For one still so young Kili has thought his life had ended many times.
The first time he thought his life was over, that he’d never recover from the pain, was when he lost his father. Being so very young at the time it took him days before the information sank in. Days in which he couldn’t understand why his mother and brother were crying so much, days in which he waited for his father to walk through their door apologizing for being late. When he finally realised his father was never coming back, would never walk through that door again, a little piece of Kili died.
He didn’t cry, not for a long time. For weeks he was a shadow of his former self. Quiet when he was previously loud and boisterous, depressed instead of his usual cheerful and laughing self. Kili didn’t feel like Kili anymore.
They all changed the day they got the news and Kili was certain he would be following his father into the next life; as surely no one could survive such intense pain.
Nearly 80 years have passed and everyday Kili marvels at the strength of dwarves and his family’s ability to live beyond their loss, beyond their overwhelming pain, beyond a man they all loved. Kili fears the day he forgets his father’s voice, or the way he smiled, or the safety he felt in his father’s arms. He doubts he would survive such a day.
The next time he thought his life had expired was not facing down trolls and almost being barbequed alive, nor was it fighting the Pale Orc, neither was it scrambling away from a monstrous spider or fleeing elves. He did not even fear the moment a poison tipped arrow embedded itself in his thigh and he fell gasping to the ground.
No, the next time he thought he’d died was the moment Thorin discarded him as if he were nothing more than a useless elf.
Kili understood that his injury was slowing the company down but he never would have thought Thorin would choose gold and glory over kin. After their father passed Thorin became a surrogate father to him and Fili. He was the one that helped raise them, the one who taught them how to fight, how to be a worthy dwarf. Thorin was the dwarf they aspired to one day become. They loved him and he loved them.
Sitting weak and shaking on the docks of Lake-town Kili felt a deep pain inside his chest at the indifferent glance Thorin gave him.
All their lives Thorin had told them stories of the great Erebor, of its beauty, its grandeur, and its history. Kili’s dreams were of great halls and carven stone. Reclaiming Erebor was as much their dream as it was Thorin’s.
Yet, so close from achieving their lifelong goal Thorin threw him aside and left him dying on the docks of a town of men.
Often times Kili had felt like the spare son, the second in line, the backup. Fili was the true hero, the heir to the line of Durin, the shining sun and mighty lion; he was revered as he should be. But Thorin’s casual dismissal had truly hit the point home for Kili.
He truly didn’t matter.
Not to Thorin, not to the company, not to Erebor, and certainly not to the line of Durin.
In that moment he was nothing, and he truly felt like nothing.
It made sense that the next time he thought he was dead was only a few hours after the previous devastation. Of course, this time he really was dying.
Lying in Bard’s home, surrounded by his children as Oin tried to treat a wound that was far beyond any dwarfish medicine; Kili knew he would die here. He could feel it, feel the Orc poison flooding his bloodstream. His fever raced as his body shook, pain jolting his aching body. Keeping his eyes open was a struggle he hardly wanted to overcome. He had just lost his uncle, his second father, he had just been told he was nothing; there was nothing left to fight for.
Distantly as if wading through a thick fog Kili heard the sounds of a battle around him. Paying little attention to his surroundings Kili didn’t care if a stray blade cut him in that moment. He knew he was dying, knew he didn’t matter anymore, so why prolong the pain?
Then he heard Fili cry out and it set ablaze a fire inside Kili that had been squashed by Thorin’s disregard. Kili did have something to fight for, he had someone who loved him and who needed him.
Kili had Fili.
Fili was his sun, his guiding light, his calm in a storm, his hope and his heart.
Every time he thought his life over Fili has been there to remind him to live, to pick up his shattered pieces and stitch him back together. Fili has been by his side his whole life, caring for him, teaching him, and loving him.
Suddenly it didn’t matter that he had lost his father, or that Thorin had abandoned him, it didn’t even matter that he was infected by Orc poison. He had Fili and that was all he needed in life.
With this in mind Kili fought through the fog, through the pain, and though the poison. He pushed and he clawed, he gave everything he had and in the end it was just enough to save his life. When he emerged from the poison his mind was muddled and he thinks he was speaking of a love like starlight, but he thinks he was speaking them to the wrong person.
He was weak, hardly able to stand, but he kept going. With the help of his brother Kili was able to step through the threshold and take his first steps inside Erebor with Fili at his side.
It wasn’t the gleaming city they had pictured in their minds, it was broken and ash covered, bodies still littered the path. But this Erebor was real in a way their dreams could never be.
The brothers, along with Oin and Bofur, made their way cautiously through the halls of Erebor until they found the company in the gold room. Kili had no interest in the gold, he had never been one for shiny things the way most dwarves were, but he was unsurprised to learn Thorin had become enthralled by the treasure.
He was a Durin after all.
Out of the corner of his eye Kili saw something in Fili change, something that was not the brother he loved. He had relaxed to the point of bonlessness, his face slack and eyes gleaming. There was a streak of golden light highlighting his face, a reflection of the gold below.
Fili took a few steps towards the stairs, feet unsteady and stumbling in a way Fili never was. Then his brother was racing down the stairs as fast as his feet could take him.
