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Trouble With Trolls

Chapter Text


“Stay here, you two have done enough.”

Funny, how so few words can seem so ominous.  My Uncle stomped away to converse in undertones with Gandalf, leaving me to exchange an uneasy glance with my brother.  He looked a sight – dark hair even wilder than usual, dirt smeared across his face and a decidedly nervous look about him.  Well, that did not bode well.  I have often commented on how blindly my brother seems to fall into these situations, oblivious to both the chaos he creates and the stern reckoning it inspires from our Uncle.  Whereas I, on the other hand, am well aware of such hazards, and yet more often than not, I end up right there with him, facing down our Uncle – once more his ever-troublesome little nephews in need of stern correction – as opposed to staying well out of it and simply leaving my errant brother to his fate.  But of course, I will always stand beside him just as he always stands beside me on the increasingly rare occasions when my actions lead us into mischief; he would no sooner leave me to face our Uncle alone than I would him.  Still, if even Kili – in all my obliviousness – is able to recognise in our Uncle’s quietly voiced command, the unspoken promise of swift retribution for our actions tonight, then it does not bode well for us.  Not at all.  I felt my throat constrict at the thought and hoped my blush was not too visible in the early morning light.

“Fili,” my little brother began in a small voice, edging closer to me so as not to be overheard, “you don’t suppose Thorin is –”

“Yes, I do.” I stated, cutting off the end of his question abruptly. 

I felt my insides twist at the implications of my answer – not that it hadn’t already been in my thoughts.  Thorin had been away from The Blue Mountains – no doubt consulting others about the feasibility of this…shambles – for nigh on three years before he turned up at our door asking us to join him.  But three years was a long time, my brother had barely been of age the last time we met.  Thorin had no doubt assumed that Kili and I would have grown into our adulthood by now and ceased our mischief otherwise I can’t imagine he’d have allowed us to come, let alone invited us.  Well, invited me.  I felt a sudden stab of fear in my gut.  I had almost had to beg Thorin to allow Kili his place in our company and had, in fact, only secured it by stating the plain fact of the matter: if Thorin did not allow to Kili to come willingly, then Kili would simply wait and then follow us by himself.  It had caused a good deal of impassioned pleas on either side but, in the end, my Mother and brother had had their say and their say was that Kili would be an asset to Thorin.  If he could behave.  My Uncle had conceded the point but as good as told us all that Kili would be sent home at the first sign of mischief.  I glanced at my brother from the corner of my eye.  Kili stood off to one side now, eyes downcast and hair falling across his face.  My heart seized; I could not see him sent home in disgrace while my Uncle, companions and I went on to glory in our quest.  Perhaps more so, I could not allow my Uncle to send my younger brother home with nobody to accompany him.  It was a fair bit of luck that he and I had found ourselves at Bilbo’s door in the first place, I didn’t like to think of my little brother making the long, dangerous journey back to The Blue Mountains alone and no doubt distraught over being sent back at all.

“Kili,” I called softly, holding one arm out for him to come into.  He shot a cautious glance at our company before wrapping himself against me, laying his head on my shoulder (though he had to lean down to do so).  He pressed himself into my arms with a long-forgotten eagerness, for once unperturbed by the watchful glances of the others.  I responded in kind, running hands along his familiar frame checking for new wounds, my thoughts filled with images of what could have happened had Bilbo not been so clever as to play for time or had Gandalf not appeared to cleave that great rock in two and bring in the dawn.  I could not have said who trembled more.  Vaguely, I became aware of him whispering something under his breath.  I bade him speak louder but instead he raised his head to whisper in my ear.

“Please don’t let him send me back,” he begged softly, his breath hot on my ear.  “I couldn’t bear it if you were to go on without me – what if you were hurt, and I was not there?”

I was about to answer him – though I know not what I would have said – when Thorin appeared before me.  I felt my brother stiffen in my arms.  My Uncle and I gazed at each other over my brother’s hunched shoulders for a moment until I could bear his intense gaze no longer and had to look away.  Thorin placed one huge hand on each of our shoulders.

“Come,” he commanded, drawing us apart and back towards the troll’s fire where our company now sat.  We allowed ourselves to be led, though our Uncle did not speak again until we entered the circle of firelight.  I vow I could feel the wrath radiating off Thorin, though his grip on my shoulder was surprisingly gentle.  “Sit down,” he told us sternly, indicating a fallen log at the edge of the camp, facing the others.  We sat.

Beside me, Kili glared downwards in a way that I knew others – who did not know him as I did – might consider to be sulking.  But I knew my little brother of old, and I could almost hear the way his darkest thoughts whispered to him of having disappointed our Uncle, of having failed before we had really even started.  I knew, in part, because I felt those same things.  I suddenly realised that Thorin had been speaking since we sat down and that I had not been paying of blind bit of attention, so focussed was I on my brother.  I dragged my eyes from Kili’s hunched form and chanced a glance around at the others.  Each of them watched and listened to Thorin now, nodding every so often and rubbing at their newly acquired bumps and bruises.  I felt guilt gnawing at me – what could have happened tonight simply because my brother and I had not been paying attention.

“…so you see, gentleman,” Thorin was saying now, addressing the company, “we have been fortunate this time.  But as I see it, we have but two options available to us now.  This transgression, this…disregard of duty cannot go unanswered.”

I felt my face heat up as it dawned on me what they were discussing and I forced myself to listen though the sheer disappointment in my Uncle’s voice threatened to bring tears to my eyes.  A quick glance told me that each of our companions looked stern and, in some cases, angry.  I could hardly blame them.  Even Bofur, who was normally so jolly, looked on in uncharacteristic grimness.

“If it is not dealt with, then it may happen again and I cannot afford for anyone,” here my Uncle paused and shot a dark look at Bilbo, “to become a liability to the group.  So, the first, and indeed some of you may think best, option, is that since Kili cannot be trusted with the welfare of the group, his presence in it must be forfeit.  He shall return to The Bue Mountains forthwith and no longer be a part of our company.  In the meantime, we may hope that without his brother’s influence,” I felt my brother flinch violently and my heart positively ached for him.  “Fili will require no further action against him.”

I was touched to hear a few startled cries of disagreement with this course of action from Ori, Bombur and Bilbo though the others continued to look on in sad acceptance.  Mainly though, my attention was focused upon my little brother whom I could feel trembling slightly where our shoulders were touching.  I wrapped one arm around his shoulders, rubbing with my thumb as he rigidly leant into my touch.

“Thorin.”  I did not realise I had stood or spoken until it was too late.  Thorin turned sharply, clearly annoyed by my interruption whilst behind him, all eyes turned to Kili and me.

“What is it you have to say, Fili?” Thorin growled.

I hesitated.  Could I really give up my place on this adventure to babysit my brother?  Was I really willing to return home in shame and indignity simply because in a moment of immaturity I had given in to my brother’s need for a playmate?  I glanced down at him, seeing him blink his big, dark eyes at me – so hopeful as ever that his big brother would help get him out of this most recent fix and yet, something new as well.  My brother, my poor, desperate little brother gazed at in such heartbroken humiliation that I knew in an instant what I had to say.

“Thorin,” I repeated more clearly, “If you send Kili back to The Blue Mountains – if the company sends him back – then I must go too.”  I noticed a few of them exchange anxious glances with each other, some nodding approvingly, others frowning.  “I can’t go on and leave him behind,” I explained helplessly, looking straight into my Uncle’s eyes, willing him to understand, “I won’t.”

“’Won’t, is it, little boy?”  Thorin growled quietly, though I fancied his eyes shone with something akin to pride.  I knew not how.  In the past few days I had made a mockery of the monsters who murdered my kin, shown a negligence that almost resulted in the death of the entire company but now, as I simply voiced what was always in me – my absolute and unconditional love for my brother – my Uncle still somehow found it in himself to be proud.  He dropped his gaze to my brother, who had once more returned to staring at the earth.  “And what have you to say, Kili?  Will you allow your brother to make such a sacrifice?”

Kili’s head shot up, startled at being addressed.  We watched him flounder, clearly stuck between the answer he felt he ought to give (‘No, of course not.’) and the one he clearly wished to.  He darted me a look of such abject shame that I couldn’t help but intercede.

“He doesn’t have a choice,” I declared, far more confidently than I felt.  Kili raised one hand to cover mine where it lay on his shoulder; I squeezed tightly.  “Thorin, I won’t go any further without him.”

“And what if I forbid you from leaving us?”

I swallowed.  Truthfully, if Thorin really did forbid me to leave, I doubted I would disobey but then I could not imagine my Uncle ever forcibly separating us that way so it really made no difference.  At my silence, he gave me a knowing look before bidding me sit down.

“That is the first course of action,” he continued as if I had not spoken, turning back to the group.  He hesitated before speaking again, “The second is that they both remain here with us and that you all trust that I, as their leader and as their kin, shall take care of this misconduct as I see fit.”

