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Storm Clouds

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Nori had always known that everything good could easily disappear again, could easily stop being good or would have to be fought hard for. Some good things remained, some were just temporarily, and he knew that one had to recognize that and not grow too bitter about loss. Other good things would happen, or old ones would still be there after all.

Nori had always known that relationships, good as they were, might break apart or turn to dislike or fade into nothing, and he knew that this was part of life. He knew that what he had with Dwalin was the best thing he had, but that it still might end some day.

Nori had always known that what he and Dwalin had wouldn’t be considered a proper and stable relationship by anyone. He had always known that it was more of a fling; even if they were close and it had lasted longer than anything anyone would call a mere fling either.

He had known that they would part ways, that on the long run their plans for the future and their background would have them go in different directions eventually. There had been nothing specific they wanted that would have them part, but Nori just knew that something would come up eventually, that he would not care for, or that he would want to go somewhere Dwalin wouldn’t bother to follow.

And that was all right, they would part as friends, he had always known that, there was nothing bad about this.

He never even thought about how much he would miss her if they truly parted, if there was nothing remaining between them at all.

Only when Dwalin came to tell him that she was pregnant did the fear start.

It wasn’t even reasonable to start being afraid of the day Dwalin would finally leave, right when she told him of something that would mean the best reason to stay for most. Not when he went to find a second chair for the tiny table in his room, not when he started looking for places he could easily get all they would need from, not with Dwalin carrying all her weapons and belongings into his room and stashing them under the bed and with both of them living together and ignoring the unamused looks of the landlady.

They moved together like most of their age and in their situation wouldn’t have done, perhaps, and they both tried to do their best. Nori told Dwalin of the healers and midwives who were used to criminals and thieves and those who just didn’t want to find respectable ones for whatever reasons, and who kept their mouth shut about anything that their patients did.

Dwalin wasn’t pleased about that information, but that way they wouldn’t risk having some self important Dwarf scoff at them and try to talk them into ‘getting help’ from adults, as if they were really just clueless children who knew nothing of the world. As if they weren’t Dwarves who already had made a name for themselves and weren’t just driven by fear and uncertainty and had only met a few weeks ago.

He made sure that there was always food at hand, and learned more of what Dwalin really liked and what she only put up with because it was there, and he made sure she always got it, even if the efforts earned him a raised eyebrow.

“’amad sometimes makes stew with all the spices she can get,” Dwalin told him one day when Nori had made her the best he could. “It’s too spicy for most of my cousins, but I loved it and just was pleased to have more for myself.”

She sounded wistful at that, remembering her own childhood, and Nori felt his throat tighten. Dwalin would surely like to have her mother by her side in their situation. Any Dam would want that when expecting a child. Nori wanted his Ma here with them, and he wasn’t even the one bearing.

Dwalin always said how she didn’t want her family to know, or at least not right away, but Nori worried if it wouldn’t get too much anyway.

He did his best to make her comfortable, found her the best food he could find, he loosened her tunics and re-sewed her clothes when her belly started to grow bigger and her things would no longer fit. He found her pillows and blankets for comfort and that made her laugh and complain about how she wasn’t delicate, and hit him with the pillows until he fell from the bed, laughing and accusing her of being too hard on anyone around her.

Though they both were nervous, it had been nice to just try and find clothes for the child, and talk about what else they would need, and have Dwalin sleep in his bed every single night, with her arms wrapped around him and her warmth lulling him to sleep. It was terrifying but beautiful to feel the baby kick for the first time, or just sit and realize that, yes, they would really have a child and this wasn’t some dream or elaborate joke.

It should have been perfect and the best part of their relationship.

It should have meant even more reasons for Dwalin to not just go and leave.

It should have meant that they would get through this and take care of their child together.

Still Nori felt like this was pushing Dwalin out of his reach in ways he couldn’t understand or prevent, like the child, that should just have been one of the many things they shared, was actually the reason everything would break apart.

He couldn’t pinpoint why he had that sense of foreboding, and there was nothing Dwalin actually did to show that she didn’t want him.

Only sometimes he would catch her looking down at herself, eyes strangely distant, or stare at her weapons with her fingers moving slightly. Each time it was like a sign of Dwalin not wanting this, not wanting to be here and with a child.

