Question: Should this become romance or remain a family story? If you have an opinion at all, I'd really like to hear it!
Babe in the Woods
The sun burned down against the back of Fíli's neck and shoulders as he wiped his brow. He rubbed perspiration from his eyes, readjusting the grip of his heavy sword. The thick, leather grip felt worn and damp beneath his palm, and he suppressed a small wince.
"Worn out so soon?" Dwalin jeered, a devious smirk upon his face. "I didn't think this would be so easy!"
"Shut up," Fíli gave a short, rasped laugh followed by a sore groan. "Damn..."
He couldn't believe he was panting already. It wasn't that the temperature was hot, it was the abrupt and strenuous exercize he was already beginning to regret agreeing to. He glanced to his right where he saw Kíli with Dís. The boy was sitting half cross-legged upon the ground with his right leg outstretched in front of him. He was watching Fíli as Dís hovered over him, possibly tuttering worriedly about him. Whatever she was saying to Kíli, he didn't look incredibly interested.
However, when Fíli caught his gaze, he saw Kíli's eyes widen slightly before quickly turning away. Fíli swallowed thickly, a knot tightening in his chest as he wondered why he didn't want to look at him. He couldn't help but think it was due to his earlier actions.
When Fíli had first woken up that morning, Kíli had been cradled up closely to his chest. He had woken in the middle of the night with yet another terrible migraine, and it took half an hour of consistent soothing and gentle back massages before Kíli managed to drift back into a restless sleep. But the moment Kíli had stirred awake once the sun had risen, his body went stiff and he rapidly sat up and pushed Fíli away. Stunned, Fíli had stammered out an apology, but Kíli refused to look him in the eye.
Fíli didn't know what he did or said, but he thoroughly regretted it.
"Oi, blondie!" Dwalin raised an eyebrow. "Head in the clouds?"
"Sorry." Fíli forced himself to look away from Kíli to Dwalin. He took a deep breath and tightened his grasp around his falchion. "Just a bit on my mind."
"Well, better clear it, we've got a lotta work to do."
"I know, I know."
Not a moment later, the two weapons clashed together, a sharp screech of forged metal-on-metal echoing through the ring. The muscle memory of the delicate footwork was slowly but surely coming back to Fíli, and with each step he felt his confidence grow. Dwalin lunged to his right, but he rapidly counters it, the blade slicing the air before colliding with great force against Dwalin's own. They fell into a comfortable rhythm, a basic spar refreshing in speed and agility – this was simple enough that Fíli's mind began to wander from the blocks and jabs to other thoughts that lingered.
Thorin had asked Fíli to find out Kíli's true name, a request he had agreed to. However... he didn't know how. It wasn't a topic he could merely sit him down and ask of him. It would require care, caution... trust. Why would he give himself a name so similar to his own? That was a trait found only in siblings – brothers, mostly.
Fíli lept back suddenly when Dwalin's enormous sword swung close – too close. He whirled to him angrily, eyes flashing. "The bloody hell was that for?"
"Focus!" Dwalin scolded him none too gently. "Better watch out, or I'll start slippin' in some fakes on ya!"
"No fair," Fíli grumbled. "This is only practice."
"Ye sure?" The other scoffed. "Looks to me more like you're too distracted to even do that. Am I borin' ye or something?"
"Oh, you're always boring."
Fíli cast a quick look to Kíli once more, who was now idly drawing into the loose dirt with a small stick.
"Everyone's bored." Fíli said heavily, swapping his falchion to his left hand. He clenched and unclenched his right hand again, stretching stiff fingers and joints. "That's enough for today."
"Fine by me." Dwalin shrugged his shoulders and slid his sword back into its sheathe at his hip. Fíli stretched his arm slowly, before sighing and walking to Dís and Kíli.
The boy was leaned over a bit, rubbing his eyes slowly. He gazed up wearily to Fíli, before turning to Dís nervously. He weakly raised his arms to her, and she smiled gently before lifting him into her arms. She tucked his legs around her waist gingerly, holding him close.
"Is he alright?" Fíli asked worriedly, hurrying to his mother's side. Kíli's forehead rested against the crook of her neck, his arms limp around her shoulders.
