According to Balin, it had all started when Dwalin, a little dwarfling, tottered about Erebor carrying his baby cousin, proclaiming proudly Thorin was his dwarf. And he ended up his cousin’s self-appointed bodyguard for over ten years. (Dwalin did not remember that, yet simply chalked it up to Thorin being family.)
But then by the time he met Ori and Fili was born, Dwalin grudgingly admitted to himself that he may have a (just a slight, tiny really) weakness when it came to small, cute creatures. It would explain why he didn’t mind spending time with the village dwarflings. Why he did not grumble as a crowd of children followed him around. Why he found himself persuaded to take part in games or tell stories.
Dwalin decided something had to be done. Taking such great delight in Kili, Fili, and Ori (cuddling, giving piggyback rides, telling ghost tales, protecting them from bullies), a proud, tough warrior like him…no. So when the lads reached their tweens, the tall dwarf was successfully (if forcibly) squashing the urge to cuddle and coo. He frowned instead of smiled. And he became caught up in Thorin’s brooding and planning.
All the decades of Dwalin’s restraint and good intentions flew out the window when the green door with the wizard’s mark swung open. Oh. Short honey curls, wide green eyes, beardless cheeks, large furry bare feet. So this was a hobbit. The dwarf had not known they could look so soft, be so small, so adorable.
He bowed without taking his eyes off the creature. “Dwalin, at your service,” he said, voice rumbling, expression stern (no hint that inwardly he was melting into a puddle of mush).
“B-Bilbo Baggins, at your service,” the hobbit stammered, hands fiddling nervously as he bowed in return.
By Mahal…! Could the fellow sound any cuter?! Dwalin swiftly stepped inside, working to rid himself of his cloak, fighting the strong urge to discover if the creature was as cuddle-able as he appeared.
“Which way, laddie?” he asked, trying to ignore the voice in his head loudly proclaiming: my hobbit, my hobbit!
He feared he was doomed.
Months later found Dwalin indeed doomed. On first watch, running his thumb over the edge of his axe head, the bald dwarf was still stewing hours later over the long embrace Thorin had given Bilbo, apologizing and accepting him. He had hugged Dwalin’s hobbit. Who the warrior wanted to cuddle ever since he first saw the creature. Not fair!
During the entire quest Bilbo had kept his distance, eyeing the tattooed dwarf fearfully. (And Dwalin swallowed back his hurt. Despite what the hobbit believed, Bofur was not the only one who watched out for and did not look down on him.) One time the dwarf attempted to reach out to him – his cousin’s constant belittling of the Halfling had been raising his protective instincts more and more – and ended up offending and angering the fellow, to his dismay. It was only after the meddling and far too amused wizard poked his nose in that Dwalin presented flowers to Master Baggins along with an apology. He had breathed a huge silent sigh of relief when both were accepted. Their interactions remained nearly nonexistent; the hobbit’s distance was not as long as before and he gazed on the tall dwarf with wariness.
Very different from the wide, happy smile which brightened Bilbo’s face as he’d returned Thorin’s hug, lingering after he stepped back from the dwarven king. Between that and Balin’s knowing look, it was a miracle Dwalin had not done something he’d regret.
Now, seated before the campfire, the dwarf considered possible ways to kill Thorin, only to reject them, sternly reminding himself Thorin was family and his king. It was silly for him to be so annoyed and jealous, considering Master Baggins was not even a dwarf, obviously did not like he compared to other members of the company… But he was small, adorable, Bilbo.
His head rose at the sound of approaching footfalls, lighter than a dwarf’s firm tread. His eyes widened as an unfamiliar weight settled into his side. Carefully, he set aside his axe.
“Can’t sleep, burglar?” he asked quietly.
“No. Nightmares,” the hobbit admitted, shivering.
Dwalin’s hand reflexively moved to bring Bilbo closer – for warmth, comfort, protection – but then froze.
The warrior closed his eyes. He was going to murder his brother.
Bilbo added, “I did not know…”
The smaller creature’s tone sounded regretful not upset or offended as Dwalin anticipated. Hesitating a moment, he easily shifted the hobbit onto his lap, wrapping his large arms around him. He swelled up when Bilbo instantly burrowed into his chest with a sigh. Peeking down, he discovered the Halfling looking up at him with a shy smile.
“Thank you, Dwalin,” he murmured, his eyes closing.
The dwarf hugged him closer in response. A pleased grin slowly spread across his face. Bilbo Baggins was more cuddle-able than he had imagined!