I had been both hoping and dreading that he would suggest such a course.  I dearly hoped that despite his own anger towards us, Thorin would not expand on how he intended to ‘take care’ of us.  I did not think my dignity would bear it.

“So, either they both leave, or they both stay?”  Ori piped up, looking at me rather than my Uncle.  I nodded slightly, and noticed my Uncle also doing so.  Ori brightened and I felt a rush of affection for him – though I did not know him all that well.  “Oh, well, I vote the second course.  They have to stay!”

Beside him, his brother’s gave him stern frowns that demonstrated their disapproval.  Ori, Thorin and I all looked at our fellow dwarves, and of course our wizard and hobbit expectantly.

“I do not ask for a unanimous vote,” Thorin prompted them.

“Well,” began Dwalin and I found myself mouthing pleas at him though he made an effort not to look, “I shall favour my king’s decision.  It is not for me to decide for him.”

I found myself vaguely surprised at his deference to my Uncle; as far as I was aware, Dwalin had always spoken his mind most readily around Thorin.  It suddenly occurred to me, with a painful tug in my chest, that Dwalin in fact wished to send us home and had refused his vote out of friendship and care for my Uncle. 

When, at last, all eleven of them had cast their votes (for Gandalf had refused since he was ‘not really a part of the company but only thought to check in with us’ and Thorin did not vote and my brother and I were understandably not eligible), Thorin turned to us both with a smouldering frown.  “So be it,” they had eventually opted for our second option.  I was glad not to be made to leave but the thought of what I suspected now awaited us made my stomach do familiar flip-flops.  “Very well.  Come, Fili, Kili,” Thorin commanded as he passed us, not bothering to stop and check that we were indeed following.

I took hold of my brother’s sleeve, dragging him up and leading him along behind me, not daring to look back at the company.  Ahead, our Uncle stomped through the trees, clearly knowing exactly where he was going.  My stomach twisted at the thought that he had already planned this and I wondered what he would have done if the group had voted against him – I wanted to ask if he really would have cast us out but I did not like to risk angering him further. 

“We could have died.”

I stopped, turning to my brother and taking both of his hands in mine.  He stared at me, eyes haunted and lower lip faintly trembling.  “But we didn’t,” I reminded him, enfolding him to me and petting his hair softly.  He shook in my grasp, not quite crying but clearly on the verge of it.  My heart went out to him, I couldn’t help but think was probably not the way he had imagined his first real adventure would go.

“Gentlemen!” Thorin reappeared ahead of us, clearly having realised we were no longer with him.  Kili whimpered slightly and pressed himself closer to me, I hushed him though he was still uncharacteristically quiet and turned imploring eyes on our Uncle.  “We will not go much further, come!” he commanded, though I saw his expression had softened somewhat.  He turned and continued on his way, trusting that my brother and I would eventually catch up.

Chapter Text


At last, my nephews emerged from the undergrowth, Fili looking faintly surprised that I had led them back to our own camp without his noticing.  He still had hold of one of his brother’s hands.  I raised my eyes to Kili’s face, or rather, tried to; he would not look at me.  “Kili, look at me,” I called softly, testing how deep into his mind he had retreated.  He did not look up, did not even move.

“Kili,” my elder nephew said, also turning to his brother, “Kili, Thorin is speaking to you.”

A shake of his dark head told me everything I needed to know – Kili would neither look at us, nor even acknowledge me right now so completely filled with his own shame was he.  How well I recalled that feeling.  No leader, indeed no man, is without fault, but that first mistake, that first instance of endangering another’s life clings to a man, ingrained in his memory.  I had passed that milestone nearly two centuries ago and, though I had made several such mistakes since then, the weight of that mistake still haunted me like no other though I no longer allowed it to hold sway over me.  Fili too had already experienced it, many years ago when he had led his brother and several of their friends off on some unknown adventure that had resulted in several broken limbs and the lot of them spending the next fortnight in bed recovering from various injuries.  Given what could have happened, the result of Fili’s catastrophic first attempt at leadership had been merciful to say the least.  Still, once he had recovered sufficiently, I had dealt with Fili and his most vicious guilty feelings just as I intended to do now.  I would make certain Kili returned to our company knowing that despite his…ill-advised actions earlier, he was still a worthy member of our company and was not in fact, the liability he now felt himself to be.  I had, of course, had no intention of sending him away and certainly not alone, unless the company had voted unanimously in favour of it.

“Kili,” I said sternly, curling one finger under his barely-bearded chin and raising his face to mine, “when I call you, you will answer.  A little respect, a little obedience would have put me in a better mood.”

His eyes widened slightly, though I knew he had not intended to disobey me.  He was again that little boy – my youngest boy – wide-eyed and pale faced as his latest seemingly harmless mischief turned to absolute disaster.  So young.

I sighed heavily; no, I would not send either of my sister-sons from my sight but I sincerely regretted their being there in the first place.  I shot a glare at Fili, unable to help the stab of anger at him (and myself) for persuading me to allow Kili to join us.  I ought to have held my position and, if Fili was so adamant he would not accompany me without his brother in case his brother followed anyway, I should have told him so be it, and left them both at home with my sister – safe and free to act their young ages without fear of endangering anyone else. 

They could have died.  We all could.  But most importantly, they could have died without my even knowing about it.  They should have come to me the moment they realised the ponies were missing and consequences be damned, not headed off into the unknown with only each other and a hobbit to protect them.  Did they not see, had I become so distant a leader to them that they had not considered that I would rather have known they were safe than been angry about missing ponies?  I was not some tyrant, surely?!  Suddenly, though my anger still simmered beneath the surface, my relief at their being alive and unharmed overwhelmed me.  I could not have shown my affections before, where I had needed to make an example of them for the company – dereliction of duty would not be tolerated – but here, away from prying eyes…

I gathered both of them to me, ignoring their surprise and running my hands along both of their backs.  Fili seemed to melt into me, one hand mirroring my own as he checked my own body for injuries.

“Uncle, are you hurt?” he asked, drawing back to stare seriously into my eyes.

“Nay, I am not hurt,” I smiled, pushing matted yellow hair from his face, “are you?”

He shook his head, glancing at his brother.

“And you, my quiet little boy, are you injured?”  I asked, tilting my face to look into his.

A beat then, quietly: “No, Thorin.”

I shared a dark look with my elder nephew, this uncharacteristic reluctance to interact beginning to get more than a little worrying.  Very well, if he would not allow himself to be comforted then so be it. 

“Enough of this then,” I said, forcing myself to become stern once more (in truth not a great difficulty once I began to think of how easily any of us could have been lost tonight), “Let us get down to business.”

Fili released a few tremulous breaths but nodded bravely at me, stepping back.  His brother stepped back too, once more staring at the ground.  I paused.  In the past, when their behaviour had called for it and I had disciplined them – which had often seemed to be alarmingly frequently – I had always dealt with Kili first.  He was younger and unlike his brother who was usually only a reluctant participant in the mischief, held a devil-may-care attitude that tended need the most convincing in order for him to see the error of his ways.  Not to mention the fact that while Fili recognised the need for someone to curb his brother’s recklessness, Kili tended to become…distressed when I reprimanded his beloved older brother.

Here however, I was stuck.  Were I able to fit them both alongside one another and discipline them together, I would do so.  I briefly longed for the time when they were both so small that I could lay them across my knees side by side and be done with this unpleasant business twice as fast.  On the one hand, Kili was close to unravelling as it was and might therefore require less of my efforts than his brother might; on the other, I had two issues I wished to discuss with him and only one with Fili.  They would likely both be comforted by the familiar order of things yet if I reversed them, it might serve to unsettle Kili enough that I could dispense with our usual verbal sparring and simply get down to it.  After all, how often had I been faced with Kili’s defiantly insisting that for once his older brother should go first? 

I turned, removing my outer coat and weapons before draping seating myself on the rock upon which Balin had sat earlier.  I spared a moment to be thankful he had left his cloak on it as we hurried off to rescue my hapless young nephews and the hobbit.  I watched them both for a moment before making my decision.

“Fili,” I said quietly, holding out one hand to him, “Come.”

Wrong-footed, he shot me a wide-eyed look of surprise that was then shared with his younger brother.  “But Kili always – ”

“Fili.”

Reluctantly, he made his way over to me, removing his weaponry and coat and laying them down beside mine.  I watched him approach and then ordered Kili sit down and observe.  He sat, rigidly, eyes carefully averted but no matter, he would hear.  Turning my attention back to Fili, I spared him a smile – he was being so brave, though I knew his heart must be thudding at the thought of his little brother watching this.  I had never had to ‘make an example’ of Fili for his brother as my father had of me for Frerin and Dis.  Fili never seemed to even consider the foolhardy things Kili did whereas I, though not by any means a tear-away like my younger siblings, had often been a terrible disappointment to Thrain.  All the same, the idea of Frerin observing my chastisements had always made me flush and reconsider whatever childishness I had had planned.  My thoughts turned to Frerin, briefly, as I looked at Fili.  So alike in colour and looks yet so different in personality, it seemed to me that in my two nephews, my brother had been split – his appearance for Fili and reckless personality for Kili.  My sister had often commented on the same thing.  Alas – for Fili anyway – the moment passed and I was once again determined to do right by my nephews and steer them in the direction of maturity.

