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Shadows of the Past

Title: Shadows of the Past
Pairings: Kíli/Bilbo, former Kíli/Others
Rating/Warnings: R for semi-explicit discussion of past underage non-con; angst
Word Count: 5917
Disclaimer: If I owned the hobbit, everyone would have more issues.
Summary: When Bilbo Baggins asks to court the archer, Kíli must face a long-forgotten trauma as deeply buried memories come to light.


Every family has its secrets and its sorrows, the dark threads that run through the fabric of their lives. Every clan has its hidden legacies of pain and retribution and all kings have their private guilt.

Yet most dwarves would say that the Durins of Erebor hold nothing concealed for their pain is all too public and their shame well-known. Because everyone has heard of the madness that turned Thrór against his fellows and the price that his people paid for his arrogance. Every dwarf knows of the dragon and assumes that the loss of the Lonely Mountain is what haunts their exiled prince, thoughts of his homeland putting those shadows in his eyes.

They think they know Thorin's reasons, but they are wrong.

Not completely, since it is true that the needs of his people often weigh heavy on their leader's mind and he works himself to the bone to see them hale and happy. But each winter is a little easier than the last and while the dwarf carries the sorrow of his clan upon his shoulders, Thorin knows that the blame for their struggles is not his to bear. So although he will see the Sigin-tarâg flourish again no matter what the cost, their pain is not responsible for the guilt he cannot shake.

This is a separate failure, one that the dwarf does not like to think about, and for the most part he buries the memories of tear-filled eyes and sickening bruises beneath the mundane efforts of each day. If Thorin never allows Kíli to wander around on his own, if he watches those his nephew talks to carefully, then no one thinks much of his vigilance. His people consider this protectiveness normal for a king with no other living family, but none of them can see the clawing monster in his chest. A feral beast which will make anyone who harms his nephews pay dearly, as the lord had made those bastards suffer so many years ago.

But no one knows of that, not even Kíli, and the fact that his sister-son still grew up bright and happy is the only reason that Thorin can face himself each day. The lad has forgotten what occurred all those years ago and for his sake, his uncle truly hopes that this never changes. For the dwarf lord cannot bear the thought of seeing such despair in his nephew's eyes again and he keeps the past a secret as he had promised, vowing that he will do anything to spare Kíli more pain.

Fíli asked his uncle once, why he watched the youngest Durin with such worry in his eyes. Because his heir had noticed that while Thorin loved both of them dearly, it was Kíli whom he sheltered when the world grew rough.

Yet when his uncle had replied that he has sworn not to reveal his reasons, Fíli simply nodded and asked how he could help. For the young dwarf loved his brother more than anything and he had noticed when Kíli changed. He had noticed when the ever friendly child began to flinch beneath all contact and startle at the shadows in the dark and he had wondered what was wrong. But Fíli had been young at the time, barely out of childhood himself, and it was only once he was older that the dwarf had realized how badly his brother had been scarred.

Because he is the one who was woken up by screaming at odd hours of the night, Kíli fighting in his sleep against things he could not name. There was only panicked cries of refusal that tore his heart to pieces as his brother lashed out against a hidden foe and sometimes Fíli couldn't even wake him without risking injury.

So while the other dwarf has never remembered his nightmares in the morning and these dreams are now rare, their effects linger on in Kíli's apprehension toward strangers and the screams which echo in his brother's ears.

Thus Fíli has never resented Thorin's protectiveness, how could he when he shares it, and it is the driving goal of his existence to keep a smile on his younger brother's face. He wants his brother to be happy and while his uncle has insured that Kíli has the skills to protect his body, it is Fíli's job to see about his heart.

Because as much as the dwarf loves his brother and would never willingly abandon him, he knows that he cannot look after him forever. As Thorin's heir, Fíli has other responsibilities weighing on his shoulders, duties that must take precedence above all else when their kingdom is regained and so he wants to see Kíli settled before that moment comes. He wants to see his brother fall in love with someone worthy, someone who will realize that his heart is a treasure and watch over the archer as he deserves.

