“Who is it?” Billa called when someone knocked at the door as she fought with her hair, trying to convince the dreadful curls to unwind from their mess of knots and tangles with a comb.
Eyes widened in surprise before she beamed, ridiculously large and checked to make certain that her modest shift and underthings appropriately covered her body before calling out, “Come in!”
The large warrior toed open the door and upon seeing how much the dwarf carried, Billa slipped off of the bed she had stolen and scurried over to hold open the door so he could get easily into the room without dropping the large tray filled plates of food and tankards he was juggling.
“Many thanks.” He grunted, striding into the room and placing the tray on top of the bed, which was at an appropriate height for a dwarf and a not too much higher than was comfortable for a Hobbit, while Billa closed the door.
“Thought you migh’ be hungry. From wha’ Old Grey Beard said, you’ve had a few trying days.”
Billa chuckled openly, “Only for Gandalf. It was actually a rather pleasant few days for me” She stated as she hopped onto the bed and peered at the food. Dwalin it seemed had remembered her dislike of excessive meat- cow in particular- and had a good balance of fruit and vegetables aside from the meat. Smiling at her flower, who smiled hesitantly in reply she began to eat, taking the time to examine him behind her tangled mane of hair.
Dwalin watched his heart-lode with warm eyes, as he sipped from his drink, having eaten not too long ago. It felt good to have her so close, just like that time she had reached out and touched him for the first time that night all those long years ago. Only this time he could practically feel the hint of the power of their connected marks as it stretched between them, warm and humming at being so close after so long apart.
“Dwalin?” Her voice, so soft and hesitant made him open eyes he hadn’t even realized he had closed.
“Could I… see it? Your flower…” She looked at him with eyes full of a timid curiosity, as though she were uncertain if he would permit her to see her own name etched upon his skin. In reply he put her half-empty plate aside and sat beside her, holding out his left arm. Green eyes met grey as hands, so soft and small, skimmed against the skin she revealed as she rolled up his sleeve to his elbow. Sure enough, there lay, upon the slightly raised skin, her name in old Hobbitish with lush vines and smalls burst of white heather and blue hyacinth intertwined in the curls and waves of her Yavanna given name.
His heart-lode’s expression was lost to his sight as she bent her head forwards just enough for her glorious curls to fall over her shoulder. He was quite tempted to reach out and run his hands through those strands, as she had invited him to in a letter years ago, but waited, biding his time. Involuntarily a sharp breath slipped into his mouth as he felt her all too gentle fingers trace her name.
“I thought you were a bear- that first time.” Her voice was wry as she spoke, full of self-effacing humor, and Dwalin couldn't help the slight chuckle that passed through his mouth.
“Did you now?”
She hummed in affirmation and kept tracing her name as she spoke. “Oh yes, I was quite pleased with myself for being brave enough to touch a bear. At least from what I can recall.”
Dwalin felt the slight shaking of her gentle fingers and reached out, brushing away the hair that hid her face from his sight. Cupping her face in between his paws he looked down at her as his thumbs rubbed their way back and forth beneath her jeweled eyes.
“And do you know what I felt that first time you reached out to me?" he asked, "It was like I had been living half a life without ever knowing it. Rather than seeing the beauty before me, I saw greys, and only at tha moment did the jeweled tones of the earth make themselves known to my sight. Even now I remember it as though it happened yesterday. You are the brightest jewel tha has graced my sight and until my dying breath I vow to protect and love yah the way you deserve.”
With each word that tumbled from his lips like an avalanche, Billana’s eyes grew wider and teary. She smiled at him from between his hands and cupped his own face between her small hands, pausing a moment to brush her fingers against his skin before bringing his head down to gently touch their foreheads together. The pair sat that way for an unknown amount of time, simply breathing in the scent of the other as they shared gazes.
Dwalin was the first to draw away, fingering her semi-dry hair. “May I?”
The look of outright relief was almost enough to make him laugh, but it was the alacrity with which she passed him the comb she had been using earlier and the total earnestness in her “Please” that broke him.
The dwarf laughed, even as he adjusted her little body to sit in his lap, “You are most certainly the brightest jewel of my world.”
