Fili walked out of the bedroom, closing the door behind him. Sigrid was asleep in her bed and the baby was sleeping in his cot, right next to the bed. He went to Milly's room and peeked in. She had slept through all the excitement. She would meet her baby brother in the morning.
The lights in the sitting room were out. Only the fire in the hearth provided any light. Fili sat down on a chair, allowing himself for the first time since Sigrid's pains began, to relax. In a flash, his mind went through the events of the day. He remembered the long hours Sigrid labored. He had not wanted to leave Sigrid's side, but he had had to when the time had come for him to fetch Oin. On his way he had run into Kili. Kili had gathered Tauriel, Dis and Thorin.
Fili remembered how with each hour, Sigrid's pains became more painful, lasted longer and nothing he did really helped her. He remembered the feeling of helplessness as he watched her bear the pain and wishing he could take it all from her and bear it himself.
It was never far from his mind the danger Sigrid was in. The danger the babe was in. What Fili stood to lose if anything happened. He had lost one wife to childbirth. If it had not been for Milly, he would have followed Mailli in death. He didn't know if he would have survived it again. If Sigrid had died... Oh, he didn't want to think about it.
Finally, alone for the first time all day, every fear that he had pushed away so he could concentrate on supporting Sigrid, came crashing back to him. It was a fear like he had not felt since he and Kili lay dying after the great battle. It rose up in his body and he started to shake.
It was no secret among those that knew Thorin's nephews, that Fili and Kili shared a bond, but no one really understood how strong that bond actually was, except for the
brothers. It was a constant connection with each other. That very bond had saved each other's lives countless times. It wasn’t that they could read each other’s minds, but they often knew what the other was feeling. Tonight, Fili reached out to Kili and Kili felt it, because he was soon knocking quietly at Fili's door. Kili didn't wait for an answer. He knocked once and walked in. He saw Fili, sitting in the dark, his entire body shaking.
He was at Fili's side in a moment. He wrapped his arms around his big brother and held him. Fili's body curled up against Kili's and he let himself be held and rocked like a child. They cried silently. No words were needed between them. He said nothing to try and sooth away his fears, because they were very real. They acknowledged the fears and cried for them. Once Fili had faced and accepted the fears he had so long pushed away, he felt better. Those fears were past now and there was so much joy to look forward too.
"You going to be alright now?" Kili asked after several hours. He could sense Fili's need for comfort was over.
"Yes. Thank you." Fili embraced his brother once more.
"Anytime. I'm here for you, my brother."
"I know," Fili sniffed.
"You'd better get some sleep. You've got two dwarflings to look after now." Kili headed to the door, and laid his hand on the handle. He turned around. "Tauriel and I are willing to return the favor when Hrafn gets a little older and you and Sigrid need some time alone together again."
"Don't worry. We'll take you up on it. Night, Kili."
Fili slipped into bed beside his wife. He would need to make Sigrid another new silver chain with an emerald to add to her necklace. A beautiful wife and two dwarflings. How had he gotten so lucky?
* * * * *
The Princes of Erebor and their families were returning back to their homes after dinner. The entire royal family had dined together. It had been Sigrid and Hrafn's first time out of their home since Hrafn's birth two weeks ago. Kili, Tauriel and Torsten walked with them.
Sigrid and Tauriel had been in a deep discussion about the pains and joys of breastfeeding babies. Kili and Fili had rolled their eyes and smiled, letting the women talk, even though they were slightly uncomfortable by the conversation. When their paths split to go to their separate homes, they said goodnight and went their way.
The evening routine was in the process of being modified with the addition of Hrafn. Before, Sigrid would bathe Milly and then Fili would read to Milly before she was tucked away into bed. Now, Sigrid was often feeding Hrafn at the time of Milly's bath, which didn't bother Milly too much because she usually did what she could to avoid her bath.
Tonight, Sigrid suggested a new idea. She would bathe Hrafn first, then Milly, then she would feed Hrafn while Fili read to Milly. It sounded like a good battle plan to Fili and he did what he could to help.