This has been Fíli's goal since he was old enough to know that love existed but Kíli has never seemed particularly interested in a relationship. His friends are just that and everyone who has tried to court the younger dwarf has had their dreams broken upon the wall of his mistrust. Therefore when his brother meets one Bilbo Baggins and takes to him immediately, Fíli can hardly contain his hope.

Over the course of their journey, he watches as the two become closer, trying to be patient no matter how difficult. For while the dwarf would love to nudge things along a little faster, his interference might spook Kíli and Thorin's disdain for the hobbit is not helping his cause.

But Bilbo Baggins proves to have the heart of a warrior beating in his chest and after their burglar faces off with Smaug himself, not even their fearless leader can doubt his loyalty anymore. So when the halfling comes to Thorin for permission to court his nephew, the dwarf lord cannot justify refusing him the chance no matter how he tries. Besides, Fíli looks so hopeful and when his uncle hesitates, the blond turns those pleading eyes on him.

“You know this is the happiest that my brother has been in years,” He reminds Thorin firmly, striking at the doubts in the dwarf's heart. “The two of us can't protect him from life forever and Kíli seems to like Bilbo more than he's ever cared for anyone. So please uncle, let him try.”

As much as the dwarf wants to deny it, Fíli speaks true and in all honesty, Thorin does wish for his younger nephew to find companionship. But this does not make it any easier to let go when he knows what the lad has suffered and the dwarf lord has spent decades guarding him from further harm. However, if he must allow someone to court Kíli, he could do far worse than the hobbit because Bilbo is a brave and gentle soul and perhaps this is what the youngest Durin needs.

After Thorin finally grants their burglar his blessing, the other waits until the evening to make his first move. Only once the entire company has gathered in Erebor's main hall for dinner, does Bilbo walk over to stand in front of Kíli. The young dwarf smiles at him brightly, gesturing for his friend to sit down beside him and feeling rather confused when the hobbit shakes his head.

“I talked to your uncle about my intentions and he granted me permission, so I hope you will look on me favorably,” Bilbo says formally and before Kíli can ask him what in Mahal's name he means, their burglar leans forward to plant a kiss upon his lips.

The dwarf was not expecting this at all, though he has wondered about it sometimes when on the edge of sleep. He has imagined what such a thing might feel like and he does adore their hobbit, so for one brief moment the archer kisses back.

But then a shadow awakens in his mind, the merest flicker of a rougher touch replacing Bilbo's gentleness. While Kíli tries to ignore it at first, the feeling grows ever stronger until the dwarf cannot be sure of what is real. These sensations are nothing that he has felt before and yet they have the weight of memories behind them, this truth making him stumble back in distress.

“Are you all right?” The hobbit asks, most of the company sharing his confusion at the sudden change within their friend. For his normal smile has been replaced by a mask of fear and when Bilbo's fingers brush his wrist, Kíli recoils with a shriek.

At this their burglar begins to babble horrified apologies as Thorin and Fíli leap forward to comfort their kinsman, even if only the elder knows exactly what is wrong. The dwarf lord spares a brief thought for the hobbit since this is not his fault, but explanations will have to wait until his sister-son no longer takes priority. So he brushes by Bilbo roughly to kneel at Kíli's side, gathering the young dwarf into his arms.

The rest of the company can only watch helplessly as the lad clings to his uncle, whimpering against his shoulder in a way that brings back bitter memories. Thorin murmurs an old Khuzdul lullaby into Kíli's hair until he finally stops shaking enough to ask, “Uncle? I... I don't understand... what is this?”

Thorin doesn't know how to answer his question for this was a conversation he dearly hoped never to have. So the king strokes the tears off his nephew's cheeks and whispers, “A long buried memory from when you were still khuzdith and we had not yet settled permanently in Ered Luin. I am sorry, I tried to keep you from remembering but it seems that I have failed.”

