Look at Me
This will be in three parts and is a bit AU, but you will understand in the end.
I own nothing. Poop!
I watch as Dori bolts. My oldest brother has always been fast, but he is practically flying now. He's carrying Nori from the battlefield. I follow. Nori's not doing well. He stepped between Dori and an orc. With a broken sword in one hand he thwarted the orc's attack on Dori with a forearm. The vambrace cracked. Our brother bled. He was fast and pushed the orc back. The orc was faster and buried his sword deep into Nori's side. The weapon is of elven make. The beast must have grabbed a new sword from a dying elf. At least the blade did not have poison. Dori drove his sword into the orc and caught our brother as he fell.
We wept as Nori lay certainly dying, but Dori wept harder. He had not been fair to our brother. I knew that. I've known that since I was quite small. Dori hadn't meant to do harm, but he had. Nori hadn't wanted to be a thief, but he had done what was needed. Neither knew how to talk to the other despite the clear love they had for one another. We were losing Nori thanks to lack of communication and understanding. Dori hadn't properly seen Nori for who he really was and now he did, but it was quite possibly way too late. The three Ri brothers were becoming the two. That is not what I wanted. That is not what Dori wanted.
Dori outpaced me. I couldn't keep up. The battle was mostly over. The enemy pushed back and being slaughtered. Dwalin raced up beside me. He had seen Dori's flight and the precious cargo he carried. Together we hurried to the healing tents of Erebor. Dwarven wounded were being tended all about. Oin was shouting out commands. He was tending to Nori. Dori shook where he stood. He was covered in Nori's blood. Another healer tended to my brother's head wound. I carefully cleaned Dori up before another healer noticed my hand. Dori and I were exhausted, battered, but mostly unharmed. We had heard nothing on Nori's condition so far.
Dwalin tried to reassure us. The warrior said that any dwarf that could outfox criminals to keep Ered Luin safe would survive his wounds. Dori started at this and demanded an explanation. I was amazed. Dori was horrified. He had assumed the worst out of Nori when our brother was doing everything he could to do right by us…our family…our people.
"Why didn't I see?" Dori wailed as he sobbed into his hands as Dwalin and I had no words to comfort him, "Why didn't I look harder?"
I held my oldest brother close, but had no answers to his questions. Those questions were only for him to answer. Why didn't Dori see? Did he never notice how hopeful Nori looked when finishing a task that Dori asked him to do? How did he not notice the pleading in Nori's eyes to be seen? Dori never noticed. He never saw. I saw when the hope died in Nori's eyes so many years ago. I saw when he allowed the sadness to creep into his face on rare, unguarded moments. I saw his determination to keep going forward anyway. Nori wasn't perfect, but he always tried so hard to help. He was loyal, trustworthy, and wonderful in my eyes and had long ago proven the same to the company.
Dwalin excused himself to check on the rest of our friends as Dori and I waited to hear about Nori.
"What did you see?" I finally asked as my brother sighed, "When you looked at Nori, what did you see?"
I looked away as Dori blurted his mistakes. He had seen a troublesome brother. He had seen an untrustworthy, dishonest, sneaking, lazy, unethical dwarf. A no good thief. A vile criminal that would suck me down into his shadowy world. I felt rage then. I felt betrayal. I felt sadness.
"Nori is none of those things," Dori moaned shaking where he sat as my rage calmed, "I allowed my opinions to be tainted by superstition. I made the mistake in thinking that my ideas and thoughts were the only right ones. I didn't give Nori a chance from the very beginning. I overlooked his real self and reinvented him in the image I had perceived. I made him suffer. I am a fool."
"You are," I agreed as Dori lowered his head, "But I knew there was more to Nori than you realized and failed to point that out to you. I allowed Nori to suffer too. I am as much to blame. Why didn't I speak up in Nori's behalf?"
Dori denied my words. He pointed out that I had tried to defend Nori on multiple occasions. He rightfully admitted that he had decided that Nori was untrustworthy due to outside influences and not by any real actions that our brother had done as a dwarfling. Nori had lived up to the self-fulfilling prophecy that Dori had developed for our brother. There had been no other choices for Nori. He had stolen to help us live and then lost himself to a world he could not shake. Nori tried to hide his hopeless existence from us by a carefully constructed mask. I had seen through the mask. Dori had not.
Oin came to us with a grim face. Nori lived. Luckily, the sword's thrust had been thwarted by a buckle on Nori's belt and the major organs had been missed, but the wound was deep and at risk for infection. Our brother had lost too much blood and slept deeply in a sleep that he may or may not wake from. Dori rushed to be at Nori's side. The two had matching bandages on their foreheads, but Nori's arm was stitched and in a sling. He was pale and feverish. Dori cried again. He cried over our brother as he stroked Nori's long hair back from his face. Live, Nori. Live so Dori can show you that he was wrong. Live because we can't lose you. We can't.
