Note: Fíli: 21 years old (roughly 7); Kíli: 16 years old (roughly 5)
Sitting before the fire, Thorin slowly smoked his pipe and watched as the flames licked at the wood. The fire wasn't truly necessary, not with spring giving way to summer, but it was always cooler in the mountain city. And, oddly enough, he found it soothing.
It was easy to get lost in the flickering light, watching tendrils writhe and curl around the logs. Between it and the pipeweed, he could forget about everything for a while. It wasn't a hobby he engaged in often and it was one of the only times he got to truly relax. But eventually the flames would remind him of what he had lost.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, he fought against the surge of anger that filled him. His eyes closed to block out the flames, but his mind showed him the dragon fire that haunted his nightmares. It ripped over the kingdom, burning Dale to ash. The pines blazed on the mountain before Erebor's halls flooded with red. Too many were caught in the path of the dragon's fire and he couldn't find his grandfather. Smaug was making his way to the vault! Was Thrór once again there, blind to all that was happening? His father had been with him at the doors, but he had disappeared when they had broken. Mahal! Where were Frerin and Dís?! He had sent his brother to get their sister, but had he been caught in the flames? Or had his reckless baby sister ran headlong out of her rooms when she heard the alarm?
He couldn't lose them! Every one of them was precious to him and if the dragon stole any of them-
Jerking at the voice, he opened his eyes to see another precious dwarf he couldn't lose standing before him. "Fíli," he said quietly, his voice hoarse with emotion.
His clever sister-son frowned up at him. "Are you well, Uncle?" he asked. "Are you getting ill?"
A small smile twitched his lips and he shook his head. "No, Fíli. I'm fine. What is it? Where is your brother?" he asked, noticing his other nephew was not there.
Blue eyes rolled as he huffed out a breath. "He's being stubborn."
Nothing new there. With every year that passed, Kíli inherited more and more of the Durin stubbornness. He was even beginning to butt wills with his uncle, even though it never ended well. "What is it this time?"
Fíli chewed on his lip and nervously tugged on one of his braids.
Thorin's stomach dropped. It was never a good thing when Fíli acted like this. It usually meant the boys had had some kind of spat that saw them divided. And while united they were mischievous imps, when they had a row it was a living nightmare for all around them. "Fíli, tell me what happened. I won't be mad."
His eyes widened. "I didn't do anything!" he protested.
Thorin simply looked at him, not believing him yet. He'd seen this often enough to know better.
"I didn't!" he insisted, young voice high. "But he won't talk to me!"
Frowning, Thorin asked, "Why not?"
"I don't know," Fíli said anxiously. "We were playing just fine and then he went quiet. I didn't hit him or nothing, but he got all sad."
This wasn't normal. "Where is he?"
"Under his bed. I tried to get him to come out, but he won't. He won't move or say anything to me, Uncle."
Clamping his pipe between his teeth, he pushed out of the chair. "I'll talk to him," Thorin said, patting his head. "Wait out here for a bit."
Fíli nodded, climbing up into the chair and hugging one of the cushions to his chest.
Moving down the hallway, Thorin wondered what had set his younger sister-son off this time. Fíli had said he hadn't hurt Kíli and he was inclined to believe him. He was too distraught to continue the lie.
As he pushed the door to the boys' shared room open, he heard quiet sniffles. Apparently the dwarfling had worked himself up. "Kíli?" he called, crossing the room to the small bed.
The sniffles stopped abruptly at his approach.
Knowing the dwarfling was pressed against the wall, he sat on the edge of the bed. "Fíli says you won't talk to him."
No answer came, just uneven breathing.
"Did he hurt you?"
"Nuh uh," came Kíli's small reply.
Thorin nodded slowly, puffing on his pipe. Kíli's voice had been soft and teary but pain free. "Will you come out and talk to me?"
There was the sound of boots scrabbling on stone and Thorin knew his nephew was pressed firmer to the wall now. So it was to be like that was it?
Knowing he could lift the bed and haul his nephew out, Thorin let Kíli stay where he was for now. That would be a last resort because if Kíli was already upset that wouldn't help matters. He kept smoking and let his gaze move over the room.
Toy figurines were scattered on the floor, dropped haphazardly as they were abandoned in play. A chest across the room was open, more toys inside that were waiting to be played with. Tapestries hung on the walls, some with family crests on them, others with story time battles to delight little dwarflings. Fíli's bed was directly across from his brother's, the russet bedding tucked in nicely. The bed he sat on was made as well, but hastily and with the impatience inherent in the younger brother.
