A/N: The second in a series of six fics focusing on Thorin and his sister sons, expect a mix of book and film-verse. The series is called When Love Is Given Freely, and can also be found on A03


Keeping Faith

Omens on the horizon...


.

The old rocking chair by the hearth creaked and cawed on its hinges. Its occupant busy whittling away at a block of wood, the shape yet indeterminable. The glow of the fire was all the light he needed to work by as the wood shavings piled up slowly at his bobbing feet. His weathered voice hummed low in chorus with the chair's cacophony.

"Evenin', Thorin."

He could not find a voice with which to answer.

Darkness folded in around him, heavy, cold, restraining, threatening to overtake him completely. Only the feeble flickering of the flames in the hearth held the black shadows at bay within its small circle of light.

"Why do you lurk in the shadows like an orc? Come into the light," the other dwarf gestured at the chair just outside the edge of the darkness.

"Jóli-" Thorin croaked as if he had not spoken for a thousand years, "Why are you here?"

"This is my home. Why shouldn't I be here?"

He had no answer that would not seem weak in the face of the truth.

"What do you want?"

"Does Kíli still prefer wargs to ponies?"

Thorin could only blink bewildered.

"I do hope he's grown out of that habit. He's much better as a little hero, don't you think so? His will be next. This one though, this one's for Fíli. He favors the ones that wind up. But you would know that, right?"

His smile was kind. And yet it mocked him all the more.

Jóli motioned again at the chair opposite him, "Come into the light would you-"

With a roar he overturned the wooden chair, kicking it towards the fire.

"What is your purpose here!"

Jóli sighed with a roll of his eyes, "Can't I come greet me boys?"

All the blood in his veins ran cold, and for a long moment Thorin shook between fear and fury.

When he found his voice it wavered, "You cannot have them."

Jóli put down his carving, "They are not yours to keep."

"You would abandon them in life and usurp them now in death!"

"Ho!" his laugh was a sweet happy thing, "You have grown twice as arrogant since we last met to call me the usurper, Thorin!"

Thorin bristled, "What say you! Speak clear!"

"Tell me, then... Does little Kíli even recall my name anymore?"

Ten thousands stones, the weight of a mountain, held Thorin fast where he stood. Breathing hard, reaching for the axe gone missing from his belt, he stared down the specter that ever pervaded his sister's home.

"I will not let them go."

Something like pity softened the other dwarf's features as he picked up his whittling knife once more. The shavings floated down slowly to the floor as molted feathers.

"Someday," His voice was soft with melancholy, "You will have no choice but to do so."

"I will not live to see that day."

Jóli was silent. The fire died out. In the darkness that consumed them, his eyes glowed dim as flickering embers.

.


.

Silence rang deep in his ears as Thorin slowly woke from the darkness that blanketed him. It dissipated like a heavy veil of ink under the bright moonlight that filtered through the light shaft of their modest home. The stone beneath him was damp and frigid, sending shivers through his fevered skin. A formidable chill permeated the room, and he realized with a start he had let all the fires die out.

His attempt to rise was little more than a useless flailing of limbs, every part of him feeling heavy as lead. In the gloom up the stairs, his dwarflings lay alone in the cold.

In his heart, the dread and doubt inspired by Jóli's words lingered.

The air was still and soundless. Thorin finally forced himself to his feet, nearly falling again until he steadied himself on the edge of the basin. The abandoned pitcher clanged and groaned as he knocked into with a booted foot. The din echoed off the walls several times, and then-

Silence.

Nary a peep from the dwarflings above, no stirring, no cries. Cold seeped into his veins, and with it a strength he had thought drained from him. He staggered up the long flight of stairs. He had a made a promise, and he would be keeping it; if he had to crawl.

Clawing his way over the last few steps to reach the landing, Thorin held the railing until his vision stopped swimming. When he could focus on the right door, he stumbled into the room, almost collapsing beside the bed.

"U-Uncle?" Wide blue eyes overflowed with tears.

"Here I am."

"U-Uncle, Uncle!" Fíli rose shakily reaching for him.

