Disclaimer: I do not own the Hobbit.
The dragon Smaug was dead, finally blissfully, blissfully dead at long last. Erebor was theirs again, was his and Thorin could not help but to relish in the glory of it all. To do so, however, was to also be forced to bask in the horror of which had befallen Laketown and its people, something the now King Under the Mountain could have done without. He could have also done without the overwhelming sense of guilt and fear he felt at potentially being to one responsible for bringing about the deaths of his nephews, both of whom had stayed behind as the company had journeyed onwards towards the Lonely Mountain.
Been left behind, Thorin corrected, knowing full well he had been the reason as to why Fili and Kili had remained in Laketown and had then been present when Smaug had vowed revenge upon it and its inhabitants.
"There is a good chance they are still alive," the dark haired dwarf heard Dwalin say optimistically beside him.
Thorin did not make a move to acknowledge his friend's words besides that of increasing his gait as he pointedly continued on. Silence fell upon Dwalin as the seasoned warrior came to realise his leader would not answer, causing Thorin to become almost painfully aware of the bald dwarf's brother who was striding along stubbornly silent on Thorin's other side.
A prickly aura came off the white bearded dwarf, and amongst the sorrow, grief and guilt Balin no doubt felt towards the victims of Smaug's great wrath anger lingered, anger Thorin knew was directed at him and him alone. The descendent of Durin could only hope that his wise friend's rage would die down in the near future for a lurking darkness was seeping into his mind and Thorin the feeling that it would soon be down to Balin to save the dwarfish king from the hole he was no doubt digging himself.
"Bard says he does not know what has transpired for Bofur, Oin, Fili and Kili, but he did say to check his house if it still stood. He was also willing to help look if we have not yet found them after he is done dealing with the Master of Laketown and the remains of Smaug," Bilbo informed Thorin and the rest of the company, materialising before them as was his way.
Thorin gave the burglar a slight nod to show he had heard and effectively dismissing the small being at the same time. The dark haired dwarf then changed directions, making for one of the only sections of the floating town still left standing having escaped being demolished, burned to the ground or covered by a dragon's corpse.
Bard - the man to which Thorin owed everything to. The dwarfish king shuddered at the thought, loathing the idea that the bargeman, father and now slayer of Smaug would demand a reward for killing the dragon and recompense for the destruction the same dragon had brought down upon Laketown, both demands consisting of the gold of Erebor. To give the gold over which many dwarves had died, some even friends and kin to the king of Erebor, to a man was unthinkable.
A cry of relief from Bombur caused Thorin to clear his mind and focus his eyesight in front of him. Upon seeing what had caused the large dwarf's reaction, the company leader allowed the smallest of smiles to grace his lips.
Bard's house had been left mostly untouched by the carnage Smaug had brought down with him from the Lonely Mountain. It had been blackened on one side where intense heat and thick smoke had set about the building scorching it and covering the wood in ash, but there was no other damage to be seen. That the house was still standing was a miracle in itself, the fires set alight by Smaug barely falling short of the immediate area surrounding the building. It was not Bard's home, however, that had caused a twinkle of unsuppressed joy to leap to Thorin's eyes, but what, or rather who was in front of the lodging.
"Bofur!" Bombur cried, calling out to the dwarf beside Thorin's blonde nephew. However, Bombur's words were snatched away by the wind, the company still being too far for either of the two dwarves in their line of sight to hear them. Not that it mattered for both Fili and Bofur were caught up with themselves.
Thorin was somewhat surprised to see his eldest nephew drinking, or at least appear to be drinking and heavily at that; the blonde rarely touching liquor in two consecutive days. Bofur, on the other hand, was not so surprising when the reason as to why the dwarf had been left behind in the first place was considered, yet the toymaker seemed sober enough to lean over to murmur to Fili, his words unable to be made out by the company who, as they drew closer, could feel the heavy atmosphere around the pair and the establishment as a whole.
"There you go," Dwalin said in Thorin's ear, the dwarfish king startling slightly at hearing his friend speak. "Safe and sound. More or less anyway considering who is with him," Dwalin continued. Thorin shook his head in disagreement, not needing years of experience of weighing the mood of a situation to know the seriousness and grief rolling off the pair before him.
"Something's wrong," he muttered, a cold shiver running down his spine as he approached the two dwarves sitting on Bard's porch, backs supported by the blackened wall, cups filled with what Thorin presumed was ale clenched in their hands, a bottle propped up by Bofur.
