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children of the atom

Chapter Text

Thorin stretched his hands above his head, feeling his back click as his fingers scraped the top of the door frame and squinted at the clock that hung above the stairs.

Five to seven.

Pulling down his shirt that had ridden up from his pyjama bottoms, he stumbled across the landing, dragging his toes through the carpet and trying to blink the sleep out of his eyes. Fíli's door was slightly ajar, a slip of morning light slanting across the rug outside, splitting the otherwise dim space overlooking the stairwell.

“Fíli?” Thorin called, his voice croaky with tiredness as he pushed one hand through his hair and placed another on the cool wood. “It's school.”

When no reply came, Thorin took a tentative step inside, a floorboard creaking beneath his foot as he shifted his weight. The room was empty, a twisted duvet lying halfway off the bed and the curtains billowing around the open window in the early morning breeze. Sighing, Thorin closed the door gently, leaving the room largely undisturbed, before turning to face the door at the end of the hallway.

The handle made a quiet scraping sound as he turned it, the ill-fitting wood sliding against it's frame as he pushed it open. The bed was again empty, barren of any covers or even a pillow, the duvet instead bunched up in the very corner of the room, two indiscernible shapes just visible under the brightly patterned material.

“Boys?” This wasn't the first time this had happened, finding his two nephew sharing a bed, curled round each other like overgrown cats and stubbornly unrepentant. He'd tried stopping it before, trying to tell his boys that they shouldn't make things harder for themselves, not when they where already under fire. He'd received one smashed in bedroom door and a week of the silence for his trouble. They'd sat down and talked about it after a while, the brother's almost-relationship never being questioned since. They needed as much support as they could get.

“Thorin?” A head of brown, messy hair appeared over the top of the mound of blankets, Kíli's patterned skin just coming into view as the boy pushed the covers under his chin to look up at his uncle.

“School time, you'll be late if you don't hurry.” Thorin said, trying to scowl but failing as the bare arm and the sheepish face of his eldest nephew appeared next to his brother's.

“What's for breakfast?” Kíli muttered sleepily, twisting to press his face into Fíli's neck and stretch his legs so bare toes appeared from under the covers.

“Eggs. Now get, we can't let you be late again.” Thorin left his boys to get ready, grabbing at the jeans that hung ready for the day on the banister and stumbling downstairs to the front door, bending down to get the post.

Throwing the envelops across the table, he started to prepare breakfast, humming as the sound of the boys fighting over the shower echoed through the little house and the gas stove flared to life. He reached across the pan to flick on the radio, the static voice of the newsreader filling the kitchen and successfully muffling the scuffle that had broken out upstairs. Cracking an egg, Thorin listened half-heartedly to the distant rant about stock prices and looked out over the garden, the little patio stained black by last night's rain.

“Have you seen my shirt?” Thorin mumbled a yes and turned to face his nephew, caught short by the sight of Kíli's bare chest reflecting circles of light over the beige walls. The boy looked down at himself, noting Thorin's expression and groaning loudly, falling down into a chair. “I'm a human disco ball.”

He had settled into his mutation shortly after his mother had died, plates of metal intercepted by little clutters of precious jewels around his joints spreading from his right index finger.

“Stop being such a drama queen, the shirt's on the radiator. Go pack your bag.” Kíli scrunched his nose up and gave a very good world-weary sigh. “And give you brother his gloves!”

Said brother audibly stumbled down the stairs, cursing as he tripped and earning him an unimpressed stare from Thorin. The boy's damp hair was bundled up into a ponytail, the gloves his brother must have given him disappearing up into the long sleeves of his shirt.

“Morning.” he mumbled, carefully settling down at the table and pulling his hood up over his ears, smiling tired as Thorin put two plates opposite him.

“Good morning.” Thorin answered distractedly, trying to scrape burnt egg white of the pan and failing miserably. “Rules?”

“It's only been a week of holiday, I remember them.” Fíli said with a frown, Thorin's usually quieter nephew almost growling the words.

“Humour me.” He gave up trying to serve the food in favour of leaning heavily on the counter, fixing Fíli with a look.

“Keep my gloves on.” he said moodily, tapping his fingers against the table to illustrate his words, the sound of his nails swamped by the wool.

“And?”

“Keep Kíli safe.”

“If someone hits Kíli again?”

“Hit them back.” Fíli spat, his mouth set in a grimace even as Thorin took a menacing step forward.

“Try that again.”

“Make sure he doesn't retaliate, I know.” Fíli's shoulders suddenly dropped, his chin falling onto his chest as his hands came up to cradle his head. “I know. I just don't want to go back.”

Thorin dropped the now empty pan, reaching around the table to put a careful hand on his nephew's arm, running his thumb along the seam of his hoody.

“It will be fine, just keep your head down and Kíli out of trouble. You'll be out in no time.” Fíli looked up, edging away slightly from his Uncle's touch, his face twisting up into a frown.

“The entire school hate us, we're the only mutants left.”

“It'll pass.” Thorin said quietly, balling his hands into fists so hard that his nails dug into the soft flesh of his palms. A loud bang broke the tension, Kíli stumbling into the kitchen, the side-cabinet in the hall now sporting a large dent from where the boy had tripped.

“Sorry, sorry.” he muttered almost to himself, not noticing the stares as he patted the furniture in apology. He glanced up with a smile, eyes zoning in on his plate even as he did up his tie. “I thought you'd ruin them again, congratulations on the sub-par but not awful cook-”

Thorin's nephew stooped talking as quickly as he had started, this mouth still hanging open mid-word but his eyes fixing on the radio. Thorin moved to say something but a flick of Fíli's hand shut him up, focusing for the first time on the stream of sound coming from the speakers.

 

-have reported this change in legislation. Seen as a controversial move by some, the House of Lords finalised this law in the early hours of the morning, being issued to the press in a conference within the last hour. Registration forms have been sent out in order to fulfil this new act, every mutant receiving licenses in return for proper documentation. Mutants are being urged not to resist, for the continued safety of themselves and those around them. Breaking this law, or harbouring someone who is, will result in anything from a hefty fine to a long-term sentence, taking into account the power of the mutant involved. Now, to explain the repercussions of this is the man a the forefront of this law, MP of  Dane County, Smau-

 

Thorin stopped listening, reaching for the thick envelop that sat innocently in the middle of the table, a lump of dread slowly rising in his throat as he looked at the words emblazoned on the front in bright red ink. The boys sat in silence as Thorin slipped his thumb under the manilla paper and prized it away from the glue, letting the paper inside fall onto the tablecloth with an unceremonious thump.

“They must have been printed even before it was passed.” Fíli whispered, his face deathly white against the yellow of his hair and his eyes wild with anger and fear. Kíli had reached for of the pieces of paper, mauling it in his tight grip as he stared blankly down at the words.

 

Ministry of Mutant Affairs.

 

“Sit down, both of you. Now.” Thorin said, slumping into a chair of his own and reaching for the next page. “We need to discuss this.”

“Should we sign it? Do we sign it?” Kíli said desperately, Thorin distractedly noting that the table was already being crushed by his nephew's hands.

“It's up to the two of you.” Thorin said gravely, watching as Kíli looked to the side of his brother's despondent face. “You have high level mutations.” Dangerous mutations.

“And?” Fíli said quietly, moving to grip his brothers hand and pry it away from the buckling wood.

“It says they might take you away from me.” Thorin said, scanning the paper and refusing to look up. “Away from each other.”

“No.” Fíli said with a violent shake of his head, Thorin's stomach flipping at the whimper in his nephew's voice. “I could hurt someone. I could really hurt someone, and without Kíli no one could help. They can't do this. He's my brother.”

Kíli was absolutely silent, his mouth forming noiseless words as he ran a hand along the form.

“Either you register or we go on the run. It's now or not at all.” Thorin said firmly, something clicking into place in his head that screamed at him to keep rational and calm. It sounded like Dis.

“People did this before. Registering.” Kíli stopped to look at his hands, his face creased up and painfully worried. “Singling out anyone who was different.”

“I belong with my brother!” Fíli snarled, a fist slamming down and jarring the wood.

“Calm down.” Thorin snapped, almost laughing at how stupid he sounded. “Decide.”

“We stay together.” Fíli said, faltering when Kíli didn't stop staring fixedly at the mess of paperwork. “Kee?”

“They're not going to ruin our lives. I'm a- a freak but I'm proud, and I'm not going to let them take that away from me.” Kíli's mouth stretched into a grotesque kind of parody of his normal smile, his entire body relaxing at once. “Let's get packing.”

After a beat, a flurry of motion took place, Thorin making for the door as Fíli crushed his brother in what must have been the world's most uncomfortable hug. He dragged the camping equipment from under the stairs, pulling the rucksacks from underneath tent poles and ignoring the niggling feeling that he'd been unconsciously preparing for this. He also, less successfully, tried to deny the growing warmth of relief in his stomach, guilt only slightly undermining the overwhelming wave of emotion that came with the idea of keeping his boys safe and away from any political shit.

“Grab any cash you have! And for god's sake take a change of clothes!” Thorin shouted up to the sound of hurried feet on floorboards, hoping Kíli didn't try to smuggle his x-box along. Looking down at the dusty bags at his feet he paused for a moment, because what the actual hell were they doing? The government would be on there tail wherever they went and it was not like The Brotherhood would take them in, not with Thorin as human as he was.

He stood, buckled over banister and breathing hard, his pyjama top sticking between his shoulder blades and his hair shadowing his face. Nothing as dramatic as this had the right to happen so fast, not again.

But they were Durins, he thought to himself, the ground spinning in front of his eyes, Family first, not matter what.

Chapter Text

The boys had come home from school to see their Mama's throat slit, a purpling concave bruise just visible below her hairline and her neck twisted at an odd angle. Her beautiful mutant-silver skin was stained red. Thorin had been locking up the car, almost kicking down the door in his haste when he heard Fíli's scream, loud and unwavering as his little brother stared blankly at the corpse. He'd bought two fingers to her neck, meeting cold, still skin and feeling for all the world as if he'd been the one stabbed in the gut. Thorin doesn't remember seeing the next little action, only the aftermath- just a little gasp from Kíli. He'd reached down to touch his brother's bare hand, his finger brushing the flesh just peaking out of the cuff and coming away bright gold. Fíli had come into his inheritance.

He'd covered the body with a towel, his hands clenching too tight onto his boys' shoulders when he steered them out of the room, Fíli crumpling by the door, his head falling onto he's knees as he shook. Kíli had been looking fixedly at the far wall, across the ripped up carpet and overturned furniture at the crude writing daubed into one of Dis' paintings. Thorin stumbled out of the room, something pulling at his chest as he left his nephews, heaving over the toilet as tears began to burn in his eyes. Mutant slurs. Racial slurs.His fingers pressed hard into the cool porcelain, the seat jarring violently as he doubled over again, hearing Kíli enter the room before he saw him. A phone dropped by his ankle, bouncing on the tile, '999' already blinking on the display.

“It was that Azog man wasn't it.” It was less of a question than a statement, but Thorin nodded anyway, running a sleeve over his mouth to look up at his youngest nephew.

“The Pale Orcs.”


“I thought being a fugitive would be more glamorous than this.”

Thorin was always amazed at how quickly his boys bounced back.

“I mean that motorway station? You're lucky we don't eat because Jesus Christ, I don't even know if I can even get hepatitis B, but that place sure would test my limits.”

He flicked his eyes to the rear-view mirror and fought back a smile, Fíli reaching up from where he was dozing on Kíli's leg to give his brother a half-hearted thump.

“Stop making tasteless jokes and let me sleep.”

They'd been like this after there mother had died. The slightly-muted smiles and refusal to ignore the situation when everyone else forcefully ignored it. They'd been the first to make Thorin break his self-imposed fast, treating him like a child when Kíli must have been wondering about the gold patch on his skin that wouldn't rub off. Regardless of what teachers said, they were good boys. His boys.

“We're running out of petrol again.” Kíli said, his hands running over the metal of the car with a strange amount of care, even though his fingers were as jittery as always. Thorin flicked his eyes down to the gauge, the needle hovering dangerously close the strip of red.

“The last place we went they kept staring. Suspiciously.”

“You give off some serious serial killer vibes when you're in the zone.”

“It's the heavy brows.”

Thorin huffed and drifted into the slow lane, fighting the urge to prod a his forehead, instead looking for the nearest junction.

“We should reach Erebor in an hour or so.” The boys hummed distractedly at the news, probably staring lovingly into each others eyes or something equally revolting, as they'd been doing on and off since they'd hit the Scottish border. “Kíli?”

“Huh?”