He only realizes that these were the wrong words to speak when Kíli's face shatters before his eyes and the other dwarf shoves him to the floor. “You... You knew?”

I don't understand. Why is he so angry? Thorin wonders helplessly, reaching out to his sister-son again. Yet Kíli flinches away from this touch, looking at his companions wildly while they stare back at him in shock. Then his brother moves cautiously to his side and for a moment it looks as though the dwarf will take the comfort that he's offered. Until the archer stiffens again, his face a mask of panic as he bolts towards the entrance before anyone can react.

“Kíli, wait!” Fíli shouts, running after his brother and the two soon disappear from sight into one of the many halls of Erebor.

The rest of the company has watched these events unfold in shocked silence, their hearts torn and minds filled with utter incomprehension at what they have seen. Even now no one speaks until the halfling crumples to his knees.

“I am so sorry. I would never have said anything if I'd known how he'd react. Please forgive me,” He begs, heart near to breaking at the panic in his love's eyes. Bilbo had only wanted the dwarf to be happy and the only thing more painful than his rejection is knowing the pain that he had caused.

Yet instead of blaming him, Thorin moves to the burglar's side and lays one comforting hand upon his shoulder as he explains heavily. “This is not your fault, Bilbo. If anything it is mine for keeping the past a secret for so long, but Kíli begged me to stay silent and I could not deny him that. However, if you truly care for my nephew, please do not give up on him. Now that his memories have awoken, Kíli will need the support of everyone who loves him if the lad is to heal from the trauma of his past. But first all of you must understand how gravely I have failed.”

Thorin gestures for his companions to sit just as Fíli returns, explaining that he lost his brother in the tunnels between each panting breath. Yet while this is ill news, it changes nothing at the moment for his heir must know the truth as well. So the King Under the Mountain takes a slow breath to steel himself, praying for Mahal to grant him courage as he begins his tale.

---

Kíli flees, eyes fixed on the past as he sprints through the deeper passages of Erebor. The dwarf doesn't know where he is going, he just knows he has to run and yet no matter how hard he pushes himself, he cannot escape the monsters in his mind.

Because the voices follow him, jeering and laughing in amusement at his terror and he can feel hands like ghosts upon his arms. Large hands which held him down so easily despite his panicked struggles and would not listen to his pleading cries. Kíli hadn't understood what the men had wanted when they first approached him, hadn't known how to react when one of them crushed their lips together and by the time he realized what was happening, it was far too late.

So now he runs through the darkness, picking himself up every time he stumbles and ignoring the pain of his bruises and scraped hands. Because it is nothing compared to the memory of those men tearing him open, piercing him until the dwarf was sure that he must die.

And death would have been a blessing to escape them, to escape the touches and the taste and the gloating words they whispered in his ear. Pretty, the men had called him while stroking themselves in time to his screaming. Pretty and fragile and broken and Kíli hates the thought that his attackers could be right. But he is broken now, isn't he, and the dwarf finally understand why he's always hated to be touched.

He had fallen unconscious before they finished with him, the fifth man too much for his abused body to handle and even now Kíli recalls little more than flashes, disjointed moments seeped in terror. Thorin must have found him afterward for his next memory is of being treated by a healer and the idea that his uncle saw him laying there used and discarded fills the dwarf with shame. He should have fought harder, he should have done something and he crumples to the ground as his strength finally gives out.

The archer lays there, weeping helplessly into the stone as the memories wash over him without relent. They will not release Kíli from their clutches and with every repetition, his loathing only grows until eventually he lets the darkness pull him down.

I'm sorry uncle. I'm sorry that I was so weak as to let them ruin me and I understand now why you did not tell me the truth. But you won't have to worry about my dishonor anymore.

