Fili loved his uncle, he really did. He couldn’t help but be conflicted about Thorin’s visits, though.
It was the same every time. Thorin would arrive unannounced, which kicked off a flurry of activity. Dwarves would march in and out of the house, all with something that needed Thorin’s attention while he was in town. Dis would head to the kitchen, making tea and scolding everyone if they forgot to wipe off their boots at the door. Where Thorin went, Dwalin was sure to follow. When the big warrior arrived he scooped up Kili and took him outside, supposedly to check his weapons training but really just to play. Fili watched all the mayhem from the quiet space beside the broom closet. Thorin always seemed like the eye of a hurricane, the calm center while the storm raged around him.
Later, after all the papers were read and signed, disputes were settled, and supper had been eaten, Thorin would be full of wild tales about faraway mountains and hidden kingdoms. Fili and Kili would listen, wide-eyed with rapt attention, as Thorin spoke of dragons and lost thrones. He always ended these tales the same way, telling the dwarflings, “One day you will see. One day, Fili, you will be King Under the Mountain, and then you’ll understand.” When they were sent to bed, the boys drifted off to sleep listening to Thorin sing of Misty Mountains.
The visit ended the same very time, too. Dis would plead with Thorin to stay because their people needed a ruler, her boys needed a father figure, and she needed her brother. Thorin nodded, but in the end, he apologized and promised to be back as soon as he could. Dwalin would trail behind, give Dis a meaningful look and tell her, “I’ll take care of him, my lady.”
When they were gone, the house felt too quiet and empty. Kili would head out to the barn while Dis tidied the house. Both would be withdrawn, uncharacteristically silent and morose.
Fili might be just a dwarfling, but he was the man of the house since his father passed away. It was his job to pick up the pieces and put his small family back together. He loved Thorin, but resented him for making this mess and then leaving, too.
Cheering up Dis was easy enough. Fili gathered dirty dishes and took them to the sink. While Dis washed them, he brought in more firewood and then swept the living room. By the time he was done, she was humming under her breath. He checked in to see what else needed doing, but Dis shooed him out of the house in search of his brother.
Kili was easy enough to find. He was sitting on the ground outside of the goat’s enclosure, tearing up grass and feeding it to the old nanny goat a fistful at a time. The goat was happy to indulge him, despite having a grassy pasture and a bin full of fresh hay. She took the offered grass and watched Fili approach, floppy ears waggling as she chewed.
“I guess the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, huh?” Fili asked as he sat down, knocking his shoulder against Kili’s.
Kili just replied with a sullen shrug.
Fili drew his legs up, crossing his ankles and wrapping his arms around his knees. He watched the goat look from him to Kili, and back again. It decided no more grass was forthcoming and wandered off to graze. There was a sniffle, and Fili looked over in time to see a fat tear drip off the end of Kili’s nose.
“Kili? What’s wrong?” Fili scooted closer and wrapped an arm around Kili’s shoulders. “You know Thorin will be back as soon as he can, right?”
Kili wiped his nose with the back of his hand before saying, “S’not that.”
Fili grimaced but didn’t move away. Kili had snotted on him before, and would snot on him again, so he ignored it. He squeezed Kili’s shoulders tighter and asked, “Then what is it?”
“You’re gonna be a king.”
Kili sounded so despondent that Fili’s first instinct was to snicker, which he quickly stifled. He tried to keep his tone sympathetic when he asked, “So? Uncle’s been saying that forever. It’s not new.” He deepened his voice to try and imitate Thorin. “You’re my heir, Fili. One day you’ll be king, Fili. Behave like a proper Durin, Fili.”
Now that he thought about it, there was more than one reason Fili resented Thorin’s visits.
Kili huffed, pulling Fili out of his thoughts. “You’re gonna be king. You’re gonna have a kingdom, and a throne, and a crown, and everyone already loves you. You’ll be king, and I’ll be nothing.”
“What?” Fili released Kili’s shoulders so he could try and push his hair back. Kili’s hair was damp with tears, but he managed to tuck most of it behind one ear. “Who told you that?”
“Master Dwalin said you’d have king duties, so I need to decide what I want to do with my life.” Kili wiped his nose again. “I just want to stay with you.”
Fili ducked his head to try and catch Kili’s eye. “Of course, you’ll stay with me.”
“But what about king duties?”
“You’ll help me.”
“What if they won’t let me?” Another tear tracked down Kili’s nose.
Fili made a silent oath to kick Dwalin in the kneecaps the next time they sparred, for causing this misery. “I’ll tell them to.”
Kili finally met Fili’s eye to ask, “What if they say no?”
Fili straightened his back and looked down his nose. “I’ll be the king. No one can tell me no.”
That finally got a smile out of Kili. It was small, and his face was still dirty and tear-stained, but it was there.
Fili dropped the act and shrugged. “You’re my brother, Kee. We’ll be together no matter what. We belong together. Now, go wash up. I think Amad still has some of those tea cakes you like.”
Kili nodded and stood up. He started to walk off, but then turned and bent over to wrap his arms around Fili from behind. “Love you, Fee.”
“I love you, too.” Fili patted Kili’s shoulder, since it was about all he could reach. “Now quit digging your knee into my back and go clean up, runt.”
Kili squeezed harder, forcing a grunt out of Fili, before he let go. “I’m not a runt! One day I’ll be taller than you, and you’ll be the runt then.”
Fili scoffed. “I’ll still be a king.”
“Yeah, King Runt.” Kili squealed with laughter and dodged Fili’s half-hearted grab, then ran off chanting, “King Runt! King Runt!”
Fili rolled his eyes, but he was smiling. He stood and followed at a more sedate pace.
He would endure being King Runt for a day or two, if it put the light back into his brother’s eyes.