This is the third story following "A Manly Problem" and "A Girly Problem," but it could be read alone. Only that means you won't know who Waldor is, and that is a sad, sad thing.
A Racing Problem
Fili awoke with a smile on his face. Today was going to be wonderful.
Hopping out of bed, he trotted into his brother's room and unceremoniously yanked the covers off of the sleeping dwarf. Kili barked in surprise.
"Come on, get up," Fili said, climbing onto the bed to loom over his little brother. "Today's the big day!"
Kili scowled at him before curling up in a ball, trying to regain some of his stolen heat.
"No, no, none of that. You're an athlete, remember?" Fili hopped up and down in various patterns until Kili got so frightened that he'd get stepped on that he scrambled off the mattress.
"You could've just said good morning," Kili barked.
"You need to start the day off with your pumping or else you're bound to lose," Fili announced, ushering his brother into the kitchen. "Now eat up, we've only got a few hours before the race."
Kili grabbed an apple, only to have Fili swipe it from his hand before he could take a bite.
"Not that, you fool," Fili scolded. "What're you – an Elf? Eat something proper. Like bacon and taters and –"
"Then make it for me!"
"Fine," Fili answered to Kili's utter shock. Other than during illness or injury, Fili had never answered one of his demands to play chef.
Fili narrowed his eyes at him then pointed to an empty chair at the table. Kili grinned and sat down, making himself comfortable.
A deep laugh rose from the chair before the fire and Thorin shook his head. "You must've made a wager on this, Fili."
"So what if I have?" the blonde asked, pulling out the pan he'd need and grabbing a potato. "I've no shame in boasting that my brother's the fastest dwarf that ever lived."
Kili smiled with his lips pressed together, and Thorin narrowed his eyes. "You look like a hedgehog when you do that, Kili."
The expression faded from Kili's face as he deflated.
Thorin chuckled again and looked back to the book he was reading.
"And what's that?" Kili asked, eyeing the tome. "How to Slay a Dragon?"
Thorin glared at his nephew. "Don't start what you can't finish, Little One."
"You're the one who started it!"
"Boys," Dis said, striding through the room as she tied off her braid. "Don't pester your uncle."
"Yeah," Thorin grunted. "Don't pester your uncle."
Kili's eyebrows shot up in a show of innocence. "But I wasn't –"
"It's just pre-race nerves, is all," Fili said from the stove as he heated the potato wedges.
Dis arched a brow at her eldest. "Making breakfast are you? What's happened – is a lass coming over?"
Kili pointed at Fili and laughed, leaning his chair back. Thorin kicked one of the legs and he toppled over, cutting his teasing short.
Though he was blushing, Fili dropped the spoon and dashed over to his fallen brother while Thorin returned to reading his book, feigning innocence.
"Are you all right?" Fili asked, yanking Kili towards him. "Are your legs hurt?"
"I'm fine," Kili replied, shoving his brother off of him and getting up on his own. Righting his chair, he glared at his uncle with suspicion.
"Never challenge a master," Thorin muttered under his breath without looking.
Fili's chest was puffed out like a mother hen as he inspected his little brother once more before returning to the stove, only to find that his mother had taken over. "Go sit down," she said. "The pair of you need to eat."
Fili did as he was told, taking a seat across from Kili, who was rubbing his eyes. Fili tutted and shook his head at his brother's raggedy appearance.
Kili narrowed his eyes when he caught the look. "What?" he asked defensively.
Parting his lips to criticize his brother's mess of hair, he quickly diverted the subject when he realized that would only lead into an argument. "You remember what we practiced? At our last training session?"
"You have training sessions?" Thorin scoffed from over his shoulder.
"Of course we do," Fili replied. "We're professionals."
"I am fast," Kili added.
"No one's doubting that, dear," Dis said from the stove as she browned the potatoes.
And Dis meant it. Kili had a terrible habit of quickening his step to dart past someone he deemed too slow, whether it be their mother walking down the hall, Fili in the kitchen, or Thorin in the woods. Though he was rather graceful at it, being cut off out of nowhere annoyed the others to no end.