Fili's eyes were red and hair dishevelled, Bofur's own expression the mirror image of the same sorrow worn upon the face of the younger dwarf beside him, save the toymakers with the effects of the intoxicating drink he was consuming.
"The drink will help numb the pain, lad," Bofur said in a soft voice both thick and mournful. "Trust me, I should know."
There was a pause in the air as all present waited for something unseen, though the members of the company who had not been in Laketown with Smaug could be damned if they knew just what they were waiting for. There was almost a physical barrier in the air giving off the sense it was about to be breached and soon enough the group of dwarves and the lone hobbit of the company bore witness to the barrier being broken as Fili drew his knees up, bending his head forward to meet them at the same time as his hands buried themselves in his thick blonde hair. A short wail was torn from the youth's lips as he began to sob, tears streaming down his face in a continuous and unstoppable torrent.
Bofur hesitated for a moment, halfway between comforting the dwarf before drawing away, chugging the whole contents of his mug in one go as his eyes gleamed with his own unshed tears.
Thorin took in the scene before him with a look of bewilderment and distress upon his face, not knowing what had caused such reactions. The sense of foreboding the king had felt before was now amplified ten times over, rendering the dark haired dwarf speechless as he stared at his broken down nephew.
"What has happened?" Balin asked in a voice both urgent and confused, tinged with a hint of panic. "Bofur, tell us what had transpired!"
The toymaker blinked up at the white bearded dwarf, the bottle of ale now in his hands which proceeded to press to the top against the dwarf's lips and tip the bottle upward towards the smog filled sky. The drunk dwarf emptied half the liquid from the container before answering the question that had been put to him.
"That bloody dragon near burned us all to death," Bofur informed them all in an accusing voice. "And they all wouldn't stop screaming which about done my head in and when they finally did shut up there was this massive tremor that shook the whole town. Dragon's dead by the way," he finished, raising the bottle in a drunken salute before draining the rest of the liquor and letting the bottle clatter to the ground, uncaring for the noise it made.
"You drunken swine," Dwalin snarled, anger coating his voice in an ominous layer. "Stop your pointless rambling and tell us why the dwarf beside you is about to flood this damn town."
For several moments Bofur stared at the burly warrior open mouthed in shock. He then proceeded to bury his head in his hands, moaning aloud in misery as he did so and pointedly avoiding his leader's gaze.
"Thorin," the dwarf rasped in a broken whisper, "I am sorry. I am so, so sorry."
The dwarfish king did not seem to hear the words that had been spoken, all the pieces suddenly falling into place in his mind.
"No," he gasped out loud, all his breath suddenly leaving him in one hit leaving the dark haired dwarf feeling light headed and weightless. "No. Kili…"
Thorin found himself through the battered to Bard's house without even registering how he had gotten there in the first place. All rational thought was banished from his mind as the king took in the grim scene before him.
The bodies of several orcs were strewn in a pile towards the back of the room as if the person charged with removing them had left their job halfway through. The interior was in complete shambles, Bard's son and two daughters sitting off to one side talking quietly amongst each other as Oin bustled about the place to the slow and dark beat of the music used at funeral processions.
Thorin was dimly aware of the rest of the company, excluding Fili and Bofur, pressing up against his back, but the king was frozen in place, eyes riveted upon the prone figure lying on the wooden table in the centre of the room.
The company leader blinked as Gloin pushed past the dark haired dwarf forcefully, the ginger dwarf's older brother giving a cry of despair as he sank to his knees on the ground, bowl that the healer had been holding dropping to the floor noisily. Thorin's mind echoed the grief ridden shout as Gloin crouched beside the company physician, offering his open arms to Oin in a way of providing comfort.
Stumbling forward, Thorin steadied himself at the side of the table, face twisted wretchedly, all other thoughts save those for his motionless nephew fleeing from his mind.
"Kili," he keened, tears beginning to drip down his face as he took in the young archer's lifeless form.
The brunette's eyes were closed and his face seemingly peaceful as though he were only sleeping, yet it was no normal slumber which the youth had found. Kili's hands were crossed over his middle, as was the way of the dead, the clothes Bard had given the young heir making the dwarf appear as if he were slowly drowning in a sea of material.