"Just a bit tired." Dís chuckled. "Don't worry, love."
"He didn't get a lot of sleep last night," Fíli added softly. "His headaches, mum... they're getting worse."
"Poor thing..." Dís murmured. Fíli longed to reach for Kíli, to hold him himself, but he knew bettter. He could see Kíli's dark lashes flutter closed, and Fíli's shoulders slumped in misery as he could only imagine how he felt.
He fell silent as he followed his mother back home. The sun was now hidden by thick clouds in the sky, and he gratefully accepted the cool breeze that swept through. He rubbed the back of his neck anxiously, words forming in his throat that he didn't want to speak aloud.
Fíli trailed behind her as she carried Kíli upstairs to his bedroom, watching as she gently laid him down at the bed. She sat down beside him, her fingers slowly brushing his hair from his forehead. She brought two fingers from each hand upon his temple and began to move them in small, circular movements, easing the pain as he slept.
Dís was quiet as she worked, her gaze cast downwards as she massaged his temples tenderly. When she spoke, her voice was very gentle. "Fíli...?"
"Yes, mum?" Fíli glanced up at her.
Dís gave an affectionate smile. "Your form looked wonderful, as usual."
Fíli gave a small grin, leaning back at the comfortable topic. "Thank you."
"The only thing I may suggest is not going too easy." Dís continued, turning back to Kíli. "Don't be afraid of hurting anyone during practice – especially not Dwalin. Remember, what you practice in the ring is-"
"-how I would perform in a real-case scenario. I know, mum." Fíli sighed. "I think what I need is a real challenge. Someone that would actually push me to my limits."
"Couldn't you ask Dwalin to go a bit harder on you?"
"I've tried, but he doesn't listen. I guess he just doesn't want to hurt me."
"What about Thorin?"
Fíli fell quiet and he turned away from his mother. "... I don't know."
Dís said nothing more of the subject, leaving Fíli alone with his thoughts. Sparring with his uncle may not be a smart idea... but then again, what if it would be? What if he was the appropriate sparring partner he needed?
A small noise distracted him from his thoughts, and Fíli glanced to Kíli. The boy's eyes were closed tightly, and his hands were shivering. No... he was trembling.
"Mum, wake him up." Fíli said suddenly.
"What?" Dís' hands paused as she looked up at him. Kíli whimpered softly, his head falling to one side.
"Wake him up," Fíli urged her rapidly. "He's having a nightmare."
"But he's sleeping, we can't just wake him-"
A small sob slipped from the sleeping child, his eyelashes wet with unshed tears. His fingers twitched, as if trying to clutch onto something that was not there. Fíli sat up and desperately shook Kíli's shoulder once, twice, but he did not awaken.
"Kíli!" He sat up on his knees, moving closer as he gripped both of his shoulders. "Kíli, wake up!"
Kíli gasped as his eyes snapped open, his cheeks paling. He covered his mouth with his hand as tears ran down his cheeks, and Dís held him closely as he curled on on himself. He held onto her blouse, his shoulders shaking as he muffled weak sobs. Dís stroked his hair slowly, whispering gentle words only a mother could speak.
Fíli knew there was nothing he could do for Kíli. He needed his mother, a mother...
Kíli held onto Dís as tightly as he could, his body quivering. Fíli's head bowed as she sung a very soft lullaby, and recognized it as one he too had listened to when he was young. He closed his eyes as he listened. Kíli's shivering ceased, his grip on Dís slowly weakening as he drifted into a light and uneasy sleep.
Fíli's eyes slowly opened once more, his heart heavy with the lead of remorse.
"Mum," He whispered, his words thick in the air. He knew she understood clearly what he was about to say next, but he had to get it off his chest. He had to.
"Can he... stay?"
The question was inevitable, and Fíli could hear his heart pounding loud and hard in his chest, his stomach twisting sickeningly as he anxiously awaited her answer.
"Please," The words were broken and unsteady. "Mum... he's got nowhere..."
"He could share my room." Fíli choked out, scraping his eyes with the back of his wrist. "Y-you know... w-we could buy him some more clothes... he could come to lessons with me-"
"I could teach him how to spar, i-if Thorin's worried about that... M-mum, he could come when we go to recla-"
"He's got nowhere to go!" Fíli struggled out, tears stinging in his eyes.
