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AGASTOPIA: The Endurance of First Impressions

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Dwarves don't remember much from their first decade or two on Arda. Fíli could just about remember his mother's smile and his father's booming laugh, the way that his little brother had giggled and reached for his shining hair. Clearer still was the image of his Uncle Frerin, his wide smile gleaming between neat mustache braids that hung almost to his collarbones.  But then, Frerin had visited him each new moon for three years, until he had died when Fíli was fifteen and the last regular connection to his mother's family had died with him.
If he was to be brutally honest, Fíli didn't miss it all that much.  His father's relatives were friendly and numerous, and for all that they lived clear on the other side of Erid Luin and kept to themselves, everyone knew that the descendants of Durin were stuffy and melancholy and didn't know how to have a good time, forever pondering on gold and tragedy. Everyone Fíli knew was of the same opinion - he was well rid of them and all they represented.
"Never mind those damn Durins," his great-grandmother would say as she wove braids into his slowly lengthening blond hair. "We are descended from Narvi, who made the doors of Khazad-dûm. We are makers, which is much better than being Kings.  Kings often break things. Now, how is your latest project coming along?"
When she had been called to Mahal's side, Fíli had cried for a week.
Fíli's childhood was filled with the toys made by Uncle Bifur, and the treats made by Uncle Bombur, although both Dwarves were technically his father's cousins rather than Uncles.  As he grew he played older brother to Bombur's growing hoard of red headed children and if anyone had asked him, he would have said that he was happy.
Fíli was on his way back to the family hall after a day spent with Bifur in his toy workshop, when an unfamiliar Dwarf with a snowy beard combed into two forks stopped him in the passage.
“Happy Birthday, laddie,” the dwarf said cheerfully, his hands tucked into a wide leather belt.  “Seventy, if I’m not mistaken?”
“At your service,” Fíli replied cautiously.  “You seem to know me but I’m afraid I do not recognise you.”
“Balin, son of Fundin at your service,” Balin said promptly, bowing.  “I apologise lad, I knew you when you were a wee dwarfling, but I am not surprised that you do not remember.  Your mother is my cousin.”
Fíli hadn't had cause to think about his mother in quite some time, but the old dwarf had given him no cause to be rude so he consented to sit in a niche carved into the wall of the passage and converse when Balin asked.
“How much do you know about how you came to live where you are?” Balin asked, settling onto the stone and pulling out an elaborately carved pipe.
Fíli shrugged.  "My father died, and as the oldest of the line of Narvi, as tradition dictates I was brought up by his family," he said.  "I think normally my mother and little brother would have come too, but because they're from the line of Durin it was decided that they would stay with them.  Her family, I mean."
"Do you miss them?" Balin asked next, and Fíli eyed him in astonishment.  Still, despite the personal question there was nothing but worry and kindness in the old Dwarrow's eyes.
"I don't remember them," he said firmly, looking out the nearest window slit to avoid seeing the reaction to his words.  "I was sad when Uncle Frerin stopped visiting I think, he was fun.  But I have Uncle Bifur, Uncle Bofur and Uncle Bombur, so I'm hardly starved for family."
"There was a bit of a fuss after your father died," Balin said slowly.  "I would tell you about it, if you're willing to listen."
Fíli nodded.  "I wouldn't have sat with you if I wasn't going to listen to what you have to say," he said honestly.
"Thank you laddie.  So, as you've said, tradition is that the eldest of the line stays with their Father's family, however you and your brother were a bit of a special case.  Thorin Oakenshield, heir to the Kingdom of Erebor, declared you his heir when you were born, and your brother after you, as he has no children of his own and no intention to take a wife."  Balin paused there, seeming to expect some sort of response, but Fíli honestly wasn't sure what to say.  Ok, so once upon a time he had been made heir to a dead kingdom, but he obviously wasn't anymore.
"Thorin wanted you and your mother and brother to stay in the family halls after your father passed, but your father's family objected," Balin continued when he realised that Fíli wasn't going to say anything.  "They argued for a week, refusing to acknowledge your legitimate claim to Erebor or to take into account your father's agreement that you would be considered firstborn son of that line."
Fíli thought that perhaps Thorin was a little too full of himself and too used to throwing his status around to get what he wanted.  There couldn't have been anything written down about the succession or there would have been no point in arguing about it, he remembered that much from his lessons.  The legal bits had always stuck in his brain easily.  Thorin had evidentially been arrogant enough not to bother getting anything in writing for the first twelve years of Fíli's life, and that was assuming that his father had even agreed to Fíli becoming Thorin's heir.
Fíli doubted that he had; he knew his family, and they were proud of their heritage, proud to carry on the legacy of Narvi in any way that they could.  He couldn't imagine one of his uncles giving that up for a dead kingdom, so why would his father have done so?
He must have been doing a reasonable job of hiding his doubts, because Balin kept talking.  "Eventually it was agreed that you would be brought up by your grandparents and that your mother and brother would stay with Thorin.  We were asked to all stay away for the most part, to avoid confusing you.  Monthly visits were agreed.  But now that you're of age that decree has now expired, and, well, you can come home."
Fíli frowned at him.  "I have a home," he objected, rubbing his chilled hands together.  There was a constant draft seeping from the window slits, which was fine when you were walking but it was a bit chilly for sitting this late into the year.  "I don't need another.  Uncle Frerin used to visit, and after he died no one bothered to carry on.  I'm sorry, I expect it isn't what you want to hear, but I'm happy with the family I have, and-"
"The visits continued," Balin interrupted.  "Why, my brother Dwalin, a cousin of the line, took up the visitation after Frerin passed."
Fíli looked at him in bewilderment.  "I have no idea who that is," he said plainly.  "I have no memory of a dwarf named Dwalin visiting the family hall, or speaking with me, ever.  I'm sorry Mister Balin, but I need to get going or I'll be late to help with dinner."  He jumped to his feet and bowed, not sure what else to do.  "It was nice to meet you."
The family hall was full of its usual cheerful chaos when he pushed open the door.  Uncle Bofur was playing a merry jig on his pipe as Bombur's three children worked together to set the table, their short legs dancing to the music.  Uncle Bifur, having beaten him home, was sitting by the fire.  Tools flashed in the yellow light as he fixed a small wooden battle cart replica that Vitr had stepped on and broken the previous evening, much to Nýr's disgust.  Aunt Skirfyr emerged from the kitchen alcove, wiping her hands on her grease stained apron. 
"I love him, I do," she muttered.  "But sometimes I want to drop him down the nearest mine shaft."  Her bright Firebeard hair was plastered to her perspiring face and her cheeks were flushed with annoyance above her curling beard.  Green eyes crinkled at the corners when she spotted him and waved him closer.  "Fíli, welcome home! Kidhuzurâl, can you help your Uncle in the kitchen please?  Apparently the way that I whisk the gravy isn't right."
After the conversation with Balin in a draughty corridor, Fíli was glad to slip out of his deerhide coat and head into the warm kitchen.  Bombur's wide bulk was nowhere to be seen, although there was indeed a pot of gravy on the iron stove.  Fíli picked up the whisk and started to beat the lumps out briskly.
"Uncle, I'm home," he called down the passage that led to the store room.
"Kidhuzurâl?  What took you so long?" his Uncle demanded, reappearing with a small basket of onions.
"I was stopped on my way back, a Dwarrow named Balin wanted to talk to me about ancient history," Fíli explained.  The gravy was beginning to smooth out and his Uncle nodded at the pot with an approving expression, before he seemed to register what Fíli had said.
"What?  Balin, son of Fundin?"
Fíli shrugged.  "He just said Balin, said he was a relative on my mother's side and some mahumb about being able to talk to me now that I'm seventy."
"Language!" Bombur reprimanded automatically, pulling down a large skillet and tossing a knob of bacon grease in. "Couldn't even wait for your birthday to be over," he complained, his large knife making short work of chopping the onions.  Fíli kept his face away.  Bombur seemed immune to the sting of onion after so many years in the kitchen, but they still made Fíli's eyes water.  "Are you all right?  Did he upset you?"
Fíli shrugged.  "Not really, like I said it was ancient history.  I'm part of this family now, I don't need another.  There was one weird bit, he seemed to think that another Dwarf had been visiting after Uncle Frerin stopped, but I don't remember anyone.  His brother, I think he said."
"That would be Dwalin, from the guard," Bofur said from the doorway, making both Bombur and Fíli jump.  The jolly pipe music continued, but a new breathy hesitancy to the notes indicated that Litr had taken over from her uncle.  "He hangs around the practice ring we use sometimes.  Bald."
"Lots of tattoos?" Fíli asked and Bofur nodded.  "I think I remember him.  He stares at me sometimes, I thought he was looking for recruits."
"Not a bad assumption," Bofur assured him.  "Now I guess we know he was reporting back to your mum."
"I don't get it," Fíli said, suddenly angry.  He jabbed the whisk into the gravy, half wishing that there was dough to knead.  That was always therapeutic.  "Balin seemed to want me to acknowledge them all as kin, but it's not like they bother to visit.  My mother has never visited, right?  I would remember.  So I don't understand why they suddenly care now, and I don't want them coming around and messing things up when I'm supposed to be figuring out my craft and... and-"
Strong arms pulled him away from the stove and Bofur folded him into an embrace as his brother smoothly pulled the whisk from his hand so that gravy didn't drip to the floor.  "It'll be all right, ghivashith," his deep voice murmured as he stood as firm and solid as the mountain, emanating 'safety' in a way that reminded Fíli of Grandma.  There was a lump in his throat and he felt all of twenty years old again as he hid his face in Bofur's knitted sweater.  "It'll be all right.  You're safe home with us, kidhuzurâl, and if you don't want the line of Durin talking to you, well, then your uncles will go have words with them."
"You'd do that?" Fíli asked, surprised enough to lift his head.
"Of course!" his uncle assured him cheerfully. "That's what family is for.  Come on, into the main room.  Bombur has the kitchen well in hand today."
Fíli closed his eyes and let himself be led out of the alcove, suddenly exhausted.  He knew that they were having a hasty conversation in eyebrow lifts and iglishmêk over his head but he couldn't bring himself to care.  Bofur lead him to one of the leather armchairs by the crackling fire  and pushed him down into the warm cushions.  Little Nýr immediately toddled over and started to climb up into his lap.  Fíli didn't help, knowing that letting the Dwarfling make his own attempt was more important than some bruises on his shin.  At least Nýr wasn't wearing boots, although considering that he had feet like tiny boulders maybe it wouldn't have made a difference.
"I've got a surprise for you," Bofur said, kneeling on the hearth rug to gather up the coloured chalks that Nýr had abandoned.  "I've been waiting till today to tell you.  Now that you're of age, you can do more than tag along with us and our crafts.  I know that wood carving and cooking haven't really delighted you, after all, and we'd all rather you found your craft instead of settling for ours.  I've spoken with some pals from the tavern, Thekkr is willing to let you take a turn in his forge, see if perhaps you'd like to apprentice.  His wife has given him three girls and he's getting impatient; for all that the girls are a blessing none of them are interested in forge work.  Or if that doesn't work out, Hanarr has a big project starting in a moon or two, he's willing to let you try your hand at working the stone."
"Thank you Uncle," Fíli breathed, his mind already working through the possibilities.  Hanarr he knew already, the Dwarf was responsible for the best friezes in Erid Luin and his stand alone sculptures were always well sought after.  It was a mark of his long friendship with Bofur that they had an impressive one themselves, their family symbols carved delicately into a long piece of white marble that was mounted above the main fireplace.  Thekkr, he was fairly sure, was the smith responsible for the delicate tools that Bifur used in the toy shop, although Fíli had got the impression that that was more of a favour than his usual work.
"I would like to try the forge," he decided, remembering the trouble he'd had with chisel and hammer when his uncle was trying to teach him to shape wood.  Luckily he hadn't ruined anything that Bofur couldn't fix, and they had been working on a new stool for his own chamber.
"I'll tell Thekkr in the morning.  For tonight, this is your birthday, you should enjoy it."
Nýr settled onto Fíli's thighs with a crow of triumph and reached up to touch his cousin's golden hair.  Fíli ducked his head a little, letting a braid swing forward so that the dwarfling could twist the wooden bead on the end.
"Sad?" Nýr asked, touching the corner of his mouth gently.
"It's ok, nidoyith.  I'll be happy again soon," Fíli promised his cousin.  "How can I be anything but happy when I have you here?"
"Song?" Nýr asked hopefully.
"All right," Fíli agreed.  "How about a mining song?"
"Trees!" Nýr protested and Fíli had to wrack his memory for a song that contained even the mention of trees.  Where had Nýr even learned that word?   He'd never been outside the mountain.  Litr appeared at his elbow, pipe ready to accompany whatever he came up with.  Finally, inspiration struck and he winked at her as he took a breath.
Shining silver stains the floor
Trees of holly guard the door
My eyes weep to see no more
The carven halls of stone
Oh Khazad-dûm! So bright and fair!
Life is cruel to leave me here
Braids of mourning weigh my hair
I walk these halls alone
Oh Khazad-dûm! So fair and bright!
But what is beauty without sight?
My world is wreathed in darkest night
Too far the light had flown
Yet still I know beneath my hand
The heartbeat of my motherland
Here I'll live, sight be damned
I'll never leave my home
"That was beautiful nathith, kidhuzurâl," Skirfyr said with a proud smile as she reached over to pluck Nýr from Fíli's lap.  "We'll have some more music after dinner."
"It's ready?" Litr asked, threading the wooden pipe into the nest of dark braids piled on top of her head.
Skirfyr rolled her eyes skyward but didn't make her take it out.  "Sit at the table, your father will have the roast out in just a moment."
Fíli was pushed to the head of the table, displacing his great-grandfather, not that Jari seemed to mind.  He looked around at the familiar faces of his family, all turned expectantly to watch the entrance to the kitchen alcove and felt a smile tugging at his lips for the first time since Balin had stopped him in the passage.  He was home, surrounded by family, and he was loved.  What could the line of Durin possibly have to offer him that he didn't have already?