“You know the drill.” The boy moaned and yanked at the blanket he'd trodden into the floor, pulling it up to his shoulders, not so subtly kicking the back of Thorin's seat as he swung his legs round and curled up like a cat.

“You better be quick, this hurts my shoulders.” Kíli grumbled, his voice muffled as his brother pulled his hood over his head and patted the lump under the blanket consolingly.

Thorin smiled despite himself, looking for the glowing petrol sign in the dim light and hoping it was open, the clock on the dashboard having been smashed to bits by Kili years ago. He was just pulling into the driveway when a hand knocked on his passenger-side window, making him jump and curse loudly, stalling the car in his panic.

A distinctly unimpressed face looked at him through the misty glass, Thorin able to see the vague reflection of his own anger staring back at him in the lamplight.

So maybe he did look a little scary.

The man mouthed something through the glass, startling Thorin into lowering the window, the buzz of the mechanics breaking the tense silence as the person's face came into clarity.

“What do you want?”

“MRCs please.” The man had a hand on what looked like a taser, coming into view as the glass slid down into the door, making Thorin reach cautiously for the handbrake.

“What?” Fíli said from behind, leaning into view with a scowl on his face, sneering at the uniformed man.

“Mutant Registration Card please.” he said louder this time, his voice echoing in the near-empty car park. “I won't ask again.”

Shit. Shit. Thorin tried to keep his face neutral, a thousand thoughts running through his mind as he looked searchingly at the man.

“They haven't come through yet.” The man hesitated slightly, his mouth pursing into grim line as he paused for a moment, Thorin grinding his teeth as he peered into the backseat of the car, his posture changing as he read Thorin's tone as admittance of mutation.

“All mutants have been told to stay within their homes until registered.” The man said firmly, his entire being screaming military training and his fingers drifting too close to the trigger. “I'm going to have to ask you to leave the vehicle, sir.”

Thorin's heart thudded against his chest, his hands locking around the steering wheel because oh god this was it, six hours on the road and they were caught, finished, he'd failed them-

“Drop the keys out of the window.” The man barked suddenly, Fíli jolting back from where he was half-standing back into his seat. Thorin reached for the ignition, his fingers fumbling on the metal as the plastic keychain slid into the clammy palm of his hand, the little lights on the car plunging into darkness as the power was cut. He does as the man says, because in that moment he knows he'd do anything to keep his nephews alive.

The keys hit the concrete with a clatter, the man reaching for the door before they even reach the ground. In one smooth movement, Thorin pushes his thumb into the seatbelt buckle and swings his other hand around, kicking the man's shins out from under him. Thorin grips onto the starched collar, the materiel bunching in his fist as he brings the man's head down hard onto his bent knee, teeth bared in a grimace as the cartilage cracks. The man's training kicks in then, his elbow colliding with Thorin's shoulder, the joint burning at the impact and causing Thorin to sink his teeth into his own lip just to keep from crying out. As his grip loosens, the man takes the opportunity to twist round, his powerful arms pulling him up, even as his legs struggle to find purchase sprawled across the other seat.

Thorin has been punched before. Multiple times. This one was impressive though, his cheekbone thudding painfully against the glass as knuckles smash into his cheek, the wedding ring splitting the thin skin and making him taste blood in the back of his mouth. The man was struggling for his handcuffs as Thorin flailed, not seeing a pale hand dart through the gap betweens seats, the old fabric that it brushed past rippling strangely.

The man froze still on top of Thorin, a shudder rolling through his shoulders as the fingers pressed gently around his throat- wide, panicked eyes fixing on Thorin as his chest fell still. Every time his eldest nephew did this it got quicker, more powerful, the eery sight of gold flicking from cell to cell making Thorin shiver.

He turned away from the man's face as the gold crept up his jawline, looking at the translucent flesh on the inside of the man's arm just in time to see a flash of gold spike through the vein, the fingers freezing it's grip on his shoulder as the knuckles of his hand fixed in place.

Fíli looked distraught, his face crumpled up and pressed against the seat, still leaning in to touch the man's skin, his mutation flaring yellow in his eyes. Thorin choked out a small noise of worry just as Kíli threw the blanket off of himself, the street light reflecting off the chunks of silver lining his face as he bolted upright. Fíli yelped when his brother's fist slams into his chest, pushing him back down hard and breaking the connection between the man and him.

“You utter tit, Fíli!” Thorin's youngest nephew snarled, the thread- like chains of copper that made up his hair rustling as he turns, furious, on his brother. “You said you'd never do it again, not on purpose!”

“Would you rather I let him beat the shit out of Uncle? Do nothing about it as he gets carted off and we get sent to the help centres?” Fíli snapped, dragging his gaze away from his hands and to his brother, angry tears spotting his cheeks. “Separate help centres?”

Thorin wheezed from where he was being half crushed by the golden statue propped on top of him, his hands coming to wrap around the man's chest to try and ease the pressure. His two boys reluctantly looked to him, Fíli's lips pulling dangerously low at the sides as he fought back the urge to cry in earnest.

“You gotta help him Kee...” he whispered, his hands flexing repeatedly into fists as the anger drained from his voice.

“Why should I?” Kíli was focused purely on the man as the last patch of skin was overwhelmed by Fíli's power, the metal and jewels of his face grinding together as his face twisted up into a black look. “He's just a human.”

Something fell in Thorin's stomach as the words are spat into the shadowed light of the car, his eyes closing against the sudden silence. He doesn't really know how long the only sounds are heavy breathing and the occasional creak of the car, but it could only have been seconds. When he opened his eyes Kíli was looking at him, all the rage gone, replaced with the soft, scared features of the teenage boy he sometimes forgets he is.

“Kee?” Fili said, fear lacing his voice as he looks from his brother to Thorin and back again.

“I didn't mean it like that, I- I'm sorry, I forgot. I'd never-” Kíli's hands were shaking violently where they were half-stretched beseechingly out at Thorin.

“It's okay.” Thorin interrupted firmly, not knowing where the words were coming from.“You have the right to be angry... God knows you have the right to be angry.”

All the stress off the past day seemed to finally show on his nephew's faces, looking more childlike than he's seen them in years. Kíli looks like he would be crying if he could, his entire body heaving with each breath and his hand moving forward towards the golden man.

“I'll do it, I'll help him. Just make sure we're safe by the time I wake up.” The last words were meant as a joke, because Thorin's boys will always be like that, but it fell flat when they were broken off by a stifled sob.

Kíli touched the man on the forehead, a gasp catching in his throat as he fell back into the arm wrapped tightly around his waist, the gold leeching out of the man and making him slump, limp, on top of Thorin, his breathing shallow.


Fíli touched Thorin's hand when they had been packing Dís' clothes into boxes for the charity shop, he hadn't noticed until five minutes later, when he couldn't move his hand. This was before the time when Fíli started turning inanimate objects, before the time Kíli stopped wearing gloves to hide the emerald pushing through his skin and replacing his knuckles. Fíli had screamed for his brother as Thorin collapsed, his entire body burning as each part of it slowly froze solid.

His nephews, always too clever for their own good, had figured out why Kíli's mutation had set in so fast, the brother's anatomy working together so they came of age at the same time. That's why Kíli took the risk in touching Thorin as he lay prone on the ground, his secondary mutation freeing Thorin's lungs from the gold. Kíli was not only a cure, but also the only person in their world who could touch his brother's skin without fear, a unique hitch in his immune system coming with the precious metals and gems that paved his body.

Thorin had pushed himself up, gasping and cursing, remnants of tears on his face, to see his youngest nephew cradled in his distraught brother's arms, the only sign of life the gentle rise and fall of his jumper.

Chapter Text

Kíli was lying in the backseat with a blanket draped over him, Fíli sitting silent and unmoving in the front, his long legs propped up on the dashboard and his head lolling against the window. Thorin stared at the tarmac in front, the road markings flashing as they disappeared under the rows of cars in front. The night had passed uneventfully after the petrol station, with none of the road blocks or spot checks that Thorin had feared.

The unconscious body of the military personnel was hidden in a bush with a half empty bottle of cheap liqueur Thorin had bought in the express shop after paying for fuel. It wasn't enough to cover their tracks, not enough for them to know that they didn't have a squadron of police cars after them. But it was better than doing nothing.

“You know he didn't mean it.” It was the first words Fíli had spoken since he asked Thorin to turn the radio off, his eyes bloodshot and red-rimmed with nerves and exhaustion.

“He did.” Thorin said bluntly, sliding his hands over the steering wheel and wincing as his torn up face stretched with the words.

“It's easy to forget you're not like us.” Thorin sighed, knowing the statement was meant as an apology- a complement- but the words falling short.

“Your brother just threatened to kill someone,” he flicked a hand to silence Fíli before he even began, “through inaction, based not on that man's personality and job, but because of his species. 

“He still deserved it.” Thorin saw Fíli's mouth scrunch up into a frown, the street lights flashing past making his face look lined and shadowed.

“Maybe.” Thorin hummed, a strange calmness settling in chest, that might have had nothing or everything to do with the extra-strength painkillers in the glovebox. “You have every right to be angry, god knows I am. Just don't hurt people based on things they can't change.”

A silence fell on the car, Fíli pulling his knees up under his chin to pick at his shoelaces, his gloves pulled up high around his wrists and his hair curtaining his face. Thorin could feel his nephew's eyes on him and tried not to wince, even as a dribble of blood dropped off of his brow, rolling down his cheek. 

“You should patch that up.”

“Do you want to take the risk?” Thorin looked quickly to his nephew as he spoke, the boy making a non-committal noise in the back of his throat.

“It looks painful.” Fíli met his eye, his face crumpling as he took in the extent of the injuries, a quick glance in the rear-view mirror confirming what Thorin already knew. Purple bruising covered most of the right side of his face, the brown of dried bloody patchy where he'd tried to wipe it off with a sleeve. 

“There's a service stop coming up.” Fíli shrugged in answer and turned back to staring out the window. 

Thorin looked anxiously back at the sleeping Kíli as he turned as smoothly as he could into the lay-by, the boy sliding and colliding with the door with a thump, probably doing more damage to the vehicle than himself. The little car park was empty at this time of night, a single person milling around the sliding doors, plunged in shadow by the sterile light of the supermarket. 

“I'll be back in a bit.” Thorin said quietly, tugging the keys out of the ignition and trying to make eye contact with his nephew, who just nodded listlessly. Turning to open the door, Thorin paused for a moment, staring at the bruising on his knuckles as he spoke. “Thank you.” 

“Huh?” Fíli shifted fully around to look at Thorin, his eyes wide and confused. 

“For saving me from that man.” It made Thorin uneasy when Fíli broke out a small but cheerful grin, his face flushing slightly with pride. It was almost as if the boy didn't know he was the best and brightest thing in Thorin's life. 

“S'okay.” Thorin nodded once and closed the door, turning his face away from his nephew to grimace at the tarmac. He really wasn't cut out for parenting.

He moved off towards the little shop, shoving a hand into his jeans pocket to fish for change, not daring to use a cashpoint and risk being traced. The place itself was empty save for a tired employee, who raised a eyebrow at the quickly spreading bruises on Thorin's face before turning back to his phone underneath the counter. Scowling at his feet, he grabbed a tube of antiseptic cream and some bandages, snagging a trashy romance novel for Kíli as he passed the row of empty tills.

Ignoring the dirty look from the cashier, Thorin stared out into the car park, becoming more nervous every second he left his boys alone. He shoved the receipt and change into the thin plastic bag, already moving towards the door and squinting out towards the car, a faulty street light plunging the area into near darkness. 

Something blurred in front of his eyes before he was slammed into the breeze blocks bordering the entrance, the breath catching in his throat as he took a blow to the neck, the back of his head hitting the wall hard. It took him a few stunned moment to realised he was pinned, a policeman's baton pressing down hard against his shoulders and a shadowed face centimetres from his own. 

“What the fuck do you think you're doing?” The man barked, a foot taller than Thorin and with a badge pinned to the front of his uniform. “A kid in the back of your car unconscious.”

“He's my-” 

“And another boy too fucking scared to even let me help him out of the car.” Thorin tried twisting his head, the bag and its contacts falling to the ground and skittering across the pavement. 

“Get the hell off me!” Thorin snarled, pushing against the other man's grip and barring his teeth.

“I was tempted to call in reinforcements but I thought you could get accidentally knocked up a bit first.” The officer spat, shoving Thorin back hard with apparent ease. “You mutant haters make me fucking sick.”

Thorin froze, shocked into submission by the man's harsh words. 

“What are you talking about?” The man ignored him completely, his nostrils flaring and his eyes wild. 

