The next morning Thorin was out of the house before either Dís or the boys were awake. The only way that she knew her brother had left at all were the dirty dishes he had left on the table from his breakfast. As she cleared them away, she shook her head hoping that Thorin would grow busy and forget that he was supposed to go to Fíli's lessons. As much as she knew that being forgotten would hurt her son, she was more worried about what might happen if her brother did go.
She had only been awake for a short time when she heard the tell-tale signs of her sons awakening. It was the same every morning, Kíli always woke first. And then, not content to be awake alone, he would always pounce his brother to wake Fíli. They had always gotten up the same way. At first, Dís had attempted to keep Kíli from harassing his brother, encouraging him to use the time until Fíli woke to engage in his own hobbies, but as time passed she had given up. The only way she could have prevented it anyway was to put them in separate rooms and they simply didn't have the space.
Besides, Fíli had assured her more than once that he didn't mind in the least. And she had sensed no lie in him. He truly didn't mind his brother's antics. And she didn't actually mind if they had a bit of a scuffle in the mornings. After all, children needed a bit of play every now and then. Even if it was a bit more rough that she would have liked, neither of them ever seriously wounded the other and nothing was every broken. She supposed that she could ask for no more than that.
This morning, however, Kíli's battle cry wasn't followed by laughter and rough-housing, but rather a short, sharp statement from Fíli. At first she was shocked. She'd never heard Fíli use that tone with anyone, let alone his little brother, but she supposed it made sense. After all, he was bound to be sore after spending the day with Dwalin. Kíli was apparently surprised too. Even though she couldn't make out the words, his tone was equally as sharp as his brother's had been and there was an edge of anger to it as well. She was wondering if she should intervene before a fight broke out but then Fíli's voice wafted back to her, soft, tired and repentant. And, like every argument between them, it blew over.
Yes, they had their disagreements, all siblings do. And she was sure that they'd had at least one scuffle, both of them had had tears in the clothing that neither of them would explain, but it pleased her to see just how close they were. Fíli doted on his brother in a way that Thorin had doted on her and Frerin. Anything that Kíli requested, if it was within his power, Fíli saw to it that he got it.
And Kíli . . . Dís had to continue to remind herself that he was young yet. If he was still a bit self-centered, well it made sense. He was the youngest of their line, and the last until the lads had babes of their own, and it wasn't as if Fíli ever asked Kíli for anything. Dís knew in her heart that if Fíli ever asked Kíli would give him whatever he wanted. After all, for all his lack of intuition where his brother was concerned, Kíli was a sweet child at heart. And intuition would come with time. After all, they were both still very young.
Even as that last thought crossed her mind, Thorin's image popped into her head. Despite what she'd thought about intuition coming with age, Thorin was proof that it didn't always. Her brother was remarkably dense when it came to other's thoughts and feelings. Subtleties were lost on him. And while she supposed that some of that was a necessity to rule—as he couldn't always be preoccupied with what others were thinking, especially as being king required making the occasional unpopular decision—she could only hope that it was one trait of her brother's that neither of her sons developed.
By the time the boys actually emerged from their room, Dís had banished her more melancholy thoughts and they sat down to a pleasant breakfast that led to a peaceful morning. If Fíli was a bit withdrawn, well, it made sense. After all, he was tired. Or at least that was what she tried to tell herself, even if she knew the truth.
As the day drew on, Fíli only grew more tense until he was snapping at Kíli for such small things that Dís had no choice but to intercede. All Kíli had done was bat at his brother's braid in an attempt to convince him to wrestle with him, something he did regularly. He hadn't pulled or anything and Fíli had smacked his hand away hard enough that Kíli had staggered into the chair.
"What'd you do that for?" Kíli had demanded, rubbing his hip where it had hit the corner of the arm of the chair.
"Why'd you have to keep batting at me?" Fíli demanded in reply.
"I just wanted to play," Kíli snapped, his brown eyes flashing angrily. "It's not my fault you're grumpy today. If you didn't want to you could have just told me. You didn't have to hit me."
"Like you'd've listened?" Fíli shot back. "You never listen. The only way to get anything throu gh your thick skull is to—"
"Fíli," she said softly, her tone incredulous. "was it truly necessary to hit him?" At her question, his shoulders slumped as his anger evaporated.
"No, Mother," Fíli replied quietly. "I shouldn't have swatted at him."
"No," Dís agreed, not bothering to ask why he'd done it if he knew he shouldn't because she knew he'd already be asking himself that same question. "You shouldn't've. He didn't mean any harm."
"I know he didn't," Fíli replied. "I just . . . I'm . . . I'm sorry, Kíli. I just don't want to play right now, alright? Can we play later?"
"But I don't want to play later," Kíli argued. "I want to play now."
"Kíli," Dís sighed. "I understand that you want to play, but Fíli's asked nicely for you to let him be. Don't you think you should?"
"No," the youngest replied, his tone surly, before looking hopefully at his mother. "Shouldn't he have to play with me since he hit me when he shouldn't've."
"Is playtime ever a punishment?" Dís asked in return, shaking her head indulgently at her youngest. He should have known better by now than to try to manipulate her into doing what he wanted. It might work on his uncle but it had never worked on her.
"No," Kíli said sullenly. "So he's not going to play with me?"