Chapter Text

Fíli didn’t think all that much on the strange conversation with Balin in the years that followed, other than to be glad that no other descendants  of Durin had appeared when he wasn't expecting them.  Perhaps his uncles had had a quiet word, or perhaps they stayed away of their own accord.  He was too busy working at the forge to wonder about it, for he'd found that moulding the hot metal soothed a want in his soul he hadn't even realised was there.  His burgeoning worries had been appeased, he'd found his craft and Thekkr was pleased to call him his apprentice.  He even made Fíli blush, waxing poetic over the quality of Fíli's work when a banker named Glóin came in to commission a new battleaxe and had noticed Fíli's journeyman piece on the wall, the culmination of ten years of hard work..
"You have a good eye," Glóin said approvingly as he looked at the piece, an axe as was traditional.  "As I'm commissioning work from your father, I'll contract with you too.  Will you craft me a pair of throwing axes, lad?"
"Aye, but Master Thekkr is not my father," Fíli said cheerfully.  "He's a friend of the family.  Would you like leather wrapped handles or polished steel?"
"Leather wrapped is my preference," Glóin said, frowning at Fíli.  "Fíli, you said your name was Fíli?" 
Fíli nodded in confusion and Thekkr took a step forward.  "Look, just because the lad isn't my blood doesn't mean that he doesn't do damn good work," he said hotly.
"I don't doubt that Master Thekkr!" Glóin said hastily, holding his hand out.  "His uncle is a fine smith after all."
It was Fíli's turn to frown.  "None of my uncles smith," he objected.
"Your Uncle Thorin, I mean," Glóin said, folding his arms.  "Will you be coming to the meeting tonight?"
Fíli looked at Thekkr in confusion.  "What meeting?  The guild meeting was last month.  Is there another one already?"
"Thorin Oakenshield is calling a meeting to discuss a quest," Glóin told them both.  "The rumour is that it's a quest to retake Erebor, although that won't be confirmed until the meeting itself I expect."
Fíli blinked at him, not entirely sure what was going on.  "I..."
"I think he'd like to see you there.  Family is important to him.  It's being held in the third hall at sundown."  Having said his piece, Glóin swept out of the smithy, leaving a small down payment and a lot of confusion behind him.
"What just happened?" Fíli asked, wishing that he could bite the words back as soon as they had fallen from his lips.  He hadn't meant to sound so damned lost.  Thekkr's broad hand patted him comfortingly on the shoulder.  
"Only you can decide that," the smith told him.  "Still,I've got to know you well this past decade and Mahal made you curious.  I think you'll regret it if you don't go and find out what's going on, but that's just my opinion.  Why don't you finish re-edging the mining picks, you can think about it while you're hammering them straight again."
Fíli nodded and turned to the pile of tools that had been waiting for a week now.  They could probably have waited for a week more, but the work was intense and required a minimum of concentration, exactly what he needed right then.  Thekkr did indeed know him well.
By the time the water timer on the wall indicated that the sun was low in the sky, Fíli had made his decision.  He would go and hear with his own ears.  It was curious that the first he had heard of this big meeting was from a strange dwarf on the day it was taking place, but there was an easy explanation for that - and he saw the subtle hand of his family written all over this.  Litr might have raged over being mollycoddled, but Fíli was now old enough and wise enough -he hoped!- to realise that they had just been trying to protect him.
Sure enough, when he reached the third hall and joined the throng of dwarrows filing in, he spotted his uncle’s lopsided fleece lined hat on the other side of the room.  Fíli pulled his green hood over his distinctive hair and tried his best to remain out of eyeshot, standing with dwarves he barely recognised on the south side of the hall.
A tall dwarf with gleaming mithril beads in his hair  and a shorn beard climbed into the dais at the end of the hall and the chattering fell silent.  He was joined by several more, and Fíli’s attention was caught by a dark eyed dwarf, his unruly hair caught back by a simple mithril clasp with hardly a braid to be seen.  He glowered uncomfortably at the crowd before being nudged by the tattooed dwarf next to him, possibly Dwalin son of Fundin from uncle Bofur’s description, and visibly pulling himself straighter, focusing on a point just over the heads of the dwarrows that made up the crowd.
“My friends, my kin,” Thorin started, giving a fairly standard introduction that was probably intended to capture the attention of the audience, but Fíli was hopelessly distracted already.  The dark haired dwarf was far more interesting to look at than his unfamiliar uncle.  He wondered what his craft was, he had no obvious tells on his clothing.  Or did he? Fíli shifted around a group of miners to get a better view.  He wore close fitting leathers in shades of green and brown over his Durin blue shirt, indicating that perhaps he went outside onto the slopes of the blue mountains to hunt.  He didn’t have a sword hanging on his hip or an axe, but a reinforced patch on his shoulder indicated that he usually had something slung over his back.
“To take back Erebor!” Thorin bellowed, breaking Fíli’s train of thought and prompting a cheer from the crowd.  “I will welcome any dwarf who chooses to join the quest, all who assist will have honour and wealth when the mountain is ours once again!”
There was a stir behind the dais and Fíli realised that there was a man lurking there, wearing long grey robes and sporting a beard worthy of a dwarf.  The man stepped forward and there was a muttering of discontent across the hall before a whisper of Tharkûn began and Fíli blinked in surprise.  Tharkûn, the wandering wizard, hadn’t visited Khagal'abbad in decades.  For Tharkûn to support Thorin’s venture, well that implied that the events that would take place would impact more than just the Dwarves.  Of course, there was a dragon involved, so Fíli thought that perhaps he shouldn’t be too surprised by the development.
“Tharkûn has advised that it is time for the Dwarves of Erebor to take back their homeland, and he intends to aid us on this quest,” Thorin announce, his deep voice quelling the whispers that he begun to fill the hall.  “He also has a plan to deal with the dragon, which will be shared with those dwarrows who choose to join us on this quest.  I will leave at the full moon to travel to the planned meeting with our kin to ask if they will join in this mighty venture.  Please speak with Balin son of Fundin after the meeting if you wish to join your axes to the company.  For Erebor!”
The crowd repeated the cry enthusiastically as Thorin left the dais, but Fíli watched as the majority of the dwarves who had attended filed out the rear exits with only a few clustering around Balin as he stood at the front.
Fíli edged a little closer, wanting to see if the dark haired dwarf was still present, but he couldn’t see him anywhere.  Shrugging off the small thread of disappointment, Fíli made a beeline for the east entrance, slipping through the doorway only to find himself face to shoulder with the dwarf he had been looking for.
“Not planning on signing up?” The stranger asked with a bitter twist to his lip.
“Haven’t decided yet,” Fíli admitted.  He watched as the dwarf’s deep brown eyes widened in surprise.
“It’s a fool’s mission, you know.  You… you’d be better off staying here.”
“You’re not really selling it considering that you were standing at the front,” Fíli teased.  He wanted to reach out, to nudge a shoulder or touch his arm,  but that would be rather forward considering he didn’t even know his name.  “Shouldn’t you be waxing lyrical on the joys of the open road and the wonders that await at the other end?”
“I’m not that good at waxing lyrical, maybe you should come and show me how it’s done; you seem to have a talent for it.”  
Fíli grinned at the promise that shone in the dwarf's dark eyes. He was almost certain that that had been intended as a flirtation, it had certainly been a compliment.  “I’m sure you have other talents,” he said, making sure to maintain eye contact as he growled out the words.  “We could, perhaps, compare our respective skill sets over a mug of ale?”
The dark haired dwarf lifted a hand to his stubbled chin as he made a teasing show of thinking about Fíli’s question, and his slender fingers caught Fíli’s attention, unusual in a race that tended towards thick strong digits.  They looked… dexterous, and his mind immediately jumped several steps ahead contemplating all the ways that could come in useful.
“I think I might be willing to-“
“Kíli!” They were interrupted by a booming shout from inside the hall.  Fíli turned to see Dwalin frowning at them from the entrance to the passage.  “Kíli, get your arse in here and represent the… family,” he tailed off as his eyes settled on Fíli.  “In your own time,” he added hastily, backing into the hall.
Kíli huffed.  “It seems that I have a prior engagement,” he grumbled.  “Would you mind waiting?”
“I… son of Dís?” Fíli asked, his mind ricocheting off of the name as a terrible suspicion began to form in his mind.
A smile that warmed his core like sunshine spread over Kíli’s face.  “Sorry, we began backwards didn’t we?  Kíli son of Dís, at your service.”  He inclined his head respectfully, a strand of soft dark hair falling forward to brush against his cheek.
Fíli swallowed through a suddenly tight throat.  “Fíli, at yours,” he replied shortly, watching those captivating dark eyes carefully as he waited for the warm appreciation to be replaced with shocked recognition.  It did not take long.
“Oh,” Kíli said, his expression carefully blank.  “This is a bit awkward then, isn’t it?”
Fíli shrugged.  “Only if we make it so,” he replied, not wanting this strange encounter to come to nothing.  “I’d still like to get that drink if you would.”  He waited as patiently as he could for Kíli to consider it.
“All right.  Come into the hall with me?  They’re less likely to harp on about doing my duty with you standing there as an excellent excuse.”
“Do they do that a lot?”
Kíli huffed out a breath that ruffled the fine hairs that lay over his forehead.  “All the damn time.”
Fíli followed his new acquaintance - his brother! - into the third hall and braced himself against the nerves churning in his gut.  They would all know him, he suspected, and have assumptions and expectations that he would likely have to overturn.  It had happened a few times over the years, when people found out that he was from the line of Durin, but before it had always been a minor annoyance.  The stakes suddenly seemed a lot higher.
A small knot of dwarrows were gathered by the dais, talking intently.  Fíli was surprised to find that he recognised a few faces; Balin and Dwalin of course, but also Glóin and a young dwarf clutching a large notebook that Fíli recognised from his lessons in the library, Ri-something.  Uri, perhaps?
“Fíli!” Glóin boomed, and every dwarf present turned to stare.  The number of raised eyebrows would have been comical if the whole tableau hadn’t been so intimidating.  “So glad you could make it.  And I see you found young Kíli, has he been telling you all about the quest?”
“Ah, we haven’t really had a chance yet,” Fíli explained.
“Now, that won’t do!” Balin interrupted with a beaming smile.  “Come over here lad and I’ll explain it to you and young Ori here at the same time.”
Fíli looked to Kíli who shrugged helplessly.  “It’ll be over faster if you go along with it, Balin can argue for hours!” the dark haired dwarf muttered with a sympathetic eye roll.
“You’d better not abandon me to this ridiculousness, I’ll need an ale after this!” Fíli whispered back.
“I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Ori, not Uri, he would have to remember that, was practically dancing in place with excitement, his quill poised as if to take notes.  Fíli did his best to arrange his features into an open and enquiring expression,  but he hoped that Ori would take up most of Balin’s attention and leave him to observe.
“The main quest will be to obtain the arkenstone from the treasure hall, so that the remaining kingdoms of the dwarves will unite under its light.  We will also perform reconnaissance and establish a plan to deal with Smaug, should he prove to still be alive.”
“How do we plain to obtain the arkenstone if Smaug is still in the mountain?” Ori asked, and Fíli was glad that he had, more than a little curious as to what the answer would be.  “Is that why Tharkûn was here, will he use magic to find it?”
“Tharkûn has advised that he knows of a burglar in the shire, one that we can employ to obtain the arkenstone from under the very nose of Smaug if need be.”
“Oh, so that’s why the meeting place is in the Shire!” Ori said triumphantly.  “It’s at this burglar’s house then?”
“Yes, a Mr Baggins of Bag End in the village of Hobbiton,” Balin said with the air of one importing great and serious knowledge.  He sound amusingly similar to Bofur when he was spinning yarns for Vitr and Nyr, and Fíli had to work hard to suppress a grin.  Balin didn’t seem like a dwarf who would react well if he thought he was being made fun of.
“Thorin leaves for the meeting in two days, right?” Fíli asked when Balin turned to look at him.  “When are the company expected to leave Erid Luin to meet with him in the shire?”
“Sixteen days,” Ori answered eagerly, interrupting Balin, who didn’t seem all that bothered by the interruption, merely nodding to confirm what the younger dwarf had said.
“Very well, we have some time to decide then,” Fíli concluded.  “I’ll not be signing any contracts today Mister Balin, I need to talk this over with my family first, and I have an appointment at the tavern to keep.”
Fíli looked over to where Kíli was standing, looking more than a little bored as Glóin and Dwalin talked, and caught his eye, jerking his head in the direction of the exit.  Kíli smiled, sending another wave of warmth through Fíli’s core, and nodded his acceptance.
“Of course you need to talk it over with your uncles,” Balin said in what he probably intended to be an understanding tone.  “You can find me in the records chamber on the southeast passage if you need me.  It was nice to see you again, to see you here.”
“Glóin told me about the meeting when he visited the forge today,” Fíli explained.  “Otherwise I wouldn’t have known that the it was happening at all.”
Balin looked a little put out by that, but let Fíli make his goodbyes without protesting.  Kíli had managed to leave his own conversation and met him by the exit.
“Did you have a tavern in mind?” he asked, pushing his hair back from his forehead.  “I need an ale to wash that conversation out of my head!  I thought they would never shut up.”
“The Mithril Vein?” Fíli suggested, naming one of his own preferred drinking spots.
“Never heard of it so I’ve never been kicked out of it,” Kíli announced with a grin.  “Lead the way, nadad.”
The unexpected address stopped Fíli in his tracks and Kíli walked straight into his suddenly stationary shoulder.
“Sorry,” Kíli apologised hastily.  “Should I not have-?  I was just trying to, um…”
“It’s ok, I just wasn’t expecting it,” Fíli assured him.  I don’t, I’ve never, well, no, not never I suppose, but… it’s been a long time.”
“I’m not sure how to feel about it,” Kíli confessed as they started walking again.  “It’s something of a taboo topic, you know?  Because it make Ma cry, so I never seemed to get any of my questions answered.  And, well, I wasn’t expecting, uh, you.”
“My stunningly handsome face or my presence at all? Fíli asked, hoping to inject some levity into the conversation.  If he had said something similar to Litr she would have said that he was gross and punched him in the shoulder.  Kíli on the other hand, blushed a fetching shade of scarlet under his stubble and would only meet his eyes for a moment before he stared fixedly at the passageway ahead.
“Something like that.”
“I wasn’t expecting you either,” Fíli said honestly.  “I mean, I barely remember you, and I guess I haven’t really, well, after Litr came along the younger sibling niche in my life was sort of filled.  I’m sorry.”
The apology got Kíli to look at him again at least.  “What for?” the dark haired dwarf asked in astonishment.  “Don’t apologise, it’s not like either of us had much of a choice.  You were twelve for Mahal’s sake.  Who is Litr?”
“Uncle Bombur’s eldest, she’s seventy two and a songsmith.  She has two brothers, Vitr and Nyr, who are still finding their craft, although I think Nyr will probably end up making toys with Uncle Bifur.”
“Your family puts a lot of emphasis on craft, right?” Kíli asked quietly as they arrived at the turn off for The Mithril Vein.
“Well, we are descended from Narvi, and proud of it,” Fíli said, smiling.  “You are too you know, what about you?”  Kíli looked bleak, and Fíli frowned in concern, giving into the urge to reach out and grip the younger dwarf by the shoulder.  “What?  What did I say?”
Kíli shrugged awkwardly.  “I… I’m the heir now, so I don’t get much time for crafting,” he said sadly.  “I used to carve weapons, bows and arrows and slingshots, but then Thorin and Balin insisted on all these lessons in history and diplomacy and politics, and I don’t have much time to go into the woods and hunt any more.”
“That’s… I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault.”
Fíli shrugged.  “I feel a little responsible,” he realised.  “If our father hadn’t died, that would be me.  Being the heir, instead of a smith.”
“You’re a good smith though,” Kíli protested as they reached the bar and Fíli reached out to tap knuckles with Hepti, who was the main reason Fíli frequented the Mithril Vein in the first place.  “Glóin wouldn’t shut up about you this afternoon, I believe you’re making him some throwing axes?”
“Most promising smith in Khagal'abbad,” Hepti said cheerfully, the gold beads in his hair winking in the lamplight.  “Two of the usual, Fíli?”
“Yes please,” Fíli confirmed, but Hepti, it seemed wasn’t quite done.
“He made me this,” the firebeard said, handing Kíli a small dagger Fíli had made him before he turned to fill up a pair of beaten copper flagons.
Fíli sat nervously as Kíli’s dark eyes studied the piece.  Fíli had been pleased with it at the time, but he suddenly found himself worrying about Kíli’s reaction.  He needn’t have, for Kíli traded it for a foaming mug a few minutes later with an expression of awe.  “It’s beautiful,” he said to both of them.  “The balance is exquisite.”
“It’s my favourite,” Hepti confessed with a grin.  “I don’t think I’ve seen you in here before, Hepti son of Hanarr at your service.  Fíli nearly apprenticed with my Da, but smithing suited him better, as I think we can all agree now.”
“Kíli son of Dis,” Kíli said, reaching out to tap knuckles in greeting.
Hepti’s eyes widened in recognition and he glanced curiously at Fíli but didn’t comment.  “There’s a free booth in the back,” he said instead.  “I just wiped it down before you came in.”
“Thanks Hepti, appreciate it!” Fíli grinned, leading Kíli towards the back of the carved cavern that housed the main tap room of the tavern.
“He was nice,” Kíli volunteered as they say down.
“Family friend, well, the families are friends,” Fíli explained.  “Uncle Bofur is friends with his father.”
“I don’t know much about Father’s family,” Kíli admitted.  “We have three uncles, right?”
Fíli launched into a description of the current inhabitants of the family hall that he tried to keep succinct and interesting, although that was a challenge considering how many relatives were packed into the space.  Kíli seemed to be following along, sipping at his ale as Fíli talked.  Eventually running out of names - and spit - Fíli took a deep drought of ale to wet his throat and cocked an eyebrow at Kíli.  “I didn’t think we came here for a family history lesson,” he dared point out.
“I think the original purpose of the visit was somewhat derailed when we realised that we’re bothers,” Kíli replied, regret clear in his voice.  “Which is a damn shame because you have the most distracting dimple I have ever seen in my life.”
“I do?” Fíli asked, his grip tightening on his mug.
“Yup,” Kíli sighed.  “Right… here.”  He reached out a hand to touch Fíli lightly on the cheek, and his long fingers caught the blond’s attention for the second time that evening.  He wanted to reach up and catch them, see what they looked like threaded between his own sturdy digits.
“We’re not exactly brothers though,” he said before he could stop himself.  Kíli’s eyes widened as he snatched his hand back, but he looked more curious than hurt by Fíli’s hasty words, so the blond plunged forward.  “I mean, we didn’t grow up together, we don’t have the embarrassing knowledge or the… you know, it’s not the same.”
Kíli nodded slowly.  “I know what you mean, but we still share parents.  It’s not like we’re cousins.”
“I know,” Fíli sighed, taking refuge in the last half of his ale.  “It’s just that no one has caught my eye like this before, so I’m not used to dealing with the disappointment,” he admitted with a self deprecating shrug.  Kíli looked shyly pleased by the admission, which made up for the flush of embarrassment his confession had provoked.
“Me neither,” the dark haired dwarf confessed, biting his lip.  “Another ale?  I think it’s my turn.”
He had left the table with the empty flagons before Fíli had time to respond.
Fíli watched him go, weaving between the other dwarves in the tavern with ease.  Kíli was oddly graceful for a dwarf, he realised.  Perhaps he had slender, nimble feet to go along with his fingers.  Fíli shook his head hard, smacking himself in the face with his own braids.  Thinking like that would get him nowhere, Kíli was his brother after all, for all his heart didn’t seem to realise that.  His brain knew better.  
Still… he had always thought he would be craft-wed like his uncle Bofur when none of the young maidens had caught his eye.  Vitr had had a gaggle of young followers by the time he turned thirty and came into his full height, but Fíli had remained untouched by the urges that had seemed to plague his younger cousin.  It wasn’t like being craft-wed was unusual and it had barely warranted a comment at the dinner table.
Now, Fíli was beginning to realise with a sinking feeling in his gut, it was becoming increasingly obvious that he just hadn’t met the right dwarf.  Or hadn’t seen him in seventy years in any case.  Kíli turned with two ales in his hands and his steps faltered for a heartbeat when he saw Fíli looking at him.  Suddenly worried at what might be written across his face, Fíli sat back and did his best to look nonchalant.
“I got the same again, I think,” Kíli said as he slid Fíli’s tankard across the table.
“It doesn’t matter, everything they serve here is good,” Fíli assured him.  “Best ale in the blue mountains.”
“Makes me sad to be leaving so soon after finally finding it,” Kíli confessed.   “So, now that Balin has talked your ear off, what do you think about it?”
“The quest?  I’m not sure.  I know what I want to do right now, which isn’t quite the same thing.”
Kíli took a deep gulp of his ale.  “What’s that?” he asked, wiping foam from his top lip.
“To get to know you better,” Fíli replied, deciding that it was best to be honest.  “I’m not sure that it’s the best idea, but it’s what my heart wants.  As far as the quest itself goes, well, it sounds like a mad adventure and I’ll have to talk to my family about it.  And Master Thekkr, I’m still just a journeyman smith after all.”
“But you’re not an apprentice anymore, right?” Kíli checked.
“No, I did my ten years already,” Fíli confirmed.  “I could technically move on and start my own smithy, but, well I like Thekkr, I like working with him.  I guess I’m not that ambitious, and I know he plans to leave me the place when he retires, which I’m happy to wait for.”
Kíli was looking at him with something like awe shining from his eyes.  “You… you are so different,” he breathed in amazement.  “I mean, I like it, it’s just… different.  Thorin talks like regaining Erebor is the only thing worth living for.  His ambition… perhaps ambition isn’t the right word for it.  I just-”
“It’s ok, Kíli,” Fíli said, the name feeling heavy in his mouth.  It was the first time he had said it, he realised.  The first time in seventy years.  “Thorin was raised to be King of Erebor, it must be hard to contemplate finding a life elsewhere after such a start.”
“For him,” Kíli said, his dark eyes meeting Fíli’s own, filled with hope and desperation.  “Will you come?”
“I know I have no right to ask this of you, but will you come, on the quest?  For me?”
Fíli bit his lip, unable to look away.  “For you, I will try,” he promised.

