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Thorin shrugs, his voice steady as he speaks to his nephew.
“He looks to be enjoying the evening well enough.”

“Uncle, can you not see?” Fili speaks to Thorin in a hissed, low voice from their position at the top of the stairs. The company is still mostly gathered into a game of cards before the roaring fire, while several sit in large armchairs smoking their pipes as the younger dwarves continue their laughter and exclamations. Kili has finally wound down and now sits with one leg pulled up in one of the armchairs next to Balin, smoking a long stemmed pipe, a fragile smile breaking from time to time as he watches the game.

“His eyes were closing by themselves when I spoke to him just now. But he won’t budge from that chair to come up to bed for a proper rest.”

“So?” Thorin casts his heavily browed eyes downward. “It is his choice to remain amongst his kin. He may do as he pleases.”

“So I know my brother.” 

“What are you saying, Fili?”

“Uncle,” Fili turns fully towards Thorin, his blue eyes wide, “Please only ask yourself what is it that would make Kili drink himself numb and then be afraid to go to his own bed in a house full of his own kin?”

Thorin looks down at his younger nephew whose eyes have closed again, the pipe slipping from his hand. Balin, whose crinkled eyes have kept watch over the young dwarf, grasps the pipe and carefully sets it aside as Kili’s head tilts slowly until it rests against the chair’s side rest meant for a much taller human, his lips parting slightly.

The only change in Thorin’s countenance is a slight flicker of an eyebrow, a slight tightening of jaw muscles.

Fili whispers, barely audible. “It is not how we see it, but how he felt it, Uncle.

Thorin looks darkly at Fili at this.

But Fili looks as though he might be about to rush back down the staircase to wrap his arms around his brother... and that will not do.

Thorin looks down at Kili’s sleeping form in the midst of his raucous brethren.

“Let it be, Fili. I will deal with it.”

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The sound of Ori laughing followed by Bofur, Bifur and Gloin joining in explosively rouses Kili from a deep slumber to a more shallow one. The disturbance comforts him, the warmth of his kin enjoying their time by the fire feels familiar and safe, and he returns to a deeper sleep again.

The events of the day still have him in turmoil, and his mind seeks the peace of sleep gratefully.

That morning he’d come downstairs early enough to avoid most of the others, quickly and quietly grabbed his bow and quiver, and headed out the door before anyone could stop him for so much as a cup of broth or crust of bread.

He’d made straight for the target range. He’d found it the first day there, on the outskirts of this town on a Lake, an ingenious setup. The targets were attached to a set of protruding rocks at the North end of the town, with a long wooden dock from which to fire across an expanse of water, and a system of ropes and small boats to allow the archers to retrieve their arrows after having fired them. It made it rather imperative that one not miss the target for any arrows shot long would be lost in the dark water permanently, but Kili never had that problem.

He’d taken rather a roundabout way of getting there. His thoughts whirled with questions that he did not feel he possessed enough experience to manage alone, but that he could not fathom discussing with any of the members of the company. His feet wandered along, his path meandering quite as much as his thoughts.

He’d been raised to fight, to defend, to serve. He understood these things and the behaviors that went with them. He’d always known he came second in his Uncles’ heart when it came to his brother. He was second in birth order, second in privileges, and honestly second in terms of maturity, he could admit that. Fili had always been the more responsible one, and had earned a more favorable eye from Thorin. This had never bothered him overly much. It might mean less attention from Thorin but that was not necessarily a bad thing, and it had meant less responsibility for Kili, which had suited him fine.

It had always been Kili and Fili, the two of them together in everything, partners in crime, in triumphs, in training, in shared private jokes about Bombur’s appetite and in attempts to get Dwalin to crack a smile...They both wanted nothing more than to be good dwarfs, to be considered strong, proud and brave by their elders, to never worry their mother (overly much) and to please their impossible Uncle. Kili loved his brother, and Fili loved him. He was certain of these things.

But this journey was changing everything.

They had begun to see each other differently on this journey. Obviously Thorin had begun to view his favorite differently as well. The fact that Kili had felt jealous told him at least that his own feelings for his brother must be real.

It had felt good, so good when Fili had touched him last night.

