Balin, son of Fundin, was relatively good at handling dwarflings. He was wise beyond his years, and being an older brother himself, Balin knew what it was like to wait impatiently for a new brother or sister. For that reason, he could hardly blame Fili for pacing.
The tiny blonde walked back and forth before him, every now and then throwing a glance at the door that led to his mother's bedroom. The five year old bairn didn't know what to expect. He was old enough to talk, walk, and begin taking lessons with Balin, but such things as child birth went completely over his head. It was beyond his comprehension.
"I do believe that if you don't settle lad, you'll walk that wood until it is barren." The elder dwarf chuckled, taking a puff of his long pipe. He couldn't say as to how many laps the boy had walked about the room.
Fili looked up at him in slight embarrassment, ducking his head as his cheeks turned red.
"I'm sorry Mr. Balin, I'm just…" Fili paused, large blue eyes glancing back at the door as another muffled scream echoed through the wall.
"Scared? Nervous?" Balin suggested, eyes regarding the youth. Fili nodded, shoulders slumping.
"It's only natural to feel that way, laddie. Nothing to be ashamed of," Balin said matter-of-factly, waving his hand as if the thought was nothing but a particle in the wind. Fili didn't seem convinced, and he looked forlornly at the floor, his hands fidgeting.
Seeing that a nonchalant tactic wasn't going to work with Fili, Balin sighed and set his pipe to the side. The elder dwarf patted his knee, motioning with his signature thin lipped smile for the boy to sit down. Although looking rather dejected, the blonde dwarfling closed the space between him and his older cousin and climbed up onto Balin's lap. Balin steadied the prince by placing a gentle hand against the lad's back, rubbing soothing circles across the silk fabric of Fili's tunic.
"Come now Fili, what is troubling you?"
Fili blinked, heaving a great sigh as his body slumped against his cousin's chest.
"Its just… what if my momma isn't okay?" The youth looked up, large eyes blinking back unshed tears.
Balin sighed. So that was it.
He was the type of dwarf that assumed all creatures of Middle Earth, (save those affiliated with darkness) cared deeply for their kin. Dwarves though were particularly known for their close family bonds, and dwarf children were highly dependent on their parents for a good portion of their young lives. Fili, like any young dwarf his age, was extremely close with his mother and far too young to be separated from her for long periods of time. If he wasn't being watched by his mother, than he was to be supervised by either his father, uncle, or any of the Durin family's various cousins. Now that the lad's father was dead, Balin knew Fili's attachment to Dis would only strengthen.
"Well my lad, there is no real way to be sure, but you must believe me when I say that your mother is strong - stronger than any dwarrowdam I've ever met. I would bet my beard that she'll be just fine."
The edge of Fili's mouth twitched in an attempt to smile, but the lad just didn't quite have the heart to do so.
"But...but she seemed hurt. What if my baby brother or sister is hurt too? Da' is usually here to help when we are sick, but...I don't know where my Da' is. Uncle wouldn't tell me."
Balin had rather hoped that the lad wouldn't bring up his father, but he wasn't entirely shocked. He knew that it was a subject that Thorin or Dis would have to discuss with Fili, but still, the death of a parent was a delicate matter, and he hated to think of the golden haired prince's heart braking. Balin only hoped that the child Dis bore would occupy Fili's thoughts and keep him from falling into despair.
"I know this is hard to believe Fili, but the pain your mother is experiencing is a good pain. It is a pain brought on by new life, and that is what your mother is giving you, new life. To be a big brother is quite a privilege. Trust me, I would know."
Fili's brow creased.
"But if it is so important, why isn't 'Da here? Doesn't he want to meet my brother or sister?"
Once again, Balin felt his heart twist in his chest. The old dwarf raised his hand and gently threaded his fingers through the boy's blonde locks, carefully avoiding the tiny braids already adorning his brow. He desperately wanted Fili to drop the subject, but he knew good and well that when a child had something on his/her mind, they wouldn't drop it until they received an answer.
"Of course he does, my boy. I am sure your father wants to meet your brother or sister very bad, but…" Balin paused, trying to think of the best way to work around telling Fili the full truth. "Sometimes…sometimes things happen that we don't have any control over, and I am sure your father would be here if he could."
"Do you know where he is?" Fili asked, looking somewhat hopeful.
Balin shook his head.
"No my lad, I don't."
