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The Time that is Given to Us

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Sigrid could not believe just how dramatically her life had changed in the last few months. She had faced the upcoming winter thinking it would be another cold, hungry season until spring rescued them once more, but that had all changed one November afternoon, when thirteen Dwarves and one Hobbit climbed out of their toilet and changed everything.

When Tilda asked if they would bring luck, Sigrid scoffed at her sister's naivete. Her Da had figured out their plan pretty quickly and had landed firmly on the opposite side, opposing them to the Master and the town, but it hadn't worked. Sigrid understood why he had been against the plan to retake Erebor, and he had been right. The dragon could easily have killed them all, and had killed quite a few people in the town, including some that Sigrid had been fond of.

The battle killed even more.

And yet, despite all that had happened after, she could not regret it. She soon found herself firmly on the side of the Dwarves, even before things had worked themselves out, and while it was ridiculous and completely shallow of her to feel that way, she hadn't wanted the Dwarves to die.

She hadn't wanted Fili to die.

Truthfully, she didn't want anyone to die. Unfortunately, those choices were not hers to make. She was a simple girl from Laketown, nothing special in the grand scheme of things. Things changed pretty fast after the Dwarves came, and she was still trying to figure out how it had happened.

Her life had changed in ways she hadn't anticipated, not just in her position with the people, but in her personal life, in that, after the Dwarves came, she actually had one.

She felt like a pathetic schoolgirl, but as soon as she'd seen him, her heart had started pounding and her palms got a little clammy. By being unobtrusive and listening carefully, she'd heard his brother call him by name, and decided that he must be important amongst the Dwarves, despite looking rather young, because he was in the inner circle of discussions with Thorin, who was their leader as had quickly become apparent. Watching and listening could net a person an awful lot of information, she'd found.

She assumed he'd not even noticed her, many people didn't after all, and usually that pleased her. This was the first time in her memory that she'd wanted to be noticed by anyone, other than her Da.

Abruptly, the Company was gone. Their tiny house, which had felt crowded beyond belief while they were there, seemed oddly empty now that they had taken themselves off, sneaking out just before sunset, leaving a silence in their wake that Sigrid had never noticed before.

Her Da had been angry and tense when the Master had taken in the Dwarves and resupplied them, sending them off to the mountain with a rather pathetic fanfare. He'd been pacing their small house all that morning, frustrated energy burning him up with nowhere to go. Sigrid had felt lost, unsure of what to do, of what to say. There was no precedent for this situation, and she was worried. For the town, for her siblings. For her Da.

For the Dwarves.

And then, inexplicably, they were back. Well, some of them, at least. Sigrid had been honestly surprised when Da had let them in, he'd said he was done with Dwarves and she'd believed him. Then she'd seen Kili, the brother, and how horribly sick he looked, and her surprised faded. She knew Da would do whatever he could for Kili after that. He wasn't just sick, he was injured, and while her Da liked to act tough and unaffected, but she knew he cared deeply for their people. For people in general.

But it had been hopeless. None of their medicines would help. Sigrid could tell from looking at him that it was some kind of poison. It was like nothing she'd ever seen. She paced along the edges of the room, boiling water, making tea, providing Oin with whatever he needed, feeling hopeless and frustrated that she couldn't help. Her stomach clenched and her heart ached to see Fili so distraught, and of course, she chastised herself for feeling that way. Her care and her heart should be with Kili, he was the one who was dying, but although she worried and felt bad for him, it was his brother who had claimed her attention.

They were close, it was obvious. Fili was the elder, that much was plain as well. He looked frantic and frustrated, helpless in the force of his brother's illness, and Sigrid knew the feeling. It was how she had felt ten years ago, just a child, when her sister had been born and her mother had faded.

If Kili died, his brother would be bereft. She had been there, and she would not wish such a fate on anyone.

Sigrid had never been so terrified in her life. Her Da had gone, had been arrested, when Bain had come back alone with the news, she had felt herself shaking from the inside out. Kili was looking worse, the lake shook from whatever was happening in the mountain and the Dwarves were looking more tense and hopeless by the minute.

Then the Orcs came.

Panic and frantic adrenaline surged through her, and if Fili and Oin had not been there, they would have died long before the Elves had burst into the house, dispatching the Orcs handily, leaving a different kind of broken silence behind.

The night had been a lesson in just how mad life could become, from one moment to the next.

The Elf stayed, the one she soon learned was called Tauriel. She prepared a poultice, pressing it into Kili's wound while chanting words that were clearly a prayer of desperation, a desperation that was felt by everyone in the destroyed house, and when she'd glowed with a pure, radiant light, Sigrid had felt a calm pour over her, surging across Kili's body into her arms.

When it was all over and Kili was resting more easily, she had retreated to the kitchen, what was left of it, and had breathed out her panic in deep gasping breaths, afraid that the terror would overwhelm her when the adrenaline had worn off.

“Are you okay?”

Sigrid looked up from where her head was bowed between her shaking arms, braced on the sink, white knuckled and despairing.

She met his sharp blue eyes and felt the adrenaline fade, her whole body shaking with violent tremors.

“I...no, I...” she gasped, and then he was beside her, one broad hand on her back, rubbing firmly, the other clutching hers where it clutched the edge of the sink.

“Breathe,” he said, his steady presence anchoring her to the present, the calm descending after the chaos.

She tried, but her breaths came quickly and short, and she knew she was hyperventilating.

“Stop,” he said harshly, grasping her forearm and her shoulder so tightly it almost hurt. “Stop and look at me.”

His voice was compelling enough that she did, her focus shifted from her own racing heart and gasping breaths to his calm eyes and soft voice, a wild thought racing through her mind that his lips looked soft as well, and that he was very close to her. Very close.

“Good, now breathe, in through the nose,” he said, inhaling a breath in demonstration, and she copied him. “Now out,” he continued, following with a long exhale from his mouth, and she watched his lips again, but did as he said, then did it again, breathing in time with his breaths, for a mere moment that felt like an eternity.

“Good, that's good,” he said once she'd calmed, his hand on her shoulder sliding down, rubbing her back once more, its weight a comfort.

“Okay,” she said after a moment, her eyes still held by his gaze. “I'm okay, I think I'll be okay.”

“I think you will,” he said, smiling a small, crooked smile that made her heart speed up once more. “It's Sigrid, right?”

She nodded, standing up straight, regretting it immediately when his hands fell away and he took a step back.

“I'm Fili.”

“Yes, I'd...heard,” she said stupidly, wondering if the fading adrenaline and the horror of the night had broken her brain.

He smiled again, a bit brighter, and she thought perhaps it had broken him as well, if he thought she was in any way interesting.

