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Tales of a Modern Erebor

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Thorin  had a great sense of responsibility imposed on him from a young age. After all, he was the son of Thrain, grandson of Thror, the oldest in the next generation of the greatest members for parliament Erebor had ever had. The Durins had been part of Erebor’s political representatives for as long as anyone could remember, often getting seats in the senate despite the mining town’s relatively small population.

That Thorin would continue in the family business was never a question. At a young age he’d shown intelligence, diplomacy skills, and courage - all admirable qualities within a new leader. Thrain’s confidence in his son’s abilities had been reaffirmed Thorin’s younger sister, Dis, had been born, and the five year old Thorin took it upon himself to be her guardian and protector. Two years later, when his brother was born, his seven year old self swore the same. 

Unfortunately, the universe seemed to have other ideas.

It happened after the Durin family lost their seat in the House of Representatives for the first time in living memory. People had been worried that Thror was resting on his laurels, growing to smug and self absorbed for his own good. When Smaug showed up, filled with charm and brave new ideas, he had won Erebor’s seat by a landslide majority.

In an attempt to patch up their family’s sorely damaged reputation, Thorin, Frerin, Thror and Thrain had decided to attend the local community meeting. They were just around the corner from the town hall when the car’s front tyre had blown, sending the car spinning out of control and wrapping around the nearest tree.

Frerin and Thror had died in ways that would Thorin would see every time he closed his eyes for years after the impact. A branch from the tree had come through the windscreen and pierced his grandfather’s windpipe, leaving the few moments of ringing silence after the crash accented by the gurgling of blood as the older man breathed his last, pained breaths. 

Frerin, stuck in the seat behind Thror, had been killed by the impact, his body taking the force of their car’s collision. When they’d pulled him out of the wreak, the whole left side of his body had been marred, his head nearly pulverised by the impact.

Thrain had been driving at the time, and the guilt never left him. While he recovered in body, his mind held scars deeper than any physical injury could hope to reach. A deep depression drew him in, drowning him in a nightmare where life and death trod a callously balanced tightrope. So it was that Thorin ended up as head of the Durin household at just nineteen years old.

While their family had some money to their name, Thorin knew it would not last. Politics on their level, while paying the bills, did not make them overly rich. So, two years into his Arts Law degree Thorin changed to part time study, signing up for work in Erebor’s mines.

It wasn’t long before Thorin learnt that the mines were a dangerous place if you didn’t have your wits about you. Within his first week he had encountered his first cave in. He would have been buried himself if one of the younger minors, Bofur, hadn’t yanked him back by the scruff of his collar.

Three other young men had not been so lucky, crushed to death beneath the fallen stones that would’ve been Thorin’s tomb if Bofur had not saved him. Hit once again by the grimness that seemed to be the best life had to offer, Thorin volunteered to be the one to tell their families.

Thorin had been working the mines for two months when Thrain killed himself. Dis had been the one to find him, coming home after school to find the house eerily quiet. It had been a horrendous sight - in a fit of insanity, it appeared, Thrain had stuck knives through his own eyes. Whether death had been the intended outcome, or he had just wanted to stop the images of Thror and Frerin laying mangled in the car, Thorin never quite figured out. He could understand both reasonings.

Thror’s death had complicated matters for Dis and Thorin. Thorin’s capabilities as the sole guardian of his fourteen year old sister was called into question, as was his mental stability. If it weren’t for Fundin, an old family friend and father of Balin and Dwalin, two of Thorin’s closest friends, Thorin doubted he would have kept custody of Dis. For a year, he worked the mines diligently, carefully monitoring where every cent went so they would not be cast into any type of debt. Knowing he was being meticulously observed, Thorin made sure that not a single detail missed his attention. He tended to the food and the clothes and the bills and his sister. Welfare payments were on the table, but Thorin always turned them away - he had already taken out a HECs loan for his degree.

Surviving became easier for them as time went on. The siblings settled into habits instilled in them from their lack of funds, and soon coping became their lifestyle.

That was, until Dis became pregnant at seventeen years of age. Her boyfriend was from her school, and was an idiot in Thorin’s eyes. Fortunately, he was a loyal idiot, and instead of running the second he found that Dis was pregnant, he vowed to support her and their child as well as he physically could.

Dis dropped out of school, a move that would have caused Thrain and Thror to hang their heads in shame, and took up working at the restaurant owned by Bifur, Bofur’s older cousin. Every time Thorin saw his fellow miner, he was reminded that he owed him twice over. Whenever he brought it up, Bofur just laughed him off.

