend for no one.

There were no arguments that would make a difference.

Gerontius owed it to his grandson to try, though.

"Lobelia seems to think you've gone mad."

Bilbo snorted. "And the rest of the Shire?" He raised an eyebrow when he caught Gerontius’ surprised look. "I have ears, grandfather. I know everyone thinks me mad for going off on an Adventure." He grimaced.

"Everyone?" Gerontius asked mildly.

"Everyone not a Took." Bilbo let out a sigh. "I can't blame them." A small smile curved his lips. "I thought I'd gone mad myself over those first weeks."

At that moment, Bilbo looked very much like Belladonna. Gerontius gruffly cleared his throat. "Every Took is a little mad at times." He looked over Bilbo again, letting his concern show. "But there's a difference between madness and grieving."

Bilbo stiffened, one hand bracing him against the table.

"The sign are clear to those who know them." Gerontius said kindly. "And I saw what happened to Belladonna after Bungo died."

Bilbo's expression turned stricken.

Gerontius set aside his cup and stood. He approached Bilbo slowly, carefully reaching out to set a hand on his thin shoulder.

Bilbo's shoulder was tense under his hand but slowly, slowly it loosened. He stared up at Gerontius with wide helpless eyes.

It was breaking Gerontius' heart. "Bilbo." Gerontius pushed back a chair from the table and gently guided Bilbo into it.

"He's not dead." Bilbo said hoarsely.

He. Gerontius shouldn't have been surprised. The odds were he wasn't a Hobbit either, not when Bilbo had run off with a bunch of dwarves.

Well, it wasn't the first time a Took had lost their heart and run off. Reginus hadn't left for sea as much as the elf that lived near it.

Gerontius pulled out another chair, close to Bilbo. Bent over as he was, clasping Bilbo's shoulder was starting a back ache. He sat, patting Bilbo's knee.

"Your dwarf." He encouraged.

Bilbo simply nodded.

Gerontius suppressed a sigh. He'd half expected to have this talk with Bilbo when he was a tween. It was no wonder that having been hit with love so late in life, Bilbo was feeling it so strongly. With the Baggins devotion and Tookish ferocity.

"Did he feel the same?" Gerontius wasn't sure if it would be worse or better if he did.

"Once." Bilbo sounded miserable.

Worse apparently. Gerontius chose his next words carefully. "A misunderstanding then," he decided. "How often have the Tall Folk misunderstood us? Let alone how often lovers find themselves at odds?" And with Bilbo choosing a dwarf, one who had swept him out of Bag End, there were bound to be problems. Gerontius was privately surprised it had come to anything more than a short dalliance. Dwarves weren't exactly known for romance.

Bilbo's eyes flickered, suddenly uncertain.

It was better than misery. "Write to him Bilbo. Distance and time make tempers cool and reason rise." And if Bilbo was right about his dwarf’s change in feelings...then at least Bilbo would have an end to the matter.

Perhaps in time he would be able to find someone in the Shire. It wasn't acceptable, exactly, but few would begrudge Bilbo finding companionship if he kept it circumspect.

Which led Gerontius to the other problem at hand. "It would help if you turn your mind to matters in the Shire. Take an interest in your duties as master of Bag End and be seen to do so."

Bilbo was listening. Not quite willingly but listening.

Gerontius continued, more comfortable now they were on safer ground. "It would be wiser if you get out more often." He raised a hand to forestall any protests. "Simply to the market, or down to visit Hamfast Gamgee." Those were safe options and ones Bilbo should be able to manage even if he wasn't in the mood to socialise.

Bilbo didn't look happy about it but he nodded. Sensible lad that he was, Gerontius knew he'd see reason. "It should be enough to put pause to the rumours." And set back Lobelia in her machinations.

Lobelia. If she didn't rein in her harsh tongue, Gerontius might have to intervene. Or let Adamanta take care of her.

Now that was an idea.

Bilbo was staring morosely into his cup. Gerontius patted his knee again. "Cheer up, Bilbo. I'm sure once you explain everything, your dwarf will come around."

If he didn't see the treasure that was Gerontius' grandson, then he didn't deserve Bilbo in the first place.


On to Part Three



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