“Thank you for what you did, for your help. He's going to be all right.”

“I'm glad,” she replied, trying to pull her thoughts together. “Thank you for saving us from the Orcs. I've never...” she trailed off, but his eyes spoke of his understanding.

“You're welcome. I hope you never have to see such creatures again.”

“Me too,” she said simply, smiling back at him. He held her eyes for another moment and then nodded, turning to go back to his brother's side, and she was surprised when she she saw him navigate the room, realising how short he was compared to her, more surprised when she realised that she'd forgotten it during their conversation. His presence was larger than life, it was easy to forget that he was only just taller than Tilda. But he was broad and stocky and looked powerful. Her stomach flipped a bit, but she shook her head and set to sorting out the kitchen, glancing towards Fili every few minutes as he cleared the main room of Orcs and debris, with the help of Bofur and Oin and Bain.

Her heart was pounding all over again, and she knew that something had shifted inside her. Their conversation on the balcony only served to solidify the shift.

She kept the memory in her mind during the days that followed, the days after they'd escaped from Laketown together, Tauriel driving them on with a canny wisdom. She kept his soft, calming voice and his disarming sense of humour, the soft, earthy scent of his coat that she'd worn briefly, the smooth, sour taste of pipeweed...she pulled those fleeting memories close after he'd gone to the mountain, after her city lay in smoking remnants around the dragon's watery grave.

She let his stoic strength give her the inspiration she needed as she followed her Da to Dale, as she protected her siblings the best she knew how when the Orcs had descended once more. When she came out on the other side, alive, her family alive beside her, she'd allowed herself to remember how warm and close and alive he'd been, and she prayed to both Eru and Ulmo that Fili had survived the battle, that his family was safe. One Valar may be enough, but praying to both would not hurt, would it?

For that matter, three would be even better, so she whispered a quick prayer to Aule as well, knowing that he was the Creator of the Dwarves, and the one most likely to have an influence over their fate.

Sigrid laboured in the impromptu camp that the Elves had helped them set up, assisting anyone who needed her, with healing, with food preparation, with running errands and fetching whatever was needed. She tried to encourage the people she met, to ease their fears and doubts about the future. She was desperate for information and listened carefully to everything that was spoken, wishing she could understand the Elves when they spoke their own language. She was grateful then that Fili was Thorin's nephew, that he was royalty and that as such, people would be taking about him, as well as his uncle and brother, about their fates after the battle.

It was a full day after the battle before she'd learned that Fili had lived, though just barely. The whole story had come out in bits and pieces, how Tauriel had followed Kili up Ravenhill and saved his life again, how they had worked together and had survived. Sigrid wasn't very surprised, it was plain to anyone who had spent even a moment with them that Kili and Tauriel shared very mutual affection for each other. They were intense and devoted, a fact that Sigrid was in no doubt about, having seen Tauriel's healing of him first hand, having felt the power of it in her own hands.

Then she learned that Thorin Oakenshield, King Under the Mountain, was alive as well, that the Hobbit had followed in the same manner, and had saved his life even more dramatically than Tauriel had Kili. Sigrid heard the story told in hushed, reverent whispers, how Bilbo Baggins had stabbed Azog the Defiler, allowing Thorin a last, desperate chance to kill him. Sigrid had never heard of the Pale Orc before, she'd had no real concept of Orcs at all, discovering after the fact that he'd sworn to wipe out the line of Durin, Thorin's line, which included Kili. And Fili.

The chance that he could have succeeded chilled her to the bone.

Fili's story had come out around the same time as Thorin's and the first time she'd heard it, her heart had skipped a few beats. Fili had come the closest to dying, he'd been stabbed by Azog and thrown from a tower, and the fact that he was still alive was a miracle, of luck and chance as much as the healing skill and magic of the Elven King.

Then she'd found out that, while Thorin and Kili were mostly whole, Fili had not awoken. It was two days after the battle when she'd learned about that, after meeting Tauriel again. After giving the Elf a tight hug, she had pleaded for news, for confirmation of the rumours that she had heard.

“Is he alive?” she asked Tauriel, searching her face for a clue.

“I can only assume you're asking about Fili,” Tauriel said, lifting a brow, a small smile quirking her lips.

“I...yes, I mean,” Sigrid stuttered, flushing and looking down, realising that she was giving her feelings away without restraint. Tauriel merely smiled at her, taking her hand and squeezing.

“Don't worry, we already know,” she said tenderly.

“You know...I don't...” Sigrid fumbled over the words, wondering just what Tauriel knew, and if the we she spoke of was merely herself and Kili. She wasn't sure just why it was so important, perhaps because it was new and uncertain, and they'd really only spent one night in each others company. It was far too soon to hope for anything more than friendship, and yet, she did.

“We were there that night, Kili and I,” Tauriel said, pulling her to the side a bit, away from the main path between the tents. “We saw the regard shared between you and Fili. You can trust that we will not speak of it, until the two of you are willing. However, I can allay your doubts by telling you that it was a very mutual regard, from where we were sitting.”

“It was?” Sigrid said, her breath escaping in a sigh. She'd felt very close to Fili that night, as if it was the beginning of something bigger, and she'd been certain he felt it, too. To know that Tauriel and Kili had also seen it gave her heart ease. “Oh, that's...good.”

“Fili is indeed alive,” Tauriel said, and if Sigrid didn't know any better, she'd have sworn her heart started beating in that moment. She closed her eyes, letting out a deep, relieved breath. “He was gravely injured,” Tauriel continued, her voice low and serious. “He has a dislocated shoulder and broken arm, several broken ribs and a very serious sword wound in his back. It missed his spine however, so he will walk again, in fact, Lord Thranduil is sure he will make a complete recovery.”

Sigrid did not even try to restrain the smile that spread across her face. Even if nothing more came after, it was enough. He was alive.

“He is not assured of that yet, however,” Tauriel said, her eyes somber and compassionate. “Fili was nearly hypothermic when he was found, and while that may have slowed the bleeding and saved his life, there may yet be repercussions. Also, he hit his head when he fell, and he certainly has a concussion. He is still unconscious, and we have no idea how long he will remain so. His other wounds have been dealt with acceptably, but until he wakes up, we won't know for certain.”

“He could still die?” Sigrid asked, feeling as if her heart had stopped once more.

“He could,” Tauriel said. “But I doubt he will, and Thranduil is certain he will wake. He is strong, Sigrid, and young. And Dwarves are unlike Men and Elves, they are hardier and heal more quickly. They can recover from wounds that would kill one of your race, or cripple one of mine.”

