(family love)

Fíli held his finger to his lips when Dwalin and Balin approached and nodded towards Kíli who had slumped against his shoulder, snoring softly, exhausted after their hurried march to Erebor. Balin smiled although his eyes remained sad, and both of them stepped more softly. Not that it was necessary; Kíli had always had an uncanny ability to sleep through just about anything. Not that Fíli had ever used that to his advantage.

"You need your sleep, laddie," Balin said quietly. "Come to bed now, both of you."

"No, I'll stay here," Fíli whispered back, pointing towards the endless expanse of gold below. "Just in case Thorin... needs me..."

"He does not need you," Dwalin replied with a huff. "He doesn't know you're here and I'm starting to doubt he even knows who you are or who he is for that matter."

Fíli sighed and looked down from the balcony to see his uncle erratically sifting through piles of treasure. It was well past midnight by now, but Thorin showed no sign of slowing down, driven by some invisible power, some foreign energy. Dwalin was probably right, he had no idea that his sister-sons were keeping watch, and if he had known he only would have ordered them to come down to aid him in his feverish search.

"Come to bed, Fíli," Balin repeated, concern evident in his voice. "You have done enough for one day. Do not torture yourself unduly."

Unduly... no, not unduly, certainly not that. This was his place; this was where he should be. Fíli smiled, but shook his head. He would stay here with his uncle.

"Could you take him with you?" he asked, glancing up at Dwalin. "Kíli should spend the night in a nice warm bed, after all he has been through."

Dwalin grunted his approval and bent to pick up Kíli's prone form. He lifted him as if he were still a weightless babe and when Kíli snuggled into his furs the same way he had when he was still a dwarfling, Dwalin smiled at him with great fondness. Kíli would never be alone as long as he had Dwalin. The thought comforted Fíli.

Dwalin retreated without further comment, but Balin tried to convince Fíli to retire once more. In the end, Fíli silenced him with nothing more than a raised hand and a shake of his head. He would not be swayed in this; this was a personal matter, a family matter. He sighed in relief when Balin's footsteps grew fainter in the distance. The great chamber was silent except for Thorin's frantic hunt that caused small avalanches of gold to cascade down mountains of treasure every now and again. Fíli knew by now that there was no point in interrupting him. He had tried to coax him into eating some broth earlier on, only to have it thrown into his face along with a barrage of insults. Bilbo had cried after that particular outburst and the others had stared at him in horror, but Fíli had merely wiped his face and declared that Thorin was not hungry. He was his mother's brother and Fíli would defend his dignity to the last.

Curses echoed through the vast chamber and Fíli watched his childhood hero fling large gems across the room in rapid succession. Thorin was sick and it was evident that he needed help, but there seemed to be nothing they could do, as nothing was able to penetrate the armour of madness that had wrapped itself around his mind. There was nothing he could do, nothing but sit here, shrouded in the darkness, watching his uncle wrestle with the sickness.

Fíli remembered the nights when his uncle used to stay up with him. He had often been poorly as a child, back when their home in the Ered Luin had been nowhere near as prosperous as it was now, and while his mother had nursed him during the day, it was usually Thorin who sat with him during the night. They had spent many a night in the lounge together, Fíli wrapped in blankets on the settee and Thorin sitting in the armchair, sometimes singing to him, sometimes telling him a story, but often just drawing on his pipe in silence, just being there. His uncle was not as jovial and warm as his father had been, on the contrary, he was stern and had high demands, but Fíli still felt safe and treasured when Thorin was with him.

Now Thorin treasured only the Arkenstone and was a danger both to himself and to others. Fíli was not frightened of his uncle, but he would not leave anyone alone with him at the moment. This was not Thorin, not the real Thorin at any rate. He had changed. He had been unusually harsh and unyielding throughout their quest, but Fíli had taken that as a sign of the pressure and the desire to see them all safely to Erebor. But now Thorin seemed to have been consumed by the dragon sickness. Fíli watched him stumble through the treasure hoard, increasingly unsteady on his feet as exhaustion finally caught up with him, sinking to his knees numerous times before he eventually fell to the ground and remained there.

Fíli gave him several minutes, but when Thorin did not stir, he quietly made his way down to him. He was asleep, bedded on gold in what looked like a supremely uncomfortable position. With a sigh, Fíli knelt next to him, brushing back a lock of greying hair from the drawn, gaunt face. Somewhere in there was his uncle, the renowned warrior, great leader, talented smith, and devoted father figure. He removed his own cloak and spread it over the sleeping dwarf.

"I'll keep you safe," he whispered. "I'll keep the others safe from you, and I'll keep you safe from yourself. I love you, Uncle."