Series: A Matter of Perspective
Warnings: Racism and homophobia
Word Count: 5678 (11,061 total so far)
Disclaimer: Like I own this.
Summary: Fíli does not approve of his brother's new infatuation
Part I: Reverie
Part II: Ruin
I am brought from my musings as the eagles that carry our company begin to descend, circling down around a tall stone spire, and I nudge Kíli to wakefulness behind me. When we land our first thought is for our uncle and we rush toward where the eagle left him sprawled upon the rock. As we near Thorin's body I can see that he is far too still, far too stiff, and at the sight my throat closes tight with grief. I am much too young to be king, I think in desperation and I grab my brother's arms tightly for support.
But then Gandalf kneels down next to our uncle muttering some arcane wizardry, and when Thorin stirs I take back every disparaging remark I ever made. My knees threaten to buckle with relief as his eyes open and Kíli and I rush forward to help our uncle struggle to his feet. I am so happy that I cannot stop beaming and when Thorin starts tearing into the hobbit nothing can dampen my glorious mood, not even my brother's enraged face. Nothing except uncle himself who ends his furious rant with the admission that he was wrong and then hugs the halfling close. The rest of our company cheers but I have to fight to keep the smile on my face.
Where is your dignity Thorin, to shower such favor on one not of our race? While I am grateful for my uncle's life and it is proper of the House of Durin to acknowledge its debts, this lack of restraint will give the hobbit a false idea of his worth.
And now that Bilbo has proven himself in the eyes of our company, Kíli's foolish hope will burn stronger and my task will be far more difficult. Thorin will not allow any harm to come to Bilbo while he breathes, and indeed neither may I, not with the life debt that our family owes. As this will make any punishment for Kíli's transgression his alone to bear, I must find a peaceful way to make my brother see reason, since I cannot simply cut the halfling down and I cannot risk the others finding out. But debt or not what is needed must be done.
After my uncle has finished complimenting the halfling so effusively, our company finds our eyes drawn to a solitary mountain peak that is visible far in the distance. The warmth in Thorin's voice when he names it Erebor makes my heart ache with longing and I stare at our homeland, taking my first glimpse of the land I will someday rule.
But when I turn back, Kíli is not looking at the mountain, no, he is smiling at Bilbo and I am sharply reminded that even if we succeed in our quest, I may still lose everything if I do not end my brother's folly.
So my mind is heavy as our company begins to make its way slowly down the spire, and even the news that the wizard knows someone living nearby who may grant us sanctuary cannot lighten my black thoughts. Indeed, when Gandalf adds that this friend lives over a day's travel away it seems only fitting and I resign myself to a cold and uncomfortable night. Next to me Kíli grumbles, asking irritably why the eagles couldn't have dropped us a little closer to our goal, and though I agree with him I am also thankful to have the extra time. I know that I may need several attempts to change my brother's mind, and once we have retaken Erebor it will be far too late.
Our company only manages to travel a short distance from the rock before making camp that night, for we all bear wounds that must be tended and uncle most of all. As we carry out our standard duties, I am relieved to find that despite his straying heart, Kíli and I can still work in sync, needing no words to know where the other stands. Yet when we finish, instead of remaining by my side as usual, my brother drops down next to Bilbo and engages him in a whispered conversation. The sight of them huddled together fills me with annoyance and in my irritation I decide to just confront Kíli directly since I obviously cannot afford to let this slide much longer.
"Kíli, come gather wood," I call to him, nodding my head towards a nearby grove of trees. He tilts his head in confusion as the fire is already well lit, but follows me willingly enough when I lead him away from the camp. Once we have reached a distance that should be out of earshot, I turn to face him and he stops short at the gravity of my expression.
"Is something wrong?" Kíli asks, worry filling his eyes and I can see him trying to think of what could have happened now.
Yet he comes to no conclusions and he does not see his error, so it seems that I must tell him. "Yes, brother, something is wrong. Kíli, you have to stop this."
"This thing with the halfling. You are not subtle as you think you are and you must end it before the others notice."