“Thought you could sell him off did you? Big underground market round this way, thought you make some cash off a child's life?”

“No. No, Jesus Christ of course not.” Thorin panted, his head rolling to the side to look the tattooed man in the eye. “You've got it all wrong.” 

Thorin felt the bizarre urge to laugh, relief burning through him as the officer paused, thankfully- miraculously- on the boys' side.

“Give me one reason why I should believe you.” 

“They're my nephews. Fíli and Kíli. I swear it.” The man eased off a bit now, turning to where his cruiser was parked almost out of sight, a recognisable face peering worriedly out the window. “I'm trying to get them to safety. They don't want to be registered. Can't be registered.” 

Out of the corner of his eye Thorin saw a flash, the chirp of doors unlocking making him slump, boneless and relived against the bricks. 

“Kid. Get over here.” Thorin heard fast footsteps, Fíli saying his name breathlessly as he came closer. “This is your uncle?”

“And what if he is?” The boy said shakily, the stubborn tilt of his chin reminding Thorin painfully of Dís. 

“Just tell the truth, I won't let anyone hurt you either way.” The man gave Thorin's bloodstained collar a sharp tug to illustrate his point. 

“Yes, okay, he's our uncle. Uncle Thorin.”

The policeman gave Thorin a shrewd look, his grip loosening as he took one large step way, still half shielding Fíli from view. 

“I'm Officer Fundinson” he said gruffly, feeling for something in his pocket as he spoke, his expression turning into something less angry and more speculative. “Dwalin Fundinson." 

“Thorin.” he said bluntly, refusing to give up his second name, distinctive as his full name was. 

“Where did you get all those injuries Thorin?” Dwalin said after a pause, Thorin's heart jarring in his chest as the man revealed a battered Nokia.

“A government worker, they found out.” 

“Is he better or worse off than you are?” 

Thorin thought of the panic in the man's eyes as gold crept up both sides of his face. 

“Worse.”

Dwalin sighed, and started scrolling through his phone, his thick fingers clumsy on the little keyboard. 

“That's good enough for me. You still looking for somewhere safe?” Thorin nodded tentatively, tired enough to ignore the voice in his head telling him not to trust a policeman who'd just thrown him against a wall. “Wait here then, a black refrigerated van will be here in no time. The driver'll have an ugly as sin hat on, tell him I sent you.” 

Thorin nodded again, resisting the urge to tug Fíli closer or bolt for the car, his pulse still pounding in his ears. Dwalin looked awkward for a moment, his eyes hesitating on the cut that had split along Thorin's cheek before he swung a paw-like hand and patted Thorin on the shoulder. 

“Sorry 'bout that.” The massive man flicked his eyes to his watch, nodding his head as he started to turn. “I better be going before someone at the station realises I haven't reported back, but I'll probably be seeing you around... keep those nephews of yours safe.” 

Thorin swallowed and looked to Fíli, pushing his sweat-damp hair off his face and rolling his shoulders, the abused joints clicking. His nephew gave him a weak smile, swaying slightly on his feet and looking a shade too pale, his hands bunched together in the pocket of his hoody. 

“Where's Kíli?” Thorin rasped, lowering himself down onto the cool concrete, his legs sprawling out over the curb as he collapsed down. 

“In the car still, he was too heavy for that policeman to lift in time to get him out of the way. I figured he was going to take you out before he tried getting him to the cruiser.” Thorin felt the air shift beside him as Fili sat down with a thump. “Are was going in the ominous black van?”

“It's up to you.” He let his head fall into his hands, cringing as his fingers strayed too close to the more serious bruising. 

“I suppose we can't keep driving forever.” 

“We can try.” he snapped the words, Fíli snorting loudly at Thorin's dark expression. “I mean it. We could get to Iceland, stay with my cousin Dáin.” 

“We'd get past the border, not with Kíli how he is.” Thorin clenched his eyes shut. Gods did he need a drink. 

“So we go with these people?”

“That Dwalin bloke seemed genuinely pissed about the possibility of you pimping out Kee or something, don't think he could have faked that.”

“You sure about that?”

“I thought you were a dead man for sure, that guy has a death glare worse than Mama's.” 

“Okay then.” Thorin felt too tired to think, a bone-deep exhaustion that made him want to curl up and pass out where he sat. He wouldn't be able to get into another fight for the boys and know he'd come out the other side lucid enough to drive. “Okay.”

As promised, the flash of an indicating light heralded the arrival of a squat little food van, off-white letters stretching across the side as it veered round the corner.

 

Blue Mountains Catering Service

 

“Huh.” Fíli said with one raised eyebrow. “Kind of makes me wish I could still eat.”

Thorin rolled his eyes and got unsteadily to his feet, shoving the scattered contents of his shopping bag into the deep pockets of his leather jacket.

“Be ready to run.” Fíli looked down at him with a strange expression, uncharacteristically offering a hand to help his Uncle up.

“Only if you do.” Thorin frowned and moved to speak, ignoring the click of a lock as the van stopped metres away. “We're family, you're stuck with me on both legal and moral grounds.”

Thorin blinked, startled by the conviction behind the seemingly light and joking words, only turning away when a dim yellow light slanted out of the slowly opening door of the little vehicle. Moments like these made him wonder how he'd ever missed little, doe-eyed Fíli turn into an adult. 

“Are you lads with Dwalin?” The silhouette standing in front of the car didn't move from within one foot of his van, the vague shape of what could only be called a monstrosity teetering on his head. 

“That's us.” Fíli said unwaveringly, suddenly back to the forced bravado he'd learnt from Kíli. The man took a step to the side, angling himself so, for the first time, Thorin could see his features. 

“The name's Bofur.” An unnervingly cheerful smile stretched the man's face, his two pigtails dangling as he lurched downwards into a over-exaggerated bow. “And I'll be your chauffeur for this evening.” 

“Chauffeur where?” Thorin growled, making Bofur straighten up suddenly, clicking his tongue in annoyance. 

“Dwalin never does tell anyone anything.”he muttered before pausing for a moment, seemingly for effect. “Safety, of course.”

Chapter Text

Thorin pressed his cheek against the cool aluminium and sighed, the sound of rain against the roof echoing round the van. He tugged the blanket higher up around his chin, trying not to shift his legs from where they lay tangled with a sleeping Fíli's and squinted down at his youngest nephew. The boy had his head pillowed against his brother's thigh, still unconscious but making little movements and sleepy noises that he hadn't done before.

They'd been driving for around an hour now, grey morning light sliding under the little gap between the the corrugated door and the sound of the morning radio bleeding in from the cab in front. Bofur had welcomed them well enough, after the strange growling telepath called Bifur had searched clumsily through their minds. Thorin hadn't questioned the plate of metal sticking out of the man's head, or the pained look that spread across his face when his attention fell on the boys, just thanked him for the half empty flask of soup pressed into his hand and scrambled into the back.

Thorin fished a carrot out of one of the crates, dusting off the earth and taking a bite, the downpour outside worsening as the little van trundled along to god knows where. He knew they couldn't be far from the ruins of Erebor House, as they had only continued north from where they had been picked up, their car left in the parking lot, stripped of any identification.

“You think he'll wake up soon?” Thorin started at the sudden words, turning to look into Fíli's sleep-heavy eyes.

“He can't stay under for much longer.” Thorin muttered, keeping his voice low as his nephew ran a soft hand over his brother's drooping head. “He was getting better at conserving energy while using his power.”

“Curing a fully grown man is kind of different to changing inanimate objects.” Fíli said tersely, the faint sound of rustling filling the tense silence as the chains of Kíli's hair brushed and folded together.

“He's strong, he'll be fine.” Thorin knocked his knee against his nephew's, quirking his lips as the boy looked up with his forehead creased in worry. “He always is.”

“I suppose so.” Fíli mumbled, pressing the palm of his hand to the plane of his brother's golden forehead and seeming to curl in on himself. “You feeling any better?”

Thorin shrugged non-committally and tried not to worry about the throbbing sensation in his nose and cheek, an antiseptic wipe laid haphazardly over the worst of the injuries.

“I've been better.” A smile curled at Fíli's lips at the words, his eyebrows slanting mischievously in a way Thorin had come to fear.

“Well you're not lying.” he snorted. “But tell me, how does it feel to lose two fights in a row?”

“You little shit.” Thorin growled, flicking the half-eaten vegetable at his nephew any missing, the boy ducking just in time, a smirk stretching his good-natured face.

“I've lost all respect for you, hero worship is at zero. All tim-”

The vehicle lurched forward as the brakes were slammed down, crates buckling under their combined weight as the the three of them were thrown forward and back in quick succession. Kíli groaned and Fíli opened his mouth to speak, his hands clutching tightly in his brother's shirt as Thorin scowled and put a finger to his split lip.

Heart thumping in his chest, he crawled to the door, back against the wall of the van as he heard the driver's side door click open and heavy boots hit the tarmac outside. The scratch of keys on metal almost made Thorin's heart stop, no way of knowing if this was a planned stop or they'd been fucking caught out again.

“It's okay boys, calm down.” A hand appeared through the bottom of the sliding door, the voice unmistakeably Bofur's, as a shadow moved across the small opening, water staining the metal a darker grey as rain continued to fall. “We've had word from one of the girls working closer to the school, she says there's a roadblock being sprung up, 'case any mutants want to try their luck in Scotland.”

“Meaning?” Thorin said softly, his pulse too fast from the scare and his hands still in a death grip around one of the vegetable boxes.

“You're going to have to walk, it's too risky otherwise.” Bofur opened the door further, revealing the narrow hedges of an empty side road, the smell of wet mud heavy in the air. “Bloody fascists are really cracking down since the MRC Act.”

“How far?” Thorin said gruffly, already pushing Fíli away from his brother and dragging his prone form out carefully towards the opening.

“About half a mile cutting through fields, it's a straight line from here if you nip over that gate.“ Bofur began, the stress showing around his eyes as he spoke. “I swear if I could I'd take you the rest of the way.”

“It's fine.” Thorin lied, increasingly paranoid about this 'school' and his back already screaming at the prospect of carrying Kíli. Fíli had slipped under the door and was stood anxiously on the verge, his hands shoved deep in his pockets as Thorin tried to roll his nephew into his arms, Kíli's head lolling as Thorin moved to stand straight.

“Good luck, we hope to see you around the school.” Bofur said worriedly, his smile becoming more and more forced by the second. “Bifur sure as hell thinks you fellas deserve it.”

Thorin bit his lip to keep from snapping at the man because yes, of course they fucking deserved it, after all they'd been through, after all his boys had seen.

“Thank you.” Fíli muttered instead, even as Thorin turned, twisting his arms so that Kíli was slung over his shoulder, the weight almost buckling his knees. He moved towards the mangled gate, kicking at the rusting metal stuck in the dirt, his hair already sticking to his skin as he faced onto the wind, the fields covered in a haze of heavy rain.

“Hurry.” Thorin said more weakly then he'd like to admit, frowning at the rumble of an engine starting behind him as Fíli shoved at the gate, his boots slowly sinking into the earth.

“If we ever meet them again, you're going to have to be more polite than that.” Fíli scolded, the early morning light behind him shadowing his features. Thorin grunted and hoisted Kíli further up towards his neck, the sharp angles of his nephew's body pressing through the damp cloth of his shirt.

“I'll send them a bottle of champagne 'soon as this turns out not to be an unnecessarily elaborate trap.”

“'M pretty sure they'd be pretty crap as kidnappers, they seemed nice.”

“Still, first sign of trouble, you run and don't look back.” Thorin said through gritted teeth, trying not to show the strain even as his arms ached fiercely with cold and pressure.

“Of course I will.” Fíli snorted, Thorin feeling the sarcasm deep in his gut. Nothing he could say would make his stupid, brave little nephew save himself like Dis would have wanted. “You need help with Kee?”

“No.” Thorin said bluntly. “Save your energy.”

He knew Fíli was worried, not needing to turn round to know the expression on his face, but he kept on walking, falling into a painstaking rhythm through the tilled farmland. A grey slate roof was nestled in the group of trees spilling out onto the fields in front of the pair, the spike of a turret peeking out level with the tallest trees.

“Nearly there Uncle.” Fíli said over the incessant rain what seemed like a few moments later, sounding so pained and concerned that Thorin almost panicked. It was only when he stumbled on a tree root poking through a puddle that he realised that his eyes had started to droop closed, his lips numb and the plaster on his temple peeling slowly off. “I can see the entrance coming up soon, massive fucking walls, no one will get us here.”