But when his Uncle had joined them, it had become confusing, unexpected, and now all seemed muddled and wrong. He had wanted their attention. But Kili was quite certain there was something wrong with the way in which this attention was paid to him. Was he right to think that? Was this how a second in line of birth was treated in this kind of...sharing?

But he was a warrior. He was due the respect due an accomplished warrior, was he not? So being a warrior, he should not be submissive, objectified, used as though he were nothing more than a--

Well, should he?

But Thorin was his King and sovereign as well as his Uncle. His word was law, as it had always been. Fili had said that. Fili had submitted…

But Fili had not been made to lie prone and be violently used as his Uncle watched, and smirked.

And then left alone on the cold floor as they went off together.

Was this how it was in other families?

He’d arrived at the target range, and sought relief in the familiarity of concentric circles beckoning to him across the water. Casting for something, anything that he knew for certain was true, he busied himself with his bow, positioning his feet, feeling the wind’s direction, breathing deeply and then nocking the arrow, pulling back, holding the air in his lungs, centering his eyes down the shaft, quieting his soul, releasing…

Bullseye.

smiling, nodding to himself, he nocked a second arrow, and this times words form inside his mind,

I am Kili Durin, son of Dis.

The arrow flies, a second bullseye.

3rd in line to the throne of Erebor.

third bullseye.

Brother to Fili.

fourth bullseye.

He continues that way, the steady, well-learned muscle memory ritual of his archery soothing him, centering him, reminding him of something that is his, something that makes him valuable to the company, something that earns him the right to call himself a warrior.

His quiver empty, he climbs happily into the little boat and pulls himself towards the target to pull his arrows from the straw filled bullseye, and then turns to pull his boat back to the dock--

His Uncle is standing there waiting for him.

He nearly drops his bow into the water, a shudder running through him and coming to rest in a sick knot in his stomach.

There is nowhere to go but towards Thorin. So he pulls the rope, nearing his uncle, trying to school his own features, trying not to notice the stern look of his uncles’ countenance.

It seems to take forever to pull the boat back to the dock though Kili’s muscles burn with the effort of hastening to Thorin as quickly as he can. He steps onto the dock and stands before his uncle, inclining slightly,

“Uncle.”

“Kili.”

The tension in the air between them is thicker than slag.

“You wandered off again this morning.”

Kili shuffles his feet. “I thought it would be good to get in-- perhaps, some practice… you will need-- I mean, I should be-- at my best--” he stammers, forcing himself to meet Thorin’s eye but finding that eye ominous and distinctly displeased.

“Indeed.” Thorin’s voice is low, dubious. “Let’s see then.” The old warrior crosses his arms across his great chest and looks expectantly at the target.

Kili forces his limp arms back into their previous motions, tries to find the quietness of mind he’d had before, but his breath falters and the first arrow goes long, splashing two feet from the target.

The low growl he hears behind him does his next shot no good at all, and this arrow, although it hits the target, only grazes the edge and dangles there at a pathetic angle before it, too, meets a watery end.

Kili stops, unwilling to waste any more arrows that are precious and take time to make.

He turns back to his uncle, his face blazing, chest heaving a little.

“Time well spent then.” says Thorin dryly. “Something troubling you, nephew?”

He wants to shake his head. He wants to be as light and insouciant as Bofur, as gruff and impervious as Dwalin, as lovable and indestructible as Fili...but in the end he can only be himself.

“You know well what troubles me, uncle.”

“Oh? Enlighten me.”

“Last night...last night was...wrong.”

“How so?”

“It was not...right.”

Thorin snorts. Kili cringes. “Delightful. I must remember to send my compliments to your language tutors.”

“Uncle!” This comes out higher pitched that Kili would have liked but he presses on. Thorin regards him with one side of his mouth curling.

“I am a warrior. I am khuhaj. I am a Durin.”

Thorin nods, sobering. “Aye. You are that.”

“I am due some respect. I should not be treated like, like a…”

Thorin’s brows descend so far down over his eyes that his irises nearly disappear.

“Say it.”

“I am a prince.” Kili’s voice whispers. “I am no whore.”