“Yes, I...carved from stone, that's how the story goes, is it not?”

“Indeed. And stone does not damage easily. It endures.”

“Yes, good,” Sigrid sighed, letting hope fill her heart, hope that he would wake, and live, and that he would want to see her again. “Can you tell me, when he wakes? Can you tell him, that I'm thinking of him?”

“If the chance presents itself, I will,” Tauriel agreed. “But for now, we have other tasks. I am going to see Kili now, would you like to come? Perhaps, along the way, I can show you Fili's tent. Then, we can all find a meal.”

“Yes, I...I'd like that very much.” Sigrid smiled, pleased to find a friend in Tauriel. She had lost so many of the people she'd known, and while most of her friends had survived, she felt distanced from them. Already, her status as daughter of Bard, newly appointed Master of Dale, appointed by the people's demand and not his own choice, had put her in a very visible position. She was determined to make her Da proud. Fostering relationships with Elves and Dwarves was a good start, she assured herself, as she followed Sigrid towards the Dwarven camp just outside the gates of Erebor.

 

* * *

 

Six long, uncertain days followed, with Sigrid working herself into exhaustion every night, falling onto the pallet she shared with Tilda, limp and ready to sleep. Even then, her brain kept her awake. She spent time doing any and every chore she could, she shadowed her Da to help him from time to time, she spent hours here and there with Tauriel and sometimes Kili as well. She helped set up a communal kitchen for the Men, especially once it had been determined that the Elves were soon to leave. She organized a daycare and school in one of the bigger tents, a place where the children could be safe and cared for by people they knew, as many mothers of small children and the few school teachers that had survived the dragon took over the direction and education of the youngest.

It took the burden of Tilda off her shoulders for a few hours a day, which she could only count as a blessing. She adored her little sister, but Tilda had a shrewd sense of observation, and possessed an uncanny ability to ask the most pertinent questions at inconvenient times.

Questions like why Sigrid insisted on walking the long way through camp, past the healers tents, instead of taking the shortest route from one place to another. The Dwarven tents were closest to the gates of Erebor, and the Men's were closer to Dale, but the healing tents lay in the middle, housing patients from all races. Sigrid found herself walking past them several times a day, unable to stay away, and yet hoping that her vigil would go unnoticed.

There was nothing much going on there, now that most of the injured had either died or healed satisfactorily, and those left were in a state like Fili, unconscious, or unable to move on their own just yet. It was a calm few days, once the initial rush of triage and healing had been accomplished. According to Tauriel, the Elves had helped as much as they were able, healing other Elves, Men and Dwarves alike, but they were coming to the end of their usefulness and having received their promised treasure, were making plans to depart for home.

Sigrid was not looking forward to them leaving, for fear that Tauriel may go with them, but also because the Elven King had been instrumental in healing Fili, although Tauriel assured her that he could do now more, that it was up to Fili to wake and continue the healing process.

It was a long, exhausting week, filled with an array of emotional and physical experiences. Sigrid was somewhat overwhelmed, but also pleased with the work. She had found a purpose, outside of her own family, and she enjoyed being of use. And with winter coming, it didn't seem that the need was going away any time soon.

Sigrid ate dinner with her family, listening to her Da discussing the going on about camp. Apparently Bilbo Baggins was leaving in two days time, along with Gandalf, the wizard. Da was surprised, and so was Sigrid. From everything she'd heard and seen, Bilbo and Thorin were very much together, not that she'd spent a lot of time observing them. She'd been far too busy, and Thorin was the King, after all. Her Da was getting to know him quite well, however, and he confirmed that the King and the Hobbit were exceptionally close.

She was disrupted from her thoughts when Tauriel slipped into the mess tent, her eyes wide as she found Sigrid's immediately. She gave Sigrid a significant look and nodded toward the door before slipping through again. Sigrid quickly made her excuses to her Da and slipped out after Tauriel, before Tilda could follow her.

Tauriel was right there, grasping Sigrid's hand and leading her away, to a quiet alley between several of the tents.

“He's awake,” she said simply, her eyes expressing her pleasure, which was no doubt influenced by Kili's happiness. “Just a few minutes ago, and he's fine.”

“Awake,” Sigrid breathed, stunned and overjoyed and so, so relieved. She pulled Tauriel into a hug, not missing the tense surprise in Tauriel before she relaxed, embracing Sigrid in return.

“Yes, he's sitting up and talking,” Tauriel said, once Sigrid had been able to let do. “And he was quite pleased to hear you'd been thinking about him. He wished me to tell you that he's thinking of you as well. And that he looks forward to seeing you.”

“He said...” Sigrid could feel her cheeks heating up. “Oh. Well, that's...I'm glad to hear it.” She couldn't seem to get her thoughts together, her brain felt scattered and foggy, but through it all she could focus on one, shining thing.

He was awake. And he wanted to see her.

 

* * *

 

Sigrid found her chance two days later, early in the morning, when all the Dwarves were saying goodbye to Bilbo. She had found him the day before and hugged him tightly, wishing him safety on his journey home. She hadn't come to know the Hobbit well, but he had a way of making a person feel at ease and important, and she had come to appreciate his sense of humour during the short time they'd spent together. He was an exceptional person.

So she knew he wouldn't mind if she used the distraction of his departure to sneak a quick visit with Fili. She had risen earlier than usual that day, and had taken up a position not far off from Fili's tent, a stack of bedding in her hands. She watched as Kili and Bilbo entered the tent, exiting soon after, noticing Bilbo's subdued manner and teary eyes as they left.

As they walked away, Sigrid steeled herself, drawing in a deep breath before striding forward purposefully, pushing aside the flap of the door and ducking inside. She stood in the entrance, frozen now that she was there, despite knowing that he was alive and awake, seeing it with her own eyes was a different matter entirely.

“Sigrid,” he said softly, his voice low and rich and she realised then how much she had missed hearing it. She scoffed at herself in her own head, it wasn't as if they'd spent much time together, and yet...

“Fili,” she replied, barely above a whisper, taking in the sight of him more carefully, now that the shock had passed. “You look awful.”

He did. His eyes were wet and a bit red, but that wasn't what struck her. One side of his body had clearly taken the brunt of his injuries, his right arm was secured in a splint, and a sling held it close to his body, no doubt to prevent any strain on his shoulder. He was sitting up slightly, propped into place with many large pillows, his skin pale and his hair unbraided, pulled back out of his face with a simple tie at the base of his neck. His moustache was also unbraided which, in a strange way, made him look younger.

The worst of his injuries was the black and purple bruise that spread from his eyebrow and across his temple and cheekbone, disappearing into his golden blond hair. But he was awake, his eyes bright, a soft smile spreading as he gazed at her.

