In Which Fili Learns an Important Lesson

I do not claim any ownership of The Hobbit, places, people, names or locations.

Kili is 5 in this and Fili has just turned 11.

Today is not Fili's day, his mother Dís has left him in charge of his brother Kili while she goes to market, and the little dwarf is severely trying his patience. He loves his brother, truly he does, but the wilful child could try even the Valar's patience when he so put his mind to it, and unfortunately for Fili, today is one of those days…

"Fiwiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Come play with me, I'm bored!" Said little brother demanded, appearing in the doorway of their bedroom, stone carved toys in hand. This was the ninth time in two hours.

"No Kili. I have work to do." Fili could hear the annoyance in his voice, and he prayed to Aulë that the abstinent child hears it. His pleas were unanswered.

"But, Fili, I bored and Gimli's sick so he can't play with me!" Kili's voice took on the slightest of whines, -he seemed to forget that Gimli is but a babe in arms, and won't be able to play for a few years- though Fili knows if he looks at his sibling, the famous 'puppy eyes' would drag him from his studies and into the inevitable chaos that followed his brother around like a stray dog.

"No. Now get OUT. GO AND BOTHER SOMEONE ELSE AND LEAVE. ME. ALONE." Fili snaps, and flinches at the soft sob from his brother. He doesn't mean the harsh words, but he's trying to practice his scribes; and the words always get mixed up and he gets frustrated.

"I sorry Fiwi." The words are whispered so lowly, that Fili barely hears them, and before he can try and make amends with his baby brother, he's gone from the doorway, and Fili knows that his brother will want to be left alone; not that he could find him if he tried. Fili swears the boy is half hobbit sometimes. And so, the golden dwarf returns to his scribing, not hearing the slight creek of door hinges a half hour later.

It is late by the time Fili lays down his quill, and his hands ache with cramp, Kili has not bothered him since he got angry and without the stress of his writing, Fili is concerned. Kili is the most wilful dwarfling he has ever met, and oddly enough, he has heard nothing; that is never a good sign. Standing, Fili heads out into the hallway, calling for Kili.

He's searched the entire upper floor and is half way down the stairs when the door opens and in comes his mother, snow dusting her hair. Almost flying to the bottom of the staircase, the golden haired dwarfling throws himself at his mother, green eyes filled with unshed tears, and Dis' heart fills with dread.

"Where is your brother Fili?" Fili's response is muttered so fast and so quietly, Dis doesn't catch it, and she raises a brow in question.

"I, I don't know. I was practicing my scribing, and he wouldn't leave me alone. So I shouted at him, I didn't mean it mama, and then he hid, and now, now I don't know where he is. I'm scared mama." The halted confession is given with such shame and guilt and more self-loathing than should be possible for a dwarfling of his age, that Dis can't even begin to be angry with her oldest son, though she does drop the two remaining bags to the floor in her fear. Words are not exchanged between the two as they near tear apart the lower floor of their little cottage, calling for the dark haired dwarfling with frantic voices and tear filled eyes. Praying that he's just fallen asleep.

After the longest fifteen minutes of Fili's life, he looks at the door and sees that Kili's little boots are missing and his heart sinks to his feet, the only time the child ever wore his boots was when he was leaving the house, and even then, it was a rarity.

"MAMA. HIS BOOTS ARE GONE!" Fili's scream is so loud and so full of distress that his even if he had not have spoken those terrible words, Dis would've been by his side in an instant.

"Simi is gone too. He's probably gone to the forge. He likes the sparks, he's always asking to go. Yes he'll have gone there" Dis is talking her to herself and half to her son, whose tears are starting to overflow. Fili's boots are yanked on with such haste, he nearly puts his foot through the sole, but he can't bring himself to care, Kili is his baby brother. Dis and Fili are out of the cottage, door banging shut behind them, and they're running as hard as they can towards the forge, hearts pounding with adrenaline.

Thorin is just leaving the forge when a small body crashes against him; his day has been trying and the king without a crown is really not in the mood for some bumbling explanation or apology. The growl that draws itself from his throat shows that. But when a second body collides and he can hear sobbing, that of mother and child, all the trials of the day are gone. There are few women within the dwarves, and his sister is the only one to have a dwarfling that is not in arms. He looks down to confirm his suspicions and is greeted with the thick golden curls of his oldest sister-son and his beloved little sister and deep inside his chest, Thorin feels his heart constrict.

