First Words and Trees
Despite Thorin's fears, even as Fíli grew he never looked at his uncle with anything less than love. Even so, Thorin knew that it was a possibility that he one day would. Frerin had always looked at him with love when they were children. Watching his nephews together was both a blessing and a curse. It made him smile to see them so happy, so carefree. It had been a difficult thing to accomplish, but he was truly proud of the home that he had managed to make for them in Ered Luin that had enabled them to grow up so slowly.
He, Dís and Frerin . . . they had been denied that opportunity. The sacking of Erebor . . . it had forced them to grow up too quickly. Thorin had only been twenty-three, Frerin eighteen and Dís . . . she was only nine. There hadn't been much time for childhood after the fall. Food had been too short, the road too dangerous, the memories of death and smoke and terror too fresh. They had all grown up too quickly. He vowed that he would not allow that to happen to his nephews. They would be children as long as possible.
The day that Kíli greeted him at the door without Fíli, like all things involving the boys, made him both proud and made his heart hurt. They were growing so quickly. It seemed like only yesterday that the lad had been handed to him as a squirming bundle of blankets. Thorin smiled tiredly down at the little dark-haired dwarfling.
"Hello Kíli," He said kneeling down to scoop his nephew up into his arms as he headed towards the kitchen from where he could smell Dís' cooking wafting through the home. "What have you been up to today? Causing mischief and giving your mother grey hair?"
"I do not have grey hair, Thorin," Dís snapped from the kitchen.
"Then what is this, then?" He asked with a laugh as he pulled gently on one of her loose hairs. She turned her head, panic in her eyes and looked at the hair that he held. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw that it was a dark hair. She glared at him but couldn't stay mad at her brother when there was such joy in his eyes. At one time she had despaired of ever seeing Thorin smile. She knew that her boys had more to do with it than she did but she couldn't help but be pleased at her hand in it.
"Oh you!" she huffed, swatting his hand and pretending to be indignant at his joke. "Why do you do these things to me, Thorin?" He shrugged as was about to tell her that he was only doing it to keep her from becoming too vain when he was interrupted.
"Torn," a high, childish voice chirped from his arms. They both looked at Kíli in surprise. He smiled up at them, his brown eyes sparking with his pride at being able to get his beloved uncle's attention. "Torn," he repeated.
"Is that . . ." Thorin began hesitantly. "Is he . . . was that my name?" He couldn't stop the smile that crossed his face at the thought that one of Kíli's first words had been his name. He looked at his sister and she smiled at him.
Dís was pleased with the shock on her brother's face. It was an expression that she had never seen before, for a good reason anyway. She didn't have the heart to tell him that Kíli had been babbling all day and had already called both her and Fíli by a mangled version of their names. It didn't matter if they were slightly mangled. Ma was close enough to Amad and Fee was close enough to Fíli that they knew who he had been speaking too.
"I believe it was," Dís replied with a warm smile for her youngest. "Was it, my darling Kíli? Were you trying to get your grouchy old Uncle Thorin's attention?" Kíli nodded before grabbing one of Thorin's braids and giving it a tug.
"Torn! Torn!" he called happily, a bright laugh bubbling up his lips. Thorin's deep laugh soon joined it and he lightly tossed Kíli into the air, causing a loud squeal of laughter to come from the small child before he was caught and brought back against Thorin into a hug.
"You have my attention, little one," Thorin promised, nuzzling Kíli's soft hair. "As long as you still want it." He led Kíli tightly a moment longer before he loosed his hold and moved his nephew back to his hip.
"So," he asked, turning to his attention to his sister once more only to glance back at Kíli with a wry smile when the incorrigible little lad called "Torn!" once more, "where's Fíli? These two are usually like little shadows of one another. Why do I just have one of them clinging to me now?" He regretted his question because as soon as he asked it Dís' smile fell away.
"Fíli's in their room," she replied, a hint of anger in her eyes. Thorin didn't understand it. Fíli was Dís' favorite. He rarely did anything to anger her, his resemblance to her late husband buying him more leeway than she gave any other.
"What did he do?" he asked warily. If it was enough to upset Dís to the point that she confined him to his quarters . . . it had to be bad.
