Dwalin wandered through the halls of Erebor, looking over the familiar walls and images that he had not seen in many years. He remembered it all just the way it was before the dragon attacked, so full of life and warmth; so full of hope.
This was his home. A home that he wasn't sure he would ever see again. But now, here he was, walking through its' halls, deep in thought and lost in memory. You'd think that he would feel happy and joyful at finally having returned. But, he didn't. Being back felt strange and somewhat gloomy. Because he knew what the cost was. He knew exactly what it took and what was lost to get them all there.
It had been one month since the Battle of Five Armies took place. One month since Erebor was reclaimed. And one month since Thorin Oakenshield had died in battle, along with his nephews.
Dwalin let out a sigh. It felt so strange to just continue on. Thorin was the one who had convinced him to leave you and his home in the Blue Mountains and come on this quest in the first place. It was Thorins' dream to take back the mountain and to see the kingdom restored to its' former glory. And now that it was finally happening, Thorin wasn't even alive to see it. It felt so strange to just move on and continue with Thorins' dream now that he was gone. It felt strange and even kind of wrong to know that it would not be Thorin who would rule Erebor now. Dain would be king under the mountain now that both Thorin and his nephews were dead. Even though Dwalin was sure Dain would be a good king, he couldn't shake the gloomy, hopeless feeling that weighed heavily on his chest. He had lost not only his king but a very good friend in that battle and he felt guilty about moving on now.
"It's strange, isn't it brother? To be here without him?" Dwalin turned his head and saw his brother, Balin, walking towards him. Dwalin simply nodded as Balin made his way to his side. "I understand." Balin replied.
"It doesn't feel right, just continuing on like this without Thorin." Dwalin said. "It feels like there's a piece missing; like this place is incomplete." He looked at Balin. "Was all this really worth it?"
"Thorin would think so." Balin replied. "He would be happy to see this place the way it is now."
"But he won't!" Dwalin said bitterly. "How are we supposed to move on from this?"
"We just have to be strong and try to thrive." Balin said. "There is always hope. Hope comes softly and often it appears in the most unexpected forms."
"You don't really believe all that sentimental rubbish, do you?"
"I choose to believe it now." Balin replied. "As should you. It will do you good." Dwalin didn't say anything after that and a thoughtful silence fell over the two brothers. Suddenly, the silence was broken by the sound of running footsteps and the two of them were approached by Ori, who was clearly out of breath. "Yes, Ori. What is it?" Balin asked.
"I bring news." Ori said when he finally caught his breath. "According to the raven, word of Smaugs' defeat and the taking back of Erebor has reached the residents of the Blue Mountains and they are on their way here now. They will be arriving in a few weeks."
Balin looked at his brother with a smile. "See, there's some hope already. Our kin will be returning home. Which means you will get to see that fiery wife of yours again." He gave Dwalin a light nudge.
Dwalin smiled and the heaviness in his chest lifted a bit. He was happy and excited knowing that he would finally see you again and he couldn't wait to hold you in his arms. He missed you horribly throughout the whole quest, as made evident by his constant bad mood. He wished you were here already so he could hold you and kiss you and never let you go. And, as any husband would be, he couldn't wait to finally make love to you again. Dwalin sighed lightly. At least there was one bright star on his horizon for him to look forward to.
"They're here! They're here!" Bofur shouted excitedly from atop the balcony that overlooked the gate into Erebor.
Every dwarf that was in Erebor at the time ran to the balcony to see what Bofur was shouting about and the sight they saw filled them with more joy than they could contain. Thousands of dwarves, men, women and children alike, were approaching the gate in one gigantic herd, many of them, returning to a home that they had not seen in years. They started entering the main gate and Dwalins' heart pounded knowing that somewhere in that large crowd, you were waiting for him. He followed the others to the front gate, where several dwarves were already greeting their loved ones that they had not seen in so long. All around him, dwarves were reuniting with their friends and family. He saw Gloin embracing his wife and wee lad, Gimli. He saw brothers greeting brothers, brothers greeting sisters, husbands greeting wives, fathers greeting their children and friends greeting friends. There were several people that he knew, but he only searched for one. Dwalin looked through the sea of faces, but he couldn't find you.
Dwalin turned around at that annoyingly familiar voice and came face to face with a male dwarf not that much older than him with short dark hair, a long, braided beard that went down to his waist, tan skin and bright green eyes that glinted with mischief. It was his brother-in-law, Lufur; your eldest brother.
"Lufur!" Dwalin said with a laugh as he approached him and they put their hands on each others' shoulders.
'"By my beard, you actually made it!" Lufur said right before they conked their foreheads together in the traditional dwarfish greeting. "Look at you, you handsome devil!"
"It's good to see you again!" Dwalin said as they let go of each other. "How are you?"
"Excellent!" Lufur said, looking around. "I never thought I'd ever see this place again. I can't believe it; Thorin actually did it."
"Yes, he did. But it cost him dearly."
Lufurs' face fell slightly. "Yes, I heard about what happened." He said sadly. "How are you holding up?"
"I'll live." Dwalin said with a shrug.
"Still as tough as iron, I see." Lufur said with a smirk. "Might explain why you and (Y/N) got married. Such a perfect match."
"Where is she?" Dwalin asked.
"Oh, she's here. She just stayed behind outside the gate. She had something very important she needed to take care of."
"What?" Dwalin asked with a frown.
Lufur looked at him for a moment with a curious look that was quickly replaced with realization. "Oh, right. You don't know, do you?"
"Know what?" Dwalin asked, feeling a mixture of curiosity and concern.