“Thank you,” he said, lifting a brow but then wincing as the bruise shifted.

“Oh, I didn't mean, I mean, you look...”she babbled, cutting herself off and taking a deep breath. His cheeky smile told her that he knew exactly what she'd meant, so she brushed it aside, taking a deep breath and smiling back.

She moved forward, placing the linens on a side table.

“Did you come to deliver new bedding? Or dare I hope that you came to see me?” She could feel his eyes on her as she moved further into the tent, but far from making her nervous, his gaze imbued her with a boldness she'd never experienced before.

“No, the bedding is just a decoy,” she said, forgoing the stool at his bedside to sit beside him on the cot, facing him, her hip pressed against his. His look of surprise threw her off, and she wondered if she'd gone too far, until he reached out and took her hand in his good one, letting his fingers trace lightly across her palm.

“Good. You have wonderful timing. I was feeling rather sorry for myself, seeing as Oin won't allow me to leave my bed, even to say goodbye to Bilbo...but now that you're here, I'm finding it much easier to accept.”

She blushed, unable to keep from grinning like a fool. He may look worse for the wear, but he sounded the same, his tone light and teasing, his words earnest and his eyes as entrancing as ever.

“I'm glad you are confined,” she replied. “I wasn't sure if I should come by, but I'm glad I did. I admit, I knew the others would be occupied when I came. How are you feeling, really?”

“I've been better,” he admitted, his hand warm and firm where it held hers. “But I'm healing, and Oin says it won't be long before I'll be up and about.”

“I'm very glad to hear it.” Their eyes met and held, and Sigrid felt awkward and comfortable at the same time, unsure of what to say, now that she was beside him.

“I'm glad you're glad,” he said, pulling her hand up and brushing a kiss across her knuckles, a shiver washing over her at the feel of his soft lips, his beard ticking her fingers. “I had hoped I would see you soon. I hope you know that I'd like to see you a lot more, now that it's all done. The dragon is dead, the Orcs are defeated, and the mountain is ours.”

“I want to see you more, as well,” she told him, her heart pounding.

“I meant what I said. That night, in Laketown. I'm still hoping you'll want to be my friend.”

“You said you'd wish for more, perhaps,” she replied, remembering the night clearly, the way his gaze and his touch had heated her, the cold air nothing against the warmth of his hand holding hers.

“I still do.”

“Is it...I mean, will it be allowed? For us to be...close,” she said, unsure of how to express herself plainly.

“Because you're not a Dwarf, you mean,” he said quietly, his thumb brushing a gentle caress across her hand, soothing her even as goosebumps arose down her arms.

“Yes. You are the heir to the throne of Erebor. I'm sure that comes with...responsibilities.” She was genuinely worried about how it would even work, despite her heart telling her that she could very quickly fall completely in love with him. He cared about her as well, it was clear, but love and affection were not the only things that must be considered, and their situation was unique.

“It does,” he said, nodding his head in confirmation. “But it also comes with privilege, one that I will certainly be taking advantage of. I'd like to know you better, and after all, are you not to soon be a Princess of Dale?”

She could not help the blush, looking down at where their hands were joined, tracing the line of his wrist with her other hand. “I'm sure I don't know anything about that. The people have named my Da the Master of Dale, but other than that, I cannot say.”

“Still, it is an important position. One which will no doubt allow us many chances to spend time together.”

“Da has been saying that we will likely be spending the winter in the mountain,” she said, looking up at him again, excited at the very idea. Being in the mountain all winter would be safe and warm, among other things.

“Did he? Well, then, that settles it. We'll have plenty of time.”

“I hope so,” she said, squeezing his hand. “I'd very much like to spend time with you as well, as much as we can manage. Though perhaps we should be...discreet, for now. Until things are settled.”

“Until things in the mountain are settled, or things between us?” His brow was furrowed, his tone subdued.

“Perhaps both.” She felt weighted, heavy, knowing that whatever was developing between them may never have the chance to grow fully.

“All right. To be honest, I'm not keen to share my heart with any but you, at the moment. Well, besides my brother, and I suppose Tauriel. But they will be thinking along the same lines, and will be too busy with their own courtship to worry about ours.”

“Oh,” she said, stunned and ecstatic at once. “Courtship. I...is that what this is, then?”

“If you want it, yes,” he told her, pulling her hand closer, his thumb still moving across her knuckles, sending shivers of delight across her skin.

“I...yes, I do,” she said, smiling widely. “Very much.”

“Good.” He kissed her knuckles again, and as nice as it was, she felt that something else was needed to convey how pleased she was, how much she wanted whatever was between them to grow. She took a deep breath, using his smile and his warm touch as inspiration and leaned forward.

She hesitated, her eyes flickering to his lips before meeting his eyes again, the warmth and wonder she saw inside them spurring her on. This close, she could feel the heat of his body, could smell the clean scent of his skin. She took one last breath for strength and moved closer, pressing her lips against his gently.

It was only a moment before she pulled back, her head spinning with her daring, but then he let go of her hand and cupped her cheek, bringing her close and kissing her again, his lips moving gently across hers. When they parted, he held her close still, pressing his forehead to hers and breathing deeply. It was an intimate gesture, even more than the kiss, and she let her eyes drift open, to find his open as well, hot and dark and looking right into her.

“I hope that will not be the last,” he said quietly, as she sat up straighter, her cheeks hot, and no doubt red.

“It won't,” she said, certain that it would not be. To prove she was telling the truth, she leaned in and kissed him again, shivering as his fingers traced a line down her cheek, realising that her hand had moved, and was pressing against his broad chest, his skin warm under the thin fabric of his tunic. His shoulders were wide and strong, his chest and arms thick with muscle. While seated, he seemed bigger than she was, their respective heights forgotten.

Voices passing close outside the tent startled her, and she pulled back, looking to the doorway, relived to find no one there.

“I should go,” she said, turning back to look at him, unable to keep from glancing at his lips again before meeting his eyes.

“You should,” he replied, catching her hand again. “But I don't want you to.”

“I don't want to, either. But I must, if we intend to keep this between us for now.”

He smiled, kissing her knuckles again. “For now.”

“I'll come back when I can,” she said, standing quickly, before she could be tempted to kiss him again.

“I'll be out of this cot soon” he said. “I'll come to see you.”

“I'll hold you to it,” she said, brushing a stray hair out of his face with a smile before backing off, turning to give him one last smile before slipping out of the tent and away.

