So…this just happened. I've been having a kind of rough time recently, and this little oneshot came from that. I just… That's really all I have to say right now. I hope you're always safe, healthy, and happy. You and your families.

This story came from two specific moments in the movie. The first is in the stone giants scene, when Thorin screams for Kili, not Fili. And the second is when Fili calls out to his uncle while the eagles are carrying them away from the orc ambush – he called out for "Thorin." Hope you like it, please review at the end!


Lightning flashed overhead, illuminating the raging deluge as the wind roared in his ears, icy rainwater blurring his vision as he stared out in utter disbelief, watching stone giants rise gracefully from the mountains, crashing violently into each other. Raining down boulders. Kili gave a little gasp beside him, and Fili swung around, his eyes searching the inky darkness for a way out, a place to hide. But there was nothing. Thorin bellowed something, and Fili understood the tone if not the words. He heard the fear in the gravelly roar, and felt sick.

Just when he thought things couldn't get any worse, they did. Far, far worse than the cold and the rain and the fear and the indecision. The ground splintered beneath his feet.

Instantly instinct took over, and Fili began scrambling for solid footing, feeling Kili stamping through same panicked dance beside him, their breathing heavy and uneven. It was when the ground actually cracked open, when the rock parted and began carrying Kili away from him, that Fili forgot to breathe.

"Kili!" He bent forward, reaching helplessly for his little brother, hating the paralyzing terror in those brown eyes. "Grab my hand!"

Kili tried, he really did, but Fili had known before the words left his mouth that it wouldn't work. Somehow, the things he tried never did. For a split second their fingers connected, and Fili felt tears burn the back of his eyes as Kili's slender fingers tried to hook around his, and then his brother was torn away as the rocks moved.

The world was silent. Fili couldn't move, he couldn't breathe, think – nothing. All he could do was stare at Kili, his baby brother's horrified face, the shock and denial in his wide eyes. It cut him apart, the raw fear in Kili's eyes, much as if someone had reached over and impaled him upon a sword. His throat and chest burned with screams that he held in, because he was still an older brother. Still a prince. Still an heir. Still a leader. He couldn't show weakness, not now. Not ever.

But he couldn't shake it, that look on Kili's face. Somehow his little brother had always been able to get to him when no one else could, and now…Fili squeezed his eyes shut, even though Kili's frozen expression was painted on the inside of his lids, haunting him in the only sanctuary he had left. That he'd ever had.

At least if he died now, Kili would be the last thing he ever saw.

But he'd been trained to fight, to rely heavily on his senses for so long that while he could keep his eyes closed with some effort, Fili couldn't shut out the rush of wind whipping his face, the disorienting way he kept losing his balance, or the sudden screams of his companions that forced his eyes open. And instantly he wished he had kept them shut.

A huge rock face was rushing up to meet them, and just before it collided with Fili and the other dwarves with him, he heard something. A sound that made him wish he had never come on this damned quest. A sound that brought tears to his eyes and woke an old ache in his heart. A sound that took him back years.

Thorin's voice, roaring in grief. "Kili!"

Shock made Fili tense his body, and as the rock face before him collided with the ledge upon with he stood, he felt himself sail through the air, the breath knocked painfully from his body as he crashed against jagged rock. His ears were ringing, something wet trickling down the nape of his neck and his back, the rain was pounding mercilessly against his battered body, but Fili blocked all that out. He could still hear it, reverberating cruelly inside his head, defiling his only place of retreat. Thorin's cry. Kili.

Something salty slid down Fili's cheek and into his mouth.

It wasn't as though he hadn't known – he had for years, since his childhood. Or whatever precious few years of that innocence he'd been allowed. It had all really ended the day his father had been killed. After so many years, Fili couldn't quite recall his father's face, but he had fuzzy memories of blond hair just like his, and shining green eyes. But he knew he resembled his father, resembled him strongly. Because for years after the dwarf's passing, his mother had become distant with him.