The hand that strikes his face and seizes a hunk of hair at the back of his head is iron hard and Kili gasps not because it hurts that much but because it is the end of the world.

Prince Kili, is it?” Thorin speaks softly, but to Kili’s ears the roar of his words could be heard all the way west to the Halls of Moria. “You are subject to your king, and that would be ME unless you have forgotten. I have indulged you far too much. You are spoiled. You will submit to your KING whenever he asks, or to your brother who outranks you whenever HE asks! You will submit, Kili!”

He doesn’t remember when his uncle left the dock. He had sunk to the wooden boards and comes to his full senses only later, finding his bow and quiver of arrows scattered in a mess around him.

Slowly and mechanically, Kili pulls off the silver rings from his fingers, reaches to the back of his head, pulls the clasp from his hair. Dark soft locks fall forward around his face as he tucks these objects into a deep pocket and buttons it firmly shut.

-------------------------------------------------------

Thorin’s greatest rages often occur at moments of his own greatest insecurities. No one really knows this. Not even Thorin himself.

The one who may come closest to understanding it is Balin, who is luckily the first one of the company to encounter Thorin after he has spent a good hour terrorizing the Laketown populace simply by walking through the streets scowling.

Balin speaks, observing. Thorin barks defensively. Balin shrugs and proceeds to reminisce obliquely, significantly, of Thorin’s youth, of another young pair of brothers, of a stern father who demanded, and who did not brook compromise, or weakness, and of the strange and different ways in which real strength is measured…

Thorin grows very silent, and very still.

-----------------------------------------------------------------

The hand that comes to rest on Kili’s shoulder nearly stops his heart.

“There now lad!” comes the rough but not unfriendly voice, “Didn’t mean to startle you. Were you going to shoot off this target then?”

It is Bard, Kili remembers, the serious one, the bowman with the young son from their first welcome dinner,

“Yes, yes, thank you, I was just...enjoying the sunshine.” Kili is amazed at how calm his own voice sounds. It is in fact the first fine weather day they have had since arriving, and they remark upon this lightly as they both stand and prepare themselves to shoot.

Kili’s body goes through the motions from decades of training to present himself as a respectable dwarf. It is as much a muscle memory as his archery stance. His mind is clouded and for awhile he is barely aware of his own actions as he speaks polite small talk with Bard and retrieves his arrows and gets to his feet, repositioning himself, feeling the wind and casting his eye to the target across the water.

But soon they are passing a pleasant hour of practice, Kili retrieving his success of the morning and coming to enjoy the company of this man who talks not at all, focuses intensely on his own shooting without judging or seeming concerned in the least with the young dwarf next to him, and demands nothing from Kili other than silence, which Kili is only too happy to give.

By the end of his 6th round Kili’s heart beats almost normally again, though a numbness still lives in his skin and a permanent knot still occupies his stomach. They pull their small boats back to the dock in unison, their quivers refilled.

“My daughters will have a nice tea ready by now,” observes the tall bowman pleasantly. He nods to Kili, “You have a fine eye and steady hand, master dwarf. You would be welcome in my home to join us if you would like.”

Master dwarf.

Kili hesitates. Had circumstances been different, he certainly would have begged off. Such a fraternization would be considered frivolous, perhaps even traitorous, and to go without knowing first if the company needed him, without his uncle’s permission, would be a gross infraction.

But circumstances being what they are, Kili considers. He does not want to return to the company. He will have to sometime, he knows, for he has no where else to go, but he is not certain he could bear it yet. He wonders idly if Thorin would even prefer if he delayed his return. Or indeed, even notice.

“At your service, master bowman, I would be honored.”

The house is small and predictably not far from the archery range. Bard’s daughters blush at him and stumble over themselves to serve him the best of their poor supply of hard biscuits (of which he cannot bring himself to eat more than one), and keep his mug filled with hot tea. Young Bain peppers him with questions about their journey, which Kili answers carefully excluding any important information that would betray the company’s goal. Bard sits silently and contentedly smoking his pipe. They are a simple family and a happy one. Kili is young for a dwarf, but in years he is far older than anyone who shares this tea with him. When Kili leaves he suddenly feels very old. Ancient even.