Chapter Text

Family Tree



“Can I just say, I think this is a terrible idea,” Bofur said, puffing on his pipe.  “Going out into the wild on a mad goose chase.”
“It’s family though,” Skirfyr countered.  “Technically Thorin Oaken-whatever does have the right to call on Fíli for aid.
“That’s a load of mahumb and you know it!”
Fíli had found out quite quickly that his input wasn’t actually required for the argument to continue.  His family had all seemed to make up their minds that he wanted to go on Thorin’s fool quest when, removed from Kíli’s dark eyes and disarming smile, he wasn’t at all sure that he wanted to go traipsing over half of Middle-Earth.  The argument that had been raging off and on for the past day was almost enough to make him decide to stay home in Erid Luin just to prove them all wrong.
But then he would remember the way a pair of slender hands curved around a polished mug of ale and he would pause before the damning words fell from his lips.
Fíli didn’t really care about Erebor, it was a distant vision that was all very well to daydream about but in the cool light of day its significance seemed to fade.  Getting to know Kíli on the other hand, that was an intriguing prospect and one that constantly pulled at his attention, distracting him from the conversations happening around him.
'If he goes, I‘m going with him,' Uncle Bifur announced, his gestures sharp and to the point.
“That’s even stupider!” Bofur snapped.  “You can’t speak Weston any more, how do you expect to get on in the villages of men?”
'You could always come with me to translate,' Bifur suggested next, turning to Bombur with a raised eyebrow.
Fíli realised with a sinking feeling that his uncle was actually considering this.  First thing this morning Bombur had sided firmly with Bofur, but since his wife had spent all afternoon attempting to persuade him otherwise, it seemed that he was shifting his priorities.
“Are you serious?” he blurted out, wincing a little as all the dwarrows in the room immediately turned to stare at him.  “Erebor is a fools quest, for all that it is backed by Tharkûn.  Why would you leave your family?”
“To keep my family safe,” Bombur said seriously, reaching over with a heavy, work-roughened hand to pat Fíli on the shoulder.  “Many will travel for the gold in that mountain, those who aren’t too scared of the dragon.  But the only gold I need in my life is you, kidhuzurâl.”
“And if you succeed, well the gold won’t hurt,” Skirfyr concluded.
“You’ll need someone with you who will keep their head and pull back if the road becomes too dangerous,” Bombur said with a pointed glare at his brother.
“Very well, I get the message!  I suppose we’re all going then,” Bofur grumbled.  “Fíli, can you give the family weapons cache a going over?”
“Wait a moment for Mahal’s sake!  I haven’t even decided if I want to go yet!” Fíli protested, his words nearly drowned out by a heavy knock on the door.
“I’ll get it!” Vitr shouted, scrambling up from where he had been sitting on the hearth rug, listening to the conversation. 
It was Balin, stout and smiling with his hands tucked into his wide belt.
“Good evening, sorry to interrupt.  Balin, son of Fundin at your service.”
Fíli leapt up to lend his great grandfather his arm, Jari having grown stiffer and stiffer in recent years.  “Jari son of Nali at yours,” he said once he had stumped closer.  “What brings you to the hall so late in the evening?”
“Ah, well, I understand that two of your line were at the meeting called by Thorin Oakenshield yesterday at sundown.  Given the, erm, peculiar circumstances here we thought a visit might be in order to determine if any of the family would be joining us on the quest for Erebor?”
“We haven’t decided yet,” Fíli said, doing his best not to glare at Balin for interrupting the argument.
“If the lad goes, we go with him,” Bombur announced, pushing Bifur and Bofur forward.  “Can’t have him going into the wild with a bunch of strangers, he’s barely of age!”
“I’m eighty-two!” Fíli protested.  Jari patted him comfortingly on the arm, a knowing gleam in his eye as Bifur gestured sharply for him to be quiet, his eyes sympathetic above his greying beard.  Mahal’s beard but his family were annoying at times.
“Ah, I quite understand,” Balin was saying, nodding.  “I’ll be drawing up four contracts then?”
“Yes, you do that,” Bofur said, folding his arms across his broad chest.  “And we shall read them and then determine if we are to sign up.”
“Excellent, I’ll take my leave and leave you to your evening in that case,” Balin said with a pleased smile.  “You’ll have the contracts in the morning, I’ll send young Kíli around with them.”
There was a flurry of bowing, and then the white bearded dwarf was gone.  Fíli was helping Jari back to his preferred seat by the fire when Litr piped up and he had to suppress an irrational surge of panic.
“Who is Kíli? Is he handsome?”
“Boy-mad,” Skirfyr muttered.  “He’s your cousin, same as Fíli.”
“If he’s our cousin, how come he doesn’t live here?”
Skirfyr looked awkwardly at Fíli who stared back at her, not quite sure if he was supposed to say something at this point or let the adults explain as evidentially he was still considered little more than a dwarfling and not trusted to make his own decisions.  He was feeling a bit petty so he didn’t say a word even when Litr added her enquiring green gaze to her mother’s.
“Kíli lives with his ma on the other side of the mountain, just like you live with your ma here,” Bombur explained.  “Right now, I think it’s time we all went to bed.  Dawn will be here sooner than you want it too if you don’t watch out!”

Litr frowned.   "Why have they never come over for dinner?" she persisted.  "Do we have any other cousins we haven't met?"

"No, no, Kíli is the only one," Jari assured his great-granddaughter in his cracked voice.  "There was a big argument when Fíli came to live with us, and we all thought it best to stay away.  Now, where's my pipe, idùzhibuh?"

"Didn't it make you sad, great-grandfather?" Vitr asked, resisting his mother's attempts to get him out of his chair and into the bedroom.  “You always said that we make you happy, even when we’re making a mess.”

The room froze for a moment as they all waited for the answer, the adults glancing at each other with wary expressions.

"It did make me sad, nidoyith, and many hasty things were shouted that I would not have said, if I could speak the same conversation again."  Jari seemed to hunch into his leather chair, his thinning snow white hair caught in narrow braids around his ears.  Fíli realised with a pang of sorrow that soon he would return to the stone and uncle Bifur would be head of the family.  The knowledge softened the anger that churned in his gut over the way that his life had been derailed.  After all, decades had passed and he had been happy, he reminded himself.  Knowing Kíli now was far better than never having known him at all and carrying on his life unaware of the extent of the rift in his family.   

Jari shook his head slowly and smiled down at his great-grandchildren.  "Still, it seems that you get to meet young Kíli now, and that is something good, is it not?"

"Yes, great-grandfather," Litr and Vitr chorused.

"Time for bed!" Skirfyr insisted again, and this time they listened. 
They were halfway through breakfast when the expected knock on the door came, and Fíli made sure that he was the first out of his seat to answer it.  Kíli was standing on the other side, looking hopeful and a little sheepish and significantly less well groomed than he had at the meeting.
“Don’t let aunt Skirfyr see you like that,” he said automatically, reaching out to touch Kíli’s tumbled locks.  “She’ll attack you with a comb before you can say dragon.”
Kíli grinned at him.  “Sounds like a fate worse than death,” he joked, running a hand through his hair, which did almost nothing for the disorder.  Fíli found it charming, but he was beginning to suspect that he would find anything that Kíli did charming, no matter what it was.  It was a distinct possibility, he realised as he stared at his younger brother, that he was in trouble.
“Is that cousin Kíli?  Is he staying for breakfast?” Vitr shouted from his seat at the table.
“Would you like to?  There’s plenty,” Fíli offered awkwardly as Kíli mouthed cousin with a thunderstruck expression.  “C’mon, you might as well meet the rabble,” he decided, dragging Kíli into the room by his elbow once it became obvious that he wasn’t going to get a quick answer.
Bombur and Skirfyr had put together the usual spread for the family; thick sliced bacon and eggs with fresh baked bread and mushroom porridge.  He pushed Kíli into a spare seat and started piling a plate with a bit of everything while Vitr and Nyr bombarded him with questions. 
Skirfyr came out of the kitchen with a second pan of bacon and narrowed her eyes at once when she caught sight of their guest, but nodded when Fíli shook his head frantically at her.  Perhaps Kíli’s hair would be safe from her tender ministrations after all.
“Let’s have the contracts then lad,” Bofur said, dropping his fork onto his empty plate and pushing it aside.  “Better read and see what we’re getting into.”
“Uh, of course, um, Master Bofur,” Kíli said hesitantly, handing over a stack of parchment paper.
“Uncle Bofur to you I suppose,” Bofur said, and Fíli was relieved to see a twinkle in his eyes.  “The one with the axe is your uncle Bifur, and the father of the ill mannered brats who have been interrogating you is my brother Bombur.  We all owe you a coming of age present I reckon.”
“What?  No I don’t, I mean…”
“Shush up lad.  Never pass up a gift,” Bombur said from behind him, making Kíli start with surprise as the large dwarf leant over his shoulder to drop an extra fried egg on his plate.  “Eat up, you’re far too skinny.”
“You think everyone is too skinny, papa,” Litr said disapprovingly.  “I think cousin Kíli is just the right size.”
“Of course you do,” Fíli muttered in exasperation as Kíli froze like a startled deer.
“I told ma that I’d seen you,” Kíli said quietly, looking at him out of the corner of his eye as he buttered his bread.
“Did she cry?”
Kíli shrugged.  “It was a bit of an odd reaction.  You could have labelled it hysterical.  You’ve been invited to dinner.”
Fíli sat back and poured himself a second mug of tea as he contemplated how to answer the invite.  Kíli seemed to have already guessed that he wouldn’t know what to say, and rather than waiting he had already turned to Bofur and was asking him about the marble carving above the fire.
Fíli knew that he should agree, Dís was his mother after all for all that he didn’t remember her.  Still, a large part of him was unwilling to open that door, that had been so firmly closed for six decades.  He’d been of age for a dozen years, and until this week only Balin had actually made the effort to speak to him.  It wasn’t like his location had been a secret, and he had been a little hurt by their obvious decision to maintain the distance that had once been required by law once the law no longer applied.
Still, they were reaching out now, and Kíli seemed to be well worth knowing, even if his heart wanted to for all the wrong reasons.  If he didn’t go to dinner with Dís, he had a feeling that he would wonder about it, and it seemed even worse to actually go on the quest for Erebor without speaking with her.  That was, if he even went.
He was tempted to stay home if his uncles were determined to go with him.  What were they thinking?  Nyr wasn’t even ten years old yet, if something happened to Bombur on the journey he wouldn’t even remember him.  He decided to point that out to Skirfyr later; if he managed to change her mind first he’d have an ally in the argument, but not in front of Kíli.  
“Ok, I’ll come over for dinner,” he decided.  “Tomorrow?  I plan to work late at the forge tonight to make a start on Glóin’s throwing axes.”
Kíli nodded, a pleased smile stretching his cheeks.  “I’ll let her know.”

The following evening, having scrubbed himself pink in the family bathing chamber and unearthed his best tunic from the bottom of his clothing chest, Fíli followed Kíli’s reasonably accurate directions to the family hall that housed what was left of the line of Durin.  From Kíli’s grumbling, he had gathered that it was uncomfortably large for the three dwarves who inhabited it, but he wasn’t sure what else to expect.  He barely remembered his years living there, and his mother’s face had long since grown dim and blurred in his mind’s eye.
Kíli opened the door so soon after his knock that he suspected the younger dwarf had been standing on the other side.
“Thank Mahal,” Kíli gasped, reaching out to grip Fíli’s arm with one long fingered hand.  “She’s been insufferable, I thought I wouldn’t survive until you got here.”
“That doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence,” Fíli joked as he unwound his green cloak and hung it on the rack pegged into the stone wall.
“I’m sorry, I thought you were here to support me in this trying time, not the other way around,” Kíli teased with a wink.  “Come on, Thorin is in the main hall, brooding by the fire and ma is in the kitchen fussing in case her cooking isn’t acceptable or something equally ridiculous.  Although maybe it isn’t that ridiculous, thinking about it.  That breakfast uncle Bombur made was good.”
“Uncle Bombur loves cooking, it’s his craft,” Fíli pointed out as he was dragged down a passageway lined with chests and into the main hall.  Kíli hadn’t been lying, it was a large hall for only three dwarrows.  The floor was interlocking sheets of purple slate and the fireplace surrounded by green marble, an unusual colour in Erid Luin.  The emblem of Durin was carved just above the flickering flames and outlined in gold, the light picking out the angular lines in sharp relief.
As Kíli had indicated, sitting in a blue leather chair by the fire and looking pensive sat Thorin Oakenshield.
“Idmi, namadul,” he said solemnly.  “Mukhuh turgizu turug usgin.  It is long since your feet have trod in this hall.”
“Shamukh ra ghelekhur aimâ,” Fíli replied, a little taken aback by the Khuzdul, although the formal reply tripped off his tongue easily enough.  Any dwarf who lived in a hall with Bifur Bildrul became fluent as soon as they could; uncle Bifur told the best stories, once you were old enough and had studied enough to understand them.
Kíli pressed him into the chair facing Thorin and disappeared down a side passage with a muttered apology.  Thorin’s deep blue eyes were a surprise given his dark hair, but Fíli found himself thankful that his unfamiliar Uncle didn’t truly resemble his brother.  One crisis at a time was more than enough.
“You have grown well since last I saw you,” Thorin said after a long moment of silence, and Fíli was surprised to discern a thread of uncertainty in his eyes.
“Thank you,” Fíli said, biting back the more sarcastic response that had initially occurred to him.  “I’m afraid that I don’t remember you.”
Thorin nodded.  “I suspected as much.  Balin said that you were at the meeting, and Glóin speaks highly of your skill as a smith.  I understand that you are apprenticed to Master Thekkr?”
Fíli nodded, happy to fall into the familiar routine of small talk.  It was better than talking of the quest after all.  “For a score of years now.  I completed my journeyman piece the summer before last.  I understand that you also smith?  Mister Glóin mentioned it.”
“He did?” Thorin seemed surprised, his hand absently stroking down what was left of his poor shorn beard.  ”I did, for a time.  It was expected for the royal family to have some useful skill, and smithing served me well, in its way.  I would not say that it is my craft, however.”
“Do you have another, then?” Fíli asked, curious.
Thorin shook his head, staring into the fire.  “Statecraft was to be my calling, I suppose,” he said with a faint smile.  “Not that those skills are needed here.  My seat on the council is mainly ceremonial, a platitude extended by those who have never been far from their homes.”
There was the bitterness that Fíli had expected all along, but so far Thorin had been something of a surprise.  Perhaps this dinner wouldn’t be too bad after all, but there was still Dís to contend with.  Fíli was considerably less certain about seeing her - after all the absent uncle and the mother who never visited were on two different levels.
Swift footsteps down the passageway heralded her arrival and Fíli rose to his feet automatically.  Dís was a tall dwarrowdam, matched in height to Kíli although Fíli thought that Thorin would still tower several inches above them both.  Her dark hair, shot through with strands of silver, was caught in an elaborate nest of braids on top of her hair and caught by a shimmering mithril clasp with the house emblem picked out in sapphires that sparkled brightly in the firelight.  She had blue eyes like her brother, like Fíli himself, and they were wet with tears as she strode forward, her eyes fixed on him.
“Fíli, inùdoy, I can scarce believe that you are here,” she said in a rush, coming to a dead stop a short distance away as if uncertain of her welcome.  “I know… that is, I owe you an apology, I never-”
“Hello amad,” Fíli said simply.  As she stared at him with longing writ clear across her face, he hesitantly took a step closer.  Dís interpreted this as permission and swept him up in a hug.  Hugs were hardly unusual for Fíli even though the circumstances of this one were, and he managed to relax into the embrace as Dís clutched him tightly.
Kíli appeared at the end of the passage, a steaming dish of stew in his hands, and rolled his eyes, gifting Fíli with a sympathetic stare.  “Sorry!” He mouthed.
Fíli did his best to indicate with a mixture of pleading eyes and eyebrows that he needed rescuing, and after setting the hot dish down, Kíli did just that, joining the hug briefly, his slender body a line of warm fire down Fíli’s side, before using the gesture to pull Dís away.
“Dinner is ready amad,  Fíli has been working hard in the forge all day, we should feed him,” he said cheerfully as their mother wiped at her eyes.  
Thorin had already seated himself at the head of the table, apparently in charge of a stack of blue glazed bowls and the ladle, and Kíli rushed back into the kitchen for the bread.  The stew turned out to be venison, lightly flavoured with juniper berries.
“Kíli’s work,” Dís said proudly.  “He went out yesterday and found a fine young buck.”
“I thought you didn’t get much of a chance to hunt anymore?” Fíli asked as he took a warm bread roll from the basket.
“Special occasion,” Kíli explained, inclining his head with a grin.  “I have you to thank for the impromptu hunting trip, nadad.”  He glanced quickly at Dís after speaking and Fíli followed his gaze to find that her eyes had filled with tears again, although she seemed to be doing her best to suppress them.  Perhaps he was better off for her never having visited after all, the time would hardly have been cheerful if it was always full of tears.
“It’s lovely stew, thank you,” Fíli said, remembering his manners, and Dís lit up like the sun.  “It is?  Oh, I’m so glad.  Please, have another serving.”
“We don’t have venison often, at home,” Fíli explained, wondering if he did so if this was going to be a dangerous topic to touch on.
“I understand that Bombur Billingrul is a fine cook, Kíli was in raptures over his mushroom porridge yesterday,” Thorin said with an indulgent smile at his nephew.  It was the first time that Fíli had seen him look halfway happy and the difference was startling, he seemed like a different dwarf.  The blond was suddenly reminded of Uncle Frerin and felt a small lump form in his throat.
“If he joins the quest for Erebor then perhaps you’ll get to try it and see what I mean,” Kíli said cheerfully.
“Is that likely?” Thorin asked, looking steadily at Fíli.
“I’m not certain,” Fíli replied honestly.  “He has said that he will go if I do, in fact they all said that.  But I’m not sure if I will go, to be honest.”
“Of course you can’t go, you’re far too young,” Dís said automatically.
“But I’m going, and Fíli is older than me,” Kíli pointed out.
Dís frowned.  “You are not going,” she said sharply.  “We’ve been over this, Kíli.  You’ll stay here in Khagal'abbad and we will join Thorin in Erebor after the quest is complete.”
Fíli frowned at Kíli in confusion as Thorin rubbed at his forehead.  “I thought you were going?”
“He is,” Thorin said heavily.  “He is of age, and he is my heir, it is only right that he join us on the quest to regain our homeland, his birthright.”
'Talk about this later?' Kíli suggested in subtle iglishmêk and Fíli nodded his acceptance.  Perhaps they’d have an opportunity for a pipe after dinner.  Above their heads the argument between brother and sister raged on, and both younger dwarves applied themselves to finishing their stew before it grew cool.
They were still arguing when the bowls were empty and stacked in the kitchen.  Dís shooed her sons out of the space and thrust a towel into her brothers hands.  “You can help,” she said sternly.  “I’ve not yet finished with you.  It’s a fine night for a pipe on the balcony, and then perhaps we can talk a bit after the kitchen is clean?” she asked Fíli uncertainly.
It was easy enough to smile and nod and brush a kiss to the line where her dark whiskers met her pale skin.  He was dismayed when the gesture called forth a fresh round of tears and grateful when Kíli pulled him away.
The balcony in question turned out to be attached to Kíli’s room, which was the messiest space Fíli had ever seen.  “How do you find anything?” Fíli asked as he surveyed the chaos.
Kíli shrugged carelessly.  “I know where everything is,” he said with bravado, pushing open the door to what turned out to be a small balcony carved into the face of the mountain.  “So, she found out yesterday that Dwalin hasn’t actually been visiting you.  Next time you see him he’ll be sporting an impressive black eye.  She may have broken his nose.”

“She punched him?” Fíli asked, horrified and awed at the same time.  “In the face?”

“She did,” the younger dwarf confirmed, nodding cheerfully.  “It was quite something to witness.  Yelled about liars dishonouring the line of Durin and everything.  He was muttering about Dain of the Iron Hills having a better claim to the throne by the time she was done, and they never bring that up.”

“Wait who?  I thought you were the heir?”

“I am,” Kíli said with grim resignation.  “Dain has his own Kingdom to manage, and Thorin said that I was his choice and his choice is the only one that matters.  It’s not like there isn’t precedence for it.”