It had been gradual, something Fili hadn't noticed initially. The pain of those days haunted him still, ate at him when he was alone. The way his mother would break down into tears over nothing at all, the way Fili would sometimes look over at her to find her gazing at him, her eyes shattered into a thousand pieces, fingers splayed over a mouth trembling with silent sobs. Curling over her swelling stomach, wrapping her arms around the child inside, her emaciated frame shaking as Fili watched helplessly, more often than not sitting in a corner with his knees drawn up to his chest. He had mourned his father, but done so in private, when none could see him. Because it took him days to realize that his tears caused his mother more pain. But it took him nigh on a year to understand that it was his presence that truly did so.

Then another life came into his. Kili was born, and Fili understood instantly that this child was fundamentally different from him. And in so many ways. For starters, the baby was tiny, all big brown eyes and a shock of similarly colored hair, and not much else. He smiled constantly – when he wasn't sleeping – and gurgled at anyone and everyone who held him, sometimes batting tiny fists at them. But Fili had stayed away from the baby. Sometimes he'd go in at night, stand by the crib and watch his new brother snore, feeling a physical tug inside him, but he never held him. Only once, the day the child was born. His mother had been rocking the child in the cradle, and Thorin had instructed Fili on how to hold the child. But the minute he'd taken Kili, Dis had begun weeping – silently, but Fili noticed. He noticed everything. Carefully, he placed the slumbering baby in Thorin's arms and walked slowly out the door – and then broke into a run, climbing into his own bed and burrowing into the covers, only then letting his tears fall, not sure why they were coming or how to stop them. But they came. When Thorin came in a few minutes later, Fili had pretended to be asleep. He still remembered the way Thorin had stroked his hair and kissed his forehead before leaving the room. He could still feel the touch of his uncle's hand. It was so rare for him now.

Someone shouted his name, and Fili felt his body jerk involuntarily. He was in pain, and all he could think was that he wanted them to leave him alone. Soon he would be gone, and this would all be over. Cold rain had plastered his hair to his face, making him shiver. He just wanted to remember, just one more time. Retreat into his safe place before he himself vanished like a candle blown out, leaving behind only wisps of smoke that were quick to dissipate.

The next two years had been the easiest of his life. Kili had been small, learning slowly to raise his head, roll over, babble something halfway intelligible. From the shadows Fili had watched, and when his mother had been absent he'd sometimes sat and let those tiny fingers curl around some of his own. But he could tell, even at age six, that it hurt his mother to see him with his little brother. And he knew it was because she was remembering another dwarf, so like him in appearance, who should have been there too.

But it hadn't been difficult for him, not too much. Baby Kili had been just that, a wee child who couldn't really communicate or play. Fili felt little responsibility for him. He knew that the swaddled infant was his brother, and he loved him on that basis. But Kili was constantly in either Dis or Thorin's arms, and it didn't take a sharp mind to understand why. The new child, with his constant babbling and smiling and giggling, was a new light for them all, in such a dark world.

Fili didn't blame his mother. Not now, at eighty-two years. Not even all those decades ago, when he was just a dwarfling. It wasn't that she didn't love him, he knew she did. He'd heard her steal softly into his room every night when she thought he was asleep, her fingers caressing his cheek as she hummed a sweet lullaby his father had used to sing to him. In every way she could, she had taken care of him, but she hadn't been able to erase the grief in her eyes whenever she gazed upon him. And for such a young dwarfling, still reeling from the loss of his father, uncle, grandfather, and so many more, it was too much.

At first Fili hadn't really cared. His father had been his world – the dwarf who carried him, sang him to sleep, swung him through the air, told him stories, let him run small fingers over a real axe while keeping a careful grip on both child and weapon. But he'd been so small…most memories Fili had of his father were blurs, a few seconds captured and imprinted upon his mind, nothing more. Durin's beard, he didn't even remember his father's face clearly! But he would never forget the happiness and love he'd felt in those moments. Never.

Losing his father had been the hardest thing Fili had ever done. Even his mother couldn't console him, nor could the uncle he admired so. Nothing could change it. His father was dead. No sweet words would ever bring him back. No one else's arms would be that sanctuary that his father's had been. No one else would fill that wound in his heart.

So he'd struggled. Fili had closed himself off, running away on his own every day, finding some isolated space to hide in, pretending the shadows could take care of him the way his father had. His mother had reacted much the same way, shutting herself up in her room for hours at a time, and more often than not he found her weeping. Something no child should ever have to see. Thorin would come after Fili, carry him home every day, but it wasn't the same. It would never be the same.

