The Audacity of Youth

A/N: I wrote this for practice since my writing was getting rusty. Apologies for any inaccuracies regarding Dwarf culture (I'm trying to reread all my Tolkien).

Fili and Kili were very similar Dwarves, even for brothers. Although they were completely different in appearances, their personalities were forged from the same iron. Even though Kili could not speak properly, Fili always knew what he meant to say. When they played, they knew which toy or game the other wanted.

To Dis, it was reassuring to have children so alike. Every hardship she'd face with Fili was repeated with Kili, except experience had taught her how to handle it. Kili had gone through the same separation issues as Fili, feared his first bath as Fili had, and even had the same first word (a swear they had each overheard Thorin using).

Currently, Kili had gotten to a stage where he slept anywhere but his own bed. Fili had been the same for a few weeks at the same age, constantly moving between his parent's bed and his uncle's. Fortunately, it was easier with Kili, as he usually went to his brother's bed and only occasionally to Dis or Thorin's chambers. The first night Fili had slept in Thorin's bed had panicked Dis, as she'd had no idea where her child had gone. The first time Kili hadn't been in his bed at morning, she'd simply checked every bed in the house before discovering him under one of Fili's blankets.

But tonight was different. Fili was in his bed, but Kili was nowhere to be found. He wasn't in her bed, and Thorin's was empty as well.

For the first time, Dis didn't know where her youngest son was.

It was very rare for all the Dwarf lords to be gathered in one place. The halls of Ered Luin, though not as majestic as those in the lost kingdom of Erebor, had been completely refurbished in honor of the occasion. For Thorin Oakenshield, it was more like an extended family reunion than the important occasion it was meant to be. Usually, trade and border disputes would be settled between bouts of singing and reminiscing about the forefathers who had ruled before them. Unfortunately, some of the Dwarves of the Iron Hills insisted on discussing some very minute details of an agreement that no one outside of the Hills had even heard of before.

As the bickering continued, Thorin and Dwalin exchanged tired glances. The only one who could end the discussion was Dain Ironfoot, as it had been his Dwarves who'd brought up the grievance. Whether or not he knew how tired everyone was remained unclear. It was a bit of a power play on his part, because anyone interrupting the proceedings would have to do so at his leave. Around the table, every Dwarf was looking to his neighbors, hoping one would take the fall for the rest by requesting an adjournment for the night.

Thorin could barely keep his eyes open when he felt something brush against his leg. He almost cried out in surprise but his restraint, a key trait for surviving meetings such as these, kept him from making a sound. From the corner of his eye he could see Dwalin turning towards him, no doubt sensing that something was amiss. Thorin looked down to the surprise of his life.

Kili, his youngest nephew, was climbing up his knee with a blanket clenched in one hand. His eyes were half-closed, full of sleep. He pulled himself into his uncle's lap and sat for a moment, proud of his accomplishment. Without a sound, he wrapped the blanket around himself and curled up. Just like that, the Dwarfling was asleep, unaware that this was not normal. It seemed that Kili had decided that it was once again Thorin's turn to be his bedmate and Thorin not being in bed didn't matter.

On either side of him, his older cousins were shaking with restrained laughter. Thorin didn't dare meet their eyes or else he would lose it himself. The audacity of youth was astounding. Little Kili, who couldn't even speak, had more power than any Dwarf in that meeting hall. He had wanted his uncle and he had gotten him.

Deciding that this was the sign he'd been waiting for, Thorin rose from his chair, carefully cradling Kili to his chest to keep him from waking. The other Dwarves turned in surprise, wondering what the Heir of Durin was about to say. Even the two fighting Dwarves were silenced.

"Dain, I apologize for this…intrusion, but I must return my nephew to my sister before she worries."

Every Dwarf was silent as they looked to Thorin, Dain, and the sleeping Kili. Thorin was a master at hiding his emotions, but there was no precedent for sleeping children in meetings of state such as these. The quiet lasted another moment before Dain exploded in laughter.

"By Mahal, Thorin, how long were you keeping that little one hidden?" Dain managed between laughs. The other Dwarves began chuckling as well, if only in relief. He looked around the table and stretched. "If the youngest of our line believes we should adjourn, I'll allow it."

Thorin smiled and bowed away from his place at the table. The others slowly got to their feet, relieved just to be standing again. The two Dwarves who had been so heated in their debate simply exchanged confused looks, unsure about how their issue would be resolved.

Thorin had barely made it into the hallway before he saw his disheveled sister running towards him. Fili was tucked under one arm, rubbing his eyes in confusion. He raised a hand to his lips as Dis approached, nodding towards the Dwarfling still asleep in his arm.

"He gave me such a fright," Dis whispered. "Where did you find him?"

"He found me," Thorin said quietly. The siblings started walking towards home as he filled his sister in on Kili's fortunate intervention.

"Well, it won't happen again," Dis said as they placed the boys back in their respective beds. "Kili won't be having any unexpected journeys if I can help it."

A/N: Hope you all enjoyed it! I might add more stories with young Fili and Kili, so keep an eye open!