He opened the wooden storage box that doubled as a seat and pulled out a leather pouch and two pipes, offering one to Fíli, who shook his head and produced his own from his pocket.  Kíli grinned and packed his own pipe with practised movements before lighting it with a sulphur match.
“I didn’t realise that they disagreed over it, the quest to Erebor,” Fíli commented as he accepted the pouch of pipe weed.
“They didn’t” Kíli sighed, his eyes on the wooded slopes below.  “Not until uncle Thorin made it clear that he expected me to come.  She hit the roof, and they’ve been arguing for the past three days.  What’s it like at your place?”
Fíli shrugged.  “Much the same,” he admitted, admiring the way that the light breeze pushed the smoke to fall like a slow waterfall over the stone ledge of the balcony.  Dwarven engineering at its finest, you could see the way the air currents had been calmed by the carvings.  Whoever had made the halls had been skilled indeed.  “All three of them, Bifur, Bofur and Bombur are determined that I not be allowed to go by myself - when I don’t even know if I want to go!  And if I do it won’t be for the right reasons.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t want gold, or a kingdom,” Fíli explained.  “I like it here.  I’m not interested in travel or the danger and adventure that comes with it, all of which are respectable, dwarvish reasons to go questing.  No, the only thing that is making it hard to decide is you.”
Kíli looked shyly pleased at that, ducking his head forward and reaching up to tuck his hair behind his ear.  Fíli seized the moment and reached out to press Kíli’s strong, supple digits between his own work-roughened palms.
“I know it’s not right or proper,” Fíli confessed.  “But you at the reason I would join the quest to the lonely mountain.”
Kíli met his eyes fearlessly.  “I don’t care about right or proper,” he murmured, swaying even closer so that their hair, lifted by the air currants, began to mingle on their shoulders - dark ebony strands mixing with Fíli’s golden waves.  Fíli shifted to a one handed grip so that he could move his pipe out of the way and took a tiny shuffling step forward, closing the gap and feeling Kíli’s warmth seep through his tunic.
If he tilted his head up, their noses would brush as close together as they were, breath mingling and warming the slender space between their faces.
“People will talk,” Fíli warned him, trying to summon up some willpower but unable to make himself step back again.  Something in his chest, a half forgotten ache, settled and felt right for the first time in decades and the feeling was addictive, a warm, welcome weight on his heart.
“People always talk,” Kíli countered.  He reached up with his free hand and traced a finger down Fíli’s moustache braids, his pipe abandoned on the stone ledge.  The gesture made Fíli shiver, which Kíli seemed to take as an invitation to press further forward, moulding his taller form to Fíli’s broader frame.  Their boots slid together as Kíli slipped his knee between Fíli’s own and the whole evening seemed to freeze as Fíli’s mind struggled to process the new sensations, heat building low in his gut as strands of Kíli’s hair caressed his face.  He was right there, the smallest movement would have them kissing and Fíli was unable to move, unable to look away from the dark eyes piercing his own.
A loud crash sounded from further within the hall and they broke apart, stumbling backward with identical expressions of dismay.  Fíli shuddered, feeling chill all over and Kíli picked up his guttering pipe and frowned at it.  “That’s settled then,” he said as if in conclusion to some silent argument.
Kíli looked the picture of determination as he gestured with his pipe.  “We,” he said firmly, waving the stem between them for emphasis, “are going to Erebor, together.  Because Uncle Thorin will win this argument with ma, he always does.  But we’re not going to leave with everyone else.  That would be a disaster.”
“All right,” Fíli said uncertainly.  “Why a disaster?”
“We need to figure this out, whatever it is.”  Kíli slumped against the stone wall of the mountain and blew a pensive smoke ring.  “Privacy will likely be required.”
“All right.  So we leave together, just the two of us,” Fíli agreed.  “And meet up with the company when Thorin does, in this Shire place with the burglar?”  He still wasn't sure about the quest, but Kíli was right, and the thought of parting for months with no real hope of a reunion was worse than the thought of going.

Kíli nodded.  “It’s as good a plan as any.  I’m sure I can copy a map, Balin has heaps and he’s been on at me to practise.”
“You get a map and I’ll get provisions,” Fíli agreed, a little surprised at how easily the plan was coming together.  Of course, as soon as he started to feel confident, Kíli metaphorically tossed cold water down his back.
“Do you have a pony?”
Fíli shook his head slowly as his heart sank.  “I’ve never ridden,” he admitted, watching Kíli’s reaction carefully, but to his surprise his brother didn’t seem concerned.
“I can teach you, and we’ll take ma’s,” he decided.  “She won’t mind.  Well, she will but she’ll be more concerned that we’ve gone at all than that we’ve taken her pony with us.  Hopefully by the time we retake Erebor and she catches up with us, she’ll be so pleased that we’re alive that she’ll drop it.”
Fíli was happy to concede that Kíli was the expert when it came to Dís so he nodded his agreement.  “Ok, so you get the map and ponies, I’ll get food and weapons.  I know you’ve got your own bow, but I’d like you to carry a knife or two.”
“Knife lessons in exchange for riding lessons?” Kíli asked hopefully.
“All right.  When shall we leave?”
“Three days before everyone else.  We’re going to need the head start,” Kíli predicted with a grimace.

Chapter Text

It was a clear morning in the Blue Mountains when Fíli and Kíli prepared to leave their home for the first time.  The plan had come together with an ease that was almost worrying, and Fíli hoped that that didn’t bode poorly for the first leg of their trip.
He’d explained to their uncles that he was going on a hunting trip with his brother, to spend some time together before the quest separated them.  He thought that they’d even bought it, although Bifur had spent a lot of time making offhand comments about how it wasn’t too late to pack and change his mind about Erebor.
So, packing could be done openly, and if he’d packed slightly more travel cram than a two day trip really warranted, well, no one else was looking in his packs.  Kíli even managed to gain their mother’s blessing to take her pony, Dís being fully in favour of the idea of her sons spending time together.  Fíli thought that she was hoping that he would change Kíli’s mind about going, and felt bad about the deception.
The fake trip should give them a two day head start, before their families realised that they hadn’t arrived back as expected.
The shire was to the north-east of Khagal'abbad so they made a token attempt to avoid suspicion by taking the south-east road, into the deep woods where the Dunadain walked, travelling for half a day in the wrong direction.
“I think your stirrups need to be a notch shorter,” Kíli said as they dismounted to stretch their legs at noon.  “Try adjusting them and see how you get on this afternoon.”
“What if that makes them too short?” Fíli asked as he made the adjustment.  Riding Minty was a lot easier than he had expected, but it still used completely unfamiliar muscle groups and he knew that his rear would be aching for days before he finally got used to the movement.
“Then we make a new hole in the strap,” Kíli said practically, pulling out a bread roll and his copied map.  He spread it on a nearby tree stump as he took a large bite, shaking crumbs away impatiently.  “The shire is about ten days away, and we have fourteen to get there,” he concluded, estimating distances with his fingers.  “We can either push and spend a bit of time there, or take it easy on the road.”
“Let’s see how it goes?” Fíli suggested.  “It’s a nice enough time to travel right now, but if the weather turns we’ll want to take shelter if we have the option.  Have you been to the Shire before?”
“We skirted around the edge on one of the trips I’ve taken with Uncle,” Kíli said, folding the map again.  “It’s a nice place.  Very fussy residents, not all that used to dwarves but generally polite, if reasonably suspicious.”
“Better or worse than men?” Fíli asked around a grunt as he hefted himself back into the saddle.
“Oh, better,” Kíli assured him as he swung up next to him, making the movement fluid and graceful compared to Fíli’s own clumsy efforts.  The blond hoped to be half as practised by the time they reached the Shire.  “I’d take a Hobbit over a Man any day.  The rumour is that they eat seven meals a day!”
“Seven?” Fíli blinked in amazement.  “That’s ridiculous.  They must be very small meals.”
Kíli shrugged.  “Not sure, but some of them are more than a little round, like a prosperous dwarf.  Ok, there’s a trail coming up on the right, it’ll take us the whole way to the Baranduin and we can follow that to the Shire.  It’s a bit of a roundabout route, but it lessons the chances of seeing the main group as they’ll take the road to Michael Delving, past the ruins.”
“Sounds good to me,” Fíli grinned, nudging his pony forward.  “Lead the way, nadadith!”
They spotted an outcrop of sandstone a short walk from the path as the sun began to hang low in the sky and made a beeline for it, hoping for a cave or at the least an overhang to shelter under for the night.
Their luck was good; a large water-worn crack had formed between several large boulders and they were able to picket the ponies to a nearby tree and warm their small campsite with a fire built on a patch of sandy ground.
“Do you travel much, with Thorin?” Fíli asked as Kíli spit roasted a pair of rabbits he had shot during the afternoon.
“Fairly often,” Kíli said, his eyes on their slowly blackening meal.  “He does a lot of travel up and down the mountain range, speaking with the different settlements.  I think the dwarves who originally came from Erebor have scattered a bit in the mean time and he tries to keep in touch with them all.”
“Seems like that would make it harder for them to integrate,” Fíli commented, poking at the fire with a thin stick until the end ignited in clear yellow flame.  He looked up to find Kíli staring at him expectantly.  “If he keeps on reminding them that they’re from Erebor, wouldn’t that make it harder for them to think of Erid Luin as home?”
Kíli nodded.  “Most of them seem to welcome him though, at least to his face.”
“Of course they do,” Fíli muttered, giving up on his stick and consigning it to the fire.  “How about you?  Do you think of it as home?”
Kíli chewed at his lower lip as he turned the rabbits carefully.  “I’ve never known another,” he said eventually.  “But… uncle and ma have always been clear that Erebor is our home.  Which is hard to accept, because I’ve never seen it.  Still, I’ve always felt that something was missing, and maybe it won’t be missing at Erebor.  That’s what I hoped anyway.”
Fíli levered himself to his feet and took the four steps around the fire to slump down next to his brother.  “You’ll figure it out,” he said as confidently as he could manage, patting Kíli on the shoulder.  “Maybe Erebor will be a homecoming for both of us.”
“The thing is,” Kíli whispered softly.  “I think maybe I already found the missing thing.”  He turned his head slowly to look Fíli in the eye.  “You.”
Fíli smiled at him, holding his gaze until the uncertainty on Kíli’s face gave way to a pleased hopefulness.  He reached up to tuck a strand of soft hair behind Kíli’s ear and leant forward slightly, unable to stop his smile from widening as Kíli mirrored the movement.  Seated like this on the uneven ground, they were almost the same height, most of Kíli’s additional inches being in his legs rather than his torso.
“There’s no going back,” he whispered, tracing his thumb over Kíli’s smooth bottom lip.  “Are you sure?”
“I’ve been sure for days,” Kíli replied breathlessly, closing the rest of the distance and pressing their lips together.
The kiss started as a chaste press of lips, softly moving and exploring the new sensation.  Fíli’s eyelids fluttered closed as Kíli’s arms reached out to wrap around his shoulders.  He felt warm everywhere, like he had dipped into a hot spring, and nothing had ever felt more right as they pressed together like an interlocking carving.  Fíli parted his lips, reaching out to taste and Kíli inhaled sharply, cool air hissing between them.  He tasted of clear spring water and fresh, green herbs and Fíli’s nose was filled with the sweet scent of dry pine needles.
Arms entwined, Kíli slowly sank back until Fíli was pulled half on top of him, tracing his tongue lightly over the imprint of his teeth in his lower lip.  A low groan rumbled through his chest as Fíli settled his weight, half on his elbows not wanting to crush the slender dwarf.  Everything was warmth and pressure and Fíli found himself frustrated with his clothes, wanting to feel smooth bare skin under his hands instead of the leather coat clutched in his fingers.
The fire crackled as the meagre fat from the rabbits dripped down and Fíli drew back slowly, dropping his head to press it against Kíli’s collarbone.  Kíli dropped his head to the sandy ground, bringing one hand up to idly trace along Fíli’s braids.
“That answers that then,” he said to the starry sky.
“Answers what?” Fíli asked, shifting up to look him in the eye.  His nose was right there, so he gave into the temptation to press a kiss to the end of it, causing Kíli to go cross eyed.
“Whether you want me,” Kíli answered with a soft smile.  “I wasn’t sure.  I mean, on the balcony I thought you did, and we made all these plans, but then after…”
“That was never in question,” Fíli spluttered, sitting up and reaching down to pull Kíli with him.  This seemed like the sort of conversation that they should both be upright for.  “I wanted you the second I saw you in the meeting,” he confessed.  “I only stayed as long as I did because I wanted to talk with you.”
“But then you found out that we’re brothers,” Kíli pointed out.  “That changed things, and I know what you said in the heat of the moment but I was worried, worried that you would change your mind once I wasn’t in front of you.”
“I didn’t change my opinion that you’re the only dwarf I’ll ever want in my bed,” Fíli said boldly, belatedly realising that his unwillingness to discuss this in while they were still in Erid Luin had left Kíli uncertain.  “I was resigned to being craft wed before you, you know.  And if,” he swallowed around a sudden tightening in his throat, “if you decide that you don’t, don’t want… well, I’ll be craft wed again.”
“Mahal, Fíli,” Kíli breathed, before pouncing and pressing their lips together for the second time in a series of quick butterfly kisses.  Fíli let the momentum of Kíli’s leap roll them backwards, enjoying the weight of the younger dwarf as it settled between his hips.
The flames crackled again and Fíli opened a reluctant eye to find that they were in danger of burning their dinner to the point of being inedible.  “Food’s burning,” he said, pushing himself up with his elbows.  Kíli moved easily with him, rolling to the side and to his knees to deal with the spit.
“I think this is about done,” he agreed.  “Get the salt butter, at least it doesn’t have to be bland.”
They nibbled the seasoned rabbit meat from the thin bones in silence.  Every time Fíli looked up, Kíli seemed to be already staring at him and they shared a smile before turning back to their food.  They tossed the bones into the fire along with the charred skewer and settled down with their backs against the fire-warmed stone.
“Sing me a song?” Kíli requested, packing a small plug of weed into his pipe.  “Something about travelling.”
“You’ve been talking to our cousins,” Fíli grumbled as he took a swig from his water skin.
“They speak very highly of you,” Kíli told him.  “Made me a little sad to tell you the truth.  I feel like I missed out.”
“Alright, I suppose this is one childhood experience it will be easy enough to make up for,” Fíli sighed, searching his memory for something appropriate.  He decided on one of the history songs their great-grandmother had favoured.  It wasn’t usually taught in Erid Luin so he suspected Kíli had never heard it.
At break of day we find our way
The road winds on from hall to hall
With lowering sun the day is done
At moonlight rise the barn owls call
Oh Silvertine! 
Once I walked your halls, and called them mine.
At break of day we move away
The distance grows from hall to hall
Toward the sun the rivers run
At Mahal’s call soft sleep will fall
Oh Cloudyhead!
Beneath your grey slopes sleep our dead.
At break of day we lost our way
The fire spread from hall to hall
Like burning sun, fire, foe, run!
There was no way to save them all
Oh Redhorn cruel!
For treasure bright we delved and brought our doom.
At break of day we find our way
The road winds on from hall to hall
With lowering sun the day is done
At moonlight rise the barn owls call
The last note faded away, the sandstone they lent against offering little resonance.  Fíli accepted the pipe Kíli handed over with a nod of thanks, filling his mouth and lungs with the fragrant smoke and blowing a smoke ring that was quickly disrupted by the fire.
“I hadn’t heard that one before,” Kíli said after Fíli had handed the pipe back.
“Our great-grandmother used to sing it, a little piece of family history that I thought you should hear,” Fíli explained.
“Thank you.”  Kíli knocked the last of the embers from his pipe into the fire and tugged his blue hood over his tangled hair.  “I feel like I’ve missed out on so much,” he grumbled.
“Well, it’s not like you’re an old dwarf already,” Fíli teased him, reaching over to his pack to pull out a comb.  “You have plenty of time to catch up.  Come here, you can’t sleep with your hair in such a state.”
He coaxed Kíli into sitting in front of him so that he could work the comb through the snarls in his hair.  “Would you like me to braid it for you?” He asked as he carefully worked his way up through the strands.
“I have a clip,” Kíli said, so quietly Fíli had to lean forward to catch the words.  “It just never stays in properly, and then it tugs at my hair and hurts.”
“I’m pretty sure I can do something about that,” Fíli promised as he patiently unpicked what turned out to be a twig.  He unravelled the two braids that Kíli wore behind his ears and passed the mithril beads to his brother for safekeeping while he worked.  “I feel like I’ve seen those before, not sure where though.”
“They were Uncle Frerin’s,” Kíli said, cupping them in his palm.  “Although he wore them in his beard, like you do.”
“Oh, his moustache braids?  That’ll be where I remember them from them.  I confess, he was on my mind when I chose this style,” Fíli said, his fingers working through the braids as his mind marvelled at the sheer softness of Kíli’s hair.  Dwarrow hair was typically coarse and curly, no wonder he had trouble getting braids to stay.  “One day I’ll have a mithril set of my own, but for now my beads are silver.  The family has a stockpile of mithril jewellery, but it gets shared out from oldest to youngest rather than the other way around.”
“Father’s people are from Khazad-dûm, so I suppose it makes sense that they have mithril.  In Erebor, Balin said that it was reserved for the Royal family only,” Kili revealed.  “Probably because they had to trade a great deal of gold with the dwarves of the Dwarrowdelf to get it.”  He passed the beads back when Fíli tapped on his shoulder, and reached into his pocket for the clip.
“Don’t worry about the clip for now, I’ll see about setting it for you in the morning,” Fíli said, giving into his impulse to embrace Kíli from behind, his smooth hair tickling his cheeks and catching in his beard.  “It might jab you in the skull in the middle of the night and it’s going to be hard enough getting a decent night’s sleep as it is.”
They spent the night  cuddled together by the glowing embers of the fire, sharing a few sleepy kisses before dropping into sleep.  The lands around Erid Luin were considered to be reasonably safe, so they’d decided not to sit watches in favour of getting as much sleep and covering as much distance as possible.
Two days later, after the sun had burnt off the morning mist, they came across a deep pool shaded by a stand of weeping willows.  They expected to reach the Baranduin later that afternoon, but the lure of the cool water was too much to resist and they shed their travel worn clothes with whoops of delight.
The water was stained golden with tannins from the dropped leaves and twigs, but it was cool and refreshing with a bottom of mixed sand and slate.  Fíli and Kíli swam a little and instigated a splash war before settling down to the serious business of washing first their clothes and then themselves.
The golden sunlight streamed down through the supple branches of the willows, casting a dappled light over Kíli’s pale skin as he stood in the shallows working a bar of soap into a lather.
“Want me to wash your back?” the younger dwarf offered, raising a suggestive eyebrow.  The thought of his slender hands sliding over wet skin was enough to cause Fíli’s cock to twitch against his thigh, apparently undaunted by the cool water that surrounded it.
“All right,” he agreed, trying for causal although he suspected that the flush on his cheeks gave him away.
Kíli slid through the water smoothly, a predatory smile hovering at the corner of his mouth.  Fíli tensed despite himself at the first touch, but soon melted as Kíli’s strong fingers dug into his knotted shoulder muscles.
“Your back is a work of art,” the younger dwarf murmured as he pressed his hands down either side of Fíli’s spine.  “I want to trace your muscles with my tongue, and then roll you over to give your front the same treatment.”
“Sounds… sounds good,” Fíli gasped, biting his lip as Kíli pressed his own soapy front to Fíli’s back, his hands slipping under Fíli’s arms to caress down his chest, leaving a trail of slippery bubbles behind them.
“May I?” Kíli whispered into his ear, prompting a shiver as his fingers teased the crease at the top of Fíli’s thigh.  Fíli looked down to see his own cock, flushed and ready, breaching the surface of the pond.  He nodded in acceptance and watched as those slender fingers moved, scratching through his curly blonde hair before curling around him.  His hips twitched reflexively - it felt so good, nothing like when he stroked himself - and he couldn’t help but let out a moan as an unmistakeable silky hardness pressed into his cleft.
“Shit, sorry,” Kíli muttered, the water ruffling and splashing as he shifted his stance.
“Don’t be sorry,” Fíli begged.  “I want you to.  Please?”
Kíli moved back in a rush, prompting a small wave of water that submerged Fíli’s cock for a moment and made him twitch at the dual sensations of warm fingers and cool liquid.  He lent back into his brother’s embrace and boldly pressed his hips into Kíli’s crotch. 
Kíli muffled his own groan into Fíli’s shoulders as he started to move his fingers, dancing the pads along Fíli’s length in a delicious tease until he reached the sensitive tip before providing a firm circle for Fíli to thrust into.
“Not going to last long,” Fíli warned him.  Kíli’ response was to reach up with his other hand and pinch lightly at Fíli’s nipple.  “Want, ah!  Want to return the favour,” he said, twisting his head around as far as he could.  
“Turn around then,” Kíli suggested taking a half step back and pulling at Fíli’s shoulder.
It was far from the most graceful manoeuvre as they splashed through the waist deep water, but all thoughts were scattered from Fíli’s mind like autumn leaves when he turned and looked upon his lover, dark eyes blown black with arousal as he gripped Fíli by the hip with one hand and drew their wet erections together with the other.
“Oil might be an idea if we pass a village,” Kíli muttered as he wrapped his long fingers around the both of them together and gave an experimental pump.  “Oh Mahal’s balls that’s good.”
Fíli stretched up and moulded their lips together, twining his own blunt fingers through Kíli’s dark hair as he traced the seam of his lips with his tongue, breathing heavily through his nose.  A knot in his gut was pulling tighter and tighter and he knew that he couldn’t last long, but he wanted to fall of that ledge together so he held on as best as he could.
Then Kíli added a twist to his movements and the thread snapped and Fíli groaned into his brother’s mouth as he came in pulsing waves over his hard cock.
He rested his forehead on Kíli’s shoulder to help him keep his balance - and give himself a birds eye view - as he batted his narrower hand away and replaced it with his own.  The difference was instant, Kíli’s body snapping as tight as his bowstring as he began to let out little broken moans with each stroke.
Fíli slowed down a little, wanting to prolong the experience, and because Kíli unexpectedly whimpered when he realised what was happening, his body straining for release.  Still, he didn’t voice a protest, instead accepting whatever Fíli choose to do.   Recovering from his own near religious experience, Fíli licked a possessive kiss into Kíli’s mouth and let go of his cock altogether to roll his sensitive stones in the palm of his hand.  He pressed two fingers firmly behind his ballsack and Kíli nearly knocked both of them over as he thrust mindlessly into the air.
“Like that, do you?” Fíli broke the kiss to ask.
“Y-yes, I… oh please!”
“Please what?” Fíli asked, dipping his head to lick a broad swipe over Kíli’s nipple.
“Please I… oh I don’t know!” Kíli whined, twisting under his hands. “I want to come but I don’t want to stop.”
“Then come, and we won’t stop,” Fíli promised, his own cock in favour of this plan.  He wasn’t sure he had ever really softened after his orgasm and his erection was throbbing in time to the beat of his heart again.  He wrapped his fingers loosely around the base of Kíli’s cock, mindful of his rough callouses, and pumped quickly, watching in awed arousal as Kíli arched his back and came like a fountain in a single long stream within five strokes.
Abandoning himself to instinct, Fíli dropped to his knees in the water and licked up the white ejaculate beading on the tip of Kíli’s cock.  He knew it would be sensitive, probably too sensitive for comfort, but he just wanted to taste, and as the salty flavour filled his mouth and as he swirled around for more, he realised that Kíli was letting him, the hands on his shoulders clutching close rather than pushing him away.
He pulled back a little to check in, finding Kíli’s dark eyes already fixed on his face.  “Is this ok?  Too much, too sensitive?”
“Sensitive, but good,” Kíli assured him breathlessly.  “Almost too much, but I - but I like it.  I’ve done it before, to myself.”  The thought of Kíli stroking himself to orgasm and then teasing himself through the aftershocks made Fíli’s reach down and palm his own straining erection as the arousal shot through him.
“I’d like to watch you do that, one day,” he confessed.
“I think that could be arranged,” Kíli said flippantly, closing his eyes in bliss as Fíli closed his lips around his flushed erection.  He explored it gently with his lips and tongue, noting what made Kíli sigh and what made him shiver.  He reacted particularly well to fingertips caressing his stones as Fíli sucked on the tip, his pleased wail startling two pigeons from their roost in a nearby tree.
Eventually the water became more of a hinderance than a help and the two took themselves to dry off on a grassy bank near to the ponies.  Kíli’s skin glistened in the sunlight as he straddled Fíli’s hips and lent down to nibble and lick at his nipples, his wet hair falling in wavy tendrils around his face.
“I want,” he whispered into Fíli’s ear, “to taste you.  May I?”
Fíli claimed his lips in a possessive kiss and then fell back onto the warm grass.  “You may,” he confirmed.  Kíli wriggled his way downward, studied Fíli’s erection for a long moment and then grinned wolfishly before taking him into his mouth.  It was like nothing Fíli had ever experienced before, his brief exploration of Kíli earlier not having prepared him in the slightest for being on the receiving end.  Kíli sucked and swirled his tongue as his long fingers reached up to tease Fíli’s stones with light touches until he couldn’t tell where the pleasure was coming from anymore, only that it felt good.  The pressure built, but he did his best to hold on, until Kíli switched from his balls to the sensitive skin behind them.
“Kee, I’m going to!” he managed to gasp in warning.  Kíli hummed his acknowledgement and the new sensation tipped Fíli over the edge.  He did his best to keep his hips still and avoid choking his lover but it was hard when all he wanted to do was thrust forward into the warmth of Kíli’s mouth.
Coughing a little, Kíli sat back on his heels with a self satisfied expression on his face and a dripping erection pointed at the sky.  “Not bad for a first time, if I do say so myself,” he commented, giving himself a lazy pump.
“Give me a minute and I’ll return the favour,” Fíli promised as he caught his breath.  
“Um, I’d actually like to… well, straddle your face,” Kíli confessed, his hand stilling on his cock as he looked at Fíli with uncertain eyes.  “Would that… may I?”
Fíli tucked one hand behind his head and gestured for his brother to come closer with the other.  “Let’s try it,” he agreed.  “If I don’t like it, I’ll say something I promise.”
It took a little manoeuvring and Kíli nearly knelt on his hair by accident, but before long Kíli was braced on hands and knees over Fíli’s head, his smooth cock laying heavy on Fíli’s tongue as the taste of his excitement flooded his mouth.
“Ooooh Mahal and Yavannah, can I move?” Kíli groaned, twitching against Fíli’s teeth.  “This isn’t going to take long, I’m too close.”
Remembering how it felt, Fíli hummed his assent and Kíli grumbled an incoherent curse as he thrust gently, obviously trying not to go too deep.
Fíli was enjoying himself.  His cock lay, sated and slightly sticky, against his thigh, which meant that he could give his full attention to Kíli, who was trembling slightly as he slowly worked his cock between Fíli’s lips.  Giving pleasure was a heady kind of power, he realised, reaching out with his free hand to trace his fingertips across the bare skin he could reach.  Kíli groaned, deep and low in his chest as Fíli palmed the round globe of his arse.
“So close,” he gasped, thrusting a little faster although he still trembled with the effort of holding back.  The taste in Fíli’s mouth grew stronger and he flicked his tongue across the head as Kíli withdrew, wanting more.
Kíli wailed and juddered forward, his cock pulsing against Fíli’s tongue as he came for the second time that morning, Fíli choking a little as it hit the back of his throat.  Still, he kept his hand pressed against Kíli’s arse, not wanting him to withdraw and ruin his own orgasm.
Kíli rolled to the side after a long moment, quivering in every limb to Fíli’s satisfaction, and the two dwarves lay in the sun warmed grass and contemplated the blue sky.
Soon enough they would have to dress and start moving, packing their damp clothes or perhaps draping them across their saddlebags like miss-matched barding, but for now it was enough to just exist, side by side on a warm summer’s day.

