Eventually Dís decided that Kíli had suffered alone long enough and took Fíli's hand in her own and led him to the bathroom. She paused outside the door and listened to see what her youngest was up to and wasn't the least bit surprised to hear the sound of Kíli's laughter. She sighed as she realized that her plan hadn't worked. Kíli hadn't thought about what he'd done, he'd found something to entertain himself instead.
However, when she opened the door, she felt a shock go through her as a little naked blur launched himself at her knees, wrapping his arms around them and sobbing into her skirt.
"I'm sorry!" he cried, looking up at her with reddened eyes. "Please don't be mad. I really didn't mean to."
"Hush," she soothed picking him up and holding him against her, feeling guilty once more when she took in the way he trembled. "I'm not mad, Kíli."
"You-you're not?" he breathed.
"No," she said gently, beginning to run the water for his bath without setting him down. "I'm very disappointed in you but I'm not mad."
"I'm still sorry," Kíli offered. "Does . . . do the plates mean that you and Uncle are going to have to go away?"
"What?!" she nearly choked on her own breath at such an absurd question. Why would a few plates meant that they would leave him? It wasn't like dwarflings were abandoned over broken dishes and she wondered just where he'd gotten such an idea.
"'cause they cost money," Kíli said sadly. "You and Uncle leave to make money. You're not going to leave us, are you?"
Dís laughed sadly at her son's logic. The connection made sense now that it had been explained but it made it no less depressing. "We're not going to leave," Dís promised. "At least not both of us. Your uncle may have to leave again, but, Kíli," she paused to lift his face so that she could see his eyes. "He'll always come back. He doesn't leave us because he wants to but because he has to and he always comes back, do you understand?" Even though she was speaking to Kíli, a part of her was attempting to convince herself of the same. She wanted to believe that Thorin never left them in any way because he wanted to; that the near comatose state her brother was in was not by his own choice.
"And he doesn't leave because we were bad?" Kíli asked in a tiny voice.
"Never," Dís breathed. "That is never why he leaves us."
"And you're not mad," Kili said, his forehead wrinkling up a bit.
"No," she replied. "It was an accident and you've apologized. But if it happens again, I will be mad and there will be consequences. Understand?"
"Yes, Mama," Kíli said before kissing her on the cheek and beaming up at her with wide, innocent eyes. "I love you."
"And I you, darling," she replied pulling him against her, her eyes filling with tears even though she wasn't sure why. "And nothing will ever change that." She held him to her for a moment before pulling back slightly and looking at him in mock disgust.
"However, the trollish stench coming off of you might attempt it," she said with a laugh. "The water's warm, now in the tub with you."
"I don't smell like a troll," Kíli replied scrunching up his nose.
"Have you ever smelled one?" Dís countered.
"No," Kíli grumbled. "but I don't smell like one. Fíli might, though. He needs a bath more than I do."
"I might," Fíli agreed stripping off his clothing and walking towards the tub. "But here shortly I won't." Just as he reached the tub, Kíli took off at a run and tried to slip into the tub before his brother, only for Fíli to hold him so that he couldn't do it and try to climb in on his own.
"Mother!" Kíli cried. "Fíli won't let me have a bath. I'm just trying to get into the tub and he won't let me!"
"You took too long," Fíli countered. "I'm just going to take mine first. I'm older anyway."
"Yeah," Kíli agreed. "You were born first so I should get to bathe first."
"You'll both fit," Dís said trying to hide her laughter at their antics. "Why don't you share?"
"Not as much fun," Fíli replied, looking away from his struggling brother to smile at her. The twinkle in his eyes made Dís smile. It was clear to her that Fíli didn't really care about bath order, this was all an attempt to break the mood. With a smirk, he dumped Kíli in the water.
A second later, Kíli surfaced sputtering. "Mama!" he said looking at her with wet hair falling pathetically in his eyes.
"You did want in the tub, didn't you?" Dís asked with a smirk of her own as she rolled up her sleeves and walked towards her waterlogged son.
"Not really," Kíli muttered as she knelt beside the tub and began the process of undoing his wet, matted braids to wash his hair.
"Then you shouldn't have told him you did, darling," Dís said pressing a kiss to his wet hair. "Fíli," she said as she guided Kíli's head under the water to wash out the soap she had rubbed into it.
"While it was amusing, don't throw your brother in the tub again, please," she said allowing Kíli to surface and continuing to wash him. "It would be a shame if his hard head broke it."
"Yes, Mother," Fíli replied, her gentle chiding telling him that he had made a mistake but that he was still loved and not disappointing her. It would be simple enough not to throw Kíli into the tub. After all, there were other sources of water Kíli could be thrown into that Mother hadn't prohibited.
