The Long Walk Home

Chance words give Fili a new perspective on his role in the quest to retake the Lonely Mountain.

One-shot. No slash or Durincest.

Disclaimer: I do not own most of these characters, who belong to Prof. Tolkien (and just a little bit to Sir Peter Jackson). Khuzara, however, sprang fully ornamented from the head of me.

Fili sat on a boulder in the sun, smoking his pipe, looking down from the peak onto the only home he'd ever known. Tomorrow, early, he'd be leaving it behind. He and his brother were to meet the rest of the company of the quest in a little Halfling village, and from there travel on to retake the Lonely Mountain.

It wasn't that he regretted leaving this settlement of Dwarves where he'd grown up. He was ready for the dangers of the journey, being well trained in arms, and eager to reclaim the legacy of his people. It was that every important moment of his life had taken place here; every memory rooted here in the stone of Ered Luin.

Fili could remember the stormy night his brother Kili had been born. He recalled the midwives fussing and clucking around his mother's room, overlooking him after his father and even his uncle Thorin had been banished from the house. When he had finally been discovered, Fili had been forcibly transported to Thorin's house, protesting all the while. He had been proud, once he arrived, to be counted among the tall Dwarf men gathered there, smoking the house blue and pacing grooves in the stone floor. I am of the line of Durin, he remembered thinking as he gazed up at stern Thorin, who had told him so many a time. The line will never be broken. Another link would be added tonight, as long as…as long as Mother was all right…

Fili was not too proud to clamber up into his father's arms then, trembling, and to fall asleep with his face nestled in the familiar beard.

It was to his home in Ered Luin that Thorin and Balin had brought his father's body back from one of Thorin's forays into the East. He remembered his mother's face, frozen and hard like a stone, as they laid the body out and she looked her brother in the eye.

"You have brought me back not my husband, Thorin son of Thrain, but a corpse. What good is that to me? I have those aplenty."

Thorin made no reply, but lowered his eyes.

Kili, entering the room just then, had uttered a strangled cry and thrown himself on his father's body. Someone had washed away the blood and unbraided and combed their father's hair so that it spread out beneath his head like the cloth of gold his mother so often wore.

Fili looked up at Thorin, standing so straight and proud despite his bowed head, and knew the answer to his mother's unspoken accusation. He walked between them and said, his voice quavering, "Mother, no power on this earth could have stopped Father from following his king."

Thorin looked up at Dís, startled, and Fili saw that although her face remained hard, her eyes softened. She looked at her brother and nodded, once, slowly. Thorin turned to Fili and put his heavy hand on his shoulder. And that was when Fili began to cry, and soon was howling his grief even louder than Kili.

The late afternoon sun, shining harshly down on Fili's own bit of the Blue Mountains, made the young Dwarf drowsy. He wondered idly how his mother would manage without her boys when they were gone. Her pride prohibited her from making many friends, and her one contemporary of noble family, Balin and Dwalin's sister, Freya, was cordially disliked by her sons. She was strong, his mother, but he wished she would not have to be alone, or left with only Freya for companionship. Especially when he knew Dís did not want them to go.

The sun beat down, hot for spring. Fili blinked himself awake more than once, and almost missed the figure climbing slowly up the cliff toward him.

But as she came into the clearing, Fili was already standing and waiting for her.

"Whew!" She grinned, pretending to wipe sweat from her brow. "When your mother said you were by yourself, I guessed you'd be up here. But I forgot how much of a climb it is. How wonderful to see you again, dear Fili!"

They placed their hands on each other's shoulders and were just about to give her family's traditional head butt when Fili pulled back. "Perhaps we shouldn't," he said, eyeing her head.

"Oh, this?" She blushed and rolled her eyes upward, where a swag of jeweled braids draped across her forehead. "Oh, Mahal forbid I should muss this new design," she said with a sigh. "Do you know my mother had the nerve to say to me, 'Khuzara, your great-great-great-grandfather was a king, and your grandfather a Burned Dwarf. You should take pride in your appearance. You cannot go about with your hair loose like some kind of wild Elf.' I ask you, could anyone mistake me for an Elf?" She gestured down at her short, well-rounded figure, and then at her fringe of beard, delicately flecked with gold dust.

"Not likely," Fili agreed. "Not that I'm very familiar with Elves."

Khuzara laughed at his raised eyebrow and settled herself beside him on the rock. "Uncle Balin is, and I must say his descriptions of their nature do not match Thorin Oakenshield's." When he smiled, she continued, "I envy you this quest. Just think of the things you'll see (maybe Elves) and the adventures you'll have! I wish Thorin would let females come."

"Have you showed him your knife tricks?" Fili grinned. "You're hardly helpless. As we both know—"

"—The Wild is no place for gentle folk who can neither fight nor fend for themselves," the two finished in perfect mimicry.

Khuzara snorted, her dark eyes twinkling. "You sounded just like Uncle Dwalin."

Fili laughed and leaned back against the boulder. "You know it. How many hours did we spend up here, learning to throw knives under his critical eye?"

"More than I care to recall. Although I doubt these little toys"—she flourished a knife from up each sleeve and just as quickly slipped them back—"would avail me much against a pack of Orcs or a swarm of Elves."