"If what you're referring to as practice," Thorin said, twisting his torso to peer at his eldest nephew, "is what I saw yesterday, then you've got another thing coming, lad."
"Thorin!" Dis scolded.
"What?" her brother asked, setting his book down. "They were in the woods and Kili was running while Fili chased him with a belt, threatening to beat him!"
Dis set the spoon down and fixed Fili with a glare. Kili giggled, leaning his chair back again. "Oops."
"I wasn't ever going to touch him," Fili clarified. "He knew that."
"No, I didn't," Kili said.
Fili kicked him under the table and Kili glared.
"Here you are," Dis said, bringing over two plates of potatoes for the boys.
"Thanks, Mum," they each said before tucking in.
Thorin fixed Dis with a childlike expression. She furrowed her brow. "What?"
"Don't I get any?"
"Of course. Skillet's still hot and the taters are in the bin." With that, she headed down the hall and Thorin sighed, pretending he didn't hear his nephews' snickers.
Later that day, the family wandered the festival in the town center, taking in the sights and sounds of crafts and jewelry for sale, pastries, artisan breads, and more. Fili tugged Kili aside and led him to the colored flags marking the starting line of the race.
"Now," Fili said. "I want you to visualize."
Kili nodded and closed his eyes, taking slow, deep breaths.
"You're running the race, slow on the curves but fast on the straightaways. You see the end in sight, and at that moment, you give it all you've got and –"
"What?!" Fili asked, grabbing his brother's shoulders.
Kili's dark eyes snapped open, his face aghast. "Bofur just ran out of the bushes chasing me with a turkey leg. He was naked."
Fili stared for several moments before shaking his head. "I need you to concentrate."
"I am concentrating."
"Not on Bofur!"
"I can't help it! It's that hat – he makes me uncomfortable. Why does he wear it? I mean, who even likes that?"
Lightly clipping his brother in the side of the head, Fili leaned in closer. "Focus!"
"Gah!" Kili yanked away. "It's no use! I'm going to lose and someone else will get the prize and it will all be for nothing."
Fili sighed. Maybe his mother was right. Maybe he was putting too much pressure on his little brother.
"Kili, you're going to win. I know it. You've won plenty of races before. Every one you've ever been in, as a matter of fact."
"But that was different," Kili sulked.
"No it wasn't – not where it counts. You've been doing this your whole life, Kili." Fili turned his brother to face him, smiling encouragingly. "You were born to win me that set of skinning knives."
Kili smiled reluctantly.
"This is no different than Dwalin Downs. You remember that death-defying dash, don't you?"
Kili arched a brow. "You know I don't."
"I do. Even if I made no purse that night."
When Kili was a baby and the novelty of pretending he was a girl to get attention and sweets wore off, Fili grew rather bored. He needed a new hook, a new angle to spice things up, and when Kili became mobile, the solution presented itself.
"That's her?" one of his friends asked when Fili had a handful of them over to see his little "sister." "Huh."
"What?" Fili looked down at Kili, was trying to eat one of their father's discarded boots.
"Nothing. She's just… you know, a baby," Boldri said.
Fili narrowed his eyes. How could they not see how incredible his brother-sister was?
"She's not just a baby," Fili snapped. "Only the fastest baby in the world."
"You can't prove that."
"Sure I can!" He whipped his head around to Boldri whose mother had borne a son around the same time that Kili had been born. "Go get your brother and we'll race them."
Boldri folded his arms over his chest. "As if. Mum won't even let him out of the house."
"Tell her you're taking him for a walk," Fili advised, drawing upon his own experience. "She'll believe you. Trust me. Then come straight here."
"What's in it for me?"
Fili bit his lip, looking around the house for any cookies or sweets until he remembered he'd eaten the last one that afternoon. "Marbles," he said. "Every one I've got if you win."
Boldri grinned. "Deal."
