Disclaimer: Just borrowing the boys for a spin. *sigh*

"I don't know why I always have to gather the firewood," Kili grumbled. "Fili's just as capable."

He balanced the bundle of firewood, stretching his arms around the jumble of sticks and twigs in an attempt to keep them in some semblance of order. The flat valley meadow Uncle Thorin had chosen to camp in had few trees and even less kindling. Despite his uncle's warnings, he had been forced to stray a little farther from camp than he had originally planned. At least now he would have an excuse when someone turned around to dump yet another chore on him.

He bent over to pick up another stick.

"Thought I smelled something foul," a voice said behind him

Kili spun around and found himself face to face with three wiry, young elves. Uncle Thorin had taught him about elves, how nasty they are.

"Dwarf stench," the lead elf sneered.

Kili's blood boiled but he gritted his teeth and turned away. He wanted to drop the wood and give the elves a piece of his mind, make them pay for their insults. But the shortest elf was taller than him and he was outnumbered besides. He cursed himself for leaving his bow and sword behind at camp.

"Where you goin', little baby? Did we hurt your feelings? Make you cry?"

The lead elf came up behind Kili and bumped his shoulder, hard. Another elf edged around Kili on the other side and knocked his armload of wood to the ground. The kindling scattered and rolled in all directions.

Kili clenched his fists, his breath coming in short, angry huffs.

The lead elf shoved him hard in the chest and Kili stumbled backwards. He lost his footing and slipped, the back of his head slamming into the ground with a sickening crack. Dark spots blinked across his vision. The elves jeered at him but their voices were distant and muffled. He rolled over onto one elbow and propped himself up, shaking off the pounding in his head.

Kili got to his feet, his knees trembling. The elves stepped back, laughing and pointing.

"The little man wants to show us up, prove himself a fighter," one elf said.

"More like run home to mommy and cry in her skirts," the lead elf said.

Kili saw red. No one, especially not a dirty elf, would speak about his mother that way, may she rest in peace.

He lowered his head and charged the lead elf. He caught the elf in the gut and they tumbled to the ground in a tangled heap. Kili pummeled the elf about the ribcage with all his strength. The elf responded with similar blows but Kili clenched his elbows to his sides, protecting his ribs just like when he wrestled with Fili.

The elf flung Kili off of him and Kili tucked his head, rolling to his feet with the momentum. The bitter taste of blood filled his mouth and he spat it out, aiming for the feet of the lead elf.

The elf growled and began to advance towards Kili only to be knocked off his feet by another dwarf. Kili gave a whoop as Fili tackled the elf. The remaining two elves split off – one launched himself at Fili while the other went after Kili. Buzzing with the thrill of a good fight, Kili beckoned to the elf, egging him on.

Despite being outnumbered, Fili and Kili's brutish and straightforward method of fighting won over the slim elves. Fili grabbed the lead elf by the collar.

"Touch my brother again, and I'll kill you," he growled.

Fili gave him a shove. The elves backed up, wiping away trickles of blood and nursing bruises.

Fili waited until the elves were well out of hearing before wrapping an arm around Kili's shoulders and pulling him in for a fierce hug.

"What were you thinking, you knucklehead, taking on those elves all on your own?"

"They were teasing me, made me drop my wood that I've been gathering for the past hour." Kili pouted. "Now I have to start all over again."

"Well, you did a fine job, for a little brother anyway," Fili taunted.

Kili poked him in the ribs. Fili returned the jab. Kili crouched, still pumped up and ready for a good wrestling match but Fili held up his hands.

"Let's get this wood gathered up first. Uncle Thorin will want to know why it's taken us so long to build a simple fire."

Fili and Kili gathered the kindling and returned to camp. Fili had a rabbit stew boiling in less than an hour and handed a bowl to Kili. Thorin found them sitting shoulder to shoulder, their faces covered in swollen purple bruises. He raised his eyebrows.

"Elves," they said together.

"They won't be coming around here again," Fili said.

Thorin beamed with pride. "That's my boys."