-----------------------------------------------------

The house bristles with sounds of Dwarves at their meal when Kili finally returns sometime after sunset. Noone marks him as he slips in the door, insinuating himself into his well rehearsed role as Bombur’s assistant next to Ori. The younger dwarf smiles genially at him and claps him heartily on the back, handing him a platter filled with mugs of ale which Kili takes numbly and distributes the drinks among his brethren as surreptitiously as he can.

Thorin sits at the head of the table and Kili sees him, but does not raise his head enough to meet his uncle’s eye. Whatever Thorin’s expression may be, Kili has not the heart to look. Fili is next to Bilbo further down the table. Kili looks briefly at him when he takes an ale from his tray, just enough to notice intensity and concern.

At this point, joining his dwarf kin in their typical evening activity of drinking too much ale seems like the most splendid idea Kili has ever had.

As soon as his duties are done Kili grabs an ale for himself and drinks it down in one go.

Bilbo slides over and Kili sits down. A bowl of stew with a hunk of bread appears before him which he picks over noncommittally, instead opting for more ale when the pitcher returns his way. The hobbit asks after Kili’s day with all of the gentle good manners of a smallish woodland creature. Answering him doesn’t bear considering, so Kili counters defensively by asking after Bilbo’s day. After his third ale, the hobbit’s accounting of visiting the fish monger and discussing the merits and flavors of local vs imported carp species begins to sound like the most fascinating story Kili has ever heard.

After the fourth ale, he is giggling loudly through a cross-table conversation with Bofur and Bifur about the possible merits of human lasses verses Dwarven ones, and laughing at Bofur’s merry accounting of a particularly buxome human lass they had seen that very day who had flirted with Bifur. She had been rather confused and finally affronted at the dwarf’s unique method of communicating in spite of Bofur’s strident attempts to reassure her and translate his brother’s candid Iglishmek which of course, to any non-dwarves could be rather misconstrued with its many forthright and aggressive hand gestures.

Having downed his fifth ale, Kili feels nothing but warm stupid affection for everyone around him and only the last remaining scrap of rational thought in his brain stops him from wrapping his arms around Bilbo and planting a wet kiss right on the tip of his soft hobbity ear.

Surely whatever had troubled him about his uncle’s and brother’s attentions to him cannot be so bad as he had thought. Surely he could allow them to have their way with him if it pleased them. It was not such a crisis. He needs no more than this, than the warm company of his brothers here in this Inn and on the road. Nothing can harm him. He is of stone and it shall bounce off and be forgotten in the maelstrom of these stories, songs and laughter. They are dwarves, they are for each other, and it is a small thing in comparison to this great quest, to reclaiming their home, isn’t it?

Fili’s presence by his side jolts him slightly. His vision tunnels around his brother’s face which is flushed with drink, too, he is happy to see, but which also radiates worry, which is tiresome.

“Kili, how many ales have you had?”

Kili tips his head at Fili, rolling his eyes. His mind is quite clear on what to answer and it confuses him a bit that his words do not come out as he intends. “Well f’you muuust know, thisus my secunt.”

Bilbo peers over Kili’s shoulder at Fili and shakes his head, mouthing the word “sixth!” quite clearly and drawing a hand in a cutting motion across his own throat. Kili follows his brother’s eyes back to Bilbo who smiles genially at him. Fili gently takes the mug of ale from Kili’s hand while the hobbit distracts him and passes it deftly to Bilbo who grasps it and leaves to replace its contents with something less spirited.

Kili turns back to Fili and hiccups.

“Kili, are you all right?” Fili’s hands caress his arm to the elbow and apply a soft squeeze to his leg just above the knee. The touch brings the memory of the previous night back to him and Kili’s breath catches pleasurably until his vision is caught by Thorin’s face at the end of their long table. His uncle is staring directly at him.

Kili’s eyes close and his head bows, suddenly feeling as heavy as lead. All is uncovered, all is undone. But he soon raises up again, smiling so broadly at Fili that his eyes are pulled nearly shut in his fully flushed face. Fili is suddenly sure that It is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen, and the most tragic.

“M’fine...fine!” Kili assures him, “All is so ss-small…” he says this softly, his gaze looking past Fili at some point beyond, “Hey...Dedju know yew <hic!> outrank me?”

