Anouk knows quite a lot of things. She's always prided herself on being smarter than her dunce of a brother. Her Da would say she had taken after her Ma in that respect, but Anouk thought that, yes, she had her mothers sharp wit, but she had her Grandmothers mind, too. Her Grandmother would tell her stories about Erebor when that dragon had attacked, and in turn her Ma would tell her stories about her meeting with the dragon.
Her Ma would explain that she had done something very bad and Anouk, now that she is older, thinks that she cannot really blame her Ma for what she had done. Not really.
She's always been able to talk to her Ma about anything. Of course, she was close to her Da in a lot of ways and, honestly, she would mostly likely spend more time with him. When she was upset, though, she knew that she could talk to her Mama and her Mama would listen, because that's just what she did.
Perhaps that is the most awful thing about death. Now, she will never hear her Mama laugh or comfort her again.
Anouk has always liked the different and the odd. Her Mama was both of those. Anouk knows secrets, she knows that her Ma is from another world where everything is so different and they have things calls cars and planes - planes always interested Anouk. They could fly.
Her Ma was always a good story teller, but no longer would her happy voice, softer with age, fill rooms.
That scares Anouk.
Thor is all she had left.
Her Ma died in her sleep with an odd little smile on her face and her hand reaching outward, like she was trying to grab something. 'Do you think that Da was with her?' Thor asks, a tone in his voice that shows how much he hadn't wanted to say what he had just said.
I think he was always with her. All of 'em.
'I want to think that,' Anouk says. They are waiting to be led down into the Mountain, where Uncle Thorin, Grandma Dis and Uncle Fili were buried. In the other burial chambers, other family members are buried too. Anouk would often visit Uncle Dwalin's grave, to just talk to him about things.
She forgets her name, for that split second. She forgets everything about herself. For one second, she is light and nothing and she knows this feeling, this feeling of fading into the arms of death.
Unlike then, though, death is welcome this time. Death can take her, and she will no longer fight it.
She is quite ready for this next adventure.
'I don't know whether I can stay strong for this, An,' Thor confides. The guards will be here soon, and then they will be led down deep into the Mountain, to where their Ma's body which will rest between their Uncle's Fili's and their fathers. 'I'm King, but I feel-'
Thor and Anouk don't cry. Ma always said they were strong little babies, hardly ever waking up in the night. Thor and Anouk are strong together. They are of the Line of Durin - they were made to be strong.
There was a time, though, where they would cry in secret.
When their Da died, they were so invested in being there for their mother that they hardly had time to mourn. There came nights where, despite their age, Thor would knock on Anouk's door and they would sit on her bed, her arm around his shoulders, and cry where there mother could not see them.
She was Thor's big sister; she protected him.
On one night, three months after Da died, their Ma had walked into Anouk's room with a plain face and pushed herself between her children, as if she had known all along what they had been doing. Instead of crying, she had apologised for her lapse and allowed her children to cry, telling them stories of the first time she saw her husband, her Kili.
It didn't matter that they had been Dwarves fully grown; all that mattered was the softness of their Ma and the devastation at their Da dying.
Anouk isn't bothered with marrying, but if she does marry she wants to love them like her Ma and Da loved each other. That's why she understands why her Ma had that lapse in strength. She knows that everyone her Ma shared that one adventure with had died, and Kili was all she'd had left. Even the Wizard had left Middle Earth a while ago, with the Hobbit, Ma said, named Bebo or Belbo.
'I know. I feel it too,' Anouk said, but the words come out as a choke because this is like Da dying all over again, only this time they are alone. 'She was ready to go, Thor. She was'.
And in her place, she left us. Let's do her and father proud.
She is in a world of stars and lakes and Mountains and white pillars and white walls. It is Middle Earth, but so much more. She feels happy - not as lost.
With her hand held in front of her face as she stands, she sees that wrinkled and old skin is light and smooth once again.
Millie Fournier realises that she is young once again.
They walk down and down and down.
And then they are in the cavernous rooms where the dead are buried, and their mothers body is in such a heavy stone coffin that Anouk wonders how anyone could ever lift it.