Thankfully, those years had blurred in his mind. Maybe he just didn't want to remember, so he'd pushed the memories away time and time again until they ran into each other like blood in water, swirling together until time and place vanished against a dark abscess.

And then Kili grew.

At two years, he was learning to crawl, and suddenly Fili was wanted. Although he hadn't been the most prominent figure in his brother's early life, some part of Kili must have remembered the blond child with sad eyes who stayed with him through so many nights. Because suddenly Fili had not one shadow, but two. Along with it came joy, but also some of the most acute pain Fili had ever known in his young life. He could feel it pricking him still. For the first time, he'd been needed, really needed. He couldn't take two steps without the drooling infant scrambling along after him, babbling nonsensically as he pursued his brother. And it had been such a beautiful feeling, to be entwined so closely in the life of another again. His mother had tried, Fili knew she had, but deep down he couldn't deny that he resented her inability to put aside her pain for his own. Wasn't that what a mother is for? To put your needs before her own? To comfort her son through her own tears? Why was it that he was the one effacing himself for her sake, torturing himself with loneliness and pain every day to spare her the need to drop another of those endless tears? Why had he been the parent, even before he'd learned to heft a sword?

With Kili, it was different. Although Fili had by then learned to find solace in his loneliness, he couldn't help but love his brother. It was hard not to, when Kili would constantly want to be by his side, chewing on dandelions or stalks of grass, eyeing his big brother through his fringe of soft dark hair. Kili had absolutely no patience for anything or anyone. He was shameless about it, too, Fili remembered with a soft smile that didn't fully reach his lips. He still was. He'd pout, cry, cajole, shout, do whatever it took to get what he wanted. But if he had to wait three hours for a single glance from Fili, Kili would wait.

And of course, like everything else Fili touched, that relationship was cursed from the outset. At first Dis had been loath to allow Fili out of the house, since Kili would insist upon accompanying him, even though he couldn't even walk. She had shut him in her room once – Fili still remembered the infant's furious squalling. But even all the games with Kili, those few charmed years of racing through glades glowing with sunshine and battling orcs away from the honey cakes their mother had left out to cool, none of that could erase the pain that came after. When Kili grew.

By the time Fili was nineteen summers old, his little brother began to grate on his nerves. He'd managed by then to adjust to his life, fragmented as it was, but his brother's constant need to be around him had begun to stifle him. Kili was a tiny dwarfling no longer, and Fili had grown. And he could still remember, oh so vividly, that one day when he knew that no matter how much Kili's entrance had changed his life for the better, it was still the way it had been since his father's return to stone. Perhaps worse.

It had started innocuously enough. Fili sitting on the floor by a blazing fire, poring over a beautifully illustrated manuscript Balin had gifted him for his nineteenth birthing day. Kili pestering him to come outside, to play in the snow. Words and colors on a page failed to lure Kili to them the way they did Fili. And his brother just wouldn't leave him alone. Fili bit his lip, running his fingers over runes set down in a firm, graceful hand, trying to imitate the movements that calligraphy would require. He'd learned years ago that the best way to shake Kili off was to ignore him until he lost interest – which happened rapidly with everyone and everything. Except Fili. Then it happened.

Kili's shriek of rage. Yellow parchment thrust into the flames. Sparks swirling into the air. The beautiful page curling at blackening edges. Flames licking away at the beauty they'd held. Fili's hands dipping into the flames. Trying to cut through them. Trying to rescue the parchment. The sting of loss. Crippling agony in his hands. A numbing, blinding fury. Whirling to see a jealous, spoiled brat who had never had to sacrifice or lose anything in his life. Someone he could never be. A life he wished he'd had. One more loss to add to his ever-growing list. One more person who pretended to care but didn't. Selfish. Selfish. Both of them. Stupid. Selfish. Useless. Unworthy. Cursed.

Blood. Kili's blood. Pain in his knuckles. Not caring anymore. Pain everywhere. Tears, his or Kili's. Both. Another fist flying. Another cry of pain. Kili's. Another. Yet another. A door slamming. Another opening. Heavy footsteps. A roar of anger. A deep voice, quavering with rage. Thorin. Kili crying. A deep intake of breath.