It was a lie – a blatant lie. He knew very well where Vili was. The poor dwarf was in the morgue, currently being cleaned and re-dressed for burial, and he would stay there until his family was fit to return him to stone. Balin wished fate hadn't been so cruel, and that Fili's father had been here to witness the birth of his second child, but, as he had told Fili, sometimes things happened…
With a sigh, Fili chewed on the inside of his cheek. He had noticed that his mother's screaming had momentarily ceased, and he looked up curiously. His eyes squinted as if he was trying to somehow see through the wall, and his over all demeanor perked in interest. He looked as if he expected someone to burst through the door at any given moment, and the dwarfling scooted to the edge of Balin's knee in anticipation.
Though, when no one came through the door, Fili relaxed.
"Hmm?" The elder replied, taking another puff of his pipe.
"Dwalin is your brother, right?"
Balin nodded, blowing smoke from his nose.
"Who is older? You, or Mr. Dwalin?"
"I am," Balin stated, smiling down at Fili. It pleased him to think that Fili couldn't tell who was older simply by appearance. He'd have to rub it in Dwalin's face later.
"Do you love Dwalin?"
The question caught Balin off guard, and he blinked a few times in order to process his thoughts and clear his head. He took another puff of his pipe before answering, though it wasn't something he really had to think about.
" 'Course I do lad, very much so," he stated, grinning down at the boy. "Why do you ask? Are you afraid you won't love your little one?"
Fili shook his head, blonde braids thumping against his cheeks.
"No...momma says that I'll love it the second we meet. I know she's right. Momma is always right. 'Da said so." He stated as if he knew his words were fact. "Its just...what if I'm not a good big brother? What if my little brother or sister doesn't love me?"
Balin smirked, a low chuckle rising from his chest. The poor boy really was a nervous wreck. He could hardly remember any child ever being so concerned over the welfare of a bairn they had yet to meet. It just proved Fili really was a tender hearted, thoughtful soul. He was extremely observant, and those eyes - those stone cold, blue eyes looked old.
That was what he was...an old soul.
Fili may have been young - extremely young - but Fili was bright. He had the makeup of a fine prince, Balin was certain of that.
Placing a firm hand on both of the dwarfling's shoulders, Balin brought Fili close and went to one knee before him.
"Fili, my dear boy, you'll make a fine big brother. In fact, I am certain you will be the best!" He exclaimed, his eyes meeting Fili's. "And your baby brother or sister will adore you. How could they not? It'll be your little shadow, I'm sure."
The blonde youth smiled, chin tucking towards his chest as another blush warmed his cheeks.
"But..." Balin continued, Fili's eyes snapping back up to meet the elder's gaze. "As a big brother, you must be prepared to do one thing."
Tilting his head, Fili stepped closer. One tiny hand fisted around Balin's sleeve, and Fili nodded eagerly, wanting any advice Balin was willing to give him.
"Whats that?" He asked, eyebrows raised. "Tell me."
Balin smiled, enamored by the prince's thirst for advice. He was indeed a gem.
"You must be prepared to protect him or her at all costs," he said, suddenly turning serious. "Your baby brother or sister will depend on you, and while you should not venture into harms way or do anything foolish, you must keep a close eye on him or her and keep em' safe. It is something all big brothers are required to do."
Fili blinked owlishly, his mouth slightly agape.
"Do you think you can do that, laddie?"
Once again, his tiny head bobbed ferociously. Fili remained fast in Balin's grip, staring at the elder dwarf as if he was receiving the top most important news of his entire life.
"Good. Then yes m'boy, you'll make a fine big brother."
The young prince grinned, his tiny chest heaving a great sigh of relief. Instinctually, Fili knew he'd do anything for his younger sibling. He recalled when his mother and father told him he was going to be a big brother, and at the time, he had been overcome with excitement. There weren't many dwarflings amongst the small colony of dwarves living in the Blue Mountains, and Fili desired a playmate and a companion. His mother had told him that he couldn't play with the baby, but if he was patient, in few years his little brother or sister would be running along beside him, fighting invisible foes and visiting far off, imaginary lands.
"Uncle Thorin has always looked after momma. He's a good big brother, isn't he." It was more so a rhetorical question - a statement the youth felt like saying as he eyed the door once more.
Balin pushed himself back up and nodded, his eyes following Fili's gaze.
"Aye, he is. Your uncle is a wonderful big brother to your mother. He was a good brother to your uncle Frerin as well."
