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Fate Led Us to You

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When Dwalin saw Nori stroll into the guard post, he thought he was seeing things. But, no, there she was, coming straight to him. She was half frozen from being out in that blasted weather. Even so, she moved with purpose and determination.

“Coming to turn yourself in, Nori son of Lori?” He smirked.

She scowled up at him. It wasn’t his fault he’d known her since she was a pebble. Dwalin had found himself rather disappointed when he had first apprehended the dwarrowdam. He knew her family had it rougher than others in the line of Durin. However, the fact that she had turned to thieving, made Dwalin’s heart drop. It had been even worse when he realized she was his One.

“I’m not giving you the satisfaction.” She spat. “But, no, that’s not why I’m here.”

He never said anything, because as far as he knew, he wasn’t hers.

“There are some halflings dead a few miles east of the mountain. Wargs.”

Dwalin narrowed his eyes. “We’ll send some guards to bury them.” Nori shifted on her feet. “What, Nori?”

She shifted and he realized she was holding a small bundle. What’s more, the bundle moved. Dwalin’s eyes widened when he saw the smallest pebble he had ever seen.

“Her mother was holding her. I thought she was dead, at first.”

“Her?”

“It’s a girl. We could send a message to the Shire, but I doubt anything could get through.”

Dwalin nodded. He rubbed the top of his head. “I’ll get Thorin and ask what we should do in the meantime. Hobbits eat more than dwarrow do.”

Nori nodded. “You know where to find me?”

The guard narrowed his eyes. “Where are you taking her?”

“To a mother who just lost a pebble. It’s the only way to feed her right now since we don’t know what she needs.”

Dwalin watched as the dwarrowdam walked out the guard post, cradling a pebble in her arms.

***

Nori cradled the pebble in her arms as the child, she didn’t think the girl was a baby, suckled hungrily at her breast. It was strange, feeding a child that was not her own. The thief hadn’t even been able to nurse her own child. The baby girl had been born still.

The father didn’t know, nor did he care. He probably hadn’t even noticed she wasn’t there. He was probably off with one of his other dwarrowdams.

If Nori were to be honest, she had planned to wander the mountain cold in hopes it would just take her. Her death wouldn’t hurt anyone. Dori thought she was a disappointment. Ori didn’t really see her around that much because he was still a pebble himself. Their mother might have missed her if she was still alive. Nori grimaced. They might just mourn her because she was a dwarrowdam, not because any of them actually cared.

But then she heard a child crying and she thought maybe she was going to see her baby soon. Then, Nori stumbled upon the halfling couple. Wargs were dead and frozen along side them. She could only guess that they were too weak to finish what they had started. Then, Nori found the child.

Dori was fussing after her and Ori was staring at the little girl in awe.

“And Dwalin said he was going to get Thorin?” Dori repeated.

“Yes.” Nori trusted her One, even though she would never claim him as such.

She’d realized Dwalin was her One about three arrests in. By that point she was already caught up with Ivar and his charms. She was a thief and from an inconsequential side of the Durin line. There was no way she was going to drag down the king’s best friend by associating him as her One. Besides, she doubted he could possibly care about her that way.

The hobbit pebble’s mouth popped from Nori’s breast with ha happy gurgle. Nori adjusted her tunic and the hobbit snuggled into her chest. The thief stood up and began rocking her steadily. The girl cooed and a smile formed on her lips. Nori smiled back, pressing a kiss to the girl’s forehead.

“Is she going to stay with us?” Ori asked, tugging on Nori’s tunic.

“It’s up to the king,” Nori said, patting Ori on the head.

***

Thorin pinched the bridge of his nose. This was the last thing he needed today. When Dwalin came in to tell him a hobbit child had been found in the snow, by Nori no less, the king had thought his best friend was joking. But then, Dwalin assured him that it was the truth. Now he had to decide what to do about it. They couldn’t send word to the Shire until the snow had passed.

He followed Dwalin to the Ri residence. Thorin grimaced. He wished there was more he could do for his cousins, but there was only so much he could do. It didn’t help that Nori’s noteriety made it even harder to help. He sighed.

They entered the apartment and found the family sitting down. When he entered, everyone sans Nori stood. She was sitting with the child resting on her chest. To, at least, acknowledge his presence, she nodded.

He walked to Nori and looked down at the child. Definitely a hobbit. “Both the parents are dead?”

“I assume they were her parents, anyway.” Nori grimaced. “I made a temporary grave and marked it so the guards can find it when they have the time.”

Thorin nodded. “She’ll need to go to a dwarrowdam that can provide for her. There aren’t many that have had a baby recently.”

“Nori can take care of her, she had a baby, but she’s with Mahal now,” Ori squeaked.

“Ori!” Dori shouted.

The youngest Ri brother’s eyes widened, realizing he had said something he shouldn’t have.

Thorin glanced at Nori, who was looking away, her eyes closed. “Is this true.”

“Yes,” she said, opening her eyes. Her jaw was set. “My milk hasn’t dried yet.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, sensing Dwalin tense behind him. “Why didn’t you reach out to us?”

“My pregnancy had nothing to do with any of you. Besides, I was told it was going to be a hard pregnancy anyway. You already have two children to look after with Lady Dís.”

“Where was the father through all this?” Dwalin growled.

Nori sighed. “He didn’t even notice that I was gone.”

Thorin closed his eyes. If he didn’t already know Nori would tell him nothing, the king knew Dwalin was ready to pummel the dwarf into the side of the mountain.