Agony. In his face now. The loud, jarring sound of flesh on flesh. Kili's shriek of shock. The floor rushing up to meet him. Trying to block the fall with his hands. White-hot pain in them. Screams, his own screams. Kili crying more loudly than before. Someone screaming. His own voice. Gravelly with pain. Thorin shouting. Curling in upon himself. Shaking. Sobbing. Darkness coming for him, praying for it to come more quickly. To be permanent.

Fili kept his eyes closed under the rain. He didn't want to remember this. Not anymore. He wanted to lie here, forget the world. Forget his brother and uncle and mother. Just wrap himself in memories that were too blurry and vague to ever deserve that title, memories of a blond dwarf with his eyes. But he'd started down this path, and it was too late to stop. Other, more bitter memories kept invading him, sharp pinpricks of thought torturing him till he would have screamed for mercy had anyone cared to hear him. To save him.

He'd woken up to find his hands bandaged, a cool but stinging paste slathered onto his cheek, and wounds far deeper left unchecked and uncared for. Fili hadn't given any explanation of what happened, not even when Thorin ordered it of him. But Kili had sobbed out the entire story after Fili had gone limp. And Fili would never forget what Thorin had said to him, disbelief and incredulity and that disappointment in his eyes, after he'd awoken.

"You value parchment and ink more than your own brother?"

In that instant, Fili had known not to expect any understanding, any forgiveness. Yes, his uncle had lost his own brother, and was probably a little more sensitive in this respect than he would otherwise have been. That day, Fili learned his lesson. No matter what Kili threw at him, he was not to retaliate. His little brother was more important. Would always be.

His hands took time to heal. He wanted to jerk away every time Oin or one of the healers came to see him, he wanted to curl up in a corner and keen with misery whenever Kili or his mother came to sit by him and looked at him with sad, sad eyes. He wanted to run until his lungs couldn't take in air, until his legs gave way, until the horizon and sky bled together and engulfed him. But the blow Thorin had dealt him had left him with a mild concussion as a parting gift, and Fili couldn't take more than a few steps at a time without collapsing, helplessly dizzy, gripped by a vertigo so powerful that he had once fainted from its touch.

And when he healed, no signs of the wounds remaining on Fili's body save for a small white scar where Thorin's ring had slashed open his cheekbone, Thorin made clear what was expected of him. He brought his nephew something. Fili remembered the sudden excitement, he felt like jumping and squealing the way Kili did whenever he was given something. He remembered the shock when Thorin handed him a light, slender sword, told him to meet him at dawn the next morning. He just stood there, blinking down at the frighteningly sharp, gleaming blade. He remembered his mother falling apart in the kitchen, sobbing that Thorin was forcing her son to follow his father. The bitterness he felt at those words. Her son. When had she ever shown him the love she showed Kili? When had she beamed at him the way she did for his brother? For how many years had Fili craved to be doted upon the way his brother was? And he had never known how to ask for it. Now he knew that he was expected to survive without it.

He'd steeled himself that day, held in the tears until his eyes stayed red for hours. Dwarves didn't start training until their late twenties. Just another piece of a nonexistent childhood taken from him. The next day, he discovered he was lethal. He discovered that he could be the best at something. And that the best was never good enough.

He could handle weapons as if they were part of him, an extension of his arms and hands. On his first day he was learning to parry, strike, block, attack, and defend – and that evening Dwalin told him that he was the most talented swordsman the older warrior had ever seen. Glowing with pride, Fili returned home, his body aching but his soul soaring, given wings of elation and success. Thorin was divesting himself of his coat when Fili crossed the threshold, which meant his uncle had just arrived as well.

Waiting was always the worst part. Waiting for his father to come home. Waiting for Kili to understand that he wasn't the pure, innocent child his brother thought he was. Waiting for his mother to stem her tears. Waiting for a love and praise that was loathe to come his way. Waiting for a life that would never be his own. Waiting to love Kili the way he deserved. Waiting for more than he knew.