"Darling..." Dís reached to touch his cheek gently, a sad and small smile gracing her features. "What can we do...?"
"He's just a child, h-he needs a home..."
"We need more time to wait," Dís told him, her voice strained with pain of her words. "I know you care for him, and it makes me so happy to see that... Truly, Fíli, I know he is content being here because of you."
"Not anymore." Fíli said weakly. "Mum, I... I think he's mad at me..."
"Why on earth would he be mad at you?" Dís murmured. "You've done nothing but take care of him... are you sure he's not just weary?"
"He... he pushed me away." The words slipped out before Fíli had the time to properly form them. "This morning, I... he was in my arms, and he... it was like he suddenly despised me for holding him."
Dís gave a gentle smile. "Are you sure he wasn't just embarrassed for himself?"
"He fell asleep here..." She left a tender kiss to Kíli's forehead. "Because he thinks of me as a mother. But you... you are his brother."
Her words both warmed and froze Fíli's heart. His heart pounded quickly, and he swallowed his hope. "B-brother...?"
"I see the way he looks at you." Dís went on. "He admires you, Fíli, truly. As he should."
Fíli was stunned. A brother...? He had never so much as toyed with the idea of Kíli possibly... possibly...
"D-do you really think that?" His voice wavered and shook with a sickened mixture of hope and doubt.
"Of course I do, love, I would never just say something like that." Dís leaned to kiss Fíli's forehead, just as she had done to Kíli. "We will speak with Thorin."
"Oh, mother, do you think he would say yes?" He whispered, as if speaking too loud would alter her mind.
"I cannot know," Dís responded quietly, dark eyes gazing to Kíli. "Your uncle is a good man... if Kíli cannot stay, we will find a suitable alternative."
"A good man?" Fíli murmured half to himself. "We will see about that."
A heavy silence fell upon the room, and Dís spoke very softly, very gently. "Time, Fíli... we just need to give him time."
And time Fíli did give.
It had been four weeks and five days since Fíli had taken Kíli to his house, and much had begun to change in that time. Thorin's hours at the smithy grew longer, and Fíli's time with Kíli grew shorter due to mandatory lessons and training sessions. However, he still managed to balance time between duties and Kíli, but the question of Kíli's permanent stay lingered on his mind.
"Let me try it again." Kíli struggled to maintain his balance as he propped his hand against the wall. "I'll get it this time, really."
"Very well..." Fíli agreed reluctantly, releasing his shoulder. "But promise me you'll stop if it starts hurting."
Kíli took a deep breath, before placing his right foot down on the ground. He moved slowly, to Fíli's relief, as he pulled away from the wall. He swallowed, as if trying to rid of uncertainy, and stood upright on both of his legs.
A triumphant grin suddenly spead upon his face and he turned to Fíli. "Look!"
Fíli laughed aloud as his excitement, adoring the big smile he so rarely saw. "That's great, Ki! Does it hurt at all?"
"Nope!" He paused briefly. "Well, um... maybe just a bit. But it's not awful. It was a good idea to take the tonic before doing this."
Fíli nodded, sitting down at his bed. "Would you like to try walking now?"
"Yes," He answered. But he hesitated, mild doubt flickering in his eyes as he glanced down.
"You don't have to." Fíli reminded him gently. "Maybe that should be enough for today..."
But Kíli didn't listen. Hovering a hand just inches away from the wall, he took a step forward. Fíli stood abruptly and reached for him, but Kíli shook his head, smiling. "Don't. I'm okay, see?"
Fíli watched as the boy winced only slightly as he stepped with his wounded leg. The movement was unsteady and his knee barely bent, but he had done it.
"That's fantastic," Fíli breathed. "Oh, you're recovering so quickly."
Kíli giggled quietly, his face alight with his happiness. "I mean, it's far from normal, but at least it's something to work on now."
Fíli grinned as he rose to his feet. "Here, let's get you back to bed now."
Kíli shook his head. "I've been laying around for days, Fi. Let's go out somewhere."