Thorin fell to his knees gathering his both sister-sons close. Fili's pressed a chilled face against his neck where he shook with relieved sobs.

"K-Kíli will not wake- He got cold and- and you were not here to relight the fire and- he will not wake! Uncle, why were you gone so long? I thought-" he choked, coughing weakly into Thorin's collar.

"I promised I would return, did I not?" Thorin gathered him closer, whispering softly, "I'm here now. Hush, no more tears."

He lay the back of his hand upon the Kíli's pale cheek, surprised at the coolness of his skin when only hours ago Kíli had been flushed with fever. Small hands trembled against his chest, curling tighter in his shirt as Fíli's hitching breaths slowly calmed. Thorin untangled himself from both of them.

"We must warm him-" He stood only to be pulled back by Fíli.

"Do not go again!"

"I will only be lighting the fire, Fíli. I will not even leave your sight. Be still, you want to help your brother, yes?"

Fíli wavered for a moment, but gave a single solemn nod and let him go. Thorin hurried to restart the fire, but the logs he had painstakingly gathered when his sister-sons took a turn for the worse were all gone. When had the wood pile diminished so? How could it have gone unnoticed?

There was a single one left, the yule log. He frowned, picking it up, with hands that would not stop their infernal shaking. Were it not for Kíli's whim, they would not even have this. And what harm was there in burning it early if-

He threw it onto the ashy grate before he could finish his line of thought. The task was difficult with so little kindling left, but the sappy smell of the yule log soon began to permeate the room. He walked- crawled- back to the bed, dragging his body up to sit upon it more of a challenge than it should have been. Fíli looked up at him bedraggled and forlorn.

"I-It is too soon to burn the yule log."

"I know... but it is all we have left," he smoothed a hand over his brow, "I will get us another. When- when we have all recovered."

"But-" The rest of Fíli's words were swallowed by a cough, followed by another, and another, in an unending stream until a blue hue began to tinge his face.

He lunged for the child, turning Fíli onto his side and pressing his fingers deep into Fíli's mouth. The dwarfling gagged, struggling until he hacked abruptly, retching up the slimy mucus that would have suffocated him. Thorin settled him back on the bed, pulling him away from the soiled covers. A damp rag still lay over the side table from when he had been battling Kíli's fever. He used it now to wipe his sister-son's face, as Fíli sobbed weakly between shorter bouts of coughing.

"Fíli- Fíli, breathe slowly- Peace, you shall be all right..." his voice shook with an insecurity he had not felt since the wrath of the drake fell upon his homeland.

"I-It-" Fíli croaked with a whimper, swallowing with difficulty, "It hurts..."

"I know. I know it," He whispered miserably, powerless to provide any real relief, "You must be strong, Fíli. For me- for your mother. Take heart and keep faith. She shall be here soon."

Fíli wheezed, tear tracks staining his pale cheeks, "W-What if... if we are not?"

Thorin startled at the misery in his sister-son's eyes, "What say you, Fíli! Of course we will be here-"

"And i-if Kíli does not wake-"

"He shall. He shall," Thorin pressed a kiss into damp golden hair, trying somehow to imbue his strength of will into his ailing boy. "Fíli- I did not name you after despair. Do not let such an evil take root in your heart."

"You-" Weary eyes looked up at him, "You named me? But I thought- I thought that Da-"

Something akin to guilt washed over Thorin's smile.

"Aye, it is usually the honor of a father to name his sons," he pushed back the sweaty hair stuck to Fíli's face, "But for an heir of Durin's line, that privilege belongs to the King."

"I do not understand," Fíli's small brow crinkled, "Da named me Fíli."

"He did, but that is your ikhrum, the only name outsiders may know you by," He clarified, shifting to climb into the bed and pull both dwarflings to either side. "But sankherum, your true name, that only those closest to your heart will ever know... It was my responsibility to bestow it upon you. Just as my grandfather bestowed it on me."

"And Mama?"

"Yes, your mother also was named by the King."

"Mizimel," Fíli murmured and his lips trembled.

