AN: This will be a multi-chapter series of one shots featuring Kíli, Fíli, and Thorin. Most family oriented, lots of angst and drama as well, because ... well, you all know.
Please drop me a line if you liked it or have some suggestions, because I love hearing from you.
The young nephews of Thorin Oakanshield were notorious for being inseparable. Though they were indeed separated by five years, it became common to hear it said that they were more like twins than brothers who had come into the world at different times, by different times. Fíli was the eldest, but he often felt borne along by his younger brother's endless enthusiasm, and he frequently thought to himself that those five years where Kíli had not existed were marked only by their darkness, and the odd feeling of emptiness that had settled in him, even as young as he was.
It might have been odd for Fíli to be so attached to his younger brother had Kíli not felt the same. Early on they established that they would brook no separation whatsoever, not even at night. For otherwise Kíli would have terrible nightmares that tormented him so badly he would wake screaming blue murder, inconsolable until Fíli came running to press his young brother in his arms and soothe him to sleep.
"What is it?" Fíli asked him the last time it had happened, when they were no more than twenty and twenty-five respectively.
Kíli looked up at him with wide, bright eyes, his cheeks streaked with tears. "I dreamed that darkness came and swallowed you whole. And I looked everywhere for you, called for you, but you were gone. It was cold and wet – like a cave or something – and I was lost forever."
"But you're fine, see?" Fíli said. "There's no cave, and I'm right here."
But Kíli was not comforted. He threw his small body into his elder brother's arms, pressing his tear-stained face into Fíli's chest. "Promise you won't leave me, ever as long as you live."
"Why would I ever leave you?" Fíli asked lightly, attempting to bring a smile to Kíli's face. "We're brothers, aye? We're meant to stick together."
Kíli brightened, so easily swayed by tempestuous moods even as a small child. "Aye," he nodded. "We stick together."
They could have hardly known it then, as young as they were, that the compact they sealed between them was of the eternal sort, a bond not so easily broken, not even by death.
Childhood feels eternal to those stuck in its throes, and this was especially true for two young boys who dreamed of becoming great warriors like their uncle. They would clamor around him, clutching his fine tunics and chainmail in their tiny fists, begging him for stories.
"Please, uncle," they would cry in turns. "Tell us a story!"
"I have no stories that would amuse you," Uncle returned, his voice rough as sand.
"Tell us a story of a great battle!" Kíli shouted, hopping up and down and yanking on Uncle's outercoat.
"Tell us how you got your name!" Fíli echoed, as he was eager to please his brother as much as he was eager to be near his uncle, who he saw as a great hero, above the province of mere mortals.
Uncle sighed, and though Fíli knew he was often dark of mood and temperament, when he looked upon his small nephews something softened in him, as if their presence was a kind of salve for old wounds that had festered.
"There was a battle outside the gates of Moria" said Uncle in a low voice. "My grandfather Thrór had fallen, and his head had been cloven from his body, tossed aside like trash, his eyes open and unseeing. I met the orc responsible in battle, and it was fierce and grim, for he was driven by all that is evil."
Kíli's eyes grew wider than should have been possible, almost perfect circles, framed by feathered lashes. "Was he truly so terrible?" he breathed.
"Aye," said Uncle. "Twice as large in body as I, with teeth more like the fangs of a beast than a man. In his eye, I saw a fire burning, and I swore to put it out. I rolled out of the path of one of his great blows, and as I dodged, I came upon a sundered oak branch. I saw the Azog's blade descending, and in a moment without breath or heartbeat, I brought that branch between us, so that the blade met the branch instead of my own flesh. And it did not sunder or break, but stood fast."
"And you cut off his arm next!" Kíli blurted, nearly beside himself with glee. He broke away and begun swinging an imaginary sword, and Fíli knew that in his brother's mind's eye, he saw that battle just as Uncle had described, though instead he stood at the side of Uncle, as great a warrior as Thorin Oakenshield himself.
"Perhaps you should recite this tale to me, since you know it so well," said Uncle, though Fíli saw his eyes glint with amusement, and his lips twitched against a small grin.
"I want to be like you, Uncle," said Kíli, running back and clutching at his leg. "I want to be a brave warrior, and defeat our foes in battle, just as you have!"
"It is not all glory, nephew," Uncle said grimly. "On the day of that battle, we lost so many of our own that the dead were beyond counting, and they littered the battlefield as far as one's eye can see. That is the province of war, just as much as any glory."
"But we would stand with you, Uncle!" Kíli said stoutly, Fíli nodding at his side. "And as long as we stood, no harm would come to you."
"Can you be so sure of the future, young nephew?" said Uncle softly. "Even I cannot."
But Kíli was not deterred by the odd mood that had fallen over Uncle; he knew nothing of the grimness of battle or the sorrow that could grip your heart as sure as any blade through it. "Will you teach us how to be great warriors, Uncle?" Kíli asked.
"I don't know."
"Please!" they wailed in unison. "Please teach us to be like you!"
And though Fíli saw it might have made Uncle happier to deny them, and to deny the cause for war, at his heart he was a pragmatic soul, and he knew that one day they would march to retake their home. "I will," said Uncle finally. "One day."
"You are too young today," Uncle said with a small smile. "You would not be able to fit your little hand around the hilt of a sword."
"I would so!" Kíli argued, bouncing on his small feet again. "I could do it!"
"Be patient, my nephews," said Uncle. "I will teach you what I knew when the day is right."
And though Kíli made to argue, when Fíli put his hand on his shoulder, his younger brother fell silent, cowed by Fíli's wordless reproach. After a long moment, he looked up to Uncle again. "Will you come home with us?"
"That is not our home," said Uncle, and there was a trace of anger in his voice.
Fíli recoiled, for he feared the wrath of his Uncle, which could be terrible when aroused, but Kíli wasn't deterred in the slightest. He looked up at Uncle with his wide, innocent gaze and tugged on his overcoat again. "Will you come not-home with us?"
And though there was still much grief in their uncle, who looked out at the world as if waiting for it to wrong him in a new way, Fíli saw something soften again in his hard elder's eyes. With a little sigh, he stood and took Fíli's and Kíli's hands in both of his own. And together they set out to their not-home, their waiting place, where they lingered until the time was right.