Chapter Text

The sprawling expanse of the Shire was easy to find, a rich country with loamy soil folded within the arms of the downs.  The village of Hobbiton was less so.  A lot of the crossroads were signposted, which was helpful, but they quickly found that the roads twisted and turned in unexpected ways, and although the residents were polite enough, they weren’t exactly friendly.
There was plenty of wild country to camp in without disturbing the hobbit farmers, of which there seemed to be an uncommonly large number, and there were plenty of mushrooms and early berries to scavenge to add to their dwindling supplies of road food.  Still, Fíli had hoped for a series of comfortable inns and a hot bath to soothe his aching legs, for although he was now a significantly better rider than he had been at the start of the journey - and Kíli’s knife work had improved to the point where he was sparring more than instructing - he still had a long way to go before he was completely comfortable spending all day in the saddle.
They eventually made their way the correct village, a picturesque place with a water mill and an inn that was happy to serve them and knew of Tharkûn, although the hobbits all called him Gandalf.
“I wonder how many names he has?” Kíli said idly as he packed his pipe with a variety of weed the hobbit behind the bar swore was the best in the Shire.
“I think the Elves have a different one for him, although I’m not sure what it is.  M-something, maybe.  How’s the leaf?”
“Packs nicely,” Kíli said approvingly.  “Pass me your matches, let’s give it a go.”
They were sitting on a carved wooden bench outside the inn for their post-dinner smoke, as Hobbits seemed to smoke outside in general, and it was a practise that the two Dwarves were happy to take up.  It was a habit shared by a lot of Dwarves after all, particularly those who lived in the more poorly ventilated halls deeper in the mountain, not wanting to smoke themselves out of their own rooms or offend their dwarrowdams.
“Did you ask Mister Proudfoot about Mr Baggins when you got the ale?” Kíli asked, taking a swig from his tankard.  It was also wood, and very prettily carved with an acorn motif.  There seemed to be far more wood than metal in the shire, for a folk that carved their homes underground like sensible folk, but then perhaps there hadn’t been a whole lot of iron in the ground.
“I did, he said it was across the water, over there,” Fíli gestured with his mug.  “I think the hill in question is that nice high one with the lights winding up it?  Ah, something about being shot?  Batshot row I think he called it.  Walk up the row and you come to the hill and then the hobbit hole in question has a green door.”
“Gandalf will have marked it somehow, I expect,” Kíli said, puffing on his pipe.  “This is rather good leaf.  I will go to the market and get another pouch or two in the morning.”
The two dwarves smoked and drank late into the evening, and as a result of that - and the comfortable beds that the hobbits provided - they slept rather later than they intended, waking just in time to eat a hearty lunch of vegetable soup, rabbit pie and bread, and almost missing the market entirely.
“Shit, that’s Balin,” Kíli hissed as they were leaving the tobacco stand.  They ducked behind a large display of pumpkins and cabbages to consider their options.  Dwarven boots made a very distinctive sound in a village where most of the residents chose to go barefoot as a matter of course - and what large and hairy feet they were! - and it was simple enough to crouch and listen until the thudding footsteps moved on.
“Are you all right?” asked a bright voice.  Fíli looked up to find a golden haired hobbit peering down at them between two pumpkins.  “Are you in trouble with the other dwarves?”
“Avoiding relations,” Kíli said promptly with a sunny smile.  “I’m sure you understand.”
The hobbit winked at them.  “I certainly do,” she confirmed.  “Esmeralda Boffin, at your service.  Hide behind the pumpkins for as long as you like.”
“Fíli of the house of Narvi and Kíli of the house of Durin, at yours,” Fíli said with as much dignity as he could muster given the situation. 
“If you could tell us when they’ve left the market, that would be supremely helpful,” Kíli added.
Esmerelda nodded her acceptance and took up station to the left of the cart, her full skirts concealing them from the rest of the row.  “What brings dwarves to Hobbiton?” She asked quietly, smiling at a group of young hobbits who bounced past, talking excitedly in high voices.  “We don’t get many, begging your pardon.  Not around here.”
“We’re to meet at the house of a Mister Baggins, according to Thar-Gandalf,” Fíli quickly corrected himself.
“I’m sure it was Boggins,” Kíli disagreed.
“There are both Bagginses and Bogginses in the Shire,” Esmerelda said unhelpfully. 
“Well, it was Bag End, I’m sure of that,” Fíli said firmly.  “Balin said so, in the meeting.”
“You’re probably right,” Kíli agreed.  “I have long been practised in tuning him out.”
Esmerelda giggled behind her hands.  “As entertaining as this is, master Dwarves, the market is now clear and there is nothing stopping you from being on your way.  If it’s Bag End you’re seeking, it’s the other side of the water.  If you hurry, you might just make it at tea time.”
Knowing that, if Balin had also chosen to stable his pony at the Inn, he would immediately recognise Myrtle and Minty, Fíli and Kíli made their way over the bridge by the mill as quickly as they could.  It sounded like Bag End was a fair distance away from the village, although perhaps tea and dinner were two separate things in the Shire?  They did supposedly eat seven meals in a day after all.
The lane continued on and up, cut through a patchwork of green fields, one of which contained a beautiful mature oak tree. As they rounded a corner they spotted the familiar figure of Balin ahead of them, stomping up the hill.
“Hide!” Kíli hissed, dragging Fíli behind a prickly hawthorn hedge.
“Wasn’t Balin in favour of us coming on the quest?” Fíli complained as he untangled one of his braids from a persistent thorny twig.
“Not the point,” Kíli said in a fierce whisper.  “Keep your voice down!  We’re completing the first part of this journey alone and I don’t want him spoiling the end of it!”
He looked so adorably put out with a frown divot between his eyebrows and his lower lip protruding a little that Fíli gave into the urge press a quick kiss, first to the end of his sharp Durin nose and then a second to his lips.
“We won’t have much privacy for a while,” he explained when Kíli raised a quizzical eyebrow at him.
“You never know, we could develop a passion for gathering firewood together,” Kíli suggested before kissing him back.
“How long before Balin gets far enough ahead do you think?”
Kíli peered around the edge of the hedge.  “He’s walking really slowly, we’ll be here ages,” he complained.
Fíli shook his head at his short-sightedness and looked around, pulling Kíli a few steps down the hill to a secluded bank covered in wildflowers and busy honeybees who probably belonged to the yellow hives he could see two fields over.
“Might as well make the most of the time we have,” he said cheerfully as he pushed Kíli down to kiss him amongst the flowers.


They reached Bag End as the sun set, painting the land in shades of red and gold and the sky in streaks of orange and purple.  Tharkûn's rune shone blue against the green painted door of the Hobbit hole at the top of the hill.
“This must be the place!” Fíli said as he pushed open the wooden gate.  “He has a lot of flowers in his garden, doesn’t he?”
“But is it Baggins or Boggins?” Kíli fretted.  “Esmerelda was lovely but she didn’t really help solve our disagreement.
“I’m sticking with Baggins,” Fíli decided.  “The sign on the letterbox says Bag End, after all.  It would be silly for the hobbit to be named Boggins and live in a place called Bag End.”
“All of the hobbit names are ridiculous,” Kíli argued.  “I’m still not sure.”
“Well you’ll have to make a snap decision when he opens the door in about a minute then, won’t you,” Fíli teased, reaching out to knock.
The door swung open to reveal a bright passageway paved with brown tiles and a flustered hobbit in a yellow waistcoat with a tumble of honey coloured curls on his head and feet.
“And Kíli-”
“At your service!” they said in chorus, bowing together.  The hobbit gaped at them and Fíli rolled his eyes as Kíli pushed past him into the home, cheerfully mis-naming the hobbit he was sure was named Baggins.
It turned out that Dwalin had arrived as well, and both of the elder dwarves seemed unsurprised to see them, putting them to work moving tables and chairs together in the long passageway that wound through the hill.  It seemed that the hobbit hadn’t been set up for visitors at all, let alone a large party of dwarves, and Fíli wondered if perhaps Tharkûn had told him the wrong day entirely as he ran back and forth with his cheeks flushed and his curls in disarray, apologising and fussing over the placement of the furniture.

There was a moment of awkwardness when he was alone with Dwalin in the pantry, the remains of the black eye Dís had given him still faintly visible underneath his tattooed skin, but after a moment of the burly dwarf staring menacingly at him as he shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, he realised what must have happened.

“You had no idea how to introduce yourself, did you?”

Dwalin grimaced.  “Aye.”

“And the longer it went on, the worse it would have been to do so?” Fíli asked, wanting to confirm his theory.

“Aye.  I… I’m sorry laddie.”

Fíli frowned at him.  “I thought they didn’t care, you know.  Because no one visited after uncle Frerin.”

Dwalin paled dramatically, the bruising standing out around his eye.  “No, no never that,” he gasped.  “I just… you were so happy, lad.  And I… I’m not good with dwarflings.  I scare them.”

Fíli nodded.  “And later?”

Dealing shuffled uncomfortably.  “Thorin doesn’t know how to let things go,” he said in a rush.  “It was better that he thought you wanted nothing to do with him.  You didn’t remember living there after all.”

Fili picked up a platter filled with meat pies and a jar of pickles.  “All right,” he said.

“All right?” Dwalin echoed hesitantly.

“Your reasoning seems… you were trying to protect me,” Fíli struggle to explain.  “I… accept that you were trying to act in my best interests.  I hold no grudge.”

Dwalin huffed out a relieved sigh and added a jar of jam to Fíli’s stack.  “Thank you Fíli.”

“Can’t help you with the rest of the family, sorry.”