"You're welcome to ask, however I doubt his answer will have change in mere moments," she replied. Rather than ask, Kíli looked expectantly at his brother who shook his head.
"Not today, Kíli," the elder muttered looking away. "I'm sore from yesterday. I'll play with you tomorrow. Alright?"
"Fine," Kíli sighed turning his back on his brother and playing with the stone blocks Thorin had made for him on his last birthday.
"I'm sorry," Fíli muttered, looking at his brother's back with sad eyes. It nearly broke Dís' heart when Fíli's face fell further at Kíli's lack of acknowledgement of the apology. But she knew that she couldn't force Kíli to accept it.
It was almost a relief when it was time for Fíli to go train with Dwalin. Even with the fear of disappointing his uncle hanging over his head, he was more than glad to go to the training grounds if only because it meant that he could get away from his brother for a bit. He couldn't stand being in the same room as his brother, not when Kíli was so clearly cross with him. More than once that afternoon he considered simply giving his brother what he wanted but he hadn't lied when he'd said that he was sore. Not that Dwalin hadn't warned him, he had, and he'd also said that it wasn't a reason to skip training since if he did it would only be worse the next time he did show up. Mr. Dwalin had said that the only way to get through it was to continue to train.
He was even more relieved when they arrived at the training ground and his uncle was nowhere to be seen. He knew that his uncle would come, he'd said he would after all, but this was he would have time to practice with the weapons a bit more before his uncle saw. He hoped that with a bit more practice he could maybe please his uncle. After a brief conversation with Mr. Dwalin, his mother and Kíli left. Even though he knew that it wouldn't have been allowed, it still hurt that Kíli didn't even ask to stay with him that day. Thankfully he didn't have long to dwell on it.
"So, laddie," Dwalin asked, pulling Fíli from where he was still staring at his brother's retreating back, "what would you like to try today? Axes, swords . . . what?"
"Can . . . can I try the bow?" Fíli asked. It hadn't been one of his choices he'd been offered but he'd been fascinated by it ever since Mr. Dwalin had demonstrated it for him the day before. He knew that it wasn't exactly a traditional weapon, but that didn't change the allure it held for him.
"Course you can!" Dwalin replied clapping him on the shoulder before moving and lifting a bow from the cradle at the side of the field they were on. "That's what these sessions are for, after all. Can't teach you how to fight until I know what it is you like, now can I?"
"I suppose not," Fíli said warily, taking the bow from his cousin. Dwalin watched as Fíli turned it over in his hands, attempting to discern if there was a difference in the bow that would show him how he was supposed to hold it to use it, his face crinkling with displeasure as he did.
"Wondering which way's up?" Dwalin asked, looking at the young dwarf with a small smile. A smile that fell when the lad looked down in shame.
"I'm sorry," Fíli muttered, knowing that Mr. Dwalin had to think he was a complete simpleton. He couldn't even figure out how to hold the bow. How did he expect shoot it if he couldn't even hold it?
"Whatever for, Lad?" Dwalin asked, his normally gruff demeanor disappearing in the face of a dwarfling in need of comforting. He didn't bother to mask his confusion as Fíli looked up at him hopefully. "You've never held a bow before, how could I expect you to know how to use it?"
When enough time had passed that Fíli realized his cousin expected an answer he gave one. "You couldn't?"he said tentatively.
"Damn right I couldn't," Dwalin replied before gently grasping Fíli's shoulder and leading him to the other edge of the field where there was a target set up. "Now," he said placing the bow in the young dwarf's hands and moving his limbs to the appropriate places, "all you have to do is look down the shaft and point it where you want it to go. Try to sight it in as quickly as possible because the longer you hold it back the less accurate you'll be. Give it a try."
Fíli nodded and tried to position himself like Mr. Dwalin had only moments before but as he pulled the string back towards his ear, the older dwarf's voice rang out.
"Stop!" Dwalin barked. He instantly regretted it when he saw Fíli flinch and look at him with sad eyes once more. He felt even more wretched when the lad spoke, his voice so desolate that it made the older dwarf ache for being the case of it.
"What did I do wrong?" the boy asked, looking at his own boots.
"The way you were holding the bow," Dwalin said gently, kneeling down so that he was on level with the dwarfling in an attempt to be less intimidating, "when you released the string it would have hit your arm. It wouldn't have done lasting harm but it would have stung something fierce, might even have drawn blood. What do you think your mother would have done if I brought you back scathed?"
"She'd have been cross with you," Fíli said with a small smile as he remembered the conversation from the night before and the large warrior admitting to fearing his mother.
"Aye, lad," Dwalin said softly. "That she would have. What do you say we do everything we can to keep you from being injured, eh?"
"I can do that," Fíli said, looking up once more.
"Good lad," the elder said standing once more and pointing Fíli back at the target. "Now, what do you say to giving that another try? I'll bet you can hit that target the first try." Fíli felt lighter than he'd felt all day at Dwalin's confidence in him. He felt even better when the arrow he fired hit inside the outer ring and his cousin clapped him on the shoulder once more.
"Knew you could do it," the older dwarf said. "You're a natural, lad." Fíli felt as if his heart could soar. For the first time in his life he'd found something he was good at without having to work for it. As he lined up the next shot and the arrow flew into the target, he felt his apprehension about his uncle's visit disappearing. Surely even his uncle could find no fault in this.