"Dis. What's happened? Where's Kili?" The questions are fired one after another when Thorin notices a distinct lack of tiny dark haired dwarfling, who is too young for Dis to have left him at home.

"He's gone Thorin. We can't find him. I thought, I hoped, Aulë I prayed he was with you." Dis is sobbing freely now, and Fili is close to wailing "His boots and Simi are gone Thorin." If Thorin Oakensheild was not terrified before, he certainly is now. Simi was a birthing day gift, and the toddler only ever took it from its place on the shelf if he was going far away. Thorin starts to shout, bringing a sweating Dwalin out from the forge he's just left, concern in his eyes. Kili's disappearance is relayed to the other dwarf who nods sharply before heading for the tavern where he knows most of the men will be.

"Fili, I need you to be brave, think, where do you and Kili go to play?" Thorin has crouched down to eye level with his little nephew, trying to keep his voice firm and level, though it hitches slightly when he gets to Kili's name.

"Outside, Kili likes watching the archers." Fili replies, brow scrunching as he tries to stop his tears; his concern over-riding any reluctance he may have at divulging the information.

Thorin nods sharply and pats the boy on the head gently. A thump reminds him that it is not only his sister-son who is scared.

"We will find him Dis. I swear on our forefathers, we will find Kili." The words are spoken with such conviction as he tries to raise his sister from her knees.

Behind them, Balin, Dwalin, Glóin, his wife Herunni and countless others are approaching; ready to search for their young dwarf prince. Thorin barks orders at the assembled men, and Herunni is knelt by a shaking Dis, rocking and shushing her as only a mother can. Within minutes the amassed dwarves are split into three, each platoon assigned a part of the archery field Fili is standing with his uncle and Balin and as they move out, the young dwarf follows.

"Fili, you need to stay here lad." Balin tells him, when he spies the boy following them.

"No. Kili is my responsibility." The words are so defiant that for a moment, Balin forgets he is looking at a dwarfling of 9, and not at Thorin.

"Keep up then lad."

And with that, they're gone, running through the gates of Erid Luin, torches Fili has only just noticed ablaze with light. The journey to the fields takes an age, and then shouts, so many shouts, all for his brother. At least thirty voices calling out for his Kili. He joins them, little voice screaming into the howling winds that whip around the Blue Mountains during winter, booted feet crunching in the frost and snow. Aulë it's cold, and Kili was only in a light jerkin and leggings the last time his brother saw him. A shout to the left sends everyone heading towards a sheer peak where a pale Glóin is holding a torch over the ledge. Thorin looks over and it takes all his control to not sob, Kili's tiny body is sprawled on a ledge, a thick, dark stain surrounding his head and arm bent at an angle that is so unnatural, it should not be possible for a boned limb; broken or not. The other arms is wrapped around the strap of a small leather bag.

Fili feels a strong pair of arms wrap around his waist and hoist him away from the edge before he can look over, but he fights valiantly and lands a solid kick to the gut of an unknown dwarf –who drops the dwarfling with a muffled grunt- and then he's pushing past the knees of dwarves, and his head is stuck out over the ledge and no that can't be Kili. He reels round and retches, stomach convulsing as his eyes burn with tears. That's not his little brother; Kili is never that still, not even in his sleep. Fili retches again, and then he's being picked up, and the comforting smell of forge smoke and Fili thinks it's Dwalin, but he can't be sure, everything looks hazy and he feels so unreal, like he did when he got the flu from a human child and was sick for a week.

Later, Fili will vaguely remember Thorin running towards the gate-Kili bundled in his arms- of Erid Luin and the relief on the faces of those that joined the search party. But for now, the hours following are a blur of light and sound and pain. It is late into the night when Fili hears Kili's name, and everything flies into crystal sharpness, and his mama is crying, and Thorin's jaw is clenched so tight, Fili is sure he can hear the grind of tooth on tooth and what. The healer is talking about sleeping, and grey shores and suddenly, he can't breathe.

He remembers this, he remembers Uncle Thorin sitting him down and telling him that his pa wouldn't be coming home, that he'd sailed to the grey shores in a special kind of sleep. That was the night Kili was born, two moons early and so impossibly tiny, the healers were sure he wouldn't survive the night, too underdeveloped they said, but Fili knew he would, because Kili was his. No one else's and he'd make sure that nothing would happen. And so the child had sat by the crib at the age of five all night, every time he was put to bed, he would remove himself minutes later and return to the bedside of his brother. And low and behold, when the healers checked in, Kili was breathing better, and his cheeks had more colour; his tiny fingers locked tight around the pinky of his brother. Memories hit him in never ending waves and he can hear Thorin yelling at him to breathe. But he can't, not with Kili, and then suddenly, he is breathing, breathes short and shallow and Fili swears he has never felt pain like it before. His knees collide heavily with the wooden floor boards and his mother is next to him, her hand rubbing circles on his back as she sings an old lullaby to him in khazdul.

