Balin was getting old. He could no longer deny it; even if he could still hand Fili and Kili’s asses to them, there was still a creaking in his joints that reminded him of his age. It wouldn’t be long before he could no longer contend against them, what with their youth. Pretty soon, he would only be able to watch them spar and give them lessons from the sidelines. No more hands on examples.
He thought about this as he sat with Bilbo in the Baggins Garden, on a bench looking out over the entirety of the space. They were talking about the recent incident involving some of the old King’s Council, which had been looking to be reinstated. Thorin, so far, had been avoiding having to talk about reinstating the old council by making it his point to be busy whenever they tried to call meetings with him. Bilbo thought it was quite funny.
“Is there anything so wrong with reinstating the old council?” Bilbo asked now, after having a particularly good laugh about how he’d never seen Thorin get himself so purposefully lost as he did that morning, effectively “missing” the meeting.
“Well, there is the fact that the old council would try to force certain members of the Company out of their current living space, simply because of where their upbringing lied,” Balin hummed, and Bilbo knew immediately who the Old Dwarf spoke of. Bofur, Bifur, and Bombur were not originally from Erebor; they were born and raised in the Ered Luin. And not only that, they had started as a miner, a toy maker, and a cook. While most of the inhabitants of the Mountain accepted them as they were, he had still seen many a sneer at the sight of his friends simply walking by.
Nori was another that some turned their noses up at. Apparently they still remembered his days as a thief in the Blue Mountains, which had not really changed upon reaching Erebor. He was given the official title of Spymaster, however, which made many Dwarflings watch him in wonder whenever they were allowed by their parents to sit in on sparring matches. Bilbo always found himself looking on in pride when he saw any of his Dwarrows in the ring, proving time and time again that they hadn’t been apart of the Company of Thorin Oakenshield for no good reason.
Bilbo shook his head, sighing, “It amazes me how these Dwarves could hold such prejudice over class, especially towards the ones that helped reclaim their homeland.”
“The how is of no concern to them,” Balin snorted, “it is simply about the who to them.”
“Such archaic ways of thinking, to assume that class has anything to do with a person’s character.” Bilbo glared at the ground in front of them. Balin placed a hand on Bilbo’s shoulder.
“Peace, Master Hobbit,” Balin’s tone made Bilbo look at him, managing a small smile, “Though many still cling to the ways of old, it won’t be long before those of us who could even remember such thinking will be gone from this Earth.”
Bilbo frowned immediately, a startling realization entering his mind. Balin was getting old; he was the oldest of the Company after all, his hair already completely white. Bilbo hadn’t even thought about Balin eventually having to leave them for the Halls of Aule; he had simply assumed that Balin would always be there, for Thorin and for him, to guide them through everything that came from running the kingdom. To even consider Balin dying…
“Don’t look so glum, friend.” Balin patted Bilbo’s back. “I’ve still got a bit of time left, perhaps thirty or so years.”
Thirty years was quite a bit of time, but Bilbo still didn’t like to think about the fact that thirty years was all the time Balin would have left with them. It simply did not sit right in his heart.
“Bilbo?” Balin frowned now. He hadn’t meant to depress the lad! It had only been his intention to help him lighten up a bit!
“You know I’ll always remember you,” Bilbo said suddenly. “Always.” He looked at Balin, his eyes a bit shiny.
Balin stared at him in shock, the unshed tears in Bilbo’s eyes making him feel bad for saying such depressing words and causing his friend pain.
“Bilbo,” Balin’s tone softened, but before he could say anything more, the Hobbit sprang up from his seat and went towards his rose beds, looking around before he kneeled in front of a certain bush, from which he snipped one of the fragrant flowers. He hurried back over and plopped down once more, holding the flower out to Balin who looked rather surprised.
“I kept asking myself which I should give you,” Bilbo said now. “And then I realized, just now, that it had to be this one.”
Balin plucked the rose from Bilbo’s fingers, holding it gingerly. It had a delicate beauty about it; it was a soft pink with yellow undertones, in full bloom. He was not one to usually appreciate such things as flowers, but this one seemed to be different from the many in Bilbo’s garden. Balin thought this one was… nice.
“I’ll Remember―Always,” he heard Bilbo say.
“What was that?” Balin looked up from the rose.
“That’s what it means,” Bilbo pointed at the rose. He held another in his hands, though for what reason Balin did not know. “You’ve done a lot for everyone. For Thorin. For me. Why I’m sure I’d have given Thorin the Arkenstone and we would not be here today if not for you.”
Balin shook his head. “I think not, Bilbo. You are a good judge of character, and you knew Thorin was not in his right mind.”
Bilbo didn’t feel the same. At the time, he’d thought things would get better if Thorin had the stone. That had most certainly not been the case. Thinking back on the events leading up to the battle, Bilbo knew that he would have given Thorin the stone if Balin had not convinced him to do otherwise.
“Thank you for this, Bilbo,” Balin smiled suddenly. “Truly. It fills my heart to know that this makes you think of me.”
Bilbo managed a small smile, glad that Balin appreciated his gift. Their conversation returned to lighter topics, before Bilbo decided it was time to start preparations for dinner.
“Bilbo? What’s that?”
“Hm?” Bilbo turned and spotted Kili and Ori watching him, their eyes trained on the vase of four―now five―roses. Bilbo smiled upon seeing them.
“Simply a Hobbit custom is all.”