“Come,” I told Fili now, patting my knee and reach for his arm to guide him into place.

He resisted, briefly, before allowing himself to be laid across my knees, his arms resting on the wool-covered rock beside me and legs stretched out behind him.  Shifting him up slightly, I slid his undergarments down and flipped his tunic up.  He released a soft moan, burying his face in his arms.  I patted his now bared backside, understanding his mortification – it had been several years since he had last found himself in this position and the sudden return to it would of course distress him.

I began, as always, with half a dozen or so good, hard smacks to the quivering cheeks before me – meant to quickly force my nephew into acceptance before I began the more bearable swats that would make up the rest of his hiding.  I began in silence so that Fili (and indeed his brother) had no choice but to listen to the solid sounds of flesh on flesh and picture them in his mind’s eye.  He knew what he had done wrong, knew why this was happening to him and therefore I felt no need to drone on and on about it, instead allowing my hand to voice my displeasure at his actions.  He had yelped aloud at my first few smacks but now remained resolutely quiet.  I had expected it – for he had never been any different – and so continued with my now slightly lighter slaps.  For the most part, I kept my eyes trained on Fili’s face or quickly reddening backside but every so often, I would glance up to check on my youngest nephew.  He sat, stiff and hunched over, periodically burying his face in his hands; he was not crying, I could tell, but I saw how he trembled every so often as if overcome by his battling emotions.  He did not however, attempt to flee or otherwise remove himself from us and for that, I was proud of him.

Below me, Fili squirmed and drew in a tremendous breath before going almost completely silent.  Concerned, I turned my full attention back to him.  “Fili?” I asked, my hand resting on his hot cheeks.  His lay shuddering slightly, his face buried completely in his arms, which were grasping each other white-knuckled as he no doubt tried to resist throwing his hand back to protect himself.  A quick glance beneath his golden hair showed me why his quiet noises had stopped.  I shook my head exasperatedly, moving my arm lower, now targeting his as yet untouched thighs and under-cheeks.  As I had expected, he quickly released his bite on his own forearm and released several mewling cries.  Odd, I knew from many years of this that he would normally be at the bellowing stage with me by now.  Still, satisfied he was not going to bite through his own arm, I returned my firm smacks to his scarlet bottom.

He went rigid and I thought he would begin his cries now as he usually did but instead, he sucked in a huge breath and settled once more.  Suddenly, he looked straight over at his brother and realisation dawned on me.  He would not break, would not plead with me nor sob out his pain and guilt for fear of further upsetting his beloved brother.  I’m sure that, as it always had between my brother and I, pride was also a factor but primarily, he would not inflict his own suffering on his younger brother.  This had never before been a factor since, as I said, Kili usually went first and had no such qualms in front of his brother.  Fili however, had always insisted on acting the stronger, braver older brother so that Kili knew he was free to break down and be comforted.  I had often done the same with Frerin. 

Usually, once Kili had been dealt with he became inordinately sleepy and could not care a whit for his big brother’s carrying on – after all, he had gone first and had survived it so any reaction Fili felt justified in giving never truly worried him.  But I had swapped their turns and now I could hardly send Kili away just because his brother was too either too proud or too concerned to be honest about his feelings in front of his wide awake (if not entirely ‘with us’) brother. 

“Perhaps I am not getting through to you,” I commented lightly, increasing the speed of my swats and watching him bury his face again, “or perhaps you do not feel you deserve this treatment from me?  Well?  Answer me, Fili.”

He shook his head before giving in and raising it from his arms.  “No, Thorin – Uncle – I know I ahhh!” he broke off, finally releasing his first honest cry as I returned my smacks to his pink thighs.

A quick glance told me Kili had fully retreated, hunching over and covering his ears with his hands, eyes screwed shut – if I cannot see you, nor hear you, then you are not here and that is not happening.  It would have been endearing really, if it were not so pitiable.  Still, it provided me the opportunity I needed.

“He is not listening, you know,” I told Fili quietly, leaning over him slightly.  His breathing hitched as he immediately looked too.  “At least, he is trying not to.  And you have never thought less of him for reacting honestly to this, why do you not allow yourself the same freedom?”

He whimpered, some of the tension easing though he still flinched with every slap that fell on his scalding backside.  I understood why he could not answer, even understood what he would not say aloud.  That there were but two of them, and they could not both fall apart at the same time; one of them needed to stay strong to comfort the other and, since he was the eldest, that duty fell to Fili.  Oh, how well I understood; but as long as I was around, that duty was not his to undertake.

“Fili, I am here, as I have always been,” I informed him, pausing in my efforts to run my stinging hand over his dishevelled hair and quaking back.  He turned his head into my touch, red-rimmed eyes seeking out mine.  I smiled softly, feeling my chest tighten at the love and unhindered trust I saw in his eyes.  “You are safe – both of you,” I murmured and he broke.  Turning away from me again and collapsing over my knees as if he had no bones in him, sobbing hard as if to make up for his time resisting it.  Relieved, for I did not think either of us could bear my taking him much further, I began spanking again but with far lighter, less frequent blows.

This time he did not attempt to resist, did not hold back from voicing his pain, instead he opted for several loud, slightly hoarse bellows that his brother would hear no matter how hard he was trying not to.  “You are safe,” I repeated, forcing myself to become sterner again, “but what you did today very nearly cost the company their lives!”

He arched and cried out as I emphasized my point with several harder, no doubt burning whacks to his sensitive under-cheeks before returning to my lighter smacks.  He wriggled, trying to avoid them but still did not reach back – I was so very proud of him, taking his punishment so bravely.  I told him so.

“Th – thank you, Uncle,” he said haltingly, his sobs beginning to change from the frenzied ‘ow ow ow’s to a gentler, calmer tone that told me we were done.  He knew he had done wrong and when he saw he could not rectify it, had run to us as he ought to have done in the first place.  Still, his guilt and fear had eaten away at him as we had righted the trolls camp where our companions now waited for us – hopefully, they had had the forethought to rest for a little before we had to move on – and now, finally, he could accept that he had been punished and that he must release it now.  He was safe to do so without fear of being considered callous or careless with his companions’ lives.  Fili would forgive himself for endangering them and himself, and, although I knew he would not forget it, it would hold no sway over him now. 

“Fili,” I called softly, at last resting my hand against his scarlet cheeks, “What do you say when you have done wrong?”  He paused, suddenly aware that I had stopped.  “Fili?”

“Ssorry, Uncle!” he gasped out eventually, craning round to see my face.  I reached out, helping him turn so that he now sat right way up on my knees, his bottom just slightly elevated away from them, his breath hot against my neck.  “Uncle, I’m so sorry!” he continued to whisper, enfolding himself to me tightly.  “…Was stupid.  I was so so stupid and – and bad!

“Nay,” I shushed him sternly, rubbing his quaking shoulders, “You were neither of those things.  It was a mistake, Fili – a costly one – but only a silly mistake.”  I patted his bare leg, just beneath where I had warmed them, and raised my eyebrows at him.  “One that you will not be making again, yes?”

He nodded vehemently, looking so much like his younger self I could not help but chuckle.  I pressed his head back down to my shoulder, kissing his forehead gently and continuing to whisper to him softly – words that neither he nor I would dream of saying were he not so distressed and recovering from such a shock.  As his weeping eventually changed to soft sniffling, I turned my attention to my other nephew in need of my attention.  He was watching us now, dark brows knitted together in concern for his older brother.  I gestured him over with a jerk of my head, raising my own brows when he did not immediately come to us. 

Eventually, he stood and stiffly made his way to us, reluctance emanating from him in waves.  Sensing his approach, Fili looked up and smiled at him briefly, wrapping one hand around my younger nephew’s wrist and drawing him closer.  Suddenly, Kili leapt forwards and wrapped both arms about his brother’s neck, burying his face in the back of his brother’s hair.  I did not need to look at Fili to know that he, like myself, could feel the shaking and soft expulsions of breath.  I reached up, placing one hand on Kili’s dark head, feeling him tense as I did so before relaxing under my hand.  Oh yes, Kili was most assuredly in need of my attention now.  It is a good thing that I have worked most of my life in a forge or else I suspect my arm would have given out years ago.