It is quick, or perhaps it seems so because Anouk hadn't really wanted to say goodbye. Thor drops the soil onto the coffin and allows the service to end, but whilst people filter away (there is a female elf with the look of Mirkwood about her, and she stands out in the mass of Dwarves) she and her brother stay for a while longer.
'Did they bury her with Snowthorn?'
Thor nods, jaw clenched as they stare at the coffin. The tomb will be sealed soon. It will be over.
'Good. Good. She'd want that'.
She knows she is dead, and that's quite a liberating feeling. She has felt too old for years now, and after the death of Kili, she felt the weight of wrinkles and bones settle upon her. She'd felt empty and thin, like she had been stretched too much over a long period of time.
There is grass beneath her bare feet. Grass and sand and stone and everything else you could possibly stand upon. She feels infinite, the world around her feels infinite. She has never felt like this before, perhaps in her dreams or when she was dying on that Battle field. But not this free - not ever.
'You are late, Alexandria. You have taken you time, it would seem'.
With a wobbly smile (because she'd known he would be here. He had been there at the very beginning, so why not at the very end?), she turns.
'Do you remember the feast-?'
'The feast when I turned sixty-seven? Painfully'.
Anouk snorted. 'When you shouldn't have been cooped up with that serving girl in the corner of the Hall. Ma was bound to get protective of her wee boy'.
'Shut up, An'. A pause. 'I had never seen Da laugh so much'.
An amused silence fell, and even the painful twist of sorrow in Thor's voice could not stop the fond memories they were both remembering. Ma was funny - a lilting kind of funny that they grew up with, allowing them to inherit her shrewd humour and people watching skills.
'The book she's been writing,' he said, finally. 'I think she was writing it for us, you know. I think it was about the quest. Do you think that's where she put the letters she wrote us - the ones she refused to let us see until she-?' Anouk heard him swallow. 'Until this happened'.
Anouk shrugged, still staring at the resting place of her Ma. 'Probably'. A pause. 'Do you want to go and read it? It feels...like we should'.
'Gandalf,' Millie sighs. There is wind, wherever she is. It ruffles her hair and seeps into her lungs. It is fresh, like sunny wind. 'I took my time. You know me, I like to make an entrance'.
He looks as he had when she last saw him, somehow younger with that white hair and beard and shining robes. He had been reborn, somehow, Millie knows. During the Great War. He come to Erebor after it, to see the growing Kingdom and to tell her of tales she so wanted to hear. 'They have been waiting rather impatiently for you'.
'Good. Save the best 'till last, and here I am'. She swallows, rubbing her thumb over her palm 'They're all here - all of them?'
'Every one of us'.
'You are terribly late, lassie'.
There is a stretching pause, in which Millie watches them appear, like they had been there the whole time. They stand in front of buildings as white as snow, and somehow she can see Erebor within them.
And then, in a voice that sounds like a sigh, a laugh and a sob, he says,
He is there, standing beside his brother and Thorin - oh, Thorin. Thorin - and he is smiling, so beautifully that Mille nearly trips over her dress to reach him, to wrap her arms around him and he is so much younger now. He looks like he had when Anouk and Thor were but babies in her arms and crawling around her feet.
And she is crying, tears pouring down her face as he kisses her. And then she is hugging Fili, who smiles at her with both eyes twinkling like shiny little stars. And Dori, Nori and Ori, and she hits the youngest, sniffing, telling him, 'You were supposed to come back!' She tells Balin the same, crying the hardest at seeing his long lost face, and whispering in Dwalin's ear that Anouk talks to his grave whenever she can. She has to hold a hand to her mouth when he grumbles out, 'I know, lass. I listen'. Bombur picks her up so high that she is crying and laughing, Bofur ruffles her hair and tells her, 'Good to see you, lassie', and Bifir - he actually talks to her coherently, grumbling that, 'She'd never grown that beard, then'. Oin and Gloin, and behind them Gimli, who stands beside the murky shadow of an elf. Legolas, Millie thinks. She can see others, they're half real and half not - a Man with a crown and Elf lady, Hobbits and Elves...so many Elves.