“Come to the main residence. We can make room. Just until the winter is through and we can find any of the hobbit’s relatives.”

Nori nodded. The hobbit began to cry and the thief stood up. “I’ll go change her. Thanks, Thorin.”

Thorin nodded. He waited for her to leave before he and Dwalin made to leave.

“Thorin?” Dori, put his hand on the king’s elbow. He turned. “Thank you.”

Thorin nodded again and left with Dwalin following behind him.

Chapter Text

Nori held the little hobbit, she appeared to be four or so, to her chest as she and her brothers went to Thorin’s apartments. She’d never been to them before—Ivar had once asked if she could steal from the king since they were relatives, Nori had said no—but she knew they were a little bigger than the average living space in Ered Luin.

Lady Dís welcomed them warmly and cooed over the hobbit pebble. “It will be so nice to have another dwarrowdam around,” she winked. “Mahal knows how tiring these dwarrow can be. No sense of humor at all.”

Nori smiled, lightly. She liked Lady Dís from what she knew of the princess. Thorin settles the Ris in, giving them a room that Nori was fairly certain used to be his office. There were two beds, a crib and a rocking chair.

“Kíli’s old enough to sleep in his own bed,” Thorin told her. “This should be fine.”

Nori nodded. “Thank you, Thorin.”

The king smiled lightly before leaving the Ris to settle in.

“Milk.” The hobbit pressed her face to Nori’s chest. It had been rather startling to hear the hobbit talk for the first time. Her voice was much softer than dwarf children. It sounded like water rather than stone. “Milk,” she repeated, pressing her small mouth to Nori’s breast.

“Okay, pebble. One moment.” Nori sat down and undid her tunic before letting the pebble drink. The hobbit was probably old enough to not need to nurse, but that was all they had at the moment. Besides, it relieved the ache in Nori’s chest and didn’t waste the milk she was still producing.

“She’s so small,” Dori said, looking down at the little girl. He had been thrilled to make a small warm wrap for the child. “Do you think she’s supposed to be this tiny? She looks to be four but she’s smaller than a newborn pebble.”

“I’ve seen hobbits before,” Nori said, as she started to rock in the chair. “They’re all rather small. I assume she’s the right size.”

“She’s squishy.” Ori said. “Was I that squishy?

“Yes,” his older siblings said. He was ten so, for the two of them, it didn’t feel as though it were that long ago that he had been as fragile as the baby before them.

“What’s her name?” Ori asked.

“We don’t know,” Dori answered.

“We should name her.”

“We shouldn’t get too attached. She probably has family in Hobbiton. We don’t want to confuse her,” Dori said gently.

Nori wouldn’t tell Dori this, but she already named the pebble in her mind. She knew a bit more about hobbits than the average dwarf did. Hobbits named their girls after flowers or plants. Nori has also been thinking of Dwalin when she named the pebble.

Rosalin.

The girl’s mouth popped from Nori’s breast. She patted it gently. “All gone.”

Nori has since learned that this meant, all done. The dwarrowdam smiled and pressed a soft kiss on the pebbles soft reddish hair. The hobbit yawned and snuggled into Nori’s body, content.

***

The person wasn’t her mum, but she fed Ro like her mum did. She held Ro like her mum did. She rocked Ro like her mum did. She even hummed a bit like her mum did. But this person wasn’t her mum. Her mum didn’t have hair on her face. But Ro liked the soft hair tickling her cheek whenever she got kisses.

This person had red hair like her da, but it wasn’t her da. Her da didn’t have hair on his face either. She brushed Ro’s hair and braided it like her da did. She played with Ro’s fingers and toes like her da did. She tickled Ro’s tummy with kisses like her da did. She was warm like Ro’s da.

Ro wondered where her parents were. She remembered them saying they were going to see big stones to stay with the Grey One’s friends. She remembered her mum bundling her in quilts and even making clothes for her feet—this person seemed to understand that Ro didn’t like having things on her feet. She remembered her mum holding her tightly as her mum tripped. She remembered her mum trembling terribly and then crying. She remembered her da sounding angry. She remembered something screaming. She remembered something red in the snow. She remembered stillness. She remembered the cold. She remembered her mum’s arms going stiff. She remembered her mum not answering her.

She remembered the person finding her.

Ro woke up crying.

She couldn’t remember why she was crying.

She wanted her mum.

Ro stood up in her crib and kept crying. She held out her arms, her hands grasping for her mum.

Her mum always came to get her. Her mum was always moving. Her mum was always warm. Her mum always listened.

Her mum picked her up, whispering softly to her that everything was okay. She began to bounce Ro gently, rubbing circles in her back as Ro cried into her beard. She did this until Ro’s sobs turned into shaky breaths.

Ro closed her eyes, breathing in her mum’s scent of milk and iron and stone. It was strange. Her mum used to smell of flowers and honey and wood.

***

Dwalin spent more time in Thorin’s family’s apartments then he knew he should. It definitely wasn’t because he was checking up on Nori. It definitely wasn’t because he liked watching his One smile, even if it wasn’t at him. It definitely wasn’t because he liked watching her with the hobbit pebble.

“She’s getting too attached,” Thorin said from next to him. Dwalin stiffened, having not realized the king was there. “It wasn’t a smart idea letting her take care of a child after she just lost one.”

“I’m going to sheer that Ivar if I ever find him.”