 

* * *

 

The next few weeks were a blur. Sigrid hardly saw Fili at all before they all moved into the mountain, though the Dwarves and Men worked together to clear as much rubble from the gates as they could, as well as clearing space in the Great Halls for use as sleeping quarters. There was a large common area near the kitchens, both of which were more or less untouched by anything but time, and were easy to clean out and put to use.

Once they'd moved in and settled, Sigrid found that she had a remarkable amount of time with Fili. He healed quickly once he was up, although she noticed him favouring his right arm whenever he had pushed his healing a bit. For the most part, he kept to less physical jobs, having convinced his Uncle that he would take charge of the relations between the Dwarves of Erebor and the Men of Dale. He threw himself into the work, and Sigrid could see the future King Under the Mountain taking shape before her eyes.

If Thorin suspected a less prosaic reason for his passionate pursuit of healthy, close relations between the groups, he didn't speak of it. Sigrid was certain that Fili would have told her, if such a discussion had taken place.

Not only were they able to work closely together on a regular basis, they were able to slip away from the crowds, as well. Fili showed her as much of the mountain as he could, as much as was safe, although he admitted that he didn't know it very well yet. He had been born long after the dragon had come, and was himself still learning the secrets of Erebor.

It was on such a day in late December that he took her to an upper hall, one that, amazingly, had large windows cut high into the mountainside. The room was bright and cheerful during daylight, and even at night, the light of the moon and stars speckled it with a subdued radiance.

“Sigrid,” he said, after watching her explore the room, gazing at the many tapestries, still in excellent condition, if a little dusty with age.

“Yes?” she asked, turning around to see him looking dreadfully serious as he gazed at her, yet his blue eyes were as soft as ever.

“We haven't spoken of our courtship since the first day, after I'd awoken. I think we should.”

“Oh,” she replied, walking toward him across the room, loving the feel of the sun on her skin, however little there was reaching her through the windows. She knew this room would quickly become a favourite.

“Is there more to say? Or,” she stopped, suddenly worried that he didn't want to continue their courtship. “Do you want to end it, then?” she asked, unable to keep her voice level and calm as she asked.

“No!” he said, closing the distance between them quickly, picking up one of her hands and bringing it to his lips as he often did. It never failed to thrill her when he did, and when he pulled her hand to press against his chest after, looking up at her with bright eyes, she felt the doubt fading.

“No, Sigrid, no,” he continued. “Quite the opposite.”

“Oh, I'm glad,” she said, relieved, letting a pleased smile curve her lips.

“No, it's too late for me now,” he said, his face taking on a serious expression once more.

“Too late?”

“Yes. Far too late, it has been for a long time now. Dwarves love only once, my darling Sigrid. And I have loved you since Laketown.”

“Since Laketown!” she exclaimed, stunned. It felt like an age ago, although scarcely a month had passed. “So long!”

“Yes, indeed,” he said, pulling her other hand to his chest as well, holding them both in a firm grasp. “If you had chosen not to continue, I may yet have married another, though I would never have been able to love them. My heart is yours, and yours it will stay.”

“Oh, Fili,” she said, her chest aching and her eyes watering at his earnest declaration. “I love you too, you know. I'm not sure for how long, exactly, but I knew it was inevitable when you kissed me in the healing tent.”

He smirked, the beads braided into his moustache swaying as he tilted his head, observing her closely. “You kissed me, you mean.”

“Well, yes,” she said, her cheeks colouring, although they had shared many kisses in the weeks following the first. “Either way, I knew then that I would love you, come what may.”

“Good,” he said. “Because, if we are to move forward with this courtship, then there is something I must give you.”

“Oh,” she said, surprised. Courtships in Laketown generally consisted of spending time together, in public or private, and then, once the couple had decided to get married, the Master performed the traditional ceremony, including the sharing of vows, and that was that. It could take as little or as long as the parties involved wished, but she had come to know that Dwarves were much more ritualistic about many things, and no doubt courtship was the same.

“Are there particular steps that must be taken?”

“Yes, a few,” he replied, pulling her to the side of the room across from the windows, seating them both on a bench before continuing. “A couple may begin courting at any time, publicly or in secret, as we have done, but the courtship is not official until beads are exchanged, and until they are braided with intent.”

“Oh, I suppose that makes sense. Braids have great meaning in your culture, I believe,” she said, reaching out to finger the braid that was woven above his ear, ending in a lovely silver clasp, bearing the mark she'd learned symbolized the line of Durin.

“Many of them, yes.” He wrapped his hand around hers where it held the braid. “These, beginning above the ear and clasped with the Durin bead, they proclaim my position in the line of succession. Thorin is the King, of course, and while he wears the braids of succession in the same place, his beads are different, the beads of the current Ruler of the House, while mine tell that I am the Heir.”

“Why doesn't Kili wear such beads in his hair?”

“He is welcome to wear a Durin bead, of course, though it would not be the same as mine or Thorin's, but he would weave a braid or several further back on his head, away from the temple. However, he's never cared to bother much about braids, and I doubt he will, at least until his beard comes in a little thicker, and he takes a more active role in the stewardship of the mountain. I do believe he'll bear a courting braid before too long, however. They are working together on Tauriel's bead, and as soon as it is finished, she'll braid it into his hair.”

“So...courting braids then. Is that the next step?” Sigrid was genuinely interested, Dwarven culture was so fascinating. While Fili had told her when she had asked, that Khuzdul was off limits, he encouraged her to ask questions about his culture and heritage, and she found herself more fascinated with every new thing she learned.

“Yes, we will exchange beads, which we will then put in braids, to signify our intent.”

“Does it have to be something we've made?” she asked, knowing that hand made gifts were seen to be more worthy than purchased ones, for the most part.

“It can be, but in the case of courting beads, it is often a family bead, especially one that has been passed down from generations before. I thought about making one, but since Gloin and his team have made great progress on the treasury, I asked, and sure enough, he'd separated a large stash of beads. I found this...” He pulled something from out of his pocket and held out his hand. Nestled in his palm was a small, delicate bead, imprinted with the signet of Durin's line, its silver surface shining brightly in the pale winter sunlight.

“Fili, it's beautiful” she breathed, reaching out and stroking it with one finger, marvelling at the intricate workmanship.

“It's yours, if you choose to accept it. I need to speak to Uncle soon, as time is passing and I know well how little time we'll have together. But I wanted to ask you first, for certain.” He took a deep breath, his grip on her hand tightening in anticipation.

“Ask me?”

“Will you be my wife, Sigrid of Dale, Bowman's daughter? My heart is already yours, and I wish to give you my body and soul as well, my life and my strength, if you wish to accept it.”