"Mm, I agree." Fíli brought his fingers to the sterling bead that hung low beside his jaw, twirling slowly as he thought. "Perhaps we should help mum out and go to the market for her?"
The market Fíli spoke of was quite close to their house. Even Kíli had been able to go with him with his help, and Fíli understood just how much Kíli truly appreciated being outdoors.
Kíli's ears seemed to perk at the suggestion. "Peaches?"
"Aye, we can get peaches." Fíli ruffled his long hair playfully. "Here, let's get your boots on."
Kíli obediently sat down at the bed, watching as Fíli carefully tugged them onto his feet. Dís had kindly patched up and repaired his shoes the best she could. The old and shredded straps had been replaced with new ones, however, not much else besides that had been able to been mended. That gave Fíli an idea.
"Why don't we buy you some new boots at the market today?"
Kíli frowned slightly. "No, don't trouble yourself. Dís fixed these up real nicely."
"Perhaps... but they look like they're getting a bit too small." Fíli reasoned lightly. "And it would be no trouble at all."
"I don't know..." Kíli shifted, looking a little uncomfortable. "It's just money you don't have to spend."
"Nonsense!" Fíli stood up and offered a hand to Kíli. He took it gratefully and got to his feet. He leaned against the wall briefly to find proper balance as Fíli added, "It's my treat to you!"
"Fine..." Kíli finally gave in, pushing his hair back from his forehead. "But let me walk the whole way."
Fíli paused at this. "Fair enough. But if you need help or your leg starts hurting-"
"Don't worry about me." Kíli smirked, punching Fíli's shoulder halfheartedly. Fíli snickered and tucked his hands in his pockets. "Alright, alright."
To Fíli's pleasant surprise, Kíli needed no help on the stairs, though he did rely heavily on the railing. He stepped slowly wih with a very noticable limp, and Fíli stayed by his side.
"Where's Dís?" Kíli glimpsed to Fíli as he pushed open he front door. The younger followed him outside, squinting in the bright sunlight that stung his eyes.
"She's at the smithy with Thorin," Fíli explained as he began walking down a well-worn down path, Kíli following besde him. "Every once in a while she goes with him to make a little extra money."
Fíli brushed a hand against the back pocket of his trousers. He could feel the pouch of silver coins and he swallowed his guilt. Despite the lack of solid proof that they even were his, he couldn't help but feel as though he had almost stolen them from Kíli.
He knew he should ask Kíli about it – he did. But somewhere in his mind, he didn't want to. Instead, he'd perfer to use the currency for better use, such as new clothes.
To distract his wandering mind, Fíli slipped his arm around Kíli's, who looked up curiously. "What is it?"
"Oh, nothing." He smiled briskly. "Just happy."
"You're walking, of course!" Fíli exclaimed. "Isn't it wonderful?"
"I guess." Kíli faced forward again but did not pull his arm away. "I suppose I was looking forward to it."
"I bet you were! It's better than being able to only take a couple of steps, huh?"
The boys arrived at the market just minutes later, which was buzzing with life as other dwarves bustled with their business to and fro, arms full of merchandise to both sell and buy. Fíli immediately took Kíli to his favorite cobbler, an older dwarf of gruff being but his work was unmatched by another other's. As Fíli explained exactly what the two of them were looking for, the shoemaker scoffed as he eyed Kíli up and down, but Fíli shushed him and insisted they had enough money.
"Please, sir." Fíli told him, squeezing Kíli's shoulder in a small gesture of comfort. "We just need a pair of shoes and we'll be on our way."
"Very well." He grumbled, tugging on his long, grey beard. "C'mere, lad, let's see what size yer lookin' fer."
"U-um, okay." Kíli said meekly, wobbling slightly on his feet as he followed him. Fíli grinned, crossing his arms. 'The social interaction will do him good... and may prove entertaining for me.'
And entertaining it was.
"How do these fit?"
"I don't want brown."
"A'ight, but we ain't lookin' fer color yet. Try 'em on."
"... Are three straps really necessary?"
"It's just the style, lad, now get 'em on already."
"Seems like a waste of material."
Or when the cobbler brought up the apparent sensitive topic of boot height...
"No. Those are too short."
"Fine, what about these 'uns?"