"Kíli," Thorin sighed as the minutes wore on. "You can't stay under there forever. What's wrong?"
"Am I a bad dwarf?"
Thorin froze at the soft question, unsure if he'd actually heard it. "Kíli?"
A loud sniff came as the dwarfling probably wiped his face with his sleeve. "Am I a bad dwarf?" he repeated.
Thorin tried to think of why Kíli would even consider something so absurd. He and his brother tested their uncle's patience on a daily basis, yes. And it was true they got into trouble whenever their feet were under them. But despite their faults, he would never change them and they were definitely not bad dwarves. "No, Kíli, you aren't a bad dwarf."
He sniffed again. "Promise?"
Kíli fell silent and stayed under the bed.
"Lad," Thorin prompted, "did someone say you were a bad dwarf?"
"No," he mumbled.
"Then why would you think such a thing?" Because where else would Kíli get that idea except from another? When he got the truth from his nephew, there would be no mercy in Thorin for the dwarf that had put that nonsense in Kíli's head.
Kíli mumbled something.
"I can't hear you, lad."
"I'm breaking," he said in a quavering voice.
Thorin's heart slammed into his throat and he barely kept himself from leaping up to overturn the bed. Taking several calming breaths, he struggled to stay calm as he said, "What do you mean?"
A loud sniff came. "When something's made bad it breaks apart."
Thorin had said those words, but they had been to Fíli and regarding things made in the forge. He was still too young to work the anvil, but he was big enough to help and to learn. Of course, Fíli had told his brother the lesson, hoping to soothe the jealously that ate at Kíli for being left out. But he had misunderstood it. "Kíli, you weren't made badly," he sighed. "Your mother and father made you special."
"Then why am I breaking?"
It was a childish wail that made his heart pound and his fear soar. "Come out there, Kíli," he said softly. "Let me see you."
More sniffles, but Thorin heard the gentle sound of cloth against stone as Kíli wiggled out.
It took all of his self-discipline not to haul Kíli out as soon as the messy head of dark hair came into view. His eyes darted over the sturdy body, searching for some sign of what had broken. But it was his heart that cracked when he saw Kíli wouldn't quite meet his eyes and the brown ones were red with trying not to cry.
Setting aside his pipe, he scooped his sister-son up. He wanted to crush Kíli to him, but until he knew what was hurt he held himself back. "Listen to me, lad," he murmured in Kíli's ear as little arms wrapped around his neck. "You and your brother are special, not just to me and your mother, but to all of our people. I don't want you to ever think that you're bad again."
"Okay," he whispered.
"If you're scared or upset, you can always talk to me or your mother. Or your brother," he added, knowing Fíli was a more logical choice for the dwarfling. "We all love you very much and don't want to see you hurting. But we can't help you if you don't talk to us."
Kíli sniffed and Thorin felt tears strike his neck as he nodded.
Keeping the dwarfling in his arms, he rubbed his back and hummed softly to calm him. His nephew was trembling against him, tears finally winning the battle. Thorin lost track of time as he comforted his sister-son, rocking him gently even as he covertly searched for some injury. He couldn't feel any damage, but he knew first hand that not all injuries bruised and bled.
When the dwarfling pulled back to rub his eyes with clenched fists, Thorin set him on his feet in front of him. "Now," he said, letting his voice harden a little, "what was this all about, Kíli?"
He pursed his lips, shifting on his feet.
Thorin waited, staring down at him.
Brown eyes peeked up at him and Kíli shyly held up his hand.
As those little fingers uncurled, Thorin's eyes slid shut and he fought a groan. Of all the things this could have been about, he never would have considered this. "When did it come out?" he asked, keeping his voice even.
"Earlier with Fíli."
Opening his eyes, Thorin stared at the small tooth that had sparked his nephew's fears. "How long has it been loose?"
"A while," he mumbled.
Well, that explained why Kíli had been having issues eating lately. "Why didn't you mention it sooner?"
Of being a bad dwarf. Thorin sighed. "Kíli, you can't keep these things to yourself. We can't help you if you don't tell us what's wrong."
Kíli nodded shyly.
Tapping his chin, Thorin waited for brown eyes to meet his. "And you aren't breaking, Kíli," he murmured.