“Yes, please,” she said, looking up at him again, unable to keep her eyes from stinging with happy tears. “Fili, I...yes.”

He beamed at her, his eyes suspiciously moist as well, before pulling her in for a kiss, sealing their lips together with a sweet desperation, opening her to him with a gently prodding tongue, urging her to respond.

She did, eagerly wrapping her arms around his broad shoulders and pulling him closer, shivering as his hands wrapped around her body, one open and hot against her back, while the other held her tightly to him, his fist clenched around the bead still in his palm.

It was the deepest, most intimate kiss they'd shared, and it filled her blood with a tingling anticipation of what was to come, of more kisses and touches, of all the things that would be between them.

She pulled back at last, desperate for breath, burying her face in his lovely golden hair to regain her composure, before pulling back and pressing her brow against his. One of the first things she had learned was the significance of the gesture, whether the gentle press of such quiet, intimate moments, or the more brusque, cracking smack of friends or family.

“You're right,” she said, remembering what he'd said about the time they would have, or the lack of it. Her race lived barely a third of the time the Dwarves were given, and she couldn't wait to begin, before they had lost much more. “We don't have much time. How soon can we be married? Is there a time line we have to follow?”

“No, and yes,” he replied, pulling back to look at her. “A courtship can be as little as several months or long as several years. But we must gain the approval of our families first. Specifically the heads of our respective families.”

“So we must ask your Uncle and my Da.”

“Yes, and we'll have to do it soon, although I'm loathe to bring it up with my Uncle.”

“Do you think he will refuse?” she asked, fearful of such a thing, although Thorin had given his approval to Kili and Tauriel's courtship. As Fili had explained to her, Thorin himself was bound to the now absent Hobbit, so she wondered if he could still take issue with Fili courting a daughter of Men.

“No, I'm sure he won't, although he will be hesitant, as I am the heir, and it would be preferred if I were to carry on the Durin line. Well, the direct line, at any rate, although there are many in our family who retain some claim to the throne. My cousin Dain, or his son, also called Thorin. Or Gimli, even.”

“It does not need to be a direct succession?”

“Need, no, but the line of Durin has never failed in that regard, although other lines have splintered as time as moved on. It would not be a welcomed change, but it would be respected.” His voice was somber again, and she knew the subject weighed heavily on him. That he would risk a marriage with her, knowing that any child they may be able to produce would likely not be acceptable as a future ruler, spoke volumes of his love for her.

“That is something we will deal with when the time comes. For right now, we must gain the proper approval, however it may hurt my Uncle to see another nephew happily courting. But I would like to give you this, anyway.” He held out the bead and she picked it up, marvelling anew at the fine craftsmanship and exquisite details.

“Will you braid it into my hair now?”

“No, not until our courtship is official. I must speak with my Uncle first, and then your father. And we must fashion a bead for my braid as well.”

“Oh, of course,” she replied, gasping as a thought came to her, a memory of something that had belonged to her grandmother. “But, I think I have just the thing.”

“Indeed?”

“Yes, my grandmother had a small collection of hair beads that were passed on from long ago, no doubt carved in the fashion of the mountain, before the desolation. I brought them from Laketown in a small box that contained some little treasures that my mother and grandmother had cherished.”

“You have beads passed on from your family?”

“Yes. They are not as beautiful or valuable as this, being made only of wood. But they are from family, so I suppose they will fit.”

“They will,” he said, his smile brighter than the sunlight, although she noticed that it was fading as the afternoon passed and time for the evening meal approached. “I would be proud to wear your family's bead.”

“They you shall. And I will be proud to wear yours.” She smiled so widely that he cheeks ached with the strain, but she could not bring himself to stop. She had believed her feelings to be so foolish on the night they met, more so on the night before the dragon came for them, but now she embraced them fully, secure in the surety of Fili's love.

She leaned forward and kissed him again, looking happily toward the day when they would do much more.

 

* * *

 

Sigrid had no problem finding the beads. She'd kept her mother's treasure box in a safe place, tucked under her bed in the quarters she shared with her family. It felt safe there, as they had been given an apartment in the royal wing, smaller than the suites where Fili lived with his uncle and brother, but even then, much larger than anywhere she'd ever lived before. She had her own room, and it was easily half as large as the entire house they'd shared in Laketown.

She had been so grateful that they would not spend the winter in a tent, as many of her people had been obliged to, however warm and sheltered the quickly constructed tent city was, situated inside a large gathering hall well back from the gates. The quarters were sparsely furnished, as those constructing new furniture had only just begun working on new pieces, but compared to Laketown, it felt positively luxurious.

She knew it would only become more so, as the mountain was reconstructed, as the acquisition of necessities was accomplished, and they could turn more to comfort items. She knew that, when she and Fili were married she would be even more pampered and have finer clothes and jewels she would be expected to wear, but she had no real concept of the expectations of the Dwarves, and she hoped it would not be too ostentatious. She preferred more practical clothing and less ornamentation, a direct result of how she was raised, no doubt.

She had seen the treasure hall, however, and despite the fact that Gloin and his Dwarves had sorted and stored a great amount, it was still more gold than she had ever fathomed in her life, even before Laketown had been destroyed and everyone was talking about the Lord of the Silver Fountains.

Never mind a fountain. The gold was a waterfall that never ended.

But that wasn't what she was interested in. The only gold in the mountain that Sigrid wanted to have as her own was Fili's beautiful golden hair. The Dwarves and Men alike had begun to call him the Golden Prince, their respect for him growing as he laboured continually on their behalf, ensuring that all those under his care were fed, clothed and had work that suited them. Sigrid watched it all with an immense feeling of pride, stunned each day by his insight and sensitivity.

He would be an outstanding King, when that day came, although she began to realize that she would likely never see it come to pass.

It weighed on her, the knowledge that she would be gone before Fili came into his own, and it broke her heart when she thought of all that she would miss. If she was lucky, she would live until he was one hundred and fifty, which, for a Dwarf, was not even considered middle aged.

The fact of an heir weighed on her as well. Sigrid was a realist, and although she had fanciful notions on occasion, such as the one that had overtaken her on the first night she'd met Fili, she was intensely pragmatic in general. She didn't think that a half human heir would be acceptable to the Dwarves of Erebor, and she understood why. They were a proud, insular race, and while they had accepted Kili and Tauriel's courtship with a relatively mild amount of upset considering that Kili was not the Crown Prince and that Tauriel had repeatedly saved his life, she imagined it would not be the same in her own situation.

But when she was really being honest with herself, she wasn't even sure that they could have children. They were so very different, and while she knew that Elves and Men had mated successfully, the Khazad were not the Children of Eru. They were not shaped by the same hand as the race of Men, even though Iluvatar had given them his blessing and the breath of life.