It is not until the next day that Fili is allowed to see his brother, Thorin explained that Kili was not dead, like papa, but his spirit was lost and only Kili could find it. Never before had the dwarfling felt so utterly helpless, it was his job as big brother to look after Kili, and he failed once, and now they were telling him he couldn't.

When he enters his mother's room where Kili is being kept, time seems to stop. Thick bandages are wrapped around a head of raven hair and an arm so impossibly tiny, it shouldn't be real. In the winter sun, the skin –not covered in large black bruises- looks almost translucent and this is not his brother. Kili is small yes, but he is not fragile or delicate, not like the shivering body swathed in blankets is.

"Kili?" Fili's voice sounds weak, even to his own ears and when Dis turns to him, her son looks more like a wraith than a healthy dwarfling, dark rings shadow bloodshot eyes, his normally tan skin has taken on a sickly sheen and his fine golden hair is lack lustre and dull knotted so bad it looked like someone had dragged him through the forest backwards.

Words are not spoken as Dis opens her arms and Fili throws himself into the warm embrace, sobbing into his mother's chest as he apologies over and over again, his words becoming almost chant like. He turns when he hears the chattering of teeth, and watches in rapt horror as beads of sweat break out on the skin of Kili's forehead and Fili is suddenly out of his mother's arms, crawling on top of the bed covers to reach the bundle lying in the centre. Dis, long used to the bond her sons share, doesn't chastise him but rather lets him go, lips ghosting a smile as she watches Fili instantly begin rearranging the blankets into a little nest; which he is quick to slip into. Mindful of the broken arm his brother sports, Fili pulls Kili into his small chest, wrapping himself around the smaller boy, nose buried in the mass of black strands, the occasional strand of gold mixing with obsidian.

Silence smothered the room in a thick blanket, before Fili decided that his Kili would not like such quietness and so, he begins to talk to him, telling him the fairy tales they've been raised on, and when those run out, he starts talking about the mischief and the adventures they've had;

"Do you remember, two summers ago? You'd just started learning to dress yourself, and mama left the sweet jar out? You ate so many sweets, I thought your blood might become sugar and you were so energetic. Then you decided that clothes were the enemy, stripped yourself bare, and ran through the streets screaming 'I am a hog, support the messenger dwarves!' Me and mummy were chasing you, and then you bumped into Uncle Thorin's leg, and it made your tummy funny, 'cause you sicked all over Uncle's boots." Dis smiles as her son recounts one of her favourite memories of her youngest son, though she is fair certain it is one that her brother would much rather forget.

On and on Fili goes with his stories, and when she sees Kili's finger twitch ever so slightly, she thinks it to be a trick of her mind, but no, it happens again and she gasps, encouraging her sun child to speak to her moon one, running to fetch healers and her brother.

By the time she has returned with the healer, Kili's eyelids are fluttering and he has shifted into the warmth of his older brother like a moth to flame. The healers face is one of perfect shock, and as he tries to move the older boy, he is met with a feral snarl and a glare so baleful, it makes him somewhat uncomfortable, though when the dwarf king makes no move to displace the glaring child, the healer starts by pulling back his eyelids, checking his pulse, his reflexes and all the while, Fili is talking to his brother, recounting the day that they'd tied the boot straps of the mean Ragir –who was half dwarf, half man- together, and laughed themselves silly when he fell face first into a pile of horse poo.

Slowly, Kili's eyes open and the tiny child hisses harshly at the burn of light, but he cracks them open, tiny amounts at a time, and Fili, so caught up in making sure there is noise, almost doesn't hear a tiny voice say;"Fiwi, you is squishing me." But he hears it, and Fili swears his heart could have exploded out of his chest; such is the love it feels.

His mother and Thorin are by the bed seconds later, and everyone is talking all at once; Kili still encased in the protective arms of his 'Fiwi'. The healer taps Thorin on the shoulder and hands him a piece of paper with a list of instructions and directions for the boy on it and the dwarf nods his head in understanding. The chatter of his mother and brother doesn't stop until Kili points his good arm to his throat and mimes drinking before sneezing so hard, Fili is concerned that Kili's eye will pop out, -Kili's eyes fill with tears at the movement- and that's when it truly hits him. Kili is sick because of him, in pain because he was a bad brother.