Dark brows came together. "But my tooth!"
Thorin finally smiled. "It's supposed to come out," he said patiently. "All of them will."
Kíli stared at him in horror. "I'm not going to have any teeth?!"
He laughed before he could help it. "No, no, Kíli. New teeth will come in. When one falls out, a new one is ready to come in."
His nephew frowned as he thought about that. "I don't like that, Uncle," he said firmly.
Of course he didn't. "Well, you can't stop it, Kíli."
His face scrunched up as he looked down at the tooth in his hand. Before he could say anything else, the door creaked open.
Looking up, Thorin saw Fíli's blond head peek into the room and his face lit up when he saw his brother. "Kee!" he yelled, running into the room.
Thorin watched as the brothers collided in a hug before Kíli pushed back and thrust out his hand. "Uncle said I'm going to lose all of them!" he said petulantly.
Fíli blinked, looking down. "You lost a tooth?"
Kíli nodded before opening his mouth to point at the spot where the tooth had been as if the proof in his hand wasn't enough.
"You'll get a tooth fee now!" Fíli said excitedly.
His brother frowned at him, not understanding.
"Mum says that when a dwarf loses his first tooth, a sprite will come in the night to look at it. If you've taken good care of it, the sprite will trade you the tooth for a present!"
Thorin bit down on a groan. Yes, the 'sprite' normally did, but usually the dwarfling let his family know the tooth was loose so there was time to prepare. He was also surprised Kíli didn't remember when this had happened to Fíli. He had been upset enough when they had woken and his brother had had a toy but he didn't. Maybe Dís had known and was ready for this because Thorin wasn't.
Kíli frowned at his tooth. "What's a sprite?" he demanded.
Fíli blinked and looked to his uncle for help at the unexpected question.
"Like an elf," Thorin said simply, wondering why of all things Dís had said sprite. There were other names she could have used. "But very small."
"Why's a tiny elf want my teeth?!" Kíli asked, his expression horrified again.
Thorin fumbled mentally. Had any dwarfling gotten focused on the tooth taker and not the toy before? Trust his nephew to do something differently.
"Uncle?" Fíli asked hesitantly.
What was he supposed to say? "I'm not sure, lads. I'm not a tiny elf."
Fíli snickered but Kíli's cheeks puffed up. "Do I have to give it to the sprite?"
"Ah, no, but the sprite is clever, Kíli. It will find your tooth no matter where you hide it and it'll get mad if you do." Because Dís was not going to want rotting milk teeth stashed throughout her home.
He made a low noise and frowned at the tooth.
"Kíli, don't you want a toy?" Fíli coaxed.
His nose scrunched up before he nodded finally.
"Then you have to put it under your pillow for the sprite."
"Tonight," Fíli giggled. "Before bed and tomorrow you'll have a toy."
A small smile finally curved Kíli's lips.
Thorin watched them for a moment, taking in the way Fíli's excitement slowly got to his brother. It wasn't long before Kíli was wiggling and chattering happily about what kind of toy he might get. It made him glad, but at the same time he really prayed his sister had something for him. "Yes?" he asked when Kíli bounded over to him.
"Fee says I have to keep the tooth safe, but I might lose it before bed time," he said, holding out his hand.
He cocked a brow. "Why do you want me to have it?"
"Because always safe with Uncle!"
Thorin's heart ached at the bright smile on Kíli's face. Pulling a cloth from his pocket, he held it out to his nephew. "I'll keep it safe for you, lad," he promised.
A giggle and bigger smile as Kíli deposited the tooth before rushing over to tackle his brother.
The sight made Thorin smile as both dwarflings toppled to the floor. Closing the cloth around the tooth, he carefully tucked it in his pocket. The way Kíli viewed the world confounded him sometimes. No matter how hard he tried, Thorin rarely understood where his thoughts came from. Normally, it didn't matter, but situations like this could have been avoided if Kíli would just talk to them.
"Play with us?" Fíli asked, Kíli nodding energetically.
He smiled and pushed away from the bed. "What are we playing this time?"
A/N: This was far too much fun to write. This idea was actually from liaskye's review on the last chapter and I just thought it would be adorable for it to play out like this. Silly Kíli, why must you be so freaking cute! I'm also sorry for the slow updates on this, I'm having a hard time coming up with ideas for chapters so if you have any thoughts or would like to see something feel free to leave it in a review or pm me. But thank you for reading and see you next time!