Milly loved to help Sigrid care for Hrafn. The first day after his birth, Milly had been very unsure of the new baby. She watched him, poked at him, and tried to show him her dolls. The first time he cried while she was in the room, Milly had a look of complete shock, then she covered her ears against his wails.
Now Milly was very much a loving, big sister and enjoyed helping Sigrid while she bathed Hrafn. Milly stood by, watching over her brother, and handing Sigrid the soaps, oils and towels as requested. When Hrafn was cleaned and wrapped in his towel, Sigrid handed the baby over to Fili, who would dress his son while Sigrid bathed Milly.
Fili took the baby to the nursery and laid him in his cot. He dressed the baby in a warm sleeping gown and tightly wrapped him in a fluffy blanket. Fili had missed this newborn age with Milly. He was amazed at Hrafn's tiny size and funny newborn cry. Hrafn seemed to have no control what-so-ever over his little hands and Fili was worried he would injure himself with his own fists hitting himself in the face. Kili told him Torsten use to do that too, but they out grow it, which Fili was relieved to know.
Once Milly was dressed, they traded children. Sigrid sat in her chair to feed the baby and Fili sat on his chair with Milly on one knee and a book on the other. Some nights Fili would read stories in the common tongue and sometimes he would read in Khuzdul. At first, Fili worried about doing this. For one thing, his wife would not understand him and he was afraid of offending her by cutting her out of the conversation and secondly, none other than dwarves were allowed to learn the language.
Sigrid insisted he speak to his children in Khuzdul. She promised she was not offended nor did she have any desire to learn the language. She respected her husband's culture. And, she confided in him that she found it very exciting to hear him speak the deep guttural language and listen to the way his voice and chest rumbled as he spoke. He was quite satisfied with her answer and found great pleasure in sometimes whispering in Khuzdul into her ear during their more intimate moments. If she had picked up the meaning of any words, she never said.
Tonight's story was in Westron and Sigrid listened with half closed eyes while Hrafn nursed. Milly grew tired in her father's arms and by the time the story was over, she had fallen asleep and Hrafn had finished his meal. Both children were put to bed. Fili and Sigrid sat, cuddled together on their couch. Fili took Sigrid's hand and massaged it. She melted against his chest as he worked his magic on her muscles.
"Fili?" she said in a sleepy voice, "Did Thorin seem alright to you this evening?"
"Yes, I guess," Fili said, thinking back to dinner. "He was a little more quite than normal, I suppose. I figured he's just tired. Getting Erebor ready for winter is a stressful task."
"I can't imagine all that must go into planning that," Sigrid said. "I guess he could just be tired, but he seemed a little down. Maybe you should talk to him?"
Fili nodded. "Alright, I will." They sat together a while longer. "You'd better get some sleep," he helped Sigrid up, "before Hrafn decides he's hungry again. I'm going to go see if Thorin's still awake."
Sigrid nodded and smiled. "Night dearest," she pecked Fili's cheek.
He tightened his hold on her waist. "What kind of a good night kiss was that?" He pulled her into a deep, loving kiss and had to repress a smiled when she melted again into his face and body. When they finally pulled apart, Sigrid had a sleepy, contented smile on her face. He gave her hips a squeeze and let her go.
Once she was in her room, Fili left the apartment and headed to Thorin's. He wasn't sure if it was too late for his uncle or not and almost turned right around to go back home. But he stopped in front of Thorin's door and quietly knocked.
Several moments later, the door opened.
"Fili," Thorin greeted. "Is anything wrong?"
"No Uncle. I just wanted to, um, talk, I guess," Fili said. During the day, when they worked together, they were the King and the Crown Prince; almost equal in their authority over Erebor. When they were in their family, they had a nice, comfortable relationship as two adults. But one-on-one, Fili felt like a small dwarfling with his big, great uncle.