She wasn't going to pin her hopes on the slight chance that she could bear Fili's child. She would have to think of another way to provide him with an heir.

After thinking about it, realistically, pragmatically, she came up with a plan. Fili wasn't going to like it, and to be truthful with herself, she didn't like it either. But sometimes, the necessary thing was not the easy thing.

 

* * *

 

It was a chilly day in late January when Fili found her, his face flushed with exertion as he pounded down the corridor toward her. She had been walking the path alone, on her way home after a quiet dinner in the mess hall, a dinner she had not shared with Fili. She wasn't sure where he'd been, but she suspected, hoped, that he had used the time to speak with Thorin. He had been building up to it for weeks, even more in the last few days, only his belief that their happiness would hurt his Uncle holding him back. Sigrid had both their beads in her treasure box now, waiting only for the agreement of their respective heads of house to be braided in their traditional Dwarven courtship braids.

“Sigrid!” he called, dashing toward her, his eyes bright and his face split with a beaming smile.

“There you are,” she replied, turning to wait for him, squealing in surprise as he wrapped her in his arms, picking her up and spinning her around. She clutched at his shoulders, laughing at his joyful exuberance, her heart pounding when she realised that her suspicions were very likely true.

“I missed you at dinner,” she said after he'd set her down, arms still holding her close, their heads pressed together affectionately.

“I was talking with Thorin.”

“Yes?” she asked, although she knew the answer by the look on his face, her own smile so wide she felt her cheeks begin to ache with it.

“Yes,” he replied, beaming up at her. “He's agreed, he's given us his blessing.”

She wrapped her arms around him again, tighter, letting him pick her up, lifting her feet off the floor, if only a little.

“I can't believe it, and yet, I knew he would,” Fili continued, one of his hands cupping her cheek and bringing her face to his, kissing her sweetly, an urgency riding just under that surface of the soft press of his lips.

“I can believe it,” she said, letting her fingers thread through the fine, soft locks at the back of his neck. “And that was the hard part, my Da will most certainly agree.”

“Agree to what?” said a voice that Sigrid knew as well as her own. “It certainly looks like congratulations are in order, although it seems to me I would know if my eldest daughter was being courted by the Crown Prince of Erebor.”

“Da!” Sigrid exclaimed, taking a step back, he hands dropping from Fili's hair, although she let him hold one in his, taking strength from their entwined fingers.

“My Lord,” Fili said formally, bowing his head in respect for Bard's still new position.

“Oh, none of that, Fili, please,” Bard replied, watching the two with an appraising look. “It's just Bard, especially for you, as I have the feeling you're about to ask me if you can marry my daughter.”

Fili looked up at Sigrid, but she could only shake her head, just as surprised as he. She'd thought that they'd been fairly discreet, but apparently, her Da knew her too well.

“I...yes,” Fili said, squeezing her hand. “My Uncle has given us his blessing, and if you are willing to do so as well, it is the greatest wish of my heart that Sigrid would become my wife.”

Bard stared down into Fili's sincere eyes, his own cold and unemotional, although Sigrid knew the look, and knew he only used it when he had a need to hold back.

“I could wonder, perhaps, why the two of you saw fit to keep your relationship a secret, but considering the chaos of the last few months and the instability of relations between our peoples, I suppose I can let that go this time.”

“Da, I'm sorry, we just...we didn't want to share,” she said, smiling tenderly at Fili, for the first time unafraid that her feelings were plain in her eyes.

“You're right, it has been chaotic, and it was nice to have something calm and sure amidst all the uncertainty,” Fili said, continuing her thoughts as if they'd planned it.

“I can understand that,” Bard said, and Sigrid thought she saw the affection and pride coming out in her Da's eyes. “And it makes me glad to see you so happy, my daughter,” he added, stepping forward to pull her away from Fili, hugging her tightly, a little desperately, but when he pulled back, his eyes were as wet as her own.

“I love you more than anything else in this world, my sweet daughter. I could not allow you to leave me unless I was sure that your heart was truly given, and to one who was worthy of you. But I've been watching the two of you lately, and I've seen the depth of your affection and respect for each other.”

He took a step back, holding Sigrid's hand as he reached out and took one of Fili's, bringing them together once more. “It would be an honour to consider you my son in law, Fili of Erebor.”

“Thank you,” Fili said, his face trading its worried expression for one of joy, as he entwined his fingers with hers, pulling her close to his side once more. “Then it's official. Once we finish the braids, we won't even have to tell anyone else. They'll all know when they see my bead in your hair.”

“Can we do that now?” she asked, and he nodded.

“Yes, please,” he said, letting her turn them toward their apartment.

“You have beads ready, I assume?” Bard asked, walking beside them, a small smile quirking his lips.

“Yes, for a few weeks now,” she told him. “Fili found a Durin bead for me in the treasury and I have the beads that mother left me.”

“Your grandmother's beads,” Bard said wistfully. “Very appropriate, I think. They were originally made in Erebor, I believe, before the dragon came.”

“Family beads are ideal,” Fili agreed. “That they are Dwarven made is even better.”

They walked the rest of the way in silence, Sigrid leaving Fili and her Da in the siting room as she fetched the beads. She set the box on the table and pulled out the bead Fili had given her, and the one she'd chosen to give him. It had a lovely vine motif, and it had been her mother's favourite. Fili took her hand and pulled her to sit on the chair, brushing a hand over her hair reverently, smiling at her.

“I'll do your braid first, so you'll get an idea of where to do it, and I'll show you how to clasp the bead in. It's just a simple three strand braid, nothing terribly fancy. It's the placement and the bead that mark it as a courting braid.”

She nodded, so he pulled the pins that held her messy bun in place, letting her hair fall over her shoulders and combing it out with his fingers. She took a deep breath, shivers prickling across her skin as his gentle, intimate touch.

“Braids can be symbolic or just for fashion, but they are often used for practical reasons. We don't cut our hair, or our beards, although a short beard like Thorin's is usually a sign of mourning. Long hair can get in the way, especially for miners or those who work in the forges.”

Sigrid nodded. “Will Thorin grow his beard, now that the mountain is retaken?” she asked.

Fili was silent for a minute, pulling out the last few snarls before moving back to where she could see him.

“No, I don't think so. He's not mourning Erebor anymore, it's true, but now...now he's mourning Bilbo. There have been grumblings about why the King of the Longbeards won't grow his out, but Thorin is stricken by grief, so I can't see him growing it out. Not now. Maybe never.”