"The Light of all Lights," Thorin's voice rumbled deep in his chest, reverberating around the slowly warming chamber, "For she was born on the first day of Spring, when the lingering clouds of Winter parted at last, and the Sun's light shone unshrouded into the mountain once more. For Grandfather, indeed for all of us, there was no greater light than the one she brought into our lives that day. And ever since."

Fíli's breath rasped in his throat in the ensuing silence. His fingers curled into Thorin's tunic, hiding the brown stains under his fingernails. His shaking had lessened somewhat, but his voice was still thin and reedy.

"And what- what about my name?"

Thorin sighed, jaw working as his eyes drifted somewhere far away.

"We had- We had returned from the Gates of Azanulbizar..." grief threatened to choke him right then, and for a long moment he could not speak past the tightness in his throat, "For your mother, the loss of those who did not return... was nearly too much to bear. The months that followed were very difficult. She did not have an easy time while carrying you. The grief threatened to conquer us all."

Fíli pressed his face into Thorin's chest, as if to soothe a hurt long since past. Thorin watched the long shadows dancing about the ceiling.

"There were too few of us who returned to a failing people with the strength to work. And even then trade was poor, for we were newly arrived in the Blue Mountains, and to Men we seemed strange and suspicious. They had but few dealings with our people before we settled here. Long were the hours in the forge those days to keep our people fed. Late one evening, Dwalin barreled into the forge and I knew.

"You came into the world in the long hours of dusk. Your hair golden... like our lost Frerin," Thorin pulled him closer, resting his chin on a blonde head, "But the ache of such a reminder was somehow softer. The veil of despair in our hearts was lifted with your tiny cries. It had been long since our people had last heard the cry of a healthy babe. Looking upon you we found hope for a future we had thought lost to us. And so you became our Zirinurâl- renewer of Hope."

Fíli smiled, his face pale and drawn in the flickering light of the fire. His eyes were glassy and distant, as his breath rattled in his chest.

"And... and Kíli?" he reached for the limp hand of his younger brother, shivering at the clammy coldness of his skin.

Thorin frowned down at his youngest, the tension curling in his stomach at the unresponsive sleep the dwarfling had fallen into. When he continued, his voice was softer.

"Do you remember the Autumn before he was born?"

"It... it was very cold..."

"Yes, and the frosts took most of the harvest. There was little that year to be traded for our crafts. You were too young to remember just how fell that winter was. Longer, and colder, with the ache in our bellies growing sharper each day.

"Your mother-" Thorin huffed a pained laugh, "It hurt her to see us suffering so that she and you would not go without. Our spirits were tested that year. Brought low, and indeed, nearly broken. There came upon us a long storm of ice. It dragged on for days, scraping over the mountains. The winds cutting into our bones with a chill no fire could melt away. Day and night blurred into one, and the dark had lasted so long we thought surely the Sun had forsaken us."

He swallowed against the dryness in his parched throat, "That is when Kíli decided to come into the world- but it was too soon. Much too soon."

"I remember..." Fíli's breath labored, "Everyone was shouting... and running... Y-You were holding me. Mama was screaming... and I was frightened..."

"Yes. We all were, dear one," Thorin pressed his lips against Fíli's brow. "But do you remember how strong Kíli's cries were in the twilight? The Sun returned to us then, as if he had woken her[1] from slumber. With her light our joy was rekindled. And so Kíli became-"

"Hôfukugûn," Fíli squeezed his brother's hand with trembling fingers.

"The return of joy," Thorin finished, his eyes drooping closed no matter how much he willed them to stay open.

"I'm frightened," Fíli whispered into the still dark.

"I am here," He murmured back.

Fíli spoke no more, but he could not recall why that was cause for alarm. His thoughts slowed and muddled with his rising fever. The gentle crackle of the fire in the hearth finally made him lose his battle against fatigue.

All was quiet as the moonlight filtering through the window traveled lazily across the room.

.


.

Something squirmed against him, gently waking Thorin from his repose. A little hand slapped his face.