He's the reason Kili isn't running around causing mischief. He tries to slip from the bed, but Kili, bright little Kili grabs his hand, turning big brown eyes on him, begging him not to leave him alone again, and thus, Fili is powerless and slides back into the blanket cocoon, because never again will he ignore his Kili. Never. It is not for another three days, once Kili is 'out of the woods' as the healer and his mama put it, and Kili is at last let out of bed, that Fili gets the punishment he –in his mind- rightly deserves.

"You were careless Fili. You nearly let your brother die. You are the big brother, you were meant to be caring for him." Thorin's voice is harsh and his eyes full of disapproval, "You are my heir, and it is a king's duty to protect all of his subjects."

Fili knows what is going to happen next, it's incredibly rare that either of the brothers receive a spanking. In fact, Fili can only remember being spanked once and that was when he snuck into the forge to play with the hammers and nearly ruined several swords in the process. Just as Thorin prepares to place his oldest sister-son over his knee, Kili appears in the doorway of the kitchen, and he is scowling and if it weren't for the fact that he just about reaches Thorin's knee, the older Durin is sure he would feel uncomfortable -if he were a lesser dwarf- of course.

"Put him down." The demand is simple, and Thorin is shocked, whilst Kili was cheeky, mischievous and occasionally the biggest pain in the rear to have graced the realm Middle Earth, he was not rude. Especially not to his Uncle, who he idolised in place of the father he'd never met.

"Excuse me" Thorin's voice is deep and authoritative, and he sees Kili falter just the tiniest amount, before his resolve steels and he looks his uncle square in the eye, head tilted defiantly.

"Put Fiwi down. Now. He didn't do anything." Kili sounds more demanding now, trying to mimic the voice his uncle uses when dealing with silly people.

"Yes he did"

"Yes I did" The two responses are given in perfect unison.

"No. I was bad, and Fiwi told me off. Kili was bein' a bad brother, not Fiwi." The sparkle in the child's eyes reminded Thorin painfully of Dis at his age "Fiwi was mean, but tha' don't mean he bad. Kili was a dwarf, and I was sad cause I thought Fiwi didn't love me, but he does and if yous spank him, you will has to spank me too." Kili's eyes are slightly misty as he remembers the weird feeling in his tummy when his brother told him to go away, but that doesn't matter, 'cause he's 'Fiwi' and no matter what, Kili will always worship the ground his brother walks on.

"So it be it then. Come here Kili." Thorin replies, he has no intention of actually striking the child, but he wants to see if the child is all mouth and no breeches. Fili tries to shout, but a dark look stops the dwarfling in his tracks, and Kili unsteadily totters towards his uncle, head held high; though his bottom lip quivers. Fili grabs his brothers uninjured arm and tries to drag him back, telling him he deserves the punishment, only to be shrugged off by the wilful Kili who does not break eye contact with his uncle.

"Kili will take the ouchies for Fiwi too. 'Cause Fiwi is a good brother and Kili is not. So Kili will take spanks for both of us." The statement takes Thorin and Dis –who has come looking for her sons- and most importantly Fili by surprise, it's always Fili protecting Kili, never the other way round.

Thorin goes to pick his sister-son up, and is stopped by Fili, who wraps a protective arm around his brother's shoulders.

"You will not touch Kili. No one will. He is mine." Fili's words are delivered with such harshness, that Dis is uncertain if it is truly her son and not her other brother Frerin. An arm sweeps in from each side, and gathers the two dwarflings up, sitting one each upon his knee, -it is a move Dis remembers well from her own dwarfling days- and bestows one of his rare smiles on the boys.

"I am so very proud of the both of you. Fili, you accepted your punishment bravely, as a true future king of Erebor should, Kili, you held yourself admirably, and showed selflessness in trying to take Fili's punishment and acknowledged something you had done. You will be fine young dwarves someday, and I do believe your mother has something very special for you."

Two pairs of arms wrap themselves around the torso of Thorin Oakenshield, son of Thrain, son of Thror and he feels the pain in his heart lessen, if only a little. And then his sister is laughing, and her sons are rushing towards her, as different as dark and night, but entwined so deeply, that not even the greatest dwarven miner could hope to separate them.