Thorin stepped aside and allowed Fili entrance. Thorin had removed his top layers of clothes and was down to a comfortable shirt and tunic. Fili remembered how when he was young, Thorin would come home from a long day at the forge, wash himself, have dinner with Dis, Fili and Kili and then he would sit near the fire, dressed similarly to the way he was now and he would smoke his pipe. Sometimes he sat quietly, pondering life, sometimes he read, but most often, he would tell stories and sing to his nephews.
Tonight the pipe was sitting on a table, with smoke lazily drifting towards the ceiling, but there was no book. Fili assumed his uncle had been in deep thought when Fili knocked at his door. Thorin wordlessly gestured to a chair before he sat down next to his pipe. Fili sat and suddenly wondered if this was a good idea.
"What can I do for you, lad?" Thorin asked. "Is the family alright?"
"Oh yes, they're all well. We're still trying to get used to having a baby among us, but we are all well."
"How's Milly doing with the change?" Thorin asked, sitting back in his chair.
"Better. She was nervous about him, at first, but now she's become a little mother hen."
Thorin chuckled and there was a moment of silence.
"Actually, Uncle, I came over to ask you how you're doing."
Thorin looked at Fili in surprise. "I'm well, Fili. A little worn out. You know how busy things have been. I keep thinking one of these years I'm going to take a long holiday."
"You should. Don't worry about a thing, Uncle. Kili and I can rule Erebor in your absence," Fili smiled.
"That's why I haven't left yet," Thorin smiled back.
"Ouch, Uncle. That hurt my princely pride. Don't you trust us?"
Thorin's smile disappeared. "Actually, I do, Fili. I know that you and Kili are more than capable." Fili suddenly became worried. Was Thorin actually thinking about leaving? Was he sick or dying? The idea of being in Erebor without Thorin ruling was a scary thought. Fili knew he could never be as good a king as Thorin and he was afraid of the day when that would finally be forced upon him. "You're not leaving, are you? I mean, are you well?"
"I'm fine, lad, and I have no plans to leave Erebor anytime soon. But, I want you to know how proud I am of you. You are a true prince, worthy of the line of Durin. Your people love you and respect you. You are a good husband and father. You are a better dwarf than me, many times over."
"I've learned from the best teacher," Fili said. He felt such pride at Thorin's praise. It was not something Thorin gave out lightly or freely. But he was also saddened by his uncles words. Did Thorin really think so little of himself and all the great things he had done?
"You have had many good teachers in your life," Thorin agreed.
"Uncle, I speak of you. You have been my greatest teacher. Balin taught me scholarly things, but you always made sure I learned more than what Balin taught. Dwalin was a good weapons teacher, but I learned more when you would step in and give me lessons or tips. You taught me about leadership, hunting, tracking and smithing."
"But there's more to life than that," Thorin said. "Despite not having a father, you have learned how to be a good husband and father. Your mother taught you well too."
"Mother taught me, yes, but I learned how to be a good husband and father from you. Even though you were brother and sister and not husband and wife, you always treated Mother with respect and you protected her. You may not have meant too, but how you treated Mother, taught me a lot about how to treat a woman. You were practically a father to me. I learned how to be a father from you. Do you remember when Mother first handed me Milly? She place Milly in my arms and I had no idea what to do or how to hold her. It wasn't mother who showed me how to hold a baby and feed it, it was you."
Thorin's eyes glistened with tears.
Fili continued, "I know Kili feels the same way. We've talked about it many times. You have been our greatest teacher in all areas of life and we are forever grateful for you."
They sat in silence for a while. Thorin seemed to need a few moments to compose himself, so Fili sat quietly and watched the flames in the fire dance.
"Thank you, Fili." Thorin's words were heart-felt.
Fili had wanted to ask his uncle a very personal question most of his life, but he had always been too afraid, but now, he felt he might be able to ask.
"Thorin? Why did you never marry?" he spoke quietly. He expected a strong tongue lashing from Thorin about minding his own business, but instead he watched as Thorin slumped into his chair.
