Sigrid and the Prince
Milly choose this moment to cry. Fili immediately tensed up and looked on the verge of crying himself.
"It's alright Fili. Let me show you things you can do to help her." Sigrid offered her hand to Fili. He took it and stood up.
They went to the cot where Milly lay crying. Sigrid picked up the baby and held her close. "Check her rags. If they are wet, change them."
"I do," Fili looked offended.
"Of course. I'm sorry." Sigrid changed Milly and rewrapped her. "Babies like to be snuggled and warm. Keep her wrapped in her blanket. It's very comforting to her. See if she is hungry. There is a milk bladder. Would you like to feed her?"
“Not yet. I want to watch you at work. I will learn." Fili hadn't touched his daughter since returning, not even to stroke her head or hold her hand. Sigrid could see how scared he was. She sat down and fed Milly. The baby didn't eat much and cried after her feeding. She slung the baby over her shoulder and patted her back until there was a satisfying burp from the baby. Still she cried.
"See!" Fili cried out. "I do these things, but she still cries."
"Babies cry," Sigrid soothed. "It's alright." She stood up and bounced the baby and paced the room. The baby still cried. Fili was getting more upset by the moment. "She can tell you are anxious," she told the upset prince.
"What? Like a pony can sense if its rider is scared?"
"Exactly," Sigrid smiled at the analogy. "She can tell that you are upset and it only makes her more so." She popped the top off the milk bladder and put it into Milly's mouth. Milly happily accepted the nipple and calmed down immediately. "Babies also like to suck on something. It is soothing to them. But, she isn't hungry and doesn't need the bladder, only the nipple. That is something else you can do to help her if she gets too upset."
Fili nodded his head, taking in everything Sigrid was telling him.
"Would you like to hold her now?" Sigrid offered the dwarf prince his daughter. Fili stiffened again, scared at making the little one cry again.
"What if she cries?" he asked. Sigrid placed the baby into Fili's arms. Milly did not cry. She curled up towards her father. He pulled her close to his chest and laid his cheek on her head, feeling her soft blond hair tickle his cheek. He kissed the top of the baby's head and then relaxed his body. "Thank you, Sigrid. I'm sorry you saw me in such a state yesterday. I'm quite ashamed."
"You have nothing to be ashamed of. I'm not sorry I found you yesterday. I'm glad I did. I'm happy to help and there's nothing quite like caring for a baby. It's been many years since Tilda was so young and small."
"Tilda's your sister?" Fili asked. Sigrid nodded in affirmation. "You said your mother died when Tilda was born."
"Yes," Sigrid answered.
Fili lowered his head and closed his eyes, “Like Mailli,” he whispered.
Sigrid remembered Tilda’s birth and her mother’s death like it was branded into her memories. "It was terrible. I missed mother so much and I tried so hard to be strong for Da, Bain and Tilda's sake, but I hurt. My body hurt. My heart hurt. One day, a few weeks later, Da took Tilda to our neighbor's house. He came back home and held me and let me cry. I cried for a long, long time, but Da just held me until I fell asleep. When I woke up, Da had brought Tilda back. I felt better. I still cried for Ma sometimes, but it wasn't as bad after that."
"Would you stay here for a few days and help me?" Fili asked. "You can have my room and bed to sleep on. I'll sleep in here, but I need help. Thorin and Kili can't help. They are too busy and I don't really want my mother's help, so would you? Please? It would just be for a few days. Teach me how to take care of Milly."
Sigrid almost turned him down immediately. It would be very improper to stay with the crown prince in his apartment. But she saw his plea for help was genuine and she could not say no.
"Of course I'll stay for a few days and help." Her heart melted to see the look of relief on Fili's face. "And you don't have to give up your bed to me. I am more than comfortable on the couch."
"Thank you," Fili whispered.
"Have you eaten yet?" she asked. Fili shook his head. "How about I go get us some breakfast and I'll bring it back here," Sigrid said.
Fili looked panicked again. "But what if she starts to cry again?"