Thorin, Fili, and Kili did not survive the battle. At least Thorin healed from his madness and apologized to our Bilbo prior to death. We were all devastated, but none as much as the hobbit and Dwalin. Nori slept on. The company members came often to visit. Dori spoke not a word as he held Nori's hand by his pallet. Nori slept on. Dori worked with Oin to change out the bandages on Nori's side and our brother didn't so much as flinch. Tears were shared and well wishes were given. Nori didn't stir, but his fever began to break. Dori broke on the third day.
"Don't leave me," Dori wailed as he hugged Nori tight to his chest while protecting our brother's stab wound, "Don't return to the stone, Little Brother. I need you here with me. I need to show you what a fool I am. I need to apologize to you for the suffering you put up with due to this big, arrogant, fussy, creature that I've become. I never meant to hurt you so. I swear I did not. I see you, Nori. I see you clearly and I love who you are. Forgive me, Brother. Please forgive me."
My own tears ran as Dori begged for our brother to live. Big Brother hadn't meant to harm Nori. The stubborn part of my heart forgave Dori for what he had done and the sense of betrayal dimmed in my mind. Finally, I wrapped around both my brother's as Dori sobbed against Nori's neck. To my amazement, Nori ever so slightly hugged back. Dori gasped as his head snapped up and he and I both watched as Nori's eyes blinked open again.
"Did…did you die too?" Nori whispered as he shuddered.
"You didn't die. Thank Mahal, you didn't die, you stubborn, wonderful creature. Stay still so you don't rip the stitches in your side," Dori whispered back as the tears still fell before he rested his forehead to our brother's, "Nori…oh. Oh! Little Brother, I've missed you so much. I'm so sorry. I see you, Nori. I see you and I am so proud of you. Forgive my ignorance."
There were tears in Nori's eyes as his breathing quivered at hearing words I knew he had yearned to hear for years. I stayed still and didn't intrude as Dori babbled out all of his thoughts and feelings while Nori reached with his good arm and hugged our eldest brother close. Nori's words flowed then and Dori listened. He really listened for the first time in Nori's life. All the misunderstandings and pain ebbed as the two talked out their differences. They forgave one another and I choked at having a truly, whole family for the first time in my life.
Dori and Nori looked up at me then. Dori cradled Nori upright as I moved to hold my second, older brother's hand in mine.
"I'm gonna be fine, Ori. Don't worry about me," Nori stated as I shook.
"I'm so glad," I admitted launching myself at my brothers while still being very gentle with Nori, "I never want to lose either of you."
"Look at me," Nori instructed as I obeyed, "Dori and I aren't going anywhere, Ori."
"Damn straight," Dori snorted pulling both Nori and I very close, "No one touches my family. Not ever again. I see you both and I'll never let you two go."
"Dori, we're grown dwarves," I reminded as Dori grumbled, "Nori and I aren't children. You have to let us go eventually."
"Perhaps," Dori hedged resting his chin on the top of Nori's head, "But not today and not any time soon. You two stay with me."
Nori winked at me as he laid against our brother. It felt good to see the twinkle and bright hope in his eyes once more. We remained wrapped around one another just a little bit longer. Even grown, Nori and I drew strength from our oldest brother's sheltering presence.
"We stay with you," I agreed as Dori relaxed a bit, "Nori, I'm so happy to see you awake and…um…Dori, he's asleep."
"I know," Dori hummed as he gently lifted Nori from his pallet, "Cover him with that blanket. Okay. Good. Let's take Nori home. Balin has set up some chambers for us. We'll start over in Erebor. All three of us will live together. It is time to rediscover who each of us really are."
That is what we did and we became a closer family for it. Nori was the Spy Master of Erebor and Dori was the Master of Ceremonies. I became the Head Scribe and was put in charge of the libraries. I tried to go with Balin to retake Moria, but my brothers went berserk. They looked at me with pain-filled eyes and I relinquished my want to go. We were the three Ri brothers and despite arguments and stubborn pride, nothing was going to tear us apart. Look at us. We are happy.
This story was inspired by a very talented artist by the name of Tenshi-Inverse from DA. The first two parts were inspired from her piece entitled "Savior." The final part was inspired from her piece entitled "Healing Wounds." I love her art and adore the Ri brothers.
I hope you enjoyed this tale. Sorry for the ones that stick to the original plot. I just didn't want Dori and Nori to lose their baby brother which is why I called this an AU story. Thank you for reading.