After a few minutes, when Fili had calmed enough and it became clear that Kili was not going to calm at all, I released my hold on both of them, surreptitiously shaking out my hand as I did so.  Fili turned knowing - if slightly reddened – eyes on me, pushing Kili away so that he could stand.  He hissed as he righted his clothing again – for his tunic had been so long, there had been no reason to do so earlier – before turning and giving me one last hug.  I held him for a moment, whispering one last time how proud I was of him and how bravely he had borne his punishment and how he was completely forgiven – by me at least – and that he must release his guilt now.  He nodded, smiling bashfully at me before we both turned our eyes to his younger brother.

“Well then sir,” I intoned sternly, noting the way he gulped.   “Now it is your turn.”

Chapter Text


My poor brother.  Though it had been several years since our uncle had felt the need to address our behaviours this way, I recalled all too well how it felt to bear witness to my brother’s chastisement before being forced to endure my own.  I could recognise the fear in his countenance, the involuntary step back as Thorin called to him and could sympathise with the way every instinct in him was telling to run.  He would not, of course, any more than I ever have which somehow makes it all the worse.  Usually, however angrily or unaffectedly I enter these situations, the very knowledge and guilt that I – as his older brother, the one who is supposed to protect him even (especially) from himself – have allowed Kili to behave so terribly as to inspire Thorin’s most physical retributions is enough that by the time it is my turn for comeuppance, I am near ready to beg him to take me over his knee and allow me to atone for it.  The same did not seem to be true of Kili.  I had never seen my brother look so full of shame as I had the past few hours; regardless of anything my Uncle did I vow Kili could not have felt any more guilty or ashamed of himself than he already did if he tried.

At Thorin’s words, Kili had retreated several steps, giving a tiny shake of his head.  He would not look at either one of us, preferring to stare at a patch of dirt just in front of our Uncle’s feet.

“Kili,” our Uncle repeated firmly, though he did not in the least bit angry at my brother’s defiance.  “Come to me.”

I stood awkwardly between them, wondering if I ought to help chivvy my brother along or stand back and let Thorin deal with it.  Not that Kili’s refusing to submit was a new occurrence, there had been increasingly frequent occasions when he would resist it, even going so far as to openly refuse, though it had never lasted long.  But then, those times had been because Kili, in all his youthful arrogance, had truly not felt that he deserved punishment.  His current situation, however, was far more familiar to me than him.  I understood – how well I understood – he was not refusing out of disregard for our Uncle or because he did not feel deserving of punishment, rather, he did not feel deserving of our Uncle’s punishment.  It simply did not seem enough.  And yet, despite that, despite feeling that he deserved so much worse for his actions, he could not cross that space and openly submit himself to Thorin’s hands.  It would hurt, memorably in fact, but once Thorin had dealt with him he would be forgiven and right now, if I knew my brother as I thought I did, that thought was more frightening than any physical pain our Uncle would inflict on him. 

Quite suddenly, Kili looked at me, such pitiful uncertainty as I had not seen in him in years.  I took half a step towards him, intending to help him accept the blessed atonement our Uncle was offering but before I got any further I felt a hand close around my wrist.  I turned back to my Uncle, wondering why he would not allow me to help but he was not looking at me; instead, he gazed intently at my brother.  It might have seemed cruel, in its way, for Thorin to refuse Kili my help – certainly, if the slight whimper was anything to go by, Kili thought so – but I could understand why he did it.  This was not about right and wrong, not about forcing a spanking on us for some childish mischief, this was real and serious.  Our disregard for our orders earlier had nearly cost the entire company their lives and the fact was, no matter how gut-wrenchingly terrifying the prospect was, the sensible, most responsible thing Thorin could have done was to send us home.  Instead, as our Uncle, he was offering us this second chance but that did not mean there did not have to be consequences.  Thorin could grant us this chance – he would not have done so for perhaps any others and he most likely would not do so again – but we had to accept it, it had to be our choice. 

“Uncle, please,” I whispered, attempting to free myself from his grasp.  Finally turning his eyes to me, my Uncle watched me intently.  I tried to convey in looks alone that I knew –I understood – why he was trying to stop my interventions but that he was simply asking too much of my baby brother.  Giving a very slight nod, he released my arm.  Kili turned fearful eyes on me as I approached. 

“Kili, come, take my hand,” I told him softly, stopping a few feet away and extending one arm to him.  He frowned fearfully at my outstretched hand before raising his gaze and shaking his head ever so slightly, causing several unshed tears to trickle slowly down his face.  I closed the space between us immediately, enfolding him to me tightly, ignoring his slight struggling before he simply collapsed into me, his forehead resting upon my shoulder and arms hanging loosely at his sides.  When he had calmed somewhat – by which I mean he ceased trembling so violently I worried for his health – I pushed him back from me and, keeping a hold of his hand, led him back to where our uncle still sat waiting.

Reaching out, Thorin replaced my grasp on Kili’s hand with his own, pulling my now unresisting little brother to his side.  To my surprise, Thorin did not immediately turn him over his knee as he had with me, but instead pulled him to stand between his knees, holding both of my brother’s hands in his.

“You told us you weren’t hurt,” Thorin accused quietly, indicating one of Kili’s hands which, now I saw, was bleeding sluggishly. 

“It’s a scratch – it’s nothing,” Kili huffed, half-heartedly trying to tug his hands away.

Eyeing him disapprovingly – though we all knew it to be an entirely superficial wound – Thorin raised my brother’s injured hand to his mouth and kissed it gently.  I smiled – if only our burglar could see Thorin now.  Catching my eye, my uncle smiled slightly too, no doubt recalling the many times my brother had demanded he and our mother kiss away various injuries over the years.  Our smiles were short lived however as a choking sob suddenly burst forth from Kili; seemingly even that small gesture of affection had been too much for him.  Drawing him down, Thorin held my brother against his chest, pressing Kili’s head to his shoulder and brushing the tangled hair away.  Darting forwards, I knelt beside them – acutely aware of how unpleasant it would feel to sit properly at present – and laid my head against my brother’s thigh, feeling one of Thorin’s large hands descending to scratch gently and rub against my hair.  Above me, I could hear Thorin murmuring soft reassurances and encouraging words to calm my brother before he became too overwrought and made himself ill.  Reaching up, I took one of Kili’s hands into mine and squeezed it tightly, remembering how terrified – how desperate for any sort of reassurance – I had been after my first real fray.  Looking up, I watched Thorin squeezing my brother’s shoulder firmly, occasionally straying to rub briskly up and down his arm.

“I’m so sorry,” Kili whispered eventually, his voice catching. 

Thorin sighed, shaking his head slightly.  “There will be time for your sorries, Kili,” he said firmly, though not unkindly, “but not yet.”

“But I really am, Uncle,” my brother whispered tightly, pressing his face into Thorin’s shoulder despite having to lean down slightly to do so.

I wondered at them both, unsure whether either of them realised that they were already descending into the childish sort of language Kili (and myself) usually regressed to using once our behaviour had been thoroughly addressed and we lay, breathless with tears, across our uncle’s knees.  Thinking back over our conversations since our company had taken their vote, it occurred to me that, for the most part, we had all of us been using it the entire time.  Though the thought of any others hearing us speaking so to one another made me cringe and flush, it felt wonderfully comforting to know that Thorin clearly thought no less of us for slipping back into being his ‘little’ sister-sons instead of his loyal heirs. 

“I do not doubt that.  But you will be far sorrier when I have done with you.”

Such words should not have comforted my brother; the promise of imminent retribution ought to have made his tears begin anew and yet, from my own experience, I was not surprised when his only response was to nod slightly and press closer to our uncle. 

After a few more minutes of soaking in our petting and reassurances that all would soon be well and that nobody was injured beyond minor, superficial things, Kili hesitantly ventured “Uncle?”

Thorin and I shared another fond smile; as brash and impulsive as Kili had always been, he was almost an adult himself before he had outgrown the childish habit of calling for an adult’s attention before speaking to them.

“Yes, Kili?” Thorin said slowly, unable to keep the amusement from his voice.

“Can you please…” he trailed off, blushing intensely.  I suspect both Thorin and I knew what he was attempting to say, though neither of us interrupted.  My brother’s temporary frenzy clearly having passed, Thorin clearly wanted Kili to make his choice again, now that he was in a fit state to do so.  Eventually, Kili sucked in a trembling breath and asked again.  “Uncle, please, will you…I want…pleasewillyoupunishmenow?”

“Take a deep breath, lad,” Thorin said, rather than answering my brother though I’m sure he understood the hurried request.  “Are you certain that you are ready?”

Kili nodded slowly.

“Do you understand why you are to be punished?”

“Because…” Kili began hesitantly, unused to being asked before his punishment, “because of the trolls?”

“What about them?” 

Kili, looking more like his usual self, huffed and pouted at our uncle’s patient questioning, clearly wanting to get it over with now but I suspected I understood why Thorin was asking him these things now.

“Kili,” Thorin warned quietly, “It is important to me – and to your brother – that you understand this.”

