A/N: My darling readers, this chapter was initially a part of my other story "First Time, Every Time," a series of one-shots describing different versions of the first meeting between Thorin and my OC called Wren, based on readers' prompts. This one came from Neewa and it was "That time when Thorin was babysitting Fili and Kili, while Wren thought he was kidnapping them."
The chapter made me inspired to continue the story, and here it is :) At this stage I do not think it'll grow longer than four chapters, but those of you who have read my other stories might suspect otherwise... :D
Also, as I stated previously I do understand the age discrepancies and choose to disregard them :) Please, be so kind to do the same :)
"But surely, Uncle, there must be some other way," Fili was digging his heels into the ground, and Thorin was quickly losing his patience.
"Get in the water, Fili," Thorin growled pushing the youngling towards the river.
Fili was half battle age, stubborn as a donkey and very, very dirty. His younger brother was sitting on the bank watching them with wide open eyes. He could understand the storm was brewing, and Kili was nervously nibbling on the head of his toy. The poor wooden warrior was already missing half the helmet carved on his head, it was Kili's customary way of dealing with watching his family members argue, which tended to happen quite often, the tempers rose high in the Line of Durin. Their mother was travelling to visit a sick relative, and the past fortnight they were left in their uncle's care. And now it was time to wash Fili. Kili knew it would not end well.
"It looks cold," Fili was aiming for a reasonable tone, "And there might be leeches there."
"Get in the water, Fili!" Thorin roared, "Or I will toss you there like a bag of coal."
"I refuse," Fili lifted his chin like a true Heir of Durin and made a small step back. Thorin growled. Bathing was strangely the only thing Fili would not comply about. He was a well behaved child, respectful and responsible, took care of his brother, and for ten days Thorin knew no grief watching after the bairns. And then he realised that one could hardly distinguish the colour of their hair under all the dirt and grime, he had not even thought about washing them before, he thought feeding and putting them to sleep was all he had to do, and neither was an aggravation. They had voracious appetites, and at sunset they eagerly ran into the sleeping chamber, and he could sit in the kitchen by the fire, play his harp or read his book. There were occasional squeals and laughing coming from the bedroom, but they were in the right room, and Thorin assumed that sufficed. And now Fili was giving his uncle the best impersonation of Thorin himself, brows drawn together and lips set in a stubborn line.
"Get in!" Thorin made a step closer to him, still clasping a bar of soap in his hand, Fili darted towards a small grove behind the house, but Thorin was faster. Years of training paid off, and he was firmly holding the wrist of the youngling in his hand. Fili wailed, that was the first time Thorin had ever seen him lose composure thusly, and then Kili's little sturdy body slammed into Thorin's hip.
"Uncle, let Fili go..." The younger one was hollering even louder, "Do-o-on't be angry!... Uncle Tho-o-o-rin!"
"I wo-o-o-on't wa-a-a-ash!"
Thorin felt completely lost. Suddenly after ten days of feeling smug, he had deemed himself an excellent parent, and he had even wistfully wondered if he would ever had a chance to take care of his own little ones, equally successfully as he had thought then, and now he had one boy hanging on the belt of his trousers, sobbing and smearing snot on his leg, little mouth open wide, front teeth missing, and the maimed wooden warrior painfully digging in Thorin's most sensitive areas, while the second child was howling and yelling, thrashing and jerking his little arm out of Thorin's grasp. He had no chance to escape, but Thorin felt momentarily worried that Fili would hurt his wrist. There was plenty of determination in the bairn!
And then suddenly Thorin gasped from a sensitive blow at the back of his head, and the world went black.
"Should we splash some water on his face?" One tiny voiced asked.
"Is he dead?" Another, and Thorin recognised Kili's trembling mumble, was full of terror.
"No, he is not. He is 'unconscience'," Fili was hardly controlling his voice, but still tried to sound authoritative.
"It is 'unconscious,' and he is not. He is returning to his senses," the third voice was unfamiliar, and Thorin opened his eyes. The children were standing above him, there were three of them now, and what a spectacle they presented!