“When you’re a big, powerful pollie you can make it up to me.”

The sweet miner’s comment had once more shaken Thorin’s life. For three years, he’d put aside his family’s intended career to focus on mining and raising Dis. While he still worked towards his degree, he no longer belonged to any political party, and hadn’t engaged in much political debate since the night of the fateful car crash. There just hadn’t been the time. And Thorin doubted it would suddenly present itself when Dis had her child.

Still, he made an effort. For the nine months his sister was pregnant, Thorin slowly re immersed himself in the world of politics, looking into what he had missed in his years of mining. By the time Dis’s child was born, Thorin was again familiar with their parliament's inner workings.

His sister’s child was a beautiful thing. Strong and healthy, she had her mother’s shining blue eyes and her father’s golden tufts of hair. Fili, she called the little girl. Brave young Fili. And despite the amount of bother her conception had caused, Thorin found himself falling in love with the little girl from the first time he held her.

Fault couldn’t even be found with her father, who split his time between finishing school, working to support Dis and spending time with his girlfriend and daughter. While they still weren’t on the best of terms, Thorin knew that most other boys his age would have run scared in the opposite direction if it was their girlfriend who had gotten pregnant.

It didn’t keep him from wanting to throttle both him and Dis when two years later she found herself expecting another child.

While Fili’s birth had happened when Dis was too young and money was tight, Thorin would give their newfound economic stability for the event’s surrounding Kili’s birth never to have happened.

Dis had gone into an early labour one night while her boyfriend worked a graveyard shift. Thorin had called him as they’d rushed to the hospital, telling him to come to Erebor’s hospital as soon as physically possible. The stupid kid had always followed orders to the letter, and had jumped on his pushbike to ride there as fast as possible, forgoing his helmet in his haste. He’d sped through the intersection, the oncoming car not noticing him until it was too late.

One life had come into the world while another left it.

In the two years that followed, Dis grew closer to both her brother and Dwalin, Fundin’s daughter and Balin’s younger sister. Thorin finished his degree as Dis climbed the ranks at Bifur's kitchen until she was finally promoted to assistant manager, proving she was as hard working and capable as any Durin to pass before her. Fili and Kili both grew into close friends and right terrors, causing chaos wherever they went. Dis and Thorin both rolled their eyes when other adults simply laughed, knowing that if the children were any less cute they would be the most despised things in town.

With Fili about to enter school and their family settled and happy for the longest time since Thror and Frerin’s death, Thorin decided it was time to do what he’d been brought up to do. When the next election came up, Thorin Durin put himself up for the role of Erebor’s member for parliament as an independent. Between shifts at the mines and taking care of Fili and Kili, Thorin went around to people’s houses, reintroducing himself to many friends who knew from before the accident and letting himself be known around town. 

It was to Thorin’s extreme surprise that, at twenty five years old, he was voted in as the youngest representative Erebor had ever had.

Smaug was not happy. After nearly seven years in power, he had been usurped by a mere boy who didn’t even belong to a political party. But there was nothing he could, as Thorin had won the election fairly.

Politics, as it turned out, was something Thorin was skilled at. Despite his friction with the right winged government, commonly referred to as ‘The Elves’, he was a hard negotiator and he got things done. A name was quickly made for him as the hero of workers. His own blue collard past and association with people like Bofur, Bifur and his sister spurred him to take a stand when bills to raise the lower class’s taxes or to cut workplace health and safety restrictions were put into play. 

Midway through Thorin’s first year as Erebor’s MP, Dis had told Thorin that she was seeing someone. Not just someone, a woman. Dwalin.

The news had taken a while to sink in. Thorin could hardly believe it - his sister, a Durin, with another girl. When he saw them together, though, with Dwalin helping out with Fili and Kili, or with the pair of them snuggled on the couch, Thorin knew he would never stop them in any way. After all, his sister deserved all the happiness she could get. And if Dwalin gave her it, well, Thorin wasn’t going to complain. 

Dwalin, Thorin quickly learnt, was in interesting character. She was tough as old boots and interested in martial arts. Men and women alike often challenged her, and men and women alike always lost. Intelligent as she was strong, Dwalin also had a hidden soppy streak a mile long. The woman cried in disney films, laughed with her girlfriend’s children, and wasn’t afraid to embarrass herself for the little terrors. She was also, Thorin one day discovered, born a male. If Thorin had learnt that a few months previously, he was sure he would have reacted in horror, disgust and confusion. But since his sister had started dating another woman, Thorin had learnt to take things into his stride. Dwalin was a woman, and it wasn’t for Thorin to deny.