“I’ll pass the sentence when you do.” Dwalin looked at Thorin curiously. “Nori’s Durinfolk. She’s a dwarrowdam and she is a mother, even if her child is with Mahal now.” He sighed. “Tharkûn has sent word that he’s coming. He knows the hobbits better than we do. He’ll be able to tell us what she needs and might be able to help find her family.”

Dwalin grimaced. “What happens if the pebble doesn’t have family?” He glanced at his One as she played with the hobbit. She was showing the pebble how to pick a lock. “Couldn’t Nori keep her?”

“Dori can barely take care of her and Ori through legal means. Nori can barely support them illegally.” Thorin shook his head. “Adding a hobbit child wouldn't be wise.”

“What if someone was willing to take care of them?”

Thorin glanced at him and sighed. “Of course now is the time you want to admit she’s your One.”

Dwalin glared at his friend. “I’m not admitting to anything.” He glanced. “If the pebble doesn’t have anyone who could take her in amongst the hobbits, it would be wise to leave her to someone she knows and trusts, that’s Nori. I would simply be doing my duty as any honorable dwarf would and should do for a child.”

Thorin shook his head. “If that makes you sleep better at night.”

Chapter Text

When Tharkûn saw the hobbit pebble, his face grew ashen and he looked as thought he aged a hundred years. Thorin pursed his lips. Either way, this was not going to go well for everyone.

The little girl smiled from Nori’s arms. She reached for the wizard, her fingers grasping for him. “Alf!” She squealed. “Alf!”

Seemingly broken from his shock, Gandalf smiled at the pebble and knelt down. He reached out and she grabbed his finger and waved it proudly in the air. “Hello, little Ro.”

“Do you know her?” Thorin asked, trying to not notice how crestfallen Nori looked.

“Her parents were some of my dearest friends,” Tharkûn’s voice broke. “I had given them a letter of introduction and told them to come here to find a place to wait the winter out.”

“Sad?” The pebble asked, reaching out again and stroking the wizard’s nose. “No happy?” The girl’s lips began to tremble.

The empathy the little pebble was capable of was remarkable by Thorin’s standards. Kíli was probably a decade older than her and he had barely any empathy at all. “Does she have family?”

“Her grandfather’s the Thain of the Shire and she has plenty of aunts and uncles. I don’t know how this winter will play out for them, but little Ro will have a family waiting for her.”

Thorin nodded. He glanced at Nori who was being rather stone-faced about it. She was locking her emotions away. Thorin glanced at Dwalin and saw his friend watching Nori as well. The main difference was that his best friend’s eyes were shining.

***

She would have little Rosalin until the winter was thawed.

Nori had to keep reminding herself of that.

This pebble wasn’t hers.

This pebble had a family back in the Shire. She had a really respectable and rich family back in the Shire. She would grow up never worrying about food or school or guards coming in to take their amad away or anything. She could have everything Nori wasn’t able to give her.

It was so easy to forget sometimes.

Whenever little Rosalin fell down, she cried until Nori picked her up. Whenever she did something she was especially proud of, she showed Nori first. Whenever she wanted to nap, she reached up for Nori to hold her until she fell asleep.

It was so easy to forget that Rosalin wasn’t hers.

Then, there was Dwalin.

He was coming to visit Thorin more often than Nori knew he originally had. Sometimes he would just sit in the living room or lean against the wall, his eyes closed, while Nori sat with Rosalin and played—the little pebble was getting rather good at picking locks and Dori started going to a Broadbeam dwarf to make actual toys for the girl. Sometimes, when Nori felt like pretending, she couldn’t help but imagine that this is what it would be like to be married to Dwalin.

She shakes herself from those imaginings rather quickly, but she glances at her One occasionally. Sometimes she caught him looking at Rosalin. Once, the little pebble tottered over to the tattooed dwarf and grabbed onto his trousers. She looked up at him and beamed. She held up her hands reaching high.

“Up!” She commanded. “Up high!”

Nori watched as the guard paused for a moment before picking the pebble up and carefully placing her on his shoulder. Rosalin squealed in delight.

Nori found herself smiling and she also found Dwalin smiling back at her.

When she noticed, she schooled her expression and started to pick up some of the toys she and Rosalin had been playing with. When she glanced back at him, he was completely engrossed in Rosalin’s babbling about the necklace Lady Dís was letting her play with.

***

Fíli rather liked the little hobbit pebble. She was a lot calmer than Kíli, but less reserved than Ori.

They often wound up playing a game they called Reclaim Erebor, but it usually happened when an adult was home. The three young dwarflings would be the questers and little Ro would be the Arkenstone. She had to hide and the others had to find her. Ro was rather good at hiding (gave Kíli a heart attack once because he thought he lost her and he came crying to Fíli for help). Whatever adult looking after them, usually his mother, would pretend to be the dragon. If the dragon caught a dwarf they had to be in timeout unless another dwarf was able to get to them.

Ro seemed to enjoy it a lot whenever they got to her. They’d pop out and say “found you” and carry her around on their shoulders. She would clap happily and say “found, found” and then hug their heads as they carried her.

Fíli had always wanted a little sister, so he was kind of happy when she started to attach herself to him more. When he did his chores, she’d tottle along after him and help when she could. Out of the three dwarves pebbles, the adults were under the impression that he was Ro’s favorite.

However, when Fíli knew that wasn’t true. One only had to look in on the pebbles when they all fell asleep after finding the Arkenstone. Fíli would nap on his back. Ori was sprawled on one side, his feet over Fíli’s stomach. Ro’s back was pressed into Fíli’s other side. On her other side, Kíli slept on his stomach. His arm was out stretched to touch his brother, but his arm draped carefully over the hobbit and she buried her face in his shoulder.