His eyes widen at the vehemence in my voice and I can see him contemplating denial before choosing to take offense instead. "It's not a thing! And why should I stop? I know no one thought much of him at first but he's more than proved himself by now to all the ones who matter. Besides, Bilbo doesn't mind and there's no harm in anything we've done."
"Anything you've done?" Fear grips me at these words, and I grab his arm tightly. "You have not bedded the hobbit?"
"His name is Bilbo!" Kíli answers, pulling back against my hand. "And what is your problem? Why would it matter if I did?"
"He is not acceptable." I growl at him, increasing the pressure of my grip. "And you have not answered the question."
"If you must know we haven't done anything yet. But I still don't understand what business it is of yours." Kíli retorts, finally yanking his arm fee. "I have lain with males before, as have half the members of our company, and it is common enough among the Shire folk- I made sure of that."
"You were younger then, some experimentation among youths is to be expected, but things are different now. A male dwarf would be bad enough, though perhaps acceptable for a commoner, but you are one of Durin's line and soon we will have regained our throne. You must be prepared to marry well and sire heirs for the sake of our people, not tie your heart to a fruitless union. For I know you brother and I know this is not some casual liaison that you will cast easily aside; you believe you are courting the hobbit as your one and only and that cannot be borne."
I am close to yelling now as I try to make Kíli see sense, to understand why what he wants simply must not be. Yet even in my zealotry I remember to restrain myself as the others are still far too near to risk them overhearing if I shout.
"And he is not even a dwarf. Think of the disgrace to our uncle once people find out, think of the disgrace to you. How can you expect to command the respect of our people with a hobbit at your side, brave though he may be? No they will scorn him and scorn you for falling so far outside our race. And how can you expect him to happy, separated from his people and living in the halls of Erebor?"
Kíli is silent for a long moment and I dare to hope that the logic of my words has cut through his delusion; surely he understands now that I only want what's right?
But then his face twists and he says harshly. "Do not speak to me of Erebor! You have asked me to think of Bilbo and our family and I have, but now I must ask you to think of me. What use have I for a mountain or its treasure? Why would I, who was born upon the open road and raised under wood and sky, yearn for the cold embrace of stone above my head. I know you dream of the gold and glory of our grandfather, and when the time comes you will serve our people well, but that is not my dream. That has never been my dream.
I dream of the chance to earn an honest living and of a home to return to when the long days are done. I dream of a simple life filled with love and laughter, and I will take it where I have found it no matter who approves. I am on this quest only for love of you and Thorin, not for any other reason, and I swear that I will see my duty through. But I will not sacrifice my heart to do it, not for all the gold in Erebor."
I stare at my brother in shock and open my mouth to protest, but Kíli cuts me off before I can speak.
"No, brother. I will always love you but I cannot grant you this. Do not worry though, I will protect our family's honor for your sake. Even if Bilbo accepts my troth none shall know before our quest is finished, and afterward I do not think that it will matter anymore."
He smiles sadly at me before turning and heading back towards camp and I am left speechless in the dark. As I watch him walk away I am struck by the horrifying idea that the brother I remember was not real. That the young dwarf who followed in my footsteps and hung on my every word was never more than a mirage and now the illusion has broken at last leaving me with only this terrifying stranger in his place.
But no, there was a time I knew my brother, there was a time I knew him well and that dwarf must still be in him somewhere. Kíli has just gone astray, has lost sight of who he is meant to be. How long has it been? How long has it been since I lost him and didn't even notice? There is no answer to my question and I am filled with only a desperate hope that I can somehow get him back.
Yet I remain resolved, for this discovery only reveals the necessity of my purpose and now that a direct approach has failed me I will simply try another path. There must be a way to change his mind and I am sure that if I can just cleave him from the hobbit, everything will go back to the way it was before.