Kili was soaked wet and covered in silt, one sleeve of his tunic missing. Fili, still dry but with a bloodied bruise on his cheekbone and a blackeye, and then Thorin looked at the third little figure standing above him. The child was the same size as Kili and was of Men. It was also wet, and the layer of dirt and silt was so thick that one could hardly distinguish any features, except for two strange slanted eyes, shining, of unusual amber colour.
Thorin sat up and groaned, the head hurt, and he glared at the child, "Who are you, boy?"
"I am a girl, my name is Wren, and I am sorry for hitting you to the back of the head with a tree branch." The girl had a wide mouth, and she shifted between her feet in embarrassment. "I was saving them..." She pointed her tiny finger at his nephews, and Fili flared his nostrils.
"We did not need saving..." She turned to him and stuck her tongue out.
"Apparently you did later, I see battle wounds," Thorin chuckled, and then girl turned back to him and suddenly a wide, white-toothed grin spread on her narrow face.
"They threw me in the river! And I made them pay for it!" She sounded very proud of herself, and he guffawed. She was so skinny, as if made of twigs, and it was hard to see, but apparently wearing a simple linen dress.
"We could not hit her, Uncle, she is a girl," Fili's tone was laced with indignation, and then Kili piped in.
"She fought well, stuffed my head in water, and then we wrestled in the shallow, she won," unlike his brother he seemed to be impressed by the skills of their new friend. "And hit Fili's eye."
"I don't mind being in water," the girl interrupted and stepped closer to Thorin, "But they insulted me." Thorin looked at Fili who suddenly blushed and looked under his feet.
"What did you say?" Thorin gave the boys a strict glare.
"They called me a word I don't know, in your language, and said I don't deserve touching a King, and I said I can touch whomever I deem necessary," she loudly proclaimed, and he wondered where such wordiness was coming from in a child of ten or so, "The worth of a person is not determined by their lineage, but the decency of their heart." She recited wrinkling her nose in concentration, struggling with long words, and finally breathed out, the long saying was a hard work for her, and Thorin guffawed again. What an odd little creature! "My grandma says so, and are you a King?"
She leaned in and was studying his face up close now. He nodded, and she twitched her nose and gave him a doubtful look. "You are too young for a King, Kings are old and grey, and you are… more of a beautiful prince." She suddenly shied away from him, and even under the grime and greenish slime on her face he saw bright blush splashing on her cheeks.
"And you stink," suddenly Fili's temper rose, and he stomped his foot. "And thanks to you, Kili does too." She twirled on her heels and stepped to him pointing her little finger at his nose.
"And you were beat up by a scrap of a girl, so you don't get a say," she scoffed and then grabbed Kili's hand and started walking to the river. "And it is no trouble, we can wash."
She picked up the soap from the ground, Kili following her like a puppy, and Thorin watched it in amused astonishment. Kili was very mistrustful of strangers, even children, always hiding behind his brother, and nonetheless Thorin watched him stand patiently in the water up to his chest while the girl was lathering soap and rubbing his face and hair.
Filf sat on the ground near Thorin, and pouting he gave his uncle the universal male look full of exasperation caused by the fair sex. Thorin chuckled and kept on sitting, rubbing the goose egg at the back of his head. At least one of his nephews would be slightly cleaner.
"What is the braid for?" The girl asked picking up a plait near the side of Kili's face.
"It means I'm a prince and from an old family," Kili gleefully announced, and she looked at the black braid in her hand.
"Oh…" Her little face was full of admiration, "It is lovely," she washed the grime and soap off his face and smiled to him.
"Am I as beautiful as my uncle?" He was trying to catch her eyes, she was rubbing her face, washing off the dirt as well, and Thorin finally saw that her nose was peppered with bright orange freckles. And there was the blush again. She looked at Thorin from the corner of her eye, and he smiled to her. She was endlessly amusing. She turned to Kili again and gave him a studying look.
"Almost," she conceded and then suddenly sank in the water. Thorin could see bubbles rising and little hands rinsing the soap out of her hair, and when she rose he understood she was a ginger. There was a lot of the hair too, even wet it looked like a mane, scattered on her shoulder. She spat out water and shook her head like a stroppy pony.
"Your turn, grumpy," she merrily beckoned Fili with her hand, and Kili cheered.