Dwalin scoffed at that.  “I fight my own battles,” he declared. 
Fíli was biting into a rather delicious meat pie when there was a hammering at the door and the five of them froze for a moment before the hobbit pattered off to answer it.  Fíli had an odd feeling of dread settle into his stomach as he considered who might be on the other side of such an impassioned knock.
His gut turned out to be more prophetic than previously suspected as shortly after the hobbit vanished down the passage a roar split the air.
“Is he here?  I’m going to throttle him!”
“Another ale, Balin?” Kíli said quickly, gathering the half full mugs and beating a retreat into the pantry.
“Traitor!” Fíli hissed after him. Dwalin patted his shoulder with a heavy hand.
“Time to face the music lad,” he said unhelpfully.  “Thorin will be pleased to see you at least.”
“I don’t think it’s Thorin at the door,” Fíli protested, slipping out from behind the table as his uncles rounded the corner.  As he had expected, they pulled him into a group hug before Bofur shook him by the shoulders so hard that his teeth rattled.
“What were you thinking, heading into the wilds alone?” he demanded as Bifur patted him on the back.  “You don’t know the first thing about bushcraft!”
“I wasn’t alone,” Fíli said, meeting Kíli’s eyes as the younger dwarf peered around the pantry doorway.  “And Kíli knew enough for both of us.”
“I might have known you had everything to do with this mad plan!” Bofur growled, rounding on Kíli who pushed a mug of beer in front of him defensively.
The move disarmed Bofur, who on being presented with a full mug did the only sensible thing and accepted it.  It was a lot harder for him to play the offended party with foam in his moustache and a properly wetted throat after all.  Kíli handed the other mugs to Bombur and Bifur for good measure, and retreated back into the pantry for more.
By the time he emerged again Fíli had managed to get them seated at the table with full plates in front of them and the lecture seemed to have been postponed for now.
The hobbit settled onto a stool in a corner of the passage and nibbled on a scone, watching with wary eyes as the dwarves ate.  Fíli kept an eye on him, worried that they were somehow offending their host.  He looked around the table, seeing that everyone was drinking deeply and clearing their plates with every sign of enjoyment and wondered what was troubling the hobbit.  The dwarves were making it as clear as anything that the feast was appreciated.
Another knock on the door sent the little chap running for the door again, to return with five more dwarves and Gandalf, who towered over all other people’s present and had to keep on ducking to avoid the chandelier.  They now numbered fourteen and were waiting only for Thorin, and Fíli and Kíli were sent further into the hobbit’s home in search of more chairs.
“Well, that could have gone better,” Kíli muttered as they looked into a room that smelt strongly of pipeweed and found a padded leather bench.  “This will do for two of us, right?”
“Let’s see how heavy it is.  It could have gone worse,” Fíli grunted as he lifted on end.  “It’ll move easily enough, it must be hollow.  “It was a nice move with the ale.”
“I panicked,” Kíli confessed.  "Our uncle Bofur has quite a glare on him. And then I thought Dwalin might thump me for giving away his ale like that."
“Bombur will have adopted you as an extra child by the end of the evening, and Bofur will follow suit,” Fíli predicted.  “Ask his opinion on the food or something.  And uncle Bifur already likes you, he was the first one who wanted to come on the quest.  How’s your Khuzdul?”
“Better than my Iglishmêk, I’m not a very good scholar,” Kíli confessed.
“I suppose we have a better incentive to learn it in our hall,” Fíli mused as they carried the bench back towards the party.  “Uncle Bifur tells the best stories, once you’re fluent enough to understand them.”
“Kidhuzurâl, you must try this cheese,” Bombur said as soon as they’d returned, reaching out and pulling Fíli onto the seat next to him.  “Kíli, you too my lad.  You’re growing dwarrows after all.”
“Kidhuzurâl?” Kíli mouthed as he obediently sat and accepted the plate that Bombur had put together for him, piled high with cheese, crackers and slices of crisp apple.
Fíli shrugged, his mouth full of delicious sharp cheese.  “Family nickname,” he said once he’d swallowed.  “That is good cheese, uncle.  What else have you found that’s worth trying?”
“The pies are most acceptable,” Bombur told him, passing him a slice.  “This one is pork and a fruit called an apricot, which I have not come across before.  Our esteemed hobbit host tells me that they grow on trees.” 
He waved the hobbit over, an engaged him in a conversation about the orchards in the shire, which seemed to settle their twitchy host in a way that the others hadn’t quite seemed to manage.
Fíli finally managed to catch that his first name was Bilbo, which he had been wondering about since their bungled introduction at the door.  Little Bilbo was extremely knowledgeable about things that grew and he wondered if that was his Craft, or if Hobbits even had Crafts.
Finally all the food was gone, and after a spirited cleaning session in which Bofur unbent enough to instigate the washing up song he had made up when Fíli and Litr were young - with a few additional lines in honour of the occasion - Fíli was about to suggest an after dinner smoke when a loud thudding at the door heralded the arrival of his missing uncle and it was time for business.
Thorin seemed unsurprised to see Fíli and Kíli sitting together next to Bombur, but there was a pleased glint in his eyes all the same.
“Your mother is not all that displeased about Minty, namadul,” he said, nodding to Balin as he accepted a bowl of soup and a bread roll.  “I think she had her suspicions as soon as you announced the trip.”
“We had clear skies and smooth roads, uncle,” Kíli said quietly.  “And a chance to be brothers, before the quest started.”
“It is a chance that none should begrudge you,” Thorin said with a small smile.  “I’m pleased that you have had this chance to travel together.  Now, to business!”
Gandalf brought forward a map and a key, and Fíli’s suspicions about their host were confirmed - Tharkûn had given him very little information indeed and the hobbit wasn’t at all decided about going on this quest.  The wizard seemed to see something in the soft little creature that Bilbo himself didn’t, and although he seemed to puff up a little in response to Thorin’s dismissive attitude, Fíli was certain that he wouldn’t get on at all well in the Wild.
He wasn’t all that impressed with his uncle’s treatment of their host and thought hard about saying something in Bilbo’s defence, but uncle Bifur caught his eye and shook his head sharply so he sat back and listened instead.
It turned out that Thorin wasn’t the uncle that he should have been worried about after all, as it was Uncle Bofur who caused the little creature to pass out.  Typically, that meant that Bilbo now had friends for life in Bifur and Bombur, who were grateful for this new transgression to remind their relation about at every reasonable opportunity.
“They’re going to be talking about this when we’re all white haired and creaky,” Bofur predicted gloomily, having decided that Fíli’s company was the lesser of two evils.
“You didn’t all have to come,” Fíli muttered, knowing that he wasn’t likely to get another chance to make his feelings known.  Bofur cuffed him lightly on the back of the head.
“Couldn’t let you go wandering off across Middle Earth with a bunch of strangers, even if you are related to a few of them.  Someone has to come along and keep an eye on you young ones, and you know Bombur’s terrible on his own.”
“I don’t understand,” Kíli said plaintively, taking a biscuit from the plate in the middle of the table.
“Basically our uncles have a strangely co-dependant relationship, and as soon as it was certain that one of them was coming, it was inevitable that they all would,” Fíli sighed.  In truth, he wasn’t all that upset that they had decided to come along, although he wasn’t especially looking forward to the inevitable nagging.  Bombur was the best cook in all of Erid Luin after all, ask anyone, and Bifur and Bofur were both strong, capable dwarves.
“So, you’re family,” Bofur was saying gruffly, his eyes on Kíli.  “Our missing nadadul.  Guess that means that I should come up with a nickname for you as well.”
“Er… I… ok?” Kíli agreed, turning pleading eyes onto Fíli who shrugged.
“Unless you already have one?”  Bofur asked, taking a sip of his third ale.
“Well, sometimes they used to call me kurkarith,” Kíli said quietly. “But not for a while now.”
“Well, that’s nonsense,” Bofur said seriously.  “A nickname is a nickname for life, unless it’s changed for something better.  Fíli will be kidhuzurâl until he’s old and white and his beard reaches his knees, and even then if I’m still around I’ll still call him that.”
Kíli grinned.  “I’m glad to have met you,” he said honestly.  “I… you’re very different from Ma and Thorin, and I begin to realise why I didn’t always quite fit sometimes.”
Bofur reached out and ruffled Kíli’s dark hair.  “It’s nice to meet you as well,” he said.  “Bifur and Bombur feel the same, but then Bombur always was a soft spot for young ones, it’s why he has so many of his own and is planning on more.”
“What does Skirfyr have to say about that?” Fíli asked, taking a cookie.
“Oh, she wants a big family too,” Bofur confirmed.  “I think it’s half the reason why she married him to be honest.”
“Everyone into the parlour,” Balin called.  “Our host has taken to his room, and we shall play a little music to round off this pleasant evening.”
“If Mr Baggins is trying to sleep, shouldn’t we be quiet?” Kíli asked.
“Shut up and sing,” Dwalin growled, pushing Kíli ahead of him into the parlour.

Chapter Text

Fíli was astonished when, after passing out the previous evening and proclaiming his distaste for adventure when he came to, the hobbit came racing after them with a pack on his back and the contract clenched tight in his fist.
Still, it indicated either hidden depths or the sort of foolishness he could get behind, and he was determined to be nice to the fourteenth member of their company.  He and Bofur sandwiched the uncomfortable Baggins between them, Bofur going as far as to rip his shirt once Mr Baggins realised that he had forgotten to pack a handkerchief.  Kíli was up at the front, riding between Thorin and Balin - the latter seemed to be doing his level best to talk his ear off - so Fili couldn't include him in his mission to make the hobbit more comfortable, and he had no wish to hear of the joys of Erebor, or whatever it was that Balin was going on about.  
Every now and again Kíli cast a wistful look back over his shoulder, but Fíli stood firm against his pleading eyes.  He was busy talking to Bilbo, and they had realised before they had arrived at Bag End that they wouldn't get to spend much time together on the road - and that had been before Bifur, Bofur and Bombur had descended.
“Should we teach him some Iglishmêk?” Bofur asked in an undertone.  “Just in case Bifur wants to talk to him?  He’s noticed that our metal-impaired relative doesn’t speak Westron.”
“Does he want to learn it?” Fíli countered.  “You and I know that Bifur is the best of us really, but to outsiders he’s a rather wild looking dwarf with his braids out of order and an axe in his head.”
Bofur cocked his head to one side as he considered his cousin.  “I still think it’s worth asking,” he decided.
“I never said it wasn’t!” Fíli protested.
“What are you talking about?” Bilbo asked.  He was still sitting in the saddle like a sack of flour, but he seemed to have gained enough confidence to pay attention to more than Daisy’s ears.
“Uncle Bifur doesn’t speak Westron,” Fíli explained. “We were wondering if you wanted to learn Igli-uh, gesture speak?  In case you needed to talk to him.  Or him to you.”
“Bifur is your Uncle?” Bilbo frowned.  “I thought Thorin was your Uncle.”
Fíli sighed.  “He is.  I actually have four uncles on this trip, and I’m related somehow to Balin and  Dwalin as well, but I grew up with Bifur, Bofur and Bombur in the family hall.  They’re technically my father’s cousins.”
“Oh I see,” Bilbo said nodding seriously.  He noted Fíli’s sceptical look and wrinkled his nose at him.  “I’ll have you know that Hobbits have extremely large and complex families with as many as twelve fauntlings to a couple, as well as multiple generations living in the same smial.  I can cope with your Dwarven ancestry well enough!”
Fíli held up his hands.  “I believe you!”
Bofur, grinning cheerfully under his beloved travelling hat, swooped in to rescue him and change the subject.  “So, are you interested?  In learning the gesture code?”
Bilbo looked around at the quiet woods.  “Well, it would be something to do I suppose.”
Fíli peered up to the front of the line as a thought occurred to him.  “Do you think Thorin will mind us teaching someone who isn’t a dwarf?”
Bofur shrugged.  “It’s not like we’re teaching him Khuzdul.” 
It turned out that Thorin did mind, and the bellow that split the camp when he saw Bilbo make the gesture for ‘thank you’ when Bifur handed him his luncheon ration startled Kíli into tripping backwards over a log.
“Who amongst this company has dared share our ways with an outsider?!” He demanded.
“We did,” Bofur said defiantly from his seat next to Fíli.  “And Bilbo Baggins is not an outsider, he is a member of this company. Signed the contract and everything.“
“How dare you?” Thorin demanded, stomping across the camp to loom over Bofur.  “You had no right!”
“Last I checked, Iglishmêk didn’t belong to the line of Durin,” Bofur said calmly.  “I asked if he wanted to learn, to talk to Bifur, and he accepted.”
“He has no business learning it!”
”He’s a liability if he can’t understand all other members of the group,” Fíli pointed out.  “Now if we’re in a situation where we’d normally use Iglishmêk, we won’t have to speak to him and potentially give ourselves away.”
“You stay out of this,” Thorin snarled at him.  “You are not part of this discussion.”
“I am,” Fíli countered him.  “I helped teach Bilbo, I wanted him to be able to speak to uncle Bifur as well.  It might not have been my idea, but I supported it.”
Kíli was shaking his head behind Thorin’s back, but Fíli stood firm next to his uncle.  He wasn’t going to let Thorin, he who would be King under the Mountain, intimidate him and it was best that his relative learnt that early on.  It wouldn’t take them too long to journey back to Erid Luin from where they were camped after all.
Bombur’s familiar bulk appeared, solid against Fíli’s back.  “You discuss something with one of us, you take it up with all of us,” he said quietly.  “Better you learn that now.  We didn’t answer your call, you know.”
Thorin took a step back, his eyes wide and confused.  “What?” He breathed.  “Then why did you come?”
Fíli felt the familiar pressure of two hands landing heavy on his shoulders and he stood tall under their support.
“For Fíli,” Bofur said simply.
“Kidhuzurâlê,” Bifur added, coming up beside his cousins.
Thorin looked so taken aback that Fíli would have smiled if the situation hadn’t been so serious.  He had made some pretty speeches around the table in Bag End about loyalty and their company being worth more than an army, but now he was realising that nearly a quarter of the group had their own agenda.  Perhaps Fíli should let him know that he had come for Kíli, not for Erebor or for him?  
“I need to think on this,” Thorin announced before Fíli had finished deciding, spinning on his heel and striding away.  “Move out!  We have a lot of ground to cover!” He bellowed to no one in particular.
“Mahal’s Balls,” Kíli swore as he dashed over.  “That could have gone better.”
Bofur shrugged.  “Best he knows now, when it’s still easy to turn back,” he said lightly, echoing Fíli’s earlier train of thought.
He makes a lot of assumptions,” Bifur growled in khuzdul.  “Not a good trait in a king.
“Maybe if we’d both grown up in his halls it would be different,” Fíli shrugged, reaching out to brush leaves out of Kíli’s hair.  “Perhaps Erebor and his ideals would be more important to me.  Maybe our uncles wouldn’t even have come, who knows.”
Kíli looked thoughtful as they mounted the ponies and set out after Balin and Thorin.  Bilbo was riding next to Bombur, talking about cooking, and Dwalin had his pony a half length behind Thorin so the pair didn’t see the harm in riding together for the afternoon.
“I feel like I’ve missed out,” the dark haired dwarf confessed, looking at Myrtle’s ears.  “I’m not sure if I want you to have grown up with me, or for me to have grown up with you.”
“You definitely want to have grown up with me,” Fíli said cheerfully.  “Our father’s family is just that - a family.  Maybe if Thorin had unbent enough all three of you could have moved into the Family Hall, we could have excavated a few more chambers, the rock is solid.  Then you would know all the tales of Khazad-dûm, and you would practise your craft and be happy with the life in Khagal'abbad.”
Kíli looked stricken rather than reassured, which was not what Fíli had been going for.  “You were happy in Erid Luin,” he whispered. “And now you’re here, miserable and arguing with Thorin, and it’s all because of me!”
“Hey now, no, no Kíli, kurkarith, that’s not right!  I chose to come on this quest.”
Kíli rubbed a hand over his face.  “Because of me.”
“No, because of me,” Fíli said sternly.  “Because of what I wanted, what I still want.”  He dropped his voice to a whisper in case one of the others was listening in.  ”You wake parts of me that have always been sleeping, my whole life.”
“Me too,” Kíli confessed, gifting him with a shy smile although his eyes were still troubled.  Fíli longed to reassure him properly, but hugging was hard when the two people in question were riding ponies and slipping off into the woods would be severely frowned upon, so he had to fall back on words.  Words had never really been his strong suit.
“I’m sorry that us coming on the quest has made you feel like this,” he tried, feeling that an apology wouldn’t go amiss.
“It’s not your fault,” Kíli replied automatically.  “It’s just a little tricky, to see what might have been.  You’re so… easy with them, you know?  And the way that they pull around you as a family it’s… it’s something new to see.”
Fíli chewed on his lip, wondering how to respond to that.  His first reaction was to dismiss the observation, as he didn’t think that there was anything all that unusual - lots of Dwarrow families acted as his did.  But that wasn’t the real point, was it?  The point was that Kíli’s didn’t, and he was suddenly seeing a possibility that he hadn’t even known about before.
“You should go ride with Uncle Bifur,” he decided.  “Ask him to tell you some tales of Khazad-dûm.  Tell him that I sang you the three peaks song and that you’d like to know more about the family history.”
Kíli looked at him in confusion.  “But I…”
Fíli decided that subtlety could roll down the mountain for all he cared and lent across to take Kíli’s hand, thanking Mahal that he’d tightened Minty’s girth adequately before they’d set off, as the saddle lurched under him at the movement.  He tucked Kíli’s slender fingers between his own and squeezed gently.  “We can’t change the past, the currents of time are too strong, but we can take action now.  You’re wistful for a childhood that you didn’t receive, so regain it now,” he urged.  “Talk to our uncles, learn the family history that they deem important.  I promise you, none of it mentions Erebor so you won’t be bored.”
“But what if he- uncle Bifur doesn’t want to be bothered?” Kíli asked.
Fíli laughed at the thought, pleased when the sound caused Kíli to smile as well.  “Uncle Bifur, pass up the chance to tell a story?  Never!” he declared.
Once Kíli was riding next to Bifur and the rumblings of Khuzdul filled the air around them, Fíli turned his attention to the next problem on his list.  Thorin.
He tentatively kneed Minty forward, relieved when she obediently picked up her pace.  By the time they reached the Misty Mountains he might even resemble a proficient rider, he reflected with relief.
Thorin and Dwalin had been deep in conversation, but they fell silent as he approached, watching him with carefully blank expressions.  “I would have words with my uncle,” he said to both of them, hoping that that would be enough for Dwalin to drop back and give them some privacy.
Thorin and Dwalin exchanged a long look, before Dwalin nodded and urged his pony forward to ride beside his older brother, currently consulting one of the many maps he had in his saddlebags.  Fíli found that he had decidedly mixed feelings about the privacy he had hoped for.  He had no idea how to start.
“What did you wish to speak about?” Thorin asked once the silence had stretched for a few uncomfortable minutes.
“I feel that I should be honest with you,” Fíli managed, keeping his eyes on the horizon rather than looking at the most intimidating of his relations.  “And yet I am afraid that this honesty will cause you pain.”
They had the same eyes, he realised as he turned to look at Thorin.  A deep blue, like the sky as it darkened from sunset into night.  It was striking, seeing that colour in the midst of Thorin’s dark braids.  Nothing like Kíli’s eyes, which were a warm brown that reminded Fíli of polished walnut.
“I would always wish my nephews to be honest with me,” Thorin told him.  “Do not concern yourself with my pain.”
“You are family,” Fíli corrected him gently.  “Your pain is my pain.”
Thorin looked taken aback by that, and Fíli caught another glimpse of what Kíli’s childhood must have been like.  No wonder he looked at Bifur, Bofur and Bombur like they were intriguing puzzles that he wanted to play with.
“I know little of Erebor,” he said, figuring that it was better to start at somewhere close to the beginning.  “Narvi and their creations are honoured in our halls, and the old songs we sing are songs of Khazad-dûm.  We don’t - I mean, Khazad-dûm is lost to Durin’s Bane.  We do not talk of regaining it, not after loosing Grandfather and his brothers in Azanulbizar.  I was happy with my life in Khagal'abbad.  I found my craft, and I had my family around me.”
“So why did you come?” Thorin rasped.  It sounded like he was doing his best not to be accusatory, but Fíli flinched regardless at the pain and confusion in his question.
“For Kíli,” he said simply.  “For the brother I don’t remember.  Because 'family are important' is the first lesson that I was taught.  For you, in part, uncle I don’t recall.  Can I tell you a truth?”
“I remember uncle Frerin.  I keep on hoping to see him in you,” Fíli said quietly.  “But glimpses come rarely.  You tilt your head the same way when you listen, did you know that?”
Thorin shook his head.  “I shall tell you a truth in return," he said hesitantly.  "I see him in you, and it makes my heart ache for the day when we are reunited in Mahal’s halls.  I hope in time to see you for yourself, Fíli, not as a shadow of my nadadith.  Perhaps if you had not gone to live with your father’s kin things would be different.  I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry,” Fíli replied, daring to reach out and press his hand to Thorin’s arm.  “I had a wonderful childhood.  I was happy, I am happy.”
“I saw you every day, when you were small,” Thorin told him, a strange nostalgic smile playing across his lips.  “You could light up a room with your laugh, and Frerin made it his duty to make you laugh long and often.  Ûrzudith, we called you, Ûrzudithê.  Once you had left for the halls of your father, our hall was a darker place.”
“Why didn’t you visit?” Fíli asked, the question that had been playing on his mind bursting out before he could help himself.  “After uncle Frerin died, why did no one else come and see me?”
Thorin hung his head.  “I… there is no excuse,” he said bitterly.  “Dis, she could not bear the thought of seeing you only to leave you again.  And I… I was so uncertain, for Frerin had always been your favourite and I was worried that you would not recognise me, and I could not bear the thought that… so Dwalin offered, and each month he came to the door to tell us that you were well and happy and growing into a fine Dwarf.  We had no idea that he wasn’t actually speaking to you, you know.”
Fíli shrugged.  “Until Balin came to talk to me, I thought you’d all forgotten me,” he said honestly, looking into Thorin’s pained eyes.  “It’s all right, I had family, it’s not like I was an orphan begging in a corner like those children in the villages of men.  Not that that would ever happen to a dwarf.  Or a hobbit, it seems.  Which brings us back to the original question - Mr Baggins.”
Thorin frowned.  “I do not like it, but I understand why you did it,” he said stiffly.  “I should be thanking you for seeing the strategic opportunity, I suppose.”
Fíli laughed at him, despite himself.  As Thorin turned to stare at him with an awestruck expression he laughed harder, doubling over in his saddle.  Ahead of them Balin and Dwalin halted their ponies for a step, but Thorin gestured them forward as Fíli continued to chuckle, grasping at his reigns.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  It’s just-  you know that I haven’t been taught strategy and politics and whatever else you’ve been stuffing Kíli full of, right?  The strategy thing was an argument I came up with on the spot when you were shouting at Uncle Bofur, it wasn’t why I did it.”
Thorin bristled with outrage, but the grin on Fíli's face seemed to soften his anger.  He took a deep breath and resettled his reigns, running the brown leather through his hands.  “Then why did you do it?  Share the secrets of our people with an outsider?”
“A member of this company, Uncle,” Fíli reminded him.  “Not an outsider.  And I did it, well, because uncle Bifur deserves to be able to communicate with everyone he travels with, even though I know he can’t be understood by everyone he meets.  He was the first of us to really want to come, you know.”
But Thorin was frowning back down the line, to where Kíli and Bifur rode side by side, the older Dwarf talking animatedly in Kuzdul as he wove whatever tale he had decided to tell.  Kíli was obviously fascinated, his lips parted in a delighted grin as he hung on every word.
“He’s a storyteller?”
“The best,” Fíli said firmly.  “Perhaps you should get to know the dwarrows in this company, Uncle, as you’re leading us.”
Thorin gave him a sharp look, before reaching out slowly, giving Fili time to duck, and ruffling his golden hair.  “Perhaps I will, nephew,” he said, a small smile quirking the corner of his mouth.  “You give good advice.”
On the third day out from Hobbiton they made camp for the evening by the tottering remains of a farmhouse.  Fíli and Kíli volunteered to watch the ponies as the other dwarrows put the camp together, eager for a bit of privacy after several long days in the saddle.
They finished brushing them down quickly, sending each to a grassy meadow on the edge of the forest once they were done, thankful that each dwarf was in charge of their own tack so they only had to worry about the baggage ponies and their own.  Fíli drew buckets of water from the well to fill the collapsible leather trough they used when there wasn’t a stream nearby, leaving Kíli to see to the last three ponies by himself.
They both completed their tasks at roughly the same time, and settled down at the edge of the woods to watch the ponies graze happily, tearing up large mouthfuls of lush green grass.  They were careful to pick a spot hidden from the main camp by an out of control bank of berry bushes, falling down side by side with happy sighs.
“It’s not that I don’t like travelling with the others,” Kíli said in a low whisper.  “Having help sharing the chores is good, but oh the arguments!”
“Is it as bad when you’re playing caravan guard?”
Kíli shrugged, his shoulder brushing up against Fíli.  “Yes and no,” he said after a moment of contemplation.  “Fewer arguments, but the gossip is just as bad.”
After one last careful look around to ensure that their only witnesses had four hooves, a mane and a tail, Fíli rolled over to pin his brother between his elbows.  “Gossip, huh?” 
Kíli grinned and wriggled a little, grinding their hips together.  “Gossip,” he confirmed.  “Who pissed off the caravan master on the last route, who has a problem with their ale, who is screwing who.”
“Hmmm, the last one sounds interesting,” Fíli growled, bending his head to capture Kíli’s soft lips with his own.  Kíli’s hands wrapped around his arse, pulling them together from chest to knee.
“I’m afraid I didn’t pay all that much attention,” Kíli gasped between kisses.  Fíli could feel him, hard in his breeches, and he wanted to touch and to taste.
With a second quick glance around he moved his hand south, cupping his fingers over the bulge at Kíli’s groin and massaging firmly, catching the resulting moan with his lips.
“Shhh,” he cautioned, one hand working at the laces.  “Is this all right?”
“So all right,” Kíli gasped in a broken whisper.  “Mahal, Fíli, touch me please!”
Fíli finally got the infernal laces loose and dipped his hand inside his brother’s undergarments to wrap his calloused fingers around steel sheathed in silk.  Kíli bit at his lips as he started to gently pump.  “I’ve wanted you all day,” he confessed, rubbing his thumb over the tip.
“I’ve wanted you since Bag End,” Kíli groaned.  “Not… not going to last long.  What about you?”
“You just lay back and enjoy it,” Fíli instructed, looking down to see the flushed head of Kíli’s erection emerging from the tangle of cotton and leather.  “Can you be quiet?”
“Yes,” Kíli whispered.
Fíli shifted in the long grass, turning so that his head was in Kíli’s lap. Long fingered hands sank into his hair as he took Kíli’s length into his mouth and started to suck, tasting cotton and musk.  He was hard and leaking inside his breeches, but that mattered less than Kíli’s muffled mewls and groans as he worked the younger dwarf towards his peak.  Soon Kíli was thrusting into his mouth, little aborted movements as he did his best not to hit the back of Fíli’s throat and make him choke, and the blond knew that it wouldn’t be long.  He palmed himself though the leather of his trousers and groaned, low and long at the sensation.
The vibration tipped Kíli over the edge and he spilled in Fíli’s mouth with a series of stuttering jerks, one hand over his mouth to muffle any noises.
Feeling more than a little satisfied despite his insistent erection, Fíli pressed soft kisses and small licks to Kíli’s spent erection, drinking in the small shifts and gasps of overstimulation as he softened under his touch.  “I want you to stoke me,” he whispered as he smoothed Kíli’s undergarments back into place and tugged at his laces.
“Mahal, how did you get to be so perfect?” Kíli whispered back, pushing Fíli onto his side.  The older dwarf went willingly, spreading his legs a little as Kíli’s dark eyes looked over him approvingly, catching on the straining bulge between his legs.  “My turn.”
Kíli made short work of Fíli’s laces, shoving his breeches down to the top of his lightly furred thighs to expose his hard cock, freed to spring up and point to his navel.  He traced his fingertips lightly over the head, his bowstring callouses sending sharp jabs of sensation through Fíli’s groin.
“Kíli, please?” Fíli breathed.  “Stroke me, I want to feel your fingers surround me.”
He watched in fascination as Kíli did as he requested, wrapping one hand around his hard cock and the other around his stones, rolling them in his palm.  The dark haired dwarf’s narrow hand made his own thick cock seem longer than it did in his own grip, and he enjoyed the visual as Kíli pumped, slowly at first and then gaining speed as Fíli began to leak.
“I love the way you grow wet under my hands,” Kíli whispered into his ear as he swirled a single fingertip around Fíli’s slit.  Fíli groaned, low in his throat as his hips twitched under the sensation.  Kíli abandoned his tease of his balls in favour of wrapping one hand around the back of Fíli’s head to guide him into a passionate kiss as his other hand worked around Fíli’s erection.
Already worked up from the previous blowjob, it wasn’t long before Kíli’s clever fingers had Fíli spilling onto the grass as Kíli’s tongue pressed into his mouth.  
They lay together quietly for a few minutes, content to just exist together and breathe, before reality intruded in the form of a cool breeze and prompted Fíli to set his clothing to rights as Kíli tied his laces and looked around.
“Uh, Fíli?  I think some of the ponies have wandered of.  There are only six in the meadow.”
“Maybe they wandered into the trees?” Fíli suggested, climbing to his feet and looking around.  “They wouldn’t have gone far from the herd.”  He scanned the tree line and thought he spotted movement behind a large oak tree.  “Over there, I think.  Let’s go get them back.”