"Ugh, those look like shoes for Men."
"Fine, how tall d'ya want 'em, then?"
"Er, lemme see what I've got..."
"No, those are ankles."
"I was just moving them-"
"Ooh, let me try on those."
"Weren't ye just making a fuss about brown ones?"
"But they look nice."
Kíli's tastes were particularly strict when it came to comfort level, as well.
"Try a walk with these on, why don'tcha?"
"Hm... they're... I don't know, thin. Got anything with thicker soles?"
"Oh aye, but that would be a waste of material."
Fíli glanced over his shoulder to the small line of to-be customers behind him, muttering darkly to one another as absolutely no progress was being made. One shot Fíli a look, but he merely shrugged. If it took Kíli all night to pick out shoes, so be it.
That's what he thought at first, at least.
It took about thirty minutes of Kíli's squirming, complaining, blatant groaning and nearly the complete of the poor cobbler's patience until they finally, finally found a pair of boots that both fit and Kíli could bear to wear.
"That wasn't so bad." Kíli said brightly as he followed Fíli past the dozens of growling Dwarves in their line. "And these feel lovely!"
The pair of boots Kíli had happily decided on were indeed a deep brown, with thick soles and extra wide laces. Double straps lay nicely around his ankle and shin, providing the comfort and flexibility he was keen on finding. The curved inwardly at his calf, where they ended with a ring of soft leather.
"Peaches next?" Kíli asked quite expectedly, grinning to Fíli, who nodded. "Of course! Here, why don't you buy yourself a few?" He withdrew a coin from his pouch which he kept from Kíli's eyes, and handed it to him. "That should be enough."
"Oh my, silver." Kíli marveled, inspecting the coin. "Right then – I'll be right back."
"I'll just be at the vender over here," Fíli pointed to a different shop and Kíli nodded before hurrying off. Fíli hesitated before turning away, watching with strange feelings in his stomach as he stared at Kíli's leg.
The injury was clear in a single glance – the way his foot was pointed in the wrong angle as he walked, his knee bending only at the peak of the step, but... there was something about the way he moved, with unspoken confidence and character, or perhaps it was the happiest grin Fíli had ever seen in his life. Whatever it was, it set Fíli's mind at ease and he knew he had done the right thing.
He turned to the shop he had gestured to, one he recognized for its fine jewelry and metalwork. He studied the wares, silently gazing over each pieces' well-defined carvings. He had never been much good at small, delicate forgery; his talents lay in the craftsmanship of weapons, like the many daggers he collected. On the delightful occasions Thorin would allow for him to tag along to the smithy with him, he would pay alert attention to his uncle's work, remembering and reciting his words over and over again as he, too, would attempt the skill.
Fíli's eyes gazed over various works of art; beads, earring cuffs, rings, bracelets and circlets. He gently fingered the circular pendent of a necklace, tracing his fingertip around the etched tree as its fine leaves curved and faded into whisps of mist. It was a true beauty – nothing Fíli had ever quite seen before.
"Magic, that is."
The voice startled Fíli, and he looked up quickly to see a girl – a Dwarven girl nonetheless – watching him with a smirk on her rouge-painted lips. Light brunette hair was pushed up into a messy bun, revealing cheap earrings. She must not have been older than fifty-five or so, hardly considered a young lady.
"Oh?" Fíli raised an eyebrow, and the girl nodded promptly. "Yes sir, that nice trinket's bound to bring your lucky lady a bit o' good fortune."
Fíli chuckled softly, shaking his head as he gently placed the necklace down. "My apologies, but I don't believe in superstition."
"Boy, me neither." The girl scoffed with a roll of her eyes. "It's just a waste of yer coin, if ye ask me."
"I wouldn't say that. Who made it?"
"Me." She responded simply.
"I admire your skill." Fíli nodded respectfully, and she waved her hand around. "Yeah, yeah. Look, if yer not buyin', go away."
Fíli hesitated, almost about to leave, but a different thought occurred. "You wouldn't happen to sell hair clasps, would you?"
The girl made a popping noise with her bright lips. "I think so. Fancy one?"
"For a, ah... friend, yes."
She raised an eyebrow. "Right. Half a second."