“Fili!” Kili shouted, scared beyond belief.
He thought losing his father had killed him.
He thought Thorin abandoning him had killed him.
He thought the Orc poison had killed him.
But nothing hurt worse or scared him more deeply than the moment Fili saw the gold beneath the mountain.
Gold Sickness runs in the line of Durin.
He raced after his brother, heart beating painfully in his chest and a pressure behind his eyes causing them to tear up. If he lost Fili then he truly would die, there would be no recovery for a wound as deep as that. Losing Fili during battle would have been hard enough but losing him to something as cruel as Gold Sickness was a fate worse than death for a dwarf as strong as Fili.
“Fili!” Kili shouted again as he closed in on his enchanted brother. He’d never seen Fili like this, so unstable and shaky, moving as if another was in control of his body. It was disturbing in more ways than one and Kili just wanted to make it stop.
There was no cure for Gold Sickness though; once a Durin was cursed they stayed that way for the remainder of their life. He’s not ready to give up on Fili but somewhere inside him he knows the battle is already lost. This hollow emptiness consuming his insides must be the reason people fear death.
When he reached Fili his brother was knee deep in glittering gold and sparkling jewels. Running his fingers through the coins there was a wildness to his eyes that Kili had never seen. The picture broke his heart all over again. This was not his Fili.
“It’s beautiful is it not?” Fili’s voice was slurred, as if he had spent too long in the tavern. “And it’s all ours.”
Kili stopped short of actually touching Fili, shocked back by his words. The gold glistened all around them, Kili’s feet sinking into the depths of the treasure, yet he saw none of it. He only had eyes for his brother.
A brief thought entered his mind yet he dismissed it just as suddenly. If he wasn’t affect by the gold did that make him less Durin folk than his kin?
He didn’t have time to worry about himself; he needed to get his Fili back, not this gold drunk imitation of his brother.
“Kili you must take some. I will share with you, brother. We will be rich, true princes of Erebor clothed in the finest jewels, admired by all.” Fili grabbed Kili’s hand and placed in it several large gems.
The weight surprised Kili, his hand dipping with their heaviness. Cool gems clattered in his hand as he rolled them around, watching the way they caught the light. For a moment he understood Fili’s obsession with the jewels, but the moment passed quickly.
In disgust Kili dropped the gems back to the treasure floor, their allure immediately forgotten, and gripped Fili’s shoulder’s. He ducked his head trying to capture Fili’s eyes. The eyes that stared glassily back at him were not the eyes of his brother.
“Fili, please! Fight this! This is not you, please!” Kili begged on the verge of tears. Fili gave no indication he had even heard Kili’s cries, his eyes flickering down to the gold constantly. “I cannot lose you too Fi.”
Tears were flowing from Kili’s eyes now and he bore them proudly. He’d never needed to hide his emotions or his fears from Fili and he wouldn’t start now. Through the tears Kili could see the effect his words had.
Fili’s eyes, once clouded and glazed, regained some of their focus. Blinking a few times Fili opened and closed his closed his mouth, his eyes roaming their surroundings. His gaze still flickered to the gold but they lingered less and less with each passing second.
Kili was getting through to him, now he just needed to push a bit further.
“Fili please don’t leave me,” he whispered, wanting their conversation to remain private. They were already fairly secluded from the company who raided the gold at the other end of the room, but Kili was still wary of being overheard.
“Kili…” Fili mumbled, still hazy and confused but Fili was the best fighter around. He would fight his sickness as if it were any Orc with a sharp blade. Kili smiled through his tears and cupped Fili’s cheek bringing his brother’s attention solely on his face and his words.
“I’m here, Fili. I’ll always be here. You must fight this brother,” Kili begged with everything he had. He knew he needed more though. He needed to prove to Fili that he wasn’t alone, that they would fight this together, as they did every other foe.
Swallowing his fear Kili did something he’s longed to do for years now. Sliding his fingers into Fili’s golden mane Kili brought their faces together and planted a frim kiss on his brother’s lips.
It was desperate and needy, not the gentle touch he always imagined their first kiss to be. Kili pressed closer, wanting to crawl inside Fili and right the wrongness inside him. The kiss was hard and lacked any finesse yet made up for it with devotion. Kili poured everything he was into that kiss, gave Fili his everything. If this was the only chance he had to feel Fili this close to him then he was going to make it count for something.
Slowly Kili pulled back, wanting to prolong the kiss for the rest of his life but needing the oxygen to breathe. He didn’t pull back far though, leaning his head against Fili’s, breathing the same air, clinging to his brother’s shoulders. His eyes remained shut tight as he didn’t want to see Fili looking so unlike himself, so overcome with Gold Sickness. He wanted to remember his brother the way he always was, kind, loyal, and brave.
There were still tears descending from his eyes and his breathing came out shaky and uneven. Kili had never felt so vulnerable before, so close to breaking. This must truly be the moment before death.
Fili hadn’t exactly responded to the kiss, his body tensing at the first touch and his lips remaining firm. It should have been discouraging yet Kili was so in tune with his brother that he noticed the most miniscule movements. Fili’s lips may have been a firm press but after a moment there had been a slight pressure, a push back. It was barely a press at all and if Kili’s whole world hadn’t narrowed down to Fili he would have missed it.