Once the boys were dry and tucked into bed, Dís went into the kitchen and took a small bowl of stew from the pot that was still warming on the edge of the fire. As little as she wanted to do so, she knew that she had to take Thorin something to eat. She didn't bother to knock as she entered his room. It wasn't as if he would care. She carefully closed the door behind her and placed the bowl on his end table before rousing him.
"Thorin?" she called, shaking his shoulder.
"Go 'way," he muttered not bothering to open his eyes.
"No," she said firmly. "You need to sit up. I brought you something to eat."
"Not hungry," came the reply.
"I don't care," she said. "Now, either sit up and eat or I will sit you up and feed you. Those are your choices."
"Leave me 'lone," Thorin said.
"That wasn't an option," she said bending to place an arm under his shoulder. As she tried to reposition him, she wished that he was one of her boys, they were easier to manipulate as they weren't quite so heavy. With a growl he pulled away from her and moved himself into a sitting position. He may not want to eat but it was far less humiliating to sit up on his own than to be sat up by his sister, even though he knew that he deserved the humiliation.
"Thank you," she said offering him a hard smile before placing the bowl in his lap and the spoon in his hand. "Now eat."
"I don't want food, Dís," Thorin said with a sigh, looking at her with sad blue eyes.
"Did I ask?" she replied. "Now eat." He sighed again and lifted the spoon to his mouth once before setting both it and the bowl aside. "That's not enough, Thorin," she said picking it back up and putting it in his lap. "Eat."
"No," he said setting it aside once more. "I neither want nor deserve food."
"I'd agree with you about deserving it," Dís snarled. She'd intended to be softer with him, but his mood reminded her too much of Fíli earlier that evening and she would be damned if Thorin would be allowed to drive her son to the same kinds of melancholy that he was so prone to.
"What?" Thorin breathed, fear closing in around his heart and making him feel as if he couldn't breathe. Dís had never agreed with him when he said something like that before. She'd always insisted that nothing that had happened was his fault and that he was as deserving as any other. If she was swayed . . . perhaps he was right about himself. Maybe he was worthless.
"You were supposed to be comforting Fíli," Dís said her voice a deadly whisper. "Not upsetting him more. He came back to me in tears, Thorin. He thinks you're mad at him. What happened? What did you say to my son?"
"He was crying and I . . . I told him I wasn't angry about the quill," Thorin said slowly. "That was all, Dís. I swear to you, I said nothing else."
"Really?" she asked, standing and beginning to pace. "You told him in as many words that you weren't mad?"
"Yes," Thorin said, not understanding his sister's ire. He'd done what he had set out to do. He'd told Fíli he wasn't angry and had attempted to comfort the lad. It wasn't as if he was crying when he'd left his room. No, that had been Thorin. He felt himself begin to drift again as the memories of his brother assaulted him once more.
"I have a very hard time believing that, Thorin," Dís snapped, feeling a bit of malicious delight when he jumped as if he had forgotten that she was there. "You must have said something else. He told me that you were mad at him."
"I'm not!" Thorin countered, his anger at himself bleeding into his frustration with his sister that she wouldn't just allow him to wallow in his own failure and giving his words strength that he didn't feel he had at the moment. "I said nothing that would make him think that."
"Well you must have said something!" Dís growled, meeting Thorin's anger with her own and knowing that she would defeat him if that was all he could muster. No matter what anger Thorin thought he had, it could not compare to the anger of a mother with an injured child.
"I didn't," he hissed. "I would remember. Mahal, Dís, it was just a quill! Not even one of the good ones. That one didn't even have a metal nub. Why would I be angry with him over that?!"
"I don't know," Dís said. "But you need to get over it. I love you, Thorin. And when you are not in one of these . . . these . . . whatever they are, I love living with you, but I will not allow your melancholy to rub off on my son. I had to bribe him with pie to get him to eat dinner tonight after his talk with you. While I won't take them to the Iron Hills I will move us to a different home in Ered Luin."
"Don't threaten me when I've done nothing wrong, Sister," Thorin said darkly.
"It's not a threat, Thorin," she said simply. "It's a promise. Unless you and Fíli can fix whatever this is between you, I will take both him and Kíli and move out. You will still be welcome to see them, I'm not taking them from you but I will do what I have to to keep Fíli sane. Do you understand?"
"I . . . I do," Thorin replied, feeling utterly defeated by her promise. "Give me a few days, Dís. I . . . I'll think of some way to make it up to him. Just . . . just don't go."
"You have a week, Thorin," Dís said. "If you haven't fixed this by this time next week I will begin looking for another home."
"If I haven't fixed it I will move out," Thorin promised. "You and the boys can stay here. I will find a small place for myself."
"Fine," Dís agreed. "You can move out." She stopped at the door and turned back, offering him a small smile where he sat on his bed looking at his hands.
