Chapter 32: A New Family
Being a father was every bit as wonderful as Kíli had hoped. Oh, he didn't feel any different from the dwarf he had been before: giving life to a son surely hadn't made him any less youthful, impulsive (and yes, maybe reckless) himself. But simply having this little babe to hold and to love made him deeply happy. To think that the Valar had entrusted this precious treasure to him—well, it was astonishing, really. Occasionally it was frightening, for he wanted so badly to ensure the best of life and happiness for his son. Yet most of all, he felt pleasure and pride that Galadion would rely on him and Tauriel for warmth and care and love. Kíli had been simply bursting with love, since the first moment he had held Galadion.
And so, although caring for a newborn was proving quite a lot of work, Kíli performed his share gladly. He had been longing for a babe the two years since he had married Tauriel, and a few days' worth of losing sleep and changing diapers was hardly enough to dim his excitement.
He spent the first days after the birth begging to hold Galadion at every opportunity, and soon Tauriel had learned to hand him the babe when he came near. Then Kíli would cuddle his son while Tauriel dressed or ate or napped; he finally returned Galadion to Tauriel when the babe wanted feeding. Sometimes even then, Kíli would sit close beside Tauriel, still cradling Galadion while the little dwelf nursed. He knew Tauriel enjoyed these moments, too, for she nestled against Kíli, her chin tucked to his hair.
Kíli soon found that his very favorite thing was to take off his shirt and snuggle little Galadion skin to skin. There was something deeply comforting about this simple act. Till now, Kíli's contact with Galadion had been indirect, through Tauriel. But nothing divided him from Galadion now, and Kíli loved basking in such warm, immediate contact with the sweet little being that he and Tauriel had made between them. Sometimes he caught Tauriel watching them both, and then she would smile at him in perfect contentment.
He and Tauriel didn't follow anything like their usual daily routine. Galadion didn't yet distinguish night from day; for him, life was a continual cycle of sleeping, waking, feeding, sleeping, around which his parents had to fit their own needs. Kíli was impressed by how well Tauriel took this new pattern of life. She got less sleep than he did, but while he felt even his dwarven resilience beginning to erode, Tauriel seemed to draw on some reserve of calm, quiet energy.
"I don't know how you do it," he mumbled to her once as she rose from bed for a third night feeding. "If I were you, I'd be lying in the crib next to him and crying, too."
Tauriel gave him a soft smile. "It's said that before our warriors adopted the practice, our elven skill of waking sleep was first used by nursing mothers."
"You sure you can't teach it to me?"
"Perhaps! But for now, I think my medlig ought to do what he is best at and hibernate a bit longer. I'll wake you when I need you."
They tended to sleep in shifts, but luckily Kíli still got a few hours each night when Tauriel shared the bed with him. Of course they were both too tired then to do more than simply sleep, but perhaps that was something of a mercy. He had spent five sennights away from his amrâlimê, and he was about to leave her for at least another fortnight, almost surely more. Part of him was growing desperate for her love, but of course he knew that, even had her physical condition permitted it, he wouldn't feel right asking yet another thing of her right now when Galadion already consumed most of her energy. So it was probably better that simply crawling beneath the covers and wrapping his arms about her before plummeting into slumber was all he could manage anyway.
After Fíli, Sif had told the news about the babe first to her mother. Lady Ironsides had been as delighted as expected, and in addition to the happiness of a blessing shared, Sif had felt a sense of completion. Her mother had been the one to discover the tea, and now with a child on the way, Sif could put that unpleasant episode behind her.
Of course, Tauriel had been involved in that plot, too, and so she would want to know this happy sequel. As soon as she left her mother, Sif went straight to her sister-in-law.
Tauriel met her, Galadion balanced on one arm and a comb in her other hand.
"I'm afraid you've caught me half dressed," the elf said apologetically.
Sif shook her head; as far as she could tell, other than her tousled hair, Tauriel looked as polished as she always did. How did elves manage it? "Tauri, I hope I look half as graceful as you when I've a newborn. Here, let me."
With a grateful nod, Tauriel conceded Galadion to his aunt.
"Where's your ada?" Sif cooed. "Shouldn't he be helping so Ama can fix her hair?"
"Ada is in there," Tauriel whispered, pausing in her combing to point into the room beyond the main parlor.
"Oh?" Sif crept to the door, from whence she could see Kíli where he sat propped in an armchair, a burp cloth still draped over one shoulder. His chin was tucked down against his chest, and he was snoring softly. "Aha! Tired him out, did you?" she said to the babe.
"So we did," Tauriel agreed fondly.