Chapter Text

After spending half the night tied up in sacks that reeked of rot and offal and several hours combing through a troll hoard, the entire company was in desperate need of a bath - the hobbit most of all having been used as a troll’s handkerchief.
“There is a river a short distance away,” Gandalf assured them once Dori’s complains had begun to cause Fíli to contemplate the pros and cons of gagging him.
There was a mutual agreement to detour to the river to clean off and refill the water skins, the water from the farmer’s well now being considered suspect given its proximity to the trolls.
“It will take us no more than an hour out of our way,” Gandalf assured a frowning Thorin.  “And Orcs hunt by scent, at this rate they will be able to track you with ease.”
Fíli was quick to note that although Thorin had been against the delay in the first place, he was one of the first in the water, leaving his leathers on the bank in the sunshine and wading in in shirt and underthings, which he pulled off to dunk into the fresh flowing water.
Bilbo had opted to strip on the bank and scrub his clothing with sand in the shallows, seemingly reluctant to go more than knee deep as he splashed.  Fíli was curious to see that, unlike a dwarf, he had little hair other than that on his head and feet, his chest was as bare as his chin.
“They are a strange sort of folk, these hobbits,” Kíli said, coming up beside him with an armful of clothing.  “I wonder how they keep warm in winter?”
Fíli shrugged, and then ducked behind Kíli as Bombur took a running start from the bank to cannonball into the deeper water, splashing the entire party - including Gandalf who had been leaning against a willow tree enjoying his pipe.  Kíli was splashed full in the face and responded to Fíli’s laughter by quickly dunking the clothes he held before throwing the mass of sopping fabric over Fíli’s head.
The resulting water fight was swift and refreshing, and their clothing was cleaner and free from the stench of troll by the end of it, so Fíli counted it as a success all round even if a rather disgruntled Gandalf did not.
The highlight for him had been Bifur and Bofur working together to swing Kíli into the air and toss him into the deepest part of the river with a whoop of delight.  It was their favourite thing to do with their nieces and nephews when the opportunity presented itself and it warmed his heart to have Kíli included in the family ritual - complete with Bombur lurking a short way downstream as back up in case something went wrong.
It was a soggy but cheerful party that continued forwards across the plains, wet clothing draped across their saddlebags as they combed their tangles out as best as they could from the saddle, Thorin not wanting to waste any more time.
The early summer sunlight was warm and bright and by the time the sun had climbed to noon they were rolling shirts and underthings and stowing them into their packs as they ate cram and Thorin argued with Gandalf over Rivendell.  A crackling in the undergrowth put them all on alert as a strange contraption pulled by a dozen oversized rabbits slid to a halt a short distance away.
“Fire!  Foes!  Flee!” Cried the driver, his eyes wide and mad under a hat almost as ridiculous as Bofur’s.  Fíli had his hands on his swords and Kíli had an arrow nocked, but Gandalf stepped forward and greeted the crazy intruder by name, so they relaxed.
Fíli didn’t pay all that much attention to the cryptic conversation that ensued, busy helping uncle Bombur pack up the rest of the cram onto the baggage pony.  He had a feeling that they would be moving off in short order.
Busy settling the packs evenly, he was taken completely by surprise when the pony startled and took off at a gallop with the rest of the herd.  
“Draw your sword,” Bombur instructed tersely.  “Wargs approaching.”
With a snarl the first creature bounded into the camp, only to be felled by an arrow in the eye from Kíli.  Reeking of blood and faeces, it fell in a heap of mangy fur at Óin’s feet.
“Right then.  What’s the plan?” Glóin asked, the throwing axes that Fíli had forged for him in each hand.  “We can’t outrun them without the ponies.”
Radagast proved unexpectedly useful, promising to hold off the fast approaching warg riders as Gandalf led the company out onto the rolling moor.  They did their best to stick together, using the grey stone outcrops as cover as the brown wizard and his creatures wove around them, chased by a pack of howling wargs who seemed unable to resist the scent of rabbit, no matter how their riders berated them.
Then suddenly the tall wizard was no where to be seen, although Radagast could be heard whooping somewhere to the south.  
“Where did he go?” Balin demanded, looking around.  A snarl from above made Thorin spin round on his heel and the company looked up to see a large warg growling at them from the top of the nearest outcrop.
“Kíli, shoot it!” Thorin cried as Kíli drew back his bowstring, loosing two shafts in quick succession.  The warg tumbled backwards out of sight, its growls silenced.  “There will be more shortly,” Thorin predicted grimly.  “Where is that dratted Wizard?”
“Down here!” Came a familiar voice, and the company turned as one to see the wizard in question gesturing at them from behind a pile of tumbled stones.  “Come on!”
Bofur ran up to investigate.  “There’s a cave of sorts,” he confirmed.  “Come on, we can bottleneck them.”
Under Thorin’s direction the dwarves beat a strategic retreat down into the hollow under the stones, Kíli covering them as he shot arrow after arrow at the approaching warg riders.  Fíli had expected Bilbo to be one of the first down, but the little hobbit stayed stubbornly near the entrance, pelting the warg riders with rocks that somehow always seemed to strike at a tender spot.
“You have impressive aim,” Fíli told him as he helped Ori slip down into safety. 
“Hobbits have competitions about this sort of thing,” Bilbo told him confidently, clipping an orc hard enough on the head that his ill-fitting helmet spun round to obscure his vision.
“Come on Kíli, we’re all safe,” Fíli bellowed as Thorin slid past him. He gripped Bilbo by the shoulder as Kíli loosed one last arrow and turned to sprint towards them and pulled the Hobbit with him down into the cave.  They reached the bottom together in a tangle of limbs and quickly scrambled to one side, out of the way of the hasty defensive formation the older dwarrows had assumed.
A scuffle at the top of the cave had them all tense, but a moment later a single orc rolled down to land at their feet, an elven arrow protruding from his neck.
“I suppose that takes care of that then,” Balin said seriously. 
“There’s a passage at the back of the cave!” Glóin called. “Should we follow it or no?”
“Follow it of course,” Bofur said, pushing forward.  “I don’t fancy going back up there, and it’s going the right way.”
Fíli saw that Tharkun had an odd, amused look on his face as the dwarves filed past him, but Bofur was calling his name and he didn’t have time to ask him what exactly he found so amusing about being set on by orcs.  Perhaps it was that they had been saved by elves.
The path they followed was narrow, open to the sky in places although in others it turned into a passageway hewn through the rock.  And it clearly had been hewn, skilfully at that, into the bedrock below the moorlands.
“Definitely Dwarvish,” Óin said loudly as he looked at the walls.  
But Fíli was not so sure.  He knew of no Dwarvish settlements in that part of the world, and he saw that Balin and strangely enough Ori also looked unconvinced when the rest of the company began to loudly agree with Óin.
He was not surprised when they emerged some hours later, halfway up the side of a cliff overlooking the valley of Rivendell.