Kíli keeps his word. What overt signs existed to show his interest in the hobbit disappear by the next morning, and I know that even uncle will not realize that my brother wishes more than friendship. If only that were the case for me as well. But even though Kíli's mind is closed to me I still recognize his tells and I can see that he has not given up. It is there in his smiles, that extra hint of tenderness when he helps Bilbo with his gear. It is in the way he looks first to the hobbit for approval- He used to look to me- and curls up next to him at night. Most of all it is in the silences, that comfortable stillness in which my brother and the halfling now communicate without a word.
Watching this infuriates me since Kíli's every action is a refusal of all he should hold dear and I am terrified that if Kíli becomes closer to Bilbo he will continue to draw away from me. Yet every time I try to prove that the hobbit is not worthy of him so that my brother will come back to my side, Kíli will not listen and the split between us only widens.
Whereas before we could barely stand to be parted, by the time our company reaches the house of Gandalf's friend, my brother hardly speaks to me at all. When he must be he is civil but nothing more and I start to truly hate the halfling for causing such a rift to form. If he had never come along and tempted Kíli to perversion, none of this would be happening. I would still have my baby brother and the honor of our family would not stand in such jeopardy. There must be some way to break the two apart without my forsaking my oath or uncle's debt.
I am brought from my dark musings when Gandalf introduces us to our host and I have never seen a man who is quite so large and feral. He is taller than even the wizard and so towers over me and the others of our company. However, despite his disreputable appearance, Beorn gladly offers us his hospitality and lays out a great feast within the hall for our group to share. Thus for a short while I am able to forget my worries in the joy of feast and song.
But even though I may wish it, this respite cannot last and as our company settles down for the night my uncle pulls me aside.
"What foul blood stands between you and your brother, nephew? Everyone has noticed how he will not look your way."
"It is nothing uncle. Just a disagreement." Even if I told him, he would not believe me without proof I cannot give. Not now that Kíli has become even more subtle in his courting and the halfling has finally proved to have some worth. Not with the debt that he now owes. "I will deal with it."
"See that you do." He lays a firm hand on my shoulder and looks at me sternly. "I cannot afford to have such a split within my company, not when the dangers of the Mirkwood lie ahead. We will spend several days here recovering our strength while the wizard observes the path before us and I expect you to have it resolved before we leave. For the sake of our quest and also for you; I do not like to see you so unhappy."
I thank him for his consideration and vow to do as he asks, vow to find a way to convince Kíli that he is mistaken and it is not truly love that binds my brother's heart.
However, the long days that follow are some of the most frustrating of my life for Kíli simply refuses to cooperate. Every morning our company rises from our beds and no matter how I try to corner him, my brother manages to eat breakfast on the far side of the table, usually with Bilbo near at hand. Then Thorin assigns everyone tasks to complete during the day, and Kíli and I are often set together so I believe our uncle is trying to aid me in my cause. But when we work on one of uncle's projects, Kíli sits in silence and he will not answer when I try to make him speak.
I tell my brother again all the reasons that he should give up on Bilbo - our laws, the age difference, his duty- but he will not listen to my words, even though I hide my disgust behind a wall of logic and common sense. And when our job is finished, my brother somehow evades me again and again, disappears into Beorn's Hall with the hobbit in tow and does not reappear until we settle for the night.
Frustration builds within me with each day that passes and by the third I have taken to haunting the halls in the afternoons, searching for Kíli with the faint hope that maybe this time I will find him and magically set things right.
And it is well that I do for I soon discover that I have little time to spare.
On one fine afternoon during our fourth day at the house, I am once again wandering the halls in the hope of running into Kíli when I think that I hear voices. They seem to be coming from a window cracked open to my right and so I climb up to the high windowsill to investigate the sound.
When I look through the glass, I see my brother and the hobbit sitting there below me. They are curled up in a hidden corner of Beorn's endless gardens, blocked from normal sight by thick bushes all around, but from my vantage point I can see and hear them clearly and though horrified I cannot look away.