"That's all right. Auntie's got you now and we'll give both Ama and Ada a rest. Yes, let's give them a rest." As she talked, Galadion watched her with interest. What a bright little thing he was! She could half imagine he understood her, though of course he must yet be too young for that.
"I have some very good news," Sif said when Tauriel had finished her braids. She smiled broadly. "Fíli and I have our own dwarfling on the way."
"Indeed? Moon and stars, how wonderful! And so soon after Fíli has returned."
Sif giggled. "No! I've been with child since August when he left. But I only just now realized it."
"Ah, right." Tauriel looked almost embarrassed at her misunderstanding.
"It's all right, Tauri. But tell me, could you really feel the moment Galadion was conceived?"
"Not the exact moment." She smiled a little. "I may have been a bit distracted. But soon afterwards, yes, I realized."
"How interesting! You elves really are amazing."
Galadion cried lightly, as if aware that he was no longer the center of Sif's attention.
"Yes, it's true," she said to him again. "You're getting a cousin next summer. You two will be such good friends, I know it."
Tauriel asked, "When will the babe arrive?"
"June. Maybe in time for your anniversary."
"Summer babes are thought to be especially blessed among my folk, you know."
"Are they?" She gazed down at Galadion, imagining another little face that would soon watch her thus. "I'm just so glad he's coming at all! A little part of me always felt it was my fault that I wasn't yet with child, even after we found the rustleaf. I couldn't help thinking maybe there was something wrong with me."
"I understand; 'tis an awful feeling."
Sif glanced up to her sister, surprised.
"I've never told anyone else this, but there was a time that Kíli and I were afraid we were too different to bear a child together." Tauriel shook her head, her smile rueful. "Well, Kíli was hopeful but I would not take the risk. We quarreled, and I felt I disappointed him in so many ways."
"Oh, Tauriel, I'm sorry!" Sif cried. Tauriel and Kíli had always seemed so perfect for each other that Sif had assumed that bearing children would prove yet another of the things they did so well together. But of course, when it came to having offspring, an elf and a dwarf must be very different. "I never even imagined— But of course I should have!"
Her friend laughed softly. "It might have been very simple for us, if we had let it," she admitted. "But we are both young enough to be rather foolish at times."
"Everything turned out right in the end with this little treasure."
"So it did! And I am grateful that you, too, have received a child. I know the plot with the tea was not my doing, but it was still indirectly my fault."
"I knew you'd say that. But Tauriel, everything is so much better now, and it's truly not your fault or mine, so let us agree not to mention that mess again."
Tauriel smiled warmly. "Oh yes. Agreed."
"Hullo! It's my two favorite princesses," said Kíli from the door behind them. He yawned and passed a hand over his face. "Hmm…how long was I asleep?"
"Perhaps half an hour," Tauriel said.
"Ah. How are you, little sister?"
"Kíli, I came to tell you: you're going to be an uncle!"
His face instantly brightened. "Really? That's brilliant! Congratulations." He came to clasp her shoulders and kiss her cheek. Then he said to the babe in her arms, "Did you hear that, Galad? You're getting a cousin. Just like I said you would."
Sif laughed. "I've told him the news already."
"Have you? Where's Fí? This calls for a drink."
"He's at the arena. But Kíli, it's only two in the afternoon," Sif said.
"Is it?" He chuckled. "Well, if Galad has taught me anything these past few days, it's that clocks don't matter when it comes to a drink. Fíli's a father. This is important!" And he kissed Sif, and then Tauriel, who barely had time to snatch the burp cloth off his shoulder before he ran out the door.
Fíli eyed the training dummy midway across the arena, mentally calculating distance, throwing speed. Then smoothly and swiftly, he drew the knife concealed in his left bracer, threw it, followed by the knife in his right. He slipped into a crouch, caught the dagger in his boot, threw.
One, two, three; right, left, right.
It was a combination he had practiced since he was a lad, and the tight grouping of knives in the center of the dummy's chest gave ample proof of just how many hours he'd spent on the technique. He'd never used that exact combination in a real fight, but it was a good drill to hone timing and reflexes. Plus it had always impressed the girls, back when that was something he had thought about.
At the sound of clapping behind him, he turned to see Kíli crossing the sand to him.
"If I'd known you were practicing this old trick, I'd have brought Sif along," his brother said, evidently recollecting the same youthful exhibitions. "I know you do best with an appreciative audience."
Fíli chuckled. "You should talk, Mister 'My shirt gets in the way of archery practice.' Does Tauriel know that's your training secret?"
"She very much approves."
Fíli shook his head and went to retrieve his knives.
"You done here?" Kíli asked.
"Could be. Why?"