A part of me wished I were brave enough to demand Thorin leave me out of it but a still larger part agree with him.  Uncle had not had to go over these points with me because I already understood, but this was new territory for Kili and because of that, Thorin could not continue if he thought Kili did not understand his reasoning.  As it soon transpired, Thorin was right to be concerned.

“We were attacked by trolls and we could have – ” he broke off, biting his lip, “We could have died.”

“No,” Thorin told him, shaking his head much to my brother’s frustration, “Kili, nobody is angry because we had to fight – these are dangerous lands, and we were lucky not to have encountered our enemies sooner – but you and your brother,” he glanced at me and, though he did not look the least bit angry, I felt myself squirming under his gaze, “were supposed to be on watch with the ponies.”

“We were distracted,” Kili admitted quietly, not looking at our uncle.

“I know,” Thorin said, not sounding the least bit angry.

“We are a very long way from home, Uncle,” Kili lamented, reaching out one hand for mine again.

Thorin glanced at me before replying, “You are indeed.  And it is no shame to miss your home, or to yearn for it even as you go forth to reclaim our home, but you cannot allow yourself to become distracted by reminiscences or silly childhood games!  And you had no business – none at all – sending Mr Baggins to deal with it alone.  Kili, he is no burglar, on that point, we are all agreed.  He could have been killed or, under duress, he might have given away our position and because you and your brother did not warn us, we could have been ambushed whilst we were unarmed.  If you had come to me and told me of the missing ponies, or even come to me after spying on their camp – before sending the Halfling – I would have been angry, yes, for you did not do your duty.  But Kili,” Thorin shook him slightly, “in doing as you did you disregarded the safety of our companions and I cannot allow that to go unanswered no matter the reason behind it.”

Hearing our foolishness laid bare once more, I felt myself blushing.  We had acted ridiculously, I only thanked Mahal that I thought to fetch help when I did – better late than never.  Kili nodded, his face set though his hand was clammy in mine.

“In addition,” Thorin continued, much to my brother’s surprise, “Instead of awaiting our reinforcements, you leaped into danger alone.  Kili, you could very easily have died.”

“That isn’t fair,” my brother protested quietly, “They were going to torture poor Bilbo!”

“Kili, there is great honour in being willing to sacrifice yourself for another, but think on this: could you, one single dwarf with no real experience in battle, have won that fight or even distracted them long enough for Mr Baggins to make his escape?  If we had not arrived when we did, do you think for one moment that either you or the hobbit would have escaped from there alive?”

I watched them closely and, for the first time, it truly occurred to me how close my little brother had been to blundering into his own death tonight.  From the way his face suddenly paled and his hand tightened on mine, I suspected it had not really occurred to Kili before then either.

“Well, Kili?”  Thorin prompted softly, brows raised knowingly.

“No, Uncle,” Kili admitted eventually, eyes downcast.  In spite of the fact that he was universally recognised as our best archer and though I had relatively little experience in battle myself – though I knew Ori had had perhaps less even than Kili – I could not imagine how devastatingly humiliating it must have been for my brother to be reminded of his own greenness. 

Thorin ‘mmed’ meaningfully before repeating seriously, “So, do you understand why you are about to be punished?”

“Yes, Uncle.”

Turning to me, Thorin jerked his head towards the log upon which my brother had previously sat.  Standing stiffly, I regarded it warily, rubbing at my backside absentmindedly.  Behind me, Thorin cleared his throat meaningfully and, casting him a scowl that would have done my brother proud, I sat, wincing as I did so.

“Now then, young sir,” Thorin said sternly, turning his attention back to my brother and raising him to stand before him again, “Let us begin.”

With that, my uncle lowered my brother’s woollen leggings and tipped him over his knee, closing his other across Kili’s legs.  I winced for him, although my brother always tended to kick up more of a fuss than I anyway, the fact that Thorin felt Kili would need to be held down did not bode well.  Kili seemed to agree, whimpering slightly and burying his head against one arm. 

Muttering some sort of reassurance as he had done with me, Thorin raised my brother’s tunic to above his waist before suddenly reaching for my brother’s free arm and tucking it securely against his lower back.  Again, I winced.

“You are still very young, Kili,” Thorin told him gently, rubbing his back, “You are going to make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes may well put others in danger and I may not always be able to help you in that.  But this was no mistake, Kili.  You disobeyed my orders and because of that, you did not know there were trolls nearby but instead of telling me, you deliberately put another of our party, as well as yourself at risk.  I will not lose you, your brother or anyone else in our company to your recklessness and pride.  Do we have an understanding?”

“Yes, Uncle.”

I could already hear the tears threatening again in my little brother’s voice and, though I understood the necessity of this course of action, I hoped my uncle would not be too hard on him.  The words were barely out of my brother’s mouth before Thorin’s hand began to fall.  My brother gasped from the shock of it. I could sympathise; as I had discovered earlier, no amount of bracing could prepare him for that first horrible smack.

Given the fact that he had so recently lit up my own backside something fierce, my uncle was going about my brother’s chastisement with surprising vigour.  I did not watch – could hardly bear to watch – but I did not attempt to leave them, or to intervene at all.  I tried not to listen either though that was, of course, impossible.  I would not lower myself to covering my ears like a child as my brother had though I knew that once Kili started crying in earnest I might be tempted.  Suddenly, there came a pause in my uncle’s swift smacks, and I heard him murmuring something to my brother though I could not hear what it was.  Glancing at them, I saw Thorin moving his leg and laying Kili out properly across his knees so that he could kick should he wish to.  A moment later and Thorin also released his hold on my brother’s arm, in which Kili promptly buried his face.

Kili took great advantage of his newly freed legs as Thorin began spanking again, rearing up and wriggling relentlessly until Thorin paused and spoke again.  I suspected it must have been a warning against his antics because my brother promptly stopped twisting around quite so much, laying still but for his small, clearly involuntary squirming.  Beginning again, I noticed my uncle’s swats, whilst surely still stinging my brother mightily, had lightened somewhat and were beginning to become less frequent.  Sensing that he would not be taking my clearly exhausted baby brother much further and wanting to get up from this accursed log, I stood and edged closer.  I paused as Thorin suddenly caught sight of me and shot me a disapproving look that quickly turned to a knowing but indulgent smirk. 

I could see why Kili had reacted so violently when he was finally given the opportunity, his bottom near glowed from our uncle’s stern attentions.  He had not, by any means, received as long a punishment as I had (though I did recognise that that was partially due to my own stubbornness and pride) but I had no doubt it had been as hard if not harder to endure.  He was clearly tiring now – though he had hardly been at his best when they had started.  And his crying which had barely paused since its onset very early on (for he had been crying on and off throughout their conversation and certainly once he was positioned) was no longer the frenzied, desperate sobs from earlier but the calmer, more familiar weeping of my baby brother, penitent and well spanked after his most recent misadventures.

“Kili,” Thorin called gently though still with a measure of firmness, “It was not time for your apologies earlier, little boy, but what have you to say to me now?”

“ ‘m sorry, Uncle…so s’ry,” Kili sobbed, sounding every bit the ‘little boy’ our uncle was calling him.  Thorin had not harmed him, of course, but there are few things that can bring a fellow back to his childhood like being tossed over his uncle’s knee for a well-deserved hiding.  And, as I had, Kili would no doubt welcome the knowledge that our uncle did not think less of him for it.

“Ah,” my Uncle smiled, seeming to breathe a sigh of relief as he ended the chastisement with two swats to my brother’s under-cheeks that were barely more than firm pats despite them causing my brother to near explode from his lap.  “Then we are finished here, are we not?”

Kili nodded, immediately pushing himself up from Thorin’s lap and standing, swaying slightly as the change in position made him dizzy.

“Kili…” Thorin tutted exasperatedly, reaching for his hand to steady him while Kili redressed and then sitting him back on his knees as he had with me.  Kili clung to him, weeping quietly and seeming entirely oblivious to everything else around them – including me.  Again, I knelt at my Uncle’s feet, watching my brother with my chin resting on Thorin’s knee.  Thorin glanced at me as I did so, smiling fondly and brushing one hand across my head before returning his attention to my brother.

“You did very well, my Kili,” he murmured against my brother’s forehead, kissing his temple and brushing hair from his face, “I am so very proud of you.”

He had said similar words to me earlier I knew but I wondered that I had not squirmed at the indignity of them.  But then my brother drew back and gave him a tremulous smile and a quickly whispered “Thank you, Uncle” before burying his face in the crook of Thorin’s neck again, and I remembered how glorious it felt to be told such things when one’s soul is absolutely laid bare by such an ordeal.  Regardless of how childish they seemed to me now, I knew how such phrases would soothe my brother’s upset as they had mine and clearly so did my uncle.  He whispered soft endearments from our childhood mixed with newer assurances of our value and worth to him within the company to my brother, but quietly so that Kili would have to quieten down in order to hear them.  I felt my eyes fall shut as I listened, feeling Thorin’s hand upon my head and hearing my brother’s soft sniffling as he calmed and could almost have convinced myself that we were safe back in Ered Luin instead of out here in the wilderness heading into untold dangers.  I jumped as cold fingers brushed my face, ghosting over my cheek and I opened my eyes to find my brother gazing at me sleepily.