Fíli wasn’t Ro’s favorite. Kíli was. And Fíli was secretly rather happy for that.

Chapter Text

Dwalin was holding little Ro to his chest as she slept. He hadn’t meant for her to fall asleep there, but she had. Dís had handed the pebble to him before she ran after a streaking Kíli and Ori. Dwalin stood stock still and looked down at the child.

Ro looked up at him with her big grey eyes. She reached out and patted his cheeks as if to soothe his worry away. Dwalin smiled at her. She smiled back before leaning against his chest and yawned.

She was a relatively quiet child, rather like Ori, but overall very different from most pebbles. He knew Nori had been worried about little Ro because of it. Tharkûn had assured them that it was normal. Hobbits were rather intelligent, he had told them, they think more than they speak anyway.

Ro yawned again and shifted awake. She pushed herself up and smiled at him. Dwalin smiled back. “You all sleeped out?”

“Yes!”

Dwalin chuckled and stood up, still holding her. “How about we get a snack.”

“Food, please!” She wiggled happily, tugging on his beard. “Food, please!”

Dwalin carried her to the kitchen and got her the mashed apples Dori had made for her earlier. She ate from it happily. Dís came in ranting angrily at a very embarrassed Kíli. Ori must have escaped.

Ro looked at the incoming dwarrow and laughed. “Kí in trouble!” He scrunched his nose at her, but that only made her laugh more. “Bad Kíli!”

This caused Dís to quickly switch gears and the princess started to laugh. “Yes, Kíli did something very bad.” The princess kissed the pebble on the top of the head before picking her son up. “Now, off to take a bath.”

“But Amad!”

“No buts.” The two Durins went off to the bath.

Dwalin shook his head and chuckled. He looked to Ro. “You’re going to have to be careful around him, little one. He’s going to get you in a lot of trouble when you’re old—”

He stopped. Ro would be gone by spring. She had family back with the hobbits. Dwalin felt his chest tightened. He liked the pebble. He liked watching her with Nori. He liked it when Nori came to take the pebble from him, smiling more than she ever had before.

“Bad Kíli.” Ro said with so much certainty Dwalin had to laugh.

He would take what he could get.

***

Kíli sighed before turning sharply on his heels. Ro crashed right into him. She looked up at him and rubbed her button nose, an ounce of annoyance in her eyes.

“Stop following me.” He crosses his arms. “Follow Fíli or Ori.”

“Bad Kíli.”

He sighed again. She had gotten in the habit of saying that since the streaking incident. “Yes, yes. ‘Bad Kíli.’ So, leave me alone.”

“Be nice, Kí,” Fíli came from their shared room. “She’ll be leaving soon. Just let her do what she wants.”

Ro brightened when she heard Fíli’s voice and stumbled over to him. She wrapped her arms around him and smiled. He smiled down at her too. Kíli wasn’t sure why that irked him so much.

Kíli huffed. “She’s bothering me.”

Ro looked back at him. “Bad Kíli.”

Fíli laughed. “Maybe she’s trying to keep you out of trouble.”

“I’m not doing anything!”

Fíli shrugged. He got on his knees and Ro climbed on his back. He straightened and bounced her higher up his back. “You’re probably thinking of doing something.”

Kíli rolled his eyes and headed out to their shared room, closing the door behind him.

***

Dís watched the little pebble as she napped between her two sons. Although she liked the little girl, loved her like a daughter she always secretly wanted, she worried.

Tharkûn had visited a second time after announcing his knowledge of who little Ro was. He had stopped by only briefly and said he wished to speak to Dís alone.

“She’ll be very important to your family,” he told her. “She’ll be very important to Durinfolk.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Lord Elrond and Lady Galadriel both believe it to be so.”

“Elves?” She sniffed. “You talked about my family with elves?”

“They spoke to me about it,” the wizard assured her. “Lady Galadriel tells me Ro will be instrumental in gaining back Erebor, although she will not tell me why. Lord Elrond is under the impression that she will be very important to your sons. In what way I cannot tell you. He says they will both love her in their own way and she will love them in hers.”

Dís frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I,” he admitted. “I have been amongst hobbits for hundreds of years and they still surprise me every few years or so.” He looked weary. “I fear the burden might be too great for her. Hobbits have noble souls and gentle hearts. They are a very humble race.”

“So what are you telling me?”

“No matter what becomes of this, she will be hurt. Lord Elrond tells me she was born for a time such as this, but reminded me that heroes are only that of legend. Heroes don’t often live to see their tale told.” He looked to Dís. “If any of the Sons of Durin experience gold sickness, I fear she will be hurt as you and your mother were due to Thror’s madness.”

Dís tensed. She and her mother had never felt the pull of gold. Her grandmother hadn’t either, but she had passed long before Thror’s madness took hold. Her mother had died from a broken heart after Thrain fled in madness. Thorin had yet to show any pull of gold, but it was there, sometimes, when they had wandered and every coin was the difference between life and starvation.

“I’ll warn Thorin.”

Tharkûn nodded and left soon after.

Dís watched her sons and Ro as they slept. That little girl was going to be important to her boys and they would be important to her.

She prayed to Mahal that these children would never be touched by the madness.

Chapter Text

Ro liked the three boys that played with her.