The girl then disappeared behind a draping cloth where he could only assume she kept extra merchandise. Fíli took the time to look through the necklaces once more, hoping he could find something special for his mother. A glimmer of gold caught his eye, and he frowned slightly as he lifted a earring cuff of a dragon, its long, jagged tail designed to curl menacingly around the lower shell of one's ear. Twin wings spread out from it's slender body, possibly meant to hold back a lock of hair to show of its flawless curves.
"It's beautiful," He murmured to himself. "But I wouldn't expect it to be too popular around here..."
"Aye, the dragon ones never sell." The girl reappeared suddenly, and Fíli put the cuff down. "I get it, sorta. Anyways, here are yer clasps."
She set a box of dark oak on the table, and lifted the heavy lid. Inside lay about ten or fifteen clips lay upon a cushion of plush velvet, varying from silver to sterling to gold. A few were specially adorned with precious jewels such as ruby and sapphire, and all had a unique carving.
"They're lovely," Fíli lifted one into his hand, carefully weighing it. This certain one was rather simple, a symmetrical design etched into its corners and sides. Despite lacking in a focal point, it was a balanced piece of art.
The girl made a face. "Ugh, I don't like that one. Me brother made that one, that idjit."
"I like it." Fíli responded truthfully. "It must have taken a very steady hand to make this."
The girl was silent, and Fíli quietly appreciated it. He turned the clasp over, pressing against both sides lightly until it opened, then listened for the satisfying click it gave when he clipped it shut. It was strong.
"I'll take this one." He looked up. "How much?"
After Fíli had paid, he was about to turn to a different vender when he heard, "Oi, Fi!"
He looked around to see Kíli walking up to him, a half-eaten peach in his hand and a basket of woven straw in the other. Fíli laughed as he gently took the basket from his hand, peeking inside. "My, my, how many is here?"
"Dozen and a half." Kíli replied proudly. "That'll last me a good while."
"I sure hope so." Fíli nodded. "Alright, now we only need sugar, apples, and the pepper spice we just used up."
"The stuff Dís put on the roast last night? That was delicious."
"Aye, that's the one." Fíli chuckled. "Let's split up, we'll more done."
"I'll get the apples and the sugar!" Kíli volunteered. "Give me another coin or two, would ya?"
"Right, here." Fíli turned away slightly and Kíli tiled his head a bit. He pulled out a couple of more coins, dropping them into Kíli's hand. "If you find anything that strikes your fancy, feel free to buy it."
"Best shopping partner ever." Kíli chortled. "I'll meet you back here in a minute."
It wasn't fifteen minutes before they completed their task. Hands full of groceries and other miscellanous trinkets, they set their course back to home.
"I bought you something, by the way." Fíli noted to Kíli as they walked together. "Remind me to give it to you when we get home."
"Aw, can't I have it now?" Kíli grinned before taking another bite of his peach.
"No, no," Fíli chastised. "Be patient."
Kíli nodded and tossed out the peach pit he had eaten down to. He fell quiet afterwards, shifting the basket in his hand a bit uncomfortably. Fíli hummed a soft tune to himself as he kept a brisk pace, not noticing when Kíli struggled to keep up.
"Hey, wait up." Kíli called out, cringing as he tried to run. "W-wait!"
Fíli stopped in his tracks and he turned to Kíli. "You alright?"
"Y-yes, just..." Kíli's jaw clenched hard and he gripped at his knee. Fíli hurried to his side, placing his collection of purchases on the ground. "Ki, what is it? It's your leg, isn't it?"
Kíli shook his head, rubbing his eyes quickly. "I-It was okay... really, it was, but all the sudden, I-"
"Sit down." Fíli instructed, gently taking Kíli's basket from his hand as the younger shakily did as he was told. He gasped as weak fingers clutched at his right knee, his entire body tensing. "O-oh..."
Fíli knelt beside him, rubbing his back slowly. "It's alright, I've got you... What's happened, does it feel like something gave?"
"I-I don't know..." He breathed. "F-Fi... i-it's never hurt like this before, i-it's different..."
Fíli suddenly felt cold as ice, and he could have sworn he felt his heart nearly stop. "Different how?"