---

When Thorin finishes his explanation, he cannot bear to look at the other members of the company and see his greatest shame reflected in their eyes. Instead the dwarf lord stares fixedly at the treasure beneath his feet, knowing that for all its beauty, he would sacrifice Erebor itself to take Kíli's pain away.

But this is impossible because there are no second chances, there is only regret. Regret and vengeance so he is not surprised when, “Did you kill them?” is the first question asked.

The King Under the Mountain looks up then to see Fíli staring at him grimly and the fury burning in his nephew's eyes mirrors that which he felt that day. This same rage and sorrow is visible on the faces of their companions, though only Bilbo and Ori are weeping openly, and it lessens only slightly at Thorin's reply.

“Yes I did. It took some time to track down those responsible but when I found them they begged for mercy for days before I allowed them to die.” The dwarf lord says, his one regret about his actions that they did not suffer more.

“Good,” Fíli replies firmly, the others nodding in agreement as Bifur mutters, “Thadulur kuthu barufizu oshmâkha ra tûm fulz muneb meregizu.”

Today the old adage makes Thorin wince because his revenge does not excuse his failure to guard his nephew better and he deserves any judgment which the others choose to give. But to his companions' eternal credit, they are more worried about helping Kíli than punishing his mistakes and soon the dwarves have split into search parties to seek the archer out.

Yet even after they scour every inch of the main halls of Erebor, their friend and brother is nowhere to be found. He must have fled into the deeper caverns and if this is true, his brethren may never find him for there are hundreds upon thousands of tunnels dug below. However, while the company would have willingly searched past dawn, everyone is running low on torches and energy so Thorin calls them back.

No matter how much it pains him to do this, someone must be sensible and the dwarf lord is the most clear-headed of the group right now. Because he has lived with his guilt for decades and it no longer has the sharpness which is driving his subjects to foolishness.

But even in their sorrow, the others can recognize that their king is right and so it is a much subdued company that prepares to sleep. Each dwarf reacts to the knowledge of Kíli's pain in their own way even as they cluster together with their closest kin. Dori and Nori flank Ori protectively, needing to know that he will be safe that night, while Dwalin sharpens his axe obsessively until Balin forces him to stop. Glóin also broods, thinking on the what dangers may be stalking his wife and son back home, and Óin is a comforting presence at his younger brother's side.

When Thorin turns his head, he can see Bofur, Bombur and Bifur curled up together, taking solace in each other and his heart aches for Dís and Frerin to be there with him once more. Surely this would have never happened if his siblings had not died, for without their strength to aid him, the dwarf lord had been stretched too thin.

No matter how hard he tried to take care of his people, some things slipped through the cracks and it breaks his heart that his nephew bore the brunt of that. But just as Thorin is resigning himself to a sleepless night with his recriminations, Fíli kneels down at his side.

“You shouldn't torture yourself about this anymore,” The young dwarf says softly and his kinsman turns to look at him in surprise. “You did the best you could after mother passed away and while I wish with all my heart that my brother had never been attacked, I do not blame you for the evil of those men. Their actions were not your doing and you could not have known what darkness dwelt within their minds. Truly, knowing my brother, he will lay the blame on his own shoulders rather than on yours, for in some ways the two of you are very much alike.”

This absolution is more than Thorin has ever hoped for and far more than he feels that he deserves. But to reject his nephew's words would be a grave insult so the dwarf lord must try to believe that he is worthy of forgiveness and perhaps one day he will succeed.

Seeing these thoughts upon his uncle's face, Fíli draws him to his feet. He leads Thorin over to the hobbit, who is curled up in a ball of misery, and sits down next to him. Then his sister-son wraps an arm around their burglar's shoulders, giving Thorin a pointed glare until he does the same. While the dwarf lord feels rather awkward about offering such comfort to Bilbo, the halfling doesn't seem to notice, leaning into the dwarves with a sniff.