Despite all the doubt about the legitimacy of this 'safe place', a degree of peace fell over Thorin as his vision blurred, Fíli's words somehow comforting as the boy looped his arm under Thorin's, keeping him standing. There was a sign above the gate, words in curling iron almost undistinguishable in the low light and torrents of water.

“We're here, we made it, just- shit- just let him drop Uncle. You have to stop walking now, oh god.” Fíli's voice was stuttering and scared, his shaking hands lowering Thorin and his brother to the ground, water soaking into Thorin's jeans as he slumped down. Fíli made a helpless sound in the back of his throat, Thorin's limbs feeling too heavy to reach and comfort his nephew, to smooth back his sopping wet hair and tell him that everything was going to be okay. That he'd make it okay if it was the last thing he did.

“Hello?” The voice that came through the intercom was high and feminine, heavy with sleep and almost obscured by the buzz of static. "Who is this?"

“We're friends I swear. Please, Bofur said this was a safe place and your sign says you're a school and my brother is unconscious and my uncle- my uncle isn't very well. I- I need help, please.”

Thorin felt water slide down past his collar as he let his head fall back against the brick, his eyes rolling back to look at the sign from the side, the shape of the metal sliding into place in his mind, becoming comprehensible as the long electronic whine of the intercom made his head ache.

 

LeGris Institute for Higher Learning

Chapter Text

Bilbo yawned and watched as Lobelia smashed the pricing gun into the side of a bag of fertiliser, never breaking eye contact with him even as the thin plastic almost split.

“You were late.” She swung the gun so he couldn't help but stare down the barrel at a bright yellow sticker, a couple of strands of hair coming free from her bun as she took a menacing step forward. “Again.”

“I really am sorry 'Bee, you know I had my English on Friday.” Bilbo stuck two hands up in front of his face, trying to placate her, all traces of tiredness gone.

“Don't try and pretend I didn't have to do it too, Bilbo Baggins, we go to the same school.” She flung her arms down, pivoting sharply on her heel and stalking down the aisle toward the potted plants, leaving Bilbo to rush to catch up with her. “And I told you not to call me that!”

“Listen I'm sorry, wait up!” Bilbo shouted, running and trying not to slide on the old, mauled lino. Lobelia harrumphed loudly, needlessly stacking the plants in height order and stubbornly not making eye contact with Bilbo. “I'll get you coffee later... make up for it?”

“I know how much getting into that uni of yours means to you.” Lobelia sighed, tucking a curl of hair behind her ear before leaning heavily on the wooden crates behind her. “But Gaffer needs us now more than ever, you can't forget that.”

“I haven't- won't -forget it, I swear 'Bee.” Bilbo stared down at his own hands, the coloured pigments moving and flexing through his skin as they neared the cluster of plants. “But you've got to realise that it's become a lot harder for me to get into a decent course now.”

“Well anyone who judges you because of your... differences are idiots.” Lobelia spat, her jaw squaring as she scowled.

“They're my future employers.” Bilbo ran a finger over the thin membrane of an ivy leaf, shoots immediately coming off the weed and circling round his knuckles. “Who wants a teacher who's green?”


 

“You should grow your hair out.” Legolas leant into the nails carding across his scalp.

“Are you kidding? Father would kill me.” Tauriel hummed in resigned agreement, leaning to rest her head on Legolas' shoulder from behind, her own red hair tickling his neck. The pair sat cross-legged on the floor of his bedroom, the dulled sound of chatter from the party filtering up from downstairs, a half-empty bottle of wine sitting at his ankle.

“Go through your rebel phase or something, you could pull off a ponytail.” Her cheeky grin came into view as she crawled round to sit in front of him, catching the teetering bottle in one quick grasp. Legolas rolled his eyes and watched as she took a long gulp, her nose wrinkling and her lips coming away stained a bright red. He wondered idly what it would be like to kiss it off her, pushing the thought away in favour of taking her hands in his own.

It had been like this between them for as long as he could remember, a comfortableness that demanded no definition of relationship. He was hers and she was his, no friend or sister or girlfriend ever quite putting it into words.

“Are you okay?”Her green eyes were worried and searching, running a her thumb in a circle along the bridge of his knuckles. “You've been acting weird all week. Like, weirder than normal Mr Daddy-issues.”

Legolas tried a smile, the desperate attempt at light-heartedness making his stomach twist, not wanting to spoil the moment.

“Sorry.” She scowled then, leaning up to wrap her arms around his neck, her hands coming to rest on the back of his head and across the span of a shoulder blade. He shrugged it off.

“You've got nothing to apologise for.” She grew quieter with ever passing word. “You said you wanted to tell me something?”

“It's big. You can't treat me differently?” he answered the tentative question with his own, the statement lilting into a plea.

“Listen, is this a sexuality thing? Because I'm pretty sure we had this sussed.” She brushed a finger over the fine hair at his temple, tugging it behind his ear.

“It's not that. It's-” He tugged at the hem of his shirt, the neckline suddenly too tight and the skin of his back itching against the cotton. “More... difficult than that.”

She fell back to sit on the balls of her bare feet, raising a questioning eyebrow.

“Get out with it. Don't insult me by thinking I'd be shallow enough to throw away our friendship.” The cutting aristocratic look that fixes her face was straight from Thandriul but contradicts the meaning behind her words completely. Her eyes suddenly went wide seconds later, the sudden shattering of the illusion almost startling a laugh out of Legolas. “Unless you've killed someone?”

“I haven't killed anyone Tauriel.”

“Oh my God you have haven't you, who-” He cuts her off with a squeeze of the hand, her words stopping abruptly enough to know that some of his panic must have shown on his face.

“Can I just show you?” She blinked before nodding, tilting her head in a bird-like motion he knew he copied.

Legolas got shakily to his feet, the wine clouding his mind and nerves sitting deep in his gut. He turned so he was facing the floor length window, the bright lights of the city and his own gaunt face reflecting back at him. He gripped the bottom of his t-shirt, pulling it up with a twist of his wrists.

He knows she's seen the when she gasps, the shirt not even half way up his back.

Wings.


 

Bifur was a telepath.

At least he thought he was. It was sometimes hard to tell.

There were, in fact, only three things he was totally and absolutely sure about:

 

  1. Bofur was a friend.

(He was the one that would wipe the blood off with a cloth whenever he could, help Bifur shake off the hazy mist of the drugs and hide extra food under the plate. He was there to clean up the cell, change the plastic sheets on the bed and wash down the floor with a hose and some bleach. But he did more than that after the first time, because the bleach made Bifur feel dizzy and then it got cold quick during winter.)

 

  1. Bombur was Bofur's brother.

(This automatically made him a friend too, and although Bofur hadn't told him outright about the ginger man with the booming laugh and little ginger children, Bifur knew. Sometimes when Bofur got over all the angry, busy thoughts of his he'd think of his nephews and his nieces and if he could persuade his brother to let him sneak some extra food to Bifur.)

 

  1. The metal plate on- in- his head hadn't always been there.

(He can't remember much of before but he is pretty certain of this point. The scar tissue had mainly covered it now, sanded-down edges still sticking oddly out of the knotted skin. They'd left it alone for the most part, once they'd been sure it worked as best as it could. All Bifur knew, beyond the fact that it hurt worse than hell, was that it muffled the inside-voices that sometimes leaked from people's heads.)

 

Regardless of telepathic ability, however, he still couldn't quite figure out why he was in the back of a truck next to a crate of carrots.

“I can't believe you Bofur, these people aren't the type to take this sitting down. They'll come after you. They'll come after me.” Bifur can just hear the words through the thin metal of the back door, Bombur's usual cheerfulness twisted into something desperate. “Think of what they'd do to my kids.”

“We can't just leave him!” Bofur roared, the sound of his rage and fear swallowing up Bifur's mind as his friend spoke.

“We don't know him.” Bombur whispered frantically, making Bifur's stomach twist uncomfortably.

“I do!” Bofur's voice faltered, the shout breaking into desperate plea. “God knows I've spent enough time looking after him after those sick fucks are done with there experimenting. I can't just sit back and watch it happen any longer.”

“So you want me to help you smuggle him out? With no prior warning?”

“Yes, that's exactly what I want you to do, what any decent person would do.”

“But Bofur, he's a telepath, he's one of them. I can't-”

Bofur presumably cut off his brother's panic by yanking the doors open, Bifur scrambling back and bringing his hands in front of his face to block the harsh light and turmoil of emotions. In a corner of his mind he knew how he must look, tangled hair and beard, dirt almost tattooed into his pale skin. He registered that this may be the reason for the silence, Bombur having gone perfectly quiet, the only sound the soft jingle of car keys.

“This is Bombur. Bombur, meet Bifur.” Bofur said with a faked smile, his eyes soft but pained as Bifur looked through the gaps in his fingers and up at the pair. He tried pushing a greeting at the brothers but it got too mixed up with his own apologies and the pain radiating down his spine to be that effective, Bombur jerking back violently.

“I didn't- I thought...” The red-haired man stuttered, his hand coming to rest on his back and the pent up fear seeming to drain out of him.

“We've got to Bombur.”

“Yes. Yes of course.”

Bifur adds one more thing to the list of things he is absolutely sure of.

 

      1. He would do absolutely anything for the Broadbeam brothers.

(Because Bombur's quiet and absolute rage quickly got channelled into feeding Bifur as much as possible, hiding him away in a little flat with blankets and pillows and a little garden. Because he never did stop apologising for not trusting mutants. Because Bifur started crying when Bombur's little ginger children first called him Uncle. And because Bofur gave him all of it.)


 

Óin remembered the news report most of all. Smoke filled aerial shots and an old school photo of Frenin Durin flashing up on the little screen, stunning him into absolute stillness even as Glóin bashed on the door.

“Óin. Óin! I know you can hear me!” The knocking faltered, Oin letting his eyes fall slowly closed as his brother's heavy breathing slowed. “Erebor House. It's been burnt to the ground.”

That was Glóin, always straight to the point.

“I know.” Óin muttered, putting down the iron carefully and moving to the door, opening it with the twist of a key and the slid of a latch. “I know.”

“They're saying it's The Pale Orcs.”

Óin nodded carefully, his hands twisting in his sleeves as his brother stood in the doorway, looking as young as Óin had ever seen him.

“Aye. And I bet you the police won't do anything about it.”

“Don't say that.” Glóin said, more resigned than angry, his eyes feverishly bright. “They got wee Frenin. Our little nephew.”

Óin had to bite hard into his lip to stop himself from completely losing control of both his temper and his mutation, cursing the injustice of it all and wishing he could do more. Glóin's hair started smoking at the tips, sparks curling around his fingertips as he stared blankly over Óin's shoulder, his face turning painfully blank.

“Calm.” Óin warned gently, distracted from his own fierce anger by his brother' expression.

“You're right though. You're always bloody right.” Glóin snarled, the smell of burning filling the room. “Those bureaucratic fucks are going to sit back and let them get away with it, blame Old Thrór, turn those racist bastards into the victims.”

“I said calm down.” Óin snapped, feeling physically hurt by the turmoil of emotions in his mind.

“What if Thrór didn't want to hide? What's so bad about an old man hoarding his wealth? Fuck all for normal folk. And I bet that fucker Smaug isn't going to even condone the violence!”

Óin forcibly turned his back to his brother, trying his best to block out the roared string of cursing that followed. He bent over the table, sliding bits of paperwork over each other until he reached bare wood, searching around with a contained panic for the little slip of paper he knew he had kept.

He found it crumpled under some medical pamphlets from his office, a phone number scrawled under an old sudoku puzzle with a couple of words underneath.

 

For if things get worse before they get better ~GG


 

Dori Durin sat his mug down on a coaster and sunk into an over-stuffed chair, absently watching as Ori continued to make a fort out of telephone directories and cheap paperbacks in the centre of the floor.

“Are you hungry my little love?” he said idly, bending to pick up a book from the toddler's pile and turned it around in his hands as he spoke.

“I want to wait for Nori first.”

Dori pursed his lips and flicked his eyes to where his phone sat unmoving on the table, wandering, not for the first time, if they would starve to death if they waited for their brother to come back before eating.

“Well, I'll just start getting it ready now.” Dori said with an anxious twist of his hands, leaving his forgotten tea on the coffee table and moving over to the little counter and cooker. He fished out a can of baked beans from the cupboard, ripping off the top of the tin with his hands, the muscles in his arms barely tensing. It was a frivolous display of power, but where else could he do it? No good came from a mutant showcasing their abilities.

A familiar hissing sound made Dori start away from his dark thoughts, a familiar black smoke curling under the door as Ori beamed and shuffled out of his den.