"Uncle?" Kíli croaked.

He startled awake, turning to see his youngest who was blinking back at him.

"Oh thank Mahal," Thorin breathed into the little one's hair, pulling Kíli close. The dwarfling did not resist, fingers tangling and tugging on Thorin's braids as was his want.

The healthy glow had returned to his skin. His neck was clean of the rash and deep scratches that Kíli had inflicted on himself at the height of his sickness. The firelight gleamed on his hair, no longer matted or sweat dampened, his clothes fresh and dry. On his other side, Fíli stirred, and much like his younger brother, he seemed much recovered.

His yawn was long and tired, but free of the terrible coughs, "Uncle, I'm thirsty."

"Fíli, you- you are feeling well?"

"Hmm," Fíli nodded with another yawn, stretching his arms over his head so that his sleeves fell down to his elbows. His skin devoid of the red bubbling sores the rash had induced.

Thorin had no memory of washing them up. He hardly remembered falling asleep. It could not have been overlong as the scent of the yule log still drifted about the room. Perhaps, in his own fever stupor he had-

"Uncle Thorin, who is that?" Kíli mumbled.

"What?" He pulled back, a rough palm rubbing soothing circles into Kíli's back. "Who is who?"

Fíli sat up rubbing at his eyes, and stilled. An awed whisper left his lips.

"Da..."

Thorin's eyes snapped up.

Silhouetted against the light of the fire sat a tall dwarf, dark hair haloed by the flickering light. Metal scraped against wood, low and rhythmic, alongside the crackle of the fire. Shavings fluttered to the ground about his feet as he hummed in chorus to the wood, metal and fire, an ancient Yule tune, soft and soothing.

And hauntingly familiar.

"Da!" Fíli leapt from the bed.

"Fíli, no!" but Thorin was powerless stop him.

He left the shadows surrounding the bed behind and barrelled into the light, "Da! Da!"

"Why look at you, little Nugget! You're practically grown!"

Jóli caught his son as he jumped into his open arms, lifting and tossing him high up. Fíli squealed and giggled, light shining upon his head like a golden crown.

"Ho! You're heavier than I last remember too!" He chuckled settling a grinning Fíli on his lap.

"Fíli-" Thorin's heart ached to hear such delight in Fíli's laugh, a note that had greatly faded ever since his father...

His blood ran cold at the memory.

"Jóli, leave him be!" He rose from the bed suddenly, determined and angry, though his voice was gentled as he looked at his sister-son, "Fíli, lad- come back, please."

The dwarfling's smile faltered, "But, Uncle Thorin... It's Da, look. It's- it's Da."

"Please," It was not his want to beg, "Do as I say, come back."

Fíli looked conflicted, but did not stray from his father's warm embrace.

"Now, now- Nugget. Don't look so sad. Show me that smile again? It's been too long since I've gotten to poke at these," his fingers tickled chubby cheeks until Fili laughed once more, revealing the dimples hidden there, "There now, that's much better! You didn't get these from your grumpy Uncle, did you?"

"Jóli!" Thorin growled, taking a step forward, just shy of the light, "Return him at once!"

When the other dwarf looked up, the firelight formed a bright halo around him, obscuring his face. He did not speak, but his silence seemed somehow a reproach. Jóli tilted his head then, looking around Thorin.

"And who is that there? Can that be Da's wee little Tadpole? Come into to the light, let me look at you."

Kíli had climbed down from the bed, hiding in Thorin's shadow as he watched the stranger and his Uncle argue. He scrunched his face, when the strange dwarf spoke. His voice sounded odd and familiar at once, like something from a dream long forgotten. But as the other dwarf called to him, he stepped back, little hands curling tight in his uncle's breeches.

"Do not stray from my side, Kíli," Thorin's hand settled on his head with the gentle command. Kíli's large eyes stared up at him innocently.

The hostility did little to discourage Jóli. He dismissed Thorin all together, beckoning his son closer with a wave and a warm smile, "Whatever is the matter, my Kíli? Come to Da-"

Taking a step back further behind Thorin, Kíli shook his head and held tight.