"Which time?" Dís asked with a sigh. "He had been . . . today was bad. I nearly lost my temper with him, Thorin. I wasn't actually mad at him," she said, tears filling her eyes as she relived what had happened that day. "I . . . he . . . he fell. I was just so terrified. And I . . . I yelled at him. He was hurt and scared and I . . . I yelled at him. I . . . I don't know what came over me. I just . . . I heard him scream and then . . . when I got outside . . . there he was, under the tree just sprawled there and instead of scooping him into my arms I yelled at him. All I could see . . . all I could think was what would have happened if he had only climbed a little higher before he fell . . . I was just so terrified. I can't lose him, Thorin. I can't lose either of them. My heart would not survive it. I—"
"Hush," Thorin whispered pulling Dís to him and hugging her with the arm that was not around Kíli. "You won't lose them, Dís. I swear it. They will not leave you before their time." Not like everyone else has, he thought bitterly. She sobbed into his shoulder at what had happened between her and her eldest son that day.
"Thorin," she asked, pulling back at to look at him with tear-filled brown eyes and worrying her lip with her teeth, "what do I do? How do I . . . how do I explain to him why I was upset? How do I tell him that I only yelled at him because I love him so much and that I can't bear the thought of losing him?"
"You tell him just that, Dís," Thorin replied with a sad smile. "He's a smart lad and he loves you. He will accept your apology." For now, he finished mentally. "But if you'd like, I can go and talk to him first."
"I'd like that," Dís replied taking Kíli from his uncle before turning back to the stove. "I just need to warm up dinner. See if you can get him to come to the table. He told me that he was never coming out of his room again." Thorin nodded and moved towards the boys' room with a deep sigh. He only hoped that he was up to the task that Dís had given him.
Fíli was sitting on his bed glaring at the wall. He couldn't believe his mother. It wasn't as if he had meant to fall out of the tree. He hadn't meant to fall out and hurt himself. As the thought washed through his mind tears prickled his eyes at the memory of his mother standing above him a yelling. He had never heard her yell before . . . and for the first time he heard it to be at him . . . it hurt.
She hadn't even looked at him to see if he was hurt. She hadn't even asked why he had climbed it in the first place. She hadn't cared. She had just been so angry. As he stormed off, he even thought that he saw tears in her eyes but he knew that that couldn't be true. Real dwarves did not cry. His mother, his uncle they were real dwarves. She hadn't been crying. With that vicious thought, he reached up to wipe away his tears, wincing as the fresh scrapes on the palms of his hands from where the bark had scraped him as he fell protested the movement.
HE jumped slightly as he heard a quiet knock on the door. There was only a moment's delay before the door opened and his uncle poked his head inside.
"Hello Fíli," Thorin said quietly. He sighed when his nephew didn't respond other than to look up at him with sad blue eyes. "May I come in?" Fíli sighed and looked away, which Thorin took as an invitation. He stepped into the room, closing the door behind him and move over to sit next to Fíli on his bed.
"So," Thorin said trying to figure out how to broach the subject with his nephew. "I hear that you had a bit of a . . . an adventure with the tree in the yard today." Fíli said nothing but he gave a small sniffle. Not only had his mother yelled at him for falling out of the tree but he knew that she had sent his uncle in to scold him as well. A treacherous tear crept down his cheek at the thought. He couldn't stand the idea that they would both be angry with him. Fíli flinched as he felt Thorin's calloused finger gently wipe the tear away.
Thorin swallowed down his pain at Fíli's flinch. Did the boy truly think that he would punish him for falling from a tree?
"Are you injured?" Thorin asked gently. Fíli looked up at him in shock, his blue eyes filling with tears once more. His heart fell as Fíli's face crumpled and he nodded. "Let me see, lad," Thorin ordered gently. Fíli swallowed before he held up his hands and showed his uncle his bloodied palms. Thorin took his nephew's small hands in his own and leaned down to inspect the scrapes. They didn't appear too deep.
"Stay here," Thorin whispered standing and going to the dresser and pouring some water from the pitcher there onto a cloth before coming back to Fíli's side. "This may hurt a bit, Fíli," Thorin cautioned. "However I must clean these scrapes." Fíli flinched as the cloth was gently passed over the wounds, but he did not cry out or pull away. It only took a moment to wipe away the blood. And Thorin breathed a sigh of relief: they were only shallow and would do no lasting damage.
"Will you tell me why you were in the tree?" Fíli looked up at his uncle's question, hope and love burning in his eyes. "It is a very strange place for a young dwarf to be. Dwarves don't climb trees, lad." The admonition was gentle but he saw some of the hope dim in Fíli's eyes before he looked away. It broke Thorin's heart to have lost even that little bit of hope from Fíli.