The Elves made reasonable hosts, in Fíli’s opinion.  They split the company two to a room, apart from Bilbo and Thorin who were offered separate chambers.  Fíli and Kíli took this opportunity to room together and were taken by a tall elf named Lindir to a room in one of the towers.  It had a lovely view of the waterfall, although it had rather more windows than Fíli was quite comfortable with.  Kíli seemed happy enough with the height, so he resolved to keep quiet about his own misgivings.
“Dinner will be served at sunset,” Lindir told them calmly before sweeping silently from the room.
“Alone at last,” Kíli said as he shed his outer layers with a sigh.  “I didn’t think we’d get to see Rivendell, Uncle was so adamantly against it.”
“Glad we’re here despite him?” Fíli asked, sitting on a carved chest to remove his boots.  There was a bathing room through a small archway and he was determined to take full advantage of it.
“Yes, I always was curious about elves,” Kíli revealed, wandering around the room, shedding clothes as he went.  Fíli had a sudden insight as to how his room in Erid Luin had ended up in such a state.  He watched in amusement as the younger dwarf wandered into the bathing room, pulling his shirt off as he did.  “Hey!  This is a neat way to heat water if you don’t have hot springs.”
Fíli followed after him, abandoning boots and coat on the chest.  The dark haired dwarf was examining a small charcoal brazier that was baking several smooth stones.
“I think you fill the bath or sink with cold water, and then drop the hot stones in to warm the water,” he said.  “Quite efficient, when you think about it.”
“Let’s give it a go then,” Fíli suggested, turning to the bath to figure out how to fill it.  “I don’t intend to go to dinner with the elves smelling like this.”
The bath was quite easy to figure out, a gravity pipe system fed from a rainwater reservoir on the roof.  The water was cool but not freezing as it poured in, and smelt fresh and clear rather than stagnant.
“This is a little bit of luxury,” he pointed out as Kíli inspected the small wooden boxes on a shelf at the end of the bath.  “I suppose one good thing has come from elves being so tall, we’ll both easily fit in the tub.”
“There are three different soaps here,” Kíli told him with a wide grin.  “Luxury indeed.  I wonder if this is what it will be like to be Princes in Erebor.”
Fíli shrugged.  “Maybe.  The royal family probably have a hall all to themselves with all the luxuries Erebor has to offer.  The floor is probably covered in sheets of gold.”
Kíli pulled a face at the thought of that.  “I like a dark bathroom,” he said.  “Too many reflective surfaces and I get to see all my bad angles at once.”
Fíli reached out and wrapped his arms around the younger dwarf, pressing a kiss to his shoulder.  “As far as I’m concerned you don’t have any bad angles,” he declared.  “And I’m the elder, so you should listen to me.  Think the tub is full enough?”
“Should be,” Kíli said, reaching over to stop the flow of water.  “I saw some tongs for the stones.  How long do you think they’ll take to heat the water?”
Fíli shrugged.  “No idea.  We’ll have to wait in here and keep on testing it.”
Kíli dropped the stones in one by one, grinning as each disappeared with a hiss of steam and a sudden flurry of bubbles.  Fíli couldn’t help but grin at the picture he made, clad only in his grimy underthings as he bounced around like a dwarfling at a solstice party.
Fíli stripped off the rest of his outfit, having already seen that the elves had left some clean garments on the bed to change into.  They would fit badly, but it would be better than the travel stained outfits they had arrived in.  The elves would surely have a way to clean clothes, or they could just dump everything in the bath and scrub at it.  He wasn’t sure he was entirely comfortable with the idea of some strange elf touching his underthings.
“Now we wait,” Kíli announced once the stones had all bubbled their way to the bottom of the bathtub.  He tucked this thumbs into his waistband and smirked.  “Any idea as to how we could pass the time?” He asked as he pulled the fabric down slowly.
“I might have a few,” Fíli said thoughtfully as he reached out to pull Kíli in for a long kiss.
They were both hard and ready by the time they climbed into the warm water, Fíli unable to hold back a gasp as his sensitive cock was submerged. Kíli grinned, reaching into the left hand box to pull out a bar of soap that smelt of rosemary as he worked it into a lather between his hands.
“May I?” He asked, his bobbing erection breaching the surface of the bath water.  Fíli nodded, turning to present his back, but soapy hands on his shoulders twisted him back around again.  “I want to wash all of you, not your back,” Kíli explained as he ran his fingers over Fíli’s chest, circling his nipples in a gentle tease.  He cleaned him thoroughly as Fíli sat back in the warm water and watched him, fingers seeming to caress every inch of skin. 
Once Fíli was convinced that he was cleaner than he had ever been before, Kíli climbed onto Fíli’s lap to work soap into his braids, unravelling them gently and setting his beads on the shelf to be dealt with later.  “I love your hair,” Kíli murmured as he worked his hands through it.  “It’s like golden sunshine, Kidhuzurâlê, I see why they call you that.  May I braid it for you?”
“After I’ve washed you in return,” Fíli answered immediately, gripping Kíli’s hips and using the leverage to press their groins together.  “We might want to take care of this as well.”
“There’s oil in the room,” Kíli whispered as he pressed forward with a shiver.  “Once we’re clean I thought we might take advantage of the bed.”
Fíli looked up into his dark eyes in surprise.  “Are you sure?” He asked.
Kíli nodded resolutely.  “I’m sure.  I want you,” he said quietly.  “I don’t know if - maybe not all the way, not this first time?  But I want to, with you.  I want you to touch me.  I mean, if you want to.”
“Oh, I want to,” Fíli assured him.   “Let me rinse this soap off so I can start showing you just how much.”
Falling into the elven bed together was somewhat reminiscent of what Fíli imagined lying on a cloud would feel like, complete with billowing snow white sheets.  He lay still for a moment and allowed himself to just exist, savouring the moment.  He was clean and unhurt and more turned on than he had ever been in his life before at the thought of the things that Kíli had asked him to do as they bathed in the warm water.
The mattress shifted as Kíli climbed onto the bed with far more grace than Fíli’s own manoeuvre had managed.  He was holding a small ceramic bottle from the bathing room in one hand and looked simultaneously aroused and nervous as he shuffled forwards on his knees, his hard prick bobbing with the movement.
Unable to resist with such an opportunity at eye level, Fíli rolled forward to take the flushed head of his brother’s cock into his mouth.
“Mahal, Fíli!” Kíli swore, nearly dropping the oil.
“Sorry!” Fíli apologised as he drew back.  “You just looked too delicious.”
“Oh, so it’s my fault, is it?” Kíli demanded, placing the bottle safely on the bedside table.  “I’m irresistible, is that what you’re saying?”
“Completely and utterly, kurkarithê,” Fíli assured him, pulling him closer for a kiss.  “I love the way you taste on my tongue.”
“Oh?” Kíli said, raising one dark eyebrow.  “Now that we’re clean, I have imagined tasting you in other places.”  Fíli frowned at him in confusion as Kíli’s dark eyes glanced meaningfully downwards.  They had already had their mouths on each other many times during the journey, what could Kíli possibly be referring to?  The answer came to him in a rush and he bit his lip as he realised just what Kíli had been fantasising about.
“There you go,” the younger dwarf murmured.  “May I?  I don’t wish to make you uncomfortable.”
“You promise to stop if I don’t like it?” Fíli asked, knowing the answer but feeling suddenly vulnerable and craving reassurance.  He hoped that Kíli would not think him a coward, but his need to hear the promise for himself outweighed his fear.
“Of course,” Kíli said, taking his hand and entwining their fingers.  “Anything we do should be enjoyed equally, otherwise there is no point.  I promise to stop if you ask.”
“Have… have you done this before?” Fíli asked, dreading the answer but feeling that he needed to know before they progressed further.  Kíli blushed and shook his head.
“No, not myself,” he said quietly.  “But I had a friend who had, he told me about it in great detail, until we were both hard in our breeches - but when he tried to touch me it didn’t feel right.  Although his words had excited me, his hands, his scent did not.  You are the first to touch me like this, Fíli, kidhuzurâlê.  You are the first I have wanted to touch me like this.”
“For me as well,” Fíli was quick to reassure him.  “I only asked because, well, because you seemed to know more than I do, and it made me wonder.”
“Well, now you know,” Kíli said with a weak smile.  Fíli wormed his way closer through the snowy sheets until he was within kissing range and proceeded to kiss Kíli vigorously, placing large, noisy kisses over his nose and cheeks until Kíli was laughing and pushing him away.
Pleased that the solemn mood had been effectively broken, Fíli smiled into his brother’s laughing eyes.  “You can do it to me,” he confirmed.  “And then I shall do it to you, and then we will see how we go from there.”
“What if it makes you come?” Kíli asked, chewing on his lip.  “I mean, should I continue or hold back?”
Fíli glanced out of the nearest window to judge the position of the sun.  “I think that might be a good idea, we don’t have that much time before dinner,” he said.  “We can always play again after.  Do we know how long we’re staying here?”
“A few days at least, I think,” Kíli smiled, pushing up onto his knees and guiding Fíli into raising his hips.  “We should have plenty of time to play.”
They made their way to the dining room,  smiling and sated, as the sky darkened to shades of blue and purple.  The elves had lit sweet scented candles in twisted glass holders around the open plaza where the meal was set, and most of the company were already present.  All were dressed in clean linen shirts with the sleeves rolled up many times, and soft leggings that strained over their sturdy calves and pooled around their ankles.
“I don’t suppose there’s any chance that you came across our ponies on your way back from slaughtering the orcs?” Ori asked the nearest elf hopefully.  “Only most of my writing supplies were in my saddlebag.”
“I shall ask the guard captain to have his patrols keep an eye out for your beasts,” the elf said stiffly.
The meal had more greenery than Fíli was used to seeing on a table, but the hobbit seemed cheerful enough and the bread was fresh and flavoured with herbs.
“Oh dear,” Kíli said after he had taken a bite.  “They make better bread than we do, I may never be satisfied again.”
“Maybe uncle Bombur will learn how to make it.”  Fíli looked down the table.  “Uncle?  What do you think of the bread?”
Bombur grinned at him with his mouth full.  “If Master Elrond is agreeable, I will visit his kitchens!” he shouted back.
Fíli looked over to where Tharkûn, Elrond and Thorin sat at a separate table.  Thorin was frowning at his sword and Fíli hoped that he wasn’t offending their host.  After the way he had behaved in Bilbo’s home Fíli wasn’t sure that he had had the usual lessons in guest etiquette from his teachers - or maybe he hadn’t paid attention.
Perhaps if he had the chance, Fíli could thank Elrond himself. The master of Rivendell could have turned them away after all, from what Thorin and Balin had been saying about Elves on the journey that would have been more expected than a welcome.
But then Fíli remembered Khelebrimbor and his work with Narvi and wondered again if all the complaining about elves was specific to those in the Greenwood.  Not all Dwarves were the same after all, why would the elves be?
“Perhaps we should have a song of Narvi and Khelebrimbor after the meal?” Fíli suggested to Bofur.  “To honour our hosts.”
Bofur gave him an approving smile.  “I like the way you think, nephew!  Have you tried the white cheese?  It’s delicious.  Makes the green shit more palatable.”
After the plates were cleared and Kíli had had to talk him out of clobbering Ori for his complaints about the food, Elrond led the way to the hall of fire for songs and stories.
Bilbo, surprisingly enough, started them off, with a song he claimed he had been composing on the journey.
Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree, 
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
“It’s not quite finished yet,” the hobbit said bashfully with his thumbs in his pockets.  “Still, as a little offering I hope it suffices.”
“It does indeed, Master Baggins,” Elrond assured him.  “A fine verse indeed.”
The elves sang next, their high voices soaring together over the crackling fire in the centre of the hall.  Bofur walked through the group of dwarves talking in a low whisper, and by the time the elven music drew to a crescendoing finish, six dwarrows stepped forward to sing.  Bofur took the lead, with Fíli providing the tenor and Bombur and Bifur the bass.  Glóin and Nori had also chosen to sing, but the rest of the company held back, watching the surrounding elves with wary eyes.
“Come on lads,” Bofur said with an encouraging smile.  “Let’s do our people proud, eh?  We may have lost the instruments with the ponies, but we can still make music.”
Bifur and Bofur started a low hum as Fíli stamped the beat, Glóin and Nori quickly joining in.
Follow the way up the stair
To smooth grey rock and ithildin fair
A legacy you will see there
From true Khelebrimbor
For seven days and seven nights
Through burning sun and midges bites
 They left their mark upon the heights
Narvi and Khelebrimbor
Ignoring those whose mutters loud
Rose above the gathered crowd
Hand in hand they stood, then bowed
Narvi and Khelebrimbor
A masterpiece in silver’d stone
Protects the lands we call our own
Throughout the halls we make our home
We remember Khelebrimbor
Long days have passed since we broke bread
Or wove patterns with mithril thread
Though now the halls are dark and dead
We remember Khelebrimbor
One day we will climb the stair
To smooth grey rock and ithlin fair
Their masterwork awaits us there
Narvi and Khelebrimbor
There was silence for a long moment after the last note died away, and then Elrond stepped forward and bowed to Bofur, followed by the rest of the elves in the hall.  
“A tale I had not heard before,” Elrond said quietly.  “I thank you for sharing it with us in this hall of fire.  It gladdens my heart to know that the great craftspeople of the past are honoured in your history as well as our own.”
Bofur smiled up at the tall elf.  “Narvi was our ancestor,” he said, gesturing to include Bifur, Bombur and Fíli in the statement.  “We may have lost our ancestral halls, but we are proud of our heritage.”
“If you are moved to share more stories from Khazad-dûm during your visit here, I would be happy to hear them,” Elrond told them all, before sweeping off to direct the elven choir in another aria.
Fíli turned to find Thorin frowning at them, but for once he seemed more thoughtful than angry so Fíli decided it was safe enough to ignore him for now.  Kíli was sitting beside him, his dark eyes reflecting the firelight as he listened to the music.
“You sang well,” Thorin said as he sat down next to his brother.
“We do a lot of singing at home.  I like it,” Fíli shrugged.
“Do you play an instrument as well?  I learnt the harp when we were in Erebor but I haven’t played for years now.”
“I play the fiddle, with more enthusiasm than skill, I’m sorry to say,” Fíli told him, rearranging the cushion he was leaning against.  “Did anyone tell you about the ponies?”
Thorin frowned.  “What about them?”
“Ori asked one of the elves if their patrol had seen them on the way back to Rivendell, and the elf said that they’d ask the patrol leader to keep an eye out.”
“That was a good idea,” Thorin said, casting an appraising look at Ori.
“Don’t be too impressed,” Kíli said with a smile.  “I think Ori was more concerned with getting his writing supplies back than the rest of our gear.”
“Still, we can hope that not everything we brought with us has been lost.”
Kíli stretched and yawned.  “I’m beat,” he said, winking at Fíli.  “Think I’ll turn in for the night.  How about you, nadad?”
“That bed did look considerably more comfortable than the ground,” Fíli agreed.
“Sleep well, namadul,” Thorin said absently, his attention on a group of elves entering the hall.
The passages and walkways of Rivendell were twisty and confusing, so Fíli was quite pleased that they only took two wrong turns as they made their way to their room.  He was less impressed when he realised that someone had come in and removed the clothing that they had piled into a corner to deal with later.
“I didn’t want elves touching my underthings!” He groaned as headed into the bathing room to splash his face and hands with clean water.
“They’ll smell better when we get them back at least,” Kíli pointed out, sounding entirely unconcerned.  “I was worried that they’d make the room reek.”
“Little worry of that, with all these windows,” Fíli muttered as he dried off.  He picked a bottle of bath oil from the shelf and sniffed at it, pleased when it smelt more like a pine forest than flowers.  The one that Kili had found earlier had reeked of lavender.
“That’ll do,” Kíli said quietly, padding up next to him in bare feet.
Fíli had a feeling that he would never look at a pine forest in the same way again.  Kíli twined their fingers together and led him to the oversized elven bed.  “I’m glad we’re here, for this,” he said quietly as he turned his dark eyes towards the bottle in Fíli’s hand.
“Why?” Fíli asked, setting it on the table in order to climb onto the soft mattress.
“It makes it all the more special,” Kíli explained, dropping light kisses onto his shoulder.  Fíli lay back as the younger dwarf pressed him to the mattress.  “Did you enjoy our play earlier?”
Fíli licked his lips as he remembered the way that the soft, yielding flesh of Kíli’s hole give way under his tongue.  “I did.”
“Did you prefer it when I licked you or the other way around?  What did you think of just now?”
“Me licking you,” Fíli gasped as Kíli’s lips closed around his nipple.
Once the sensitive nub had been licked into a hard peak, Kíli sat back with a satisfied smile.  “Me too.  I think I’d like you to take me tonight.”
Fíli blinked at him.  “What?  That’s how you decided?”
Kíli shrugged.  “Seemed as good a method as any,” he said, reaching for the oil.  “We’re both thinking of you being inside me, not the other way around after all.”
“What if we had thought about different things?” Fíli protested as Kíli drizzled oil onto his hard cock.  “And shouldn’t I be stretching you with my fingers first?”
“I guess if we had wanted different things, we would have had a longer conversation about it,” Kíli said sensibly.  “And no, I don’t want your fingers this time.  We’ll go slow.”
“I… I don’t want to hurt you,” Fíli said uncertainly.  His dick was hard and ready, shining with oil in the candlelight, but he held firm to Kíli’s hips to stop him from moving. 
“You won’t, we’ll go slow,” Kíli repeated with a smile.  He picked up one of Fíli’s hands and spread their fingers together.  “Anyhow, I think your cock is considerably smoother than your fingers, it’ll go in easier than they will.”
Fíli regarded his work roughened hands in dismay.  “I-”
“I didn’t meant it like that!” Kíli said hastily, ducking to press a kiss to Fíli’s fingertips.  “I love your hands, they feel good on my skin and in my hair.  I just don’t think they’re the best tool for this particular job.”
“I don’t want to hurt you,” Fíli said firmly.  “So, you control the pace.  I can brace you easily enough.”
“Your smithing muscles are a thing of beauty and before we leave Rivendell I will have kissed and licked each and every one,” Kíli vowed as he shuffled forward from his seat on the blond’s thighs with Fíli bracing his hands to help him balance.  His hard cock swayed with the movement, the wet tip sparkling in the flickering light.  Fíli wanted to taste it, but Kíli stopped long before he was in range.
“Can you, ah, hold it ready?” Kíli asked, his cheeks flushed with embarrassed excitement.   He changed his grip to hold Fíli’s right hand with both of his, freeing his left to reach down and point his oiled cock in the right direction.
“Ok, move when you want to,” Fíli encouraged once he had as firm a grip as he could manage, given the slick oil coating his member.
A hot, tight band slowly gave way around him as Kíli sank down with quivering thighs.  Fíli groaned at the sensation as his cock was enveloped in yielding warmth.  
“Mahal, that feels incredible,” he gasped, forcing his eyes open.  “Are you ok?”
Kíli was watching his face hungrily, biting his lip and Fíli reached out with his slightly oily hand to steady him.  “I’m all right,” the brunette assured him.  “It’s not- I’m not in pain.  Just a bit uncomfortable.  I think it will be better when I’m ready to move.”
Fíli shifted to place his feet flat on the mattress for leverage and Kíli’s eyes widened as his cock visibly jumped.  “Oh!  I think- move again?”
Fíli thrust up shallowly and Kíli’s eyes fluttered closed as he let out a low gasp.  “More, please,” he whispered, his grip on Fíli’s hand tightening as he began to rock back and forth.  Fíli tensed his arms to provide as firm a base as he could manage in that position and gave into the urge to thrust.  This wasn’t the same as their other lovemaking, he didn’t have to worry about keeping his hips still in case he suffocated his partner.  Something primal moved within him as they settled into a rhythm and Kíli’s quiet noises filled his ears.
“Kee,” he whispered as he looked into his brother’s dark brown eyes.  “I think you’re my one.”
Kíli’s mouth dropped open in shock as a bright flush reddened his cheeks.  He jerked a little, and then muttered a curse as he started to orgasm, painting long stripes across Fíli’s chest.  The spasms travelled through his whole body, constricting the muscles that sheathed Fíli’s cock and he also tipped over the edge, shuddering as he felt the overflow start to drip down his stones.
Kíli slumped on top of him and pressed his hot forehead into his shoulder as he caught his breath, not seeming to care when Fíli’s softening cock slipped out of him, or that his own semen was matting their chest hair together.
“I… I meant to last a little longer,” he said, his voice muffled by Fíli’s skin.  “But then you said that and I - did you mean it?”
“Of course I meant it,” Fíli assured him, wrapping his arms around Kíli’s shoulders.  “It wasn’t the heat of the moment, well, sorry it was, but I meant it.”
Kíli pulled back to look at him, a wondering smile softening the edges of his mouth.  “I… I think you are my one too,” he whispered.  “I never thought I- I’ve never felt…”
“We fit together,” Fíli said, tracing nonsense patterns across Kíli’s skin.  “It’s like you’ve filled a place within me I didn’t know was empty.  Do you…?”
“Yes,” Kíli said, nodding.  “It feels like that for me too.”
Fíli rolled them both over and pressed a kiss to Kíli’s lips.  “You lie there and relax, I’ll get a damp cloth to wipe us down so we can sleep comfortably,” he said, slipping off of the bed.
A few minutes later, cleaner and slightly damp, they slid between the snowy sheets and lay on their sides, their heads on one oversized pillow.
“I’d tell the whole of Arda if I could,” Kíli whispered.  “I want you to know that.”
Fíli smiled.  “I’m not the shout-it-from-the-rooftops type, but for you I would make an exception.  If we could.”
Kíli shut his eyes with a smile on his face, and after taking a moment to memorise his expression, Fíli did the same.  Sleep claimed them quickly as the crescent moon set over the valley of Rivendell.