"Kíli-" Fíli started worriedly, leaving his father's lap to coax his brother nearer, "Kíli it is, Da. He has come back to us! Come see for yourself..."

The little one peaked from around his Uncle, but shook his head.

"Have you forgotten me already, Tadpole?"

Kíli stared long at the stranger, little brow furrowing, before pressing his face into the back of Thorin's knee. Jóli's smile never faltered, though a wistful air hung about him. He pulled a small wooden toy out of his pocket and set it down on the border between them. Shadow and light warred to claim it as the firelight waved and flickered.

"You would have loved this once..." Jóli spoke tenderly, "Though I'm not so sure anymore..."

"Enough of your games, Jóli!" Thorin trembled in fury, glaring hard but a moment at the toy, the bribe, before kicking it away from the reach of his youngest, "Be gone and leave us be!"

He realized his error too late, turning only to see a frightened Kíli scrambling back into the dark. The shadows swallowed him, and he was lost from sight, though somehow that felt almost a comfort. But Fíli- who had been so near- now backed against his father, shock and confusion warring on his face.

"Boys-" Thorin paled, looking at Fíli and then to where Kíli had disappeared in the darkness.

"Hmm," Jóli scratched at his beard, "No need for a temper, Thorin. Really, what kind of example are you setting for my boys?"

He bristled, "How dare-"

In his peripheral, he saw a small figure scurry near the edge of the shadows. Kíli stood contemplating the toy figurine where it lay harmlessly on its side.

"Kíli-!" Thorin called in warning, reaching out too late.

The little one stepped into the light, crouching down to study the new found toy. He picked it up gingerly, and laughed, smoothing his hands over the carved wood.

"Uncle look!" Kíli waved the toy enthusiastically, before making the little figure walk on the ground, humming a tuneless song.

Thorin approached him carefully, walking along the boundaries of the light. Crouching down as close as he dared.

"Kíli. Kíli please, please come here to me."

"Why?" The dwarfling blinked up at him, oblivious to his Uncle's distress. He turned and remembered his brother's presence, taking off towards him with a smile.

"Kíli!"

Stuck fast, alone in the dark, Thorin fell to his knees, all strength drained as a great weight anchored him to the ground. Fear dried up his voice, ice seeping through his veins as the gloom closed in, pulling at him, trying to drive him back. He could not bear the light, and yet he could not, would not turn away. Will alone kept the black from completely swarming his vision.

Some doom sought to keep him from his sister-sons, but he could not leave them behind. He would not.

Kíli reached his brother, bouncing and excited, "Fí! Fí, look!"

"It's wonderful, Kíli!" Fíli caught his younger brother around the waist, spinning him around much to the younger's glee. When he set his brother down, he studied the toy, "Look, his feet are so strange!"

"Well, I like them!" Kíli declared with vehemence, selfishly pulling the figure away when his brother tried to touch it. Fíli huffed with a roll of his eyes, running back to his father and jumping onto his back with a whoop.

"Da?" Fíli looped his arms around his neck, "Da, can you stay with us? Please, Da?"

"My, but you've gotten strong, haven't you?" Jóli's laugh was clear and bright as he pulled his son over his shoulder, prompting another peal of elated giggles, "Can I stay? Well, Nugget... I'm not so certain, it depends..."

"Depends? On what?" Fíli's joy withered at his words, "Oh please do not go again! Da- If you cannot stay, may I go with you? Please, Da, please?"

Jóli's smile turned strange again, fragile, as though it might break at any moment. He pulled Fíli close for a long moment, pressing a kiss to his nose.

"I've got something for you too, Nugget, here-"

The wooden toy was exquisitely carved. No detail was spared, from the curling tail, to the spreading wings, sharp claws and pointed teeth, and the finely etched scales covering the expanse of the wood.

Fíli stared at the dragon.

"Look here," Jóli's fingers wiggled the tail of the beast and its wings flapped up and down. Chuckling, he held it out to his son, "Took me some time to devise that. Here, son."