Fifteen minutes later, Boldri rapped out a melodic pattern on the door as part of their secret code, and then Fili opened the door to let him in. Boldri lugged in the basket carrying his baby brother who peered up at him with wide blue eyes and hair so red and thick that it already grew on his cheeks.
Looking between Boldri's brother and his own, Fili was glad the other's thought Kili was a girl, for beards weren't his family's strong suit.
"All right," Boldri said. "Let's get started. I've only got a few minutes before mum gets suspicious."
Fili nodded and scooped up Kili, glancing out the window for any sign of his own mother, worried Dis would come home from the market early and spoil their fun. Boldri had a purple marble that Fili had wanted for a long, long time. Almost two whole weeks.
Kili grunted and squirmed, trying to get out of his brother's grasp. He started to cry in protest until Fili set him back down in the hallway. Boldri's brother, on the other hand, didn't react to anything as he was taken out of his basket and set down on the floor beside Kili. The baby had a round belly and two teeth, which were visible through his parted lips as he glanced around his new surroundings, rather uninspired.
Kili reached a hand out to the other baby and squealed before crawling over and yanking on his hair. Boldri's brother blinked while Kili yanked then started crying.
"That's cheating," Boldri scolded, tugging Kili's hand out of his brother's hair. "He's trying to sabotage us before the race even starts!"
"I'm bored," one of their other friends whined and Fili glared at him before repositioning Kili so that he was level with Boldri's brother. The dark-haired baby blew raspberries and rocked back and forth on his hands and knees, as if rearing to go.
"Ok," Fili said. "On the count of three, we let them go and see who gets to the end of the hall first."
Fili took a deep breath, centering himself. "One… two… three!"
Releasing Kili, he leapt over his baby brother and dashed down the hall, holding his arms out, immediately falling into a chant. "Cookie, Kili! Cookie!"
Kili grinned, his lips covered in slime as he began to crawl towards his brother, who didn't actually have a cookie.
Boldri crawled alongside his brother, using a different strategy, trying to encourage him to move in a straight line, but all the red-headed baby seemed to want to do was crawl into the bathroom. "No, no – straight! Go straight!"
Kili reached the end of the hall and reared up on his knees, reaching for his brother before Boldri was even halfway there.
"Yes!" Fili cried, raising both arms. "Victory!"
Kili whined, reaching for his brother's arm, expecting a cookie to be held there. Fili scooped him up then sauntered over to Boldri, who was scowling.
"That wasn't fair. You must've practiced," Boldri whined.
"Nope." Fili adjusted Kili, who was now grabbing at his clothing, trying to find his treat. "My brother just loves me more."
Boldri narrowed his eyes. "Brother?"
Fili stared then barked out an unconvincing laugh. "Ooops. Sister. Brother. Whatever. Does it really matter at this age?"
Kili growled and Fili glanced at his brother's angry face before holding his hand out to Boldri.
Boldri scowled and yanked his tubby brother out of the bathroom where the baby was playing with their father's beard comb. "I'll bring them by tomorrow."
From then on, once a week, a crawling race was held. Sometimes Kili raced against Boldri's brother or other dwarflings his age, but as the races began to increase in frequency, it became more and more difficult to smuggle babies out of their homes for the races, so Fili started timing his brother so he could race against himself.
Kili loved it, feeding off of the cheers and claps and feet stamping that inevitably occurred as Fili and his friends placed bets. And he truly was fast. The fastest baby any of them had ever seen. Most figured it was somehow because Kili was a girl, but Fili knew better.
By three months' time, Fili was a rich man. He had a dresser covered with his winnings: toys, carvings, marbles, colored glass shards, an old Elven arrowhead (which he was sure to hide whenever Thorin came round), and several play swords. The best part was that his mother assumed the gifts were still being given because Fili had duped the village into believing Kili was a girl, so she never asked a question.
However, the racing came to an abrupt end one tragic night.