With his sister’s relationship always playing in the forefront of his mind, Thorin’s policies focused not just on the rights of blue collar workers, but those of the LGBT+ community. His famed stubbornness got him far, and he became known as the underdog’s representatives. His actions caused Erebor’s slightly more conservative voters turned to Smaug for an alternative, but Thorin’s popularity held within the wider community. 

At the age of twenty six, after seven years of turbulent hardship, Thorin’s life gained stability. But, while the weight of the world was no longer on his shoulders, Thorin refused to let himself forget what it felt like.

He refused to let himself fall into complacency like his father and grandfather before him. He refused to put himself first, knowing that he was nothing. He was a servant to the people, the way it was meant to be. The way Thorin was determined to make it stay.

Chapter Text

Once, a long time ago, mentioning that there were three ‘Ri sisters would not have batted an eyelid.

As time passed, however, commenting on the three ‘Ri sisters would draw any reaction from a confused look to a scowl. God forbid someone mentioned it to Thorin Durin or either of the children of Fundin - the least they would get away with would be a tongue lashing about how Nori was the sister to none.

No, Nori had been a brother for almost as long as he’d been alive. From the first time he’d realised there was a difference between his ma and his da, he’d known he was no girl. Physically, yes, he was like Ori and Dori, all soft lines and curves. In his brain and his heart, though, he was different. His body just didn’t match what was inside. 

Nobody else knew before he was twelve, around the time that his mother finally abandoned him and his sisters. Suddenly, the world became full of people talking to Dori, telling her how admirable she was for taking over the family’s tea shop and the burden of her two younger sisters. Especially the older one - the little girl was a right terror.

The words had burned in Nori’s young brain, a brand against what he was. Not the ones accusing him of being a terror, a delinquent, none of those. No, the ones that burned with lies - she, her, sister. He started correcting people, interjecting ‘brother’ as they laughed. 

It was under such a circumstance that Nori committed his first actual crime. A crusty old man was telling Dori how wonderful she was for taking care of her two sisters, a mistake Nori had already vocally objected to. The man had shaken his head and continued, so Nori carefully pulled his wallet from his pocket. After all, if this man was going to so carelessly pilfer his identity, the least he could do was return the favor.

The money in there had gotten Nori a new pair of jeans and Ori a new set of pencils.

After that, it became habit. For every word that ignored his protests, Nori would take something, quick fingers dancing in and out of pockets with ease that belied his level of practice. Never was he caught, being too quick, too polite, too wily for that.

Well, perhaps never was an exaggeration. He did get caught, once, but not by the man whose pocket his hand was in. No, it was Dwalin, daughter of Fundin whose sharp eyes noticed Nori’s hand lithely dancing into the unsuspecting man’s pocket.

Nori had just run out of his sister’s tea shop, not having even glanced at his catch, when the older woman grabbed him and slammed his scrawny frame up against the wall.

“Nori,” her gruff voice growled. “That wallet isn’t yours. Care to explain?”

There was a fire in Dwalin’s eyes, an anger that suggested she believed Nori did it for fun. An expectation of the man to wiggle under her grasp, letting his silver tongue flow as he slipped away, that charming smile plastered across his face. Not for a second, however, did Nori plan on giving her the satisfaction.

“He called me Dori’s sister.”

Anyone else would have sneered, told him that of course they would say that and of course you’re Dori’s sister. Your fathers don’t change that.

Dwalin, however, loosened her grip, allowing Nori to scramble out from under her choke hold. Those eyes bore into Nori’s, as if gaining access to his mind.

“Had you...?”

“Multiple times. Every time, it’s just that bloody laugh. The pat on the head. The ‘Oh, Nori, you’re such a funny young lady’.” 

Nori’s too plump lips settled into a scowl as he glared at Dwalin in the place of all who offered a slight against his identity. “I want to scream at them. To shake them and yell that I’m no young lady. But Dori said that it would lose us valuable customers, and I know we need them. So I steal from them instead.”

His scowl was taunting, daring Dwalin to scold like Dori scolded. To lecture him about just going along with it, not letting ts stupid ‘phase’ make their already accursed life more difficult. To think of Ori, their little kid sister who didn’t understand when her brother scowled and screamed and stormed and stole. The scowl melted when Dwalin instead grabbed his arm, pulling him down the street away from the tea shop. Before Nori fully figured out what was going on, he was pulled into Dwalin’s own home and set before a surprised looking Balin.