Truly worried now, Fili makes to pull his brother up, hopefully outside to help him clear his head, but Kili rouses first and smacks his brother’s back hard before calling across the table,

“Nori! Ori! up fer a ga <hic!>game?”

------------------------------------

The game begins raucously, Kili in the center, leading and organizing. Ori and Nori willingly join him on the floor in front of the fire, and Bofur and Bifur are soon dealt in too. Kili recklessly casts bets on the weakest of card hands, coins spilling from a pouch at his waist, laughing with his head thrown back in abandon each time he loses and one of his brethren draws the winnings, --all of the money he had brought on this journey-- away from him.

Nori is of course happy to oblige him. Bifur is oblivious. Bofur seems pleased to see Kili in a merry mood for the first time in weeks. The other older dwarves have gathered around the fire in the more comfortable arm chairs to watch and smoke their pipes. Only Ori seems aware that something is awry as he watches Kili with his eyes wide. Long experience with his own brothers has taught him a few skills, and he manages to squirrel away some of Nori’s winnings of Kili’s money into a separate pouch on his own belt. The others are far too drunk to notice.

Fili and Bilbo have taken up seats on a small couch in the corner opposite the fire, quietly smoking and observing.

“I have never seen your brother drink as much as he did tonight.” says Bilbo carefully. Fili nods.

There is a manic edge to Kili that only those who know him well would notice. His laughter is a little too loud, he smacks his kin a bit too often on their backs and his rejoinders are too bright and end in what might be construed as a tiny sob if one really listens to it.

And Fili is really listening to it.

Of course, the six large mugs of ale Kili drank at dinner without barely a bite of food could also explain it.

But Bilbo ‘s powers of observation are as sensitive as his own, bless the kind hearted burglar.

“Has something happened? Is there something wrong?”

Fili sighs. Yes, something is wrong.

“Aye, perhaps.”

They continue to watch the younger members of the company play until Kili’s money runs out. He good naturedly withdraws from the game, encouraging them to continue playing, settling into an armchair and drawing out his long stemmed pipe and busying himself with lighting it.

At length Fili pushes himself up, and goes to his brother, kneeling before him.

“Kee?”

Kili blinks slowly at him, realizing marginally that his brother is using a term of endearment he hasn’t used with him for weeks…

“Fee?” he answers in kind.

Fili strokes his arm. “You seem tired, come to bed?”

Kili’s head is tilted against the armchair’s side. One side of his mouth curls upwards at Fili, shining brown eyes wishful, but finally the younger dwarf’s gaze is caught by his Uncle’s silhouette looming from the landing at the top of the stairs. Fili traces his gaze there, seeing Thorin who sits in a great chair seeming to stare out at nothing, his thoughts unfathomable. Fili darts his eyes back to his little brother.

Kili’s face has darkened. He stares at Ori, Nori, Bofur and Bifur who are still gaming by the fire. It is noisy, crowded, chaotic. He is sleepy but the sound is oddly comforting. He will stay here.

He smiles into Fili’s pained expression, “M’fine here...you go on.”

----------------------------------------------------------------------- 

 

Kili is dreaming of Bard’s warm firelit kitchen, deeply asleep in the great armchair of the company’s house, when Thorin speaks his name.

It wakens him as suddenly and as cruelly as the hornblow of an orc signaling a warg rider attack. More cruelly really, for at least in the case of an orc attack Kili would know exactly what to do.

But in the face of Thorin’s dark form standing over him, Kili is paralyzed.

The night has progressed past the point of moonlight, and the fire in the grate has died down to coals. A glance to the right and left tells him it is indeed so late that all of the other dwarves have gone up to bed. The one source of light from the coal fire is behind his uncle, thus Thorin’s expression lies in shadow while Kili feels the weak tendrils of light tease unfairly across his own features, revealing all. His heart is beating so hard inside his chest he fears Thorin can hear it. He might be right.

“I would have your respect, Kili,” His Uncle’s voice steps on his stomach with steel feet. “...but I would not have you fear me.”