She wasn’t meant for this. She was of good house, and here she was, with a thief, who was only a few steps above being homeless; she was loyal to her family and belonged by their side, yet she stayed where none of them could find her and feared for what they would have to say about her condition.

Nori sometimes lay awake, his head resting against her chest, listening for her heartbeat, and he wondered when Dwalin would leave him and how.

When their son was born, he started getting nightmares about it, too.

What if Dwalin decided that she did not want him after all, what if she decided she wanted to go and confess to her family, or just be with them again? What if she took her son and just went to them, but asked Nori to leave her be, as she didn’t want him casting a bad light on her and the child, and because her family would accept her but never him?

And she could do that, too, she was the mother and could take her child away if she wished, could deny Nori any rights to ever see him again, and there was nothing he could do, barely anything he would do if that was what she wanted.

Holding his son helped, and having Dwalin wrap her arms around him or kiss him or smile at him helped, but Nori couldn’t stop worrying that the time she would leave was nearing.

Maybe it was irrational, but most doubts and fears were.

Nori had always known that eventually Dwalin might leave, or he might go somewhere she wouldn’t care to follow. Then the child came along and the knowledge turned to fear.

When the rumours started, about how the King had died, Nori had thought nothing of it.

When Dwalin received her letter and looked as if someone had shattered her world, Nori had worried and tried to comfort her.

When she said she had to go, he understood; this was family and he would have run if somebody died, too.

But when Dwalin said she would go to war…

This was the kind of thing that suited her, loyalty, and glory of battle. This was the kind of thing Nori had always thought she might turn to instead of him.

She promised to return, she wanted to return, she might leave him, but she would not do so while leaving her son behind as well, she just couldn’t.

She loved him just as he loved her. She was a warrior and a warrior would go if the call for war came, she wouldn’t be the first and she wouldn’t be the last to go while leaving a child and a lover behind to wait.

It was indefinitely better than all Nori had feared would happen. She would not abandon him, she just asked to wait and he could do that, waiting was easier than wondering if their paths might cross again, or knowing that she didn’t want him to be part of her family after all.

It was better, so much better than all of that.

It was the worst thing that might have happened. It was stupid to be afraid, he knew no one as capable of fighting and staying alive as Dwalin, she was strong and good and she said that the war wouldn’t last long, there were little chances for anything to happen if it was over quickly.

Dwalin wanted him and wanted the child, she wanted to return and for everything to be good, but what if she couldn’t return?

Nori could push these thoughts aside though, it was more important to have their child be happy and healthy than worry about things he could do nothing about.

He knew she would do her best to come back, he knew that her back, as she left the tiny room, couldn’t be the last he saw of her and he knew that it would be fine, he would do all right on his own before Dwalin came back, and he would make sure their son was all right.

“Your ‘amad will be a veteran and a hero,” Nori told his son when he started waking up and mumbling sleepily. “And then you can tell everyone that your ‘amad is the best and the strongest and the most beautiful ‘amad of all.”

He cradled the boy in his arms as the sun slowly started to rise higher in the sky, thinking about how he might have to buy a goat from the farmer who had always sold them milk when they needed more. Just in a bit, when it was a little warmer; he would have to take the boy along, he couldn’t leave him in the rom hungry and awake.

“Wonder if you’ll grow even more by the time she’s back. Would you like that, to surprise your ‘amad with how big and strong you’ll gonna get?”

The child gave him a toothless smile and tugged at his loose hair with soft and tiny fingers. Nori returned the smile and felt his cheeks hurt as he did so.

Nori had always known that Dwalin might leave, and he hadn’t hoped that he would have a promise of her wanting to return. This was supposed to be a relief, she promised and she never broke a promise.

And still the tears fell unbidden, and he couldn’t stop them. Dwalin would come back, their son was fine, he wasn’t alone.

Soon he would get up and take their child for a walk, soon he would calm down and just be glad that Dwalin wanted him and trusted him to do well for their child. But for now, he would take just one moment of crying in his relief and sorrow, and cling to the baby until he could trust himself to carry it steadily and make sure that all would be fine.