“Nori! What may I do for you?”

“People keep calling him Dori’s sister,” Dwalin growled, her voice going into that impossibly deep register it always hit when she was particularly frustrated. “You’re Thorin’s best friend. Get him to make it stop.”

Balin’s scrutiny of Nori was as piercing as Dwalin’s, if more gentle. Finally, he smiled.

“I’ll see what we can do.”


 

Nori’s arm was looped around Ori’s shoulder, other arm gesturing as he animately talked at his little sister. The girl didn’t pay any attention to her brother, as she was currently carefully licking the ice cream he’d gotten for her less than ten minutes before.

“Nori!”

The boy’s arm stopped waving about as Thorin Durin’s voice called his name. Ori, for the first time, looked up from her ice cream as the older man approached them, leaving behind his sister and her children, a frown on his face.

“I wasn’t aware that the tea shop was doing well enough for you two to splurge on such treats.”

Nori shifted uncomfortably under Thorin’s gaze. The man knew as well as Nori did that the money had not come from Dori’s till. Just his luck, to get found out by their town’s member for parliment. 

“Ori, do you mind if I have a chat with your brother for a little bit?”

“Oi!” Nori cut in. “What do you think she’s going to do while you lecture me? She’s seven! I’m meant to be lookin’ after her, not wandering off chattin’ to politicians and leaving her alone, no matter how important they are.”

Thorin growled in frustration. “I wasn’t suggesting you leave her alone. Dis can keep an eye on her. But we need to have a talk.”

The scowl once more creeped onto Nori’s face. “Ori, are you fine with having Dis look after you while I talk with Thorin? You can play with Fili and Kili.”

“Can I keep my ice cream?”

Her older brother’s scowl cracked, a smile playing on his lips as he nodded. “‘Course you can. Now, go on, I’ll be right here if you need me. And don’ let Fili and Kili steal your ice cream, yeah?”

His sister nodded and scampered off, leaving Nori and Thorin alone. Time to face the music, Nori thought, bracing himself for the tongue lashing of the century.

“Nori, this has to stop. You can’t rob every single person who misgenders you.”

“I can try,” he retorts, feeling grim satisfaction at the way it causes Thorin to pinch the bridge of his nose in frustration.

“Nori...”

“It’s been two years! Two years since I started correcting them! And they still haven’t got the message.”

“It doesn’t change the fact that you shouldn’t rob people,” Thorin said calmly.

“Why shouldn’t I?” Nori retorted. “They’re all rich old farts anyway! Dori barely makes enough to keep us fed, clothed and sheltered, so why shouldn’t I steal from them? They have enough money to not care. I get my revenge. Ori gets ice cream and drawing pads.”

Thorin’s shoulders slumped, looking older than his thirty years. “Nori, I know it’s hard-”

“Do you? Do you really, Thorin?” the teenager spat, fire in his young eyes. “Do you have to watch as your sister slaves her life away to support you and your kid sister? Do you have to smile politely and nod every time someone calls you a girl? Do you ever question if your next fucking meal is going to be actual food?”

“Nori!” Thorin snaps back. “Be sensible for once in your life. What if you get caught? What happens then? Your sister won’t be able to afford any type of bail, and you know it.”

“Maybe I’ll do it on purpose, then,” Nori snarls. “At least I’ll know I’ll get fed properly. And it’ll be one less person for Dori to look after.”

“And what about how your sisters would feel about that?”

“I doubt Dori would care.”

“And Ori?” Thorin growled. “How do you think she’d feel if she knew how you paid for that ice cream? Do you think she wouldn’t care that her brother was in trouble? She looks up to you, Nori. And I know for that every time Dori hears you’ve got a detention she spends the rest of the afternoon worrying about you.”

“Dori doesn’t worry about me. She worries about her reputation. And Ori should grow up and look somewhere other than the family nut job.”

Thorin’s gaze softened into something that could almost be pity. Nori usually despised pity, but it was a look so uncommon on Thorin that instead of filling him with rage, it just made him feel uncomfortable. “Do you really think that Dori cares so little for you? And where on earth did you get the idea that you’re a...” Thorin swallowed, looking more uncomfortable than Nori had ever seen him outside of meetings with the Elves. “You’re not a nut job, Nori.”

“I am. I have ears, you know. I hear people whispering about that ‘poor, deluded girl’ and how ‘she would be getting help if her sister could afford it’.” Nori’s nails were digging into the palm of his hands, jaw set hard in anger. 