Thorin moved one shaky hand up to brush away at the lad's tangled brown hair. The dark haired dwarf could feel a heavy presence behind his shoulders and the king did not need to turn to know it was Dwalin who dwelled there. The dwarf then looked up at Balin who stood opposite him, the old advisor's sorrowful eyes gleaming in the light which struck them. The others of the company too had gathered round and friends and kin alike could be found comforting each other in face of the unexpected tragedy.
"It was the arrow," Bofur's voice called from behind them all, sounding surprisingly sober and more than a little bitter. "The bloody poisoned arrow."
Thorin did not turn to face the dwarf who had spoken, but the words penetrated beneath his skin all the same. The company leader spared a glance to look towards the wound on Kili's leg only to find it neatly bound. It was all for the better too, for Thorin did not want to see that which had caused the death of his beloved nephew, and his surviving nephew's beloved brother.
"There was nothing any of us could do," Bofur continued in a dead voice so unlike his usual cheery personality, "Not even the she-elf. In retrospect, we did try everything, but, like the she-elf said, the poison had already spread itself too deeply into his system. The poor lad passed only moments before Bard shot Smaug down."
Bofur's admission that they had dealings with one of the elves responsible for their imprisonment in Thranduil's dungeons failed to gain a reaction from Thorin who only had eyes for his Kili, his Kili who had been taken from him. Fili's cries had not yet subsided outside and after a short while, it was Dwalin who placed a gentle hand on Thorin's shoulder reminding the king that he still had another nephew.
"Go to him," Dwalin urged his leader in a soft voice. "The lad needs you."
It took a few moments of coaxing to get the dwarfish king to draw away from the cold body which laid upon the table and a few more to sway the dark haired dwarf to move outside to where his surviving heir sat. Dwalin then left, closing the door behind him leaving the two kin alone in privacy outside, pausing only to catch Bofur before the toy maker hit the ground. The intoxicated dwarf groaned in misery, his head no doubt throbbing from the drinks he had consumed.
"Let's get you seated somewhere and sobered up," Dwalin murmured, guiding Bofur out of sight.
Thorin turned towards his blonde nephew, his first and now only heir. Awkwardly the king sunk to the ground beside Fili and, mimicking Gloin's own comforting actions, opened his arms as an invitation. Several moments passed and Thorin had only just begun to fear he had been rejected when Fili raised his head, straightening himself enough to lean into his uncle's embrace.
"Kili's dead, uncle," he sobbed aloud, face buried deep within Thorin's chest seeming to have forgotten his anger towards the older dwarf in his despair. "He's dead."
Thorin could only sit frozen, his constant hold the only thing the king could offer the blonde haired youth. Fili's words had crushed any hope that what had been implied but not spoken by anyone other than a drunk had been wrong. His nephew's words, however, now only served to drive home the point that this was something permanent and unchangeable. The words proved that Kili was not merely sleeping inside.
"I know, lad, I know," the king eventually managed to reply.
The two sat for a while, both rendered silent by their grief, within them both a longing that could never be fulfilled and a sorrow never quenched. Thorin's shirt was soaked with Fili's tears, the king's face soaked with his own. The atmosphere changed, however, with Fili's next words, words spoken with the clarity and surety of mind only brought about by such loss and tragedy.
"You left him behind."
It was not in an accusing voice in which the blonde dwarf said these words, nor was it in one with any real emotion. It was a blank statement that Fili directed towards his uncle, and the world as a whole.
"Fili, I-" Thorin began, a crease of thought lining his forehead.
"No, uncle," Fili cut in, his voice beginning to show traces of anger. "You left him behind!"
"Fili-" Thorin tried again.
"How could you leave him behind?" Fili asked, now clearly mad. The blonde pulled away from his uncle and sent him a smouldering glare from eyes still reddened and teary.
"He could not have continued on," Thorin argued, knowing full well the reason held little to no value in the face of Fili's rage.
"That does not change the fact you abandoned him when he needed you the most," Fili snarled back. "And it certainly does not excuse it."
"If he had even made it on the trek up to the mountain, your brother would not have survived the dragon," Thorin said firmly yet gently as he broke the harsh truth of the matter to his nephew. "And from what Bofur said, it would have made no difference whether he stayed or not. The arrow was poisoned, Fili and not even an elf could cure it."
"You could have stayed. That would have made a difference," Fili implied, still holding strongly to the belief that Thorin was in the wrong, something which the king would be the first to admit. He should have stayed, would have if he had only known.