"Like it's cramping or something, I don't know...!" He groaned, his body slumping forward as his eyes shut tightly. "M-make it stop, please!"
'The tonic must have worn off... not to mention we've been walking around for the past hour. Oh, Mahal, no...'
"Listen to me," Fíli began quietly. "It's overused. Get on my back."
"What? N-no, I'm heavy, I can't just-"
"Ki, do it." To Fíli's own surprise, his voice was steady. "I will not have you suffering when there's something I can do about it."
Kíli hesitated only briefly, but soon nodded shakily. "O-okay..."
With only faint difficulty, Fíli managed to coax Kíli's left leg and arms around him, and even reach back down for the groceries. He could feel as Kíli leaned his forehead against his shoulder, his body trembling in pain.
"F-Fíli, I'm so sorry," Kíli whispered, shaking fingers curling into his blond locks. "I didn't mean... I-I didn't think this would..."
"Don't." Fíli said firmly, keeping up a quick stride. "Don't apologize, understand? You did nothing wrong."
Kíli gave a soft sob, burying his head against Fíli a bit further. Fíli could feel small hands quivering, and his voice was quiet. "Don't cry, Ki... we're almost home. Look, you can see it from here."
"I-I thought I could," Kíli choked out. "I did..."
"I'm going to need for you to relax, alright?" Fíli asked as gently as he could. "It's only going to make your leg hurt worse if it's tense."
"O-okay," Came the pitiful response that made Fíli's heart ache. "I'll try..."
"Don't think about it. Instead... ah, I know!" Fíli forced his voice to raise a bit higher as if a new idea had struck him. "Think of all the peaches you'll get to eat when we get home! You picked out a bunch of good ones today."
Kíli nodded a bit, and Fíli could feel his left ankle pressing further against his side. He went on, "You know the present I was telling you about? I bought you something nice for your hair. Remember you were talking about your hair being so long that it got in your eyes all the time?"
"And I don't wanna cut it..." Kíli mumbled, and Fíli nodded. "I got you a clasp for your hair."
Fíli could hear the strain behind Kíli's quavering voice as he struggled to keep his words even, and Fíli nodded encouragingly. "Right! Very similar to mine."
"I like yours..." Kíli whispered.
"Good! You'll love this one."
Kíli's poor shivering had ceased and his body had gone limp from the abrupt tension by the time they had arrived at the doorstep of the house.
"I..." Kíli's voice was husky as he rasped out, "I can walk now."
"Are you sure...?" Fíli hesitated, reluctant to set him back down.
"We're home now anyways," Kíli's finger slowly uncurled from Fíli's hair. "I'm okay, promise..."
Acquiesced, Fíli gently released him, alowing him to get off of his back and onto the wood of the front porch. Fíli felt his breath hitch in his throat when he saw faint streaks of tears marking Kíli's cheeks, and the younger turned to rub them away.
"I'm fine." Kíli's voice wavered slightly as he gave a single nod. Fíli gave a small smile. "Why don't we have a snack out here? It's not too hot now."
Kíli gratefully slumped against the wall behind him and slid to the ground, sighing as he stretched his right leg. Fíli crouched beside him, and as he dug through the basket, he watched out of the corner of his eye as Kíli slowly rubbed his palm against his wounded knee, biting his lip.
Fíli said nothing of it, however, as he handed him an especially ripe peach. Kíli took it and sunk his teeth into its soft skin, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand as its juices dribbled down his chin. Fíli tore a piece of dark bread with nuts for himself and took a small bite.
"Fíli...?" Kíli asked quietly, picking at the stem of his fruit.
"I think..." Kíli swallowed. "... I miss home."
Fíli stopped eating and glanced up uncertainly. "You... think?"
"I feel... strange. As if I'm missing someone or something that I cannot remember." Kíli looked up at the sky, and Fíli could see something in his eyes flickering; forlorn or defeat, Fíli could not tell.
"I see," Fíli said quietly. "I don't understand, but... I wish I could. That must be awful."
Kíli rubbed his eyes slowly, leaning forward. Fíli reached and shook his shoulder lightly. "You alright...?"