Thorin was visiting, along with his friend Dwalin, and the evening was winding down. The two were seated around the fire, smoking their pipes and reminiscing about the days before the dragon, while Dis and her husband tidied up the kitchen. Fili was on the floor, whittling a horse, and trying his hardest to snatch up the largest of the shavings before Kili tried to eat them.
"Mum," Fili eventually whined after wrestling a large piece out of his brother's growling mouth. "Kili won't stop eating the wood!"
"Then do it in your room, dear."
Fili groaned in frustration. He wanted to stay out here with his uncle and Dwalin, like a big dwarf.
"Here, Kili, look!" Fili held up one of Kili's rattles that the baby hardly ever touched anymore. "Want it? Want it?"
Kili grunted, reaching for the rattle that was just out of reach.
"Here, go get it!" Fili tossed the rattle across the room and Kili smiled, clumsily pivoting on his diaper to go fetch his toy.
A rather unfortunate series of events happened in the seconds following, and Fili could do nothing but watch it all unfold with terror.
Kili took off, speed-crawling as he was trained, right at the same time as Thorin rose from his chair, his eyes still latched onto Dwalin as he said, "Anyway, that is what I believe we should –"
He didn't stand a chance. As he took a step, his toe caught on Kili's belly, and Thorin flew through the air with a tremendous scream, breaking his fall on the dinner table.
Kili rolled from the impact but landed back on all fours and, unfazed, resumed his trek.
Dwalin leapt from his chair and Dis and her husband spun around to watch Thorin slide off of the table in a crumpled heap, the bridge of his nose bleeding.
"Thorin!" Dwalin yelled, dashing over. "What happened?"
In a moment, the three adults were at Thorin's side, helping him up. He shook his head, his eyes dazed. "I… I tripped on something."
Fili hunched, trying to look inconspicuous.
"Are you hurt?" Dis asked.
"Of course I'm hurt! I hit the table!"
"There's no need to be so rude," Dis scolded.
Thorin pulled away from their helping hands and he and Dwalin looked down, hunting for what he could've tripped on. On the other side of the room, Kili sat sucking on the handle of his rattle, his eyes dancing in the glow of the fire as he stank up his diaper.
Dwalin furrowed his brow. "There's nothing there."
Thorin huffed. "Impossible."
"There has to be something…" their father suggested, peering under the table to see if whatever it had been was kicked elsewhere.
Dis looked to Fili. "Did you see anything?"
Fili didn't hesitate in shaking his head no.
Dwalin snorted, earning a glare from Thorin. "I'm telling you – something was there!" Looking around the room, his eyes settled on Kili. "How long has the Little One been here?"
"A few months now," Dis said sarcastically.
"No, I mean. Whatever it was was soft –"
"Did you kick my baby?" Dis snapped and Thorin's cheeks flushed.
"Impossible,"Dwalin said. "He's been in that corner for ages. There's just no way in Arda he could've moved that fast."
Thorin grunted. "I suppose you're right."
Straightening his clothing, he finished his walk to the sink that he had started before he fell and fetched a mug of water. Dis cast Fili a suspicious look before scooping up her youngest, checking him over just in case, but the baby was fine.
Thorin watched his sister crinkle her nose as she peered into the back of the baby's diaper, then he rested his gaze on Fili as he drank. The blonde was watching him but hastily looked away, rather guiltily. And if he wasn't mistaken… Kili appeared to be wrinkling his face at him over his mother's shoulder, his eyes sparkling with demonic light. When the baby spat out a sound that was half cough, half cackle, exposing his four teeth, Thorin lowered his cup.
All was not as it seemed. Though he could never find the proof, he was certain that his nephews had something to do with the incident Fili named Dwalin Downs after his uncle's embarrassment in front of his best friend.
Kili's upper lip curled as he regarded his brother. "So you're saying I ought to trip a competitor and make it look like an accident?"
Fili smiled and shrugged. "If the glove fits…"
Kili bit his thumbnail, only to have Fili yank his hand out of his mouth.
"Come on. Time to warm up."