Eyes wide and hesitant, Fíli did not reach for the toy, looking back suddenly at his Uncle steeped in the shadows. Seeking permission- or direction, Thorin could not be sure. He grit his teeth and glared at the atrocity of a toy. His expression softened when he returned his gaze to Fíli, but he could not utter a single word past his lips.

"May I see, Fíli? Let me see!" Kíli poked his nose around his brothers arm, eyes widening when they fell upon the dragon. "I-I do not like that one..."

The warmth of the stranger so near dawned upon him, and he clutched the little figure in his hands. Only he did not seem so strange up close. Sawdust tainted his clothes, and the smell of fresh cut wood clung to him.

Sawdust and wood.

"Da?"

"Hello, little Tadpole," Jóli met his curious gaze with a smile so tender it tickled something deep in Kíli's heart, and he was no longer afraid.

"I like this," he affirmed, holding up the toy with a grin.

"Aye, and I'm glad you do," Jóli winked, his hand cupping his Kíli's face. Looking back at his eldest, he offered the dragon once more, prompting gently, "Take it."

Fíli hesitated again, but did not reach for it, "Da..."

After a long moment, he looked up at his father, and then back at Thorin. When his gaze returned to the toy dragon, his hands clenched at his sides. He looked down at his feet, unable to face his father.

Jóli's smile never faltered, never stiffened, never judged. The toy disappeared into his coat again. A cool breeze shifted on the air, accosting the fire.

He looked upon Kíli, callous fingers tracing the impish features of his son's beardless face, "Ever have you been the joy of my heart, Kíli. Remember this if nothing else."

Kíli blinked when he felt the kiss on his brow, warmth suffusing his body. Making him shiver against the rising wind.

Jóli looked back to his eldest, settling large hands on his son's thin shoulders. Craning his neck to look into Fíli's downturned face, he was surprised to find tears.

"What's this?" Jóli asked dismayed, wiping his little dwarfling's face, "Now, now. There are no reasons for tears here, Nugget."

"I am sorry, Da. I..." Fíli tangled his fingers into his father's dark hair, and Jóli pulled him closer, until their foreheads gently bumped.

"Fíli. Hear me when I say this, and keep faith," his words held a quiet power, "You are, and always will be, a good son."

The fire blew out, smoke curling in its wake, leaving them in pitch blackness. Thorin gasped and reeled back, released from the pressure that had been holding him captive. He stood on shaky feet, searching in the darkness that had swallowed Jóli and his sister-sons.

"Kíli! Fíli! Boys?!" Thorin called tightly.

There was no answer.

His arms reached out into the black mire, meeting nothing but cold empty air.

"Fíli! Kíli!"

His shouts grew more frantic and his feet tangled under him, sending him to the ground with a hard thump. He groaned, still flailing, desperate to find his boys. He fought and thrashed against unseen forces, refusing to give up, to give in, to-

"Thorin! Thor- Omph!"

His swirling head pounded with every shake of his body.

"Wake up you big oaf!"

Water splashed his face and Thorin started, grabbing onto cloth and beard and-

"Dwalin?!"

Bewilderment stole over his face.

"Aye- now leggo before I shave what's left of your beard!" his friend growled.

Thorin released him immediately. A pair of sturdy hands helped him find his feet. The stone floor was cold, but the fireplace burned bright with fresh wood. Sweat drenched his shirt, but his fever- his fever had broken.

"The boys!" Panic quickly took over his mind as his eyes failed to find the two dwarflings near, "Where-"

"Shut it!" Dwalin all but hissed, "Dís just put them to bed. If you wake them now, you'll be answering to her and I'll be finding my way out the door."

Thorin's glare was absolutely not petulant, "Coward."

Dwalin rolled his eyes, but a fierce grin soon twisted his mouth as he butted their heads together none too gently, "I'd have found a way to kill you again if you had left us behind."

"That is because you are a fool," there was an apology hidden somewhere in his answering smile.

"Come, the little ones have been asking after you."