That night Fili had waited, drawing up patience from a drying well at the bottom of his soul. For a single word, a smile – just a few weeks ago Thorin had been so free with them. For both his nephews. But that night, his relationship with his uncle died quietly, its last breath a gentle, broken sigh. Fili hadn't slept that night. Nor the night after that.

It was the same every day. Weaponry in the morning with Thorin, studying politics and calligraphy and various tongues with Balin after that, sparring lessons with Dwalin to round off the day. Somewhere along those next few years Fili dropped the "Uncle," referring to the dwarf as "Thorin." It was a natural movement. He barely spoke to his mother – interaction seemed to be torture to them both. And his own uncle had discarded him the way he would an old, worn cloak. This was the only retaliation he allowed himself. The only retaliation acceptable. He dropped the attempt at a relationship in favor of a warrior's loyalty. It was easier. Pretending was so much easier than facing the truth he didn't want to see. A truth that stared him in the face every day, daring him to ignore it. Stabbing him when he turned his back on it. Searing his eyes when he faced it. There was no escape. Never.

Leaves turned green, gold, red, vanished. The cycle repeated. And the worst torture was Kili. His brother's life was so different, Fili wondered what he had done wrong. From birth, Kili had been prized and cuddled by everyone but their father, uncle, and grandfather. Fili had been held and loved by those three, but no one else had ever treated him the same way. What a cruel world. Trading love and life. Thorin constantly took care of Kili. In the dark-haired prince's presence, Thorin was always smiling, even laughing – something no one else could do. With Fili, he was his usual stoic, surly self. Even Dwalin elicited a kinder response from the dethroned king. And Fili was kin.

He couldn't even hate Kili for it. Couldn't resent him. His little brother was so innocent, so chirpy. So ready to believe the best of everyone. And Kili loved him, fiercely, deeply. He wanted to do everything together, sleep in the same room, train together, and when Fili didn't want to talk or play or even move – which occurred nearly every day, his training drained him so – Kili, the energetic, impatient, flighty Kili, would sit quietly by his side, staring into the fire. And Fili knew that someone loved him. Believed in him.

Kili and blades – two things that made up his world. By his twenty-fifth summer Fili was as deadly a fighter as Dwalin, as graceful as Thorin. Teaching himself to be equally strong and proficient a swordsman with either hand had been difficult, but now he wielded dual swords that he'd forged himself. But no matter how many weapons he forged, embellishing them with his personal seal, no matter how many dwarves were impressed by his ability, he was never. Good. Enough.

It hurt, even now, even past eighty, to remember all those times he'd longed for a word. A touch. A smile. Even a glance. Everything that Kili took for granted because he'd never had to live without it. But Fili hadn't either. He'd shared that kind of deep, fierce affection with someone – and then had it torn from him. Being denied it completely would have been bearable. This…made him a monster.

It had been small things, at first. He loved Kili, Mahal, he loved him so much that the one time Kili had been bullied for his slight frame and delicate features, Fili had rearranged several faces – back when he'd only been fourteen summers old. Earned quite a reputation after that, considering the culprits had been several years older than him. But it also irked him that Kili always, always had someone to run to. He began to snap back sharply at his brother, cruel barbs that tore apart the joy Kili found in everything. He hated it, hated himself for it. But it was an innate response to having to live with a happiness he could never have.

Things came to a head after several years. When he realized how badly his desperation to find love in the tiniest of gestures had misled him.

But he was yanked out of reminiscence as a deafening boom rattled his very bones. Thunder. The storm. Falling. Blood on his back. Rain. He heard that voice again. Thorin's. A loud, desperate cry. "NO!"

Mourning for Kili.

It was more than he could stand, and Fili felt himself collapsing. He couldn't fight it anymore. Not that day.

Thorin had declared, when Kili turned twenty-three, that it was time his younger nephew began training with weapons as well. Fili had started when he was quite a few years younger, a point that Kili had made in arguments with his uncle nearly every day, while Fili sat beside them, just listening. Wishing that he had the right to argue with Thorin. Kili didn't know how fortunate he was. How blessed. To argue with their king…to demand something of him…And Fili knew why Thorin had refused Kili for so long. It was not, as their uncle insisted, due to Kili's light build, or the need for the brothers to be able to fight without depending on each other for aid. It was because Thorin didn't want to risk Kili being injured. The numerous cuts and bruises Fili had sustained in the past few years – no matter. Kili mattered.