She didn’t like them as much as her mum or da of course. She had been worried about not being able to find her da. But he was there. His smell was different too. He didn’t spend as much time with Mum like he used to. They must have had an argument again. Mum seemed to want to forgive him though. Da should give her flowers when they bloom.

Ro liked the three boys that played with her.

The one called Ori was Mum’s little brother. So that made him Ro’s uncle. He liked reading. He was teaching Ro to read weird letters. Da had been teaching her different ones, but she liked the sound of the ones Ori was teaching her better. She liked it when Uncle Dori had the two of them help with his knitting. Ori smelled like wool and ink. She wondered what that could mean.

The one called Kíli always seemed to get in trouble. He was funny and made Ro laugh. He didn’t seem to like it when she laughed at him though so she tried not to. Ro thinks he pretends to not like her. When they all nap he always lets her press her nose to his shoulder and he protects her from nightmares. He smelled like morning dew and feathers and trees. She wondered what that could mean.

The one called Fíli liked Ro and showed it. He carried her around when she was tired and kissed her owies when she fell, although it didn’t really help. Ro liked him a lot. He made her feel safe. He didn’t mind doing things slower when she didn’t understand what the others were saying or when they were doing something she couldn’t yet. He held her hand when they walked through the market when they went to go see Master Thorin at work. He smelled like a gentle fire and metal and leather. She wondered what that could mean.

Ro liked the three boys that played with her.

One time, when they were at the market, someone said something that sounded mean. It was another boy not much older than Fíli. Ro wasn’t sure why it was mean. They called her something that she thought meant tree-cuddler. Ro didn’t understand why the words were mean, but they were said rudely and so she cried.

Fíli let go of her hand and tackled the other boy to the ground while Kíli punched one of the laughing boys. Ori patted her back and told her it was okay. Someone must have gotten an adult because Da came soon after while other adults pulled Fíli and Kíli and the other boys apart.

When Ro saw her da she went to him and pressed her face to his knees and cried more. He picked her up and rubbed her back to try and soothe her. Her da barked at the boys and was very angry at them. Even Fíli and Kíli were getting in trouble.

“No!” Ro struggled, tears still in her eyes, and wiggled enough for her da to put her down. She went over and stood in in front of Fíli and Kíli. “Good Fíli. Good Kíli. Safe. Keep safe!”

She looked up at her da with her big grey eyes that were like his. He sighed and told everyone to be on their way. Ro took a hand from both Fíli and Kíli and made their way to Master Thorin with Ori following quickly behind. He was laughing, and Ro found herself smiling too.

***

Ro was a rather convenient way to get out of trouble, Kíli thought. He told Fíli that and he had glared at him through the blackened eye that wasn’t swollen. Kíli rolled his eyes. That wasn’t what he meant. It wasn’t as though he was going to go looking for trouble and drag her along. He didn’t want Dwalin to kill him. Kíli knew Ro was going to be leaving soon. He didn’t understand why though.

When they all got home, Ro did her best to explain, with her limited vocabulary, that Fíli and Kíli weren’t at fault for what happened.

“Good Kíli. Good Fíli. No bad Kíli or Fíli.”

Amad decided not to punish them. But she did let Ro play nurse as a form of punishment while Ori took a bath. Ro toddled around looked to see what was wrong with them. She started with Kíli, which made sense since he wasn’t as hurt as Fíli was. She looked him over and focused on his hands. That was what hurt the most. They were torn and bloody. If Kíli were to be honest, he was a little ashamed that she had to see them.

“Kiss better,” she said, taking his larger hands in hers and pressed a kiss to the back of each. They began to tingle and Kíli’s eyes widened as the skin began to heal itself and the pain began to ebb away. “All gone,” she beamed, proudly.

She went on to fix Fíli, while their amad rushed over to Kíli’s hands and examined them with eyes as round as plates. Kíli watched with his mouth open as Ro pressed sweet kisses against Fíli’s eyes and cheek. The bruises and swelling began to subside and soon it was gone completely. She then pressed a soft kiss to his lips to heal the lower spitting one and Kíli watched as his older brother burned a bright red, even redder than Ro’s hair. She beamed up at him, very pleased with herself.

“Better?” She blinked up at him with her big grey eyes and Kíli felt something odd churning in his stomach.

Fíli grunted and nodded fervently in answer.

***

Spring had finally come and that meant Ro was going to be leaving. They had gotten a few letters from the Shire with Ro’s grandfather asking how she was doing. Fíli felt a hollowing in his chest the entire day as the Ris and Dwalin and Thorin prepared to leave. Ro couldn’t help so it was up to Fíli to distract her with one last game of Reclaim Erebor.

After an hour of playing and still not being able to find her, everyone began to panic. Nori was in near tears as it was and almost started sobbing before Dwalin started stroking the dwarrowdam’s hair and telling her they’d find Ro soon. Fíli tried so desperately hard to figure out where she could have hidden.

Fíli was the one who eventually finds her.

Ro was curled up in a small ball in the nursery closet. She’d burrowed herself into a pile of Kília discarded shirts and one of Fíli’s coats. He smiled as he looked down at her. She peered up at him through a curled curtain of her hair. He could see her lips forming a sweet smile.

“Found you,” he said gently.

She leapt up and flung her arms around his hips and pressed her face to his stomach. “Found me! Found me!”

Fíli picked her up in his arms and carried her to where Nori had just been calmed down. The dwarrowdam plucked Ro from his arms and began to pepper her face with kisses. The girl giggled happily and tried kissing Nori too but only managing to place one on the dam’s nose.