Bilbo is leaning back against the wall of the house, gazing fondly down at Kíli who is sprawled across his lap and fear grows within me at the thought that my brother's interest is returned. Though Kíli's face is turned away from me, looking to the east, his voice holds only tenderness as he asks the hobbit quietly, "Will you tell me more about the Shire?"
"Again?" Bilbo laughs gently as he brushes hair away from my brother's face. "Haven't you heard enough yet?"
Kíli just shrugs, curling deeper into the hobbit's lap. "I like listening to you, it's soothing. And it seems only fair, since I've told you everything important about me already."
"Somehow I doubt that greatly. If it were true you couldn't keep surprising me so well." Bilbo responds. "But if you want a story, let me think. You've already heard all about Bag End and the Party Tree and my relatives, both dear and not."
"Heh, yeah. I would love to see uncle Thorin meet those cousins of yours, the Sackville-Bagginses, maybe he'd finally have to change his expression."
Bilbo stifles a chuckle and then continues, stroking his hand through Kíli's hair. "I guess I'll have to talk about Hobbiton today. I don't know how much of the Shire you managed to see on your journey but you would have entered the village on your way to my door since that's where dear old Bag End is located. Hobbiton is one of the oldest villages in the Shire, and right near the center, though it is technically in Westfarthing. We like to think that makes us the most important one even if Michel Delving has a mayor. But it's a beautiful place as I'm sure you saw, all rolling green hills and swift-running streams.
The market in Hobbiton is the largest in the Shire and hobbits from all the neighboring towns such as Bywater and Needlehole come there to do their shopping every day. You can buy anything you could possibly need: fruits and vegetables, meat and eggs, pipeweed, clothing, flowers and jewelry. And on the major market holidays everyone comes from as far as Hardbottle in the North, Gamwich in the South, and across the Brandywine to the East, because that's when people sell bigger items like cows and furniture.
In the spring and summer wandering pedlars who sell rarer odds and ends often appear, that's how I picked up most of my books and maps, and the news of them always travels far and wide before they arrive. Getting metalwork has been harder since the old smith passed on, but Old Boffin's quite handy with a knife sharpener and we can always send up to Bree for pots..."
Bilbo's voice is soft and gentle in reminiscence as he paints a vivid picture of his old idyllic life for Kíli and soon even I am caught up in his spell. I listen intently as he speaks about the warmth and comforts of his home, but when he trails off after a long while, longing in his voice, I shake myself awake. That life is not for you, nor Kíli neither. Our home is in the mountain. I remind myself sternly. That is where we belong no matter what temptation this hobbit offers.
But even as I think this, my brother whispers, "It sounds lovely. As fine a home as you could want," and I am forcibly reminded of his discussion of his dreams when Bilbo replies, "It is. I think you'd love it there."
At that Kíli turns back to look up at the hobbit and smiles, murmuring something inaudible. Although I cannot hear the words, I am struck by despair at the look on my brother's face, for he is looking at the halfling as though he were mithril, an invaluable treasure that could never be replaced. It is the way our mother looks at father, the way uncle speaks of Erebor, and I know that Kíli will never change his mind.
This is so much worse than I thought. He really is in love with the hobbit and Bilbo seems to feel the same. How could he give his heart away so foolishly, doesn't he realize what the future brings? Doesn't he realize what this will cost?
But even as my mind cries out against the consequences of my brother's choice, I know that it is futile. Kíli is too far gone to be swayed by common sense or reason and he has already dismissed every argument I have. Yet even if he has accepted the results of his actions, I cannot let him walk down this path to misery and ruin, not when there is still a chance that I can save him from his fate. I will just have to find some other way. There is always another way.
My attention is brought from my horrified imaginings by movement from below as the hobbit hugs my brother close with a delighted smile on his face.
"Of course, love. Of course you can." As he draws back though, Bilbo's voice grows doubtful and he asks Kíli with concern, "But are you sure? I mean you're a prince and I don't want you to get in trouble with Thorin or anyone."