Thorin grabbed his shoulders roughly, and Nori flinched, breath hitching as he tensed beneath the older man’s grip. Quickly, the MP released him, allowing Nori to take a step back from him. It didn’t stop him talking.

“Sorry, Nori. I didn’t mean to grab you like that. But those people are wrong. Do you hear me Nori? Wrong. There is nothing, nothing wrong with you.”

“Tell that to Dori,” Nori spat defensively. Thorin’s expression darkened at his words. 

“I already have. Obviously the message hasn’t sunk in.”

The moment passed, and Thorin forced a smile onto his face. “I’ll be seeing you around Nori. But please, please, for the sake of my sanity if not for your sisters, keep your hands to yourself. I think that your detentions are enough.”

Nori nodded seriously, although the little voice in the back of his mind was already urging him to rebel. Two weeks, Nori decided. Two weeks for Thorin to change Dori’s mind and to get everyone to stop referring to him in feminine terms. Then he’d go back to his old habits. 

Thanking Dis for keeping an eye on Ori while he and her brother talked, the siblings headed back to the teashop that was their home. While Nori still kept an arm around his little sister’s shoulders, he was no longer talking animatedly, instead wondering if Thorin would actually manage to change anything this time. After all, he was remarkably good at following through on his words.

“You okay, Nori?” Ori asked, looking up at her older brother through her fringe.

“You know what, Ori? I think I might be.”

The little girl grinned at him, showing off her missing front tooth, and Nori’s heart melted just a little bit. Maybe he would refrain from getting into trouble. But not for Thorin, or Dori, or even himself. No, he’d do it for his little sister.

Chapter Text

Ori was not a girl to be messed with. While the girl was generally quiet and bookish, preferring to hide herself behind her fringe than go out and play, she most certainly wasn’t weak.

Fili Durin discovered this on their first day of school. The girl had been sitting in the corner, carefully drawing in a notebook, when a trio of boys approached her and snatched it out of her hands, calling to each other over her head as they leafed through the five year old’s work. 

“Oi! Give it back!” she’d yelled, jumping to her feet. The boys had laughed in response.

“Make us!”

Fili had been about to intervene when the young girl made her move. She tackled the boy holding her notebook, sinking her teeth into his wrist as he howled. The other boys, getting over their shock at her feral attack, jumped into action, grabbing her and dragging her off their ringleader. Fili was about to intervene, thinking that two against one was an unfair battle, when the young girl stamped on the foot of the boy behind her, before spinning and driving her small, bony knee into the other one’s stomach. 

Satisfied that the three boys would not be bothering her anymore, she straightened her hair, picked up her notebook, and went back to drawing.

Fili had never been more terrified of another person as she had been at that moment. Her uncle’s lessons about facing her fears floated into her mind, so she walked over to where the other girl was sitting.

“That was awfully impressive.”

The girl looked up at Fili and smiled shyly. “My brother always tells me that if someone picks on you, you should fight right back. And never be afraid to fight dirty.”

“He sounds good, your brother.”

“Dori always says he’s not. She always insists that if Nori doesn’t act more ladylike he’s going to get himself in trouble.”

A look of confusion marked Fili’s face. “Why would your brother need to act more ladylike?”

“Dori says that he’s a girl,” the other shrugged. “But Nori said that he was my brother, and I think Nori knows that better than Dori. So Dori must’ve just made a mistake.”

Fili accepted the slightly odd explanation with a nod, moving on. “Do you mind if I sit here?”

The other girl nodded, and Fili sat.

“I’m Fili.”

“Ori,” the other girl offered. They exchanged shy smiled alongside their names, before Ori returned to her sketching. Fili was content to just hum, sitting against the wall, pleased to have made a new friend.

Chapter Text

Dori always inadvertently blamed Nori for her hardships. Her younger sister was the reason her parents fought, the reason her father wound up in prison, the reason her mother walked out on her the second she turned eighteen.

The first six years of her life had been reasonably pleasant. Sure, her mother would come home intoxicated more nights than not. Sure, her father would sometimes scream at them, perhaps throw some plates. But they were a family, however dysfunctional, and when the nights grew cold someone was always there to tuck her in with an extra blanket.

Then her mother got pregnant. To someone other than her father. Dori could still remember him screaming, accusing her mother of being a whore, a slut, of spreading her legs to every available suitor. She could still hear the crack of his hand on her mother’s cheek. 

Nori’s conception had struck a rift in her happy family, and her birth had only made it worse. Nights were suddenly pierced by wailing. From her mother, from her father, from the ugly little baby whose face would screw up as she bawled, as if she realised how unwanted she really was.