His eyes stare widely at Thorin. Transparent. Fili is right. There is no hiding, even from himself. The protective effects of the alcohol have worn off. He is vulnerable and raw, and dreads what he thinks is coming, dreads being grabbed and forced, his heart sickens at the impossible choice between obedience and dignity.

So when he feels Thorin’s touch on his shoulder he flinches violently, then bows his head in shame at such a reaction, his head spinning with conflict, regretful at the feel of Thorin’s hand retreating and relieved at the same time.

Finally completely anguished and reasoning that things cannot get worse than they already are... Kili speaks, forcing every word out of his lungs in gulps and gasps.

“Thorin, if you and Fili desire each other, then have each other,” He hears his own voice trembling and he hates it, hates his own very nerves, hates his own hands that clench savagely at the fabric of his tunic in his lap, “...but please leave me out of it. I will not be jealous--” his head, still bowed down, shakes back and forth, perhaps to emphasize his words, perhaps in disbelief at his own boldness. “--if this is the lesson you intended for me that I have learnt it, Thorin, I will not sulk, I will not complain. But I cannot bear it, I cannot bear to be...to be touched without feeling. Perhaps there are other dwarfs stronger than me who could but I cannot--please Thorin…!”

He hears the scrape of a stool on the floor and feels the older dwarf let his weight sink down to it, hears a heavy sigh and cringes even more, his stomach twisting and his hands nearly ripping at the cloth they cling to, knowing not what to do but continue so he fumbles onwards, not daring to look up, dreading to allow his uncle any opening or hear the horrible loudness of disapproving silence.

“--I do not need Princely privileges, I do not even want them...I will relinquish my name, my place in line, distance myself if I have displeased you, I will leave the company altogether if you want--”

The pressure of Thorin’s large hands on either side of his head makes Kili jump and nearly cry out, but it is not the angered iron grip from earlier that day. It is not even the disciplined hold he recalls from his childhood, when he couldn’t sit still and his Uncle would seize him firmly until he did. There is deference in the touch, and Thorin’s fingers do not move but remain chastely still in the loose rivers of Kili’s hair. And then Kili feels his Uncle’s great head press against his own.

It is a sacred gesture, foreheads touching. So much meaning comes from Thorin’s choice of it at this moment that Kili’s entire body threatens to collapse from a thousand muscles relaxing at once. It takes him back to Ered Luin, to family dinners around Dis’ small table, to the worst thing in a day being the accidental breakage of a ceramic dish, the best thing the smile of pride on his Uncle’s face at some small success of his during battle training. It is a gesture of love, but it is the love between warriors sworn to each other, between dwarves in honor of each other.

They stay that way, and Thorin waits a long time before speaking. In fact if Kili didn’t know better he might wonder if perhaps his Uncle were actually unsure what to say to him.

“You are a Durin,” He says finally after clearing his throat, his voice oddly rough. “That can be both an honor and a burden as I have well come to know. But whatever the case, noone can take that from you, not even I.”

“And you are a Prince, but even if you were not, no dwarf should ever be made to suffer attentions he does not want. We shall do as you ask.”

Kili shudders a little at this. It’s not that I don’t want, it’s just that, that...not like that...

But Thorin carries on, his voice now very soft.

“Where is your hair clip, and your rings?”

Cringing again, Kili fumbles into the deep pocket where he had placed them and draws them out. Thorin grasps the clip first. At the touch of his uncle’s hands in his hair drawing the loose layers gently back into the clasp Kili finally comes apart. His head still bowed, he is quiet, but his shoulders heave and large tears splash down onto his wrists in his lap. He realizes only now that this is the touch he has craved, those great hands on him not rough or possessive or dominating but softly communicating something.  Not love, he knows he cannot expect that, not the reverence he had glimpsed in the touch Thorin had given to his brother on this journey. But just ...care, maybe. His body would have responded to that. Mahal, yes, he would have been happy just for that.

But he will never have even that now, he has ruined everything.

This touch is no more than an Uncle’s tending of a nephew, a foolish, childish, hungover nephew that Thorin has had to watch over and worry about, who wanders off without permission and makes himself more a liability than an asset to this journey that is so sacred and so vital to all of them.

