Hello all. I have now seen the Hobbit four times. I haven't seen a film four times at the cinema since the first Pirates of the Caribbean back when I was a teenager with a serious thing for Johnny Depp. (As opposed to a woman with a serious thing for Johnny Depp, as I am now.) The Hobbit has become something of a problem.

I've been reading all the fiction I can get my hands on and goddamn do I love baby dwarves. I realise that everyone is doing this sort of thing, but here's my contribution to nigh on dangerous levels of cute.

Loosely connected one-shots - the best kind. I'm not totally sure on the timelines here but I don't think anything here directly contradicts what we do know.

Enjoy.

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Dís may have been a king's granddaughter but it was her forge that was in her blood. Dwarf men may have outnumbered their female counterparts three-to-one but they had the same ratio for premature deaths. Dwarf women were no less sturdy and strong of arm but their rarity and the need for children meant they were rarely trained as soldiers. Instead they became smiths and miners the same as their fellows – discrimination against them was much less rife than in the human, elf or even hobbit world.

However no daughter of Thráin, son of Thrór, would be allowed into the depths under Erebor so Dís sat in her brothers' company as they learned the skill of shaping metal. When the boys had grown older and politics and swordplay took their attentions, Dís remained in the heat and smoke. In the years before Smaug the Terrible it became a refuge from the gold-sickness that plagued Thrór. Later it became a source of income to support their people as they moved. More importantly it was also a refuge from her husband.

The concept of an arranged marriage was not completely alien to the dwarves but it was a rarely used practice. Few were willing to enter into a match that could make both parties unhappy for the hundred years they could expect to live together. Dís had no choice in the matter. Her husband was both a prig and an unbearable dullard. Even the fact he was considered to have been attractive with a full head of golden blond hair and a long, thick beard that he kept immaculately could not have enamoured her of him. Thrór was enamoured; but only of the vast fortune that came with the new addition to his household. It could not match that which had been lost in Erebor but it eased the tight grip of his gold-lust.

Dís loathed him but she could not let that stand in the way of her duty as a princess even though the kingdom was lost.

When she first held the tiny golden bundle that was her eldest son she wondered how his father had ever managed to produce such a wonder. Fíli had his father's shimmering hair, running like the veins of gold under the mountain, but he had his mother's eyes. He was a quiet infant but constantly curious about the world around him, taking in every detail with his huge blue eyes. Dís, and her brother, could not have been more proud of him; especially when he shied away from his father. She placated her husband as best she could while hiding the joy on seeing Fíli cling to Thorin with his tiny fists.

Fíli was barely out of swaddling clothes when he became an older brother to little Kíli. Kíli was more of the House of Durin in appearance, with their dark hair and his grandfather's nose. He had a lighter heart than his brother, laughed freer and did not cry at his father's touch though he also preferred Thorin's presence. Above all he loved his elder brother who in turn treasured him more than anything.

They were rarely separated. Fíli was fiercely protective even at such a tender age and Kíli would wail if he was taken from him. Fíli held him when he cried, and Kíli laughed when his brother petted his hair. Dís thought her heart would burst when Kíli's first steps tottered him into his brother's arms or when Kíli would share his food with his swiftly growing sibling. Thorin watched on with amusement – he and dear Frerin had never been so close with Dís coming between them, but he recognised the strength of brotherly affection.

Though their father lived they found a far superior role model in their beloved uncle Thorin. He had always been stern and the loss of Erebor had left a wound that had not healed, but with his nephews it was like he was a child again.

When no one was looking he swung them around, rolled on the floor with them as the troll, goblin, or orc to their heroes, and read to them as they fell asleep gathered into his lap at night. He was also endlessly exasperated by their prodigious talent for finding trouble in places there were none.

"Uncle Thowin!"

Thorin paused mid-stride in the low-ceilinged corridor of their modest home. He was just that minute returned from a several-day meeting with the men of a nearby village and had been thinking of nothing but a pint of ale and a sit down. The little chirping voice of his youngest nephew was unmistakable – Thráin had told him when he was younger, to much amusement from his siblings, that he'd also suffered from such a lisp until he had been more than ten.