"I won't be long, but if she does, go through those steps again. Check to see if she's wet, wrap her in her blanket, try feeding her or just give her the nipple again. Sing to her, tell her a story. Let her hear your soft voice. She'll learn to respond to the soft, quiet voice of her father. I'll be back very soon."
Fili nodded, still looking scared. "Oh, which way out of here?" Sigrid asked. "I got lost yesterday."
Fili smiled and gave her instructions on how to get to the kitchens and to ask a guard to escort her back. She closed the door behind her and Fili was left alone. Milly happily sucked at the nipple in her mouth. Her eyes were drooping. Fili didn't move. He didn't dare disturb her. He wished someone would come by to see them. He was afraid of being left alone. He wanted company.
Instead he took a deep breath and willed himself to be calm. He had faced orcs, goblins, trolls, wargs and many foul beasts. He had fought in battles with more bravery than he was feeling right now. This was his daughter. He shouldn't be afraid of her. He should love her and if he was patient, she would love him back. He was relieved to hear a knock at his door. He didn't know who it was, but at least he wouldn't be alone.
"Enter," he called out, startling the baby in his arms. She urgently sucked at the nipple in her mouth and fell back asleep, much to Fili's relief.
Thorin walked in. "Hello Fili.”
"She's asleep?" Thorin crept as quietly as he could in his great boots and peeked at the sleeping baby in Fili's arms.
Fili nodded. "For the moment."
"I heard you had a good night's sleep. Kili said that the human girl Sigrid, daughter of Lord Bard, helped you last night."
"Are you sure that was wise? Trusting the human to care for your daughter like that?" Thorin asked.
"I didn't mean for her to help me, but," Fili closed his eyes and sighed. He was ashamed. No matter what Sigrid said, he felt terrible about not being able to take care of one crying baby. His own daughter. He had abandoned her, left her to cry in her room while he sat out in the hall. "I couldn't make Milly stop crying. It went on for hours and hours. She wasn't sick and I tried feeding her and she kept crying. Finally, I got so upset, I went out in the hall. I left my daughter alone in her cot and I went out into the hall to cry like a child." Fili was crying again. He felt so guilty.
Thorin placed his large hands on either side of Fili's shoulders. "Listen to me, Fili. You have nothing to be upset about, except perhaps not asking your mother or me for help."
"Uncle?" Fili felt like he was seven years old all over again. "Did you ever feel afraid? You know, when Adad died and you came to live with us?"
"Afraid? I was terrified," Thorin chuckled. "I went from being just a visiting uncle to, well, pretty much a father. Kili was only a tiny thing. I had held you boys before, but I was just uncle then. I was good with that. It was fun to hold you and play with you, but when your father died and I became responsible for your and your brother's well-being, suddenly holding you took on a whole new meaning. I was scared to death. But I got through it, with your mother's help. Together we raised you boys. You don't have to be alone. Let your family help you."
Fili's cheeks were wet with tears. He needed to blow his nose. Thorin seems to sense this and he removed the formal coat and crown he wore everyday now and placed them on the table. He came back to Fili and removed the sleeping baby from his arms. "Let me hold this little Princess of Erebor."
Fili went to the washroom. He blew his nose and washed his face. He saw the laundry hanging over the tub. Sigrid had washed Milly's clothes. He heard the front door open, then a surprised squeak from the other room and Thorin's deep chuckle.
"King Thorin," Sigrid curtsied low. "I'm sorry to walk into Prince Fili's apartments like this, but he was expecting me. I'm sorry I should have knocked."
Fili walked up to Sigrid and took one of the heavy baskets from her arms. "It's alright, Sigrid."
She was red in the face.
"Fili tells me you helped him out last night by taking care of Milly so he could sleep. That was very kind of you to do," Thorin said.
She was surprised by the King's kindness. Her father had met with King Thorin many times and her Da seemed to think Thorin polite, but untrusting and cold. And now, he was here, thanking her. "I am happy to help the prince and princess," Sigrid said.