His actions bring back fond memories of his nephews as children, before they grew too old to cuddle, and since the hobbit is practically family now, Thorin figures that he will get used to this. The three of them fall asleep like that, laying in an uneven pile as each instinctively makes room for the one who should be there.

But hopefully when morning comes and we can begin our search again, my nephew will quickly be back where he belongs.

Thorin's dreams are fitful, memories of that night long ago interspersed with fears of future tragedy, and he is all too glad when the sound of others stirring startles him awake. His company rises again, starting their preparations in the soft glow of dawn for the dwarves of Erebor constructed their home well and the sun's light is channeled into every upper room.

However, before the dwarves can set out once more, Nori's sharp ears hear a horn outside their gates. When he returns from he scouting, the dwarf brings news that an army of men and elves is standing on their doorstep and all Thorin can think is that he does not have time for this.

So while the re-crowned king knows that he cannot ignore his fellow rulers without consequences, he is extremely unhappy as he sends half of his company to search the tunnels and leads the rest to the south wall. When they reach the surface, Thorin can see that these uninvited guests are indeed prepared for a confrontation, and his mood sours further when he sees Thranduil among those waiting at the gate. With him is Bard the Bowman and both kings are flanked by guards whom the dwarf lord does not recognize.

“Who are you to come as if in war to the King Under the Mountain, and what do you want?” Thorin calls down bluntly, too impatient to bother with the pretty diplomatic phrases that are normally required.

Though in truth, he can guess what these two rulers were thinking when they chose to march on Erebor; they were thinking that his company had perished and the treasures of his people lay unprotected from their greedy hands. But while the dwarf lord does not negotiate with thieves or betrayers and these interlopers have no right to make demands, at the moment his family is at the forefront of his mind.

So on the chance that some small concession will send this army from his door without a fight, he will listen to what its leaders have to say. Thorin will grant them this one moment because he knows far too well that every second lost is one which Kíli may not have to spare.

“As you know, I am Bard, and by my hand the dragon was finally slain. Furthermore in his final battle Smaug destroyed the city that lay on Esgaroth and I am yet the servant of its Master. Thus I would speak for him and ask whether you have no thought for the sorrow and misery of his people who aided you in your distress.” The Bowman says, his every word confirming the greed of his intent.

So the dwarf's voice is biting when he replies. “The treasure of Erebor belongs to all my people and it is not mine alone to give away. Truly no man among you has a claim, because our wealth did not belong to Smaug and his evil deeds should not be repaid with further theft. However, because our kingdoms have been allies in the past and I am not one to turn away from those in need, your bravery will not go unrewarded.”

Thorin pauses briefly before he continues because even this small concession pains him when given to those who would have robbed his grave. But he reminds himself firmly that his people's safety is more important than holding tight to law, and the wealth of his kingdom would be worthless if bought with blood and death.

“I offer you a share of my family's private treasure, no less than that given any member of my company. And while this should be sufficient to ease the suffering of your Master's people, I am willing to discuss further assistance as required for the dwarves of Erebor know what it is to be exiled by dragon fire and turned away from every door. All I ask is that you set down your weapons and let us work together until our homelands are restored to the splendor of the past.”

To his surprise, the dwarf lord finds that he means every word and he hopes that Bard has the strength to put his dreams of avarice behind him. Because while the company cannot fight an army and Thorin does not wish to endure a protracted siege, he truly cannot offer the Bowman more than this right now. Not when Erebor's wealth must support his own people as well.

Though the king does have one more requirement to add before he finishes, so he turns to the elves with a sneer. “Thranduil, however, is not welcome within my halls, nor in our negotiations. Should you seek to claim your portion now, send him back to his forest where he belongs.”

As he planned, this ultimatum neatly undermines the rulers' alliance and Thorin watches their furious whispering with a hint of glee. Though the dwarf does hope that they finish quickly for the silence from his search parties means that they have been unsuccessful and Kíli's time is running out. His eyes fall on the elf king's younger companions while he is dwelling on this failure and another idea soon takes shape within his mind.