“Nori! Nori! You’re back, I missed y-” The little boy way cut short as his elder brother materialised, bent double on the floor and breathing hard, a scratch across his temple and his fingers clawing hard into the rug beneath him.

The pan clattered on the floor as Dori ran to his brother, pushing Ori back a bit too hard and falling to his knees, frantically checking his sibling for any more injuries.

“We've got to go. Now.” Nori said urgently, batting Dori;'s hands away and clutching at his shirt instead, trying to pull himself to his feet.

“Why, what's wrong? What's happened?” Dori said, casting a worried look at the sombre Ori and trying to fight the urge to hit something. Everything always went wrong.

“Dís Durin. Cousin Dís.” Nori gasped, holding out a hand to his youngest brother as he finally managed to stand. “She's dead. The Pale Orcs are tracking down anyone related to Old Thror. We'll be next."

Dori swore his heart stopped for a moment, holding Nori's dark gaze as the world blurred at the edges, the breath catching in his throat.

“Ori, get you things.” His brother's fragile little hand wormed its way into his own, Ori's face looking panicked and too world-weary.

“Are Fee and Kee okay?”

Now Ori.” Dori snapped, tugging away his hand and instead hugging his arms tightly around his chest. The boy had a point though, the words stumbling on Dori's tongue as he asked his brother about the two little boys who were now just as parentless as they were.

“Last I heard Thorin was taking them south, you know he's got enough cash to do it.” The last part of the statement made Dori flinch at the bitterness, though he knew that it was just Nori's fear bleeding through. Family first, no matter what.

“Good.” Dori swallows stiffly, closing his eyes against the stony look on his brother's face. “Oh god, I thought we'd have more warning this time.”

He turned to look around the little one room apartment, at Ori who had a stack of tattered sketchbooks balanced under his chin and a worried look on his face.

“We'll just have to trust Ori to get us somewhere safe, at least temporarily.” Nori said quietly, passing black smoke from the tips of his two index fingers as he stared at the single perfect circle drawn in crayon on the far wall

“We can't put that much pressure on him.”

“We have no choice.” Nori snarled, the very edge of his skin dissolving into black dust as he lost control of his mutation. Dori nodded weakly, stumbling over to where a bag sat propped up in the corner, pre-packed with emergency supplies and bulging slightly at the seams.

Nori was already crouched by his brother, pressing an old biro into the child's hand and swinging him up onto his shoulders, every movement businesslike. Dori watched as Ori pressed the pen into the soft plaster, Nori crouching obediently as the toddler started to draw one controlled, unbroken line.

Dori never got used to watching his smallest brother use his ability, the black voids opening up under the circles he made, little portals to specific coordinates or- when these weren’t shared- wherever his childish mind could think of, or close enough.

“Give us somewhere safe little badger, you can do it.” Nori muttered, squeezing encouragingly at the boys ankle as Dori moved closer to the pair, almost paranoid enough to imagine phantom footsteps outside.

“Hurry dear one.” he said urgently, Ori biting his lip in concentration as the ink loop joined in the middle, the wall flexing and bending as black smoke, so reminiscent of Nori's, filled in the off-white paint.

Nori was always the first into the portal, the right mix of foolhardy and protective, conscious that every second Ori kept the door open was another second the boy's power drained his energy. This time was no different, a shiver running through Dori as his stupid, reckless, brilliant little brother disappeared into the mist with Ori.

Usually wherever they appeared was safe, or as safe as possible. Abandoned houses, empty summer homes or self-storage rooms. A key characteristic had always been uninhabited, a desirable trait drilled into Ori since he could comprehend his power. This was why it was rather a shock when Dori opened his eyes to see two legs clad in lose grey pyjama bottoms.

“Why hello there.” Dori blinked up at a long ashen beard and a smug Ori. “Would you like to explain what you are doing in my room?”

Chapter Text

Thorin woke to sun on his face, the light beyond his eyelids yellow and warm. He was vaguely aware of his injuries as he turned into his pillow, the smell of detergent filling his nose as he revelled in the feeling of skin-warmed sheets. When he opened his eyes to the unfamiliar room the memories came flooding back, feeling as if they could wind him with their intensity and making him pause mid-stretch.

The bedroom certainly didn't seem like a place he would be taken if things had gone wrong, light wallpaper and thick curtains billowing in the breeze, French windows opened onto blue sky and a horizon of trees. He supposed it was rather Spartan in its own way, cheap, practical furniture seeming out of place with the high ceilings and the golden frames edging the paintings. Thorin swung his legs off of the bed, making sure his feet touched the oak floor as quietly as possible and looked for a door.

He looked down underneath the duvet and found a pair of boxers and not much else, cheap cotton and presumably taken from the packet lying open on a pile of his freshly laundered clothes. Standing up fully he reached for his jeans, a shot of pain running down his back as he moved too fast, making him lower himself slowly to his knees, leaning back against the bed frame with denim clenched in one hand.

He took things at a more sedate pace from then on, dizzy with head rush and reasoning that if someone did want to hurt him, they'd have done it when he was almost naked and dead to the world. He was just eye level with his dresser, the little change he had left sorted into neat little towers beside his watch and wallet, new additions of a toothbrush and toothpaste shoved in a theme park branded mug next to them. He reached up for the wallet, fingers finding the leather still slightly damp but warmed from sitting by the radiator, and flipped it open.

It was rather empty without his debit card and ID, leaving a forlorn-looking book voucher and a photo of a baby Fíli mid-squirm in the arms of an exhausted Dís. Water had made the ink fade and run at the edges, the paper curling under the plastic pocket and making parts of Dis' silver-coloured skin go purple. Thorin smoothed it down as best he could, slipping it carefully into his pocket and letting his head fall back onto the bed, the sun warming the bare skin of his chest.

“Thank you.” Thorin wasn't really sure who he was speaking to, the words mostly lost by the blood clotting his nose anyway, but it felt good to say it out loud, even if he felt like he was tempting luck.

He levered himself slowly to his feet, bringing his flannel shirt with him and stumbling towards the other side of the room. Tugging the soft material over his shoulders he pushed open the door to his left, the room behind it windowless and unlit but unmistakeably a bathroom. A mirror hung above the sink, rust crawling up the edges but not obscuring Thorin's face which, even in the dim light, looked pretty awful.

Thorin braced one hand against the edge of the sink, the soft fabric of his shirt sliding on the porcelain and pulled his unwashed hair back off his face, wincing as he prised it out from under the edges of a large plaster. His body wasn't in much better shape, purpling bruises running up from his hipbone, splaying across the rise of his shoulder and matching his split knuckles.

He hadn't been in such a state without a hangover before.

Thanking god for small mercies he ducked his head under the tap, the water stinging his dry lips, before wiping gingerly at his face and finally managing to build up the nerve to slip his jeans up round his waist. He wandered as quietly as possible to the door, testing the handle and finding it, surprisingly, unlocked. Darting one last uneasy look over his shoulder at the room he opened the door, tension coiling in his stomach.

The corridor he stepped into- well, if he ever wanted to see a carpet that probably cost more than his house, this was his chance.

His bare feet were soundless as he made his way down the hall, fists clenching at every squeak of old floorboards and eyeing the doors he passed uneasily. It wasn't until he saw Kíli's gangly legs sticking out from underneath two duvets and a sofa cushion that he realised just how worried he was. The boy was sleeping on the floor of a room similar to the one Thorin had woken in, the door flung wide open, fist sized dents focused around the lock and a suspiciously Fíli-sized lump next to him. The scene was so strikingly familiar that it made him startle backwards, taken forcefully to the memory of their last morning of relative peace. He took a step inside, pushing the door too and stopping to stand awkwardly over his sleeping nephews, watching as Fíli tugged the covers over to his side without waking.

Thorin's knees buckled as the adrenaline rush faded abruptly, sinking down so that his back hit the wall with a thump, his toes just brushing the boys' makeshift bed. He let his head fall forward to rest on his knees, smiling wildly into the hair that had fallen to cover his face for a moment before schooling his features into something a little less foolish. So maybe he shouldn't be so happy just yet, not with so many unanswered questions, but he let himself hope for just a little bit longer, breathing slow and listening to his nephews fidget.

“You look like shit.” Thorin's head jolted up to see Kíli propped up on one elbow, his brother's hands twisting in his shirt to pull him back down. Thorin growled out a string of curses and pushed himself forward so that he balanced on the balls of his feet, gripping at his nephew's shoulders and tugging him closer, crushing him in a hug that left the boy smiling into the crook of his neck.

“You're a lot politer when you're unconscious.” Thorin laughed and smoothed down the knotted cooper strings of Kíli's hair, shifting as Fíli sat up in bleary-eyed confusion. Thorin touched a hand slowly to his other nephew's shoulder, arm still pinned around Kíli and smiling when Fíli didn't flinch back.

“Hello.” he muttered, rubbing at his eyes as his brother squirmed out of Thorin's grip, swallowing a yawn.

“What happened?” Thorin said as Kíli's pressed a happy kiss to his brother's cheek, nodding to the buckled door.

“Kee freaked when he woke up alone and went on a rampage.” Fíli with a smirk, nudging his brother with an elbow and making the other boy scowl.

“They put us in separate rooms.” he said mulishly, scowling. Thorin let himself smile again, watching Fíli pull a slither of wood from between the lumps of silver that made up Kíli's knuckles.

“They seem nice here.” Fíli said mildly, glancing up at Thorin through his unruly hair. “Let us in no question.”

Thorin froze, looking searchingly at his nephew before getting slowly to his feet, his boys looking worriedly up at him.

“What did you tell them?"

“Nothing, Jesus Christ do you think I'm stupid?” Fíli snapped, shoving away his brother's calming hand.

“You told them absolutely nothing?” Thorin asked again, voice laced with false calm as his nephew looked sheepishly to the covers pooled in his lap.

“They know you're our uncle, that's it.” Thorin swung round to face the doorway, spitting out a curse into the empty air, Fíli rushing to interrupt him. “No, listen, it's okay. They're mutants they don't-”

“Did you not think?”Thorin snarled, turning to face his nephews as they stumbled to their feet. “The police'll be looking for two mutants travelling with their uncle by now, and with mutations like yours it's not exactly going to be difficult.”

“You should be thanking him, he's the one that dragged us here.” Kíli said coldly, pushing the taller boy behind him and looking furious. Thorin looked at his little nephew, with all that Durin anger flashing in Frenin's eyes, and let his shoulders fall, the fight leaving him. He was just about to open his mouth to apologise, to tell them as best he could that it was only because he didn't want to lose them, when there was an aborted knock on the door.

Thorin span around to see, standing in the doorway, a man wrapped up in a dressing gown, hair tousled from sleep and fist frozen inches from the door.

“Good morning.” The man said haltingly, his yellow eyes wide and startled, edging into the room with one careful step. Thorin snapped his mouth closed with an audible click of his teeth, not quite managing to drag his gaze away from the figure but scraping together enough energy to maintain some kind of dignity. “I heard shouting.”

“It's nothing.” Fíli said quietly, stepping out from behind his brother and offering tentative smile. The man looked doubtful, attention fixing on Thorin with an expression somewhere between wary and suspicious.

“If you're sure.” he said mildly before pausing suddenly. He looked down at his bare hands then back at Thorin, looking mildly horrified and shoving them into oversized pockets. The thought that this could somehow hide the man's mutation was actually quite funny, the green markings curling up collarbones and around a soft jawline, standing out starkly against the red blush.

“We're sure.” Thorin said after an awkward pause, moving to stand in front of his nephews and face down the smaller man. Thorin had learnt the hard way not to underestimate anyone with a mutation.

“In that case,” the man said with a seemingly genuine smile, “Gandalf would like to see you.”

Thorin didn't miss the worried look he shot at the two boys.

The house beyond the corridor that he had stumbled down was just as strange as his room, practical flat pack furniture and ridiculous antiques warring it out in twisting hallways and grand staircases. Early morning light filtered through massive windows, no one in sight as they made their way down to the ground floor, crossing a large entrance way to a little door half hidden from sight, their bare feet slapping against cold marble.

The man leading them hadn't looked at Thorin, eyes fixed ahead and teeth biting worriedly into his torn bottom lip. The vines, that could have been mistaken for tattoos, moved with each anxious twitch of his muscles, an ivy leaf folding around the dent between his eyebrows. Thorin glanced over his shoulder as they stopped, Kíli's hand finding Fíli's as he visibly struggled to stop himself from filling the silence with chatter.

The door creaked as it was pushed open, revealing a man in a set of grey pyjamas and peering into a teapot, his long beard thrown over one shoulder. He looked up as the man that had lead them down coughed pointedly, a smile spreading across his face as he took in the group, before slumping back into a high backed armchair.