"Uncle, I've asked Sigrid to stay with me a few days and teach me how to care for Milly. Help me get back on my feet." Fili felt better than he had in a long time. He was rested and now he knew that Thorin had once felt fear of caring for a young dwarfling. Somehow that knowledge eased the weight of being a new unprepared father from Fili's shoulders.
Thorin raised an eyebrow. "You know your mother or I could help you."
"I know, but you are very busy and you know how mother is. She would just take over and not let me learn."
Thorin laughed. "I understand, my boy." He stood and handed Fili his daughter back. "Take care and behave you two."
Sigrid blushed, but Fili laughed. His first real laugh in weeks. "Of course, Uncle."
* * * * * * * *
Sigrid helped Fili to learn the subtle signals Milly would make before getting upset. She showed him how to properly bathe the baby and how adding a few drops of lavender oil in the water was very calming to babies. Fili became more and more comfortable at caring for his daughter. Dis, Kili and Thorin visited every day, Kili usually twice a day, to see how Fili was coming along with his parenting lessons, as Kili called them. Sigrid took the opportunity to teach Kili a few things about baby care as well. He protested good-naturedly, but learned what Sigrid had to teach him. She suspected he would do just about anything to help his brother, but before he just didn't know what to do. Dis was not happy with Fili's choice of Sigrid at first instead of her, but by the end of a week, she and Sigrid were on friendly terms.
She and Fili had long conversations and got to know a little more about each other. They shared childhood stories and dreams of seeing the former glory of Erebor and Dale restored. Sigrid never would have guessed she would have such an opportunity to get to know the prince.
Her father had been very patient in letting Sigrid stay a week longer in Erebor than she had originally had planned, but he was requesting his daughter be allowed to return to her home.
"As if I am being held prisoner here," Sigrid scoffed when she read her father's letter. "But, I suppose it is time. You are doing such a wonderful job taking care of Milly."
Fili was starting to panic again. "But what do I do once I'm alone?"
"What you've been doing. Besides, you're not alone. Kili, Thorin and your mother will help you. And, if you really need my assistance again, just send word for me and I will come back." Sigrid was surprised by her own boldness. This was the prince of Erebor for goodness sake! She was earnest in her offer, though.
"Thank you, for everything," Fili said. "You saved my life." Sigrid blushed. "I mean it," Fili continued. "I don't think I could have survived much longer as things were going. You saved my life and Milly's. I have something for you as a thank you."
"Oh Fili, you don't have to give me anything. I was happy and honored to help."
"It is the dwarven way to bestow a gift of thanks, especially for the extent of aid you have given me."
"No, Fili, really, you really don't have too," Sigrid began, but it was too late. A box was thrust into her hands. She opened the box and found the most beautiful necklace. It was two delicate silver chains, one was slightly shorter than the other and they were joined at the ends with one clasp. Two small emeralds sat at the center of each chain. "This is too much."
"I want you to have it. Please?" He normally might have offered something much larger, but he had gotten to know Sigrid over the week. She was not one for finery. She was a simple girl, despite her father's heritage and high position. So he picked out something small and simple. If Thorin had seen his choice of gift and its lack of extravagance, it probably would have offended the king.
Fili smiled a sly smile. "You know, it's very offensive in dwarven culture to turn down a gift of thanks. You don't want to be offending the Crown Prince of Erebor, do you?"
"Of course not," she looked into his face and saw him smiling, teasing her. "Thank you, Fili. I accept your gift." Fili lifted the necklace from the box and reached up to her neck. She was a head taller than him, so she bent down so he could clasp the necklace around her. He thought it looked stunning on her long, thin neck.
Sigrid didn't quite know what to say or do after that, so she turned her attention to Milly. "Good bye, sweet one," she said. She bent down and kissed the baby's head. "Be good to your Da."
Fili then kissed Sigrid on the cheek. "Bye Sigrid."
"Good bye, Prince Fili." She curtsied and left, closing the door softly behind her. She threw her bundle of clothes over her shoulder and walked as quickly as she could. She needed to get home. It would be good to be with Da, Bain and Tilda again, but she knew she would miss Milly terribly and if she was honest with herself, she would miss Fili too.