Thorin did not come to dinner that night. As Dís and the boys sat at the table, his empty place was glaringly obvious, as was the affect that his absence had on Fíli. Dís watched her eldest son with concern as Fíli kept shooting furtive glances at his uncle's empty place before looking down at his own plate in what almost appeared to be shame. She couldn't understand it. Why did Fíli feel shame? She was trying to decide how to broach the topic with her young son when he took matters into his own hands.
"Mother, where's Uncle?" Fíli asked, his small brow furrowing as he examined the room as if Thorin would materialize out of nowhere. "Did he go away again? He didn't say goodbye? He always says goodbye."
"No, Darling," Dís promised as she spooned vegetables onto Kíli's plate, wondering at the eagerness she saw in his eyes as he tucked into them. She wondered where it had come from but pushed in from her mind in favor of answering Fíli's questions. Kíli deciding to eat vegetables was not cause for concern, Fíli's being upset was.
"Your Uncle is in his room," she continued he explanation knowing that her oldest liked to have more information than a yes or no answer. "He hasn't gone anywhere. Won't for a couple of weeks."
"Oh," Fíli replied, his confusion still clear in his tone. "Isn't he hungry? He told Kíli that he was hungry. Did he already eat?"
"I don't know," Dís said sadly, feeling a bit bad for lying to her son. She knew that Thorin hadn't eaten. He hadn't left his room since their argument. "He hasn't spoken to me since just after you returned from your outing. I'm afraid he's a bit miffed with me."
"No he's not," Fíli whispered, looking away from his mother in shame. "He's upset with me."
"Oh, Fíli! He's not! He never could be," Dís promised, her heart breaking that her son could think for a moment that any of this was his fault when it was her own. "Whatever gave you that idea?"
"It's nothing, Mother," Fíli replied still refusing to meet her eye. "He . . . it's nothing. I'll just figure out what it was and not do it again." It was clear to Dís that Fíli didn't believe that it was nothing. He was deeply bothered by whatever had happened when he had been out with Thorin that day. She didn't know what had happened, but she intended to find out.
With a sigh, she sat the bowl of greens back on the table, noting that Kíli reached for it and added more to his plate almost desperately, before kneeling beside Fíli and placing a gentle hand on his cheek. She turned his head to face her and felt her heart break and tears sting her eyes at the confusion and pain in his young blue eyes.
"Tell me," she commanded gently stroking his downy face with her thumb. "You can tell me anything, my little ray of sunshine. What happened, sweetheart?" She watched as her son swallowed heavily and took a deep breath before his eyes filled with tears and the incident spilled from him all in a rush.
"I ... when we were out today, Kíli climbed a tree," Fíli explained. Dís eyes flicked to her youngest who flinched a bit at the heat in his mother's gaze but offered her a small smile and popped another carrot into his mouth. She wanted to glare at him but Fíli was still talking and she returned her full attention to him. There would be time later to talk about to Kíli about his tree-climbing.
"—and I don't know what I did," Fíli was saying tears beginning to choke his words, "but I have to have done something. Uncle has never been so cool towards me before."
"Oh, Fíli," Dís sighed pulling her son against her and stroking the unbraided back of his hair. "Your uncle was probably only short with you because he was worried for Kíli's safety. He didn't mean it, my darling. Thorin loves you. He thinks of you as his own," she promised trying to tamp down her own guilt at what she had said to her brother earlier.
"I. . .I know that," Fíli sobbed. "I know he loves me but . . . Mother, I . . . he was short with me all day. Ever since I asked to take out my braids. Was that it? Was that what I did wrong? Was he upset because princes should wear braids and I was not giving my place the respect he felt it was due?"
"Fíli, my dear sweet boy, your uncle was not irritated with you," Dís promised. "I am the one he is cross with. He is not used to being told no and I did that this morning and again this evening. He is not angry with you, Fíli. You did nothing wrong. You're still too young to be forced into braids, save for on special occasions."
"All the same," Fíli said, his tone revealing that he was unconvinced by his mother's words, "will you redo them before I go to lessons tomorrow with Mr. Balin?"
"You do not have to go to lessons tomorrow, Fíli," Dís replied doing her best to keep her irritation with Thorin out of her tone. The last thing she needed was Fíli thinking she was irritated with him. "There is no need yet. Your uncle and I talked it out and you will begin lessons on the day after your fifteenth birthday. Don't worry, Fíli."
"But . . . Uncle wanted me to go to lessons," Fíli said in confusion. "He said as much. I . . . I don't—"
"I talked him out of his foolishness," she replied simply. "You do not need to go to lessons tomorrow. We have decided." Suddenly Fíli knew what his mother and his uncle had fought about: it was him and whether or not he would go to lessons. He hated to be the cause of the rift between them. It was not fair. Not over this. He tried the one thing that he could think of to fix it.
"But . . . Mother, I . . . I want to go," Fíli said, feeling quite proud of himself when his voice did not quiver. "I want to go to lessons."
