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And now, to Middle Earth!
As much as Fili would like to later blame his behaviour on the mead, of which he had surely consumed plenty, he had to admit that such excuse would be only partially true. He wished to feel inebriated, to cross that threshold, to shake off the shackles of propriety and strict upbringing - and let his mind be known.
The dinner started in the perfectly civil manner, just as many of his family dinners had - tense silence; discreet looks; veiled insults.
Wren was hiding her eyes, down to her plate. Fili's mother was glaring, hoping to pick up a fight with someone - no doubt to blame them later. Kili kept sipping his wine, and feeling sorry for himself. Ingva hardly touched her meal.
Fili's eyes would stray to Torunn from time to time. He realised suddenly what it was that drew him to her. She was unburdened by any old grievances and unsolvable strifes. She carried no grudge. She was angered with him of course - and he was no idiot to misunderstand why. He had behaved unseemly last time they had met. He'd dismissed her, ignored her - for the sake of snatching another minute with Wren. What woman would forgive this? What Dwarf would?
And yet he felt it was easier to breathe when he'd think of her at the moment - angry with him and not afraid to show it - as opposed to the pale Wren, who had just endured Dain Ironfoot's multiple insults without a word in response; or Kili who had mistreated Ingva, the only person who allowed him; or Thorin who seemed to notice nothing and care about nothing.
"The roads had set by now," Thorin announced seemingly addressing the chunk of roasted mutton on his plate. He then turned to Wren and gave her a small smile. "After this visit, we will be heading home."
"That's wise," Balin immediately chimed in, as if he'd been waiting for a cue in a street carnival play. And then he launched into discussion of the state of the roads and which route would be the safest.
Dwalin joined in. Thorin then shortly alluded to his boats, his companies of merchants, and his guards he'd been training for his trade. Fili had been attuned to Thorin's tones for years, and he didn't miss the note of pride in the Dwarf's voice. Fili wondered if Ironfoot would jump at the opportunity to point out how unseemly exchanging a Kingdom to a pitiful trading company of Men had been for an Heir of Durin - but the red haired Dwarf seemed to be busy with a lamb joint he was gnawing. So, what they had all thought since the day Thorin had arrived to Erebor would seem to stay eternally unspoken.
"So, are we done with exchanging biting remarks then?" Fili asked into the ceiling, dangling a goblet between his middle finger and the thumb. He knew he was stirring trouble - and he revelled in it. It was immature, petty, and malicious - and Mahal help him, he was going to enjoy it! "Are we to lead amicable conversations about trade and weather now?"
"Not exactly my brand of steel that would be," Ironfoot drew out, and took a gulp of his beer. "What do you want to talk about, laddie? Thorin's little lass I reckon?" The Dwarf was drunk, but not yet completely inarticulate. Fili scowled and saluted him with his glass.
"Oh for Maiar sake's..." Wren muttered at the background.
"Well, Wren here is indeed the topic of the evening," Dis quipped; and Fili saw Thorin slowly put down his fork. Fili wondered if once again his Uncle would refrain from interfering - and whether Wren would allow another to stomp her into dirt now. He felt rage rise in him again. Why hadn't she stood up for herself? He knew she could! Or she could have turned to him - or at least Thorin - for support. Why sit, wan and clearly upset, and say nothing?
"What say you, Ingva? It is nice for once not to be the woman discussed," Kili said quietly, as if addressing only his wife. Ingva jerked as if he'd slapped her.
And Fili rose, came up to his brother, and jerked him up, to his feet, by his collar. And then, just as he'd dreamed for a dozen years, he placed a full blown hit to his jaw.
People jumped to their feet; Ingva cried out in anguish; Balin seemed to rush to Fili and grab his shoulder - Fili didn't see much, but just the bloodied lips of his brother.
Kili lunged into a counterattack, swaying his fists, his face distorted in rage. He would always go blind and deaf to reason when provoked.
"Fight me, c'mon!" he yelled into Fili's face. Someone held Fili back, while Dwalin was twisting Kili's arm back. "You've always been jealous of me! For stealing her from you!"
"You're a bloody moron!" Fili spat back. "You didn't steal her! You picked up what Mother told you to! Always listening like a good boy! Never deciding for yourself!"
"Please, stop!" Ingva sobbed out.
"Leave your brother alone!" Their mother of course didn't miss a chance to command - and to protect her poor, wounded youngling.