And then she is fiercely hugging Thorin, telling him that she had tried and she is sorry. 'You did not only well,' he tells her, with dark hair and blue eyes and the shadows of his sister standing beside him and, oh, who is that Dwarf man behind Dis? 'You did magnificently'.
'Is she here, Thorin? I'm late - oh, Millie!'
Bilbo, her mind sighs, Bilbo Baggins.
He is young again, like all of them. When Millie hugs him, she is suddenly facing white shores and pale waters, she somehow thinks that they'll move on even further soon. Now they're together, things will become more solid. And they were, faces are clearing, names are coming to her - Aragorn, Arwen, Frerin, Frodo - of people she had never seen before or hadn't seen in so long.
They are a company once again. Not divided, not to be divided ever again.
And then Kili's hand is in hers, tight and hard as they both grip onto what they had lost, but found once again. 'I missed you so much,' she tells him, as the Dwarves study the beach they are now on, and they talk as if they have not in years. And they haven't, not really.
'It's not been right,' he tells her. 'It's been fragmented - we haven't properly moved on - we needed everyone here. We needed you'. He kisses her, and Millie smiles. 'But you're here now'.
'The Inconvenient and Unexpected Journey of Millie Fournier,' reads Thor, frowning. 'I love Ma, An, but she was very odd, wasn't she?'
Anouk can't help but smile, her eyes watering somewhat as they sit on Ma's bed, swords and crowns discarded for now. They sit shoulder to shoulder, Anouk's hand brushing over the ink writing. 'She was,' she agrees.
The book is worn in so many places, and Anouk can't help but think that it mirrors her Ma so much. A jumble of thoughts and feelings and words that, she does not know, will make she and her brother laugh out loud. They don't know that they will find out things about their Ma that they never knew, just as we had not known that it was to them their Ma had written to all along.
'Yeah,' she agrees. 'I'm here'.
They only know that their Ma, Millie Fournier, had written a book about her life. The book is unexpected, you see, (and perhaps a little inconvenient) filled with funny things and sad things and a life about an ordinary girl who found an extraordinary place in not only a man she fell in love with, but a place that gave her purpose.
'I suppose it will be time to go soon, will it not?' Thorin asks, his voice a rumble of familiarity.
They stand in a bundle of beards and hair, looking up at the bright sky and smiling because, finally, they were all together. Her odd little family, her lost loves.
'Well, let's read, shall we? Where is it...' An flips the page, squinting as she reads the words to her brother, Thor, 'My name is Alexandria Millicent Fournier, though you may call me Millie...'
With Kili's hand in hers, with the light almost blinding, Alexandria Millicent Fournier replies.
'Yeah. It's time to go'.
I need to go and cry in the bath. I don't even care how corny that was.
I hope this is a fitting last chapter to something that a lot of you guys have stuck with throughout my rather shitty updating. Before any of you say, I know that Bilbo and Gandalf and all the elves and Gimli etc go to the Grey Havens, and that isn't where they are...they're just kind of at an in between.
I want to thank all of you, because this is the best thing that I have ever done, and I am so proud of it despite the various and definite mistakes you will most likely find throughout (and that's why I love it). I am, honestly, gutted it is over, but Millie's story was coming to a finish and I wouldn't want to drag it out any longer.
Thank you for the reviews, the favourites, the follows - they made me smile whenever I received one, and I want to thank you for reading this story and being such invested readers. I will miss writing Millie more than anything, and I hope that her humour will continue to help you as it helped me through hard times.
Thank you so, so, so much. I feel like a small note like this isn't enough to put together how much I want to thank all of you. Some of the messages I received for this story blew me over, some going to explain how my story had helped them with very hard things in life. I am so, so grateful to all of you, and you all helped me create Millie and her quirks.
I am still available on my Tumblr, qarlgrimes, where I will gladly rant about The Hobbit and this story. Thank you x10000, you're all dope, awesome, wicked - whatever.