"What?" Dís asked in shock. Surely Fíli was not serious! There was no way a child would want to go to school. She remembered when she had been sent to be educated. It had take both the coercion of her brothers and the threat of punishment from her father if she disobeyed to get her to comply and neither Thorin nor Frerin had behaved any differently.
"I want to go," Fíli repeated, his gaze steady. Dís sighed. She hadn't thought to factor Fíli's wishes into the matter. He may be a child but he was old enough to make such small decisions, as Thorin had pointed out, her son was intelligent. If Fíli wanted to go . . . it changed things.
"You want to go?" She asked again still skeptical of her son's sudden conviction to go to lessons. "Your uncle didn't convince you to say that to me, did he?"
"Uncle and I didn't talk about lessons today," Fíli replied. "We . . . we didn't really talk at all." Dís closed her eyes and sighed.
"If you are sure this is what you want," she said eventually staring into her son's blue eyes and trying to see a lie in them. There was none, Fíli wanted this. "I will have your uncle take you to Balin in the afternoon. You do not have to do this, Fíli. If you get there and change your mind you are free to come home. Until you are fifteen, you are only going because you want to. Neither I nor anyone else will not force you to until then. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Mother," Fíli answered. "But don't worry. I want to go. And . . . before I do can you redo my hair, please?" Dís nodded sadly with another sigh and hugged him tightly to her before pressing a kiss to his brow and standing to finish passing out dinner. When she reached for the bowl of vegetables that she had sat down to comfort her eldest, she found it empty. She looked under the table with a bemused expression wondering if Kíli had tried to get rid of them while she was distracted: there were no vegetables there.
"Kíli," she said slowly as she came back out from under the table, looking at her youngest in her best 'don't-lie-to-your-mother' face, "darling, where are the vegetables."
"Eated," Kíli replied, holding his stomach with his face twisted into a grimace.
"Eated?" Dís asked in confusion. "Kíli . . . did you eat all of the vegetables!?" Her son nodded and she felt a laugh force its way up her throat. "Why on earth would you do such a thing, you foolish dwarfling!?"
"Don't want to go bald," Kíli muttered miserably before he curled around himself with a whimper holding his stomach. Dís sighed and sat down beside Kíli to smooth his wild hair from his brow. He wasn't running a fever, he'd just eaten too much. Content that her child was not actually ill, Dís continued her questioning.
"You don't want to . . . how are those two things related, Kíli?" Dís asked trying to piece Kíli's logic together and drawing a blank.
"Mr. Dwalin," Kíli said as if it explained everything.
"Kíli," she sighed in exasperation, "You need to give me more information, son. I don't understand what you're trying to say." Rather than speak again, Kíli whimpered and curled into her.
"Stomach hurts," he muttered nuzzling her as if that would stop the pain. She wished that it would.
"That happens when you eat too much, Kíli," Dís said simply. "Can you tell me what prompted you to eat so many vegetables. You don't even like vegetables, Kíli!"
"I don't want to be . . ." Kíli trailed off as he began looking decidedly green. Knowing what was going to follow, Dís snagged the bowl off the table and held in under Kíli's chin just as he retched. Once he finished he looked at her with a miserable expression on his face and tears in his brown eyes and it was everything that she could do not to laugh. She knew that was the wrong reaction but . . . at any rate she managed to contain it. She tried to disentangle herself from Kíli to dispose of the contents of the bowl but he refused to release her and seemed unwilling or unable to explain his strange logic.
"Fíli?" she asked, hoping that her oldest could give her some insight into the crazed ramblings of her youngest.
"It was how Uncle got him out of the tree," Fíli explained, coming over to stand beside his mother and brother now that he had been invited. "Kíli refused to come down if there were going to be greens and Uncle pointed out that Mr. Dwalin does not eat his greens and is bald and hinted that the two things might be related." Dís nodded. That made a good deal more sense.
"Darling," she whispered stroking Kíli's hair, "eating greens has nothing to do with growing hair."
"Are you sure?" Kíli demanded.
"No," she admitted with a shrug. "But Thorin never ate greens growing up and he has a respectable amount of hair, doesn't he?" Kíli nodded before a frown crossed his face once more. Dís began looking for a new bowl in panic, knowing that this one was not going to be enough if he vomited again only to stop when he said the words that nearly ripped her heart from her chest.
"I'm still going to eat them," he said. "I don't want people to think I'm not a dwarf because I don't have hair."
"Darling, you'll grow hair," Dís promised. "You're still a child. People forget because you're so tall but . . . it'll grow in time."
"Do you promise?" Kíli asked, looking up at her with tear-filled, hopeful brown eyes. And Dís gave him the only answer that she could, even if she knew that it was possible that she was wrong.
"I promise," she said. She only hoped that it came in sooner rather than later for Kíli's sake.
The next morning, Thorin had still not left his room as far as Dís could tell. She had intended to allow him to come out on his own, but his continued absence was upsetting the boys. They could sense the tension in the house and they were fidgety and cross, Fíli actually going so far as to snap at Kíli for bothering him. It was then that Dís knew she had to do something.