A half an hour later, the dwarves who had chosen to participate in the race were lined up beneath the colored flags. Fili rested his hand on his brother's back as they surveyed the competition. "Boldri's brother – ha! We already know you can beat him. And look at that belly. Ketbur, Thrund, Haror, they're all old. You can best them easy."
Kili nodded, staring at the dirt, worried the sight of his competitors would scare him into losing.
Fili smirked. "This one's in the bag, just like I said it would be. And I promise to make you something really nice with that skinning kit once it's mine."
Kili smirked, but his smile faded and his face paled as a voice came from behind him.
"Hello, lads. Shoud've expected to see you here."
Kili and Fili both slowly turned to find Bofur, hat and all, taking his place beside them, readying to race.
"Fine day, isn't it?" he asked, smiling up at the sky.
Fili tried to step away but Kili fisted a hand in his tunic. "Fili," he hissed. "You didn't tell me he'd be here."
"I didn't know, I swear," Fili lied.
Kili let out a whine.
"Look, this doesn't change anything. You'll do fine. You're younger and stronger than everyone here. Ok?"
Kili swallowed hard and nodded, but looked as if he was trying not to be sick.
Fili patted him on the back then trotted over to watch from the sidelines with his mother and uncle.
"How's your champion?" Thorin asked, popping a roasted nut into his mouth.
"Fine. He's fine," Fili said in a clipped tone.
"Racers, ready," Dwalin bellowed, for he was announcing the event.
Kili shifted into position, his knuckles on the ground before him as he prepared to take off.
"On your mark…"
Fili clenched and unclenches his fists, his breathing shallow as he watched his brother.
At that moment, two things happened to throw Kili off. The first was catching the distinct, mildewy scent of Bofur's hat. The second occurred when he turned his head slightly to the side to avoid the smell, only to spot Waldor on the sidelines, wiggling his fingers at him in a shy wave. Kili's eyes widened in horror as he remembered Fili's confession about the odd dwarf.
To Fili's horror, his brother tripped and landed on his side as the other runner's sprinted. Thorin snorted and Fili screamed and Kili scrambled to his feet, recovering fast enough to still have a chance.
"Go! Go! Go!" Fili bellowed, whishing he was allowed to chase his brother, threating bodily harm as they did in their training sessions.
"Do you think he got hurt?" Dis asked, craning her neck to see if her son was limping.
"Who cares?" Thorin said, pouring the rest of the nuts into his mouth, only to receive a slap from his sister.
"RUN!" Fili bellowed, jogging to the other side of the course to better see.
Despite his late start, Kili was still able to catch up and run with the pack. The dwarves were a jumble and huffing and puffing but, given his height, Kili was able to peer over their heads and spot a place to wedge through. Weaving between Ketbur and Haror, Kili caught up with Thrund and Boldri's brother.
Slowing as they rounded a bend, Kili panted and paid close attention to his feet amid the pounding of so many. The straightaway was ahead, and so was Fili screaming and cheering from the finish line.
Lifting his legs even higher, Kili poured on the speed, passing Thrund and Boldri's red-headed brother. He was now neck and neck with Bofur and the finish line was only seconds away.
Bofur glanced at him with a laugh, and the look in his eyes nearly made Kili falter but he pressed on, thinking of his brother and the tools he so desperately wanted. His blood thrummed in his ears and his lungs burned but he was almost there, and he was inching in front of Bofur, even as Bofur moved closer to him, bringing with him the scent of musty sweat.
The colored flags of the finish line fluttered in the breeze and just as Kili was about to cross it, something terrible happened.
The tip of Bofur's hat touched the inside of Kili's ear, making him shriek as if he'd been stung by a hornet. The only thing he was consciously aware of was slapping himself in the ear, but the next thing he knew, his feet were hitting Bofur's and the ground was suddenly rising to meet him. He landed hard, the air coughing from his lungs and the dirt skinning his chin as Bofur's legs tangled with his own.
Looking up, Kili watched with detachment as Boldri's brother's fat belly broke through the finish line, winning the race.
