“You are really leaving, then,” Thorin said, and where once Bilbo would not have heard anything but anger and dismissal in his voice, he was keenly aware now of the undertone of hurt. “Were you not even going to say goodbye to me?”
Bilbo slowly turned to face him, heart pounding. He hadn’t heard the door to the little room in Erebor he’d been given open. “If I don’t go now I won’t make it over the Misty Mountains before it starts to snow. And I would have come to say goodbye, once I’d finished packing.”
He was sure Thorin was probably glowering at him, but he wasn’t quite brave enough to meet his gaze to check. He didn’t know if he wanted to see what was in Thorin’s eyes as he looked at him these days. All the apologies in the world couldn’t replace the memory of the hatred that Thorin directed at him once he had found out about the Arkenstone. None of the good intentions that he had taken the stone with could erase the guilt he felt for stealing from Thorin in the first place.
And neither of those things would hurt as much as they did if Bilbo didn’t love Thorin as much as he did. He’d even thought that Thorin might have loved him back, once.
“I thought I’d made it clear that you could stay in Erebor as long as you wished,” Thorin said, in that same horrible, flat, pained voice.
Oh, how this hurt. “I know,” Bilbo replied. “But I think it is time for me to go.”
“Please,” Thorin said, and Bilbo did look at him. Thorin’s eyes were serious and earnest and how Bilbo wanted to stay.
“I don’t think I could stay in Erebor, Thorin,” Bilbo whispered, his throat aching with supressed emotion. “It’s too big for me. I’m just a hobbit. We’re made for comfort, not for…”
“You could be comfortable here,” Thorin said quickly, taking a step forward. Bilbo skittered back in alarm and Thorin froze as stock-still as if Bilbo has struck him.
“It’s me you can’t be comfortable with,” Thorin realised bitterly, though Bilbo knew that the bitterness was directed at himself.
“I’m sorry,” Bilbo replied, tears starting to spill over, and Thorin shook his head.
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Thorin said woodenly. “I only wish…”
“Me too,” Bilbo murmured.
Thorin took a slow, careful, unthreatening step towards him, and Bilbo forced himself not to retreat. Thorin kissed both of his tear-stained cheeks, then his mouth, once, gently, and Bilbo fell into him with a helpless little moan.
He’d missed this as much as he’d feared it.
Thorin lifted him up and took him towards Bilbo’s bed, slowly, giving him time to object. Bilbo didn’t. He kissed him back fervently and he knew each kiss was a goodbye.
They slowly stripped off each other’s clothes, hands caressing and lingering, memorising, and when they joined together Bilbo was not the only one with tears in his eyes.
Later, once the afterglow faded away, and Thorin was asleep with his face buried in Bilbo’s hair and his arm across his chest, as firm as an iron bar, Bilbo’s heart was still pounding but for an entirely different reason. Where once he had felt secure with Thorin’s arm around him, now that the passion had faded his fears had re-emerged and he wanted nothing more than to flee.
He carefully wriggled his way out of Thorin’s grip and dressed as silently as only a hobbit could. He slipped on his ring, just to be safe, and grabbed his bags.
He wanted to give Thorin a final kiss goodbye, but he didn’t dare risk waking him up. As much as walking away from Thorin was killing him inside, he knew it would hurt just as much to stay.
Some things just couldn't be mended.
So with one last long look, he took his first, lonely step back towards the Shire.