"Go outside and play boys," she said with a smile. "Stay in the yard and Kíli, stay out of that tree. Fíli, make sure he does." She waited for them to nod their understanding before she shooed them out the door. With a sigh, she turned to go back into the house and confront her brother. She took a deep breath before she raised her hand and rapped sharply on his door.
"Thorin!" she called. "Open this door!"
"Go away, Dís," came the muffled reply.
"I'm not going away," she called back. "Now you either open this door or I swear I will break it down! You can't just mope in there. The boys miss you, Thorin. Come out!"
"Go away!" he snapped. "You made your point last night, you don't need to come here and gloat!"
"I'm not here to gloat!" She yelled. "Now open up!" There was no reply this time and Dís felt herself begin to lose her temper with her brother. He was acting like a dwarfling! And she was done negotiating.
"Thorin, I'm getting the axe," Dís threatened. "If this door isn't open by the time I get back I will open it." She had just turned to make for the kitchen when she heard the bolt slide open, though the door itself was not opened. Taking another deep breath, she wondered just how bad it would be this time and slowly opened the door. Her eyes took in the darkened room and she heaved a sigh of relief. She'd seen worse. At least nothing appeared to be broken this time: save for Thorin himself.
After he had unlocked the door he had laid back down on his bed facing away from her and curled up on his side. She closed the door behind her so that the boys wouldn't see him like this if they came in and moved to sit on the edge of the bed.
"Thorin, I'm sorry," Dís said reaching out to lay a hand on his shoulder and ignoring his flinch at the contact. "I . . . I shouldn't have threatened you the way I did."
"Would you have done it?" he asked, his voice rough. She now knew that he had been crying. "Would you really leave me alone?"
"No," Dís said, fighting back her own tears at her brother's pain. "You know I wouldn't. I love you, Thorin. You just . . . they're children. You need to remember that."
"They're your children, you mean," Thorin said bitterly. "My love for them does not count for anything if you disagree with me on a matter."
"They are," she agreed. "They are my children and you do need to remember that. But I also need to remember that you love them just as much as I do. And they love you. They miss you, Thorin. They're worried about you. And so am I."
"I'm fine, Dís," he replied tersely.
"This is fine, Thorin!?" she demanded. "Moping in the dark is what you consider 'fine'!? I'm afraid I have to disagree, Brother. You need to get up, wash your face and come eat something so that you can take Fíli to lessons this afternoon."
"He's not going," Thorin muttered. "You decided that, remember Dís?"
"I remember," she replied. "And last night at dinner I changed my mind. Fíli wants to go, Thorin. I won't stand in the way of something he wants. But if he changes his mind, I will stand between you and Balin forcing him to continue."
"I wouldn't," Thorin said. "I . . . I can't lose you too. Not after . . ." he stopped and rolled over to face her, tears in his blue eyes. "Please don't take them from me, Dís. I will do whatever you ask but please don't make me lose them. I . . . I don't think . . ."
"Hush," Dís whispered pulling her brother to her chest just as she had Fíli the night before, unable to stop her tears at just what her thoughtless words had done to her brother. "I won't do that, Thorin. I never should have said it. We're not going anywhere. You won't lose us. I promise. I won't take them from you, Brother. I swear it. We're going to stay with you." Thorin said nothing in reply but his arms wrapped around her and his hands clung desperately to the back of her dress as he tried to regain control of himself. Eventually he pulled back with a sniffle, only his red-rimmed eyes revealing what had just passed between them.
He cleared his throat and made to stand. "So Fíli is going to classes?" he asked gruffly.
"He is," she agreed, wiping her own eyes on her sleeve and swallowing heavily to clear her throat.
"And Kíli?" Thorin asked.
"He's going to stay here with me," Dís said. "He expressed no interest in classes. Though I think they would benefit him. Somehow that insane little dwarfling has gotten it into his head that eating greens will stave off baldness and promote hair growth?"
"Has he?" Thorin replied, searching for a clean shirt and pulling his dirty one over his head when he found it and changing right in the middle of the room.
"He has," she answered unfazed by her brother's lack of modesty. "Ate the entire serving bowl full of vegetables last night. Neither Fíli nor I got any. Made himself sick." Thorin snorted with laughter at the mental image of Kíli stuffing himself so thoroughly with greens that he turned green.
"It's not funny, Thorin!" Dís snapped, though the laughter in her voice revealed that she thought it was as well. "He vomited. Nearly on me! If I hadn't thought to grab the bowl . . ."
"I'm sorry, Dís, but I disagree," Thorin said shaking his head indulgently at his youngest nephew's antics. He hoped that Kíli never changed. That child could always make him smile no matter what was going on, even if he could be a bit trying at time with his stubborn nature.
"I'll see what I can do about correcting his misconception," Thorin offered, seeing Dís' mock glare. "I'll go find him now, shall I?"
"Wash your face first," Dís said with a gentle smile. "Won't do for the boys to know that their Uncle Thorin can cry, will it?" Thorin gave a small laugh in reply and nodded. Dís was right. They had no need to know that he had been upset. With that in mind, he placed a gentle hand on Dís' shoulder and gave her a small smile of thanks before he made his way to the bathroom to clean up.