Nori climbed into the cart and settled Ro into her lap and they headed out. Ro waved at them, smiling happily. “See soon!” She squealed.

“She’ll come back to visit,” his amad told him as they all waved goodbye. “She should be with her own people. It’s for the best.”

“I know.”

He didn’t.

His chest tightened and his arms felt very empty.

Chapter Text

Olórin glanced to the dwarrowdam situated on the cart rolling by next to him. Nori was quite as Ro babbled about something or another. While there were plenty of actual words and sentences, most of it was nonsense. However, Olórin knew that hobbit children were rather intelligent for their age. He had no doubt that Rosamond Baggins was saying something rather profound.

The Istar watched as Ro reached for the bald dwarf, Dwalin. Her hands opened and closed. “Up. Up.” The guard glanced at Nori before taking the fauntling and placing her on his shoulders. She continued to babble, this time pointing out every tree and cloud as they walked.

“What were her parents like?” Nori asked quietly.

Olórin looked at the dwarrowdam sadly. He knew she had bonded to little Ro. A part of the Istar wished he could simply turn the other way and let the faunt stay with the dwarrow, but her place was with those of her own race. He was certain of it. Even Lady Galadriel said she belonged with her own people.

“Belladonna Took was one of the most adventurous hobbits I have ever met. She was also the hobbit who had traveled the furthest. She journeyed with me to Rivendell once. She impressed Lord Elrond enough that she was named ‘elf-friend.’ She was as kind as she was adventurous.” Olórin felt pain settle in his stomach. He should have asked her and Bungo to wait for him instead of sending them on their way. “Bungo Baggins was a very proper and respectable hobbit. He loved his books and his pipe. He didn’t care for adventures but he enjoyed the tales his wife told him. He actually built Belladonna their smial for an engagement present.” He smiled. “They had tried five years to have children and they feared they would be unable to have children. Then little Ro was born. In all my years I had never seen two people so happy.

Nori’s lips were set in a firm line. Olórin could see the seeds of despair as well as jealousy take root in her eyes. It disappeared quickly and was replaced by a deep sadness. “I’m sorry for your loss.” She looked over at Dwalin, who had taken Ro in his arms and was blowing raspberries into her exposed stomach, causing the little girl the squeal with laughter. “I’m sorry for hers too. She deserves someone like them.”

***

They set up camp with Dwalin being placed as the first for the watch. He watched as everyone settled in for the night. Dori and Nori were curled around Ori and Ro. The pebble was tucked under his older brother’s arm. Ro, on the other hand was tucked into Nori’s chest. The little girl was snuggled close into the dam and Dwalin could see a small smile appear on his One’s lips.

This was going to hurt her.

Dwalin didn’t want to think about how letting Ro go would hurt his One, but he knew it would. She had already lost one child. She didn’t deserve to lose another.

His jaw clenched.

He was going to kill Ivar very slowly. He had known Nori ran in his circle, but he hadn’t known she was involved with him. Images of Nori under or even above that thrice-Mahal-damned dwarf made Dwalin sick. Ivar had one of the most beautiful dams as his own and sired a child with her and he didn’t seem to realize it.

Yes. Dwalin was going to kill Ivar slowly.

Dori would probably help him too.

Now that he thought about it, Dís might help too.

He opened his eyes and almost shouted when he saw Ro had woken up and had crawled over to sit in front of him to look.

“Sad,” she said after examining him for a moment.

“I suppose I am, little one.”

Mahal, she looked like Nori. Ro was almost what he imagined his and Nori’s child looked like. She had red hair like his One and almost silvery grey eyes like him. Not that he imagined what his and Nori’s child would look like… or the process of how Dwalin might give said child to her.

“Make better,” Ro said, deciding on a course of action. The girl pushed herself up and toddled over to him and plopped into his lap. Dwalin grunted at the sudden weight and shifted into a more comfortable position. Ro shifted up and cupped her hands around her mouth and pressed her face close to his ear. “Give flowers,” she said in a childish attempt of a whisper. She pointed over to Nori. “Make better.”

Dwalin’s lips twitched in a smile. “How about you give her some. You can say they’re from me too.”

The girl’s smile brightened and she pressed a happy kiss to Dwalin’s nose. She seemed to do that a lot. It must be a hobbit thing.

Hesitantly, Dwalin kissed her button nose before pressing his forehead against hers. Mahal, she and Nori had him wrapped around their fingers didn’t they.

***

Thorin could still remember Dwalin barging into his study in a near panic and collapsing into gasping breaths when his oldest friend realized who his One was.

Thorin had been able to calm him down and told his friend to just tell Nori the truth. She hadn’t done anything truly bad yet, as far as Thorin knew. Besides, Dwalin would be a catch. At least that’s what Dís always liked to joke. “He looked rather sexy when he had that mohawk.”

Thorin shuddered at the memory.

Dwalin hadn’t taken his king’s advice, but had apparently taken the hobbit pebble’s. That morning, a little before they broke camp, Ro had brought Nori a crown of wildflowers. She placed it on the dam’s head and smiled brightly. ‘Dwa helped!” She said, pointing to Dwalin. She still hadn’t figured out how to pronounce the guard’s name.

Dwalin’s ears turned bright pink at the admission. Although it would have been obvious considering the hobbit pebble had put flowers in his hair and beard. Thorin saw the dam turn pink as well.

The king wondered if he could make them marry by law. This was getting ridiculous.