My brother just smiles again and leans up to kiss Bilbo softly. "I may be one of uncle's heirs but I'm the spare and everyone recognizes that. Mahal knows my family has always despaired of my ever acting like a proper representative of Durin's line. So while my relatives won't approve at first they should get over it eventually, and I don't care about what anyone else thinks. Being with you is worth it."
I wince to hear the conviction in his voice when he names himself unimportant for I know my angry taunts and hidden fears have helped to put it there. Once I fix this, I will do better, I swear as he continues.
"So I am sure, I promise. I want you," and now his voice turns wicked. "I want you and I would have you already if I could. Kiss you senseless as I undress you oh so slowly, button by button revealing your soft skin. I'd worship you with hands and mouth until you're begging me to take you and I would, eventually. Once I've worked you open and you're writhing on my fingers, so overcome with pleasure that all you can do is gasp my name. I'd kiss you then, lick my way into your mouth and swallow your cries as I finally push my way inside you. And you'd accept me greedily for you'd want it, you'd need me to fill you to the brink."
As Bilbo makes a hungry noise and leans down to kiss Kíli deeply, I jerk back from the window because that is decidedly enough of that. Despite his filthy words I know my brother will not risk it yet, but it is obviously only a matter of time. For a long moment I am frozen with hopelessness, what can I do if Kíli will not listen to the truth, but as I think back over the conversation I finally realize that Kíli does not have to, he doesn't have to change his mind at all.
It is some time before I can put my plan into action because when my brother and the halfling are not alone together they are surrounded by the other members of our company. However, on the sixth day Gandalf finally declares us ready to leave and Thorin eagerly agrees as my uncle has been chafing at the delay while Durin's day draws ever closer. Thus, that night there is a flurry of preparation for our departure and in the chaos I am able to corner the hobbit alone.
I steer him into an empty room and close the door behind us as Bilbo looks up at me, clearly perplexed by my actions. Rage wells up in me again as I look upon his soft features, the face that leads my brother to destruction, but I fight down my scowl for this will not work if the halfling understands how much I hate him. And so I start to gently stalk my prey.
"I must speak to you, Bilbo, though first I must offer you my gratitude. I haven't had the chance to thank you for saving my uncle's life."
"Uh, you're welcome? I just did what I could." He answers in confusion. I need to ease into this, draw him gently to my side.
"And we are overjoyed that you did. But while we are on the subject of my family, I must speak to you about my brother."
"What about your brother?" Bilbo is wary now, he must remember what Kíli told him about his family's disapproval.
But I keep my voice low and soothing; I still need him to trust me. "He is courting you. I know him and I have seen the signs."
"And what of it? Kíli told me others might not approve, but I do not see why if it makes us happy."
"Then he has not told you enough. Dwarves do not marry outside our race, it is forbidden." Time to start reeling him in. Throw truth in with the lies until he cannot tell which way to turn.
"What, aren't we good enough for you?" And there's the defensiveness I was expecting, for every creature is right in his own mind.
Of course you aren't. "Of course you are. It's not about whether you are worthy, it's about the cost to us, the cost to him."
"What cost? Stop speaking in riddles and tell me what you mean." Worried now, hobbit? You should be.
"When dwarves love, we love completely, body, heart, and soul and even if our partner dies we will never take another. And my brother is young, the youngest of our company as he has barely come of age. If all goes well he could live for another two hundred years."
"Two hundred?" He looks up at me in shock. It seems I was right and Kíli did not think to mention that. So I continue, playing on his love and on his fear.
"Yes, and I do not think that you can say the same. How many years do you have left, Bilbo? Forty? Fifty? If you continue on this path your death will ruin Kíli and he will grieve over you until the day his broken spirit finally gives out. That is why it was forbidden, after we lost too many of our people to the pain of sundered hearts."
The hobbit's voice is a whisper now, soft and tortured. "He never mentioned...What can I do?" And that's the mithril question isn't it? Oh, I have you now. Time to move in for the kill.
"It's not too late to save him. If you break it off with my brother before Kíli has the chance to fall completely, he will be hurt but his heart will heal and be able to move on."
