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Only in My Dreams

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She could never be sure later if the silence that fell was because the battle was over or because her world had stopped. Despite her best efforts, despite the hell and back that she'd gone through to save them, the line of Durin had fallen, taking her heart with it.

Fili, her heart, had been the first to fall, his life taken by the white monster who had vowed to end Thorin and his line. She had kept going, knowing despite her heartache, how her heart howled and screamed for him, that he would want her to go on living.

So she'd gone in search of Kili, the one that Fili had spent his life watching over and if the Valar had been kinder, her future brother. She had arrived mere moments too late, just in time to see the light fade from his eyes. Anger and hatred had welled up in her and she had sworn vengeance on the white orc and his line. Closing Kili's eyes, she had struggled onward, searching desperately for Thorin.
She had found him locked in the battle with Azog and rushed to help him. Together they managed to kill the scourge and for a moment she believed that she might've been able to save at least a tiny piece of her beloved's family. But again, it was too late and his wounds proved to be fatal. He had begged for her forgiveness before passing peacefully into his father's halls.

Collapsing to her knees, she allowed Sting to slip from her numb fingers. How had it come to this? How had they made it this far and defeated a dragon, only to be brought low by a battle that should've never happened. She murmured, "It should've been me. I should've died, not them." A single tear trailed down her frozen cheek. So lost was she in her misery that she didn't notice the way that all sound had halted or the flare of bright light.

It was the sound of a man clearing his throat that drew her from her stupor. Looking up, she blinked as her eyes watered in the bright light that emanated from the two people standing in front of her. Clearing her throat, she rasped, "He's dead."

The dwarf was dressed in magnificent armor that didn't look like it had been in battle at all, his hair and beard elaborately braided and beaded. His voice was deep but surprisingly gentle when he spoke. "I know, little one. He is safe now."

Feeling more tears well up in her eyes, she valiantly fought them back. The woman knelt next to her, gently brushing away the few tears that had escaped. "Why do you weep, little one?"

Swallowing hard, she focused on the woman and then started coughing, having sucked in the air wrong. In front of her was what appeared to a hobbit woman, her attire as immaculate as that of her companion. Her curls waved joyously around her freckled face, her pointed ears just peeking through. Bella gasped out, "Lady Yavanna!"

The woman turned to what could only be her husband Mahal, her eyes twinkling merrily. "I told you she was bright."

He inclined his head, reaching his large hand out and helping Bella gently to her feet. "You didn't answer my wife's question. Why do you weep? Thorin has treated you shabbily indeed. You have given up everything for them and they cast you out like you were nothing. Since meeting them, you have known nothing but hardship and danger."

Forgetting herself entirely, Bella glared at him. "What I gave up was an empty house filled with ghosts. Yes, I lost a lot of material things but I gained a family. Even if they threw me out, I still claim them as mine and nothing you say will ever convince me otherwise. And I would gladly give everything up for them all over again."

Mahal stroked his beard thoughtfully and looked at Yavanna for a moment before speaking to Bella again. "Everything? Would you truly?"

Bella nodded firmly, "Everything. Even should it be my very life, I would consider it a small price to pay."

He nodded at her waistcoat pocket. "What about that little ring you found beneath goblin town?"

Her hand flew to cover the pocket where the ring was currently nestled. Fighting to draw it out from where it seemed inclined to stay, she reluctantly extended it out on her open palm, fighting against her instincts to hide it away where no one could see it. "Gladly. If it means that they get to live, even if I'm not part of their lives, it is a small price to pay."

The Smith scooped the ring out of her hand and held it up to the light. Examining it closely, he murmured, "You have caused more than enough trouble for such shoddy work." Tossing it into the air, he made a gesture and the ring exploded into a supernova of sparkling dust before fading away entirely.

Bella stared at him open mouthed, torn between disbelief and relief. Although she had never mentioned the ring to anyone, at times it felt like it was whispering to her, trying to subvert her will. She stuttered, "B..b.. but you d..d..didn't promise to bring them back."