“ ‘lo, Kili,” I smiled, snatching his hand up in mine.

He frowned slightly, head resting against Thorin’s shoulder.  “Were you very worried, brother?”

“Yes,” I answered honestly.

“And angry…at me?”

“Yes,” I repeated, hushing him as he started to pull his hand away.  “But we both did wrong, Kili, it’s done with now.”

He continued to frown, seeming as though he wanted to say more before sighing and rubbing his head against our uncle’s shoulder, eyes closed, clearly too tired to fret any longer.

“We ought to return to the company,” Thorin intoned reluctantly, one arm bracing Kili’s back as he dozed.  It never ceased to amaze me how easily my brother fell into sleep after being punished. 

“Must we?” I asked him, smirking sheepishly and feeling the colour rise in my cheeks.

“Mm, we must,” Thorin said, brushing damp hair back from my eyes and watching me closely, a look of melancholy upon his face.

“We wanted to come, Uncle,” I reminded him, correctly guessing the cause of his doubts, “Mother would not have allowed you to bring either of us if we had not wanted to come.”

He did not speak for a few moments, seeming to consider that.  Eventually, he turned to my brother, shaking him slightly and calling his name.  I drew back and stood, tugging on my brother’s hand to pull him up despite the little whining noises he was making.  Standing up, he rubbed at his backside surreptitiously, scowling at us both for waking him and for daring to force him to move.

“Kili?” I called, opening my arms to him and grinning as he flew into them as usual.  From the corner of my eye, I could see Thorin collecting our weaponry ready to hand back to us.  Pressing my lips to my brother’s hairline and giving him one final squeeze, I pushed back from him and watched our uncle, gauging his mood.  “I hope you don’t intend for us to ride now, Thorin,” I told him, feeling my grin tugging at my lips and hearing my little brother sniffing a smile too.

“Ride?”  Thorin repeated in mock-surprise, “Certainly not.  We are two ponies down – I intend for you to walk.”

Despite being fairly certain he was joking, I felt my smile falter.  Riding would be painful, yes, but walking?  There would be no hiding our predicament from our fellows; it was going to be hard enough entering the camp without their realising.  The company could not know – he could not mean for them to know! – I would die from the shame of it.

“Uncle?” Kili questioned uncertainly, clearly thinking along the same lines as me.

“Very well,” Thorin relented, shaking his head indulgently, “I daresay our wizard can share his mount with his burglar for now, and that you two can share?”

We both nodded quickly, making him huff a laugh.  “Very well,” he repeated, “But come, the company will be waiting for us and they will need to return for their packs.”

Kili suddenly turned and looked wildly around us as if he expected the entire company to come trotting out from behind the trees, having watched our ‘discussion’.

“Come on,” I told him, shaking my head. 

As we reached him, Thorin raised his arms and laid them across our shoulders, squeezing firmly.

“I would not have sent you away,” he admitted quietly, just before we rejoined the others, “I could not have.  Do not make me regret this decision.”

“No, Uncle,” murmured Kili, blushing.

“No, Thorin,” I agreed.


 

Chapter Text

Fili's POV

My poor brother.  Though it had been several years since our uncle had addressed our behaviours this way, I recalled all too well how it felt to bear witness to my brother’s chastisement before being forced to endure my own.  I could recognise the fear in his countenance, the involuntary step back as Thorin called to him and could sympathise with the way every instinct in him was telling to run.  He would not, of course, any more than I ever have which somehow makes it all the worse.  Usually, however angrily or unaffectedly I enter these situations, the very knowledge and guilt that I – as his older brother, the one who is supposed to protect him even from himself – have allowed Kili to behave so terribly as to inspire Thorin’s most physical retributions is enough that by the time it is my turn for comeuppance, I am near ready to beg him to take me over his knee and allow me to atone for it.  The same did not seem to be true of Kili.  I had never seen my brother look so full of shame as I had the past few hours; regardless of anything my Uncle did I vow Kili could not have felt any more guilty or ashamed of himself than he already did if he tried.

At Thorin’s words, Kili had retreated several steps, giving a tiny shake of his head.  He would not look at either one of us.

“Kili,” our Uncle repeated firmly, though he did not in the least bit angry at my brother’s defiance.  “Come to me.”

I stood awkwardly between them, wondering if I ought to help chivvy my brother along or stand back and let Thorin deal with it.  Not that Kili’s refusing to submit was a new occurrence, there had been increasingly frequent occasions when he would resist it, even going so far as to openly refuse, though it had never lasted long.  But then, those times had been because Kili, in all his youthful arrogance, had truly not felt that he deserved punishment.  His current situation however was far more familiar to me than him.  I understood – how well I understood – he was not refusing out of disregard for our Uncle or because he did not feel deserving of punishment, rather, he did not feel deserving of our Uncle’s punishment.  It simply did not seem enough.  And yet, despite that, despite feeling that he deserved so much worse for his actions, he could not cross that space and openly submit himself to Thorin’s hands.  It would hurt, memorably in fact, but once Thorin had dealt with him he would be forgiven and right now, if I knew my brother as I thought I did, that thought was more frightening than any physical pain our Uncle would inflict on him. 

Quite suddenly, Kili looked at me with such pitiful uncertainty as I had not seen in him in years.  I took half a step towards him, intending to help him accept the blessed atonement our Uncle was offering but before I got any further I felt a hand close around my wrist.  I turned back to my Uncle, wondering why he would not allow me to help but he was not looking at me; instead, he gazed intently at my brother.  It might have seemed cruel, in its way, for Thorin to refuse Kili my help – certainly, if the slight whimper was anything to go by, Kili thought so – but I supposed I could understand why he did it.  This was not about right and wrong, not about forcing a spanking on us for some childish mischief, this was real and serious.  Our disregard for our orders earlier had nearly cost the entire company their lives and the fact was, no matter how gut-wrenchingly terrifying the prospect was, the sensible, most responsible thing Thorin could have done was to send us home.  Instead, as our Uncle, he was offering us this second chance but that did not mean there did not have to be consequences.  Thorin could grant us this chance – he would not have done so for perhaps any others and he most likely would not do so again – but we had to accept it, it had to be our choice. 

“Uncle, please,” I whispered, attempting to free myself from his grasp.  Finally turning his eyes to me, my Uncle watched me intently.  I tried to convey in looks alone that I knew –I understood – why he was trying to stop my interventions but that he was simply asking too much of my baby brother.  Giving a very slight nod, he released my arm.  Kili turned fearful eyes on me as I approached. 

“Kili, come, take my hand,” I told him softly, stopping a few feet away and extending one arm to him.  He frowned fearfully at my outstretched hand before raising his gaze and shaking his head ever so slightly, causing several unshed tears to trickle slowly down his face.  I closed the space between us immediately, enfolding him to me tightly, ignoring his slight struggling before he simply collapsed into me, his forehead resting upon my shoulder and arms hanging loosely at his sides.  When he had calmed somewhat – by which I mean he ceased trembling so violently I worried for his health – I pushed him back from me and, keeping a firm hold of his hand, led him back to where our uncle still sat waiting.

Reaching out, Thorin replaced my grasp on Kili’s hand with his own, pulling my now unresisting little brother to his side.  To my surprise, Thorin did not immediately turn him over his knee as he had with me, but instead pulled him to stand between his knees, holding both of my brother’s hands in his.

“You told us you weren’t hurt,” Thorin accused quietly, indicating one of Kili’s hands which, now I saw, was bleeding sluggishly. 

“It’s a scratch – it’s nothing,” Kili huffed, half-heartedly trying to tug his hands away.

Eyeing him disapprovingly – though we all knew it to be an entirely superficial wound – Thorin raised my brother’s injured hand to his mouth and kissed it gently.  I smiled – if only our burglar could see Thorin now.  Catching my eye, my uncle smiled slightly too, no doubt recalling the many times my brother had demanded he and our mother kiss away various injuries over the years.  Our smiles were short lived however as a choking sob suddenly burst forth from Kili; seemingly even that small gesture of affection had been too much for him.  Drawing him down at once, Thorin held my brother against his chest, pressing Kili’s head to his shoulder and brushing the tangled hair away.  Darting forwards, I knelt beside them – acutely aware of how unpleasant it would feel to sit properly at present – and took one of Kili’s hands into mine and squeezed it tightly, remembering how terrified – how desperate for any sort of reassurance – I had been after my first real fray.  Above me, I could hear Thorin murmuring soft reassurances and encouraging words to calm my brother before he became too overwrought and made himself ill.  Looking up, I watched Thorin squeezing my brother’s shoulder firmly, occasionally straying to rub briskly up and down his arm.