And then Thorin said the unthinkable. That they would be training and learning separately. Fili felt a smile ghost over his lips at the memory. It had been years since Kili had thrown a proper tantrum, but he did then, yelling and screaming and crying and everything in between that he and Fee were not to be separated. Thorin had simply held his tongue, watching impassively as his younger nephew pleaded.

The next day, they began. Separately.

While Thorin was with Fili, Kili trained with Dwalin. When Kili trained with Thorin, Fili was with Balin. And Kili constantly bemoaned the long hours he spent cooped up indoors with the older dwarf while Fili sparred ferociously with Dwalin – while he was no match for the warrior in strength, he was rapidly approaching his skill level, something Dwalin seemed to derive copious amounts of pleasure from.

And then it happened. Balin, lavishing praise on Fili's handwritten copy of an old dwarven legend, released the prince early. Almost unconsciously, Fili headed for the glade where Thorin liked to teach his nephews, wondering how Kili was doing. What he hadn't wondered was how Thorin was doing. Fili was shocked – so startled that he actually stumbled several steps back – when he heard a deep laugh. Thorin's laugh. It was rare, but there it was, he could hear it, and he broke into a run, following the sound, and froze.

Thorin was correcting Kili's grip on a bow. A bow. When Fili had asked to learn to shoot, Thorin had glared down at him as if he'd been examining a particularly repellent insect, before glancing away. He hadn't even deigned to answer the question, moving instead into a fighting stance, sliding fluidly through the air. Fili's hand, still stained with ink, shook as it tightened to a fist. Thorin smiled down at Kili, who'd muttered something and was now grinning, and they moved together, uncle teaching nephew how to nock an arrow and pull it back. They looked so happy, so complete, sliding with the motion of the bow, Thorin's hand resting lightly over Kili's to keep it in position as they let the arrow fly. It buried itself deep in the trunk of a tree, quivering. Thorin's laugh boomed out again as Kili whooped.

Neither of them saw Fili slink back between the trees, then turn tail and flee. He tore through the woods, not caring that branches were whipping his face, tearing his shirt. He needed escape. A stray tree root caught his foot, and Fili somersaulted through the air, landing hard against the ground, wheezing as the breath was knocked forcibly from his body. Tiredly, with finality, he let his head drop hard against the earth, eyes falling closed.

Father, where are you? Why did you leave me? I can't do this…Father…I miss you. I can't…I can't do this anymore. Please, Father, help me. What did I do wrong, that Thorin can't even speak to me? Why does Kili deserve his and Mother's love while I do not?

Suddenly he was on his feet, head thrown back. "What did I do wrong?" he screamed, tears dropping thick and fast from his eyes. Tears he'd held locked away for years. "Why me?" Dropping to his knees, head hanging, he took a rattling breath, feeling crushed by the grief. His voice came out as a hoarse whisper, throat raw from the agonized screams of moments before. "What have I done, Father? Why did you go?"

His world lay in shattered pieces at his feet. Stained with the blood from the wounds in his soul. This was it. This was why Thorin had kept them apart. Because he loved Kili so much more. It wasn't hard to understand why. Kili was so sweet, so forgiving, so damn happy. Nothing in his life had ever gone wrong. He'd never had to lose a father, he'd never had to plug that hole in his heart with whispered sobs and empty promises and the longing for a love he would never find. He'd never watched his mother break down at the very sight of him. He'd never known the pain of seeing the uncle who had cared for him as a child stare down at him in disappointment, once warm blue eyes cold, uncaring. Thorin showed more emotion and kindness to strangers than he did to his own heir.

At least if he had done something to deserve this hideous parody of a life, Fili would understand. But no, his every breath had been drawn in the hope of earning even the smallest gesture of approval. All of which had been denied him.