"Durin's Day was upon us," Thorin said, knowing in his heart that it was a weak excuse, "And I did not know the full extent of his injury. If only he had said something-"
"No," Fili half yelled, making to stand but deciding against it at the last moment. "You do not have the right to blame this on Kili. YOU decided to leave him here and continue on to that mountain of yours, so if anyone is to blame, it us you!"
Thorin knew that some of what the young dwarf had said was only the blonde's grief coming out as anger, yet he did not know just how much that was and Fili was right in stating Thorin was to blame. The blame for Kili's death, however, did not solely lie upon the King Under the Mountain's shoulders, contrary to his nephew's belief.
Some of the blame, a large part in fact, fell upon the one who had been responsible for shooting the youngest of the company with a poisoned arrow.
Part of it fell upon Thranduil and his elves, their imprisonment of the company and refusal to allow them to escape creating the circumstances for Kili to be shot.
Part again fell to Gandalf for abandoning them time and time again, for not being there when the need was the greatest, and still part fell upon Kili himself, albeit a small amount, the young dwarf having not sought treatment for his injury when he would have seen how serious it was. Any leftover blame for the unnecessary death could fall to fate, chance and luck, none of which were ever on the side of the line of Durin.
The dwarfish king knew that pointing out the finites of just who and what had caused Kili's death to the brunette's brother would prove to be futile however, the attempt only serving to further enrage Fili and allow Thorin to dig himself deeper into the hole he was already stuck in. Instead Thorin went for the only option which he could think of would be his best chance at resolving the situation.
"I am truly sorry, Fili," Thorin said softly, offering his hands as a gesture of his sincerity and wish for peace. "Your brother was more precious to me than my own life, as you still are. I never meant for Kili to die on this quest and to see him laid so low, and by an orc no less, an orc choosing a cowardly weapon such as poison over face-to-face combat…" The dwarf trailed off, unable to word what he was thinking in his mind. "Let us not argue, not now, so soon after his death. Let us instead share our grief at this loss," Thorin finished, looking his surviving nephew in the eye.
"Why did it have to be Kili?" Fili moaned, all the fight draining out of the young dwarf as a fresh wave of grief consumed him. "Why Kili? Now he will never be able to see Erebor in all its splendour."
"There is nothing I regret more," Thorin mumbled truthfully, closing his eyes at the thought his youngest nephew would never be able to set foot in his true home and view the gold and riches in it as Thorin once had. "We can still lie him to rest with his ancestors, though," the dwarfish king continued, his words causing Fili to lift his once again drooping head.
"Let's take him home then," the blonde said softly, his startling eyes upon the face of his uncle who's own blue-grey eyes reflected the now reclaimed Lonely Mountain.
"Aye," Thorin agreed, "Let's."
He opened his arms again and was pleased when Fili did not reject him by pulling away from or ignoring the gesture. Instead, the young dwarf fell into the embrace, not as deeply as before, but accepting the comfort from his uncle all the same. The pair then stood, Thorin's arm still wrapped around his blonde nephew's shoulders in a parental gesture as though Fili was his son and he the lad's father. The two dwarves made their way into Bard's house where Kili's body still rested upon the table.
The company was seated at the far side of the room, Bard's children having retreated elsewhere, though Balin informed his king Bain had set off to find his father and inform the man about the fate of his family and the dwarves he had taken in.
Looking back over to where Oin was hovering over the forever youngest of the company, Thorin caught the healer's eye and shook his head causing the grey bearded dwarf to halt in drawing a white sheet over the youth and to step away from the sorrowful scene. Thorin guided Fili to where his brother's head was still exposed and uncovered, face unnaturally pale and slackened. The blonde did not need an invitation to sit and, ignoring the hand his 8uncle kept on his shoulder, Fili placed a hand on Kili's forehead before bending his own head forward, leaning it against his hand.
"Why, Kili?" he murmured in a voice he himself could barely hear. "Why you?"
Fili rolled the smooth stone he held in his free hand. The talisman helped the youth to focus his grief on the unanswered questions roving his mind, memories surfacing of a younger dwarf that had been ever present in his life up until this moment in time.
"You promised mother you would return home safely; you promised me," Fili continued in a whisper, oblivious to the fact that his uncle's hand was no longer on his shoulder nor the rest of the company in the room, rather gathered outside discussing a topic unknown to him discretely.