“I’m so sorry,” Kili whispered eventually, his voice catching. 

Thorin sighed, shaking his head slightly.  “There will be time for your sorries, Kili,” he said firmly, though not unkindly, “but not yet.”

“But I really am, Uncle,” my brother whispered tightly, pressing his face into Thorin’s shoulder despite having to lean down slightly to do so.

I wondered at them both, unsure whether either of them realised that they were already descending into the childish language Kili (and myself) regressed to once our behaviour had been thoroughly addressed and we lay, breathless with tears, across our uncle’s knees.  Though the thought of any others hearing them speaking so to one another made me cringe for both their sakes, it felt wondrously comforting to know that Thorin clearly thought no less of us for slipping back into being his ‘little’ sister-sons instead of his heirs. 

“I do not doubt that.  But you will be far sorrier when I have done with you.”

Such words should not have comforted my brother; the promise of imminent retribution ought to have made his tears begin anew and yet, from my own experience, I was not surprised when his only response was to nod slightly and press closer to our uncle. 

After a few more minutes of soaking in our petting and reassurances that all would soon be well and that nobody was injured beyond minor, superficial things, Kili calmed enough to push himself back from our uncle, rubbing at his nose with the back of his hand and glancing sheepishly at Thorin.

“Better?”

Kili took several shuddering breaths before shrugging, “Sort of.”

I swear Thorin almost smiled.  “’Sort of’ will have to do I’m afraid, my lad,” he sighed, gently pushing me away and raising Kili to stand again.  “Come,” he commanded then, barely waiting for my brother’s response before tipping him over his left leg and lowering Kili’s leggings, closing his other leg across my brother’s as he did so.  I winced for him – the fact that Thorin foresaw the need to hold him down did not bode well for Kili.  Kili seemed to agree, whimpering slightly and burying his head against one arm. Thorin did not begin straight away, instead rubbing my brother’s back as Kili attempted to re-familiarise himself with his position.

“You are still very young, Kili,” Thorin told him quietly, “You are going to make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes may well put others in danger and I will not always be able to help you in that.  But,” here my uncle’s tone grew sterner, “this was no mistake, Kili.  You disobeyed my orders and because of that, you did not know there were dangers nearby but instead of telling me, you deliberately put another of our party, as well as yourself at risk.  I will not lose you, your brother or anyone else in our company to your recklessness and pride.  Do we have an understanding?”

“Yes, Uncle Thorin.”


Thorin's POV

 ‘Yes, Uncle Thorin.’  If I closed my eyes, I could have been in any number of past memories – with either of my boys – addressing a seemingly infinite number of past transgressions the words (and tone) were so familiar to me.  Still, I could not afford to languish in nostalgia overlong; the quivering form stretched across my knee both invited and demanded my attention.  Looking up, I nodded my elder nephew towards the fallen tree upon which Kili had previously sat.  He meandered over to it, regarding it warily as if concerned it might jump up and bite him if he got too close.  Then, with a scowl that would have done his brother proud, Fili sat stiffly upon it, wincing slightly as he did so.  Satisfied, I returned my attention to Kili.

“Very well,” I began, encircling his waist with one arm and pulling him more snugly into my stomach, “Let us begin.”

At my opening smacks, Kili near exploded from my lap, his legs jerking desperately beneath my own.  Though I sympathised – these smacks were far beyond my usual ‘attention getting’ start – I tightened my hold on him with a murmured order to settle down which, after a dozen or so of these most sincere swats, he did.  Pleased by this show of acceptance, I reduced my strength as I had done with his brother, though my swats remained considerably harder than either of us were used to my giving him.  He buried his face in his arms, presumably in an attempt to hide or at least muffle any response to his punishment but already I could hear him sniffling again as tears once more began to threaten.

After several minutes of silence but for the sounds of flesh on flesh and my nephew’s continued refusal to give in to his emotions or give voice to his pain, I confess myself disappointed.  I had hoped that by taking Fili in hand first, and that after Kili had broken down so honestly before we started that I would not have to be harsh with him – certainly, I had expected to be much further along in his punishment by this point – in order for Kili to recognise that he had suffered enough and was indeed deserving of the absolution he now felt himself beyond.  Alas, the stubbornness of my forefathers runs as deeply within my nephews as it ever has within me. 

“Kili,” I said, pausing and resting my aching hand upon his already flaming bottom, “Tell me why you are being punished.”

There came a pause in which I heard several expulsions of shuddering breaths before I saw him shake his head quickly against his arms.  Sighing, I gave one thigh a sharp smack before reaching up and pushing the dark, slightly damp hair from his face so that I could see him properly.

“Kili,” I said sternly, holding his head still so that he had no choice but to look at me, “Tell me.”

He glared at me, though the effect was somewhat lessened by the way he had to bite his lip to stop it trembling and his face was smeared with tears and other fluid as if he were no more than a small child.  Finally, just as I raised my hand once more, he released a choked, almost silent, sob.

“Tell me,” I repeated more gently, this time allowing him to hide his face from me as he spoke despite its meaning his speech was muffled against his arms and I had to lower my head until I was near bent double in order to hear him.

“…’tacked by trolls,” he began quietly, “could’ve…could’ve died.”

“No,” I said, shaking my head though he could not see it, “Kili, nobody is angry because we had to fight – these are dangerous lands and we were lucky not to have encountered our enemies sooner.”  At my words, Kili released another choking sob that I suspected was more from frustration at having been told he was wrong than because of his on-going punishment.  He raised his head, looking utterly bewildered and glancing quickly towards his brother who had until now been avoiding looking towards us.  Now however, as if sensing our eyes upon him, Fili glanced up, smiling sadly and shaking his head.

“That isn’t why, Kili,” he murmured, glancing at me and positively squirming as I attempted to explain things more clearly to my youngest.

“You and your brother were supposed to be on watch,” I told him patiently, feeling him squirm under my arm.

“We were distracted,” he admitted quietly, craning his neck around to look me in the eye.

“I know,” I said simply, pushing dark strands behind his ear before resting my hand on his shoulder.

“There were bluebells and a stream and…” he trailed off, scrubbing angrily at his eyes before lamenting quietly, “We are a very long way from home, Uncle.”

“Yes, you are,” I admitted, placing my hand against his head once more and watching him turn his face into my touch.  I would have had to be blind to have not noticed how like the woods in Ered Luin these parts looked; what with their blanketing of sweet-smelling blue flowers and the stream where we watered the ponies trickling through it could very easily have been the forest nearby where my nephews had grown up.  Little wonder my nephews, who had never been more than a day’s ride from home, had found themselves drawn into homesick reminiscing last night – had I not been left fuming from my disagreement with the wizard I daresay I’d have joined them!  Still, their time had not been their own to spend daydreaming and now that dereliction of duty needed answering.

“Very far indeed,” I continued, forcing myself to recall my firmness despite my sympathy.  I began spanking once more, slow swats that were, in truth, more noise than actual impact though they still had Kili involuntarily wriggling under my hand. “And it is no shame to miss your home, or to yearn for it even as you go forth to reclaim our home, but you cannot allow yourself to become distracted by reminiscences or silly childhood games!  And you had no business – none at all – sending Mr Baggins to deal with it alone.  Kili, he is no burglar, on that point, we are all agreed.  He could have been killed or, under duress, he might have given away our position and because you and your brother did not warn us, we could have been ambushed whilst we were unarmed.” 

Feeling my elder nephew’s ever-protective gaze upon me as real fury threatened to overtake my until then feigned harshness, I paused and sighed.  Suddenly aware of Kili’s soft, almost silent, weeping I felt that ire melt away once more.  I nodded at Fili who had half-risen from his seat and watched him reluctantly retake it before speaking again, more gently this time, and without further swats yet, for I could feel Kili’s stubbornness and energy beginning to fail him.

“If you had come to me and told me of the missing ponies, or even come to me after spying on their camp – before sending the Halfling – I would have been angry, yes, for you did not do your duty.  But Kili,” I shook him by the shoulder slightly, “in doing as you did you disregarded the safety of our companions and I cannot allow that to go unanswered no matter the reason behind it.”