Dori’s parents never raised a hand against her. When she appeared in a room, bruised faces would always smile. Ice cream would appear in her hands while the other child sobbed and screamed and howled.  

Nori continued to be a problem child. From the age she could walk, Dori would come home from school in the afternoon and find her hiding in some ridiculous corner, father drunkenly screaming for her. When she grew bigger, she stopped cowering. She would stand up and holler the house down the second Dori’s father started on her mother. She didn’t stop until her father knocked her down, and even then she fought. Dori would spend nights like that hiding, curled in the nearest dark space with her hands clutched over her ears, waiting for the noise to stop.

Dori spent a lot of her time hiding.

It took until Dori was twelve to stop consciously blaming Nori for everything. The day her mother came home, pregnant with the child of the local librarian. Her father had flipped, going to the library and stabbing the clueless librarian to death.

Dori realised her father was a Bad Man. And if her father was a Bad Man, and Nori opposed him, then Nori must be a Good Person.

Again, her life was turned upside down at the new arrival. Ori was everything Nori wasn’t. If Nori was the blow that struck their family apart, Ori was the heat that let them forge back together. She was a quiet child, one who always slept on command, never cried, never screamed.

Dori decided that she liked the new child. Nori seemed to, too. It was probably the first thing the siblings had agreed on. 

It was a good thing they both loved her, as their mother obviously had no love to spare. It was all trapped within her, wrapped up and trapped under a blanket of depression and self-loathing. She rarely made appearances in their lives, and when she did it was fleeting and hatefilled. Nori always dissapeared for the next few days, hiding out god knows where. Most days, however, their mother stayed tucked in her room, pretending the universe didn't exist. 

So Dori took over. She made sure Nori went to school, made sure Ori was cleaned and dressed and fed. She took care of her mother, catatonic though she usually was. When Nori began getting detentions for fighting and disrespect at school, she ground her teeth. Perhaps not out of frustration about Nori, but of fear. Should anyone ever get involved, they would find the ruined home. Dori would be seperated from her sisters, and however much she might act hostile to Nori, she was her sister. And Ori - well, she couldn’t bare for them to be seperated. Ori meant everything to her. And Ori was the only person who meant anything to Nori.

So she took care of them, and their mother, until she was eighteen. On the day of her birthday, her mother had told her she was leaving. She couldn’t do it any more. Grabbing her bottles, her clothes and her money, she left them.

They never saw her again. 

Dori officially took over her mother's tea shop, despite having run it for nearly six years. Financially, they faces difficulties. Still, Dori found herself relaxing more with their mother gone. She was the legal guardian of Ori and Nori, and was allowed to take charge of everything that used to be her mother's. Nori stopped dissapearing at odd intervals, finally seeming to settle. They were finally getting along, acting like siblings should.

Until Nori decided to once more be the problem child, insisting that everyone refer to him as her brother, as he. That she was a boy, not a girl.

Dori couldn't deal with it. She decided that this was just a phase. It was just a result of everything that had happened before. Of her father’s yelling and beating and her mothers relentless putdowns and bullying. It confused her little sister, that was all. Nori was intelligent - she's come to her senses soon enough. 

But then Thorin and Dwalin started supporting her in her insanity. Dori wanted to scream in frustration. Thorin and Dwalin knew nothing of her sister. All they were doing was hurting her, feeding her delusions. 


The bell attached to the door of the tea shop tinkled as Thorin entered. Dori looked up from where she was stacking shelves, surprised to see their MP standing there.

“Dori," he greeted, deep voice thrumming in the teashop. "We need to talk. About Nori.”

“Oh, god, what’s she done this time?” Dori groaned, burying her face in her hands. Scenarios flashed through her mind - another brawl, another theft. Maybe her sister had bowled over the MP's young niece or nephew. Thorin frowned at her.

“It’s not what he’s done. Well, it is, but it’s not.” 

Dori frowned, and Thorin sighed. 

“Look, Dori, I know it’s hard. But you have to... you have to accept that Nori is a boy. You're hurting him with this denial you have.”

Oh. God, not this again. 

“No. She’s not. She’s just confused.” 

“Dori. He’s your brother. Listen to him. Look at him. He knows what gender he is. I know it seems weird, but it happens. There are many more transgender -”

“She’s not transgender!” Dori snapped. “She’s confused and attention seeking. I will take responsibility for that. I will not, however, add to her delusions.” 

The shop's bell tinkled in the background, but neither Thorin or Dori payed it any attention.