“Perhaps Thranduil and I may come to a different agreement after all,” The dwarf lord says loudly, interrupting the two kings' squabbling. “If the warriors of Mirkwood are truly such fine trackers as the stories claim.”

“And why should I allow one of my kinsmen to help you?” The elf sneers up at him balefully, ever a thorn in Thorin's side.

However, before he can offer any terms, one of the younger elves speaks up in his stead and with every pointed word, Thranduil's face pales.

“Because I am old enough to make my own decisions, father, and I am rightfully tired of this hatred that you carry in your breast. You know as well as I that your intentions were not honorable when our army marched on Erebor and so in truth, we owe him this.” This is not an opinion that the dwarf lord ever expected to hear from one of the elf king's brethren, let alone his child, but the sentiment pleases him nonetheless. For Mirkwood would do well to recognize the hypocrisy of demanding that Erebor spend its wealth freely to ease the Lake-men's suffering when no aid was ever given in return.

And thus Thorin's smile is slightly vicious when he asks, “You would aid us then, Master Elf, even over the objections of your own sire? You must be able to track footsteps over stone.”

“I meant my words, Majesty, and I will stand by them.” The elf prince replies firmly, ignoring the way his father squawks. “My name is Legolas Thranduilion, sometimes called Greenleaf, and I will find what you seek if I may.”

“Then I accept with gratitude. The gate is still blocked since we have not had a chance to clear it, but we will throw down a rope for you if that will suffice.” Thorin says, signaling to his companions when Legolas agrees. “And perhaps by the time that you have completed my task, Bard will be ready to negotiate a proper contract at last.”

With this final barb, the king leads his companions back into the mountain, returning to the main hall from which his nephew fled. As they enter the room, Nori walks over to report that the dwarves found nothing, meaning that Kíli is almost certainly within the deeper mines.

So Thorin orders the rest of his company to begin sorting Erebor's treasure in preparation for the days to come before calling Bilbo and Fíli to his side. His nephew leads Legolas to the place where he lost his brother and then the three stand back as the elf begins his work. It takes him a few minutes to find the trail now that the search parties have obscured Kíli's tracks, but just as those watching are beginning to despair, he makes a soft noise of satisfaction and strides into the dark.

---

Kíli has not moved from the place where he had fallen, curled tight around his knees despite the thirst which torments him. For while the dwarf is already beginning to feel lightheaded and he knows that this will kill him soon enough, the thought of death pales next to his burning shame.

It is like a poison, spreading throughout his history and tainting his past beyond repair, until he begins to crave the silence of escape. Because even now that the memories of his violation have finally stopped their endless repetition within his mind, Kíli can still feel them waiting there. They are waiting for him to break, waiting for a moment of weakness to pull him down once more and the archer thinks that the struggle will surely drive him insane.

So when he begins to hear voices, the dwarf assumes that it is his mind playing tricks on him again, although seeing the elf knocks him for something of a loop. Am I hallucinating now? He wonders since the thought of one of them in Erebor is laughable at best. Or perhaps I passed beyond already and simply didn't notice when I died?

But then Kíli sees his uncle striding forward with Fíli and Bilbo on his heels, and he knows that this is far too real. Thorin drops to his knees in front of his sister-son, gesturing to the others to stay back for now, and his heart aches at the sight his torch reveals. Because his nephew is dirty and bedraggled with bleeding gashes on his hands and yet what hurts the most is the way he hides his face in shame.

The young dwarf will not meet his family's eyes for the sight of disgust there would break him, even as a small voice within his mind whispers, they came for me. “I'm sorry, uncle. I'm sorry I brought this dishonor on our name and I understand why you hid it from everyone.”