"And Thorin?" he looked up at her, an expression she couldn't place in his eyes. "If you bring me that bowl with no food in it there is still pie in the kitchen. I made sure that the ravenous things I call children left you a piece."
"Thank you," Thorin whispered as she closed the door behind her. However he had no interest in pie or food at all for that matter. No, all that interested Thorin Oakenshield was how to make it clear to a child that he was not angry so that he didn't lose the things that mattered most to him in the world. If they left him . . . without them . . . Thorin couldn't imagine what would become of him if he lost Dís and the boys. It was then that he decided that he would find a way to convince Fíli if it was the last thing he did because if he failed it would be.
It took Thorin two days to come up with a solution to his problem. He had tried to think of everything that could convince Fíli that he was not angry, but most of the solutions that he could think of were by no means age appropriate. It was only when he thought back to his own childhood and remembered what his father had done to prove that he was proud of him that Thorin knew what to do. He knew just the gesture that was needed to repair his relationship with his nephew. Now all he had to do was wait for Dís to return from the market with the lad.
He didn't have long to wait. Not twenty minutes after he had come to a decision, he heard the front door open and his nephews' laughter ringing through the house. Casting a prayer to the Maker that it worked, Thorin stood and walked towards the front room to collect his eldest nephew. The boys were still in the hall when he saw them, Kíli struggling against Fíli's hold on him attempting to be free.
At the feeling of a hand on his shoulder, Fíli released Kíli causing his brother to fall at his abrupt freedom. He turned and saw his uncle standing behind him, an expression that he could not place on his face. He felt his stomach drop as he realized that he was probably in trouble for roughhousing indoors.
"Fíli," Thorin said. "I'd like a word, lad. Will you come with me?" Fíli felt his heart stop. While his uncle didn't look mad, he'd never asked for a private word before and that made the dwarfling nervous and solidified his belief that he was to be punished.
"Have . . . have I done something bad?" Fíli asked quietly, not quite meeting Thorin's eyes as he flicked his own eyes from his boots to his uncle's face. Thorin's heart broke for the desperation he heard there and realized that Dís was right: Fíli did think he was angry with him.
"No, lad," Thorin promised, releasing his shoulder and holding out his hand for Fíli to take. "You haven't done anything wrong. I'd just like to talk to you, is that alright?" Fíli nodded and shakily put his hand into his uncle's and allowed Thorin to lead him to his uncle's bedroom—somewhere Fíli and Kíli weren't allowed to be without permission from Thorin himself.
"Uncle? Me too?" Kíli called, looking after them with wide brown eyes from his place on the ground.
"Not this time, little one," Thorin whispered, knowing the answer would hurt Kíli. "I just need Fíli for a moment. I'll have him right back to you. Go see if your mother needs help with dinner."
"Yes, Uncle," Kíli muttered sullenly before turning and going into the kitchen.
"Just me?" Fíli asked hesitantly, meeting Thorin's eyes for the first time in days.
"Aye, lad," Thorin replied. "Just you. Come along." Fíli followed. He couldn't see a way around it though he was now sure that he was going to be punished for something. Going to his uncle's room, Kíli being sent away, his uncle being mad at him . . . it didn't bode well. The only time the boys were ever separated intentionally was when one of them was to be punished for something they hadn't done together. It didn't calm his nerves any when Thorin began rummaging in a drawer.
"Have a seat," Thorin called as he did. "I'm afraid the only place to sit is the bed but feel free to sit there." Fíli did as he was told, cautiously climbing onto the large bed and sitting on the edge with his feet dangling. He flinched slightly when he heard his uncle hum as he found whatever it was that he was looking for.
"Close your eyes, Fíli," Thorin ordered with his back still to him. Taking a deep breath, Fíli closed his eyes. He felt the bed beside him dip under his uncle's weight and then his uncle was gently taking his hand and opening it before placing something cool in it and closing it once more.
"You can open them now, lad," Thorin said. When he did, the first thing he saw were his Uncle's blue eyes looking down at him with regret and sadness. "Take a look," Thorin whispered, nudging Fíli's hand with his own. Cautiously, Fíli opened his hand and saw a shiny silver ring there. It was a simple band inlayed with a blue stone.
"Uncle, what is this?" Fíli asked turning it and watching the way the light reflected off the nearly white metal. He'd never seen anything like it.
"What do you think it is?" Thorin replied, watching the wonder on Fíli's young face with a gentle smile. He truly hadn't meant to upset the boy and seeing him smile . . . it warmed Thorin's heart.
"Silver?" Fíli guessed. "It doesn't look like Mother's hairclasps but I know it's not gold or iron. I've never seen anything like this before. Is it silver?"
"Close," Thorin said with a gentle laugh. "It's mithril. "True silver" in the common tongue."