“Ah, good morning!” he said happily, gesturing to the little cluster of mismatched chairs clustered around his desk. “I trust you slept well?”

“Who are you?” Fíli said carefully, answering the question with another and pulling his hand from Kíli's, sitting down slowly.

“I am Professor Gandalf LeGris, this is my school.” Thorin could pretty much feel his nephews scowling even from where he stood, hovering, behind them. “One that we are hoping you'll join.”

“We don't like schools.” Fíli muttered, taking a moment to get over the initial shock of the announcement.

“And schools don't like us.” Kíli finished fiercely, making Thorin either want to cuff him over the head or give his boys a hug.

“This school is rather different from the ones you are used to,” LeGris replied, addressing the boys, “it is one for mutants such as yourselves.”

“Why should we trust you?” Thorin said softly, folding his arms over his chest and watching the man carefully pour out two cup of tea.

“Many of us are mutants ourselves, we only wish to give them a safe pla-”

“How do you know he's not human?” Kíli said suddenly, cutting LeGris short with a nod to his brother, his shoulders bunching and and his fingers twitching around a doily in front of him. Thorin sometimes forgot that under all that cleverly constructed playfulness his nephew could be brutally perceptive.

“They same way that I know that your uncle is as human as they come.” The man said after a beat of silence, his eyes assessing as they fell on Kili, setting down the tea to hold his hands palm-up in front of him. “It is my power to know mutations,” he looked to Thorin, “or lack of.”

“So you know about me?” Fíli said weakly, glancing anxiously over to where the man with the plant markings still stood by the door.

“Indeed.”

“And you still want me-us- to join your school?”

“Definitely, we may also help you control it, given time.”

“Deal.” Kíli blurted, before Thorin even had a chance to speak, smashing his hand down on the table and making LeGris smile widely, completely ignoring the dents in the wood. “Now what about our uncle?”

Thorin blinked, startled, down at his boys. Kíli's jaw was set into a stubborn grimace, his eyes never straying from LeGris while his brother sat looking rather shell-shocked next to him. It had never really occurred to him what would happen when he got his nephews to a safe place, god knows he'd give up everything to see them healthy and happy, even his right to see them.

“Humans are welcome here, as long as they get along with everyone.” The man at the door said quickly, ducking his head as all eyes turned to him.

“Mr Baggins is correct, of course. I would be more than happy to hire you if you are willing-”

“Anything.” Thorin snapped, staring at where his hands clenched reflexively around the backrest of Fíli's chair, his bruised knuckles aching. “I'll do anything you want.”

Thorin knew that this place and what it offered was too good to be true, but he wasn't lying when he spoke, even if he didn't quite realise he was speaking until the words had already tumbled out. He could feel a blush rising on his cheeks as he frowned down at Kíli's delighted, if slightly incredulous, grin.

“Are you okay with being woken up at odd hours of the night?” LeGris said mildly, standing to offer Thorin one of the mugs of tea. “And are you any good at DIY?”

Both of these questions could be answered with 'I live with two teenage boys' but Thorin nodded anyway, curling his hands gingerly around the brightly coloured cup.

“Then I'm sure you three will do just splendidly here.” LeGris stepped out from behind his desk and ushered the 'Mr Baggins' to his side. “This is Bilbo Baggins, he teaches English here and will be happy to give you a tour of the place when you're ready.”

Bilbo Baggins looked more like he wanted to stick his head in a blender but smiled anyway, standing to the side as LeGris patted him on the shoulder and wandered out.

Kíli made a choked sound, his head falling back so he could look, upside down, at Thorin.

“I think you just excepted a job from a man who smells of weed.”

 

Chapter Text

It wasn't as if the Durin siblings didn't know that their family was disliked, the adults talked about it, voices terse and strained when they thought they couldn't hear. Frerin had been small enough to fit in the crawl space running along side the main sitting room, pressing himself against the wood slats for news to report back to his eager siblings. The seven year old couldn't understand what was happening, Thorin and Dis' grave faces and grim nods when he parroted back phrases as inexplicable as Grandpa Thror's fits.

Thorin had been a different person then, just leaving school but childish enough to hide with his little brother and fierce sister under a quilt, a cheap torch lighting their whispered, midnight discussions. Frerin's mouth had tripped over alien words, Dis' eyes flashing silver as worry settled in, the adults becoming increasingly fixated about the dangers that steadily approached.

The three of them had been furious about being kept out of the problems that surrounded Erebor House and its inhabitants, Father becoming more severe by the day and Grandpa locking himself in his study for hours on end. For the sake of their family though, they pretended not to notice the news reports and dirty looks, pretended that the slurs would pass and let the years drag on.


 

Thorin tipped his head back and let the water fall onto his closed eyes, the bathroom tiles cold on his back as the shower washed away the collective grime of the past few days. He reached up to run a hand through the soap suds in his hair, dismissing the turmoil of memories with a shake of his head.

Baggins had shooed him into the bathroom before he agreed to show them around, giving him a towel and a handful of the kind of toiletries Thorin usually stole from hotels. He could now hear the man and his nephews talking outside the en suite, voices muffled but recognisable, the sound rising and falling with bursts of Kíli's laughter.

Thorin sighed and pulled his nails through the thick stubble on his cheeks, flicking the dial on the shower with his other hand so the water shut off abruptly. Reaching for a towel, he bit his lip against the pain of twisting bruises and tried for what felt like the hundredth time to figure out what the hell was happening.

He had a job.

He hadn't had a job in years. And now he had one were he could look after his boys. He pressed his face into the damp towel and took a steadying breath, an indignant squawk that sounded like Fíli breaking him out of a downward spiral of doubt.

He pulled on his jeans, the warmth of the shower having eased his muscles into something like submission, and undid the latch on the door, the conversation outside faltering as he stepped into his nephews' room.

“Oh good.” Kíli said brightly, lying propped up on his elbows. “You took ages.”

The three of them were all on the bed, Baggins sat cross legged, with his back to Thorin, the two boys peering over his head. Thorin pulled the collar of his shirt carefully over his sensitive face, catching a glimpse of the other man as he turned around, a spatter of little blue flowers framing each of his eyes.

“Mr Baggins was just showing us his mutation.” Fìli muttered, never looking away from the man, gaze fixed on the vines crawling up his skin.

“It's awesome Uncle, like really cool.” Kíli said breathlessly, almost shaking with excitement. Thorin felt a smile twitch one side of his mouth as he looked down at his nephew, twisting his head to squeeze the water from his hair.

“It's nothing.” Baggins said with a shrug, the flowers disappearing as he spoke. He had changed out of his pyjamas, now wearing an offensively mustard-coloured waistcoat and a pair of horn rim glasses. It kind of made Thorin want to cry.

“Nah, Mr Boggins, show him.” Kíli said eagerly, pushing himself up so that he was sitting, hugging his knees to his chest. Baggins shot him a distracted look, returning his attention to Thorin with a blush.

“If you want?” Baggins said stiffly, a far cry from the laughing he'd heard earlier.

Thorin couldn't have cared less but nodded anyway, drawn in by Kíli's enthusiasm and Fíli's quiet fascination.

Baggins let a breath hiss out from between his teeth, angling his face to the light streaming through the windows. A muscle jumped in his jaw as a flower bloomed around the curve of his cheek, red petals unfurling across his skin from underneath a curl of golden hair as he concentrated. What looked like an oak leaf folded out across the pink of his lips, his strange, yellow eyes going almost translucent in the-

“Is that it?”

In times like that it became clear where Kíli got his god awful brain-to-mouth filter.

“It's enough.” Baggins bit out, the vines curling in with his fierce frown, the flowers vanishing and the leaves becoming blue with non-existent shadows.

Thorin wandered if hurling himself out of the window was too melodramatic.

“Oh god, this is too tragic.” Fíli said into his brother's shirt, looking stricken with embarrassment.

“I swear he doesn't mean to be so bitchy all the time.” Kíli whined, looking to Baggins with pleading eyes. “He just wasn't hugged enough as a child.”

Thorin felt his face heat as Baggins' face softened into a smile, faint crows feet appearing along the top of his cheeks as he smirked up at Thorin.

“I know you just want to know what's best for you and your family Mr Durin.” he said, tugging at the bottom of his waistcoat and rocking back on his bare feet. “And I know I don’t look like much, but this is the safest place at the moment.”

Thorin hoped he didn't look as sceptical as he felt. Forgive him if he didn't think a man in corduroy trousers- whose only discernible power were flower tattoos- could go up against guns.

“As funny as I am finding this whole male posturing thing,” Fíli said tentatively, eyes twitching from Thorin to the other man and back again. “Could we have that tour now?”

A flustered smile from Baggins and they were filing out of the room, Fíli shooting Thorin a severe look as he held the door open for his brother. Thorin sneered at his nephew, who just raised an unimpressed eyebrow, and stepped into the same main corridor as earlier.

“It is-” Baggins checked his watch with a grimace. “Half five, so not many people will be up yet, but weird seeping patterns tend to be our speciality.”

Thorin grunted and followed the man, bunching his damp hair up at the back of his head and pulling a hair band up off his wrist with his teeth. The more he looked the stranger this place seemed, though now he knew it was some kind of boarding school type refuge, things seemed to fit together more. He lifted his hand off a banister to avoid a little cardigan that hung there, looking up at the ornate paintings crowed in between childish scribbles on bright coloured card. Scorch marks followed the line of the skirting board down the staircase, maze like corridors sprawling the length of the house with tell tale signs of mutant life everywhere.

“I think we could be happy here.” Kíli said firmly, startling a fond grin out of Baggins.

“I'm glad, everyone loves having new students, and as you can see, we're always in need of some DIY.” Thorin could hear genuine pride in the man's voice, who was tracing the grain of wood along a impressive chest of draws with a gentle brush of his hand. He flicked his attention back to the boys. “Do you two eat?”

“No.” Kíli said, staring up at the high vaulted ceiling. “Well, once I drank a bottle of silver polish, but that didn't go so well.

“He leaked everywhere.” Fíli agreed, smiling at the back of his brother's head.

“The kitchen's just on the left, though if you need anything else you can always ask. You're expected to show up for afternoon meals though.” Baggins said with a snort, running a hand through his curls and biting his lip, looking at the different doors leading from the main lobby.

He listed off the rooms, obviously reciting the first information to come to mind, mentioning the different inhabitants with a voice so affectionate it made some of the tension racing through Thorin fade.

“And my room is in the domed greenhouse at the edge of the forest.” He finished, giving his hands a sheepish wave. “Photosynthesis, y'know.”

By the time Thorin had processed that, Baggins was leading them to a pair of doors, Kíli following after him like an excitable puppy and babbling something that sounded like him saying 'so cool' repeatedly. Fíli stayed a hairsbreadth away from Thorin's side, watching his brother anxiously and pulling nervously at his gloves, tensing as the doors opened onto a massive sitting room.

A huddle of different sofas and rocking chairs radiated outwards from the far side, where an ancient fireplace took up a good portion of the wall, where smoke damage crawled up the old stone. It reminded Thorin so strikingly of Erebor he had to bite into the inside of his cheek to keep from gasping or doing something equally stupid.

“This is the oldest part of the house,” Baggins said with a laugh as a tuft of brown hair appeared over the backrest of an impressive armchair, “you'll always find someone here.”

A boy scrambled up from where he was sitting, clutching a sketchbook to his skinny chest and looking shyly up through a bowl cut fringe. He stood awkwardly in front of the group, his floral print pyjamas too short on the arms and his features strangely familiar.

“Good morning Ori.” Baggins said kindly, the boy shifting from foot to foot, ugly slippers shuffling against the floorboards. “This is Fíli, Kíli and Thorin Durin, they'll be staying here.”

The kid straightened, his hair falling away to reveal solid black eyes, the pupil swallowing up the entire space. Thorin could have sworn his heart stopped.

“You're Durins?” Ori said slowly, looking curiously at Fíli and Kíli, one hand fidgeting to the pencil tucked behind his ear. Something flickered in his expression, his eyebrows disappearing into his hairline as he focused on Fìli. “Fee?”

Thorin swallowed a lump in his throat, stumbling and almost tripping on a rug as he realised that this was little Ori Rivers.

“Ori?” Thorin's eldest nephew said breathlessly, worry forgotten as the two boys stared at each other, Kíli looking between them with a slightly heartbroken frown. The two cousins ran at each other with a combined clumsiness that would have made Thorin smile at any other time, Fíli stopping short but Ori crushing him in hug, fingers clawing into his shirt.