“It’s not a delusion, Dori. Every time you say it is you hurt him.”

“You don’t know her! You didn’t grow up in here! You know nothing of our family. Nothing!”

“Why won’t you listen to your brother?”

“I do listen to her!" she yelled. "But you don't understand! She’s not doing this because she feels like she was born into the wrong body. She’s doing this because back when dad was still around, he’d tell her that little girls were worthless. That she was the most worthless of the lot. The only bastards who grew to be big and strong were boys - girl bastards were worth nothing at all, and she'd better bloody accept that that was the natural order.” 

“Is that what you really think?”

Nori's voice startled both Thorin and Dori, the two adults turning to see the youngster standing in the doorway, still holding his younger sister's hand. Dori looked at him, nodding very slightly.

“Well fuck you, Dori! This has nothing to do with that. I’ve known what I am for as long as I’ve been alive.”

Dori huffed at the swear word, looking like she was resisiting the tempation to go over to Ori and cover her ears. Thorin looked slightly taken aback by the bitterness in the middle Ri child's voice, but Dori seemed to just shrug it off.

"Then why didn't you say anything before mum left?"

Nori frowned, anger lining his face. "When would I say something? Before or after the beatings? Perhaps on the days where only one of our parents were drunk?"

"Nori," Dori sighed, feeling her previous annoyance fading slightly. Thorin was looking between the siblings, eyes widening in horror as details about their family life fell into place. Nobody paid him any attention, Dori and Nori being almost entirely focused on each other. "It's just... are you sure? Really, truly sure?"

"Yes! I've been sure for as long as I can remember, Dori."

There was a pause, a moment of the oldest 'Ri sibling considering, before she finally spoke.

"Okay then...brother."

Ori's hand was dropped and Thorin shoved aside as Nori launched himself across the teashop and into his older sister's arms.

"Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you," he whispered, burying his face in her kneck as they embraced. Dori, almost against her own will, found herself squeezing Nori tight, fingers digging slightly into his shoulders.

"It's okay. I'm just...I'm sorry, Nori. I'm so sorry. Sorry about everything."

Nori's arms wrapped tighter around his sister, silent tears soaking her shoulder. How long they stood their, neither of them knew. It didn't matter - no amount of time would be enough to make up for the lost years.

That day, however, was just the first of many attempts.

Chapter Text

Fili was ten the first time their family went on holiday. It was just her, Dis and Kili, Thorin having too much work on his plate to afford a single day off, much less an entire week. Dwalin didn’t come either, Dis saying she wanted it to be just her and her children. 

They ended up renting a little cottage on a quiet stretch of beach, not too far from the nearest town. Fili and Kili delighted in the water, running down to the beach before the sun had even risen and not leaving for anything bar ice cream or other food before the sun had well and truly gone down. 

“I’ll race you to the water!” Kili yelled early one morning, racing down the beach. Fili chased after him, her longer legs allowing her to sprint past and overtake him.

“Ha! I win!”

“No fair, Fee! You’re bigger!”

“You challenged me in the first place! Plus, you had a head start.”

Kili poked his tongue out at his sister, who laughed and tacked him.

“Oi!”

A splash of water poured over her head in retribution. The pair of them ended up laughing, sitting in the shallows, waves gently washing over them.

“I love you, Fee. You’re the best older sister ever.”

The blonde looked at her younger brother, smiling slightly. “You know what, Kee, you’re not too bad a brother yourself.”

“Breakfast’s ready,” Dis called from inside the cottage.

“Race you to the house?” Fili asked.

“You’re on.”


 

Fili’s long, blonde hair was beginning to take the shape of a tangled mess after so much time spent in the surf. Dis tutted at it as they ate breakfast.

“It’s going to be so knotty you’ll have to cut it all off if you’re not careful,” she told her. Fili frowned, vainly running her hand over her golden locks. 

“Can you do something to stop it? I don’t want to have to chop it all off.”

Dis frowned for a moment, before the solution came. “I’ll braid it for you.”

And so her ten year old daughter sat on her lap, allowing her to tightly braid her hair. Kili watched with interest, seated on the floor in front of her. 

“Can you do mine next?” he asked, eyes wide and hopeful. Dis let out a laugh.

“I don’t think you have enough hair to need to braid it.”

“Oh, please, mum?”

Dis had laughed and given in. Once Fili’s braid were firmly fastened, she pulled Kili into her lap, quick and clever fingers weaving his short hair into a series of tiny little braids. Fili looked at her younger brother and laughed.

“You look like an echidna!”