When Kili had forged his first blade, it had taken Fili all of six seconds to spot numerous flaws. It was not quite balanced, not evenly sharpened, the shape not conducive for effectively slicing through armor…But Thorin had smiled and ruffled Kili's hair, promising to show him how to sharpen and shine it the next morning. When Fili had forged his first dagger, it had been nearly perfect. One flaw. One small flaw – the hilt was slightly too large for the size Fili's hand had been several years ago. But that had been enough for Thorin to dismiss his effort. The next day, Dwalin had taught Fili how to measure hand size and correspondingly create the weapon. Thorin had simply taken no further interest. One failure meant no chance for redemption. It was why Fili struggled so much to excel in everything – and excel he did. His hand was firm, steady, even Balin thought his writing beautiful. He had mastered both spoken and written Westron, Khuzdul, Elvish, and a few languages in between. He could settle any dispute with a few well-placed words. He could silence dwarves of any age and disposition with a raised hand – his reputation as a deadly swordsman came rather handy. He could work the forge, had made himself axes and blades large and small. He was a master of swordplay, could hold his own even with the fearsome Dwalin.

What could Kili do that he couldn't? Fili sighed, he knew the answer. Kili could be pure. Untainted by anger and fear and loss. He was whole, none of the rest of them were. And their mother and uncle were drawn to Kili's sweetness like moths to flame.

Without warning, one of Fili's fists flashed out, slamming into rough, rigid tree bark. Pain exploded in his knuckles, and with a grimace, he repeated the movement with his other hand, driving his fists into the tree over and over, letting pain wash over him, blotting out every other thought or emotion. When the tree was soaked in bright crimson, his hands swollen, puffy and bruised and bloody, the skin badly torn, he stopped, leaning his forehead against the bark, whimpering as tears trailed down his cheeks. The only gentle caress he'd known in so long.

That night he slept under the stars.

He never mentioned it. Not once. When they found him, incoherent with fever and the stabbing agony pulsating from his abused hands, he wouldn't tell why there was blood on the tree or why he had never come home. He never told Kili what he had seen, why it was weeks before the wall between Fili and his brother had finally been broken down by Kili's persistence and love. And by the way Fili heard his brother cry himself to sleep every night across the room, when Kili thought that Fili was asleep.

It was hard, to cause someone who loved him so much pain. Even more so because he was only one person in the world who truly loved him. But Fili couldn't help it. For years he had been hopelessly jealous of Kili, who didn't even pick up on the fact that Fili was aching, bleeding, dying for the kind of adoration and care that Kili kindled in everyone he met.

At least Kili always had someone to run to. For Fili, there was his own mind. The one place he could be honest with himself and his world. Everyone else saw a façade, a smile that he forced to reach his eyes, a politeness in his manner and speech that belied the pain and frustration within, a proud walk that masked his desire to huddle up somewhere dark and quiet, somewhere he could release the screams. There was no shelter in his mother's arms. They were forever closed to him now. There was no security to be found by Thorin's side. His uncle – no, king – couldn't bear the sound of his voice. There was no older brother to flee to when the world turned upon him. He was the older brother. He was the rock. But he was so broken he could barely draw breath.

He loved that Kili could coax smiles and laughter out of him, he really did. But Kili was not his, no matter how much he wanted him to be. Fili had nothing and no one that he could call his own, not since his father had left. The one heart that loved him was a heart he shared with so many others who cared naught for him. It tore at him, it sliced into his skin until it pierced his heart, making silent screams shatter against the cool blue of his eyes as they fought for release, to be surrounded by so much love. None of which was directed at him.

Every dwarf he knew had someone to hold him up in times of need. His mother had Thorin and Kili, who had her and each other. Balin and Dwalin were gruff with each other, but Fili had seen the fond gleam in Dwalin's eyes when he spoke of his elder brother while they worked in the forge together. Even Dwalin, who showed Fili so much kindness, preferred Kili. Preferred the brother who wasn't so damaged. Or perhaps it was because Kili had Thorin's favor. Fili had only the favor of a dead man.

What did it matter that Kili loved him? If Fili were to die, stabbed by an orc blade or felled when his own mangled and mutilated heart gave out, Kili would go on living. He would mourn, yes, but Thorin would be there to lift him up and carry him when he wouldn't or couldn't walk. But if Kili were to leave him, Fili knew he would give up. At least with Kili alive he had someone to fight for, someone to whom he could extend Thorin's broad definition of the "people" to whom his duty was. Someone who still beamed when Fili walked in. Someone who constantly smiled and laughed and who hugged him, often, just because he was his brother and that was what brothers were for. Love.