“Uh, I take it you know one another?” Baggins said, sounding lost as he turned to Thorin, worry creasing his forehead.

“Family.” Thorin said, more choked than he would like to admit as he watched Fìli and Ori hug silently, swaying and clutching at each other. “We didn't know-”

“Oh god, Dori said you could be dead. We had to leave when we knew about Cousin Dís.” Ori whispered, the words tripping over themselves in his haste to say them. “What about Kee?”

“Erm, over here.” Kíli muttered, trying and failing to hide behind Baggins and looking desperately at Thorin. Ori broke the hug to turn his attention to his other cousin, tilting his head in a question as he looked at the other boy, something registering as he looked past the precious metals.

“Is that really you?” Ori mumbled, wide-eyed and taking one, shaking step forward. “You got a mutation, I hardly recognised you.”

Kíli made a pained sound in the back of his throat, tackling Ori into a bear hug that startled laughter out of both of them. It made Thorin realise just how long it'd been since his nephews had been around mutants, let alone had friends their own age.

After a few moments of breathless giggling, Ori peered over Kíli's shoulder, meeting Thorin's gaze as Fíli was pulled into the group hug by his brother.

“Hello Ori.” Thorin found himself saying, ignoring Baggins' curious look as his voice cracked.

The boy's smile grew impossibly wider, pushing out of Kíli's death grip to reach for Thorin's outstretched hand, ignoring what Thorin had intended to be a handshake and instead just holding it tight.

“I'm so glad you're okay, Dori will be so happy.” Ori looked out the window, and made a face at the slowly rising sun. “Just right after he wakes up.

“How is he? And Nori? What about him?” Fíli said quickly, more animated than Thorin had seen him in a long while.

“He's fine, more than fine. This school had been good to us.” Ori's hands fluttered at his sides, all barely restrained excitement and smiles. “Even Óin and Glóin made it.”

They were safe. After no way of knowing if Azog had caught up with them, Thorin had finally found his family again.

A hand touched at his forearm, an arm wrapping gently around his waist and pushing him slowly in the direction of a chair. Baggins gave him a tentative pat on the shoulder, thankfully ignoring Thorin's scowl and the slight tremors running through him.


 

By the time Erebor House was burnt to the ground, Frerin Durin had made sense of why his parents still muttered about 'mutant haters' and Dis' silver skin was only ever met with a a moue of pity or a hissed insult. Grandpa continued to rave and curse and buy objects each as flashy and impractical as the next. One of the most powerful mutants in Britain.

It only took one person, one politician, to slowly push the idea of gasoline and cigarette lighters into the minds of Azog and his gang. And so fell Erebor House, regardless of what Thorin's little brother knew.

Chapter Text

Thorin stared down at the cup of tea in his hands, warming the cold tips of his fingers and taking deep breaths. He flicked his eyes to the three boys sitting in a circle on the carpet in front of the fire, Fíli flicking through Ori's drawings as his brother ranted on about what seemed like every moment since they'd been together last. He sighed, tucking damp hair behind his ear as the once-little Ori smothered a laugh into the pillow hugged to his chest, dark eyes so happy and excited Thorin almost forgot to be worried.

Almost.

Baggins was leant against the door frame, watching the trio with pursed lips and a divot between his eyebrows. He pushed his curls away from his face carelessly, glancing behind him worriedly and revealing the long line of his throat. Curls of greens and blue curled up over his tendons and disappeared into the shadow of his jaw, and Thorin wondered why he was so uncomfortable with this mutation over all else. It just seemed so useless.

The man glanced over at him as if he could tell what went on in Thorin's mind, offering a strained smile and a nod. Thorin gripped harder to his mug, taking a sip to hide his face and scalding his tongue.

“Thorin?” Ori was standing now, Thorin's boys flanking him with eager looks on their tired faces. “Nori should be up by now, if you want to see him?”

“Yes- yes of course.” Thorin said quickly, almost spilling tea down himself as he hurried to stand. He'd never been close to Nori, who had had a habit of turning up unannounced and teaching Fìli how to pick locks, but it had been too long. And he was family. “What about Dori?”

“Working.” Ori shrugged, still smiling. “He's coming back today though, he'll be here for lunch, always is.”

“Good.” Thorin began softly, touching fingers briefly to his split lip. “You have all been missed.”

“You have too, We-” Ori stopped abruptly, eyes going wide. “Oin.”

“What?” Thorin said, taking an uneasy step back at the familiar name.

“And Gloin.” Ori winced as he looked to Thorin again. “Oh no, don't worry, they're here now, they're fine. Were already here when we arrived.”

“What?” Thorin repeated. It was just one of those days.

“Oin will be coming back with Dori, Gloin should be upstairs with Gimli.”

Thorin didn't know who Gimli was, and really didn't care, realising a smile was splitting his face as he turned to the door. Baggins took a step back, bowing his head and gesturing into the entrance hall.

“Can we go?” Thorin said, wondering idly why Baggins looked so uncomfortable, edging towards the early morning light that spilt from the window behind him.

“Yeah, I'll show you.” Ori said happily, turning to grip Kíli's wrist and look between him and Fíli with wide black eyes. “You're going to love Gimli, I can tell.”

“Remember to knock Ori.” Baggins said quietly, wincing slightly before continuing. “Especially with Nori's room.”

“'Course Mr Bilbo.” Ori said quickly, nodding fervently. The boys made for the door, Ori pausing to stand in front of Baggins and beam down at him. “You can go outside now, if you want. I'll do just fine from here.”

“Thank you.” Baggins said, sounding relieved. He turned to Thorin and his boys, giving Ori's shoulder a squeeze before making for the end of the corridor, wrenching open the door and slipping out of sight.

“Doesn't like to be away from his gardens too long.” Ori said by way of explanation, already being dragged away from the sitting room by an impatient Kíli.

The boy led them through the building, bigger than it had first seemed with a maze of rooms and corridors leading further back than Thorin could have guessed. Ori navigated the place mindlessly, so effortlessly at home that it made Thorin's heart ache for his own. Whether he meant by that their last flat, or in fact Erebor House, he couldn't quite tell. Kíli's laughter echoed down the halls, Ori making frantic, half-hearted shushing noises as they neared the rows of bedroom doors. Fíli kept pausing to stare, gloved-fingers tracing childish stickers and ornate furniture with something like longing in his eyes.

Ori slid to a halt not far ahead, socks squeaking on the hardwood floors as Kíli tumbled to a stop next to him. The boy looked anxiously at the door handle, Thorin coming to stand behind him as he knocked twice.

“There's something, someone, you should know about before-”

Nori's door opened. Nori wasn't behind it.

The woman in front of them wasn't wearing much, dishevelled curls spiralling out from a haughty face, dimples creasing her cheeks as she grimaced. She wrapped her arms self-consciously around her bare stomach, tugging at where the boxers she was wearing hung low on her hips.

“Ori darling?” she said sourly, turning on the boy. “Care to explain why you felt the need to bring three men to my room at arse o'clock in the morning?”

“Nori.” Ori told the ceiling, a blush spreading across his cheeks. The woman rolled her eyes, stumbling back into the room without a word.

When Nori actually appeared, yawning and naked save for a towel wrapped around his waist, Thorin wandered how he expected anything different from reuniting with his family.

“Holy shit.” he said, without missing a beat. “You got old.”

“I hadn't noticed.” Thorin snapped back, the hand he'd moved to touch at the streaks of grey in his hair being crushed to his chest by Nori's hug. He was released just as quickly, because Nori was always a one to respect boundaries.

“And you two ugly fuckers can't be the two Durin boys?” Both of Thorin's nephews grinned one of their mother's face splitting smiles, standing shoulder to shoulder as Nori looked them up and down.

“Shut up, we're gorgeous.”

“And slightly more sparkly than I remember.”

Kíli answered with a good-natured shrug, attention flitting to the woman who had appeared in a fluffy dressing gown at Nori's side, face somewhere between pissed off and curious.

“These are the group that turned up half-drowned the other night, I barely recognise them without all the blood and dirt.” she said distastefully, unconsciously leaning into Nori's side. “I would have told you if I thought they were one of your lot.”

“Dori's going to have an aneurysm when he sees you.” Nori said warmly, slipping an arm around the woman's waist. “And you should have guessed, only a Durin would have such a flair for dramatics.”

“Or would have been punched a dozen times.” she said, scrutinising Thorin's face. She shrugged, making a little dismissive noise as she produced a phone from the pocket of her dressing gown and started to type.

“This is Lobelia.” Nori said proudly, black eyes shining with something decidedly un-Nori-like.

“Thank you.” Fíli said quietly, making Lobelia look up. “For letting us in.”

“It's my job sweetheart.” she replied after a moment, strangely gentle. “You feeling better?”

“'M fine.” Fíli mumbled, blushing as attention turned to him. She gave a little nod, beginning to type again, quicker this time. Thorin wandered what had happened after he'd passed out to make Fíli so grateful.

“Good,” she said brusquely, turning away from the group. “Now I'm going to get dressed before breakfast. Ori, where's Bilbo got to?”

“Where do you think?” Ori said with a smile, nodding towards the tall window on the other side of Nori's room.

“Fair enough. Call us when food's out.” Lobelia disappeared behind the door, chucking Nori a ratty t-shirt as he lent against the door frame.

“It's been years since we last heard about you lot, since Dis and everything.” Thorin wasn't really sure what 'everything' encompassed, but he wasn't sure whether to love Nori or hate him for getting straight to the point. “What happened?”

“We had to stay quiet since-” Thorin gestured to his nephews, Kíli glinting in the morning light.

“No kidding.” Nori said, closing his eyes and rubbing his jaw tiredly. “It's too early for this shit.” He turned to jam his feet into a pair of slippers that Thorin would have mocked him for if he'd had the energy, stepping out onto the landing and shutting the door behind him. “You run from that new registration act?”

“Of course.” Thorin said, following Nori back the way they had came, the boys trailing behind. “They would have split us up.”

“Or worse.” Nori said with a bitter grin, the tips of his dark hair dissolving into black smoke. “We've lost a lot of kids the last week, parents taking them out of school to get them signed up. This entire place is mostly family now, by blood or not.”

At this moment, as if to prove a point, a boy stuck his head around a door up ahead. His red hair stuck up in ways that made Thorin have flashbacks to having to tame Kili's hair, his face screwed up into an all-too familiar scowl.

“Who are you?” he growled, rubbing at his eyes sounding remarkably like he'd just swallowed gravel. “And why aren't you asleep?”

“They're family. And breakfast is early today.” The kid perked up a little at that, Thorin still feeling a little lost. “This is Gimli, who is like a surlier, shorter copy of Gloin.”

Thorin didn't ask if Nori was serious or not, having learnt that living in a world of mutants meant not asking too many questions. Kíli introduced the three of them, forever doomed to be the sociable one, and Gimli nodded eagerly.

“I've heard of you.” he said, eyes flicking between them, visibly piecing together stories and descriptions. “Da' is just down the hall, follow the snoring.”

Being hugged by two half-naked relatives in one day was two too many if you asked Thorin. To see Gloin again, though- that meant more then he'd expected it too. The man had burst into tears when he saw the three of them at the door, the toddler on his him joining in after a moment of deliberation. Sunhi, his partner, fluttered nervously behind him, looking older and harried, but no less beautiful.

“You could have tried to find us.” ze said quietly, putting hir hands on either side of Thorin's face, standing on tiptoes to press a kiss to his forehead.

“I couldn't risk it.” he said, dragged down into a hug as Sunhi petted his hair. “Not getting the boys into trouble. Or you two.”

“It's four now, you paranoid bastard.” Gloin grumbled, shushing the child in his arms.

“I can see,” Thorin replied, turning to look back at where Nori and Gimli were mumbling to each other, “congratulations.”

“And you've got another mutant in the family!” he said proudly, slamming his hand against an unprepared Kíli's back, making him stumble forward with a face-splitting grin. Fíli stayed silent.

They were escorted downstairs after a couple of minutes of empty conversation, no mention of Dis or little Frerin, regardless of the tension surrounding the pointed avoidance. The smell of food led them down to the entrance hall, Gimli darting down the last couple of steps with inhuman speed to help Bofur, who was balancing numerous bowls across his arms.

“You got here safe then?” the man said cheerily after a quick thank you, juggling food and cutlery as he looked up at the curving staircase. Thorin shrugged, having a brief flashback to horrific, waterlogged fields and the bone deep ache of cold and bruises.

“Lobelia rescued them.” Gloin said gruffly, setting the toddler carefully on the ground to grab a tower of cups. “If dragging them into the madhouse can be called rescuing.”

