A/N: Thanks for reading! Comments, review and favorites are much appreciated :) Three chapter to go, and I promise, there will be a happy ending!
Fili had never wanted to spar, to hit something, anything, in his life more than he had in that moment.
He knew it was just pent up anger at his condition, plus the stress of dealing with an injured brother and taking on the responsibilities of a real prince.
So he took a deep breath, and vowed not to take it out on Kili even if all he wanted to do was punch the brunette straight in the jaw and see if he felt better afterwards.
Instead, he helped him open the door and lead the way to Thorin's chambers, dread settling in his stomach.
He hadn't yet confronted his uncle about where his thoughts had been leading recently. He barely saw Thorin anymore, making him wonder if the King was avoiding him.
Fili caught his brother as he stumbled trying to pull the door open, and Kili shot him a grateful look hidden as a reproachful one as they both stepped into the room.
"Who is it this time?!" Thorin questioned, his voice weary.
"It's just Fili and Kili," the latter drawled, leaning against the wall as soon as he was inside, almost like he wanted to be there and not because he was too tired to stand properly.
Stupid boy, he shouldn't have been out of bed yet.
Thorin glanced up and Fili almost started at the lack of anything recognizable. There were eyes and a nose and a mouth, but nothing about them separated them from anyone else he'd seen since he woke. He concentrated on Thorin's voice, the king's braid framing his face, the thick ring with his uncle's seal, the things that proved this was a member of his family and not a stranger.
"Kili, I thought you were told to stay in that room," Thorin reprimanded.
The brunette shrugged, "Yes, well, Fili had a stupid idea, so I came here to see him proved wrong."
"And what kind of idea was this?"
"He thinks you're going to make me heir instead of him," Kili said, as if those weren't life changing words and instead him mentioning what was for dinner.
"Mmm," Thorin glanced at Fili, "Is this true?"
He kept his eyes level at the floor, refusing to answer. It was embarrassing enough as it was, did his uncle really have to make it worse?
Apparently Thorin took that as a yes, and rumbled, "Why in Durin's name would I do that?"
"I don't have time to listen to some complaining on your part. Fili, you're the crown prince and you should know better than to let your little brother out of his sick room when he needs to be resting. Do you understand?"
"If you can't handle the responsibility, then you need only have told me so and I would have eased you into it more gradually. However, it was my understanding that you were ready for this the moment we left Ered Luin. And if you're worried about not recognizing anyone, well, that's what Kili is here for, is he not? He was always better with people anyway, and as your unofficial eventually official adviser, he'll be by your side most days. If you do need to separate for any reason, I'll be sure to appoint someone else to to the task. I'm sure Ori could always use a few days out of the dust of the library."
Well that was unexpected.
"Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a lot of papers to read through and reports to sign off on..." Thorin's smile softened his words, especially when he added, "I'll come visit later, if that's alright. I know I haven't seen much of you two lately, but it's a lot of work restarting an entire kingdom."
It was almost as if Thorin was asking for his forgiveness and understanding, instead of the other way around. How had this happened? This was not what he'd come for!
"It's alright, we'll see you when we see you," Kili sighed, his expression exhausted as he pushed himself off the wall.
He had little tricks for identifying his brother as well. The straight, unbraided hair, the lack of a beard, the crooked bent pinky finger from the battle. An orc had broken it and sliced through a large chunk as well, but luckily the brunette was still able to move it for the most part.
It all became a blur until Fili heard his brother cry out in pain, somewhere to the left of him.
It was like surfacing from underwater. That noise spurred him on, slashing and hacking his way through foes until he was next to Kili, relief plain in both of their expressions when they found one another. Fili blocked a blow meant for the brunette's skull while the younger recovered, cradling his left hand against his chest as blood flowed freely from a wound that the blonde couldn't discern.
Thorin was looking at Fili expectantly, like he was waiting for an answer. He shook himself out of the memory, focusing on things to remind himself of where he was and who he was with.
Voice, braids, ring, he chanted to himself, voice, braids, ring.
"You're welcome anytime. Not as if Kili's really going anywhere anyway, and I'm rather stuck where he is for the time being."
Thorin offered another smile, something that was almost astounding to the blonde. His uncle never seemed his happy.
Well, they did have Erebor back, and Bilbo had returned his affections so...
Voice, braids, ring.
It was Thorin. Always had been, always would be, and Fili should be thankful that his uncle was happy.
But for some reason all he could think was that it was just another thing he didn't recognize about his kin.