It didn’t give him the courage to raise his head, open his eyes, or even speak. Everything was fragile and Kili was worried about shattering them both.
They stood there, in a pile of gold under the Lonely Mountain, breathing together. It was a moment of pause, as if the world around them was frozen in time. Nothing mattered outside the two of them.
Fili draws in a deep breath as his arms rise to cling to Kili’s waist, the first movement either of them has made in several minutes.
“Ki?” Fili’s voice sounds so soft and fragile. A tone Kili never expected to hear from Fili, not his strong and fearless Fili. “I… I’m okay, Kili. I’m alright. We’re okay.”
Kili sobs, heart breaking all over again. It’s love and relief, it’s disbelief and fear, it’s hope and longing. Reluctant to break the contact but needing to be sure Kili pulls back from the embrace and looks at Fili’s face.
Searching his eyes, his lips, his jaw, and his eyebrows Kili looks for any sign of deception or lingering traces of Gold Sickness. All he finds is his Fili, his brother, his heart, and his life. Kili smiles wide, his cheeks aching, and chuckles in relief. He did it, he got his Fili back.
Grabbing Fili’s larger hand Kili pulls his brother from the enormous treasure room, needing to be as far as possible from the cursed gold. Thankfully Fili follows him easily, giving no indication he has any desire to stay with the gold.
It took them almost 15 minutes before they were free of any gold or jewels and several more minutes until Kili felt safe enough. He wanted nothing to do with the gold and he certainly didn’t want Fili anywhere near it ever again. If Fili succumbed to Gold Sickness again Kili didn’t know if he’d be able to bring him back.
When he turns to face Fili, his relieved smile dims as his eyes search his brother’s face. Fili does not look happy or relieved at all, in fact he looks more troubled than when they fought the Pale Orc, more troubled than whenever mother caught them doing something they shouldn’t. In all his life he’s never seen Fili look this way.
If he had to guess, he’d think Fili looked ashamed.
“Fi, what’s wrong?” Kili softly questions, ducking his head to catch Fili’s dull eyes. He squeezed Fili’s hand once he realises he still has a hold of it. To be honest, Kili doubts he’ll ever be able to let go of Fili ever again. The fear of losing him still to raw, and doubts it will ever ebb.
“I failed,” Fili mumbled, not looking at Kili. “It had its claws in me before I ever saw a single piece. I was weak, I am weak. Too weak to lead our people.”
Fili hung his head; the shame, self-hatred and disappointment was so thick Kili was nearly choking on it.
If there was one thing the ever confident Fili was insecure about, it was his ability to be a good King. To see those doubts drowning him now was more than Kili could take.
“You failed no one!” Kili vehemently denied. Fili looked at him then, his expression speaking louder than his words ever could. Fili did not believe Kili’s words, he truly thought himself a failure. “Fili, you are just as strong now as you always have been. Yes, the Gold Sickness had you but you fought it as fiercely as you fight every foe. You won this battle, an honour not many can claim.”
Fili lost the gloomy, shamed look and his face look on something lighter. It wasn’t anything near the happiness or relief Kili was feeling but any improvement was good news in Kili’s book. He knows Fili better than anyone; he knows that nothing can bring his brother down for long.
“There were old stories, only told to direct heirs about the Gold Sickness,” Fili spoke in hushed tones, his eyes distant, as if recalling a long lost memory. “Since the days of Durin our lineage has been cursed with Gold Sickness. But there was a tale about the True King overcoming the sickness and breaking the curse. It was never meant to be true, just a tale told to young princes.”
Kili, being the second in line, never heard these stories. He can imagine a young Fili hearing the story of the True King Under the Mountain and acting out how he would slay the Gold Sickness and be the dwarves True King. Kili smiled at his big brother, the gentle Fili who always tried to do right by his people.
There was no other deserving of such a title.
“You were always my King,” Kili whispers, meaning every word. He has followed his Uncle’s rule his whole life but Fili is the one he believes in, the one he would follow to the depths of Mordor or the shores of the afterlife. It is Fili he fights for, his True King.
“But it makes little sense,” Fili shakes his head, not hearing Kili’s declaration. “Thror and Thrain resisted the sickness; they regained their minds and led one of the bloodiest battles our kind has ever seen. They should have broken the curse.”
Sometimes it’s as if Fili is being purposely dim, missing the point of conversation and ignoring facts deliberately. Whether it be self-esteem issues or Fili being humble, Kili isn’t sure but one of these days he will make his brother see just how worthy he is.
To Kili, he is worth everything.
“They only resisted because the gold was taken from them.” Kili throws his arm out, indicating down the hall where said treasure looms like a dark cloud. “You are mere feet from the gold and it means nothing to you now. You broke the curse Fili. You are the True King.”
Kili sees the ways Fili’s eyes widen at his words, hears the way Fili’s breath catches and knows his words have taken hold. Finally, Fili hears him. Without breaking eye contact Kili bends forward slowly, deliberately.
He bows deeply to Fili.
He bows to the True King Under the Mountain.