"Because—" Kíli flopped an arm over Fíli's shoulders. "Today calls for a drink. Or two." His bright smiled clearly pronounced him in possession of Fíli's recent happy news.
"Sif told you?"
"Mm-hm. Fí, I'm very proud."
Fíli laughed. His younger brother spoke with the proprietary tone of superior age and experience, only one of which he truly had in this case. "Maker's hammer, if becoming a father is going to make you this insufferable, it's good I caught up to you," Fíli teased.
"I have to treasure my advantages when I get them, you know."
"Shut it, Kíli." Fíli snorted with amusement. "We both know younger brothers get all the advantages. You never had to wait for anything I was given, too."
"You got your beard two whole years before mine came in."
"Yes, and you know that means yours grew in three years younger. And you're taller. You've got nothing to complain about."
Kíli gave a full, deep laugh. "I don't, not really. I feel the happiest I've ever been in my life, because of Tauriel and Galadion. And I'm really, truly glad you and Sif can have the same thing."
"Thanks, Kí." Fíli clasped his brother's shoulder. "Now, for the Dragon's Lair, and two pints of their finest."
Thankfully, by the end of the sennight, Galadion was already sleeping for regular stretches of several hours at a time. Elven babes, it seemed, adjusted more quickly to their new surroundings than mortals usually did. With Galadion doing well and Morwen lending her support to Tauriel, Kíli did not argue much when Tauriel suggested he steal some time to himself on the training ground, as was his usual habit. So he spent a half hour practicing archery one afternoon and attended drill with his guardsmen the next morning. He came home sweaty and pleasantly sore, and finding Tauriel nursing Galadion, he slipped off to the steam room for a few minutes.
Before leaving for drill Kíli had started the furnace, so by now the stones were good and hot. He splashed more water on them and then sat on the lowest of the tiered cedar benches. The damp air was heavy in his throat, on his skin. Already he sensed tense muscles releasing. He tied his hair up off his neck, leaned back, and closed his eyes.
He couldn't have said how much time had gone by when his sleepy trance was broken by a wash of cool air as the door opened. Kíli opened his eyes to see Tauriel, a towel about her waist and a bottle of bath oil in her hand. He sat up.
"Do you need me to look after Galadion?"
A strand of up-drawn copper hair slipped from behind Tauriel's ear as she shook her head. "I just put him to sleep," she said. "He won't need anything for at least an hour. Stay here with me."
Kíli leaned back again, his gaze now drifting over Tauriel in admiration. He had grown so accustomed to her previous full, pregnant figure that it was a fresh delight to see her so willow-slender again. She still had all the summer's freckles dusting her shoulders and drifting down over her back and arms and breasts. How he'd like to trace those starry patterns with his lips! The thought sent a rush of warmth through him that had nothing to do with the steam bath.
Tauriel sat on the step above him, one knee touching his shoulder.
"I missed this," she sighed happily. She had been careful to limit her use of the steam room while she carried Galadion.
"I missed sharing it with you," he said, turning aside to kiss her knee. "What's the point of being naked and sweaty if you're not here to appreciate me?"
Tauriel snorted and nudged his shoulder.
After a few minutes, she shifted to sit directly behind him. Kíli heard her uncap the bottle and then she pressed oiled hands down his neck and over his shoulders. He sighed and leaned forward to offer her better access to his back.
"I should be the one spoiling you," he said.
"Oh, I shall let you. But how can I send you off to be my champion without first giving you my love?" She whispered these last words against the nape of his neck, and then pressed her lips to his hairline.
He closed his eyes as her hands skimmed over him. Her grip was strong and her fingers deft as she worked loose each of the muscles in his shoulders, neck, arms.
"You're good at that," he murmured approvingly as she pinpointed a tense place below his collarbone.
"I learned a few things from Ídhel while you were away."
"Hmm. I know that's not the only clever thing you can do with your hands."
"No?" Her fingers caressed his ear, briefly tangling in silver earrings. Leaning forward against him, she draped her arms over his body, then drew her hands slowly back up to his shoulders, making a special point of grazing his nipples. The steam and the sweat made their skin cling delightfully, though her hands were still slick with oil.
Kíli leaned back against the bench and tilted his head up to look at her. "So you mean to kill me with your teasing," he said, a smile creeping over his face. Durin's crown, it seemed ages since they had last been intimate.
Tauriel's nails skimmed up his throat. "Oh no, hadhodeg, it's not teasing if I fulfill everything I promise." She leaned down to kiss him, her mouth hard against his, and her hands slipped down from his shoulders, finding nipples again. Kíli released a soft moan of satisfaction as the warm, familiar flame of desire licked through him.