Dwalin let him take the lead, following close behind should he falter. The floor no longer swayed under his feet, his steps steady if slow. The lamps were dimmed in the dwarflings' room, a soft humming drifting through the open door.

An ancient yule tune, haunting and familiar.

"Thorin?" Dwalin touched his shoulder when he halted.

Shaking his head, he proceeded, catching sight of his sister for the first time in nearly two weeks. Dís paced the room in a soothing pattern, a sleeping Kíli in her arms. Her hand played with the soft hairs on the back of his neck, cheek resting on the crown of his head. She caught sight of Thorin and her pacing stalled.

"Thorin."

Her smile was warm in the way of promising a proper thrashing later. Dwalin lingered in the door jamb, finding something interesting to study in the hall.

"We came upon you two nights ago," Dís murmured, her smile doing little to hide grimness of her words, "I thought you dead."

His hands clenched to fists at his side. Dís swayed the babe in her arms.

"Dwalin, if you would be so kind as to fetch me some fresh water for when the children wake?"

"Aye," he grumbled, pausing only a moment to meet eyes with Thorin, and he was gone.

His sister would not look up at him, instead her gaze stayed locked on the sleeping form of her eldest son. Fíli lay curled on his brother's bed, as his own bed- where they had all three spent the long nights suffering the onslaught of their sickness- had been stripped and pulled out of the room. He tilted his head, squinting at the pillow Fíli's small body was wrapped around. Thorin recognized it as his own. The color had returned to his skin, and while his breathing was yet raspy, it came much easier.

"We met Oin on the road back from Bree," Dís swallowed before she could continue, "He had found some kind of herb. He came with us here, but there were many who needed his aid. He left us with instructions, and promised a full recovery- if you made it through that first night. You were all so pale..."

Her voice died.

"I promised them..." Thorin smiled wearily, crossing the room to gently lean his forehead against her temple, "That they would see you again. Thank you for not making me look the fool."

Her cool hand found the back of his neck, "You are no less a fool."

Thorin wiped away the tears that rolled unbidden down her cheeks.

"Forgive me," the gravely depths of his voice washed over her, "I would not abandon you willingly."

"Shut it," She took a stealing breath, regaining her composure, "I will wake the children. They need their rest. And so do you."

He kissed her brow, breathing deeply as he had not been able to in days. The air around him smelled fresh, finally free of the cloying scent of illness. The fire warmed him thoroughly as it had not for several days. Moonlight streamed through the window, bathing his sister-sons with a softness that no longer accentuated their sickly pallor, but the life recovering within them now.

His hand found its way to Kíli's soft baby hair where he dreamed soundly in his mother's warm embrace. The sleeping child held a toy tight in his grasp. The strange little figure smiled up at him; the detail impeccable, from the buttons on his waistcoat, to the curly hair on his head and feet, and gnarled little walking stick in his hand.

Dís noticed his stunned stare before long, following it to the toy.

"It was very kind of Bofur to drop off some toys in spite of the risk," Dís smiled, "Kíli has not put this one down for a single instant. It seems a comfort to him. I had not the heart to pull it away when he fell asleep."

Thorin could not speak. The words choked in his throat.

"It almost," Her voice became soft with an old melancholy, "It almost looks like something Jóli would have dreamt up. He was always fond of such funny little things."

Kíli stirred with a sigh that turned into a short cough, nuzzling deeper into his mother's neck. His grip on the toy figurine never loosened.

Slowly, he turned his eyes to the fireplace. Soot blackened brick, ashes strewn upon the floor, and the steady burning of the fire were all there was to be seen.

"Yes."

Thorin found his voice at last.

"Yes, he was."


Fin


End notes:

[1] The Sun- In Tolkien's mythology, the female maia Arien commands the vessel of the Sun. For this reason, I have Thorin refer to the Sun with feminine pronouns. I like to think the Dwarves, being the children of Aulë who created the vessels for the Sun and Moon, would know this secret.

Thank you for sticking along for this bumpy ride. I know it took a long time to reach the end of this. I hope it was satisfactory. Thanks!