"I . . . I climbed the tree because . . . " Fíli began hesitantly. He wanted to tell his uncle why he had done it but he didn't want to at the same time. He was worried that Kíli would be in trouble for it as well if he was to tell what had happened. But his uncle was looking down at him, his blue eyes soft and expectant and Fíli couldn't not tell him. He couldn't let his uncle believe that he had done something undwarfly without cause.
"Kíli's ball," Fíli explained looking away, "it was in the tree. I climbed up to get it down and when I reached for it . . . my hand slipped and . . ."
"And you fell," Thorin finished with a sigh. It made much more sense to him now. Fíli was a smart lad and Thorin hadn't been able to understand what had possessed him to climb that tree. Fíli nodded. "Are these your only injuries or . . ."
"My back hurts," Fíli replied, his eyebrows drawing together. He looked at his uncle sadly as Thorin nodded.
"Let me take a look at it," Thorin sighed and helped Fíli to remove his shirt. There was a bruise where his upper back had hit the ground, but there was no blood and nothing was broken. "It's not that bad," Thorin offered. "I'll get some salve from the kitchen and . . . it'll help." He stood to go through with his promise but was stopped by Fíli's quiet voice.
"Uncle?" Fíli said warily, not sure if he wanted the answer to the question that he intended to answer. He nearly lost his nerve when his uncle turned back to look at him. The gentleness in his eyes was almost painful when he compared it to the anger that had been in his mother's.
"Is mother . . . does she . . . does she hate me? Because I climbed the tree?" Fíli asked, his eyes filling with tears once more. Thorin shoulders slumped in defeat and he walked back to his nephew before scooping the child into his arms and leaning against the wall. Fíli's small hands grasped desperately at his shirt and his eyes looked up at Thorin with such hope that Thorin felt his heart stop. He knew that he wasn't deserving of such pure hope. Instead of looking into his nephew's eyes, he pulled Fíli's head gently against his chest and pressed a kiss to his blonde hair.
"No," Thorin breathed against Fíli's hair. "She doesn't hate you. She could never hate you."
"She was so angry with me," Fíli sobbed, burrowing more firmly into his uncle's chest. "She . . . she yelled at me, Uncle. She's never done that before. And she . . . " He couldn't bring himself to explain the look in his mother's eyes to his uncle. It was too painful.
"She yelled at you because she was terrified for you," Thorin explained. "She . . . you and Kíli, you're all that she has left in this world. She . . . she only yelled because she was afraid that she had almost lost you." Fíli was very still for a moment and Thorin moved him away slightly so that he could see his nephew's face. If it hadn't been such a serious situation he would have laughed at the intense look of concentration that was on his young face.
"You're wrong," Fíli said suddenly. "I'm sorry, Uncle, but you are wrong."
"I don't believe so, lad," Thorin replied with a small smile. "Your mother loves you and your brother more than anything in this world."
"That's not what I mean," Fíli argued resting his head back on Thorin's shoulder and tangling his fingers in his uncle's hair. "I mean that we're not all she has. She has you too. Right?" Again, Thorin felt a warm smile cross his face. He only wished that he could see things as innocently as Fíli was capable of. Things seemed so much simpler through his eyes.
"That's right, lad," Thorin agreed. "She has me too. You and Kíli do too, you know."
"I know, Uncle," Fíli replied with a contented sigh. "I love you, Uncle."
"I . . . I love you too, Fíli," Thorin replied. Swallowing back his emotions Thorin pulled Fíli into a tighter hug before releasing his hold. "So, are you hungry? Your mother told me that you have been in here since you fell from the tree." He smiled as Fíli's stomach growled in response. "Come, lad, let's see what your mother cooked. Do you want to walk or . . ."
"Can . . . can you," Fíli began before cutting himself off. "I can walk, Uncle. I'll walk."
"What if I carry you to the kitchen and then let you walk the rest of the way?" Thorin countered knowing that Fíli had wanted him to carry him but refused to ask. Fíli nodded and Thorin stood up with his nephew still cradled against his chest. He wasn't sure how much longer Fíli would allow this closeness but he was determined to have it as long as he could. It was with mingled regret and pride that he set the boy down and allowed him to walk into the kitchen with his head held high.