Better than Crowns

Fíli's eyes flashed open to reveal the dark, golden carvings embellished across the stone ceiling above.

His dream – rather, nightmare – had terrified the young dwarf enough to jar him awake, leaving him mentally defeated as he stared upward, blinking past the blurred tears that pooled against his eyes. Sweat trickled icily down the spine of his back as he straightened himself, fully aware of his heart racing furiously against his ribs, and his chest caved as shallow breaths hungrily swept in and out of his lungs. The horrible illusion of his uncle - frozen, bloodied, and gray against a pile of snow and ice - slowly faded away as the king's chambers of Erebor came into view.

It had grown colder within the room, since last he had woken, and far more quiet.

He was glad to discover that Kíli remained still alongside him, breathing slowly and peacefully with his rich brown hair tumbling down into his fastened eyes, as he resided within whatever dream-world he was conceiving. Fíli watched him for a span, finding himself envious of his brother's serene slumber, for he personally could not handle the images that sprang forth each time he closed his own eyes. Somehow, despite the horrors they faced on any given day, Fíli was always the sibling who would lie awake in contemplation, whereas Kíli would rest easily without a care in the world. Such was the curse of being the elder brother, Fíli mused.

As he sat in the chill of the darkening chambers Fíli shifted his gaze curiously onto the fireplace at the corner of the large room, doubtful that he would discover it to still be lit. He was saddened to see that the warm, burning flames had all but died out, leaving behind nothing save for a few charred, red coals in the pit of the hearth.

That won't do.

Fíli shifted his feet slowly over the edge of the bed, careful as to not wake his dreaming younger brother, and gingerly brought himself up into a standing position. His legs trembled beneath him, unaccustomed to holding the weight, and he steadied himself clumsily against a sturdy bedpost. The blonde dwarf winced as his injured arm, tucked tightly within the protection of a wrap and sling, ached in objection to his jarring motions. When the pain had subsided, he gently brought his arm up to eye-level and examined the bandages critically, wondering how he was expected to endure the crowning ceremony with such a swaddle. Fíli's stomach suddenly churned as he imagined the events of the day ahead of him. The crowning ceremony would prove to be its own separate hell, notwithstanding the other terrible ritual he would have to attend; the burial ceremony for Thorin Oakenshield.

With a terse sigh, Fíli forced his tired legs to move in the direction of the fireplace. The more he traveled the easier the simple motion became, and by the time he had reached the end of the large chambers Fíli was walking at a moderately normal pace; though, undoubtedly stiffer than ever before.

As he stood at the edge of the hearth, studying the embers with temperate interest, Fíli bent haltingly forward to scoop up a dry log from a stack alongside the fireplace. He tossed the log into the center of the heat, then grabbed the fire iron and poked at the wood, willing the flames to reignite. At length, the blazes finally flared up, illuminating the surrounding stone and gold walls with a warm, yellow glow.

Deciding against the idea of returning to bed, Fíli lowered himself down onto a decorative rug that had been laid out before the fireplace. The weariness snuck upon him as he sat beside the fire, unmoving. He hadn't slept much since he had woken from his initial stupor; and even that long period of sleep had not restored his mind or body into its full energetic capacity. Dwarves, as a rule, were characteristically hardy and powerful; though at present Fíli did not feel fit for either one of these descriptions.

He watched for a long while as the flames danced and sparked, at one point adding another log onto the crackling blazes, all the while remaining contentedly unaware of the time of day. It couldn't be too late in the morning, Fíli silently mused, though Erebor's lack of sunlight proved his conjecture to be just that; nothing more than a hunch.

Fíli's ears abruptly twitched to the sound of Kíli stirring within the bed. Without shifting his blue eyes away from the fire, he asked, "did I wake you?"

"No," Kíli responded in a sleepy voice, and Fíli could hear him shifting across the bed and placing his feet tiredly upon the ground. He listened as his brother's footfalls echoed across the stone, drawing closer and closer until he was silently standing behind him. After a span, he asked, "were you able to sleep?"

Fíli blew gently into the fire, and the flames leapt up higher. "Barely."

