A/N: Another Fili-centric fic. Of course.

He is turning his back on his king. It hurts, a clenching in his throat and heart, a pain almost as sharp as that which comes with the thought that he is also betraying his uncle.

(But Kili. He cannot leave Kili.)

He goes proudly, proud in his armor and in the set of his jaw, because he is still of the royal line even when he disgraces it, and because he knows that his uncle is wrong.

(And that hurts too, because he has never wanted to be king so much as he wants to be the king's shield, never wanted lordship or glory as much as he wanted to be a son.)

But Kili is sick—pale and cold, and how can he call himself a brother when Kili may be—may be—

(He will not let himself think the word, much less say it. Not Kili. Never Kili.)

The boat slips away into the glow of morning light, and he would follow it, if he could take his brother with him.

(He will not let his brother's life pay any price, even for his people).

He takes his brother's weight, leaves pride behind and begs at any door that will open, and sets aside everything for the one who already is, to him.

(But a part of him knows it is not enough, not enough to save his brother—not while the Mountain stands, the dragon lives, and gold gleams in darkness.)