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Steady and Strong

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As Fíli falls, he remembers his brother.

It is only right, he thinks, that Kíli should go before him. His little brother should not have to see Fíli cut down, to watch as orc and warg overcome him, ending the line of Durin at long last. Whether it be right or not does not stop Fíli from shrieking like an animal trapped and hurt when he watches Kíli crumble beneath Gundabad blades.

Fíli screams when his brother falls, screams until he is hoarse, his throat raw and bleeding, and remembers. Remembers a child with clever hands, remembers their father lifting them to his broad shoulders, remembers the teachings of their uncle, remembers - remembers -

Remembers a mountain splitting between them and the brothers reaching, Kíli, take my hand! Terror shattering in his brother's dark eyes, the rain cold and cutting fierce into Fíli. He promised their parents he would take care of Kíli - not even eighty, a child, still a child - and there is blood on Kíli's teeth and staining his gentle mouth and Fíli cannot breathe, cannot speak, cannot see for the drowning in his heart.

Fíli has failed many times before, but never like this. He falls with a great roar that echoes, draws the notice of men and elf and dwarf, and then he rises again. He has strength enough to reach his brother, to gather him into his arms. All that was Kíli has fled like shadows before the sun, but Fíli remembers, and can pretend his brother is still within this faded shell and he might speak once more before the end.

It is without shame that he wishes for the warmth of his mother's embrace and the steady passing of her hands in his braids. Fíli feels the cold hand of Death creeping ever closer and tears burn like dragonfire on his skin. He wishes for his mother, for his father, for his warm bed in Ered Luin and a brother that does not reek of dirt and blood and dying things. "Kíli? Kíli?" He moans, combing his numb fingers through his brother's hair, and he does not want to die. Honour and fealty mean nothing in this moment because Fíli is afraid and alone and I'm sorry, I'm sorry, don't leave me, don't...

Fíli does not remember a time without his brother. He is not prepared to start.