Her blush, he then discovered, extended down the column of her neck, and Dwalin steeled him himself from the temptation that offered, focusing instead on the near heavenly feel her of silken hair. The comb sat to one side, while he ran two calloused hands slowly through her locks, unknotting loose twists while he enjoyed the closeness between them. It was almost like the first time he had ever felt mithril chainmail, except better. Where there had been hardness then, there was only the feeling of damp silk slipping over palms and threading through fingers.
“You should be more gentle- some of your hair is splitting at the end.” He murmured as he picked up the comb and ran it through the first bit of hair gathered in his hand.
Billa shivered but replied easily, “When you have hair like mine then please tell me how I ought to treat it.”
It was not a harsh or rude comment, Dwalin knew and thus did not take offense as he replied evenly, “I’ll have to remember your words when our children are grown and wrestling with their hair as well.”
Billa’s breath hitched for a moment but she was otherwise silent as he combed out the hair that fell a little bit below the shoulders. Once that was done Dwalin gently began parting the strands only to stop when Billa suddenly leapt out of his lap and hurried off to her pack.
“Sorry.” She said once she had climbed back onto the bed, facing him. “But if you are braiding would you use these?”
Dwalin frowned down at the chain that she held in her palm before he realized just what it was she was offering him. The bead he had left her as a token all those years ago, and then several others that had been sent in various letters were held close together on a slim silver chain.
“I didn’t want to accidentally lose them- so I thought that this would be a safe place to keep them.” She said, flushing slightly.
“Were it not improper little Billa, I would be coverin yah in kisses.” He rumbled, taking the chain and waiting until she was back in his lap before beginning to braid. The first he placed in her hair was a small one that went from the top of her head and followed the curve of her skull, letting the end strands bleed back in with the rest of her copper hair- the style was a personal recalling of his recently removed mohawk- though the braid itself signaled that she was soulmarked to one of the Fundin family. The bead that signaled her passage into community life was clasped there.
Several other braids, including the ones that indicated gender, and certain years passed in safety were braided into her thick locks- though it was difficult to see because of the coppery curls. But it was the last braid that was the most important, and Dwalin had to take a steadying breath before moving her from his lap and making her face him.
“Billana Baggins,” He said in careful Khzudul, making certain that she understood the gravity of this moment and what he was saying, “Would you take me, bearer of your lode, Head Guardsman, a renowned warrior, and a son of Fundin into consideration as your future bond mate?”
Billa smiled warmly and nodded even as she replied in Khzudul, “Yes- If you shall have me.”
“Where is my name dear heart?” He whispered hoarsely in Westron.
Reaching out with lightly trembling hands he began a braid that seemed to appear right from behind her ear and went as far as the hair strands would permit, before being clasped in a special bead that Dwalin had carried with him from the moment he had received her first letter. This braid, far more complex than the others he had wound into her hair, marked her as his in all ways, though it was in the courting style rather than the engaged or even married versions- but, he hoped, that turning it into either of those would only be a matter of time.
Sitting back to see the complete image of his work, Dwalin had to admit that Balin would approve. What sent the most pride however was the sight of his braid in her hair. A choked sound filled the room and then Billa was straddling him, her lips kissing his face not even bothering to avoid his scars before they locked against his own.
It wasn’t until Billa’s mouth opened at the request of his tongue that Dwalin’s ragged control managed to reassert itself and with all the gentleness that he could, pushed her away.
“Sorry- I-“ Billa stammered, looking far too flushed for the male portions of his body.
“Don’t… but tha...lass… should not happen again until we are married…. Understand? I would not have you honor questioned.” He rasped, trying to shake some wit back into his mind.
Billa nodded and gently eased herself off his lap, “Sorry.”
Dwalin smiled and stroked her cheek gently. “It’s alrigh’ dear one - didn’t think things through is all.”
Billa’s answering smile was all he needed to know that she understood.
When Balin hesitantly opened the door not long past midnight, he could do naught but smile when he saw a certain Hobbit lass curled up on her side asleep, while his brother stroked her hair and murmured some sort of poetry lowly in her ear. Shaking his head he slipped away, a smile curling at the edge of his mouth, who knew that his bolder headed brother knew poetry?