That night Kíli snuck out.
He waited until his uncle was asleep before slipping out of bed and across the room. He flinched as the door squeaked slightly as it was opened but all his uncle did was grunt before rolling over and muttering something incoherent in his sleep. Taking it as a sign from the Maker that he was supposed to sneak out to see his brother—after all, everyone knew that his uncle was a very light sleeper. He'd actually been surprised that his mother had allowed him to sleep in his uncle's room as they weren't generally allowed near him when he was sleeping because she said that he had a tendency to awake violently and would hate himself if he ever hurt them (not that she would hate it any less but that didn't need to be said)—he pulled the door shut behind him and made his way down the hall.
He opened their door quietly, needing to see his brother but not wanting to wake him if he was sleeping. He pulled the door shut silently behind him, his hand freezing on the knob as he heard the strangest sound he'd heard in his life. It almost sounded as if there were a kitten in the room but they were forbidden from bringing animals into the home. It took him a second longer to realize that it wasn't a kitten but rather his brother making the noise.
"Fee?" he whispered, moving towards the bed with his hand outstretched in peace. "Are you alright?"
"What do you think?" came the sharp reply as his brother's blue eyes flashed open.
"I don't know what to think," he said honestly. "You don't sound alright."
"That's because I'm not," Fíli sighed, wincing as he shifted on the bed, attempting to find a more comfortable position.
"Why are you laying like that?" Kíli asked tipping his head sideways to align his eyes with his brother's. "You never sleep on your stomach."
"I got a lashing for what I did," Fíli snapped, not feeling up to Kíli's questions at the moment and wishing his uncle would have just told his brother what happened so that he could be spared telling him himself.
"I'm sorry," Kíli muttered, closing his eyes and grasping the back of his brother's head to touch their foreheads together.
"What for?" Fíli asked bringing his own hand up to tangle in Kíli's unruly mop. "I'm the one decided to try to kill him."
"For not telling them why you did it," Kíli replied. "I should have. Even if you were mad at me it wouldn't be as bad as seeing you in pain. Uncle would have believed me. I know it."
"He would have," the elder agreed. "But then Mother would have had to known as well."
"It's not like she's never heard it before," Kíli said honestly. He'd been thinking about it ever since the blood started to flow earlier that day and the more he'd thought about it the clearer things had become. "Borin's not smart enough to have come up with that on his own," he continued. "He must have heard it from somewhere, most likely his parents, which means that it's been said before. She's probably heard it at least once."
"She still didn't need to hear it from us," Fíli sighed, releasing Kíli's hair and turning his head the other way so he was facing the wall. "Besides, that's not exactly why I did it. You couldn't have told them even if you'd wanted to."
"Then why did you do it?" Kíli asked moving back into his brother's line of sight and laying down on his back beside him. "It had to do with me, didn't it? That's why Uncle separated us. It's his was of punishing me too, isn't it?"
"He's not punishing you," the elder sighed. "He kept you out because I asked him to. I . . . I didn't want you to blame yourself for this when it was my decision."
"You asked him to keep me out?" Kíli breathed, feeling crushed that his brother didn't want him around. "Do you blame me?"
"Mahal's hammer! No, Kee, I don't blame you," Fíli said reaching out for his brother only to stop with a grimace. " I just blame myself."
"If I promise not to tell Ma, will you tell me why you did it then, if it's not my fault?" he asked, his brown eyes wide and filled with concern for his brother.
"It wasn't your fault, Kee," Fíli promised softly. "I chose to attack him." At his brother's impatient expression, Fíli felt a small smile cross his face before it vanished under a more melancholy expression. "He threatened to hurt you," Fíli said finally. "To break your arm. I . . . I couldn't let him do that so I did what I needed to to stop him." At his brother's horrified face, he couldn't help but keep talking.
"Don't worry," he said. "He won't do it. True, talking to Mr. Dwalin might have had the same effect but . . . I don't regret what I did, Kee. Even if Uncle can never look at me the same way again or if Mother can't . . . I would do it again. None of them will ever think of touching you now." Kíli said nothing but his heart broke to hear without a doubt that Fíil had taken what had clearly been a vicious lashing for his sake. He never wanted to hurt his brother, even indirectly, and he'd done just that. Yes, the choice had been Fíli's, but he'd done it for Kíli.