Fili chuckled, taking up his pipe again. Unfortunately, Thorin would agree with her.

"Speaking of monsters," Khuzara went on, "Mother will try to have me married off by the time you return. She says times are too uncertain for Dwarves for young women to be picky. But if she thinks, for one moment—" Khuzara broke off suddenly, eyes wide.

Fili cocked his head, puffing at his pipe as he looked over at her. "What is it?" he asked around the mouthpiece.

"I only just now…" She swallowed. "I only just now realized that you won't be coming back."

The words seemed to echo. Fili felt dizzy, suddenly, and set down his pipe. The sun dazzled his eyes and the words continued to ring, fading gradually, in his ears.

"…be staying on at Erebor, of course, to help restore it," Khuzara was saying. "I—I suppose I never stopped to think…"

Fili put the pipe back in his mouth and drew deeply before he replied.

"Yes, I planned to stay at Erebor."

Khuzara nodded, eyes on her ornately lacquered fingernails. "I suppose Uncle Balin and Uncle Dwalin…?"

"Staying too, at least for a while, I should think."

She looked up, managing a lopsided grin. "And Kili?"

They both laughed at that…as if Kili would ever be parted from his brother.

"Well," Khuzara said firmly, "it may be sooner than I thought, but I'll be coming out with your mother once you've civilized the place. No matter who we have to travel with, no matter what ghastly clothes we must wear on the journey, and no matter what my mother says to the contrary," she added darkly.

"Not even Thorin could keep such determined women away."

"That's settled then." Khuzara stood up and shook out her skirts.

Fili stood as well and walked a little way with her down the half-hidden path to the village. She stopped within a few yards and looked up at him. "You stay up here, Fili," Khuzara said with a half smile. "I know how you need to think things through. This is where we part." The setting sun cast rose and pink on her face as she reached up and gently smoothed the braids of his mustache. "I wish you well, my dear friend," she said in a rush, and turned to hurry down the hill.

He stood looking after her for several moments, then clamped his pipe between his teeth and returned to his perch on the boulder.

Yes, there were things he needed to think through.

At last a faint rustling in the undergrowth roused him from his long reverie.

"Is that you, Kili? It's either you or an oliphaunt."

Kili emerged from the bushes and replied with a disdainful swipe across the top of his brother's head. He plopped down beside him, laughing.

"What are you still doing up here, Fili? It's all but dark, in case you hadn't noticed. I finished fletching my arrows ages ago."

"Just…thinking."

Kili smirked. "Mother would have it that you were getting betrothed to Khuzara."

"Betrothed?" Fili repeated. "No. She just came to say good-bye."

Kili gave a crack of laughter, shaking his head. "You know what I think? I think you didn't even know she's been meaning to marry you these forty years and more."

Fili blew a smoke ring and hoped he didn't look as sheepish as he felt.

"You didn't!" Kili chortled, falling off the rock onto his side, laughing and kicking his feet. When at last he had recovered (encouraged by a couple of pine cones lobbed at his head), he sat up, wiping his eyes. With a grin Fili considered far too wide, he said, "You know, brother, you can't always find the answers by thinking. Sometimes you have to trust your instincts. You have to listen to your gut."

"The only thing my innards tell me," Fili retorted, though he knew it was a lie, "is that it's nigh onto time for supper." He had not followed at Thorin's heels like a puppy all these years without learning that sometimes the price of being a leader is to bear your burdens alone.

"Well, I wouldn't mind having Khuzara for a sister. She's nice, and fun. Remember that time after you put that mouse nest in her boot, she got even by dyeing your braids green while you slept, and then we made that itch powder and put it—"

"I remember." One corner of his mustache twitched upward.

"She'll never marry anyone but you, so I suppose in the end it's good that she and Mother get along so well. They'll be good company for each other."

"What do you mean?" Fili asked sharply.

"I mean," Kili said slowly, "that Mother would like Khuzara for a daughter-in-law. What did you think I meant? What's wrong with you today? You look pale or something."

"How could I look pale when I've been sitting here in the sun all day? Besides, you can't tell. It's dark," Fili answered, examining the carving on his pipe.

Kili subjected him to a searching look. "You're not thinking of backing out of the quest, are you?"

Fili looked up at that, and the words were out of his mouth before he thought to form them. "No power on this earth could keep me from following my king, brother."

Kili nodded, strangely subdued for once, and picked up a rock, then pitched it down the slope. Finally he stood and turned to his brother. "Come on, it's time to get back."

Fili rose and stretched as Kili plunged ahead in one of his mercurial mood changes, charging up and leaping off any boulder in his path.

"You've got too much to do before that, anyway" floated back to Fili, and he could only assume Kili meant before becoming betrothed. "You've got an uncle to obey and a brother to look after"—this was shouted, and much laughter followed it—"a quest to go on, gold to recover, and a dragon to conquer before you can finally rest in the halls of your fathers. Erebor!" he thought Kili added, but he couldn't be certain.

He watched his brother's back as it disappeared among the trees. The line of Durin will never be broken…

Slowly Fili tapped out the dottle of his pipe, which had gone dark and cold, and followed his brother home.