He nodded, again stifling his crying against his arms but he was calmer now, his body laying bonelessly across my lap, trusting me to purge him of his sins and love him still as I always had.  No more fear that I did not appreciate how serious a transgression this had been – that because of my care for him I could not recognise how unforgivable he felt his behaviour to have been, how torturous he felt his punishment ought to have been.  No doubt if I had held my tongue and allowed him to draw his own conclusions as to why he was worthy of chastisement he would have allowed me to beat him until he was as useless and as detrimental to the safety of the company as he felt himself to be.  The very thought that either of my nephews could consider themselves worthy of any worse a punishment than what their mother or I felt it necessary to give made me want to gather him up at once.  It made me want call his brother to me also and explain to them both – in exquisite detail – how very precious they were to me, how there was nothing – nothing – that could ever incite that sort of wrath from me.  As it was, I did what I could to ease his worry further.  Wordlessly, I raised my leg and freed his, laying him out properly across my lap and hushing him as his stiff muscles and aching backside protested the movement.  Though I had not yet resumed his hiding, he wriggled as though testing his newfound freedom. 

“You have been very brave,” I told him quietly, smiling as his already pink face blushed redder from the praise.  Sighing, I looked over his scalded bottom, sparing a thought for the day of travelling they both had ahead.  I briefly wondering whether we could spare a day before moving on but of course, to have done so would have defeated the object, not to mention it seemed unnecessarily cruel to force them to remain any longer at the scene of their wrongdoing than was absolutely necessary.

“There is, of course, one last thing we must discuss,” I informed him, beginning my swats anew upon his as yet untouched thighs up to where his weight would rest most firmly in his saddle.  As I had hoped, he gave up any pretence of stoicism and instead mewled in protest, immediately availing himself of the ability to kick as my hand continued to land unwaveringly despite his efforts in the same place several times before moving on. 

“Whaaaat?” he wailed suddenly, his voice breaking slightly.  I was so surprised by his outburst, I nearly stopped again.  “There is nothing else!  Just stoooop!”

 As it was, I found myself smiling incredulously at him despite the increased strength of my next few smacks.  “I have not raised my voice to you, Kili,” I admonished, “And I will not have demands made of me by you.”  I allowed my impudent young nephew to think on that a little before speaking again.

“There is one more thing to discuss.  Instead of awaiting our reinforcements, you leaped into danger alone.  Kili, you could very easily have died.”

“That isn’t fair,” Kili protested between his now very audible sobs, “were gonna…gonna torture Bilbo!”

I shook my head, wishing not for the first time that Dwalin and I had relied more heavily on real field experience within a company rather than relying on my nephews’ instincts to drive them in their training.

“Kili, there is great honour in being willing to sacrifice yourself for another, but think on this: could you, one single dwarf with no real experience in battle, have won that fight or even distracted them long enough for Mr Baggins to make his escape?  If we had not arrived when we did, do you think for one moment that either you or the hobbit would have escaped from there alive?”

As if he had not truly considered that reality either, there came a noise of shocked dismay from Fili’s direction but I could not spare him more than a concerned glace as Kili chose that moment to freeze, every inch of him going stiff as a rock before finally falling into shocked, pain filled crying.  Ending his punishment immediately, I set to comforting my youngest nephew, tugging his leggings back into place as quickly and gently as I could before turning him to me on my lap and allowing him to cling to me, long limbs wrapping around me with such ingenuousness it was almost painful to bear.  Almost without thought, I found myself rocking him as I had before, hushing the burst of new tears it elicited.  Seeing movement in the corner of my eye, I turned to see Fili edging his way towards us cautiously, looking sheepish yet hopeful as he saw me looking.  Had I space, I would have gathered Fili onto my knee to be comforted as well – he looked almost as upset by his brother’s punishment as he had been by his own.  Giving him a small smile, I nodded my permission and he darted the remaining distance between us, kneeling at my side with his chin on my thigh and Kili’s hand in his as he too began soothing his baby brother’s upset.  Glancing down, I brushed one hand across Fili’s head, smiling fondly as he settled himself more comfortably against my legs, eyes falling shut despite his concern for his brother. 

“It was not time for your apologies earlier, little boy, but what have you to say to me now, hm?” I murmured to Kili over his brother’s shallow sleep breathing.

Kili paused in his tears, pushing his face more firmly into my neck before making much the same apology as his brother.  He too was beginning to settle down now, his sobs turning to soft weeping that was interrupted every so often by yawning – my poor lads, both of them exhausted.  They had been for some time; the youngest members of our group were so unused to travelling for so long and in all weather that recently my nephews and, of course, Ori were spending the better part of the days dozing in their saddles.  And to make matters worse, there was no end in sight of their exhaustion – we simply hadn’t the time to spare.

“ ‘ was scared, Uncle.”

I blinked, startled from my worries by my youngest’s weary admission – as if he had been ashamed to admit it, as if it was only now, on the verge of sleep that he could even think of giving voice to his fright for fear of being judged harshly by myself or our company.  My heart quite broke for him.

“Hush now,” I breathed slowly, quietly, hugging him more tightly to me and turning to press my mouth to his forehead where it rested against my neck.  “I know.”

I did not say any more on the matter – there was very little I could say and I could tell that although he was trying, he was really more asleep than awake now – and, though he opened his mouth several more times as though to speak, Kili eventually sighed, eyes closed and fell quickly into sleep, too exhausted already by the day’s events to continue speaking.

                                                                                                                      


 

Fili's POV

I don’t know how long my uncle allowed us to doze, whether he woke us deliberately or we simply happened to re-join him in wakefulness at the same time.   All the same, I was startled from the last vestiges of sleep as cold fingers brushed my face, ghosting over my cheek and I opened my eyes to find my brother gazing at me sleepily.

“ ‘lo, Kili,” I smiled, snatching his hand up in mine.

He frowned slightly, head resting against Thorin’s shoulder.  “Were you very worried, brother?”

“Yes,” I answered honestly.

“And angry…at me?”

“Yes,” I repeated, hushing him as he started to pull his hand away.  “But we both did wrong, Kili, it’s done with now.”

He continued to frown, seeming as though he wanted to say more before sighing and rubbing his head against our uncle’s shoulder, eyes falling closed once more, clearly too tired to fret any longer.

“We ought to return to the company,” Thorin sighed reluctantly, one arm bracing Kili’s back as he dozed once more. 

“Must we?” I asked him, smirking sheepishly and feeling the colour rise in my cheeks.

“Mm, we must,” Thorin said, brushing damp hair back from my eyes and watching me closely, a look of melancholy upon his face.

“We wanted to come, Uncle,” I reminded him, correctly guessing the cause of his doubts, “Mother would not have allowed you to bring either of us if we had not wanted to come.”

He did not speak for a few moments, seeming to consider that.  Eventually, he turned to my brother, shaking him slightly and calling his name.  I drew back and stood, tugging on my brother’s hand to pull him up despite the little whining noises he was making.  Standing up, he rubbed at his backside surreptitiously, scowling at us both for waking him and for daring to force him to move.  Sharing a wry glance with Thorin, I shook my head.

“You look a sight, Brother,” I informed him, laughing as his sulk intensified.  Behind Thorin’s back, Kili made a series of somewhat impolite gestures towards me suggesting I leave and find an elf with which to engage in illicit and most uncomfortable sounding interactions.  He gave a shocked yelp like a wounded animal as our uncle, having seen the last couple of gestures Kili had used, passed him by with a firm swat to his sore posterior.  Though he immediately turned to me for sympathy, I managed to feign nonchalance long enough for Kili to turn away dejectedly.  At Thorin’s pointed throat clearing, I relented. 

“Kili?”  I called, opening my arms to him and grinning as he flew into them as usual.  From the corner of my eye, I could see Thorin collecting our weaponry ready to hand back to us.  Pressing my lips to my brother’s hairline and giving him one final squeeze, I pushed back from him and watched our uncle, gauging his mood.  “I hope you don’t intend for us to ride now, Thorin,” I told him, feeling my grin tugging at my lips and hearing my little brother sniffing a smile too.

“Ride?”  Thorin repeated in mock-surprise, “Certainly not.  We are two ponies down – I intend for you to walk.”

Despite being fairly certain he was joking, I felt my smile falter.  Riding would be painful, yes, but walking?  There would be no hiding our predicament from our fellows; it was going to be hard enough entering the camp without their realising.  The company could not know – he could not mean for them to know! – I would die from the shame of it.

“Uncle?” Kili questioned uncertainly, eyes like saucers and clearly thinking along the same lines as me.

“Very well,” Thorin relented, shaking his head indulgently, “I daresay our wizard can share his mount with his burglar for now, and that you two can share?”

We both nodded quickly, making him huff a laugh.  “Very well,” he repeated, “But come, the company will be waiting for us and they will need to return for their packs.”

Kili suddenly turned and looked wildly around us as if he expected the entire company to come trotting out from behind the trees, having watched our ‘discussion’.

“Come on,” I told him, shaking my head. 

As we reached him, Thorin raised his arms and laid them across our shoulders, squeezing firmly.

“I would not have sent you away,” he admitted quietly, drawing us in and resting our foreheads together just out of sight of the others, “I could not have.  Do not make me regret this decision.”

“Yes, Uncle,” murmured Kili, face set in determination.

“Yes, Thorin,” I agreed.