"Common, Fili, she doesn't get soap in the eyes like amad, and the water is warm."
Thorin felt Fili's eyes on the side of his face, the boy was quite obviously pondering his options and waiting for some sort of signal from his uncle, but Thorin just stared ahead, not to scare off Fili suddenly even considering a wash, and then Fili rose slowly and started walking to the river still keeping his head high.
She lathered soap between her small hands, and he stood in front of her with a tortured expression on his face. She washed it, conscious of the bruise, and then started working on his hair.
"Oh, it is like sunlight," she murmured, and suddenly Thorin saw Fili puffing up his chest in a clear pleasure. Apparently he was much more infatuated by the girl than he had been showing before. Thorin chuckled. But of course, she was bossy, feisty and gave him a blackeye, for a Khazad she was a perfect woman. "And a braid too," she picked it up and looked at the bead at the end of it. "Your letters are beautiful. I can already read in Common Speech and Sindarin, can you read?" Fili was studying her face right in front of him.
"Of course I can, I am half battle age." She hummed and pushed the soap into his hand.
"You two wash now, and I will go out and turn away. You are boys, I am not supposed to look." She plodded to the bank, and Thorin watched the boys pulling off their tunics. She was pushy but there was hidden softness in her tone, and they were complying without a single objection. She sat down on the grounnd near him, her back to the river, and shivered.
"Are you cold, child?" She nodded, and he picked up his doublet and threw it over her shoulders. She could wrap in it twice. She snuggled and hid her nose in it. "Where did you come from?"
"My grandma is a healer, we travelled here to the Dwarf Mountains for some herbs. She is very good, she can heal any ailment," the girl spoke proudly. "She is resting now, and I went to… explore," she stumbled over the word, it was apparently new.
"And she lets you wander alone?" Thorin could never understand the lack of care Men provided to their children.
"I can take care of myself," the girl spoke scoffing, "My grandmother is blind, I help her in service, and I cook, I can do anything myself. And I beat up your nephews," she reminded him, and he chuckled.
"And knocked me out with a tree branch." She did, and he was supposed to be an experienced warrior. He didn't even hear her come up from behind.
"I apologised!" Her voice rang, and then she twitched her nose again. "I thought you were stealing them. Children in Men's villages say that Dwarves steal children," she looked at him and rushed to reassure him, "But I don't believe them! But they say you have no wives and can't make babies." He was watching her in amusement. She blushed and leaned closer to him. He had to bent down to hear her whisper, "My grandmother is a midwife too, I know you need a wife to make a baby. I don't know how yet, but if you need I can ask her." Her mesmerizing amber eyes were right in front of him, earnest and trusting, and he smiled to her and straightened up.
"When I want a baby, I will ask you." He was pressing his lips to hide a smile and feighed solemn tone.
"Or you can marry me," she blurted out and hid her blushing face in the collar of his doublet. He was watching the top of her red head, the hair was already drying, and he understood it was of colour of a ripe carrot. She peeked, only one eye visible, and then she lifted her red face and looked into his eyes. "You are a Dwarf, you live long, when I am grown-up, you will still be young. You can marry me." He was studying her face, freckles and a turn up nose, and smiled to her softly.
"Let us agree then, Wren, when you are all grow-up, come back here, and if you still want to marry me, I will take you for my wife." She blushed even more and nodded.
They were sitting on the bank, looking in the opposite directions, while two boys were washing in the river, and she leaned into his side, and soon he realised she was asleep, her curly copper head pressed into him. He chuckled. What a scrap of a girl! And such naivety. When she was older, she would not even look at the Khazad without suspicion or disdain, and look at her now! She had taken care of his boys and was now peacefully snoozing pressing her small warm body into his side. If only all Men were the same, so much less trouble would be between their races.
Fili and Kili climbed out of the water, he picked up the girl, and they returned to the house. He put her on his bed and covered her with his sister's quilt. When she woke up they all had dinner together, and then after cordial goodbyes she headed out to find her grandmother. In the doors she stopped, looked back at him, and lifting her chin decisively she shook her little finger at him, "Remember. You promised." He gave her a gracious bow, she looked into his eyes for the last time and disappeared into the twilight.
A/N: Amad = (Khuzdul) mother