Kili chokes back the tears, bites his lip so hard he can taste blood, grips the shirt linen in his lap so strongly that he actually rips a hole in it. Thorin, unphased, unhooks Kili’s fingers from their hold on his tunic and fits his silver rings back onto them, one by one.

Large fingers finally cup his chin and tip Kili’s head up, but he can’t look, can’t open his lids.

“Look at me Kili.”

His eyes finally open, shot with red, despairing, expectations low.

But Thorin’s enormous thumb caresses his temple.

“Do not think for a moment that you are not in my heart.”

The moment stands still as the planets suddenly stop their motions. Kili wants very much to ask Thorin to elaborate what he means by this astonishing statement, but just as he gathers his courage, Thorin clears his throat again.

“We will be leaving here in a few days. I will need you to be at your full strength, is that understood?”

Kili nods obediently, his throat still closed, all other sounds blocked out except for the cracking and popping of the coals in the fireplace.

“When you are presented with food, I want you to eat.”

“Yes, Uncle.”

“And unless you are assigned watch duties I want you to sleep properly, is that clear?”

“Yes, Uncle…”

Ooooh Mahal.

Something down in Kili’s gut has taken a distinct dislike to him.

“Kili?”

no, no, no, not now.

It is at this moment that Fili, who had been keeping careful and very stealthy watch over his uncle’s treatment of Kili, flies down the stairs, barely touching a step.

“Uncle, excuse me, I am sorry ...Kili?”

Kili looks up at him greenly.

Fili grabs his brother’s arm and slips it over his shoulder and half carries Kili to the front door. Thorin, finally catching on, has the presence of mind to open the door for them and Kili makes it outside just in time to heave the contents of his stomach into the Lake.

Thorin’s replacing of Kili’s hair clip had been most serendipitous. Fili smoothes the remaining loose tendrils of his brother’s hair back from his face anyway as Kili coughs out the last of the meager contents of his gut, then pushes himself around and leans against the railing. His throat burns like dragon fire, his legs shake like a newborn colts’ and he keeps his eyes closed for fear his sight will reveal the world spinning and send him heaving over the railing again.

He feels Fili’s hands supporting him, lightly caressing, the touch of a brother’s affection he supposes. Well, that is what he has asked for, isn’t it? So he must accept it. How could he expect more, really? How could he, drunken desperate mess that he is, expect to win the love of his beautiful perfect brother who is constantly having to rescue him? A dull ache settles into his heart.

They will give him what he has asked them for, and he doesn’t want it.

“Some warrior.” He finally says. If he had taken a moment to look properly at Fili’s expression, if there had been enough light from the small lamp hanging outside the door of their house, Kili might have been surprised at what lay in his brother’s eyes right then.

But a new voice surprises them both. “Ahh, don’t trouble yerself lad. If I had a farthing for every time I held yer Uncle’s great locks outta tha way while he emptied his guts to the ground i’d be a rich dwarf by now.” They look up to see Dwalin’s great figure framed in one of the second floor windows, arms folded, his tattoed head tilted towards them, eyes glittering with just a hint of merriment.

“At least I had locks to hold back.” Comes Thorin’s dry retort. Kili feels a cold pewter mug pushed into his hand by his uncle, who urges him to drink it, all of it. Kili obeys. The water is cool and soothes his throat, and there is a hint of herbs in it that he can’t identify.

“Made ‘im some brew, then?”

“Aye.”

The old dwarf looks down at the two young ones and dips his head, “y’ell be meeting me in the sparring ring with swords then, the both of yeh, come dawn?”

Fili’s clear voice carries up to Dwalin in the affirmative, and Kili nods vigorously, hoping this will suffice, as he is still finishing the brew his uncle has brought him and does not trust his voice yet.

“Good. Go get some sleep then. Thorin.” The older dwarves nod to each other and Thorin’s great presence goes away. Kili can actually feel it. The depth, honor and seriousness of him, receding. The absence of Thorin.

He vaguely remembers Fili leading him up to his bed, his boots coming off, laying down, falling asleep. He keeps his eyes closed. If his brother speaks to him he does not recall it, if his touches were gentle or apathetic, he cannot remember it.

Either way it is unbearable.