"You appear to be feeling better." Kíli said. His voice hitched curiously at the end, verifying that it was less of a statement and more of an inquiry.

Fíli wet his lips and ran his good hand roughly across the back of his neck. He felt better than he had earlier, being able to stand and speak more fluently now. Still, there remained several pains that would take much longer to heal. He shifted his injured arm, acknowledging the ache that still resonated from within, and mumbled, "it is a constant, dull ache. Nothing compared to the pain I feel inside."

Kíli brought himself down onto his knees, joining his brother at the front of the fireplace. Fíli took a moment to glance at his brother; taking in the image of his dark hair that sat messily above his large, gentle eyes. To Fíli, Kíli had always appeared to be young and impressionable, and he doubted very much that there would ever come a day when he would look upon his younger brother and see anything other than an adolescent dwarf.

"I dreamt of him. Of Thorin," Kíli started, reaching his hands forward to catch the warmth of the fire. "He was alive. He survived the battle. He… he found us, on Ravenhill, and he pulled us in close; y'know, how he always does."

"Did." Fíli chided harshly. He softened as Kíli flinched, wishing that he could retract his correction. He respired, "with one arm around each of our necks, drawing us into that rough embrace?"

"That's the one." Kíli grinned. "He held us both close and whispered, 'we've done it'."

Fíli smiled, returning his gaze to the fire. Once again, he found himself envious of his little brother's elaborate dreams. How nice it would be if he were capable of closing his eyes and seeing anything other than frozen ice, splayed orc carcasses, and his uncle's lifeless body…

"Then, in a turn of events, Mother suddenly appeared – truly, out of nothing – and slapped the three of us across the back of our heads while scolding us for being tardy for supper." Kíli said with a snort.

Fíli chuckled, despite himself, finding comfort in Kíli's ability to find humor among even the most unpleasant of situations. He only hoped that Kíli's playfulness would not be hindered by their future roles within the kingdom.

Fíli frowned, feeling vaguely uneasy all of the sudden. He shivered, despite the warmth of the fire, and whispered, "I'm going to be the king, Kee."

Kíli smiled thinly. "Aye, I imagine that's what they expect."

"I do not think I am ready for this," Fíli admitted as a line creased his brow. Thorin had taught Fíli a great deal of things when concerning the ways of a king. What he had failed to prepare the elder heir of Durin for was the overwhelming and intimidating reality that struck when the responsibility finally arose...

Kíli placed his hand heavily atop his brother's shoulder, squinting at him with a pensive expression plastered across his face. "It is in your blood. You don't have to be ready."

Fíli released an amused grunt, "while I appreciate your input, I do not think it works that way."

"Ah, well," Kíli said with a humorous shrug, "we'll figure it out, together."

"Where do we even begin…" Fíli wondered alloud, more-so to himself.

Just for a moment, Fíli thought he saw a flicker of doubt within Kíli's eyes, but what he said was, "we'll begin by sizing the crown to fit upon your giant head!"

Fíli's eyebrow quirked, and he countered, "you so quickly forget that you will be wearing one, as well." He then reached forward and ruffled the top of Kíli's head, chuckling as his brother swatted him gently away.

They shared a bought of laughter, wherein Fíli was carried back into a time when he and Kíli had been dwarves of youth; playing within their bedroom with fake crowns resting upon their color-clashing heads. He could remember how excited he had been, explaining to his brother how one day they would both wear real crowns, and Kíli's eyes had grown wide with wonder and enthusiasm. In that moment, they couldn't imagine anything being better than real crowns…

Kíli pressed himself up onto his feet and beamed, offering Fíli his hand. "Come along, then. It's going to take a century to measure both of our heads."

Fíli nodded, clasping onto his brother's hand and straightening as well.

Some things, as it turns out, were much better than crowns.

A/N: Ah, there it is. This is just a oneshot idea that sprang into my mind while I was writing my full-length story. I super love Fíli, and I super-duper love Fíli and Kíli together, so I wanted to write a quick (and I do mean quick) story from big brother's point of view.

If you enjoyed this, take a gander at my full-length story "A Star Among Audacity".