“They'll get used to it.” Bofur said with a grin, nudging open an ornate door with his knee as the rest of them trailed after them. “This place grows on you.”

The room they found themselves in made a part of Thorin long, like it hadn't in years, for blueprints and pencil stubs. It was unmistakeably a greenhouse, weak morning sun spilling through the thick panes of glass above them. It was old, Victorian and severe, the wrought iron structure going orange with rust where it was visible through the vines. The one, long table in the centre was fenced in by different plants that Thorin couldn't even begin to identify, mismatched chairs and benches clustered at the far end. Various children Thorin didn't recognised clambered around the flower beds, still mostly in pyjamas and curiously careful with the plants.

Baggins was off to one side, a mug drooping in his grip as he spoke in muffled, concerned tones to Lobelia. Their conversation stopped abruptly when the group made themselves known, looking up simultaneously, Thorin realising for the first time how similar they looked.

“Good morning.” Baggins said warmly, gently prising off a child who'd wrapped their chubby arms around his knees. He, surprisingly, made a beeline for Fíli, the others parting around him to sit at the table. Thorin didn't miss the look he shot Lobelia as he shepherded Fíli towards one of the comfiest looking seats, though he didn't know what to make of it. “I know you two don't eat, but it's always nice to start the morning off together.”

The food being set out reminded Thorin of how hungry he was, fists clenching as his stomach rumbled loudly. It made Baggins look up, petals marking stripes down the side of his face as he smiled.

Thorin blamed the dizziness on hunger, but there was no excuse for his blush.

Chapter Text

Thorin never thought he'd be moved to tears by a bacon sandwich, but it seemed like a day of extremes. The rather large redhead who'd given it to him was looking at him with a strange kind of fondness as he wolfed it down, moving on to harass Ori into eating some fruit.

“That's Bombur, the cook.” Gloin said helpfully, without a glance up, chopping a banana up into little rounds for his kid. “You'll like him.”

Thorin took his word for it, stopping to breath around his food and take another sip of coffee, glancing down the table at where Fíli sat with his brother. They'd been dragged off by Lobelia and Baggins, sat down and protected on either side by the crowds of people bustling around the greenhouse. Thorin thought, as Baggins shooed away another small child grabbing for Fíli's shirt, that it might be on purpose.

“So what's with you and Lobelia?” Thorin said, turning to Nori as he licked ketchup off his thumb. It was a valid question, he supposed, the woman dressed as if she was about to go shoot some foxes or shout down a sales assistant. Nori, with his shaggy hair and patchy stubble, seemed her total opposite, still wearing only a tattered t-shirt and boxers.

“I doubt even he knows.” Gloin cut in, grinning as he got banana smeared down his pyjama top. “The only thing they've got in common is a criminal record.”

“That's not true.”

“Oh my mistake,” Gloin said mockingly, making Nori snarl, “a criminal record and a tendency to be wildly protective when it comes to short, green English teachers.”

Nori's tense shoulders settled as he laughed. Thorin had never seen his family so relaxed, and that thought was sadder than it should have been.

“It's hard not to when they spend so much time together.” he said with a wry smile, tearing his sandwich up systematically. “And then when they are apart all they ever do is text. Feels like I'm dating the both of them most days.”

Thorin looked over to Baggins as the pair laughed, who was talking animatedly to a startled looking Fíli. He couldn't quite figure out why everyone seemed so besotted with the man, regardless of how the light spilling through the windows spilled across a button nose and dimples, and cheekbones that-

“What does he even do?”

“Who?”

“Mr Baggins.” Thorin felt a blush creep across his cheeks, the confused anger building in his chest stopping him from trapping his next words behind his teeth. “Aside from English, what's his job here?”

Nori and Gloin exchanged a look that seemed to speak volumes to the two of them, but only succeeded in making Thorin want to hit something.

“Bilbo might come across as a little soft, but he's okay really.” Nori said, in a way that made Thorin think that Baggins was a lot more than 'okay', and that Nori would assault anyone who said ptherwise. “And don't let Lobelia hear you scoff like that, only she's allowed to trash-talk him.”

Thorin was genuinely considering the possibility of being safer outside the school than in it.

Shrugging, he went back to eating, listening carefully to the strains of conversation that drifted into earshot. It all seemed so normal. Perhaps a little subdued and sometimes stilted, but still a far cry from the last time Thorin had been in a school or at a family gathering. It felt nice, he supposed, to be around both humans and mutants without any sort of segregation, both unspoken or otherwise.

“Mr Durin?” Thorin jumped so hard he smashed his knee against the table, Nori grinning widely like the filthy traitor he was. “I'm sorry if I startled you.”

Thorin turned to see Baggins' face scrunched up in a worried frown, his hand hovering warily over Thorin's shoulder.

“It's fine.” he replied, blunt and a little bit choked, making Nori smile wider. Bilbo obviously didn't believe Thorin for a second, looking so concerned and embarrassed that it might have made him feel a little guilty.

“I was wondering if I could speak to you in private for a moment?” Thorin glanced at Nori and Gloin instead of the teacher, the pair seemingly unsurprised by the request. “It's about Fíli.”

Of course.

Thorin suddenly felt very tired, something twisting in his throat as he watched his knuckles go white, clenching the edge of the table. The way Baggins had been keeping an eye of Fíli, not letting the other children get too close, it all made sense.

“Yes.” he stood up abruptly, the bench rasping against the flagstones and Baggins starting backwards. He knew how this went. “Lead the way.”

The door at the end of the greenhouse was covered by a heavy curtain, hiding the cracked, buckling wood and trapping warm air inside. Thorin stumbled after the man as he drew it open, furious and resigned in equal measure as Baggins turned to him with a little, closed-lipped smile. The meal hadn't stopped, Fíli and Kíli having a wordless conversation with the man with the metal plate in his head, oblivious to Thorin's growing desire to hit the mild-mannered teacher.

The moment the door shut behind him, hinges creaking, Thorin spoke, more desperate then he'd ever admit.

“Please don't.” he closed his eyes, bringing his fingers to his temples as dew soaked into his socks. He took a deep breath, thinking of his eldest nephew, of his rare smiles and fierce loyalty. “Fíli's a good kid.”

“I'm sorry?”

“Let him have classes.” Thorin said quietly, watching as Baggins' hands twisted anxiously together, his shirtsleeves unbuttoned and fluttering around his wrists. “He knows to keep his gloves on, knows to be careful. He's not a danger to anyone, I swear.”

Thorin hated sounding so weak, but if there was any chance of Fíli having a place in this school, whether he was in lessons with the other kids or not, it was worth it. He didn't know how he'd break the news to either of the boys if this fell through.

“Mr Durin.” A fleeting touch to his clenched fist accompanied the words, making Thorin glance up, startled. Baggins was standing stock-still, hand held awkwardly in front of him and leaves spreading across his cheeks, a very dark green against the yellow of his eyes. “Thorin.”

“What?” Thorin snapped, not caring what he must look like, muscles bunched and teeth bared. It was better when they got on with it, telling him bluntly that one or both of his brilliant nephews- Dis' sons- were a danger.

“I think you've really got the wrong end of the stick here.” Baggins said slowly, looking concerned, but not scared. “I- we- don't want to take lessons away from Fíli, I was going to offer him some extras.”

“What?” Thorin repeated, not quite sure if he should still be angry or not.

“I thought it'd be nice to give him some private lessons, give him a break from the crowds when he needs it.”

“You're not worried about him hurting people?”

“I'm not going to refuse anyone an education if they want it.” Baggins spat, unexpectedly fierce. His scowl faded into something more self-conscious, arms folding around his stomach as he continued, slightly calmer. “And neither will anyone else working here.”

Thorin knew that there was a story behind that bitterness, had heard hints of it when his nephews had to explain that, no, Thorin wasn't their father.

“Oh.” he said, instead of voicing his thoughts, glancing back at the greenhouse, glass misted over with condensation.

“I just wanted to ask your permission.” Baggins continued, fiddling with the buttons on his waistcoat as he waited pointedly for Thorin's answer.

“You've spoken about it with him?” Thorin said carefully, still a little shocked.

“Yes, he says he wants to do it.”

And that was it. Thorin just nodded, wishing he was better at basic human interaction, and it was done. But the thing was, Baggins looked thrilled. His face lit up and he launched into a rambling speech about how excited he was to be working with the boys, how nice it was for him to see such a visible mutation, and how Fíli would thrive in school. The strangest thing was, that despite all the fear and disappointment his nephews had faced in education, he almost started believing him.

“I've got a basic timetable just-” he stopped, patting down the sides of his too-big blazer, nimble fingers tugging at a sheet of paper. He pulled out the creases, holding it out for Thorin to take, crowfeet framing his eyes as he looked up at him. “Here.”

Thorin scanned the timetable, with its biro scribbles and smears of highlighter, and reached out to take it. He held it carefully, almost scared it would disappear if he moved too fast.

“Thank you.” He felt disassociated from his voice in that moment, the words sounding void of emotion. It didn't seem to matter, Baggins smiling that infuriating smile once again, giving a lopsided shrug and staring down at his feet. It was only when they broke eye-contact that Thorin realised he still hadn't taken the timetable.

“That's quite alright.” Baggins said, loud in the otherwise silent garden, hand dropping abruptly. “Your family have been worrying about you since they got here, just by being here means I owe you.”

Thorin thought he must be blushing, the only consolation being that Baggins seemed to be doing a pretty good job of turning as dark green as possible.

“If you,” Baggins paused to tug at his waistcoat, staring over Thorin's shoulder. “If you or your nephews need anything, feel free to visit me at any time.”

So maybe Baggins was a little useless, a little pampered, with his fucking Bambi-eyes and proper accent, but he didn't seem capable of betrayal. A good soul, one that would do well by his nephew.

*

By the time midday arrived, Thorin was ready to disown his entire family and run for the hills.

“You're both so thin.” Dori gasped, turning on Thorin with a scowl. “Have you even been feeding these boys of yours?”

“Not even scraps.” Kíli said before Thorin had a chance to throttle him, looking far too proud of himself.

Dori had appeared, as predicted, just in time to take control of everything and everyone. He'd bustled around the hallway, clucking and tutting over any mess he could find, barely sparing a glance at Thorin or his nephews. It was only with a very pointed cough from Kíli that the man turned around, hands on hips and mouth half open. After the initial seconds of shock, Dori had taken to verbal abuse and critiquing Thorin's parenting skills.

It was like he'd never been away.

Now they were huddled around a crooked table in the massive kitchen, Dori clutching a teacup in a shaking hand and scowling as hard as he could. He wouldn't take his eyes from Thorin, touching his shoulder repeatedly as if to check he was still there.

“It's okay,” Fíli said helpfully, shoving at his brother's shoulder with little effect, “we don't eat.”

Dori slammed his cup down, the saucer cracking down the middle, and leant across the table, hands stopping just short of crushing Fíli into a hug.

“You boys are such good boys.” He sat down with a thump, fingers fidgeting in a way that reminded Thorin of Dis when she'd stopped wearing her wedding ring. “I've missed the three of you so very much.”

“We have too.” Kíli said eagerly, easily batting Dori's hands away from his brother. “But I've missed you most.”

Dori seemed pleased to have found someone he could hug without fear of suffocation, making the most of it as Thorin's youngest nephew soaked up the attention.

“You'll have to meet my Balin when he gets home.” Dori muttered into Kíli's jumper, swaying slightly as he squeezed his arms tighter. “And you'll seen Oin of course, he last saw you when you were knee-high to a grasshopper.”

“Where is he?” Thorin said quietly, tapping his fingers softly against the tabletop and smiling despite himself.

“He runs a clinic for mutants, for those who can't risk going to hospitals.” Dori said, a proud little look spreading across his face as he finally released Kíli. “He's just sorting some things with a new pair of little ones heading this way, he'll be back soon.”

“Good.” Thorin said, meaning it more than he realised he would. He couldn't wait to see Oin again, with his weathered face and brick-sized hearing aid, he even missed his habit of dolling out medical advice at any opportunity.

“Enough shop talk, I want to show you around before I help get supper ready, I bet you've not seen half this place.” Dori said, before Thorin could get lost in memories.

And so Thorin spent the rest of the day exploring the sprawling mansion that was a school and a home to his family. There were little signs of his loved ones everywhere, from the sketch of Nori pinned to the fridge, to the various pieces of slightly charred furniture that screamed Gloin's presence. The creeping paranoia was not gone, the worry that this was too good to be true still dragging at his thoughts, but it was easier to ignore with all the little, well-worn signs of happiness around him.

It might not have been Erebor, but with his two nephews grinning the way they were, it didn't have to be.