He nodded approvingly. "You're right, I didn't. My lady wife was right in saying that you're bright. Do you know why we're so curious about your tears? After that terrible winter and losing your parents, we heard you vow to never cry for yourself again. And you haven't, no matter what hurtful things people said or did to you over the years, you never shed a tear. Even on the quest during which time my children were less than gallant." He frowned at this. "But still, you never cried. So why do you cry now? For yourself or for them?"

Taking a deep breath and fighting to keep her voice from wobbling the way it wanted to, she spoke. "I don't weep for myself. I weep for them. They had so much hardship and so much life ahead of them. Take Thorin for instance. He lost his entire family except for his sister because of Smaug. He had to endure helplessly while his people were suffering and he worked as hard as any ten dwarves just trying to make enough to keep them alive. But endure he did and his people even prospered slightly under his leadership, even if he didn't have a crown. He could've given up so many times, but he never did."

Mahal asked idly, "What about the gold sickness?"

She glared at him. "It took a little bit of time, but he overcame it. That was something that his grandfather never managed to do. He apologized for his actions and I have forgiven him for it. If I, the wronged party, can let it go then there is no call for you to harp on it." She suddenly remembered who she was talking to and flushed, but didn't retract her words or back down.

"What about the younger two then? They didn't survive the fall of Erebor and the dwarves had managed to re-establish themselves by the time they came along."

Her rage died. "Yes, they didn't have it quite as bad as the rest did. But they had something even heavier. They were their people's hope for the future. Do you know what a heavy burden that is? They have been watched their entire lives, told that they have to be examples for their people, that they must act a certain way, that everyone was looking up to them. They had the weight of a people's expectations on their shoulders since before they walked. But they were not bitter, no, they wanted a better life for their people. Despite their burdens, they still managed to carry joy in their heart. How many times did they manage to cheer up the company with their antics, preventing us from coming to blows more than once, I'm sure. And their hearts were open enough to recognize love, even if they weren't paired with dwarves. I was blessed to have Fili's affection for as long as I did. I never took that for granted. They should've had so much more time to live and fulfill their people's expectations like I'm sure that they would've done had they just lived."

Mahal's fierce expression softened. "Oh daughter, your heart is large. I will bring them back, but it requires a price. Can you live knowing that they live but have forgotten about you. Because the price for their lives will be the company's memories of you on the quest. It will be as if you were never there."

"Can I still see them, even from afar?"

He shook his head sadly, "No, you must return to the Shire and never speak a word of what happened. If it comes to light about your involvement in the quest and restoration of the line of Durin, my blessing will be removed and things will return to the way they were."

Paling, Bella said flatly, "They'll be dead, you mean."

"Yes. I'm sorry, but that's the way it has to be."

She nodded, her face resolute. "Then do what you must. It will be enough to know that they still live, even if I am not there to watch over them."

Smiling, Yavanna came up and twined her hand with Mahal's. "You have a generous heart, my daughter. I offer you this boon. If your dwarves should recover their memories of you without any mortal help, then you may reunite with your dwarves without losing them again. Should this happen, you will share the lifespan of your beloved. Should they not recover their memories, you will live out your days as a hobbit would."

Nodding, Bella smiled. "Thank you, lady mother. You have given me hope at least. Thank you, both of you, for the boons that you have granted this day. But what about Gandalf? Surely he'll ask questions about me."

The Smith scowled slightly, but there was a fondness to it. "Nosy wizard. It's all right, we'll handle it. Safe travels home, little one."

A blinding light appeared around the two Valar and Bella had to close her eyes. When she opened them, she was on the outskirts of Dale, the pack that she had abandoned in her flight from Erebor sitting innocently at her feet. Looking around, she realized that the battle was over, isolated groups of men, dwarves, and elves working to mop up what little bit of resistance was left. Whispering her thanks to Yavannah, she slipped on the pack and turned her back on Erebor and the battlefield and walked away, disappearing unnoticed in the chaos.