It rankled when the lasses began to eye him, shyly at first, and then some began to grow more bold. Flowers outside their doorstep, bound with a bright silken ribbon upon which his name had been painstakingly inscribed. Honey cakes or sweets on his window. Giggles and blushes when he walked by. Kili teased him constantly about it, the dream of a wedding had even brought a smile upon his mother's face. But Fili couldn't accept or return any of their advances – although some of them had been stunningly beautiful. It was all wrong. Fake. His mother's smile, while directed to him, had been for a future daughter-in-law and grandchildren, not for him. These girls wanted him not for who he was – Mahal, how could they know when even he didn't? – but because of his looks, or his status as a prince and Thorin's nephew. He had so many tarnished, false relationships in his hands that he couldn't bear to begin another one.

It had been his dream when he was young. To be just like his father. To do everything the dwarf did. Walk like him, talk like him, wield dual swords, everything. And yes, in his young mind that had one day included a wife and a golden-haired son. But that particular moment had been far off; now he knew it would never happen. He would never marry. Never risk bringing another child with his appearance into the world. Dis would shun it, as she had him, because it resembled the husband she had loved and lost, because she could not or would not suffer the pain of the memory in favor of cherishing the young life she had in her hands. She had broken Fili, long before he had known how badly her weakness had damaged him. Even now he could not hate her or his uncle – they were his family. All he had left, besides Kili. But they had taught him not to inflict his fate and his failings upon an innocent young life.

His hands bore the scars still. So did his cheek. So did his heart and soul. But now he knew. He knew exactly what was expected of him. He was a prince, a leader. He was to keep control, to be able to mask any pain, physical or not, if it hindered his ability to do his duty. And his duty was first to his king, then to his people, then to his family. Lastly to himself. This was what Thorin wanted of him. At first Fili hadn't realized it – but finally, he'd found a manuscript left on his bed, an old dwarven legend of a young prince who sacrificed everything he held dear, including his life, for the sake of his people. And he knew.

Opening his eyes to black skies, ugly clouds, flying boulders and pouring rain, Fili gritted his teeth against the pain. Wiping his mind. Time to leave his one and only sanctuary.

Dragging himself up into a sitting position, slowly, trying to clear the dizziness that assaulted him, Fili saw several dwarves rushing towards them, his king at the lead. Thorin stopped dead as he came upon them, leaning against the rock face beside them. Probably thanking Aulë that it was Fili who had nearly been killed before his time, not Kili as he had feared. Steeling himself against the pain he knew would come, Fili stood, bending over Bombur, extending a hand and bracing himself, trying to help his companion to his feet, ignoring the throbbing twinges of agony in his back.

He couldn't help it. As Thorin seemed to recover himself, striding towards the reviving group, Fili felt his heart begin to pound in his breast, hoping that perhaps he'd been mistaken, that Thorin was indeed glad of his survival. But the hope wilted in his chest like a dying blossom, the petals floating with desperate, forsaken beauty to the ground, where they curled and waited to fade. His king moved right past him, not even a word of concern or command for the nephew he ignored. Fili heard Thorin bark out an order, ask Dwalin to accompany him into the caves. Not a word for him. Not a single word. Nothing. Silence was all he had to hold.

Kili was coming towards him, and without looking Fili could feel the panic radiating from his brother, and he closed his eyes. Trying to compose himself. How could he comfort Kili when he was the one who needed support? Who needed to borrow strength until he found his own?

How was immaterial. He had to. And he would. His wound he would attend to after Kili fell asleep. The tears swelling in his chest would have to wait. He could swallow them. He'd been doing it all his life.

The last of the rain trickled down his face and hair as he walked into the caves by Kili's side, Kili gasping out prayers of thankfulness, Fili pretending his body wasn't throbbing from the crushing hug his brother had wrapped him in. He still had Kili. He still had his sanctuary. He would be alright, or he would die trying.

He had to.

A/N: Please review. They would help me feel better, and I really really need it. Anonymous ones are okay too! But thank you for reading, stay smiling! :)