A/N: UMMMMMMMM SO. HI. SURPRISE. I wasn't going to write this and then SOMEONE ON TUMBLR SENT ME A PROMPT AND I COULDN'T HELP MYSELF WHOOPS. Here's an epilogue, I guess. This just sort of happened. *looks around with shifty eyes*
NOT TECHNICALLY PART OF THE STORY. I guess. Just a little oneshot but it's part of Illusions so I am just going to put it here. Carry on. *runs away*
"Fíli, I'm not so sure about this…"
"Kíli, it will be fine," Fíli said, beckoning Kíli towards him. Kíli stood on the shore, still fully clothed, holding his left arm with his right and looking warily at the water. Fíli was already in up to his waist, stripped down to his undergarments with his hair tied back and waiting for his brother to join him.
"But it's so deep," Kíli said. "What if my head goes under?"
"I'll be right here to keep you safe," Fíli said. "I won't let you drown—I promise."
Kíli knew this, of course. Given the circumstances over the past few weeks, though, Kíli's fear of drowning was surely understandable. Try as he might, the memory of being pushed into the water and held under—twice—was burned into his memory, and once by Fíli's own hand. Not that Fíli had known what he was doing at the time, and Kíli did not hold it against him. The fear, however, remained.
"Don't you trust me?" Fíli said.
Kíli snapped out of his thoughts and looked at Fíli with wide eyes. The last thing he wanted to do was allow Fíli to think that after all that happened, he harbored any distrust or resentment against him.
"No, yes, of course I do," Kíli said, pulling off his tunic hastily. "I'm coming."
"Good," Fíli replied with a smile. "I'll be right here."
Kíli took a deep breath and walked to the water's edge. He stopped when his toes touched the water and looked down. His chest felt tight.
"Come on, Kíli," Fíli said.
Kíli stared at the water that just covered his toes and then up at Fíli, waist-deep several yards away. He tried to move, but his body would not obey. Fíli started to move towards him, and he immediately went rigid.
"No, don't," he said tightly.
Fíli's expression immediately dropped into despair, and Kíli felt his heart drop down into his gut. He had done exactly what he was trying not to do.
"You don't trust me, do you?" Fíli said, his voice wavering.
"I do, Fíli, I just—I really do, I promise, I just can't… get in the water," Kíli said. "I don't know. I'm trying. It's not you. It's really not."
Fíli nodded and looked down at the water, folding his arms across his chest. Kíli felt a massive surge of guilt pass through him that almost caused him to physically bend. He couldn't do this to Fíli. He wouldn't. He took a deep breath and pushed himself forward into the water. Fíli's eyes flicked up to Kíli, and his expression softened. He smiled wide and waited for Kíli to reach him.
"Good," said Fíli as Kíli finally got close enough to grab his arm. "Good. Now we're going to go out a little farther. Are you ready?"
"Farther?" Kíli exclaimed, his grip tightening on Fíli. "Why are we going farther?"
Fíli chuckled. "You can't learn to swim if you're only waist deep, bonehead," he said. "Come on, now."
Kíli swallowed and followed Fíli farther out until they were chest deep. He latched onto Fíli's other arm and held tight, looking down at the water warily, as if it were about to spring up and attack him.
"Relax, Kíli," said Fíli. "Now, lean back…"
"Why?" said Kíli, still staring at the water.
"Because I'm going to show you that you can float," Fíli said. "Lean back."
Hesitantly, Kíli started to lean back, keeping his hands latched white-knuckled onto Fíli's wrists. Water lapped the back of his neck, and he squeaked and pulled himself back up. Fíli laughed.
"It's all right," he said. "It won't bite you. Try again."
Again Kíli leaned back, this time allowing his head to touch the water. He breathed in and out slowly, fighting to hide his fear. I can do this, he told himself. Fíli will keep me safe.
"Good!" Fíli said. "Now lift up your feet."
"Nooo, no no no," Kíli said. "No, I don't think I can do that."
"You're doing just fine," said Fíli. "Let go of my arms and I'll hold you above the water."
As much as Kíli didn't want to let go, he didn't want to lift his feet without Fíli holding him up, either. He let go with one hand, and Fíli held his head up; then he let go with the other, which Fíli moved to the small of his back. He lifted his legs slowly, and Fíli pushed gently on his back, making his torso rise to the surface. At first, Kíli panicked and splashed, but Fíli held him steady.
"Don't worry," he said. "I've got you."
Kíli held himself still, and much to his surprise, Fíli was right—he was floating. He smiled up at his brother, and Fíli smiled back.
"See?" he said. "Not so bad, is it?"
"I guess not," said Kíli sheepishly. Maybe swimming wouldn't be so bad after all. Fíli pulled him around in the water for a while, getting him used to the feeling of floating, and Kíli felt more and more relaxed. He even closed his eyes. I can do this, he told himself. I can learn to swim.
"Now, come this way," said Fíli.
Kíli opened his eyes, and a sharp dart of panic shot through him as he realized that Fíli was no longer holding him up and was in fact several feet away, not touching him at all. He flailed, terrified, and suddenly he was underwater. He swallowed a mouthful of water, and everything started to buzz around him. Two hands latched onto him and pulled him up.
"Kíli, it's all right!" Fíli shouted. "Calm down—you're fine—it's not even that deep!"
Kíli reached out wildly and wrapped his arms around Fíli's neck, trembling. Fíli held on to him tightly and waited as Kíli coughed, his chin pressed into his brother's shoulder.
"Are you all right?" Fíli said. He attempted to pull Kíli off him, but his little brother held on tightly. "Any… any breathing issues?"
"No," said Kíli. He felt nothing in his side; he just felt frightened. "No, I'm fine."
"Any particular reason you're holding on to me like a dwarfling, then?" Fíli said.
Kíli let go sheepishly and touched his toes to the pond floor. Fíli was right—it wasn't actually that deep at all. He was fine. He would be fine.
"Sorry," he said.
"It's fine," said Fíli, studying his brother carefully. "I just want to make sure you're all right."
Kíli nodded and coughed again. "I'm all right. I just got scared. You let go."
"I'm sorry, Kee," Fíli said. "I thought you'd be all right—I wasn't thinking…"
Kíli shook his head. "Don't feel bad," he said. "Please, Fíli."
Fíli sighed and nodded. "All right, I'll try," he said. "Do… do you want to keep going?"
Not really, Kíli thought, but the look on Fíli's face told him that despite what his brother had said, he felt horribly guilty for letting go so soon. He couldn't let him feel bad about it. He had to keep trying.
"Yeah," he said lightly. "Let's try again. Just warn me before you let go, all right?"
Fíli grinned broadly. "All right, then—let's try this again."