“It's so sad,” Sigrid said, meeting Fili's downcast eyes with her own. She knew well how much he loved his uncle, and how much it grieved him to see Thorin suffering.

“Is that part of why you waited to tell us?” Bard asked, sitting down in a chair across the table, watching them intently.

“Yes, that is a part of it,” Fili said. “But it was nice having a secret, in a way.”

“It was a good secret,” Sigrid agreed smiling at Fili, wanting to lean into his touch.

“Right, well,” he said, clearing his throat. “Courting braids. As I said, a simple three strand braid is fine, some choose fancier braids, but I like the simplicity of these. It should start at the peak of the head, though we generally use a portion from underneath the top layer. His fingers continued to stroke through her hair, until he found a piece he liked and separated it from the rest.

“You'll want to take a nice sized section of hair, how much depends on how thick or coarse the person's hair is, so it will fit well within the bead. You'll need less of my hair, for instance, than I'll use in yours. It may take a few times to get it right, and they can always be rebraided when necessary.”

Fili had sectioned off the amount he needed, instructing her as his large, blunt fingers deftly twisted the strands together to form a tight, neat braid.

“Do you always braid your own hair?” Bard asked, and Sigrid was surprised, as she'd forgotten her Da was there.

“Not necessarily,” Fili said, taking a step back to get the needed tension. “I do my own, by rule, as does Thorin, although when my mother arrives, she'll probably want to do them for me.” Sigrid noticed his eye roll, though his face was wistful and affectionate. “But only close family or spouses braid your hair. It's a fairly intimate act, and the braiding itself is very symbolic for us, so it's not something that's done lightly.”

He was nearing the end of the braid, so he held his hand out and she dropped the Durin bead into it.

“If you look closely, you can see that the bead is actually a clasp. As long as you have the right amount of hair in the braid, it will attach securely with no issues.” He popped the clasp open deftly with one hand and laid the end of her braid inside it before flipping it shut again.

“That was easy,” she said, reaching up to feel the braid, and the secure grip of the silver clasp at the end. She let it drop, the weight strange and cool against her neck.

“You'll get used to it quickly,” Fili said, fingering the bead at the end with hot eyes, his fingers brushing her neck, pulling another shiver from her oversensitive skin. “You can style your hair as normal, tucking it in or leaving it out.”

“I'd rather leave it out,” she said softly, reaching up and catching his hand, brushing a kiss across his palm and thrilling as she felt an answering shiver wash through him.

“You can also pull it all up in your bun and leave the end out so the bead is visible,” he said quietly, his eyes locked on hers, and when he licked his lips, she felt herself leaning closer. Before she'd got too close, however, her Da cleared his throat, and Fili took a quick step back, his hand falling away from her, though the promise of later was still in his eyes.

“When will your mother arrive?” Bard asked, and Sigrid wondered suddenly if she and Fili would able to find another moment alone before the wedding day.

“Not before June, I think. Oh, and that's something we should discuss, amralime,” he said, a shiver rippling through Sigrid at his use of the endearment. He'd called her by it before, but never in front of anyone else, and she was fully aware of the significance of it.

“Oh?”

“I told Thorin our plan to marry on your birthday...” he began, but was cut off by her Da's wordless exclamation.

“Your birthday!” he said, eyes wide and stunned. “So soon? I think I should have a say in this, Sigrid.”

“I know, Da,” she said. “Your opinion means a lot to me, of course, but it's just...we'll have so little time together, and we want to get started right away.”

“So little time? You'll have the rest of your life,” he replied.

“But I won't,” Fili said earnestly. “Sixty odd years is not nearly long enough to live with my beloved, and although the thought breaks my heart, I know I'll spend the majority of my life alone. I'm sorry if it seems soon to you, Bard, but I don't want to waste another day, unless I have to.”

Bard sat still, staring at Fili for several long moments before nodding roughly, and Sigrid knew that he understood. If he'd had the chance for more time with her Mama, she knew he would snatch it up in a heartbeat.

“All right, I can understand that,” he said.

“Thank you,” Fili replied with a nod of respect. “But Thorin pointed out, rightfully so, that we really need to wait for my mother to arrive. She'll never let me live if I get married without her here, and that would defeat the entire purpose of moving quickly.”

“Oh, of course,” Sigrid said, stunned at her self absorption. “Of course we have to wait.”

“I knew you'd agree. As I said, she should be here by June, so we won't have long to wait after that.”

“June is much better than April,” Bard said, and Sigrid was pleased that he seemed relieved.

She stood, breaking up the moment and pulled Fili to the chair, pushing him to sit. She was wearing his braid, it was time to put hers in his hair.

 

* * *

 

In the end, it had taken a great deal longer for her to braid Fili's hair than vice versa. It took some practice for her to choose the right amount of hair for the bead, as his was indeed much thicker than her own. She was distracted by the arrival of Tilda and Bain, who had stayed behind with Kili and Tauriel, and when the group saw Sigrid braiding Fili's hair under Bard's watchful eye, they were inundated by hugs and congratulations.

She held onto Tauriel for a long time, smiling brightly as her friend picked up her bead and admired it. It was identical to the one in Tauriel's own hair, from the same stash of Durin beads that Fili had located, and it warmed Sigrid to realise that Tauriel would become her sister in law before too long.

She was surprised when Kili picked her up, much in the way Fili had when he'd told her the news, and though the hug was much more boisterous, it left her feeling just as dizzy as Fili's had, for an entirely different reason.

“I can't wait to welcome you to the family, sister mine,” he'd said, and Sigrid had laughed in delight. He was so much older than her, she knew, but in many ways, Kili felt like a younger brother. He reminded her quite a bit of Bain.

Her own siblings were just as happy, and Tilda was enchanted with the idea of a royal wedding, and all that it would entail, though the look Sigrid shared with Fili told her that he was thinking smaller was better, an idea she would encourage as much as possible.

Finally she was successful in clasping her bead in Fili's hair, immediately loving the way it was offset from his other braids, falling in a direct, vertical line from the top of his head, while the others were set near his ears. It hung down from below the wide braid that secured most of his hair back, and the wooden bead gleamed darkly in his blond hair. It thrilled her to see it, as it thrilled her to feel the weight of the silver bead in her won hair.

When it was time for him to take his leave, she pushed aside her hesitance and let him kiss her soundly, her skin prickling with awareness as her tugged gently on her braid, his knuckles resting against her skin.

“Tomorrow we will find a moment alone,” he said softly, for her ears only. She smiled at him, leaning her forehead to his and answered with a simple, “yes.” They would be together for every tomorrow, for the rest of her life.

Tilda was right. The Dwarves were very lucky, after all.