Turning he saw Kíli's wild dark hair approaching him as fast as his short legs could carry him. He was barely more than a toddler and his steps were not always certain. However Fíli was never too far away to catch him before he tumbled and it was so on this occasion. Thorin smiled as he watched his eldest nephew keeping pace easily beside his brother. Fíli was growing into a strong child and Thorin was confident of seeing some beard growth in the next years from his young heir.

"What can I do for you, nephews?" Thorin raised his eyebrows at them in case they were in trouble and coming for his help.

"Mama says I can't have a sword!" whined Kíli, drawing out his vowels for maximum irritation.

"I agree with her, you are too young yet. Do not fret little one, it will not be long," Thorin smiled kindly down at him, a smile that seemed reserved only for Dís and her boys.

"Fíli has one!" Kíli complained, pointing an accusing finger at the small wooden sword held in Fíli's grasp.

This was a new development. Dís had been prevaricating on whether it was time to allow her first-born a beginner's training weapon but he hadn't realised she had come to a decision. He immediately suspected that this had been Dwalin's doing. The warrior had been making overt comments on Fíli's increasing age and need for a young princeling to be able to defend themselves for some time now.

Thorin would not be surprised to hear that his oldest friend had simply by-passed Dís' wishes and given him the sword anyway. Of course Dwalin would have urgent business in protecting their new home should Dís come to for a reckoning and that would leave Thorin with all the responsibility. Though he privately agreed that in these harder times Fíli would benefit from training, seeing how young his nephew still was caused him heartache.

"I can see that little one, but he has five full years to his name – and strength," Thorin said as soothingly as he could manage, putting a large hand down to ruffle Kíli's hair.

Fíli brightened on hearing that his uncle was not going to take the sword from him and make him wait. However it was tempered by the despair only a child can muster on seeing his brother so unhappy.

Thorin winced as Kíli's lower lip began to tremble on realising that his uncle was going to agree with his mother, "I really can't have one?"

"I am sorry, your mother will have my beard if I do not agree with her – she just doesn't want you hurt, you are both too precious to us," Thorin realised that Dís would make him pay dearly for reinforcing Kíli's notion that she was the only one denying him but he could not bear to see the hurt in his nephew's eyes.

Kíli looked up at his uncle and tears began to well in his eyes. Thorin made to kneel but Kíli sobbed and fled to his brother who dropped the play-sword to the ground to hold him. Their uncle was at once relieved and amazed by how this event had not changed their interactions. When Thorin had been given his first sword and taken his first steps towards adolescence Frerin had been inconsolable and had directed all his childish anger towards his older brother. Though Kíli could not see that his mother and Thorin were not to blame he had realised it was not Fíli's fault and clung to him as he ever had.

Fíli chewed his lip awkwardly as he gently rocked his crying brother and caught Thorin with such a beseeching gaze that Thorin was powerless to resist.

Moving to them, and ignoring the stab of hurt caused him by Kíli squirming in Fíli's hold to be away from him, he placed his hands on their shoulders. He stilled as he realised just how small the pair of them still were and resolved to oversee Fíli's training to ensure Dwalin did not push the boy too hard.

"Shall I tell you boys a secret?" he said, lowering his voice as if he was imparting something of great importance.

Fíli nodded immediately, eyes bright with excitement on being in his beloved uncle's confidence. Even Kíli's disappointment could not stop him turning his face slightly from where it was buried in Fíli's shoulder to hear something that no one else knew.

"I was much older than Fíli is now before I received my first training sword, and I am sure that you will be younger than I was when your time comes Kíli," he whispered to them, as if this were something that he wished kept private from any potential eavesdroppers.

Fíli seemed to swell with pride on hearing that he had bested the prince that all the dwarves of the Misty Mountains looked on with awe. Kíli withdrew further from Fíli's embrace and scowled at Thorin as if trying to decipher whether he was being fooled but the hopeful glint in his eyes gave his thoughts away.

Thorin smiled at them before sliding his arms around them to draw them into an embrace. They both eagerly accepted the rare gift of his undivided affections and cuddled close, all previous emotional upheaval forgotten.