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Nori hadn’t been to the Shire before.

She knew what hobbits were but that was because she had met quite a few in Bree. Those hobbits had always been polite and friendly and Nori had always viewed them as a non-threat. But this was different. Especially as she held Rosalin—Rosamond—in her arms for the last time.

These hobbits would be good for Ro. They were all cheerful and happy and, what Tharkûn called, Tookish. The leader, the Thain, had almost collapsed onto his knees when he saw Ro. His wife, who was trying very hard to suppress tears, held him up and continued to thank Nori over and over again.

The Tooks and some of the Baggins relations threw a party to thank the dwarrow for taking care of their little Rosamond and for bringing her back. The Thain apologized for it not being a bigger party since they had just come out of winter. However it was more than any of the dwarrow had expected.

Ro seemed thrilled to see her younger cousins.

She sang and ran circles around the other hobbit pebbles, dragging Ori along with her. It was strange, seeing so many children just as tiny as she was. Dori had asked if all hobbit children were that small when they were young and they were all promptly introduced to a week old babe who could fit comfortably in Nori’s cupped hands. Dori had clucked affectionately and even Thorin’s lips curled into a soft smile.

Ro got a little plumper in the days they stayed there. Her cheeks became more rounded and her stomach began to have a slight bulge to it. She dressed in hobbit clothes that were full of bright blues and greens and pinks.

Ro slept with her cousins. Everyone thought it was best for her to get used to the newer sleeping arrangements as soon as possible.

On those nights, Nori’s arms felt empty. Her chest felt empty.

Ro didn’t need her. Ro had a family.

Ro didn’t need her. Ro had a family.

Nori felt hollow.

They had been there for a week, but now it was time to leave.

The hobbits were smiling and happy to help the dwarrow and give them what supplies they could. “Our springs are rather fruitful,” the Thain told Thorin. “Once autumn comes, we shall send you some produce and perhaps you could send us metalwork?” An agreement had been struck between the two sibling races and Nori knew this might not be the last time she would get to see her hobbit pebble. If Thorin would let her, Nori would quit her life of thievery and work as a sort of liaison with the hobbits. She wouldn’t even have to see Rosalin—ROSAMOND— every time. Just being able to be near her pebble would be enough.

Then they say their goodbyes.

Dori coos over Ro and Ori hugs the hobbit lass tightly. Thorin messes the girl’s curls and smiles down at her when she sticks her tongue out at him playfully.

Dwalin lifts her high into the sky before he lets her cuddle into his chest. She giggles as he presses kisses to her cheek, rubbing his bearded chin across her skin, tickling her. She kisses his nose and he kisses hers. She puts her hands on his temples and brings her forehead to his and they bump heads lightly. Nori’s chest tightened. Her One smiles sadly at her before he give Rosalin to her.

Nori hugs Ro to her chest and presses soft kisses to her hair and temple and cheek. She kissed Ro’s nose and Ro giggled before kissing Nori’s. Then, the pebble pressed her forehead against Nori’s and the dam had to suck in a sharp breath to not let her tears fall. If they did, Ro would probably start crying.

“Yankar, nâthuê kurdu,” she whispers softly into Ro’s hair.

With trembling hands, Nori gives Ro to her grandfather. Ro is smiling at her and then she looks up at the Thain and smiled too. Nori closes her eyes and turns around quickly. They needed to go. She needed to go. If she didn’t leave now, she never would.

She wasn’t good for Ro. She wasn’t good enough. She deserved better than this. Better than Nori. She knew she would never be good enough.

***

Ro hadn’t seen so many small adults before. They didn’t have hair on their faces like her family did. The children didn’t have hair growing down the sides of their faces either. The boys had shorter hair too and many of them had curls. She liked playing with them though. They were fun.

She missed Fíli and Kíli though.

She couldn’t wait to get back home to them. She wondered why they had traveled anyway. She wonders why the others didn’t come too.

Oh. She and her mum and da had been traveling before in the snow. Maybe this is where they had been trying to go for holiday.

She likes the small adult with white hair. He’s the only one who seems to have a slight beard, but it’s wispy and not full at all. He looks sad when he looks at Ro and she tries to comfort him as best she can. She kisses his nose and bumps her head to his. That always seemed to make her da feel better.

Her parents and uncles and Master Thorin (she can’t decide what he is to her) begin packing and Ro is excited to go home.

Her family and Thorin pass her around until she finally comes into her mum’s arms. Ro snuggles into them and as her mum sprinkles kisses across her face. Ro kisses her mum’s nose and touches her forehead with hers.

She’s then handed to white haired small adult.

Oh, they all must need to finish packing. She did alway her underfoot. She smiled up at the small adult. That’s what Kíli sometimes called her when he thought she couldn’t hear him: ‘Ro Underfoot.’ He always said it smiling though. Fíli usually flicked his ears when he heard it.

She waits for her mum to come back and pick her up so they can leave. But she doesn’t.

Ro’s family is leaving and they aren’t taking her with them. She begins to fuss a bit. It was a mistake. In a few seconds her mum was going to turn around and laugh at being silly and then pick her up and kiss her nose. Her da would lift her above his head and she would get to fly. They were working things out too. The flowers had been working.

Something painful flushed into her stomach. She felt like this had happened before. She remembered the stillness. She remembered her mum not answering her. But that wasn’t right. Her mum always answered her. Her mum was never still. Her da never turned his back on her.

Why was her mum leaving? Why wasn’t she coming back? Had she done something wrong? Was that why Da was leaving too?