Fili maintained his flow of words, the meaning of the phrases he muttered varying as he both begged his brother to return and accused Kili of not keeping the promises he had made to those he had loved. The blonde went about this matter somewhat calmly, having been left with a solemn emptiness inside of him after his hysterical outburst when it had first become apparent Kili was no longer with them in this world.
"Why did you have to leave me?" he moaned in despair. "Do you not know how much I need you? Do you not care?" And then, without even meaning to, Fili fell asleep, exhausted from fighting to keep his brother from succumbing to the poison in his system and then having to deal with the emotional shattering that came when Kili finally did slip through his fingers one last time.
"Fili, it is time we returned to Erebor," a voice said above him, causing the blonde to blink quickly awake. The shadows on the walls told the young dwarf he had not been asleep long, several hours at the most.
"Kili…" He said, still half asleep as Thorin's face blurred into focus above him. The blonde was somewhat disorientated to find himself laying on the lone bed in the main part of Bard's home and watched slightly absent minded as his uncle offered him a hand to help pull him up.
"Kili is coming with us," Thorin informed the young dwarf. "We will bury him once we get there. Your brother will not be left behind again."
"Good," Fili replied, ignoring his uncle's hands and pushing himself off the bed. He had not yet forgotten the dark haired dwarf's words at the wharf and he had certainly not yet forgiven. He had only become side-tracked by his grief for now.
Walking out of the house not waiting for his uncle, Fili made for where the company would no doubt be waiting to depart for Erebor a second time, this time in full with all its members present. It only took a few steps, however, for the blonde to be waylaid by none other than Bard.
"I am truly sorry about your brother," the bowman said, his brown eyes filled with stark sympathy.
"There was nothing that could be done," Fili replied in a monotone, his eyes fixated on a point in the distance. "I am, however, sorry about your town."
"The town can be rebuilt," Bard answered. "The lives that were lost cannot."
"I will see to it that you and the people of Laketown will be paid what is owed," the blonde prince said, blue eyes flicking to meet Bard's own brown ones, ones not unlike the now forever dimmed eyes of his brother.
"I have no doubt you will," Bard said before stepping aside to let Fili pass. "Now I suggest you hurry if you do not want to miss your boat."
"They would not dare leave without me," Fili replied darkly, his strides long for a dwarf as he hurried to the dock from which Thorin and the others had left before, the dock where Kili had first taken a turn for the worst.
It did not take long for the blonde to arrive where the rest of the company were waiting, Thorin included. Only Bain and Bard's two daughters were present, the scene massively different from when they had first left from Erebor. Fili was surprised that the wharf was still standing considering what Smaug had done to most of Laketown.
The young blonde boarded the floating vessel without further ado, taking his place next to his younger brother who was now covered fully by the same white sheet which had been laying over him that morning.
As the boat pushed off, Fili uncovered his brother's peaceful face, feeling the eyes of the company on the back of his neck as he did so.
"Fili-" Balin's voice began.
"No," the blonde cut in. "He deserves to see Erebor at least once before we shut him away under a pile of stone." His words were met with an submissive silence and for the rest of the journey to the mountain no one spoke save for short, muted conversations. Bombur stuck near his brother who was still suffering from the effects of the drink he had consumed in such a short period of time. Fili likewise stayed by his own brother's side, Kili's body being carried on a stretcher by Dwalin, Bifur, Gloin and Dori. Thorin walked in front stoically silent, his gaze locked in place ahead of him.
Eventually they reached Erebor's gates which had been destroyed by Smaug, blockaded by dwarves and then unblocked as the same dwarves had hurried back to town. It was with effort the company opened these same gates and carried their youngest inside for the first time.
Fili looked in wonder at the passages and hallways which stretched before him, shrouded in dust and gloom yet maintaining their magnificent largeness at the same time. The blonde bent down towards where those baring Kili's stretcher had laid it. Running a hand through his brother's hair, he smiled.
"We're here, Kili," he said softly with teary eyes filled with the conflicting emotions of unbridled joy and sorrow. "We're in Erebor."
Those who heard the young dwarf's words turned away from the private moment, pretending they had not witnessed anything. The one dwarf who the words were meant for, however, was too far gone to hear them and this only struck a further chord of anguish in Fili's heart.
"You should see it, Kili," the blonde continued. "For all the stories we were ever told fall short of its magnificence." A short sob was wrenched from the young dwarf as he bent over his brother even further. "We're home, Kili, we're home."