Kíli did not respond. He glanced up at him for a moment before turning his head the other way. Fíli withdrew his touch and followed his gaze. He saw Dís and Thorin walking side-by-side back to the house, and Fíli smiled as he stood up.
"Look at you two, up and about." Dís chuckled as she hugged Fíli lightly. He grinned and nodded. "We just got back from the market."
"Oh, did you? Wonderful, love, thank you."
Fíli looked to Thorin, who remained silent as he walked inside the house. The door slammed shut with suppressed force, and he frowned as he turned back to Dís. "Is something wrong?"
"He's very tired." Dís said quietly. "Best we let him be."
"Dís...?" Kíli stammered out, his voice trembling.
Dís smiled warmly, kneeling down beside him. "And how are you, sweetheart?"
She leaned and kissed his forehead. Kíli suddenly wrapped his arms around her, shutting his eyes tightly as he hugged her. Dís did not pause in surprise nor hesitate, and she embraced him gently. Fíli glanced away.
What was that strange feeling in his chest...? Whatever it was, he didn't like it.
"I'm going inside." He muttered, not waiting for a reply before walking into the house. He snatched his pipe from the mantelpiece and stuffed the dry tobacco leaves into it. The front door opened as he took his first pull, and he glanced up to see his mother holding Kíli's hand as they stepped inside. He looked away, leaning against the wall as he sighed.
"Fi," Kíli walked from Dís to hug him. "Dís was wondering want you might want for dinner."
"Not hungry." He mumbled, absently moving to lay a hand on his his head, but Kíli did not notice and pulled away with a nod. "Okay."
With that, he left the room. Fíli glanced over and watched him leave, and Dís smiled as she crossed her arms. "I remember when you were that cuddly."
She grinned, her eyes sparkling with amusement, but Fíli felt awful. Of course he used to be like that; he was a child at once, too. He couldn't remember the last time he displayed such affection to his mother as Kíli did to his. It made him feel horrible.
"I think he's going to help me with dinner tonight," She concluded. "He seems like he's in a good mood."
"Yes, I suppose he is."
"Are those new shoes, by the way?" She went on, twirling a lock of her long hair in thought, and Fíli nodded mutely. "They look lovely. However..." She paused with a small frown. "Who paid for them?"
Dís' eyes widened slightly in surprise. "Goodness, Fíli, you didn't have to do that. Where on earth did you get the money?"
"I just... had it." Fíli shrugged, avoiding her gaze. "Dunno."
"Must have been from back when you were getting allowances." She chuckled, and Fíli just nodded again. "Guess so. Mum, I-"
"Mummy, have you tried one of the peaches yet?" Kíli leaned over the railing of the stairs, a big grin on his face.
Dís' face lit up at Kíli's words, her cheeks flushing red. "Did you hear that?" She breathed, her hands clasping. "He called me mummy!"
Before Fíli could open his mouth to respond, she turned to Kíli with a smile. "Not yet, love, I'll try one a bit later. Are they good?"
"Mm-hm!" Kíli nodded brightly, before disappearing up the stairs. Dís gasped, her hands to her cheeks. "I cannot believe it! He's walking around like normal!"
"Yes, I helped him this morning-"
"I think he's even gotten a bit taller!" Dís' eyes shined with joyous tears. "Oh, I'm so proud of him!"
"Me too." Fíli's tongue felt heavy and he found himself barely able to form the words. "Listen, I-"
"You know, I don't care what sort of fight he puts up, we truly do need to cut his hair." She chastised. "Just a trim, that's all it needs."
"He said he didn't want to cut it." Fíli mumbled.
"Oh, I know. But he won't mind if its just the tips."
"I'm going outside." Fíli stated abruptly, snatching his pipe and leather tobacco pouch. He gave Dís a quick, forced smile before heading out the front door. He shut it firmly, and sat down heavily at the steps of the porch. He took his pipe between his lips, grateful that it had yet to burn out. He inhaled deeply, enjoying the soft burn against the roof of his mouth before slowly expelling the hot smoke into the air.
He was happy for Kíli, he really was. It was such a relief to see him up on his own two feet. Even if it was minimal, the sight of him walking by himself was truly refreshing.
Dís was just excited, he told himself as he took his pipe between his lips again. That was all.