“No!”

***

“No!”

Dwalin froze and turned around. He sensed Nori freeze next to him, but she does not turn.

The guard watched as Ro fought her way out of the Thain’s arms and began to run down the street after them. A few of the hobbits begin to follow but freeze when the little girl screamed again.

“No!” She shrieked. And then suddenly she’s fallen on her face, her legs tangling in skirts she isn’t familiar with. She pushes herself up and Dwalin can barely see the dirt sticking to her tear slicked cheeks. Still on the ground, she began to wail. She fisted her eyes and tried desperately to wipe the free flowing tears from her cheeks. “No go, Mum! No go!”

His heart broke. He was just about about to take a step when Nori rushed past his side. The dam raced to the pebble and fell on her knees, enveloping the child in her arms and began to sob. Ro continued to wail her pleas and began to bang her fists on Nori’s shoulders in anger.

Dwalin rushed over tried to calm the child as Nori began to tremble, apologizing over and over as she took the hits.

“Ro,” his voice cracked. “Ro, please.”

“No!” She shrieked. Her fists open and she tried to push him away. He didn’t budge but he felt every shove in the very depths of his soul. “No go! Be good! Be good, Da! No go!”

Nori curled around their daughter and continued to sob. Dwalin found unshed tears beginning to burn his vision. As Ro continued to cry, Dwalin engulfed both of them into his arms, tucking his head into Nori’s neck. With her free hand, his One wrapped her arm around his waist and gripped his the back of his shirt tightly.

He would never let the two of them go ever again.

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They were able to take Ro with them.

Thorin apologized to the Thain continually as they went back briefly to collect some of the things Ro’s parents had left in their home of Bag End.

The Thain looked at his granddaughter who was still being comforted by Dwalin and Nori. The pebble was seeming to calm down as long as she was held between the two dwarrow. Dwalin was often the one who attempted to step away, but the girl would begin to cry out for him as her ‘da’ and make a fuss until the warrior wrapped his arms around both herself and Nori.

“She’s young and she went through a lot.” The Thain’s eyes were distant and pained. “It… it would be better if she remained with people she felt safe around.” He turned back to Thorin. “You and your people will always be welcome here. Rosamond will always have access to her home of Bag End as well. I only ask that one day she be allowed to train here for three years when she’s older. You’ve seen her healing abilities, yes?”

Thorin nodded. “My sister noted them.”

“Her mother had the same ability and is no doubt the reason my granddaughter was able to survive for that long in the cold. She needs to learn to harness those abilities when she’s older.”

Thorin bowed his head. “Of course.”

“Thank you, Master Thorin.”

***

Dwalin was made to sit on the cart with Nori and Ro. The pebble refused to let either of them go from her. She sat curled in Nori’s arms but one of her hands had a firm hold on Dwalin’s jacket. Exhausted from the frustration of earlier, she soon fell asleep to the rocking of the cart and steady breathing of Nori.

The two watched her sleep for a moment before glancing at one another. Nori turned away first.

“Nori…”

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“You’re going to ask that I live with you for Ro’s sake since she’s decided that we’re her parents.”

His One knew him well. “I was. I want to give the pebble my beads too.” He wanted to give her his beads as well. “I want to protect both of you.”

Nori narrowed her eyes up at him. “I don’t need you to protect me.”

“I know you don’t need me to, but I want to.” Dwalin put his arm around her and pulled Nori and their pebble closer. “I want you to wear my beads too.”

He watched as a blush bloomed across her cheeks. “Dwalin…”

“You and Ro are my kin. Even if you don’t wish to wear my beads, I’ll provide for you and her as though you were. I’m not doing this because I feel like it needs to be done. I want to do it.” He pressed his forehead against hers. She stiffened for a moment before relaxing into him. “I want you to be mine and Ro to be ours.”

“Rosalin.”

Dwalin blinked. “What?”

“That’s… that’s what I called her in my head.” Nori shifted the pebble in her arms. “After you.”

“You should be very careful Miss Nori,” Dwalin said softly. “I just might kiss you and I’d rather Dori not kill me quite yet.”

Nori laughed and Dwalin smiled. She snuggled into his embrace and their pebble snoozed peacefully between them.

***

Galadriel smiled down into her mirror.

She knew Mithrandir would misinterpret her words. She had said the young hobbit belonged with her people. She had not said she belonged with those of her own race. The dwarrow would do her good. They would nurture her spirit in such a way her fellow hobbits could not. She in turn would bring a much needed presence to the Line of Durin.

She had met Durin only once when she was a small child. She could remember his mighty laugh that was almost like a lion’s roar and his deep love of the stars which had sparked her own enjoyment of them.

She had met Durin in the time when he and his first wife were One. The dwarf’s wife was one of the first of her kind and her gentleness had been a great comfort to her wandering husband and a healing touch to a people who sought a place in the world now open to them.

Galadriel did not know what happened that they should go their separate ways. She had been to young to understand back then. However, she did know it was time the two races came together once more.

The elven lady glanced once more down at the pool. The hobbit child had a heavy burden she would have to bear one day, but it was necessary for not only her, but the Line of Durin as well. For now, she was to sleep, tucked between the two princes whose destinies she would shape and who would also shape hers.

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Just remember to check out Part 2: What We Became!

Blurb:
As Ro and Fíli and Kíli grow up in the mountains of Ered Luin, their dynamics shift and change.
Sometimes it would be nice if things could just stay they same.