“Oh Kíli, you have nothing to be sorry for.” Thorin replies softly, reaching out toward his nephew once again. This time the young archer allows his uncle to pull him forward, though he still holds himself stiffly within the dwarf lord's arms. “I kept this secret because you asked me to tell no one and after you forgot what happened, I did not wish to bring you further pain. But I am not ashamed of you; I will never be ashamed of you because you and Fíli are the sons I never had. You are my inùdôykurdaz, given to me by Mahal himself, and nothing in this world will make me less proud to be your kin.”

However, the young dwarf just shakes his head, unable to accept the other's assurance so easily. “But I am a Durin! I should have fought harder; I should have died before I let them defile me.”

Fíli makes a choked noise of denial at these words and Thorin grips his nephew's chin, forcing Kíli to meet his eyes as he whispers fiercely, “No! No you shouldn't have! Your life is far more precious than any treasure, more precious than our name and I would not have you die for something that was out of your control. There were five of them against a child so there is no shame in losing to those odds. Truly, I saw the marks when I claimed our vengeance and you fought like a warrior judging by the damage on their worthless hides.”

“Really?” His nephew asks, relaxing slightly in his embrace and the dwarf lord takes even this small progress as a victory. “I still don't really remember everything, just flashes and pain.” He shudders, curling in on himself as the memories threaten to overwhelm his mind again.

However, Thorin's hands on his shoulders help keep the dwarf anchored in the present and there truly is no judgment in his king's eyes. Yet Kíli still feels dirty, the phantom touch a stain upon his skin, and he holds no hope of finding something better now. For even if Bilbo had planned to court him, their hobbit hadn't known of his past and surely he will have changed his mind. “Surely no one will ever want me now.”

Though upon hearing this, Bilbo cannot remain silent and he yells out, “Don't be an idiot! Of course they will. You're strong and amazing and completely fucking gorgeous and...” The burglar trails off awkwardly when he realizes that everyone is watching him, even Kíli staring at him with wide eyes.

But he means every word so the halfling sinks down next to Thorin and continues in a more even tone, “Well, you are. If anything this just shows how truly strong you are to have survived something this traumatic when so young and I would still court you if I may. I mean, if you truly wish me to leave you alone then I will, but I will not allow you to send me away simply because you think you're ruined now.”

“No, yes.... I don't know, maybe... I do like you but I don't know how soon I can... It could take ages.” The dwarf stutters out, still staring at their burglar incredulously. While the hobbit hadn't triggered his usual wariness before, kissing Bilbo is what started this whole mess and Kíli doesn't know if they'd be able to do anything without him freaking out.

But the halfling just smiles at him softly as he reaches out to pat the young dwarf's hand. “Hobbits are a patient lot and even if you do not come to love me, I am still your friend. I will support you through this any way I can and I'm sure the rest of our company feels the same.”

“Damn right.” This time it is Fíli's turn to interject, moving to sit on his uncle's other side. “You are still my brother and I'm never giving up on you, so you'll just have to come to terms with that.”

With three of his dearest people looking at him with naught but love and admiration in their eyes, Kíli finally begins to believe that there may yet be hope. For even if part of his heart still feels worthless and he desperately wants to scrub himself clean again, the archer will not abandon his family as long as they have faith in him.

So even though the road ahead will be difficult and the dwarf knows that he may falter, he allows Thorin to pull him gently to his feet. Kíli stands there for a moment, taking comfort in the warm arms which surround him, and with their support the youngest Durin begins the long trek home.


Finis




Notes:

I didn't want to interrupt the flow of this story with footnotes, but for anyone who's curious, the Neo-Khuzdul translations are roughly as follows:

Khuzdith: a young dwarf (literally: a dwarf that is young)
Thadulur kuthu barufizu oshmâkha ra tûm fulz muneb meregizu: family and halls above merriment (lit: Only when your family is guarded and your halls are prosperous should you feast)
Inùdôykurdaz: sons of the heart (lit: sons of heart's origin)