This is The Hobbit/Edge of Tomorrow crossover written for fun and zero profit. The idea took my brain hostage and threaten to eat it until I wrote this down. If you like the result, please leave a comment.
The first time Bilbo dies, it happens in a cave deep in the Misty Mountains. The air is damp and stale, and it adds an unpleasant taste to the salty blood from his split lip. Dizzy and disoriented, Bilbo isn’t as fast as he should be when he draws his sword. The terrible creature, Gollum, pelts him with rocks, muttering to itself about all the ways it’s going to cook Bilbo, its spindly arms possessing deceptive strength for its malnourished body. And while Bilbo cringes and dodges as best he can, he is too slow. His vision swims, and the cave floor buckles under his feet. One of the rocks hits true, colliding with Bilbo’s temple.
The last thought he has is about the curious little ring he put in his pocket.
Bilbo wakes up. He stretches, luxuriating in the feel of soft bedding, and opens his eyes. Sunlight peeks through the round window of his bedroom. He breathes in the scent of bluebells and daisies he remembers picking the day before Gandalf and his grand idea to send him on the mad journey—
Bilbo bolts out of bed, his heart beating like war drums in the Goblin Kingdom. “The quest!”
It must have been a dream, he decides. Yes, yes, just a dream. Nothing more.
Slowly, Bilbo pads through his home, fingers trailing over the walls, book spines on the shelves, the polished surface of the dining table, reassuring him of reality. He makes a cup of tea and sits in his favourite armchair, warming his hands on the thin ceramic and watching the tea leaves unfold.
When Gandalf shows up, looming over Bilbo with all his Man height and a pointy hat besides and blocking the sun, Bilbo drops his pipe.
He doesn’t want to go on any quest. He goes anyway.
This time, he kills Gollum first. He wanders through the caves for weeks, hopelessly lost. He finds an underground lake and tries to catch fish, but without a rod, it is a fruitless endeavour.
In desperation, he eats the mushrooms growing near a small pond. Their caps are slimy and bitter, but Bilbo stuffs himself on them anyway like they are special seed cakes his mama used to make for his nameday. He spends the next few days puking his guts out and unable so much as to stand up. On hands and knees, he crawls to the pond and drinks, gulping dirty water despite it leaving a gritty residue on his palms. His stomach hurts like Bilbo is being stabbed with every breath he takes. Curling into a ball, he prays to the Valar for it to end. He dreams of sunlight and his full pantry.
Sometimes, Bilbo hears the voices of the company. Once, Gandalf sits beside him and makes a flower crown, braiding pond lilies with seaweed. When he finishes, the wizard places it on Bilbo’s head. His father appears next. Bungo doesn’t say anything, but for the first time in the deep, dark cave, Bilbo smiles. The stretch of skin feels foreign on his face, but he doesn’t stop. He licks damp stone floor to moisten his lips, too weak to raise his hands. His tongue is dry and scratchy and too big for his mouth. A strange sound escapes his throat, and Bilbo realises that he is laughing. He laughs, and laughs, and laughs until he doesn’t while Gandalf and Bungo watch him with kind eyes.
He dies of dehydration several days later.
The third time, Bilbo doesn’t even make it past the trolls. He is so bloody shaken and terrified that he manages to antagonise the entire company. So much so that when the trolls threaten to rip him apart, the dwarves aren’t in a hurry to comply and put down their weapons. The pain is excruciating but thankfully brief.
The fourth time he doesn’t go at all. When Gandalf come, he flat out refuses to go on any and all adventures. Bilbo has had enough excitement to last him several lifetimes, thank you kindly. Of course, the bloody wizard ignores his words and scratches his door anyway.
Well, Bilbo thinks, throwing a change of clothes and supplies for a week long trip into his backpack, they can wait on my porch till the cows come home, for all I care. He fastens the clasps with jerky movements and stuffs his pipe into a pocket of his breeches, intending to have a smoke on the way. He leaves through the back door, calling out to Hamfast and saying that he plans to visit his relatives in Tookborrow.
As soon as he is past the Hill, Bilbo stops and light his pipe, waits until he is sure that nobody can see him. He turns left and hikes all the way back and into the woods lying Overhill. Good luck finding me there!
A week later, he returns home much calmer and with a sack full of mushrooms. He gives it to the Gamgees, not leaving any for himself. While he still likes them in theory, Bilbo is reasonably sure he won’t be able to eat any mushrooms for a bloody long time.
Old man Dodinas down at the Bagshot Row complains at the ruckus the dwarves had made when they didn’t find Bilbo, and Lobelia shoots pointed barbs at his lack of hospitality. But life goes on as it always does, and soon, the birth of Bell Proudfeet’s thirteenth grandchild and the preparations for Summer Harvest Festival are the topics hobbits gossip about.
As months goes by, Bilbo stops looking at the shadows with suspicion. Resolutely, he puts the dwarves out of his mind.
One autumn evening, after visiting with the Baggins side of his family and enduring the Sackville-Baggins’ cooking, Bilbo goes to bed early. He drinks ginger tea to settle nausea and hopes that a good night sleep will help with the deep ache in his stomach. He drifts off to the sound of wind howling in the pipes and rain pelting the earth with oceans worth of water.
Bilbo wakes up clammy and too hot, his legs tangled in the sheets. His room smells of bluebells and daisies. Outside his window, birds are chirping a morning song and summer sun is cheerfully bright in the cloudless sky.
Grabbing his pillow and pressing it against his face, Bilbo screams until he can’t anymore. His throat is raw, and he feels like lying down on the floor and never getting up. Instead, he plods to the kitchen and fixes himself a cuppa. His hand are shaking.