"Da' said he died…"
"And that he wasn't gonna come back."
"Aye, tis' true."
Fili pursed his lips in thought, glancing sideways at his older cousin, though he did not stare at Blain long enough for him to notice.
"I hope my little brother or sister doesn't ever die." He said, his voice barely above a whisper.
The statement caused Balin's brow to crease and a shiver of discomfort run up his spine. His eyes found the top of Fili's head and he watched him with concern, slipping one arm around the child's shoulders.
To ensure Fili that his little sibling wouldn't die was a promise that Balin could not make. Death found them all by one way or another, and there was no avoiding it or predicting it. He only hoped that death found Fili and his unborn sibling late in life, when adventures had been had, and families had been raised. Balin hoped that he himself would live long enough to watch Fili take the throne, and his sister or brother act as an honored advisor. It would do him good to see the Durin line conquer and re-inhabit their lost home.
But…what Balin hoped for might not ever come to be. He was wise enough to realize that. He hoped, but he was realistic.
Standing in silence, Balin held the boy close as they waited by the door. Commotion could be heard from through the cracks in the wall - muffled demands to push and to try harder, along with pain filled grunts and shrieks. The elder dwarf wished that Fili had continued to chatter on to save them from this dreadful silence, but the boy's gaze remained fixed on the door.
After a moment more, Dis stopped screaming.
Immediately, Fili noticed the change, and he reached out to take hold of Balin's hand. His tiny fingers squeezed Balin's as his anxiety grew, and Balin held fast to the boy, keeping him firmly planted by his side. Otherwise, Balin knew that Fili would barrel through the door.
Just when the silence began to grow unbearable, the most blessed sound graced their ears.
Fili beamed from ear to ear as the sound of a baby's wail reached his ears, and he looked up at Balin, bobbing with excitement. A bright, cheerful giggle accompanied his smile, and Fili practically threw himself against Thorin's legs as the dwarf king stepped out of Dis's room with a tiny bundle curled securely against his chest.
"UNCLE!" He exclaimed, pulling at Thorin's tunic. "Let me see, let me see!"
Thorin smiled down at his nephew, chuckling at the boy's inability to control his excitement. Never in his life had he seen a dwarfing so animated over the birth of a bairn, but, that was what made young Fili so special.
Shushing the child with a single look, Thorin carefully took a knee. Although Fili still bounced on his heels, his hands clutched Thorin's forearm, and he settled and leaned forward, eager to finally see the one person he had been dying to meet for months now. Balin soon stepped up behind Fili, his hands clasped together behind his back. He looked on at the small family with pride, watching with baited breath as Thorin held the bundle out to Fili.
"Fili, I'd like you to meet your little brother," Thorin cooed, his voice gentle as he watched his nephew bend further to stare at the rosy cheeked face of the babe.
"I have a brother?" The boy asked, his eyes filled with awe. Thorin smiled and nodded, noting how Fili's hand hovered over the bairn's head. Gently, Fili's fingers stroked over Kili's dark locks, repeating the gesture over and over. The babe's hair was feathery soft, though still slightly damp from child birth, and Fili's mouth fell agape when two large, brown eyes met his.
"He looks like momma."
"Aye, that he does," Balin commented from behind Fili, watching the bairn with extreme fondness. "A true Raven Prince. Another son of Durin."
Fili blinked up at Balin briefly as the elder complimented his little brother, before he settled his gaze on Kili once more.
"What is his name, uncle?"
Adjusting his hold on the baby, Thorin allowed the blanket to fall away from Kili's arms. Fili immediately reached out, touching the soft skin of the babe's hand, and while brown eyes never left the elder brother's face, Kili's teeny tiny fingers fisted around Fili's index finger. The blonde gasped, his face splitting in a wide grin, and Thorin felt his heart nearly explode as the two brothers stared at each other. Never before had he witnessed a wee bairn gaze on another with such clarity. It was as if Kili knew who Fili was, and as Fili giggled and smiled down at Kili with a look of unadulterated love, Thorin knew the brothers would be inseparable.
Clearing his throat, Thorin breathed in, all worries momentarily forgotten.
"Your mother named him Kili. She named him Kili so that everyone knows he is your brother."
"Kili," Fili muttered, blue eyes remaining fixed on brown. Said child blinked, cooing softly as he squirmed amongst the blankets. "Yes, my brother. I'm your big brother, Kili."