"Now, where is your mother?" he asked once he was sure that he had placated them. Dís was fearsome when she suspected something had upset her dear boys.

"She's at her forge, uncle," Fíli answered, reaching down to pick up the sword that had caused the whole matter.

"Who looks after you today?" Thorin asked, wondering which unfortunate dwarf had been collared by Dís so she could return to work. Fíli and Kíli were notorious for only truly behaving when under the watchful eye of their mother – even Thorin had been forced to raise his voice at them to control them.

"Mister Balin! He wead to us," Kíli said before launching into a rapid description of the tale that Balin had spun them this time.

Thorin decided to forego his pint for the moment to see his oldest friend and walked to the sitting room, his nephews' hands held in his as they chattered. He'd been sure Balin would have taken longer visiting their kin in the Iron Hills but his return was welcome – his political expertise were sorely missed by all when he was not in their settlement.

On entering the room it was clear why the boys had been running around in the corridors waiting for him to come home. Balin was sat in the armchair next to the fire and snoring quietly, a well-worn book of tales resting in his lap. Thorin smiled down at his nephews who had stopped talking for fear of waking him – Balin should think himself lucky, few others were afforded such consideration.

Thorin closed the door a little harder to keep the heat in. Balin jerked awake at the sound and immediately looked around for the boys, the split-second of fear in not seeing them nearby definitely came from knowing their mother. On seeing them crowded around their uncle he smiled.

"Thorin laddie, good to see you."

"You too Balin, have the boys been behaving?" Thorin asked, sitting in the other armchair.

Kíli stayed close to him, sitting on the floor and pulling out one of his little toys shaped like an orc and another like a dwarf hero of old. Fíli went to sit before the fire but Kíli soon had him holding another orc toy for his hero to slay with all the associated noises.

Balin's face was fond as he watched them at play, "Aye they've been grand, a credit to Durin's line for sure."

"All thanks to Dís believe me. Now I think on it, where is their father?" Thorin asked.

"I believe she's sent him down to oversee the new shaft that's being opened," Balin said, sharing an amused look with his friend.

"Because he is so well-versed in mining matters," Thorin commented lightly.

The boys' father had obviously been annoying his sister – it was the only reason Thorin could think of for her inflicting his presence on the poor miners digging out the new silver seams. He turned his head as the front door opened. Dís had a real habit of appearing when he thought of her – it had foiled many a troublemaking scheme when they had been children.

Fíli brightened, and made to move to the door but he stopped on seeing Kíli scowling at the floor. He tugged on one of the braids in his thick hair, torn between seeing his mother and solidarity with his disappointed brother.

Balin looked them over and turned to their uncle, "This about young master Fíli's new sword?"

Thorin nodded. Kíli scowled even harder in an attempt to stop himself crying anymore – he realised that if his mother saw him crying that was just prove he was still too much a baby to be allowed a weapon.

Balin leaned forward to get their attention "Has your uncle told you just how old he was before he was given his first sword, hmm?"

Thorin made a big show of trying to silence his oldest friend to make his nephews laugh. Fíli grinned brightly and even Kíli was mollified on hearing it from the dwarf who had become their surrogate grandfather.

"Aye, Thorin was far too much a troublemaker," Balin winked down at them, "So you'd better be on your best behaviour master Kíli."

Fíli and Kíli gasped, turning their wide excited eyes on their stead-fast uncle as they tried to comprehend the thought of him actually causing trouble rather than stepping in to stop their own. Dís called for them from beyond the room and they ran off together, Kíli clinging to his brother's hand as usual.

Thorin smiled ruefully at Balin who returned it. Thorin may once have had youthful high spirits, that much was true, but he had grown in a time of peace and plenty. He had been a prince of one of the greatest kingdoms of all – there had been no need for him to learn to use a weapon before he came of a proper age. In these unsettled times Fíli was in far more danger than a cosseted prince as Thorin had been.

In the kitchen they could hear the boys' laughter. Thorin reached up to rub his eyes but Balin placed a steadying hand on his shoulder.

"They have you, you know, they will be safe."

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R/R