"Always him! Always Kili!" Fili sneered at her, whipping his head, feeling almost hatred towards her. "You decide for all of us! Ingva was not good for me; she got sent away. But they were a match, weren't they, mother? Well, look how well it worked out! He drinks; she is like a spectre."
"Don't you dare speaking to me like that!" Dis' voice grew shrieky. "I've had enough of these preposterous accusations from this whore!" She pointed her finger at Wren, without looking.
"Watch it, Dis," Thorin's voice boomed.
"Oh stop it! Stop it, all of you!" Ingva screamed. She wrapped her arms around her middle, and started slowly bending, keeling ahead. Wren supported her and seated her on the nearest chair.
"You're right!" Ingva's voice shook and broke. She lifted her eyes, red rimmed and pained, at Fili. Wren was making quiet comforting noises. "Alright? I had made a mistake! Not leaving you, that was right! I wouldn't have made a good wife for you. But marrying him…"
"It's alright, it's alright," Wren mumbled quietly, and pushed a glass into the crying woman's hands. "Don't think of it now! Drink."
Fili stared at Ingva's shaking hands. She was so thinned that he could see blue veins on the previously beautiful round hands.
Kili, who'd by then jerked out of Dwalin's hold, heavily sat on a chair and dropped his face into his hands.
"Well, these two are done with," Ironfoot remarked at the background. "Thorin, cousin, isn't it your turn to polish some knuckles?"
"I thought I already had," Thorin grumbled, pouring more wine into the goblet Wren then pushed towards Ingva.
"Not to my clock, you muppet. The King here is clearly pissing into your forge hearth."
Fili clenched a fist. To think of it, a good punch up with Thorin would be most welcome. After all, they never did finish that very first one.
"What's in it for you, Dain?" Thorin asked, straightening up.
"Well, I reckon the boy would never tell you how betrayed we all feel. We mourned you, honoured you; and here are you are back from the dead, with a Long one in tow. I told you as much; your sister doesn't count," he remarked, and Fili saw his mother bare her teeth. "But the bairns surely would like to know why they weren't considered worthy of knowing you were alive."
Thorin gave Dain a long studying look, and then just turned away and went back to his seat.
"So, what is your story then, lass?" Ironfoot directed him attention to Torunn now. She gave him an amused look.
"Leave the girl alone, Dain," Dis tried in her usual haughty tone.
"Ah, so she's here on your invitation, Dis? Matchmaking again? Life taught you nothing?" Ironfoot took a big swig from a goblet that had appeared in his hand as if by magic.
"Oh, that's interesting," Torunn drew out.
"The invitation was from me," Fili directed his words to her. He couldn't afford her to get a wrong impression. "I didn't expect the evening to be that… eventful." He gave her a smile, but she didn't return it.
"Wren, you haven't eaten," Thorin's quiet authoritative voice came from the table.
Fili looked and saw the redhead throw her husband a glance. Fili seemed to detect irritation in it. She gave a small shake of her head; and went back to whispering something to Ingva.
"We should all return to the table," Balin supplied yet another of his 'helpful' remarks. "Perhaps, all that mead in the stomachs needs soaking up."
Kili jumped to his feet. "I'm not hungry."
"Sit, Kili." Thorin's words were like a grave weight in the room; and Kili dragged his feet to his seat, pushed the chair back noisily, and slumped in it.
"Thorin," Wren called; and when he looked at her, she pointed at Ingva with her eyes. Thorin paused, obviously not sure what she meant; and then he turned to Kili.
"Perhaps, your wife needs to repose, Kili."
"Would you like to?" Wren jumped in, addressing Ingva; and then throwing Thorin an exasperated look. Fili felt like asking her if she truly had expected Thorin to show understanding or tact. She'd been married to Thorin for ten years. He had thought her smarter, Fili thought.
"Yes, please," Ingva answered weakly. She rose, supported by Wren; and then she swayed. Even in her exhausted state; she was much heavier than Wren, and the redhead pressed her hands into Ingva's shoulder. Fili shifted towards them, to help; and saw that he and Torunn were the only people who did.
Their eyes met, and for an instant Fili thought he saw the shadow of their previous kinship.
"I would like a small walk as well," Torunn muttered, rose, and joined the other two women. "We will return shortly," she added.
When passing Fili, she looked down at him; and he hoped she could see the gratitude in his eyes. Her chin was jerked up, though; and the expression on her face remained cold.
When the door behind them closed, Dain clapped his hand to his knee, "Well, while the better half of the company is away, shall we drink?"
Fili heard his mother make a disgruntled noise; and Fili smirked and grabbed the nearest jug.
To be continued…