"Of course you don't know." Lufur continued, as if Dwalin hadn't spoken. "It didn't happen until after you left."
"What happened?" Dwalin asked, feeling very concerned, thinking that something bad had happened to you while he was gone.
"I shouldn't say anything. She'll kill me if I tell you."
"Lufur, what happened!" Dwalin said, grabbing his brother-in-law by the shoulders forcefully. "Is (Y/N) alright?"
"Easy easy Dwalin." Lufur said, gently prying Dwalins' hands off his shoulders. "Everything is fine. Your wife is perfectly alright. She's better than alright, actually."
"Well then, what the devil happened?"
Lufur looked at Dwalin for a moment, then his eyes fell on something behind him and a soft smile formed on his face. "Why don't you just ask her yourself?" He said, motioning his head towards what he was looking at. Dwalin followed his gaze and upon turning, saw you standing several yards away. You were looking around, searching for your husband. Finally, your eyes found him, locking with his for the first time in many months. A joyful smile crossed both your faces and tears filled your (E/C) eyes as you realized that you weren't dreaming; it was really him! Nothing could stop you as you ran towards him. Dwalin ran towards you, pushing his way through the crowd before finally meeting you halfway. His strong arms encircled you in a warm, crushing hug as he lifted you off the ground. You held on to him as tightly as you could, all the while crying with happiness at finally being back in his arms again. Lufur watched the scene with a smile right before turning and giving Balin a hearty greeting.
"(Y/N)! My beautiful (Y/N)!" Dwalin whispered as he set you down and rested his forehead against yours. "I missed you so much."
"Dwalin, you're alive!" You said through the tears. "They told us what had happened to Thorin and his nephews and that others had fallen in the battle, but they didn't say who. I was so frightened! I thought that..." You didn't get the chance to finish before Dwalin crashed his lips into yours, kissing you passionately and desperately after having been deprived of its' sweetness for so long.
"I told you." He said after you two had broken away from each other. "You weren't going to lose me. I said I would return to you."
You laughed. "And I was wrong to doubt you." He smiled and pulled you in for another kiss, this one being longer and more passionate than the first. Neither of you wanted it to stop; neither of you wanted to let go. However, Dwalin had something that was bothering him.
"Are you alright?" He asked after you had broken away from each other again. "Lufur said something happened while I was away."
"Did he tell you what it was?" You asked. Dwalin shook his head. You smiled. "Well, he's right. Something did happen; something wonderful." You motioned for him to lean down so you could whisper in his ear, which he obeyed as always. That's what you always did when you had something very important to tell him; you liked to whisper it in his ear like it was a secret. And he always played along. Dwalin listened as you whispered in his ear. His eyes widened at the words you spoke and he looked at you in shock.
"What?" He breathed.
You smiled and nodded. "Come. I'll show you." With that, you took his hand and led him towards the gate. When you got there, you found a red-headed dwarf woman whom Dwalin recognized as Vira, Lufurs' wife. She was holding a small bundle in her arms. You gently took the bundle from her, giving her a soft smile right before turning to your husband, whose heart nearly stopped beating at the sight of it. "Dwalin." You said. "I want you to meet someone. This is Aleena; your daughter." Dwalin stepped forward, staring down at the little baby in you arms.
"My daughter?" He said. He could not believe it! A daughter! He had a daughter! The whole thing just seemed so unreal. He was still in shock about it.
You smiled. "Yes. I found out I was with child not long after you left. She was actually born right before we left for Erebor." Dwalin continued to stare at little Aleena without saying a word. Obviously, he was still trying to process everything. "Do you want to hold her?" You asked. Dwalin looked at you with a slight look of alarm, obviously a bit scared about holding something so small and precious in his arms. "It's alright, love." You said with a smile. "She won't break. She's as tough as you are." Dwalin reluctantly nodded then held his breath as you gently placed the infant into his muscular arms.
Dwalin stared in awe at the tiny being in his arms. Her eyes were closed and she appeared to be asleep. She seemed so small and fragile as he held her tiny form against his chest. It surprised him just how gentle he was being as he held her. And it still took him a while to completely realize that this child was his. Many different emotions ran through him. Happiness, yes, but mainly worry and panic. Was he ready to be a father? He was not sure if he was. Just then, the baby stirred and opened her eyes. Beautiful, hypnotic little grey eyes that perfectly matched those of her father locked with his own, part of a face that was the exact copy of her mothers'. She didn't seem to be the least bit scared or intimidated by Dwalin. It was as if she knew exactly who he was. She stared at him curiously, studying his face. Then, very softly, she smiled at him. And that was all it took for the hardened warriors' heart to melt.
Dwalin had only cried a couple times in his life, usually he would try to hide it. But now, as he held his daughter, his beautiful little Aleena, in his arms for the first time, he did cry. Tears of happiness filled his eyes as he leaned down and kissed his daughter on the forehead, a chuckle emanating from his throat as her tiny fingers started playing around with his beard.
"She's beautiful." He said, looking up at you. "Just like her mother." He leaned forward and kissed you lightly before you rested your head on his shoulder as the two of you smiled down at the beautiful life you had created together. Suddenly, that heavy, hopeless feeling that had been weighing down on Dwalins' chest disappeared completely. Thorin may have been gone, but now he found another reason to move on. Yes, he was sad, but now he had joy and a stronger sense of hope than he had ever known.
Like his brother said, hope comes softly and often it appears in the most unexpected forms. He never understood what that meant until now as he stood with his baby girl and his beautiful wife inside the gates of their rightful home, looking ahead at a future that looked brighter than it ever did before. And he was happy, so very happy.
For he knew, that at long last, he was finally home.