He would've screamed in outrage had he the air left, but by the sounds of it, Fili was doing enough screaming for the both of them. Looking over, Kili caught sight of his brother stomping and pulling at his own hair, cursing the ground.
"Well," Bofur said, his breath landing on Kili's sweaty temple. "You win some and you lose some, right laddie?"
Kili wondered where his voice could be coming from, only to realize that the weight on his back was half of Bofur's body. "Getoffme!" he screeched, scrambling forward.
Bofur rolled to the side and watched the spastic dwarf, leaning back on his elbows. "What's wrong?"
Kili shakily got to his feet, dusting himself off anywhere Bofur may have touched him before screaming at nothing in particular then bolting off.
Bofur furrowed his bushy brows. "Strange lad, that."
Fili watched his brother sprint away from Bofur and put the pieces together. Fili narrowed his eyes at the older dwarf, even though he knew it wasn't really his fault, before stalking off after Kili.
"It's the smell, is it?" Bofur called after him before pulling his tunic away from his chest and taking a whiff. "The ladies rather like it!"
Fili's path to his brother was suddenly blocked by Boldri's cheering family. They gathered around their champion son, repeatedly attempting to hoist him onto their shoulders for a victory lap and failing.
"Well, well, well," cam Boldri's smug voice as he stepped into Fili's way. "Who's the best now?"
Sneering, Fili shoved the red-headed dwarf out of the way then continued on to find his brother… splashing water from a pony trough on his sweaty clothing. "Kili, what're you doing?"
"He touched me!" Kili spat, manically scrubbing at himself. "Bofur!"
Fili rolled his eyes. "It's fine, he can't help the way he – wait, you mean he… did something to you with his hands?" Fili asked stiffly.
Kili stared at him with a twisted scowl, his wet hair dripping onto his confused face. "What?!"
Fili waved a hand with relief. "Never mind. What happened?!"
"I told you," Kili squeaked. "I was running and then something was practically in my ear and I… I panicked!"
"It wasn't a tongue, was it?"
Fili sighed, closing the distance between him and his brother. "You're bleeding."
Kili wiped at the blood on his chin then inspected his elbows and right knee, which also bore the evidence of road rash. "It's nothing."
Fili shook his head, closing his eyes. "I really, really wanted those skinning tools…"
When he opened his eyes, Kili was studying him with shame, looking like the baby he once was. "Maybe I can still get them for you. I can trade with Boldri's brother. He's always admired my dagger with the wolf handle."
Fili furrowed his brow. "Father gave you that."
"I know," Kili quietly answered.
In that moment, Fili's chest tightened with guilt. Granted, it was his right as an older sibling to manipulate and dement his little brother, but if it had gotten to the point that Kili was willing to trade a prized possession from their dead father, then he had taken things too far.
Fili smiled. "I don't need those tools, anyhow. You know why?"
Kili shook his head.
"Because even with a rock and a fork I could make a better pair of boots than Boldri or his brother."
"Now come on, let's get you cleaned up."
The two headed over to Thorin and their mother before bidding the festival goodbye and heading home.
As Fili watched Dis snap at Kili to quit squirming while she poured alcohol on his elbows, Fili felt as if he ought to do something nice for his brother in return for all of the marbles and treasure's he'd earned him. It was time to step back a little and let Kili find his own way without his overbearing presence. After all, Fili's meddling was what had led to Dwalin Downs, to which he had still never confessed.
With his wounds cleaned, Kili was left tired and hungry. There was a plate of snack cakes from the market sitting on the table. He rose at the same time that Thorin got up from his chair by the fire, both their eyes on the treat, and upon seeing his uncle's slow lumber, Kili darted in front of him in his usual graceful, if annoying, tactic.
Only this time, history repeated itself.
Thorin's foot caught around Kili's as he darted past, and his eyes widened as he lost his balance. Kili was already in the other corner by the time his uncle crashed to the floor with a roar.
Please, feel free to share your thoughts! ;) The next in the series shall be about the "something nice" Fili decides to do for his brother...