"I couldn't, I can't hurt him like that." Bilbo shakes his head in denial but I am relentless now that I have my goal in sight.
"You must. Better to cause Kíli some pain now than condemn him to centuries of agony once he loses you to time and my brother mislead you about the strictness of our laws, though perhaps he simply does not know. The truth is that he is breaking our people's worst taboo and if your relationship comes to light our greatest punishment will fall upon his head. Thorin will have no choice but to strip Kíli of his name and brand him uznâl for his disgrace and he will have no place among Aulë's children for the remainder of his life. My brother will be outcast forever and when he finally loses you he will have no one else to turn to, no one there to ease his pain."
When the hobbit recoils from me, eyes wide and stricken, I can see that he has believed my every word. Well he should, for a dwarf lord's word is his honor and his bond and it is only a desperate necessity such as this that could make me speak a lie. But if my lies can save my brother from the destruction he pursues, then I bless my silver tongue.
"I must think on this," Bilbo stammers, but I know that I have him. He will do exactly as I ask, never realizing that Kíli's love is already his to hold
"Don't wait too long, everyday my brother's infatuation grows a little stronger," I add just to twist the knife a little deeper. Then I release him and watch him scuttle away, satisfied with a job well done. This will pain my brother greatly and in truth his heart may never entirely recover, but he will have his family around him to support him through his grief. And it is worth it, for Kíli will be free to do his duty to our line and live in honor for the remainder of his days.
Our company sets out for Mirkwood the next morning, riding upon borrowed ponies. Beorn has loaned them to us until we reach the forest's western edge, which stands several days away even at this pace. As we travel, I watch Bilbo and my brother like a hawk, waiting expectantly for the fruition of my plans. I can tell that the hobbit has not forgotten about my words and instead dwells seriously upon them since his eyes are full of grief whenever Kíli looks away. Yet he will not act.
Indeed, Bilbo delays for so long that I begin to worry that all my effort was for naught and I am running out of other things to try. However, just as I am beginning to despair, the hobbit makes his move and at last I will see my aim fulfilled.
We are camped at Mirkwood's border when he finally acts, the halfling drawing Kíli off into the dark with the flimsiest of excuses and verily they make my brother laugh. It is some time before I can follow them without being noticed by the others, but when I eventually manage it they are not hard to find, barely out of eyesight of the camp.
I see them through the brush before I hear them, and the desperate look on Kíli's face tells me that the hobbit has made good. My brother is pressing Bilbo back against a tree, and though their clothes are disheveled they are thankfully still on, and my esteem for the halfling rises slightly. I suppose even a hobbit couldn't fuck and run.
"-- not fair to you." Bilbo is saying as I move within hearing range.
"Bilbo, I don't care. This is my choice to make and I would rather spend fifty years in joy with you than two hundred with a severed heart. Please, you don't have to do this." Kíli begs frantically, trying to make the hobbit look at him, trying to make him see.
But Bilbo will not meet my brother's eyes as he responds, and now he is pleading desperately as well. "Can't you see it's better this way? You'll have your family and your people and someday you'll find love again and you'll grow old together. You will."
Kíli shakes his head in refusal and his voice is choked by misery. "No, no I won't! I know I hadn't told you yet but I love you and I know you feel the same...Bilbo, please."
"It's for the best," the hobbit whispers, then ducks under my brother's arm and flees. I pull back quickly as he rushes by me but he is blinded in his sorrow and I can see the tears streaming down his cheeks.
Kíli stares after him for a long moment and I will never forget the devastated look upon my brother's face. It is as though someone has ripped the beating heart from his chest and eaten it, as though all light has vanished from his world, and I have to remind myself that this is what I wanted when my baby brother crumples to his knees. Kíli is gasping now, great shuddering breaths that shake his slender form as he cries out his denial in a litany of woe.
Yet though my heart aches for his sorrow and I wish that I could comfort him, I cannot imagine that he would want to see me now. So instead I turn away and walk back into the darkness, leaving my brother to his grief.
Part III: Rancor