"Can . . . is there anything you want?" Kíli offered quietly. "Anything I can get you?" Fíli shook his head, there was nothing that he wanted that his brother could get for him. The only thing that even sounded good at the moment was an apple and they wouldn't be in season for a few more months if there ever were apples that year.
"Do you want me to leave?" he asked even more quietly.
"No," Fíli muttered scooting closer to Kíli with a muffled whimper and resting his head on his brother's shoulder and his left arm across Kíli's chest and into his brother's hair. "Stay." Kíli nodded, resting his cheek on the top of his brother's head and putting his own left hand in Fíli's hair and his right in the middle of his brother's shoulders. He stayed awake for a time listening as his brother's labored breathing evened out, though the occasional whimper still punctuated the sound. His last thought as he drifted off to sleep was the strangest thought he'd ever had; an even mix of 'thank you' and 'I'm sorry.'
When Thorin awoke the next morning to an empty bed there was no doubt in his mind as to where his nephew would be. Still in his nightclothes and bare feet, he padded down the hall and eased open the door to the room the lads shared. It was no surprise to him to see the two of them wrapped in one another's arms soundly asleep, even if their positions were reversed from their norm.
He stood silently in the doorway for a moment watching them sleep. Even as he did, memories of the day before assailed him. While he much preferred Fíli's peaceful sleeping face to the one he'd seen during the ordeal, he couldn't get his nephew's pain-filled expression or cries out of his head. He hated himself for what he'd done the day before, even if he'd had no choice in the matter. The law was the law, exceptions could not be made, even for his kin. No matter how much he wished otherwise.
All the same, he couldn't help but feel pride for his nephew, despite the pain he'd caused them all with his actions. He knew that in Fíli's place he would have done the same to protect his kin, endured whatever he had to to ensure they were kept safe. Fíli understood the nature of sacrifice. He would one day make a brilliant king and he was already an excellent brother. Even if the decision had been rash and foolish, the reason behind it was noble. He knew that he'd never need fear for Kíli as long as his brother was beside him and only hoped that his youngest nephew extended his brother the same protection. After all, he knew firsthand what happened when brothers failed to protect one another.
As he turned to go into the kitchen he offered up a silent prayer that neither of the lads would ever have to experience the pain of losing the other through their own actions. With a sigh he settled into onto a chair beside the cool ashes in the hearth and moved to prepare his pipe before he remembered that there was nothing to smoke. There hadn't been the funds for luxuries like pipeweed lately.
With another sigh he stood and moved to the wall where they stored his harp and Dís' fiddle. He'd suggested selling them more than once but Dís wouldn't hear of it. She'd replied that they would cost more to replace than they would get for them, and she was right. All the same, it was difficult to look at them on the wall, knowing that they could put meat on the table, and not consider it. And then there were times like this when he was glad she refused to allow it.
With a small smile on his face, he gently lifted the harp from its hook and moved back to his seat before the hearth. He gave an unhappy hum as he ran his fingers across the strings and realized that it had lost its tune once more. He could remember that his mother had a harp back in Erebor that was of such fine craftsmanship that the strings never rang untrue. This, like everything they had now, was a poor imitation of the life they'd once had. Attempting to push the thought aside, he closed his eyes and began forcing the strings back into order.
Even once he was satisfied, he did not open his eyes. Rather, he moved into a melancholy tune, allowing the music to wash over him and express the feelings of loss and sadness that he couldn't give voice to.
He wasn't sure how long he played, but he was startled when he heard a chair scrape across the floor and laid his hand across the strings to stop their ringing at the same time his eyes flew open to see his sister sitting across from him tuning her fiddle and watching him.
"Don't stop," she said softly. "It's been too long since we played together. You still play beautifully."
"Dís," he muttered.
"Just go back to what you were doing. Please?" she asked. "I'll join in once it's tuned." Thorin shook his head sadly and ran his fingers across the strings once more. He could deny his sister nothing, especially when it was something this small that might bring her pleasure after the day before.
He was only strumming for a moment when Dís added not only her fiddle but her voice to the tune. Until he heard the words she sang, he hadn't realized what he'd been playing but hearing her sing, he now knew why she'd wanted him to continue. Despite himself, he joined her at the chorus, his bass and her tenor weaving through one another to craft words that were not only a wish but a prayer.
"We must away ere break of day,
To claim our long-forgotten gold."