"My life was never stable enough to take a wife. Responsibility laid heavily on be after the loss of Erebor. I was very young when my grandfather died and my father disappeared, leaving the responsibilities of caring for our people on my shoulders. And I bore it as well as I could. The care and safety of my people was more important than my personal desires to love or marry. Instead, I took joy in watching my sister fall in love, marry and birth children. Once you were born, I had no need to marry and produce an heir. Your mother took that burden from off my shoulders, whether she meant to or not, and I was happy. Her joy was my joy and I had two nephews to love, dote upon and teach.
"Then, when your father died, I wanted to help Dis. Her grief was terrible and for a while, I thought she would follow her love into death. I begged with her to stay and raise her sons and she made her choice to live and raise you. I stayed nearby and later moved in with you. It was my greatest honor to help raise you two rascals.
"No, Fili, the responsibilities of ruling our people, keeping them safe and raising you and Kili left me with no time or opportunity to find someone to love and marry."
Fili wiped his nose on his sleeve. "I'm sorry, Uncle Thorin. I never thought about all you gave up to take care of us." Fili frowned. He had never really thought about all the responsibility Thorin had borne before he was even of age.
"Don't be, lad, I'm not." Thorin leaned forward and laid a hand on Fili's shoulder. "Like I said, I think of you more as a son than a nephew. And you are a son to be proud of." Thorin smiled.
Fili's heart swelled. His greatest fear in life, aside from loosing Kili, had been being a disappointment to his uncle, whom he loved, respected and feared.
"But you seemed sad this evening," Fili said, remembering why he came to see Thorin in the first place.
"Oh no, not sad. Just reflective. Watching you and your brother with your own families is a sight I never thought I'd ever live to see, and what a sight it is. You and your brother will have your hands full when those boys of yours get older. I think they will give you and Kili and run for your gold when it comes to being mischievous dwarflings."
Fili laughed. "Yes, Kili and I have already discussed this possibility. We'll have to keep a close eyes on them."
Fili realized at that moment that Thorin was lonely. For years he had been surrounded by his family or his company. But now that Erebor was theirs and Kili and himself were grown, Thorin had been left alone. Fili felt terribly guilty. He had been so wrapped up in his own life, he had forgotten about how all of this had changed Thorin's life too.
"Uncle? You are more than welcome to my home anytime you wish. Sigrid and I would love your company and Milly loves to be told stories. She loves you a great deal and it would make her very happy if you came to visit. She and Hrafn need to learn the stories of our people and I am nowhere near the storyteller you are, Uncle."
"You don't have to concern yourself or entertain this old dwarf," Thorin smiled sadly.
"That's not what this invitation is about. I guess I'm being selfish, but I miss you. I know we see each other all day long and work together, but it's not the same. I miss you sitting by the fire, smoking your pipe, carving stone and telling us stories. My greatest memories of our life in the Blue Mountains were those simple evenings when we sat together, as a family. I miss that. It would make me very happy if you were to join us in the evenings. You would be welcomed anytime and as often as you wish. Please, Uncle?"
"It would be my honor to join your family in the evenings." Thorin's eyes looked to be filled with tears again.
"I cannot guarantee they will be nice, quiet evenings, but you are always welcome."
"Lad, look at this room. I have had too many evenings pass here in peace and quiet. I look forward to some dwarfling noise. And it's even better now, because when I'm tired of the noise, I get to come back home to my quiet rooms and leave you to deal with crying children."
Fili laughed. As much as he loved Sigrid and their wonderful life together, he missed the time with his brother and uncle. His family all lived just a few halls away from each other. They needed to spend more time together. He wanted to spend more time with Kili and his family. Fili was determined to be as great an uncle to Torsten as Thorin had been to him.
Note: Hrafn is an Old Norse personal name and word that means 'raven'. It seemed an appropriate name for a son in the line of Durin, the Ravenspeakers.
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