"Your champion," he murmured. "I like the sound of that."
"I do, too. I've never had one before." She drew back a little so that her rich green eyes could look directly into his. "Not before you."
He reached up to her neck and drew her back down to kiss him.
When Tauriel finally pulled back, her hair came loose in Kili's hands, showering down over him like scented silk. She rose, moving to kneel in front of him. Leaning close between his knees, she set her lips to his neck, and Kíli stretched back against the bench behind his shoulders, gladly exposing his throat to her fierce, hungry kisses.
"I was prepared to wait a lot longer for this," he said, somewhat unsteadily. Her touch, her desire, were as intoxicating as a first draught of strong liquor after a long fast.
Her mouth paused at the corner of his jaw. "Meleth nín, I am not that cruel." She resumed again with teeth and tongue as her fingers crept beneath his towel, working slowly up his thigh from his knee. "I know how you are," she continued between nips. "You crave the touch of those you love. You've spent the past nights—what there was of them—wrapped as close around me as a vine to a tree."
"I missed you."
"Mm-hm." She sucked at his earlobe. "I used to think this was because you are a dwarf. But I believe now that it is simply who you are, my warm, affectionate Kíli." She punctuated these last few words with kisses.
"Mum did always say I was her snuggler," he managed. The slow motion of Tauriel's fingertips on his inner thigh was making him dizzy.
She smiled sweetly. "I like that about you. And I think, because you are a dwarf—my dwarf—the living, breathing stone of Arda that it is my elven nature to love, I crave your touch even as greatly." At these words, she reached still higher.
Kíli's breath caught, his hands stilled in her hair.
Tauriel's smile deepened, and she caressed him again. "I'm still ashamed that I neglected you once. It shall not happen again, beloved."
All too quickly, his sennight home was over, Kíli found. Indeed, it might have been far too easy to find excuses never to leave, had not his growing love for his son spurred him to eliminate the threat to his family. He would do anything, everything, to guard his two dearest treasures.
Still, he would miss them immensely while he was away. He told Tauriel as much, wistfully, upon coming back to their rooms after a last council meeting on the night before his departure. "You two are my moon and stars," he said. "The sky isn't the same without you."
"I'll miss you just as much." Tauriel rose from her chair and came to hug him. "Oof! You're more solid than usual."
He grinned at her and tugged open his collar. There, beneath his coat, was a layer of steel rings, light and finely woven.
"Dragon's skin, it's called," he said. "Not as efficient as mithril, but still very good protection against a knife. I'm not taking any chances."
"Good." She caught his collar and pulled him closer for a kiss. "You had a beer on your way home. Mmm… oatmeal stout, I think."
"Right you are. But Fí and I had the meeting in the taproom. Speaking of efficient."
Tauriel straightened. "Please be careful, my love." She brushed her thumbs over his cheeks.
"I will." Kíli kissed her palm.
"I know. I trust you; you mustn't think I don't. But I have to say it because I love you."
"Yes." He slid his arms around her waist and held her tight for a few moments. "I'm going to put an end to this conspiracy once and for all, and then I'm coming home to be a father to my little cub."
"And a husband to your amrâlimê? She needs you, too."
"Oh, that's absolutely implied. A good father looks after Amad." He returned her meaningful look.
"Kíli, when you return I will be fully healed from the birth."
"So you will be. That's a good thought to get me through the cold, lonely nights without you."
"My poor hadhodeg." She kissed his brow. "You need not be cold nor lonely for one more night, at least. Come lie down with me, and we may be warm and comfortable a while before Galadion decides he needs me again."
"All right. Let me just shed this mail. Dragons aren't known for being snuggly."
medlig - Sindarin, "my little bear" Tauriel first called Kíli this in chapter 1 of the companion fic, Yuletide.
ama, ada - Khuzdul, "mommy, daddy" I'm borrowing this usage from other fic writers, such as ThatOtherWriterGirl.
Once again, there's a longer version of the love scene posted on AO3.
I made sure to give everyone a good dose of sweetness before Fíli and Kíli rush off to their next adventure. I hope you all enjoyed the family fluff! What do you think our boys will find when they get to the Iron Hills next chapter?
Thank you to all my lovely readers for your continued reviews and support of this fic. The truth is that, although I write for my own enjoyment, I'm also writing it for you, and knowing that the story is appreciated means a lot to me. I estimate that I spend anywhere from 10-20 hours on each chapter, and your feedback really helps me want to keep coming back to this fic. Also, it's my birthday this week, so a review would make a nice present! ;) As always, I send out chapter previews for each review.
And thank you to That Elf Girl for beta reading this so quickly. :D