“I do not!”

“Do so!”

“Do not!”

“Mum!”

Dis offered a sly smile. “You’re the most handsome echidna I’ve ever seen.”

Kili pouted, but it didn’t last. “The most handsome?”

Dis just ruffled his hair, making her son yelp and duck out from under her hand.

“Come on, my little echidna. Let’s go try out that ice cream shop you saw earlier.”

Fili laughed as Kili huffed, grabbing her younger brother’s hand and following Dis out of the cottage.


 

The week ended much too soon for Fili’s and Kili’s taste. Soon they were packing up and saying goodbye to the little cottage and the beautiful beach, getting ready to return to Erebor. 

“When we’re older,” Fili said to Kili, “We’re going to leave Erebor and move to a place like this. And then we can spend all our time at the beach and never have to go home.

“That sounds nice,” Kili said, smiling.

“I hope you’ll let me join you at least some of the time,” Dis cut in.

“Of course!” Fili cried, looking shocked that Dis even contemplate not being included. “It wouldn’t be home without the three of us.”

“And Dwalin! And Uncle Thorin!” Kili added. “They’re important, too.”

“Dwalin can join us,” Fili replied. “But Thorin would never leave Erebor. He loves it more than Dwalin loves mum. It’s like he’s married to it.”

Dis let out a laugh at that. “You know my brother too well, Fili.”


When they returned home, Fili insisted that Dis continued braiding her hair. 

“But not in so many braids. Just one main big one and a few smaller ones. And don’t braid all of it.”

It became a habit. Dis would braid Fili’s hair first thing in the morning. Kili, not wanting to be left out, grew his hair out until it was long enough to be pulled back into a single, small braid. The trio treated the routine like their own little secret, spending the time laughing and talking and reminiscing about their week down at the little beach. Even when Fili could braid her own hair, she got Dis to do it for the sake of tradition. Instead of letting her skills go to waste, she offered to braid Dis’s hair.

It was only on particularly bad days that Thorin was included in their little morning rituals. Those mornings where he obviously hadn't gone to sleep the night before, and they found him sitting at the table with bags under his eyes. Fili, Kili and Dis would drag him away from his laptop or phone or newspaper. His shoulder length hair would be tugged into a single, thick braid by Fili while Dis worked on her hair and Kili chatted away. Those were the days where Thorin smiled the most, always tugging or stroking his hair as he went about his daily business.

Chapter Text

“We’re like the breakfast club,” Ori said, glancing around the five of them in the room. 

“Ori, we’re nothing like the breakfast club. I mean, for a start, I’m pretty sure none of them were related.”

The bookish young girl stuck her tongue out as her brother while the other kid in detention - the one none of them had ever met before - spoke up.

“We kind of are, though,” he said, a cruel grin on his face. “We have the brains.” 

He nodded to Ori.

“The athlete,” to Kili.

“The princess,” to Fili.

“And what about you? Which are you, the criminal? Or the basket case?”

Nori turned to the kid, a scowl on his face. “Do you want to find out?”

“Ooh, I’m so scared,” the other boy laughed. “You know, I think I know what you are. You’re the basket case. You’re the confused little girl trying to play at being you’re not.”

“Suck my dick,” Nori spat. In his peripheral, he could see Ori bury her face in her hands.

“You don’t have one.”

Nori’s scowl deepened as he glared at the other boy. “Oh, fuck you.”

The other boy seemed to catch onto the fact that he’d struck a nerve. “You think you’re such a big man, don’t you? But you’re nothing more than a scared little girl.”

“Shut up,” Nori growled. 

“What are you going to do? Gonna go cry to your mummy? Oh, I forget, mummy doesn’t love you. She went and left because she couldn’t-”

The sentence was cut off as Nori launched himself at the other boy, tackling him to the floor and straddling him, hitting him in the face again and again.

“You.” Thwack. “Don’t.” Thwack. “Know.” Thwack. “Shit.” Thwack. “About.” Thwack. “My.” Thwack. “Mother.”

Nori’s knuckles were split, but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the majority of blood covering his fist was the other boy’s.

“You know what? My mum was a bitch. I was glad when she walked out. You don’t presume to know anything about my family, you dick.”

With that, Nori spat on the kid and stood up, straightening his jacket and ignoring the blood on his fist.

“Sorry you had to see that. But I think I’ve stuck around this place long enough. I’ll see you around.”

Ori, Fili and Kili watched as Nori grabbed his bag and slunk out of the room.

Ori’s older brother wasn’t seen in Erebor for seven years.