"Mithril?" Fíli breathed, having learned about it in lessons the day before, and it's value. "How . . . where did you get this?"
"I've had it," Thorin replied remembering him asking his father the same question and receiving nearly the same reply that he was about to give. "My . . . my father gave it to me when he felt I was worthy, just as his father did him. If I'd have had a son I would have given it to him when the time was right but," Thorin paused and sighed deeply, when he continued, his voice was thicker as he thought of the dam he had loved that had loved another. "I never did and I never will. You, you and Kíli, are the closest thing I will ever have to sons."
"Your mother told me about what you thought happened the other day and what you think has been going on lately," Thorin said. Fíli felt himself go cold. Mother had told his uncle that he had cried again after he left. And probably that he had said that his uncle hadn't been truthful. He knew now why he was in trouble. It wasn't for playing rough in the house. It was because true dwarves didn't cry or lie.
"Fíli . . . I'm so sorry, lad," Thorin whispered placing his hand on Fíli's cheek and rubbing the smooth skin below his eye with a thumb. "I didn't mean to make you think that I was angry with you or that I don't love you like I do Kíli. You are both so very precious to me. I don't know what I'd do without either of you. That's why I've decided to do this."
"Do what, Uncle?" Fíli breathed, just knowing that this was when his uncle would tell him what his punishment was.
"Give this to you," Thorin replied closing Fíli's hand around the bit of mithril. "I had meant to wait until you were older but . . . I think now's the time."
"You're . . . you're giving this to me?" Fíli asked. "But . . . it's too much, Uncle. I mean . . . your father gave it to you. He meant for you to have it. Not me." In response, Thorin laughed and pulled Fíli into his lap.
"He gave it to me to give to you, lad," Thorin promised. "True, he didn't know that he was giving it to you as you weren't born yet but . . . all the same, it was meant to come to you someday. The heir to the throne has always carried it. When you're a bit older, there's a dagger that goes with it. But your mother would kill me if I gave you that now." Fíli smiled, knowing just how upset it made his mother when his uncle left his weapons lying around the house.
"Uncle," Fíli whispered. "I . . . I just have one question."
"Ask," Thorin replied.
"Are . . . you sure I should keep it?" Fíli said. "Wouldn't it have a better use than as a present for me? Mr. Balin told us a little bit about the different metals and their worth. This . . . this is too much for me to keep. If you sold it, you and Mother wouldn't have to work so hard. Wouldn't that be better? You could spend more time with me and Kíli."
"Oh, lad," Thorin sighed, hugging Fíli to him, shocked at his nephew's thoughtfulness. "It's true that if I could find someone willing to pay its full worth that it could keep us for life, however no one will pay that much for it. That's one of the reasons I still have it. My father . . . after the fall of Erebor times were hard, Fíli. I . . . I'll tell you more about it when you are older, but we needed whatever we could get. We were desperate and people knew it. They knew they could offer us whatever they wanted—even a quarter of the value—for what bit of gold and jewels we had. Father . . . he tried to sell it, more than once, to get things we needed but . . . they didn't even offer him a sixteenth of its worth. I've thought about it, but, lad, that little bit of mithril is worth more than everything we currently own and perhaps the entire settlement. No one can afford it. Or no one I would sell it to."
"No, Fíli," Thorin continued. "Even if I wanted to, it would have been the wrong thing to do. This is rightfully yours. It marks you as the heir to the throne of Erebor. My heir, my sister-son—near enough to my own child by blood and by affection. Keep it. I think you're ready."
"There is only one thing, lad," Thorin said seriously. "It is yours, but until you are properly trained, I will ask you not to wear it openly. There are those that would harm you for it. I could never live with myself if that happened. Do you understand?" Fíli nodded before he looked up at his uncle with tear-filled eyes.
"I . . . I understand," Fíli breathed his blue eyes wide, "but . . . I can't take this, Uncle. I . . . I'm not ready. I'm not worthy to carry it. I . . . I can't even do sums yet." Thorin nodded sadly at his nephew's obvious panic and took the ring back from Fíli, closing his hand around Fíli's in the process.
"Alright," Thorin replied. "You do not need to stress yourself over this, Fíli. I will keep it for you for now. The moment that you feel you are ready, ask for it and I will give it to you. I believe that you are ready now but I will not force this on you. Deal?" Fíli nodded and laid his head against his uncle's chest, feeling the steady pulse of life beneath his ear. Thorin froze for half a second and then threaded his hand through Fíli's golden hair with a sad smile.
"I love you, Uncle," Fíli whispered as he clung to his uncle's tunic trying to hide his tears. Even if he knew that his uncle was wrong, what he'd said . . . it was everything that Fíli had ever wanted to hear.
"And I you, Fíli," Thorin replied wondering why the words were so easy for him to say with his eyes closed.