Despite his youth, Fili knew Kili couldn't understand him. The blonde prince was just so thrilled that he had a brother that he felt the need to voice it. By saying it out loud, it felt real - it was confirmed. Kili was his little brother, and Fili was Kili's big brother, and they were each others. It was now a fact, and nobody could say any different.
It was then as Fili's soft confirmations reached the ears of both Thorin and Balin that the babe did something unexpected.
All three watched in utter amazement as the bairn smiled. Kili's eyes twinkled as his tiny pink lips pulled back to reveal a toothless grin, and Kili gurgled happily.
"Uncle! Balin! Did...did you see that?! Kili smiled! Kili smiled at me!" Fili exclaimed, unfathomable joy radiating from the youth's face. Fili leaned forward, kissing the top of the cooing child's head, not daring to pull his finger from the babe's grasp.
Thorin chuckled, holding Kili close with one arm while pulling Fili close with the other. He hugged his eldest nephew to him, pressing his forehead against his as he basked in the blonde's excitement.
"Aye my boy, that he did! I believe he knows who you are, Fili."
"I think he does, too. He's wonderful."
"So are you."
Fili grinned at his Uncle, leaning into the elder's shoulder as the two gawked over the newborn prince. Balin had remained back, allowing the small family their moment; but, even he couldn't refrain from touching the child's head. The babe was indeed a new beacon of hope, and Balin knew Kili would undoubtably serve as a blessing to his family. He was just what Fili needed, and the new babe would most definitely keep sorrow at bay.
"I promise you Kili," Fili began, leaning over his little brother so that their eyes could meet once more. Kili blinked owlishly and yawned, tiny hands grabbed at thin air. "I will be a good big brother. I will always protect you, and I won't leave you."
The tone behind the five year old's words left no room for argument. Even a child as young as Fili seemed to know what he was promising. He might have not known the hard work, worry, and time that came with looking after another soul, but he would soon find out. Something told Thorin that Fili wouldn't ever complain about the responsibilities that came with being a big brother, for the blonde youth already loved the babe far more than words could ever express.
Bending down, Fili stroked the babe's brow once more, planting a tender kiss against Kili's forehead. Kili's little nose scrunched as warm breath tickled his face, and he snuggled into his uncle's arm as sleep overcame the newborn.
"Come now Fili, lets return Kili to your mother. I know she is ready to have both of her sons by her side." Thorin said, rising to his feet with Kili in his arms. "Balin, care to join us?"
The shorter dwarf shook his head and waved a hand at Thorin, rocking back on his heels.
"No laddie, it is alright. I think it is best I go inform Dwalin of the birth. I am sure he'd want to pay the newest heir his respect."
Thorin nodded, smiling at his cousin. He completely understood. The gruff warrior would never forgive him if he withheld such exciting news from him.
"Besides," Balin continued with a wink, "I believe the settlement needs to hear of this as well. It'll do their hearts good."
Thorin wouldn't argue with that. Dwarflings were a rarity now-a-days, and to receive news of a birth always brought a smile to a dwarrow's face. News of another son of Durin being brought into the world would surely brighten the spirits of those living in the Blue Mountains.
With a silent farewell, Balin left the small family be. Thorin watched his cousin go before he took Fili's hand, noting that the dwarfling hadn't stopped smiling. It warmed his heart to see his kin so happy, and Thorin wanted to treasure such happiness for as long as he possibly could. Soon he'd have to break the news to Fili of his father's death, but for now, he wanted Fili to bask in this glorious moment. He deserved it. They all did.
Tugging at Fili's hand, Thorin led him into his mother's room. Having gained a bit of her strength back, Dis happily stroked her elder son's head and took the babe from Thorin, cradling him against her chest. She was smiling, big a full, basking in the glow of her children, and it was then that something dawned on Thorin - his family wasn't cursed. They had experienced hardships, yes, and they had witnessed unimaginable pain, but, they weren't cursed. If anything, Thorin realized that they were blessed. Thorin would never forget all that had transpired in his past, but he now would look towards the future. His nephews were his future, and in realizing that, his future never seemed so bright.
Ta-da! And there you have it. I've thrown in the towel. :)
For those who have following this short story, thank you! I do appreciate the support! I will be writing more in the future, so do keep a close eye out. In the meantime though, feel free to pm me with any prompt ideas you might have - I'd love to hear them!